Horsepower fans rejoice! We figured that if 435 horsepower in our ’54 Bel Air was good, surely even a few more ponies would be better, right? Well, maybe a lot more ponies thanks to our shiny new Edelbrock E-Force Enforcer supercharger system.
As you may recall from a previous installation of our Project Sucker Punch build, we began with a solid foundation thanks to a BluePrint Engines 383ci short-block featuring a forged rotating assembly. While any of the BluePrint Engines combinations would have complemented our Bel Air nicely, we chose the all-forged option for increased durability knowing that we were eventually going to be cramming positive manifold pressure down our small-block’s throat. We then topped it all off with an Edelbrock Performer RPM E-Tec 435 D.I.Y. Crate Engine Kit (Part #45909).
As great as this engine combination has proven to be this far, we couldn’t wait for the next round of modifications; so here comes the boost! We began by selecting Edelbrock part number 15161, which is their E-Force Enforcer supercharger system designed for use with the E-Tec cylinder heads that we previously installed on our 383. Conveniently, this supercharger system will also readily fit any commonly available Vortec-style cylinder head.
Included in our kit was the supercharger and intake manifold assembly, intake manifold gaskets, custom thermostat housing, 10-rib serpentine belt drive assembly, spring loaded belt tensioner, mounting bracket for belt tensioner, idler pulley, all the necessary mounting hardware, and two 600 cfm Performer-series carburetors already calibrated for use with this supercharger.
Edelbrock upped the ante in the street supercharger game with the introduction of the E-Force Enforcer supercharger. This isn’t your garden-variety rebuilt Jimmy Roots blower from decades past. The Enforcer supercharger is a clean-sheet design, taking advantage of the latest in supercharger rotor technology thanks to Eaton Gen VI 2300 TVS internals.
A Deeper Look into the Supercharger
The compact 3-lobe TVS rotor technology incorporated by Eaton utilizes optimized rotor helix angles as well as optimized rotor lengths; all of which helps to minimize internal leakage. This all adds up to improved low speed supercharger efficiency resulting in reduced pumping losses as well as reduced heat build-up within the air inlet charge.
Eaton’s TVS rotor technology is ideal for applications where high airflow is required at relatively low engine speeds. This makes the Enforcer supercharger an ideal choice for street-driven vehicles where an instant and substantial increase in low-speed torque production is desired. This supercharger design lends itself to increased low-speed volumetric efficiency as compared to other popular designs which ultimately requires a lower drive ratio than what would typically be required with a similarly sized Roots-style supercharger.
The Eaton Gen-VI rotor group is really what makes this supercharger work. – Smitty Smith
Technical Sales Coordinator for Edelbrock, Smitty Smith, said, “The Eaton Gen-VI rotor group is really what makes this supercharger work.”
Basically, not only is this supercharger going to significantly increase our horsepower and torque being produced by our 383, but the internal design generates less overall strain on the engine to turn the supercharger. We’re also going to enjoy lower inlet temps generated in the manifold by this supercharger compared to a two-lobe straight rotor Roots blower. Lower inlet temperature means reduced detonation sensitivity, reduced overall engine operating temperature, and more effective energy extracted from the air/fuel mixture once it combusts in the cylinders.
Keeping it Cool
Since a supercharged engine typically is going to generate more heat than a naturally aspirated combination, now would also be the ideal time to go ahead and upgrade our Bel Air’s cooling system.
Fortunately we knew just who to turn to in order to help keep our blown small-block cool: AFCO Racing Products. AFCO has long been known for providing only their very best in cooling system technology thanks to their comprehensive line of high quality aluminum radiators and supporting accessories.
AFCO stepped up to the plate with one of their Direct Fit radiator and fan packages from their Street Rod product line. After consulting with AFCO, they decided that part number 80139-P-SP-Y would be the best fit for our project. This kit includes a custom polished aluminum radiator with built-in transmission fluid cooler, polished aluminum fan shroud, and a premium 16-inch electric cooling fan.
