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The Stoner T: How to build a hot rod in 10 years (and influence people), part 18

Published in blog.hemmings.com

WE’RE BACK!

I know it’s been a way-too-long hiatus between chapters of the Stoner T, but that’s just par for the course with this car. Since the day I started collecting the pile of parts that ultimately became what you see here, it had done tours of duty in no fewer than six garages before really starting to come together once Conder had rendered his first sketch of what it could be. And now, the car has made its final stop, back to my shop for the final touches. Couldn’t be more stoked. Really.

Except, I should say, for the pleasantly surprising questions and good-natured demands for the next chapters in this story to be published. That’s the real honor in this effort for me: that you dig this on-going story enough to notice when it’s not here. So, let’s get on with it!

Last time we left off, we’d married the Gotelli Speed Shop 392 Hemi with its original weedburner headers. That was such a huge deal for me: it’s rare enough that an old fueler motor from the early Sixties survived all these years, but it’s even more rare for that motor to be freshly-rebuilt when I finally got my hands on it. Even more rare that the motor’s original headers might not only exist, but that I get the chance to bolt them back up to it, some 55 years later (head explodes). For someone who loves this hot rod history as much I do and that I get a chance to preserve it and then share it, well, in the words of ‘basic girls’ everywhere, “I can’t even…”

Now, if you’ve been following along with this continuing saga (bless your heart, btw), you’ll understand that the car’s builder, Tim Conder, and I share one very important trait: we’re both aesthetically-driven. Far too many hot rods are built with some nod to a certain era or “look,” but get it wrong when they don’t sweat the small stuff. Why? Because the small stuff is always the biggest stuff. Ask any builder going for an AMBR or Ridler and they’ll tell you the same thing: it’s all in the details. Don’t get me wrong – this car isn’t being built to win awards, but for one of the very first times in my life, I’m actually sweating the details. Which is why the hours spent on this Enderle showerhead bugcatcher have reached Stage Ludicrous.

Not only did Conder turn a run-of-the-mill, late-model Enderle bugcatcher into a replica of a rare, early model that the shop sent to “Terrible” Ted Gotelli back in ’62 to test on this Chrysler 392 Hemi (spoiler: this 5-fin design didn’t hold up to a blower cough, but it was the predecessor to the stronger 3-fin design you can buy all day long, these days), but he also replicated the “showerhead” fuel injection setup with the right hardware, fuel lines and even the little threaded flanges on the side of the hat. Crazy. And so, so good.

But that showerhead design brings up an interesting problem to solve. Since this raw, wild and woolly fueler motor is now going to be run on the street, it’s got to be tightened up. And, while we’ll dig into the rotating assembly soon enough (once I figure out which bank to rob), the fuel delivery system is something that’s been on our collective minds for quite some time. A showerhead mechanical fuel injection setup is called that because of its brutal simplicity: just two little hard lines that poke through the side of the hat (where the black rubber lines are brass-elbowed into it, as you can see below) and do a 90º turn down with wee fuel sprayers that look like, well, showerheads. That system is either on or off. It’s either dousing the open top of the blower case below it with as much fuel as possible, or it’s not. Which is great for a dragster, but that ain’t working on the street.

So, how to solve this problem? The best solution would be to just order an EFI kit, forget about all this period-correct nonsense, and bobs-yer-uncle. While we’re at it, let’s just forget this vintage fueler motor and build us a reliable small-block, right? Why don’t we just throw an LS in it? RIGHT.

The only solution was to – you guessed it – make something that looks right, yet also works, and spend insane amounts of time figuring it out, then lighting a candle for good measure. The question became, “Can we hide an active, reliable electronic fuel injection system inside this era-specific bugcatcher?” Conder’s answer was, “Of course, we can…”

Near Conder Custom, in Northern California, there’s a maker shop called 180 Studios. And on a visit one day, Tim met a machinist working there, Ken Rawson. Ken is plying his trade and making his magic and it wasn’t a surprise that he and Conder would come together over this project.

