Aftermarket EFI is nothing new. In fact, the first high-performance electronic fuel injection systems were introduced before some of our readers were even born. Those units were expensive, hard to install, and even more difficult to tune. The result was a system that even in the best cases didn’t produce the horsepower of a carburetor, its improved driveability notwithstanding. As the years and decades passed, successive iterations of EFI produced better performance and simpler installation. By the time aftermarket EFI reached its third generation, wide-band controlled, closed-loop, laptop-less, self-learning systems became the norm for forward-thinking DIY hot rodders.
It appears that the only real remaining barrier keeping folks away from EFI is the cost. As of 2015, carbs were still less expensive than EFI. Beyond that, the perception of high complexity and tough installation still persisted, in spite of products from every current manufacturer being offered that prove the contrary. It’s truly the golden age of EFI, and at this point if a hot rodder hasn’t given self-learning EFI serious consideration, it’s out of pure willful ignorance. To those hold-outs with their head buried in the sand, we’ve got one thing to say: you better check out FiTech.
FiTech, a new American company based in Riverside, California, is the brainchild of Ken Farrell and Jeremy Schmidt. Both gentlemen bring to the table decades of aftermarket and OE fuel-injection design and manufacturing experience, and their fresh lineup of not two, not four, but nine different self-learning, wide-band EFI systems will paralyze you with an embarrassing number of choices. Even better, they are scandalously priced, with turnkey four-barrel, wide-band, closed-loop, self-learning systems starting at $795—including a handheld controller. That’s right: an EFI system priced about the same as a high-feature off-the-shelf carburetor.
When FiTech showed their complete fuel-injection lineup at SEMA (along with a clever fuel-sump system for customers who prefer to retain their existing low-pressure mechanical fuel pump), it was like an earthquake in the EFI world. But what looks on the outside like an overnight success is actually decades in the making; among other things, Farrell was a pioneer in the self-learning EFI market when he designed and brought to market the very first self-contained, self-learning, throttle-body EFI system in a carburetor profile more than a decade ago.
For those on a budget, FiTech offers systems packed full of features in a compact throttle-body–style unit. These bolt in place of a carburetor on a carbureted intake manifold, and can be fueled either by the stock mechanical fuel system (by means of FiTech’s Fuel Command Center, $395), or by any upgraded aftermarket EFI fuel system (such as the Aeromotive Phantom Stealth system in our project car). All of FiTech’s EFI systems are self-learning, and as we discovered, fire up on command at the first twist of the key without aid from a laptop.
Since the ECU and several of the sensors are built right into the FiTech throttle body, installation is simple. A supplied wiring harness requires the user splice just four wires: 12V power source, ignition, tach signal, and fuel pump 12 volts (the ECU has a built-in fuel-pump relay, further simplifying fuel system setup). If you want the FiTech to do fan control and ignition timing control, two more wires are provided. Beyond that, you attach a coolant temp sensor (included) and a wide-band O2 sensor (included). With your old carbureted throttle linkage clipped back on, energize the power to initiate the handheld controller, answer five simple questions, then fire it up. From the first few seconds, the ECU is making corrections to the air/fuel ratio and updating the fuel tables. You have the option of using the FiTech to control your ignition timing, or such as in our case, use it as a stand-alone fuel controller. (FiTech realizes that many customers prefer to use their existing ignition setup, but offers the option of full ignition control in most of its units.)
For hard-core racers who like getting their hands dirty, most of FiTech’s units have the ability to be programmed with a laptop, giving the aficionado full access to fuel and timing maps. Moreover, deep control is available for power adders, such a boost-referenced timing retard, nitrous retard, and safety windows (a/f ratio, engine temp, etc.). Data logging is also part of the function of FiTech’s touch screen controller (part of all their EFI systems except for the entry-level Go Street kit).
Our immediate impression of the FiTech hardware on first exposure was that the throttle-body/ECU unit and touch screen controller are of the best quality. The texture of the coatings, the casting finish, and the machine work are all top rate; the feel, size, and heft of the handheld touch screen controller is not unlike an iPhone. Quite aside from its performance, this is hardware the pickiest enthusiast would be proud of. Hand this stuff to an airport luggage handler and he’ll be one frustrated fella.
