Like watching our firstborn graduating from high school, we’ve been able to finally sit back a take a collective sigh as we watch our Project Swinger be disassembled and readied for paint. It’s been a long time coming, to say the very least. And as the leaves rotate through their autumn spectrum and finally fall to earth, we know that at the end of this winter season we’ll be looking at a whole new ’71 Nova.
But before we can revel in the beauty of freshly repainted and dutifully re-straightened classic muscle car sheet metal, we need to assemble and trial fit most everything before we can trailer Swinger off to the body shop. Today’s mission was simple enough: install Aeromotive‘s comprehensive Stealth Fuel Cell, Performance EFI bypass regulator, 100-micron ORB-10 fuel filter and complete stainless braided lines.
If you’ve been following the progress of our intrepid little econobox-turned-serious street machine, you’ll know that Swinger is no plain Jane ’71 Nova. Rather, we sought out to turn this X-Body into a serious Pro Touring contender. Powered by a GMPP LSA twin-screw supercharged plant (y’know, the same one cranking out 556 ponies in the CTS-V Cadillac and rumored to propel the ’12 Z/28), a Keisler Perfect-Fit TKO-600 6-speed with a custom-built McLeod twin-disc clutch, and a Currie 9-inch rear.
So when it came time to selecting a company to contact for Swinger’s fuel system, particularly with the level of performance we were looking to achieve with our g-Machine Nova, one name came to mind: Aeromotive. Recently, the renowned fuel system manufacturer introduced their Stealth Fuel Systems, particularly their Stealth Fuel Cells, which feature the fuel pump inside of a baffled tank.
Aeromotive’s Jesse Powell explained it this way, “We designed the Stealth Fuel Systems for a very specific reason: While external pumps work just fine, the failure level is much higher than those internal. There is a reason today’s cars have pumps inside the tank. They are taking advantage of a column height of fuel pushing down on the pump inlet creating positive pressure; exactly the same for how gravity-feed pumps work.
“If you have positive pressure, you can literally boil the fuel inside the tank and you will not vapor lock the pump.” Powell continued, “Fuel will continue to heat up from driving, exhaust, and from radiant heat from the pavement and the engine bay. If the that fuel is in a low pressure environment, eventually the fuel’s temperature will reach a critical state in which it will boil or suck to vapor in the pickup tube or pump inlet. When this happens, the pump is running dry and the car will die. This is where the phrase ‘vapor lock’ comes from.”
Initially, we were a little wary of what it’d take to keep our LSA plant properly fed. We bounced around the idea of hacking open our factory fuel tank that came from GM hanging beneath the trunk pan. While a popular option, we didn’t like the idea of modifying our factory tank by hacking it open and fabricating a sump box, routing all of our pick up tubes in back – for all the world to see.
The other option was yet another fuel cell – something we’ve nearly done to death here at powerTV. Yet, we weren’t hip to all the pick up and return plumbing that any old cell would require us to do.
Thankfully, Aeromotive’s Stealth Fuel Cell resolves those issues. We were OK with partially loosing the use of a functioning trunk as we already had Air Ride’s control unit and tank back there already. The Stealth Fuel Cell (PN# 18660) is perfect in its simplicity. Each fuel cell comes with one of Aeromotive’s high horsepower fuel pumps and a pre-filter built right in. All that’s required is to hook up two wires and the feed line.
In fact, complete ease of application was key to Aeromotive’s design of the Stealth Fuel Cell. Whether running a low horsepower carbureted system or a high output EFI application, the installation is the same. Even nitrous boosted or supercharged or turbocharged applications only require a change of fuel regulator.
Powell explained, “We wanted to take a proven fuel pump like the A1000 and put it in a package that was truly universal. One that was affordable, could fuel anything and eliminated any of the guess work involved in the installation. No sumping or modifying the fuel tank, no extra lines and fittings, the pre-pump filter is included and if you are carbureted and want to switch EFI down the line, just swap out regulators. The system remains the same.”
The nice thing too is that the Stealth Fuel Cell eliminates the noise of an external fuel pump, provides the pump cooling of any in-tank operation, while seriously reducing the installation time and money spent. Oh yeah, it also eliminates any chance of fuel pump cavitation during hard cornering, launching or braking thanks to Aeromotive’s baffling architecture built into each tank.
Aeromotive Stealth Fuel Cell Features:
• A1000 Fuel Pump (internal) – P/N 11101
• 100 Micron Stainless Steel Fuel Filter
• 15-gal. Capacity
• Return Line Provision
• (2) AN-08 Vents with Rollover Valves
• 0-90 Ohm Universal Sending Unit
• Standard 12-Bolt Flush-Mount Lid Assembly
• Natural Aluminum Finish
Going With The (Fuel) Flow
Aeromotive's ORB-10 Red series fuel filters are really impressive especially when considering all of the desgin effort poured into something as simple as a fuel filter.