What really sets AFCO radiators apart is their construction and overall quality. AFCO only utilizes domestic cores to build their radiators, which ensures consistent fitment, good appearance, and outstanding durability.
Another superior feature is AFCO’s use of furnace brazing to seal the radiator core to the tanks instead of using epoxy like many lesser-quality radiators. Furnace brazed construction provides for a stronger overall radiator assembly that offers outstanding durability and longevity. Furnace brazing also helps improve heat transfer throughout the radiator, helping to optimize cooling efficiency.
There’s nothing more aggravating than rolling into the car show field and having to constantly look down at that temperature gauge. – Eric Saffell
Combine all these impressive features with two rows of 1.00-inch tubes that effectively hold more coolant than comparable four-core designs, and you can easily see that AFCO has the recipe for cooling system success.
The sweetest part of this radiator package from AFCO is that it is designed specifically to fit 1949–1954 Chevrolet passenger cars. “The average consumer with a socket set and adjustable wrench can install a Direct Fit radiator,” said Saffell.
AFCO has actually taken the time, energy, and effort to make sure each radiator model in their Direct Fit series has been properly test fitted into the appropriate vehicle. Saffell noted that while it’s hard to compensate for 40–60 years of age and possible changes that have been done to an antique vehicle, AFCO does their very best to ensure proper fitment in an original OEM application.
We were extremely pleased when the unit dropped right in to our Bel Air, right down to the pre-fabricated mounting tabs lining up with the existing bolt holes in the original core support. This package also proved to offer the clearance we needed for the supercharger drive pulley that we installed on the crankshaft.
The “Nuts and Bolts” of the Installation
With the cooling system addressed and out of the way, we moved on to the supercharger installation. We began by removing the Edelbrock Thunder Series AVS 800 cfm carburetor, electronic distributor, and RPM Air-Gap Vortec intake manifold that was originally installed on the engine from our 435 D.I.Y. Crate Engine Kit. We also had to remove the alternator as well as the alternator mounting brackets in order to give ourselves enough room to maneuver within the Bel Air’s engine bay.
The next step was to install the 10-rib serpentine supercharger drive pulley onto the harmonic damper of our small-block. Edelbrock really did their homework when designing the supercharger drive system for this kit. The drive pulley is actually designed to fit inside a conventional stamped steel small-block Chevrolet V-belt crankshaft pulley for short water pump applications.
Installation was as simple as removing the existing crankshaft pulley bolts and harmonic damper bolt, slapping on the supercharger drive pulley inside our current V-belt crank pulley, and installing the new mounting hardware supplied with the serpentine pulley.
After cleaning off the residue from the old gaskets and sealer from the cylinder heads, we slapped on a fresh set of premium Edelbrock intake manifold gaskets supplied with our supercharger kit. At this point, we were ready to install the supercharger. Edelbrock conveniently provides the supercharger pre-assembled to the intake manifold, effectively cutting out one more step from the assembly process.
We had to exercise caution during the installation of the supercharger and intake manifold assembly onto the engine, as this was a relatively heavy unit to attempt to be lifting up and over the core support or fenders while trying to guide it onto the engine without affecting gasket alignment.
We installed our trusty lift plate onto the supercharger carburetor mounting flange, and then used an engine hoist to lift the supercharger into the engine bay. We did this to keep from straining our backs and to simplify installation without disturbing the gaskets.
At this point in the installation, we decided to check the alignment of the supercharger pulley with the drive pulley we previously installed on the crankshaft. It’s important to make sure that both pulleys are aligned in the same plane in order to ensure proper supercharger drive belt alignment as well as maximize the longevity of the belt.
We used a simple straight edge to verify pulley alignment. Fortunately, our pulley alignment was right on, although Edelbrock does include some crankshaft pulley shims with the kit in the event that pulley alignment needs to be adjusted.