The problem was put in front of Ken: How to stuff as many electronically-controlled fuel injectors inside this fairly shallow aluminum bugcatcher as possible, deliver fuel to said injectors, then suspend it all over the top of the blower case with as little air movement interference as possible.

“Sure…” was Ken’s answer.

Ken and Tim went to the drawing board and came up with a fuel rail design – just look at that piece of aluminum jewelry! – while we tapped Hemmings’ own Steve Berry for custom EFI setup advice. Steve is into vintage Volvos. He’s also into racing those Swedish meatballs. Which means he’s also pretty good at designing his own electronic fuel injection systems for them. And he was more than willing to help us wireframe the wiring diagram, as well as providing sage advice (“Make sure the injectors aren’t pointing at a wall of any kind. You’ll get it…”). Ken’s rail points those injectors down at a 45º angle, spraying fuel right at the blower’s rotors…

Cool, right? Enough space to mix that fuel and gulp that air…

Now, the blower case had to be modified to make all this work, but it’s all coming together nicely. Tightly, but nicely. Another issue was overall height: Tim spent a whole lot of time making sure that the low clearance of the original showerhead bugcatcher was maintained. Nothing worse than trying to hide modern technology in a vintage, analog environment and then everyone who looks at it is all, “I see how you did that trick!” We will have none of that. NONE of that.

Ooooo-WEE! Look at all that! The fuel log is in place, the injectors are mounted, the fittings are screwed-in, the fuel line is plumbed, the wiring is snaked and the screen that’ll prevent giant rocks and gull poop from getting sucked into this giant, heavy, vintage hairdryer is sandwiched between the mounting plate and gasket. But will it all fit under the hat?

Here’s another angle for your viewing pleasure: you can see the two fuel lines that replace those early showerheads plumbed into the fuel rail. But, you can also get an idea of the other ends of those lines where they attach to the inside of the hat wall. That’s a whole lot of rubber hose that was never intended to be squeezed into the narrow passages of a ’60s-era Enderle mechanical fuel injection blower hat.

Better shot of those four little magical injectors. I have no idea how they actually work or what’s inside them or how the electronics actually change ones and zeros into squirtiness. No idea. But I know it’s all fairly amazing.

HOLY…

It all fits! Of course it all fits. As if I ever doubted Team Conder/Rawson/Berry. And look those fittings. The black fuel lines. The de-anodized barrel valve. The linkage. The beauty of it all coming together. I weep a little on the inside. Why? Because there’s NO CRYING IN HOTRODDING.

Now, if you’re scrutinizing this project, you might notice that the injectors aren’t evenly spaced over the top of the blower case and across its air gaping air cavity. That’s because – you guessed it – there had to be enough clearance for the butterflies to turn 90º at full-open. And this view is the last thing a clean gulp of fresh air sees before it’s turned into an intoxicating potion of goodness.

There it is. Or isn’t, as it were. Would you ever guess that there’s a totally bitchin,’ handcrafted, one-of-a-kind, 2019-technology-based EFI system at work there, nestled within a sand-cast, vintage bugcatcher? Here’s hoping that answer is a hard NO.

Now, we’ll have to figure out how to hide the wiring that’ll run from the injectors to the ECU that we’ll also have to hide somewhere, but here’s a distraction from that: a vintage magnesium Cragar 35-tooth, 1/2-inch pitch top blower pulley that has a neat aluminum shoulder pressed into it. Never seen one of these before and it seems like a proper answer to the problem I’ve always had of identifying the motor’s original top pulley configuration. For now, anyway.

The engineering that went into the hidden EFI system is something I’ll never completely understand, but that doesn’t prevent me from appreciating it. Not to get too salty, here, but I can barely handle the sheer beauty of this thing. All that work and effort and energy put into the ultimate goal of making sure you never see any of that work, effort or energy. That’s the definition of art, right?

To catch up on other installments of the Stoner T build, click here.

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