Cars Illustrated got a chance to sit down with Eric Blakely from Edelbrock and have a one-on-one to talk about their new PRO-FLO 3 fuel injection system and even enjoy some seat time on one of their test mules to give you some first impressions of the new system.
CI: We are here inside the headquarters of Edelbrock and the fun team sitting with Eric Blakely, here to talk about the Pro-Flo 3 and the big advantages of the next generation of the PRO FLO system. First thing, let’s talk about the evolution of the Pro-Flo System from the inception.
Edelbrock: Edelbrock first launched an EFI System in 1978, believe it or not, and it was a sequential, essentially I guess you would call it the precursor to the Pro-Flo. It was a sequential EFI. Really simple at that time. It was a two barrel throttle body with a four barrel, you know, so really simple. We were ahead of our time. It didn’t sell. It was just too far for people to understand. And then, in the early 1990s we came out with the Pro-Flo 1 which was really just trying to answer people’s need for an EFI system that was easy to install and could be designed for a high performance engine. This was an OE replacement and we wanted a system that could handle up to 650 horsepower. Pro-Flo is something we’ve been doing since the early 90’s. This is kind of our first EFI product that was simple, all inclusive that included the fuel system, throttle body and the intake. At that time it was a cal-mod with an ECU. We actually had to send an ECU in to get programmed first then send it back. We loaded the parameters, sent you the ECU and you were on your way. Then in 2006 we came out with the Pro-Flo 2. At that point, we added the option for laptop tuning. Opened the software up, got rid of that the cal-mod but really there was the option now if you really wanted to you could just install this EFI system and be up and running. But if you were a tuner, you could break out the laptop, get into the tuner software, and really tweak it and make adjustments. If you felt comfortable enough that you were going to upgrade a cam or heads, you didn’t need us. Knock yourself out and go along the way. Now today, you’re looking at Pro-Flo III Really, it’s the next generation for Pro-Flo and with this we can now add the self-learning function that we had on the E Street.
CI: Let’s talk about concerns and listening to your customer’s needs with the new fuel injection systems because I think that’s something that the customers are going to come back to you and say, “I want this. I need that. I didn’t like this. I literally loved that.” What were some of those concerns and feedback from customers as you lead up to Pro-Flo 3?
Edelbrock: With Pro-Flo you know we listened to customers and we got the system to do what people what to do most – tune it themselves And I think that’s just how things mature. Laptops are now a lot cheaper than at that time frame of PRO FLO 1 or 2. Guys were buying those Netbooks and they were blowing the tune. And the software caught up too. The software interfaces have gotten a lot easier. It wasn’t just you needed to be a tuner, you know if you were a pretty tech-savvy guy you could figure it out. So, we always listen to our customers and then with Pro-Flo, from 2 to 3. For a lot of engine combinations we still had guys that would reach out to us and go “I have this really unique motor”. I want to put EFI on it with this cam and we couldn’t build that tune. It just wasn’t there. You could have a custom tuner shop do. So I think for Pro-Flo 3 that was the big thing, we listened to customers say, let’s take the self-learning function, add that to it, and now again it’s still got that bolt on, easy to run, self-learning but also you still have the option of going to tune it. So we always listen to our customers and trying to help them, listen to their needs and give them what they want.
CI: Let’s talk about the highlights of Pro-Flo 3. Obviously controls, function, controls, the e-tuner – all of these functions, chaining on the run and driving on the road. Let’s talk about what is the evolution now. I didn’t mean to stop you before but now, going into now there’s Pro-Flo 3. You listen to the customers, you’ve watched this system evolve. Talk about some of the highlights for the new system.
Edelbrock: I think the really big highlights for Pro-Flo 3 is the fact that we’ve got the self-learning technology so that you can install in any, in the case of what you drove, a small block Chevy and the combination it’s going to learn it, it’s going to adapt to it and its always going to continue learning. The next big thing was, which we learned on the e-street, was we actually took an android based app and made accessible to consumers. In the past you had to cal-mod. You had a specific little tuner box that you had to have. You had to have this box with that ECU. We said, “What if we could use somebody’s smart phone or their tablet they have already?” and that’s kind of thinking that’s the biggest thing about that e-tuner app. That app is a stand-alone app. It’s only used with our systems but the great thing about it is that if you already have an android based app or tablet that is compatible with our system, which is the majority of them, you can now buy this kit minus the tablet and use your phone or your tablet. You download the app. You see you know the hard parts of the install. You jump on the app. You sync up on the ECU and then you pair it. Essentially it’s a blue tooth connection so it’s a wireless connection, which I think is another great feature because in the past you had to have that ECU in the engine bay or somewhere accessible where you had plug into it. But now, with ours, you can take that ECU and you can tuck it underneath the dash and you won’t even see it. In ours, we have a ’72 Nova that’s the test vehicle. Ours is tucked up underneath the dash and there is no need to plug into it. You don’t have to see it. You can just get into the car. You fire it up. It makes that wireless connection. It’s always connected. So, anytime the ECU is fired up, it’s communicating with your tablet or your phone. I think to us that’s a really cool feature now because now you’ve got this, you know there’s not another piece of technology that you have to have in the car. You just use your phone. And then you also are now getting real-time feedback from the motor. You can see air fuel ratios, vacuum, coolant temp, air temps, you know your O2. You’re seeing all that stuff but before with the other system you never saw that.
