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Bill Howell History Part 1

Jack Hahn & Bill Howell

When necessity drives innovation, many good things can come from those with the ambition to create, design, produce and persevere their way into success. While the planet has been spinning in space for a few billion years, many of us have been fortunate to be here at a time bearing witness to a variety of great creations. As a TV-show jingle states, “Neanderthals developed tools, we built a wall, we built the pyramids, math, science, history, it all,” like many creations, “started with a big bang.”

And while we missed out on the walls and the pyramids, we have seen our fair share of life-altering inventions come to be. From the automobile relieving horse and buggy, to the microchip relieving knowledge and strength from backbones and knuckles of the laborer, to an infinite number of uses originating at a computer keyboard instead. Within each grand invention forms a variety of sub creations to change, improve and progress with enhancements to meet current needs. 

Many times, those in the beginning of change are able to continually create, design and build products from which so many will benefit. In the case of automobile power and acceleration, one of the pioneers of the industry, Bill Howell, has had an incredible effect on both the design of iconic automobile engines, and then later in life, wiring the fueling system that feeds them. 

With an incredible history in engine design, then revolutionizing the electronic fuel injection within modern-day vehicles, the Howell name carries a long legacy of putting those tools, math, science and history, to very good use. Culminating with the expertise in his own company, Howell Engine Development, Bill Howell has had more influence on the cars we see on the road, and the racetrack, than many may know.

Mr. Howell’s fascination with automobiles began early in his life on the farm in Nebraska, unknowingly, as the spark to what would become a future legacy in the history of automobile and engine performance, design and manufacturing. 

Throughout the 1940’s, Howell learned the basics of auto care and engine overhaul on his mother’s 1939 Plymouth. When it was finally his turn for ownership, Bill purchased his first car, a 1940 Oldsmobile six-cylinder that was financed by the man who sold it to him. “As I recall,” says Howell, “it cost a little over $300. My second car was a 1947 Chevy four-door sedan, which I hopped-up while living in the National Guard Armory in Laramie. I built a new 235 CID engine for it with all the latest California parts. That’s when I learned that everything wasn’t as advertised in the hot rod magazines. My next car was a new 1955 Chevy V8 convertible, with power pack and dual exhaust, purchased for $2400 in the fall of 1954, from a Chevy dealer in Cheyenne. It was my first experience with a long-term payment contract. I loved this car and enjoyed it as much as any I have owned. But I swapped it for a 1950 Chevy sedan in 1956 when I decided to save money for college. I sold the 1950 and bought a beauty of a 1949 Chevy fastback four-door, which I drove all through college. No more hot rods for a while!”

Then came a new 1961 Corvette purchased in May 1961 from the Chevy dealer in Laramie. It was maroon with a white convertible top. The dealer took a chance on Howell, having heard Bill would have a guaranteed job with Chevy in Detroit when he graduated college. “I paid $4500 for it and made monthly payments on it for the next three years until it was paid off,” says Bill. This would be Bill’s car until he received his first company car in his future career with Chevy in 1967. 

Among other cars that the legendary engine man would own were a 1964 Corvair, a 1967 Camaro SS convertible, and the #6 1975 Cosworth Vega, bought from Chevy engineering.

Under his own self-analysis, Bill had determined there was a psychology to his early-life interest in racing and speed, related to the human experience during World War II. “With the minimum availability of gasoline,” says Bill of the times, “Mom never drove the old Plymouth over 35 mph. Consequently, anything over 40 mph seemed like we were flying! At 35, it took forever to go any place, but on the other hand, we really didn’t have any place to go. I first became interested in auto racing after going to a Saturday matinee movie in Torrington, Wyoming where I saw a midget-racing movie starring Mickey Rooney, The Big Wheel.  It scared me to death!”

Bill says, his next experience was a race in Englewood, Colorado in the year 1948, followed by a midget race at Lakeside Amusement Park in Denver. “And I was hooked,” says Bill. “I spent a couple of weeks in Inglewood, at a time when street cars were still running in Denver. I could go to races via street car at Lakeside Speedway, located at the opposite end of Denver. After that they started racing 1934–37 coupe stock cars in Scottsbluff, Nebraska and I went to many of those races too. Mom was always ready to pick up and go to the races when we wanted to. In Cheyenne, about 1954 I began to get acquainted with Jack Hahn, the Wyoming sprint car champ at the time. I was just hanging around in his garage. He was building a Pikes Peak car powered by a Ford V8 with Ardun heads and when completed, I went with him to his first race up Pikes Peak in 1955 as a crew helper. Jack went on to win the BCRA championship several times and was inducted into the racing Hall of Fame at Lincoln, Nebraska in 2006. Jack and I remained good friends until his death, at home in Moran, Wyoming.” 