Call us a little paranoid, but we just don’t trust the fuel we get out of the pump these days. Sure, fuel filters have been part of every manufacturer’s fuel delivery system for the last century, but saving Swinger’s powerplant from a tank full of “bad gas” meant taking drastic measures. Aeromotive’s 100-Micron ORB-10 Red fuel filter (PN# 12304) is an added and inexpensive insurance policy.
Designed to optimize fuel system performance, Aeromotive’s Red series filters are engineered to maintain optimal protection with minimal restriction to flow. Aeromotive claims their Red series is ideal for applications making anywhere from 200 to 3,000-plus horsepower.
Powell had this to say, “Micron rating is only half of the equation. Surface area is equally as critical. If you pull apart one of our smaller filter elements, you will see there is more than 63 square inches of filtration media the pump is either pulling or pushing through. We design the filters around the pump. We want them to be invisible to the pump. Less than 1% pressure drop is our threshold. Compare that to a filter that is 100 micron, but only has a 1-inch’ disc style filter element.”
Aeromotive 100-Micron ORB-10 Red Filter Features:
• High-flow, 100-micron stainless steel (coarse) cleanable element.
• Flows 2,000 lb/hr with a pressure drop of less than 1 PSI.
• All filter assemblies feature an O-ring for positive sealing in high pressure applications.
• CNC-machined from 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum.
• Bright dip red anodized finish for a corrosion resistant, show car quality appearance.
Regulation Equipment Required
Aeromotive's Performance EFI regulator is designed for medium- to high-horsepower applications, which is perfect for our near-600hp LSA-powered Nova.
While our Project Swinger Nova was going to be bad ass, it wasn’t going to be a 1,000 horsepower earth mover. If – once its all said and done – our LSA ground out close to 600 ponies, we’d be more than happy. Especially for a machine designed to take to the road course like a fish to water.
Nonetheless, when we talked to Aeromotive, they suggested we use their A1000 Inject Bypass Fuel Regulator (PN# 13101). Deemed their “Performance EFI regulator,” the A1000 is designed for medium to high horsepower applications. Although we wouldn’t call 600hp a “medium horsepower application” we get what they were driving at. Remember, Aeromotive makes regulators for 2,500hp applications…
Designed to tackle fuel flow needs either on the street and at the track, Aeromotive’s regulator features their distinctive high-flow design, advanced pressure control and a reputation for durability. Up until the A1000, our fuel system was all but universal to most all applications, classic, hot rod, muscle car or fully-committed drag car.
The Performance EFI regulator, though is what differentiates our system now. Designed specifically for medium-to-high performance fuel injected systems without a return line, our regulator – combined with a fuel pressure gauge – concludes our Aeromotive system.
Aeromotive Performance EFI Fuel Regulator
• Base pressure adjustable from 40-75 PSI.
• Gasoline and alcohol compatible.
• Fuel pressure rises on a 1:1 ratio with boost.
• 1/8” NPT gauge port.
• P/N 13101 provides (2) ORB-10 inlet ports and (1) ORB-06 return port.
Completely bare, we decided against hacking open Project Swinger's trunk as most fuel installations typically do. Instead, we fabricated up a pair of perches to mount our fuel onto which would allow for enough space to fit beneath the trunk without any problems.
Racking Up The Box
Since the Aeromotive Stealth Fuel Cell comes smooth, we had to fabricate our own mounting brackets out of angled aluminum.
Since Aeromotive’s Stealth Fuel Cell comes comely smooth, we were left to our own devices to dream up how we wanted to mount our new tank. Since we had no desire to pull out the plasma cutting and eviscerate our Nova’s trunk floor, we decided that it’d be best to fabricate a pair of L-shaped brackets to TIG-weld to the tank’s base. These brackets would then mount – via six-bolts – to a pair of 2-inch-by-2-inch square-tube perches.
We picked up a single length of angled aluminum stock at our local supplier and cut them into two 18-inch brackets. Taking a flap disc on a hand grinder to the corners, we knocked off all the sharp edges, just to make sure we don’t cut ourselves later. Next, we welded them to the left and right-hand sides of the Aeromotive tank.
With our brackets ready, we whipped up a pair of equal-length perches from a strip of 2-inch-by-2-inch square steel tubing we had in our material rack. We also welded on some nuts to thread our bolts into as well as some end caps just for extra measures. Next, we simply measured out the trunk, trial-fit our fuel cell’s placement and welded our square tube perches to the bare trunk pan. Voila!
Aeromotive's Stealth Fuel Cell comes with everything but mounting brackets. Since we weren't going to drop in through our trunk floor pan, we opted to fabricate our own brackets and perches allowing us to remove the tank when we choose with no hassle.
Laying Down Some Serious Plumbing
The Stealth Fuel Cell comes with dual rollover valves which not only serve as vents but also - as their name states - safety valves in case of a roll over.