CI: Let’s talk a little bit about that and talk about tuning on the run, you don’t have to stop, turn the motor off and grab the computer. That traditional tuning cycle if that’s what you want to call it is now for all intended purposes is gone. You can literally be going down the road and realize that if I’m going to go on a three hour road trip, I can adjust for mileage then turn right around and tune it to make passes down the quarter mile.
Edelbrock: Absolutely, that’s really the coolest part about it is, and for us the neatest part about that software that allows us to do that, it’s real-time tuning and real-time feedback. You can go in and you can change on the fly. You can change your air fuel ratio on the fly. Our system also controls up to two fans, so you can kick on your fans off and on. If you’re sitting in traffic, idling at a car show, and you see the temp rising, you can actually, first you can monitor the temp. Let’s say you have a car that doesn’t have a temp gauge. Let’s say you can actually go in and do that. You even have the ability to get rpms. So, if you have a car that doesn’t have a tach, now you’ve got a tach. This app shows you everything. It shows you when it’s learning, when it’s not learning. You can go in and you can adjust the idle spark. And that’s what is really cool is that it’s created, the technology has allowed us to have that real time ability to tune and get information back and, yeah like you said, while you’re driving there’s no need to pull over and tune. You just make your adjustments and keep going down the road.
CI: One of the coolest parts about this new system also is one of the support systems, which is the sump, being able to, you know a lot of people think that if I want to go to a fuel injection system, say on my small block Chevy, then now I’ve got to switch my tank, my lines, return lines, this complexity and enormous cost to do it right and you’ve literally taken that problem and created a solution using your sump system.
Edelbrock: Absolutely, and it’s kind of interesting. When we created that sump, I was going to say two to three years ago, probably 2½ years ago, we created and had this idea because we knew that the return style systems had issues with vapor lock. It’s just the nature of that system. And like you said, a turn-style system is a lot of labor. You’ve got to put a new pump in, you’ve got to run line all the way up and back because it’s a return, and it upped the cost. So we created this sump, had this idea what if we created this little device that could essentially take a low pressure mechanical or electric sump and system and then boost that pressure up. We spent quite a bit of time messing around with it and I think when we first did it we had this idea. What was amazing was that when we ran into issues with EFI testing early on, this was two years ago with our e-streets, that turned into an issue where they returned – a returnless system. We said, you know what? Let’s take it off and put this sump on. The problem went away. If we ran into, we even had some returnless systems that weren’t in a EFI style tank and we would get fuel slosh. The pressure got low, you had issues with the liquid fuel out. The problems went away. And so, it’s really a real simple solution. It’s all installed in the engine bay. It can installed in a core support, on a fender well, wherever you can find a shape, a place to put this and it’s a fairly compact design. It’s like 13 inches by 7 by 5, and it’s a unique design, so it’s kind of a unique shape to it. It’s not a just a box. I even saw a guy put one in a fender well in a Corvette tucks it away, it’s been a real simple connection. Now you’re hooking your line in, you hook your line out. It’s got a vent line and you’re ready to rock and roll, and we sell currently two options. A 49 psi and 58 psi so we’ve got one for, ideally for our fuel systems but we also have that 49 psi is for some of our competitors. If somebody doesn’t want to do that whole tank/in-tank sump that’s an expensive cost they can use this is it’s roughly about $350 bucks at the street price. I mean $350 bucks, you can’t even get a fuel cell for that.
Edelbrock: So, it’s a really great solution and we’ve been really happy and it’s been very successful, and it’s helped a lot of guys. I mean, literally, with this you’re talking all solutions are done, you can install this and a throttle body style without working in the engine bay all day. There’s no getting under cars, no jack stands. You can just grab your mechanical line off the carb, put in the disc, and put your line out of the pump, the sump essentially, into the throttle body, and there you go.