Jack Hahn And His BCRA Hall of Fame Award

Beyond tinkering with his friends’ and mother’s cars, a young Bill Howell also tried his hand at racing cars as well. It was 1955 when he and his local barber decided to race a stock car at the Cheyenne speedway. His barber had purchased a 1934 Ford coupe that was already a ‘race’ car. Bill was the driver and provided the mechanical work required. Howell says, “I was getting pretty well acquainted with it when I decided to take a week of vacation and go fly fishing in July at Afton, Wyoming. While I was away, a friend of mine took the racecar to the track and totaled it. So that was the end of my racing career as a driver, but certainly not as an enthusiast.”

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Bill Howell History Part 2

With his short-lived racing career in the past as well as a pending divorce from his first wife, whom he met while living in Laramie and married in 1953, Bill decided he didn’t want a desk job with the state of Wyoming for the rest of his life. He decided he needed to change careers. He knew he liked being a mechanic better than anything else, but he didn’t want to lie on his back under a dirty old car for a career. Bill ‘deductively’ decided a mechanical engineer must be a high-class mechanic, and that was the right choice for him. “I determined I had to go to college,” says Bill. “I traded off my new car, took a semester of advanced algebra at the local high school to qualify, and started putting money in the bank for tuition. At that time I was paying $30 per month for a furnished room, and $2 per day for food. I was taking home about $300 per month, so I could save about $150 per month.”

Bill was serving with the Wyoming National Guard at the time but would not be able to rise above the rank of Master Sergeant in his current role. In 1957 he quit his job with the Adjutant General, so he could be promoted to second Lieutenant and go to artillery school before college. “I was now an officer and assigned with my high school friend, Jim Hawk, to a new artillery unit in Cheyenne. We attended the artillery school together, and I graduated in the top 5 of my class, and second in Gunnery, which was the toughest phase. I was very proud of this accomplishment, as many Wyoming guardsmen before me had failed Gunnery.”

Bill Howell At Fort Belvoir Virginia

In addition to Howell’s interest in cars, he also grew fond of firearms and weaponry during his tenure in the National Guard. “In my lifetime, I have fired a variety of rifles, pistols and cannons,” says Bill. Starting with his Daisy BB gun, on to a 22 rifle, 30-30 Winchester carbine, 30.06 army rifle, 30 caliber carbine, 35 Remington automatic, several 12-gauge shotguns, several pistols including a 45 caliber automatic, 50 caliber machine gun, as well as the 75mm, 105mm and 155mm howitzers, both trailed and self-propelled. In 1956 Howell was selected along with six others to represent the Wyoming National Guard at the national pistol matches at Camp Perry, Ohio. “I didn’t get selected for my skill, but instead, because I was available and I had a blast learning to shoot a 45 automatic pistol. While there, I took a ferry boat across Lake Erie to Leamington, Canada and had the opportunity to go to a USAC sprint car race at new Bremen, Ohio. It’s a trip I have never forgotten,” says Bill.

In 1957, with $2000 in his savings account, Bill moved back to Laramie to go to the University of Wyoming, and lived with Ken and Arvilla Shappell, his ex in-laws. During his college studies, Bill was also looking ahead to future employment opportunities and seeking jobs while in college. Among his outreach he had sent resumes to several automotive companies, ironically none to Ford or Chrysler. He received a favorable reply from Chevy Engineering in Warren, Michigan. Both John Deere (Dubuque, Iowa) and Chevrolet (Detroit, Michigan) flew Bill to their HQ locations for personal interviews. As a fairly obvious choice, when Chevy offered Howell the job, he accepted immediately, choosing cars over tractors. 

“The trip to Dubuque was my first experience with commercial flying, and I flew to Chicago via a DC-6 with four propeller engines. It was noisy and took forever; nothing like current jet travel. This all occurred in November and December 1960, providing me the assurance of a job by the year’s end.”

