We normally think of aftermarket bolt-on EFI systems as the perfect modern upgrade for carbureted applications, which they are. But it seems that throttle-body-style systems like Edelbrock’s new E-Street EFI can also greatly simplify the retrofitting and tuning of a modern EFI engine in an older project vehicle.
Our test case is Karl Roekle’s shop truck, a mutated ’47 Ford pickup that was shortened, lowered, and modified with Model A body parts by his uncle many years ago. At one point, this “Roekle rat rod” was saddled with a small-block Chevy onboard, but Karl bleeds FoMoCo blue, so once he got title to the truck, he soon swapped in an EFI 351W sourced from a ’91 F-250 pickup. To run its port injection and processor- commanded distributor, Karl has been utilizing a non-mass air EEC-IV connected via a custom-made wiring harness. Backed by a non-electronic AOD tranny, his Windsor has remained pretty much stock, save for some long-tube headers. The problem? Actually there were three:
First and foremost, Karl and the EEC-IV could never get the combo to run quite right. It regularly fouled plugs and overall didn’t perform the way he thought 351 cubes should in such a light vehicle. Second, with its long-runner factory intake up top, the Windsor just never looked very cool or hot-roddish in Karl’s eyes (or ours, for that matter.) And lastly, if the EEC-IV couldn’t be tricked into making his 351W run properly when practically bone stock, Karl figured it would be utterly hopeless if he ever swapped in a racier cam and/or cylinder heads. And believe us; he wants to.
All of this led Mr. Roekle to Edelbrock’s recently introduced E-Street EFI, a plug-and-play system using a 4150-style, square-bore flange throttle body, and a processor that “learns” as you drive and self-tunes the fuel curve accordingly. It is also custom tunable via an included 7-inch touchscreen tablet with Bluetooth connectivity. In short, this is a sophisticated EFI system that doesn’t require an engineering degree to install or live with. Let’s see how it all worked out…
So, How Does It Work?
Don’t be intimidated. This is one of the numerous tuning screens you can call up on the E-
Now that you have the system physically installed, what happens next? This is where the included tablet gets its first workout in creating an initial “tune” before starting your engine for the first time. For it to do this, you simply enter some very basic info about your vehicle via the touchscreen interface. First, you enter engine displacement in cubic inches. Then you choose between three levels of cam duration—telling it whether your cam has 210 degrees or less, 210 to 230 degrees, or greater than 230 degrees. Then you tell it whether you have a regular or multi-spark/CDI ignition onboard, whether the fuel system is return-style or return-less, and what rev limit you’d like. That’s it. The tablet then computes a basic start-up tune and wirelessly transmits it to the ECU. Crank the key and you’re about ready for your first drive.
In Karl’s case, the Windsor fired right up, and immediately idled smoothly (the system has cold-start tables, just like any factory EFI processor.) Once warmed up, you can command a different idle speed via the tablet if you so choose (bear in mind that the E-Street ECU does not control ignition timing, so you’ll have to make sure your distributor is properly adjusted.) We then headed out for a short drive and it was immediately apparent that the 351 had much more crisp throttle response than before. It even sounded better, making us conclude that the old EEC-IV system had been commanding improper fuel and/or spark curves. Once the engine coolant reaches 150 degrees, the E-Street ECU then learns as you drive, constantly fine-tuning the fuel trims on the fly. Edelbrock suggests allowing a couple hundred miles after initial installation for the system to be fully optimized for your vehicle. And, yes, the E-Street will adapt automatically to airflow changes like upgraded cylinder heads, for example.
The tablet can also be used in gauge mode, to monitor engine sensor info. E-Street EFI can
After the initial setup, the tablet can be switched to one of its monitoring modes if you want to observe various engine parameters. Or it can be shut off altogether, as the ECU is now operating automatically, unless and until you decide to use the tablet to do some tuning or fiddling of your own.
If you want more info about the tablet interface, Edelbrock’s website has a video of tablet operation at www.edelbrock.com/automotive_new/mc/efi/estreet_intro.shtml, and the system’s very thorough instruction PDF can be viewed and downloaded at www.edelbrock.com/automotive_new/misc/tech_center/install/3000/3600.pdf.
As for his rat rod, Karl is ecstatic about the greatly improved looks, performance, and manners of its otherwise unchanged 351W, and is looking forward to some cam and cylinder head upgrades—something he was afraid of attempting with the old EEC-IV processor in charge.