With the Enforcer supercharger assembly safely secured to our 383, we could turn our attention to installing the remaining necessary items from the supercharger kit. The custom thermostat housing provided in the kit provided ideal hose routing and alignment with our AFCO aluminum radiator.
The belt tensioner mounting bracket, idler pulley, and spring loaded belt tensioner took only a couple of minutes to install. We were basically finished with the installation of the supercharger kit at this point, and re-installed our alternator mounting brackets, alternator, and V-belts.
We then moved on to re-installing the electronic distributor, taking care to ensure correct alignment with the oil pump driveshaft as well as correct rotor alignment with the reference marks we made previously to having removed the distributor. Distributor cap… check. Spark plug wires… check.
The beauty of the E-Force Enforcer supercharger system is that you have the option to order the system complete with two pre-calibrated Edelbrock Performer-series carburetors. This removes all of the guess work associated with selecting appropriately sized carburetors while also eliminating a lot of tuning hassle once you have the package up and running.
Our kit included Edelbrock’s 600 cfm models with manual chokes. Since we opted for the polished supercharger kit, the carburetors also came with Edelbrock’s attractive EnduraShine finish, providing a chrome-like appearance on the carburetors without any of the potential cleaning or corrosion hassle that can normally be associated with chrome engine components.
Installation of the carburetors were as easy as installing the provided carburetor mounting studs into the integral mounting pads cast into the supercharger housing, sliding the new carburetor base gaskets over the studs, and dropping the Performer carbs onto the supercharger.
We then added the adjustable rod end linkage to join the two carburetor throttle arms together, installed the throttle cable mounting bracket, and snapped in our adjustable braided steel throttle cable that was already installed in the car.
Turning our attention to the fuel system, we re-used the -6AN fuel line coming from our Edelbrock Performer RPM-series mechanical fuel pump. We also re-used our Russell Competition-series billet aluminum 40-micron fuel filter. Additional plumbing to feed fuel to the two carburetors were handled courtesy of additional Russell -6AN Full Flow Hose Ends, a -6AN tee fitting, and Russell ProClassic black braided -6AN hose.
With the plumbing chores handled and out of the way, it was time to button up Project Sucker Punch by topping the engine off with some period-correct accessories from Edelbrock’s Classic Series product line. Edelbrock began producing their now infamous finned aluminum valve covers clear back in the 1950s, making them a perfect fit for our 1954 Bel Air.
The addition of their classy finned aluminum air cleaner assembly rounded out the package nicely, giving Sucker Punch that just-right blend between nostalgia and more modern updated amenities without taking away from the “vintage” vibe.
The Results Are In
We felt we already had a potent small-block with Sucker Punch, and although we built it with the contention that we would be adding a supercharger and kept the compression ratio down a little, it turned in some decent numbers for a cruiser. We pulled in 219.8 horsepower at the rear wheels, and 284.0 lb-ft of torque. Had we built the engine as a normally-aspirated cruiser, our numbers would have come in a little higher.
Adding a supercharger like this to an engine clearly takes a bit more than just bolting it on and going. There are other things to consider when you’re adding boost and an extra carburetor. Once we had the supercharger installed, we found that we weren’t getting the best ignition for our buck, so we upgraded to an MSD Pro-Billet small diameter distributor for clearance of the supercharger, and an MSD programmable 6AL-2 ignition. We needed to control the ignition retard at full boost – and spare our engine from too much advance when the boost comes on. We also wanted to be sure we didn’t run too lean at top end – a recipe for disaster in a boosted engine.
We made a few short runs to see where our air/fuel ratio (AFR) was sitting, and made a couple of changes to our carburetors. We found that Edelbrock’s technical support team was a great help to get us dialed in, and when we made our final adjustments we spun the rollers a final time and pulled in 359.5 horsepower and 392.1 lb-ft of torque at eight pounds of boost.