During his years in college, Howell learned to arc and gas weld, run basic machine tools and a lathe, and as a senior classman, he completed his power lab project on an engine dynamometer. “It was an old flat head Ford V-8 hooked to an electric Dyno,” says Howell of his senior project, “comparing gasoline vs. methanol fuels. I suggested the project to my advisor, also head of the Mechanical Engineering department, Professor Bob Sutherland. He made me agree to submit a paper to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers describing the project before he would approve it.” The mandate turned out to be a beneficial move for the college senior, because not only did Bill get an A on the project, he also won the ASME paper contest at UW. He presented the paper at the University of Colorado at Boulder, which he also won and thereby received an all expenses paid trip to LA in June 1961, to present his paper there as well. 

“Since the Chevy dealer in Laramie had let me take possession of my new Corvette at the time, Professor Sutherland and I took it to LA for the ASME contest, and we had a great time. We hit Las Vegas at 4 o’clock in the morning and were awestruck by the lights. As we approached, we could see the Vegas brightness popping out of the desert surroundings, from at least 50 miles away. We also went to Disneyland, which was fairly new then. This was my first exposure to smog in LA, which was horrible at the time. It dimmed the sun, almost like a cloudy condition, and burned your eyes and nose. Coming down the hill into San Bernardino from Las Vegas, the whole valley that was Los Angeles and now the inland empire, looked like it was in a fog bank. On the return trip through the hot desert, with no air-conditioning, we learned that cold watermelon was a better thirst quencher than water or soda,” says Howell. 

After graduating mechanical engineering at the University of Wyoming in 1961, Bill kicked off his automotive influence as a novice engineer at Chevrolet. His legendary tenure spanned from 1961 to 1987, operating as one of the core team members in the development of the new big block Chevy motor (replacing the 409). Literally, in this case, a design with 8 cylinders of unique layout formed in the minds of designers and engineers at General Motors creating a big block engine that would produce more muscle in the cars coming off the line in Detroit. Bill was knee-deep in the history-making endeavors to do so. “Because of my intense interest in these types of engines, I was able to do a good job, and my whole time spent as a test engineer was in high-performance engine development.”

Bill Howell began his career at General Motors as an apprentice for Chevrolet Engineering on the dynamometer, where he learned all of the products from one end to the other via GM testing and development. “From July of 1961 to July 62, I apprenticed in the engine dyno cells, at a salary of $500 per month” says Howell, of his startup with the company. “I started by learning the standard GM engine tests and getting acquainted with all the various Chevrolet engines and test facilities, in both development and durability. We had 21 dyno cells at Chevy, with durability dyno cells typically running 3 shifts, 24 hours a day and on Saturday.  Development ran one or two shifts depending on the urgency of development.” 

And while GM had officially exited racing development in 1957, much of the influence from NASCAR played into their schema for design and horsepower fitting the engine into Corvettes and Camaros and full sized cars. Bill says that at the time, “The Mark I 409 was running a Carter AFB, the biggest carburetor that Carter made in a 4-barrel. The engine made about 425 horsepower,” (as measured on the dyno back in 1961, which would be less by today’s standards). Built originally as a truck motor, Chevy’s 409 didn’t adapt well as a passenger or performance engine. 

After only one year working in the dyno cells, Chevy needed a test engineer for the newly designed V-8 engine, and they promoted Howell to test engineer. “It was a dream job that I could not have anticipated,” says the Chevy newbie, at the time.

Bill explains that the test engineer wrote up the instructions for the engine test to be performed, analyzed the data, and then determined what to test next, in coordination with the wishes of the design engineer. “This was a job from heaven, as all the early development on the engine was as a racing variant, and mechanical lifter 427 CID that would be eligible to race in NASCAR if the ‘big wheels’ in management decided to.” 

Assigned to oversee development of their next big block engine, designated the MK II, Howell was entrenched in the urgent Chevy program running two shifts and Saturdays. “Initial concept for the engine was maximum power,” says Howell, “designed to be legal under current NASCAR rules. This program introduced Holley carburetors, high-performance mechanical lifters, tuned exhaust with 4 pipes to a collector on each bank, fresh air from vehicle cowl, and high overlap camshafts, plus an increase to 12:1 compression ratio and 427 cubic inches of displacement. In all, we gained 125 BHP and 400 RPM increase in the operating range.”