CI: You’re good to go. High pressure fuel. Well, let’s talk about taking a test drive in one of the test modes. Here’s a ‘71 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, a little small block. And, I want to make note that the first thing you notice when you start this up is the cold start. Absolutely no hesitation. First turn of the key and for all I know it was on a test drive five minutes before I got in it. I personally put my hand on this car. It was ice cold when I got in it. Cold start.Amazing. Just for, and to make note also this car has plenty, and what by plenty is I don’t know what it is. It was around, I would say, somewhere between, and we’re going to go by duration, 290 degree – 300ish cam in it. Certainly, plenty of compression, as well, just…you can always….if you’re a car guy you can listen and go that car’s got cam and compression, and this car is not lacking either. In fact, I think it was Mark that said, it was 8 inches of vacuum and we took this thing out and throttle response was superb. That was the first thing I noticed. The second was throttle response on the go. Because everybody always talks about mass, or the end game of how much horsepower and how much torque. Under the curve means a lot to a regular guy because not everybody’s always making a hit at the dragstrip or in that case on a road course with something like this and not always a wide open throttle. So, what I really was impressed is it was just rolling on throttle response – rolling on power in this car. You know what a carburetor feels like. As much as I, you know we joked about the life span of a carburetor, who knows where that goes. But, I was very impressed with not only throttle response but overall power of the car and you’ve had guys that have talked about picking up 20, 30, 40 horsepower. Talk a little bit about those gains.
Edelbrock: Yeah, we’ve had, we’ve done quite a lot of installs over the years. I could say primarily in the last 3 years we’ve probably done 30 installs internally. Anything from an AMC, to a small block Chevy, to a Ford, different sized motors. You know, we’re talking your basic 350. We’ve done some 289s. We’ve even done some big blocks stuff – right now we’ve got the system on a 555. One of our house motors that’s making like 730 horsepower so I think what we’ve, in all these test vehicles, put all these different systems. One of the things we consistently saw was more power and we finally started doing some testing – some dyno testing. We also turned our light on the media. We threw some kits out there to builders and said let us know what happens and it’s amazing to see. On average we’re seeing anywhere from a minimum of 15-20 horsepower gain all the way up to, on a car that’s say previously had a really out of tune car, we saw 40/45 horsepower gain. You know because of the efficiency. The efficiency is so much better and I really, an out of tune car can really it’s robbing power. So I think, for us, now we’ve had guys do mileage testing. They’ve come back and they’re seeing a minimum 2 miles per hour a gallon increase. Some guys, again, four miles per gallon. For a guy that goes and cruises every weekend, he’s going to a car show, maybe he’s driving 15 or 20 miles and then he is doing 30 or 40 miles to somewhere – that makes a huge difference. You know, and the drivability it just is so much better. Yeah, we’ve seen that on regularly. It’s pretty consistent. We’ve seen horsepower gains and mileage per hour gains.
CI: Well, let’s talk about the next step – the guy who’s going to take the Pro-Flo III and put it in a race application. We’ve talked about street cars, let’s talk about where we can go with this, as far as the use of Nitrous, the use of power adders – how will that play into the use of the Pro-Flo 3?
Edelbrock: It will definitely play into it. When we had the Pro-Flo 2s, we had some people that were turbo charging, as well as blowers and super chargers, and nitrous. So, I definitely, I know we’re testing that right now. It’s not something that we could probably do pretty quick. This is definitely going to be on a high performance street car and there’s most likely a street strip car. Absolutely, there might be somebody who wants to just go on a track and have fun for a day, you know, and they want to spray it and throw another hundred horsepower at it. So, we definitely know that’s in there. We don’t have controls in that app right now for that, but it’s definitely something we’re looking into. We know it’s going to come down the road. The Pro-Flo 2s did that. We never planned for those, those are strictly a street system, and also knew that tech called and said, “I wanna spray some nitrous”, and it’s like Oh, Alright, and so we work with those people. Again, you’re supposed to listen to your customers. The customers will call up and they’re going to do a turbo on a, like on our last Pro-Flo 2s, we had the XT style intake so front mouth, throttle body style intake for those guys are turbocharging now. So, it’s like, okay let me work with the customer and figure it out because it’s a win-win for all of us. The next guy who comes down the road, we’ll know what to do. Here’s the combination. So that’s definitely in our work that’s coming. It’s in the queue to be worked on, no doubt about it.
And with that we took even more time to take test drives in just about every test mule Edelbrock has in the building – 690HP Mustangs, Big-block Chevelles and everything in-between.
For more information Website Info: http://www.edelbrock.com/automotive/mc/efi/pf3-chevy.shtml or Edelbrock.com