At cruise, we were where we wanted to be with the AFR, but once the throttle was dropped we saw it get a little fatter at about 11.4. The Edelbrock E-Force Enforcer supercharger kit netted us a 139.7 increase in horsepower at the wheels, with an increase of 108.0 lb-ft of torque, which makes for a 64% gain in power. Of course, you can play around with boost a little with different pulley sizes by using a smaller supercharger drive pulley, available from Edelbrock.
If you’re aiming for huge power gains and potentially losing the driveability factor, a cylinder head and cam upgrade can bring even bigger numbers. For Sucker Punch, we have it where we want it: a classic with the thrill of a supercharger, driveability of a cruiser, and looks that kill.
Check out the Edelbrock Performance website for your kid-in-a-candy-store wish list of performance parts and accessories, including the E-Force supercharger line. Don’t forget that when you’re adding power to your musclecar or hot rod you need to keep your cool and upgrade your radiator, too. For that, the AFCO Racing website will help you get the look and performance you want for your cooling system.
Dyno Testing & Tuning
When it came to get this ‘sucker’ on the dyno, we had to first setup the timing strategy. Edelbrock recommended a programmable boost-retard timing capable ignition system that would allow us to run 12-15 degrees of initial timing, and then program a boost retard curve compatible with the boosted engine. Did we listen? Initially, no. We tried to get away with a traditional distributor and retarded the distributor’s initial timing so that we didn’t overtime under boosted conditions.
With the eight-psi of boost, we had to reduce the initial timing to 0 degrees. When we fired the engine up, it didn’t want to idle, and the power numbers weren’t very impressive either. It didn’t take long for us to figure that we needed the appropriate timing controls to ensure the engine would run safely, properly, and be properly timed at wide open throttle and at eight psi. We made a call to our friends at MSD who set up with an MSD Digital Programmable 6AL-2 ignition (part #6530) and MSD Pro-billet small block Chevy distributor (part #8570). We hooked up our MAP sensor (which detects boost pressure) to the MSD 6AL-2 so that the ignition module could adjust timing under boost.
The theory behind the MSD boost reference is simple. It would allow us to run 12-16 degrees of initial timing if we wanted to; but then advance the correct amount under boosted and non-boosted conditions. So for example, under cruise at 2500 rpm, the engine could run at 30 degrees. However, under full throttle at 4500 rpm, where the engine might be making 7 lbs of boost; then we would only have 24-degrees of timing if we wanted. We strongly recommend a boost-retard type ignition controller for any boosted engines, even with a carb, if you want maximum performance.
Our final settings were 12 degrees of initial timing and at full boost pressure of eight pounds, the timing is retarded 11 degrees. The MSD did this like a champ with their simple Windows-based software.
When we first brought Sucker Punch into the shop, it had the garden-variety, run of the mill small-block Chevy crate motor. It was fun for a while, but the fun factor wasn’t enough and it was already tired, having been the motivation for a Nova that found its way to the wrecking yard. We built the new engine with Edelbrock’s top end kit and kept the compression reasonable, knowing that we would be adding boost.
Prior to adding the E-Force supercharger, the go pedal could be used to it’s full extent. Granted, we weren’t running on a “finished” engine, and had more in store for it, but once the blower was added and the MSD ignition was dialed in, the car took on a whole new attitude and a similar romp on the throttle puts the car sideways coming out of the parking lot. Each blip of the throttle is met with instant response, and now care must be taken to keep the car in line, because the blower does far more than just obstruct your vision a little.
If you’re looking for some old school pep for your small-block in the form of a roots0style blower, head over to Edelbrock’s website and check out the E-Force superchargers. Don’t forget to give MSD a visit too, because when you’re adding boost the last thing you want to do is put some holes in your pistons because your timing is too far advanced. To help keep things cool, AFCO has a radiator to meet your needs, from completely stock to a wild blown musclecar, like Sucker Punch.