Rex White & Lou Clemens 1963 Impala test car in Mesa, AZ

In November of 1962, the Chevy collective spent three weeks testing at their 5-mile circle test track at GM’s desert proving grounds in Mesa, Arizona. Bill and Rex White’s team members dropped the new 427 in the modern-day NASCAR vehicle, a 1963 Impala, built and maintained by Rex White and crew. “From the 409 baseline of 157 MPH, we worked up to 173 MPH,” says Howell. 

Along the way his team discovered a number of parameters that needed improvement such as mixture distribution, compression ratio, carburetor design, air filter design, etc. that kept them busy through the end of 1962.

Once the improvements were completed, they returned to the Desert PG in January of  1963, running durability testing to verify their work. “We were now at 177 MPH,” says Bill, “and we ran 430 miles at full speed before experiencing a valve train failure due to a defective chrome coating on an intake valve causing it to stick.” 

In addition to the increased volume of the engine’s pistons, Bill says, “the basic difference from the 409 was that the decks were now at right angles to the bores. The cylinder heads had the valves arranged like the later Mark IV design, where they come in at two angles instead of just straight in and down into the bores.” Howell continues, “The Mark II’s originally had the same crankshaft, main and rod-bearing diameters as the 409 engine. Also, you couldn’t swap heads from side to side. They were designed with a right and a left orientation. We kept developing that engine right up into 1964, then we started development of the Mark IV.”

In 1963, team Chevy supplied engines to Ray Fox, Smokey Yunick, and Rex White for their Daytona Race cars. Howell says, “An engine also went to an independent competitor named Farr, one to Ford Motor Company, and two were used by Mickey Thompson in two special pre-production Corvettes for a preliminary Daytona race in early February.  I was not involved in the race programs at this time, however, I paid my own way to Daytona to see the results. Only one car (Yunick’s) completed the race, and it was a lap down due to a minor spin out.” Howell continues, “There were probably 15 of our engines running in NASCAR over that summer. As people wore them out, Chevrolet was not allowed to provide additional engine parts. Junior Johnson (Ray Fox car) was the only one to complete the season in 1963, and won the championship with a Mark II. But that was pretty much the end of it until GM officially returned to NASCAR around 1972.” 

Smokey Yunick’s Camaro at Sebring

Further supporting Chevy’s official exclusion from racing, corporate followed with a mandate in 1963 to focus on intermediate sized cars restricting engines to 400 CID maximum. Rumors were spreading that NASCAR was going to a 396 cubic-inch limit, and Chevy’s engine group started building the Mark II as a 396. “This put us at about the 515 BHP level. Yunick built a NASCAR spec prototype 1964 Chevelle and we tested it at Fort Stockton, Texas (Firestone test track) in the fall of 1963.  It ran 178 MPH with Firestone contract Indy car driver, Chuck Hulse, driving.”

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HOWELL EFI at The Jeep Farm In Phoenix, Arizona

It’s more than a wave from the driver – It’s a way of life! Ask almost any of the Jeepers and they will tell you they have their own approach to their vehicles and the Jeep came along to fill that need! In its infancy, the off-road mode of military transportation helped win wars, but in modern day use from daily driver to off-road play toy, the Jeep has come to be one of the foremost, recognizable and certainly one of the most customizable vehicles on the road (road, trails, dirt, dunes, beaches, on and on!).

Just as Indianapolis houses the IRL industry, Charlotte houses NASCAR, Phoenix houses off road, including a cool lil refurb shop called The Jeep Farm, specifically for the Jeep enthusiast and refurb aficionados. Whether off road transformations, or remaining stock to the numbers, the Jeep Farm offers a variety of services from vintage restorations to modern-day custom builds.

Classic Wagoneer from The Jeep Farm

As a former rock-crawler guy turned shop owner/operator, Drew Norman, claims, “I pretty much get hooked on anything with four tires and horsepower.” In his current projects, Norman has two vintage Baja Jeeps in the shop for restoration, and hopes to take a driver’s seat in the 2020 NORRA 1000, in his newly purchased vintage Baja Jeep. “This Jeep has won the 1000 ten times, among other accolades in it’s pedigree! I’m going to be a complete rookie, so I figured I would buy a 550hp classic that’s been raced by some of the biggest names out there. I’ll just jump right into the deep end!” jokes Norman.