All that is quite nice, but our reason for installing one on our 1968 Plymouth Valiant project is based more on practicality than looks. The dual-quad carb setup on our solid-lifter, big-inch Indy Wedge seemed unhappy on the street; lots of cranking to get the carb bowls full after sitting, throttle pumping to keep the fire lit when cold, a midrange bog from poor vacuum signal, and stalling during heavy braking were the norm for us, in spite of spending a significant amount of time on the chassis dyno with a wide-band optimizing the jetting, metering rod size, linkage progression, and ignition curve. Often what separates the alpha males from the pups is their knowledge of carburetion; old-school carb men derive special satisfaction commiserating in code about stuff like power valves, high-speed air bleeds, and jetting. Nevertheless, there comes a time when you just want to get in the damn thing and drive without whipping out a drain cup and a screwdriver.
FiTech’s propitious arrival on the scene gave us the perfect excuse to fix our Valiant’s driveability issues. Not wanting to upset the carefully calculated look of our dual-quad setup, we selected FiTech’s Go EFI 2×4 1200 HP system, which handles up to 1,200 hp through twin throttle bodies (a master and a slave). As a side note, were it not for our dual-quad Mod Man intake, our requirements would’ve easily been met by FiTech’s $1,095 4bbl Mean Street system.
The Go EFI 2×4 dual-quad setup fit nicely on our Indy Cylinder Head Mod Man intake manifold, and incorporates our existing Edelbrock dual-quad linkage and air cleaner assembly with no trouble. (Thanks in part to technology filed in a pending utility patent, the FiTech throttle bodies are narrow enough to fit on all common dual-quad manifolds, including Edelbrock’s standard 6 7/8-inch OC spacing.) At $1,995, it isn’t cheap, but by the time you’ve worked yourself up to the typical 700hp big-block, just the savings of not having to prematurely pull the engine and hone the block from the bore wear (resulting from cold-start ring wash you’d otherwise have) is enough to justify the cost. After all, fuel injection is precisely the reason why today’s engines last 200,000 miles without a rebuild.
Given our issues, we would’ve been happy if the FiTech made the same peak power, or even a little less than our carb setup. What’s sacrificing a tenth at the dragstrip if you’re enjoying your machine on the street twice as much? The fact of the matter is that with all that cfm and wide-band open-loop control of the fuel circuit, our Valiant put 24 more horsepower to the ground with the FiTech, raising our rear-wheel output from 455 hp to 479 hp—and on a stingy Mustang dyno no less. Beyond that, the temperament of that Indy big-block turned from ornery to outstanding; it starts up immediately on the first turn of the key, it settles into a well-controlled idle when slipped into gear, it never stalls under hard braking, and it pulls smartly from every point in the power curve—even down low. In other words, it behaves like a well-tuned fuel-injected machine.
For our Valiant’s installation, we drove over to FiTech’s headquarters and spent the day photographing and videotaping the Go EFI 2×4 swap, then dyno testing the result. By day’s end, we were back in SoCal’s notorious traffic, only this time the A-Body’s big-block purred contently, never loading up and never fouling the plugs. Our next move will be to cure some chassis ailments we discovered from our last drag strip outing, then head back to the track. With more bite off the line and another 24 hp at the tire, we just might get it into the 10s on motor with 91-octane pump gas.
1. Curious about FiTech, the newest company to offer self-learning EFI, we used our big-block Valiant as a testbed for FiTech’s new Go EFI 2×4 1200 HP dual-quad system ($1,995).
2. FiTech’s dual-quad system houses the ECU in one unit and uses a short harness to bridge the slave unit, mounted in front. Materials, machining, and overall construction are first-rate at any price. All FiTech’s throttle-body units use essentially the same construction, from the 400hp entry-level unit, on up to the 1,200hp dual quad.
3. Our Go EFI 2×4 is rated up to 1,200 hp, thanks to an octet of 80-lb/hr fuel injectors (basically, one per barrel). The outer portion of the “carb bowl” on each side houses an internal fuel rail and captures the injectors in place.
4. The horsepower magic happens here, in the throttle body fuel sleeve. The slot at the bottom of the sleeve is exposed to a fuel well in the throttle body. Small fuel spray holes target slightly down and off to one side, propagating a swirl pattern.
5. The Go EFI handheld touch screen has a robust build with a touch-sensitive, full-color OLED screen for easy readability in direct sunlight. The knob is a joystick that controls cursor movement. Want data logging? The controller records data on a micro SD card and can be downloaded via a mini USB cable to your XL spreadsheet.
6. The Indy Mod Man intake manifold for the low-deck Chrysler big-block offers several different induction configurations via bolt-on lids (single four-barrel, dual-quad, and blower), but we opted to retain the dual-quad layout, which uses the standard Edelbrock 6 7/8-inch OC spacing.