In addition to the slick Stealth Fuel Cell, Performance EFI fuel regulator and Red series fuel filter, Aeromotive also provided us with plenty of steel braided AN-08 (150psi minimum) fuel line. Designed for optimal durability and longevity, we ran our fuel line as tucked away as we could. Starting from the fuel cell and working our way forward, we started with the breather tube.
First to go on were our black AN fittings which gave Swinger’s fuel system a clean, uniform look (rather than the look-at-me red and blue fittings we typically see).
Following the 90-degree elbow attached to one of the fuel cell’s two rollover valves, we ran an extra length of tube into a loop and down to the floor pan where we drilled a small hole and mounted the end of the breather tube, allowing the fumes to leave outside of the body. The loop is to catch and collect any fuel condensation that might try to splash out.
Aeromotive recommends fastening the ORB-10 Red fuel filter down, preferably to the sub-frame or floor pan. Running the braided line down from the pump outlet (with a AN-10 elbow AN fitting), we mounted the filter directly beside the fuel cell flat on the floor with a rubber-lined bracket riveted to the floor. Secured and connected via another elbow, we ran our fuel line to another 90-degree where we ran our line through the trunk floor.
Possibly one of the biggest mistakes made in building a customized project car is leaving things with enough slack to wiggle loose. We mounted everything down with rubberized eye-loops and hex screws to make sure that our new Aeromotive fuel system wouldn't come loose and spill any gas.
We had to run both a positive feed and a return line to our Performance EFI fuel regulator. We ran the two lines parallel to each other even down to the dual AN fittings running up through the trunk floor pan.
Although the factory Cadillac LSA fuel rail does not require a return line, the Aeromotive Performance EFI fuel regulator does. So as we plumbed a fixture for the positive line running to the engine through the floor pan, we did likewise for a return line back to the tank.
Both the supply and return lines were ran through a set of double-threaded AN fittings which were fed through the floor and tightened down firmly. The two outlets poking out from below the floor pan were connected to another pair of 90-degree fittings and the long lengths of steel braided hose.
We wanted to keep the fuel lines high up and away from snagging on obstacles or receiving damage from any road debris, therefore we wove the two lines up high against the frame rails, over the differential, and along the sub-frame connectors we installed months earlier. We spaced out each rubber-lined eye-loop about each foot to foot-and-a-half depending on the contour of the floor, using hex head sheet metal screws to fasten ’em down.
We also tied the two lines together with several black zip-ties, so that they wouldn’t flail around with any extra slack. Like we said before, since we’re working with flexible steel braided hoses instead of hard line, any slack or slop can allow fittings to unthread over time, causing a potentially dangerous fuel leak.
Over the river and through the woods... We wove our steel braided line up and alongside the frame rails all the way to the firewall, hugging the uppermost part of the sub-frame connectors as best as we could. We don't want to snag anything, y'know.
Once back from paint, the first thing on our list is the wiring. And with the LSA motor, Air Ride suspension and cool Aeromotive fuel system, we'll have plenty to do.
With our dual lines running up the frame rails, we simply had to decide a place to mount our Aeromotive fuel regulator on the firewall. We opted to mount the regulator near enough to reach the rear of the engine’s factory fuel rail with only a short 6-inch length of hose, giving our engine compartment a clean, no-nonsense look.
We then connected our supply line to the regulator with a 90-degree elbow while we chose a 45-degree angle fitting for the return line.
With a snap of the spring-loaded locking AN fitting, we connected our positive line to the LSA. Additionally, we also attached a nice and big white-faced fuel pressure gauge to the schrader valve on the front of the regulator to always gives us an accurate reading.
Holding Our Horses
With our Aeromotive system buttoned up, we discovered one severe hiccup: the GM LSA demands that we run upwards to 85 PSI. Knowing this would over-tax our brand-new Aeromotive pump, we turned to Jesse Powell once again.
“The reason for GM originally recommending the LSA and LS9 crate motors be run at such a high base pressure is to force more fuel through the small injectors. With the Corvette, the fuel pump is controlled by the car’s computer. Under load, the pump kicks up increasing pressure. This made it driveable while cruising or at idle.
“When GM started selling these crate motors, there was no computer to control the fuel pump. It took a while, but we were able to compromise on this a bit. Ideally, you will set the base pressure between 60 and 65 psi. Stock, naturally-aspirated LS motors like about 58 psi. The superchargers in the LSA and LS9 make about 13 lbs. of boost pressure. After boost referencing with an Aeromotive bypass style regulator, you end up about 73-78 psi.; the perfect operating pressure for these motors.”
Powell concluded, “GM now includes an Aeromotive parts list with these crate motors. As a matter of fact, almost all of GM’s LSA and LS9-powered vehicles at SEMA 2010 featured this same system.”
Since we weren’t quite ready swap out the factory injectors or start drawing up a new fuel map to fire this big ol’ beast up, we didn’t wire the Aeromotive sending unit to the in dash fuel gauge, ground the system or the pump to the relay just yet; but once we get Swinger back from paint, we’re going to be pouring into the programming, wiring and electronics soon enough!