The Jeep Farm is known for its restoration of 1986 and older, Jeeps, including the Grand Wagoneer up to final-year 1991 models. Drew claims he has 34 restoration projects currently on the books, 50+ Jeeps in the ‘yard,’ and currently booking projects into 2021. “We do pretty much whatever ya want,” says Drew. “We do complete nut-and-bolt back-to-stock restorations, we do resto-mods like our ‘88 Grand Wagoneer that will look all original exterior, but with a built 5.3 LS in it, 4-wheel disc brakes, full leather interior, heated seats, custom stereo and on and on. We just finished a 1970 Wagoneer resto-mod, with hidden stereo, 18” Detroit Steel wheels, etc. We do V8 conversions, local repairs, swaps, paint and bodywork, and pretty much anything that applies to a Jeep. Our customers are those that have a hard time finding qualified folks to work on their Jeep and they will ship theirs to me from around the globe.” The Jeep Farm currently has among others from around the USA, 2 Jeeps from Italy, and a Jeep from Germany.

Jeep CJ Renegade by The Jeep Farm

“I love HOWELL EFI – Simple, works!”

Drew Norman of The Jeep Farm

“My mom says I came out of the womb making a motor noise,” laughs Drew. “My family has always been into cars and that’s how I grew up. My grandfather was president of a AAA motor club, and my dad and his brothers were also into cars. My uncles into Porsche and Mercedes, and my dad and I into Jeeps.”

At the age of six, Drew’s Jeep fascination began when his father came home in a new 79 Jeep Renegade. “The Jeep coming home that day with the orange renegade strips had me hooked,” says Drew. “Then I was always in it, as my dad’s daily driver. When I would be standing in line at school, I’d see all the kids parents show up in their station wagons, then my dad would pull around with those bright colors, the KC lights across the top, and I was jumping into something cool!”

Drew not only relished cool in the school line but then formed a successful career based on his passion for the 4×4 sensation. With a love for stock vehicles and building to spec for his customers, Drew also loves to push the boundaries and be creative with customizations as well. “I don’t own anything stock,” he says. “Original rebuilds are incredible, they are fun and I enjoy it, but there is not a single vehicle of mine that hasn’t been upgraded in horsepower, or new wheels and tires, and we are now working on a lot of projects hiding stereos and electronics so that it all looks original, but performs with modern improvements. I love customizing, but I’m not a customizer on hot rods only. Our niche is Jeep restoration, repair and ‘mild’ customization’ as a focused business expertise.

Included in his mild customizations, Drew relies on HOWELL EFI, for all of his fuel injection needs. Much like the Jeep Farm focus on Jeeps, Drew recognizes the focused expertise, and one-and-only focus on electronic fuel injection, by his long time supplier. In the beginning of his carb-to-injection jobs, over 10 years ago, Drew learned early on that other products provided more problems than solutions, and that’s when he started with HOWELL. “Simple works!” claims Drew, “and that’s what we get with HOWELL.”

Full service restoration and conversions at The Jeep Farm

Drew learned that with the abilities provided in touch screen setups and modifications, customers will mess things up, then he would have to fix them again. With many issues in other systems vs. the mass R/D that went into the GM systems for fuel injection, and the owner of HOWELL as the project leader in the GM development, the HOWELL systems provide an ease and reliability second to no one. “You can install these (HOWELL) systems and then not have to worry about them,” says Drew. “And that’s what I love about them!”

“A large majority of my restorations leave Arizona,” says the Jeep Farmer. “They get shipped here, I restore them and they go back to the owners wherever it may be; overseas, they go back east, they go to Texas, etc. And once they leave me, I’m not close enough to solve any follow up issues. And with the HOWELL systems, I can still put the factory air cleaner on it, the engine looks largely stock, I can install the EFI, put a couple test miles on it, and I’m comfortable enough to ship the vehicle back across the country knowing it will be perfectly fine. Plus, on the rare occasion something does happen, my customer won’t be down for weeks at a time for me to get back to them. I can send them, or they can run to the local parts store for a sensor or whatever it is and replace it within an afternoon.”