7. The rear throttle body houses the ECU controller, sensors, and injector drivers; a pigtail harness connects to the front slave unit to bridge the injector operation and TPS sensor function to the ECU in the rear master unit.
8. The FiTech literally bolts right up. We did need to double gasket the throttle bodies to avoid interference with an air temp sensor that was sitting proud to the Mod Man top plate.
9. FiTech’s Mike Sullivan handled our dual-quad installation. Here he readies the wiring for the four necessary electrical connections (harness “A”) to 12V power, fuel pump, tach input, and ignition. The chassis-side wiring harness is labeled on both ends; you’ll need wire strippers, crimpers, razor blade, electrical tape, heat shrink tubing, and a heat gun.
10. Since our MSD ignition was mounted on the passenger inner fender and had all the connections we needed except for the fuel pump, we spliced into the excellent wiring job previously performed by Motech Performance. Here Sullivan makes a crimp for the blue wire, which happens to be the tach input.
11. We had the foresight to have O2 bungs welded into our TTi exhaust collectors two years ago, so we just removed the plug and screwed in the wide-band O2 sensor from the FiTech kit. The other end of the O2 harness plugs directly into a plug on the side of the throttle body.
12. If you don’t have a welder or a bung already in your exhaust, FiTech includes a bung kit that requires no welding. Use a stepped drill bit to sink a hole in your collector, sandwich the thick, flexible graphite gasket between the pipe and the FiTech bung, then tighten it with the included hose clamps (O2 sensor inserted to help align everything). The sensor angle should be in the 10 degrees up position to avoid liquid contamination.
13. There are typically several plugs in the big-block Chrysler water pump housing where an extra water-temp sensor can be screwed in. You’ll need one of those positions to mount the temp sensor in. A harness included by FiTech links it to the throttle body. At this time, we also hooked our PCV line into a port on the rear of the throttle body.
14. On the dual-quad setup, you’ll need to feed 58 psi of fuel pressure to each throttle body via a -6AN line. This is a return-style system, so one of the units needs to be plumbed with a -6AN return to the tank. If you don’t already have a good fuel system on your car like our Aeromotive Phantom Stealth system, and you’d like to retain your stock mechanical fuel pump and existing lines, FiTech’s Fuel Command sump system is highly recommended.
15. Mike then swapped over the throttle linkage from the Edelbrock carb setup. Here, he points to the progressive stop on the linkage, which has been set to open and close the secondary in lock-step with the primary. The Lokar throttle cable and trans kickdown cable was also reconnected; Mike fabricated a quick and easy supplemental bracket to keep it all from flexing.
16. It’s almost ready to fire, all you need to do is connect the com cable from the connector on the throttle body to the handheld controller, mounted in the engine compartment here for illustration purposes.
17. With the key on, the main menu will come up. Scroll down to Go EFI Initial Setup, and answer a few questions. After initial setup, it’s not necessary to run the car with the handheld plugged in, but you may like the dashboard feature, which monitors engine functions and shows the amount of self-learning. The handheld is also the data log recorder.
18. During setup, the handheld will ask you questions like number of cylinders, displacement in cubic inches, rev limit, camshaft on a scale of 1 to 4 (4 being the most radical), and target idle speed. It will compute a base fuel map from that info to get you 90 percent of the way there before firing the engine.
19. Our 500ci all-aluminum low-deck Indy wedge motor—ready to fire up the first time with the FiTech dual-quad EFI. The power and driveability of the FiTech notwithstanding, we look forward to the EFI lengthening the interval between rebuilds due to less engine wear during cold starts.
20. As promised, the FiTech fired the Indy big-block at the first twist of the key, settling down into a perfect idle. Our baseline carb test made 454.8 hp to the tire on FiTech’s Mustang dyno, almost identical to the 456 hp the same setup and tune made on Westech’s Superflow chassis dyno almost a year ago for a story we did on carb tuning.
21. During the dyno test, we took the opportunity to photograph the fuel spray pattern at WOT. Note the uniformity and atomization of the fuel charge, as well as the way the jets pitch the fuel into an emerging swirl pattern.
22. The increase of 24 hp to the tire really illustrates the effectiveness of real-time, wide-band, closed-loop fuel control. Even though the system was still learning the fuel curve during the first dyno pull, the adjustment in fuel trim as the FiTech’s ECU chased the target a/f ratio was nearly instantaneous. A few years ago, this was high-dollar cutting-edge stuff that only race teams could afford.