Norman also notes that sometimes customers just want cheap; that there are always going to be those that just want the lowest price without concern (or value) in quality and reliability. Unfortunately in a time of priorities based on penny-pinching and finding the lowest price on the internet, many will unknowingly spend more overall expense because the cheap purchases often do not include all the parts required for the job, rarely come from a reliable and knowledgeable source, require more hours, money and attempts to get the job done right. And while the statement “you get what you pay for” may hold true in a variety of products and services available, when you don’t pay much, with an equal return in performance in the automotive industry, that often results in being stranded on the road, or in a 4×4, perhaps on the other side of a mountain, unable to reach civilization for an instant repair. Conversely, Norman also recognizes the customer that knows, respects and understands the value in quality work and reliability, and knows there is a cost to achieve the same results, and these customers will make sure they purchase the quality and reliability available, without any hesitations at all.

Classic Jeep Pickup At The Jeep Farm

“Tried and true, eventually becomes the staple,” says Drew, “and we definitely live by that standard in our shop. HOWELL provides us two main appeals to support that. First, the HOWELL systems just work; without complication, complexity, or worries. Instead, they use parts and system design specific to each installation for an immeasurable success rate.”

“Second,” claims Drew, “Their customer service is outstanding. I can actually call and talk to someone. It’s an easy conversation and they can solve the problem with an ease and understanding to help me, help my customers that much better. They can sit on the phone if we need clarity in the On-board diagnostics, bending the paper clip in half, running the codes, or any other specific design and parts discussions needed.” Drew notes in the past with a different system for example, quite the opposite. He recollects that the HOWELL systems are a nice change from previous experiences. “We actually had a Jeep dead for three months while we continually had to send parts back and forth, troubleshooting errors. We eventually had to send back every single part of this other system, and that was how I found HOWELL. We then installed the HOWELL system instead, and I asked for my money back from the other system. That was my first experience with HOWELL many years ago. What I was using failed, and when I used HOWELL it saved me. I’ve been a loyal customer ever since. I won’t use anything else.”

“My customers want to turn the key and go. And that’s what HOWELL EFI offers.”

Drew Norman – The Jeep Farm

From playing in the yard motorizing his matchbox cars as a child and seeing his dad’s ’79 Jeep Renegade pull in the drive, to all the Jeeps currently in the shop, Drew Norman has always loved cars. For anyone that feels the same and looking for a great resource for your rebuild, feel free to hit him up and add yours to the list!

Photos from www.thejeepfarm.com and The Jeep Farm Facebook Page

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Nite Restorations’ #ProjectRecycled And Howell EFI

gordie duster

Around the age of three years old, the impression of cool cars was emblazoned in the mind of Nite Restorations’ Gordie Rutkowski. When he saw, even at a young age, his first car, he was engrossed in that special attraction, whatever it may be, to which all of us auto enthusiasts are drawn. While even as a baby, the attraction was so great, that the three-year-old remembers, decades later, his parents first ‘63 SS, then ‘67 Chevy Impala 4-door (As does this author from his infancy, remembering his parents’ big white boat, convertible, ‘65 Impala). “For a 4-door, I always thought the car had such clean lines,” says Rutkowski. “And when all the windows were rolled down, it was like an open cockpit under that hard top.”

From there, Gordie was hooked! Even playing with toy cars, he was taking them apart and putting them back together. If he saw his dad wrenching on something, then he wanted to follow suit. “My mom came downstairs one day and found me with the dryer all torn apart,” he chuckles. “I wanted to know how the drum went round and around!”

His first auto project was his first car, as a hand-me-down from his sister around the age of 14 years old. Until he was old enough to drive it himself, his dad drove the car as his daily driver back and forth to work at GM. Gordie recalls from back then that the car needed a heater core, and his dad told him to pull a couple parts and panels to prepare for the replacement. Gordie says that by the time his father got to the car, he had already removed the fenders, hood, and pretty much everything around the heater core. “My dad saw it all and he just shook his head,” says Gordie. “I guess this is gonna be a bigger project after all, said his father.”

Gordie Rutkowski Talks About #ProjectRecycled & Howell EFI

To this day, the 1973 Plymouth Duster that Gordie and his dad worked on, is still Gordie’s prized possession, with a few more replacement projects having taken place along the way. Included in his many modifications have been changing out his chassis for a C6 corvette chassis, and trading the classic Mopar 440 for a modern LS2 engine with Howell EFI Harness and ECM.

After working on cars for most of the years of his life, Gordie converted from phone and cable installations as a trade, to mechanic and restoration work. He started in a shop working their needs, while working his own interests at home on his time off. In the early 2000’s Gordie launched Nite Restorations (Memphis, MI), eventually replacing the shop where he was working by day, and took over the customer base when the employer shop had closed.

“By using Howell EFI, I know it’s one less thing I have to worry about,”

Gordie Rutkowski of Nite Restorations

Nite Restorations operated as a one-man biz for many years, with Gordie building full restorations, custom fab work and modifications. Fast-forward and the Impala-inspired 3 yr. old has grown into his own thriving car business. Within his service offerings Gordie has always been a proponent of carburetor conversions to EFI. “I started using Howell stuff back in the 90’s” says Gordie. “I was doing a lot of Chevy TBI and Tuneports conversions for many years.”

Aggressive stance of a Duster Body on Gordie’s custom modified C6 Corvette Frame (photo by Ken Cox)

When the LS motor swaps began, Gordie’s use of Howell EFI conversions quickly grew to the point that Howell awarded him dealership status. “Almost anytime I’m working with a swap I just tell them at Howell what I want to do with the motor, and what I want to switch and change with the EFI harness. They take care of all the modifications, send to me, I plug in the ECM and it’s golden. There’s never any problems down the road. When I know my customer doesn’t want to mess with it, and just wants the reliability and the durability for their vehicle, I just call Howell for the kit, and I know I, nor my customer has to worry about anything. I don’t think any of my cars have come back for even a sensor replacement. As far as I know, they are all still out there running great.”

Heart of a Corvette

Gordie also takes advantage of Howell benefits knowing not only that Howell EFI kits deliver everything needed for the conversion in one fell swoop to run reliably thereafter, but in the business of custom restorations, many modification and custom designs are the key to success. Changing out motors from one vehicle into a vehicle laid out for a completely different design can often require some very creative redesigns. All of which, Nite Restorations has encountered for years.

“When I did my Duster for example,” begins Gordie, “and even a recent ‘69 Camaro project too, in converting to almost a race-car chassis underneath, everything was going to be close to the motor. The great thing about Howell is that I can work with them to discuss my plans and my design. I’m able to completely customize my design specific to the car, and design my own harness needed. I can explain what leads I need at what lengths, where the ECM will mount, relay locations, where I want my fuse box, etc. I can literally just send them the specs I have designed and laid out for my build. Then I have folks taking pics because even the EFI harness looks nice,” he chuckles. “I love that Howell will work with me on the harness and move things to where I need it to be. Dealing with other manufactures, they think that its one size fits all. And it’s just not that way. Each individual project is different, regardless of the package they try to persuade others to buy.”

“By using Howell EFI, I know it’s one less thing I have to worry about,” states Gordie.

Even if Gordie is not doing the build himself he invites those wanting to do it themselves, to call him to place their order. “I can assist with the buying and purchasing they need for their build. If they may not know exactly what they need, I probably have a good idea what’s needed. As a dealer, I can sell them what works best for their project, because I have probably already been through the same issues prior.”

Today’s customer comes to Nite Restorations because they know the quality workmanship that they expect, will be delivered. They know that Gordie does not cut corners, and they know and trust the honesty that Gordie delivers. After his many successful years pursuing his automotive passions, Rutkowski still has his eyes on his next dream project. “I’ve completed the car I grew up with, my Duster, and I still have a ‘65 Dodge Coronet that my friend and I used to race on the streets,” says Gordie. “That’s sitting here and I’d really like to do a Corvette drivetrain/EFI conversion for this one too. It’s waiting in line with all of the other one’s. But I’ll always have my Duster. I look forward to the next decade of this and then shuttin’ it down, kicking back and enjoying all of my cars I’ve accumulated!”

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Howell EFI Introduces Ford TBI Kit for Carbureted 6 Cylinder and V8 Ford Applications

Marine City, MI (August 16, 2019) – Howell EFI, the conversion experts since 1988, is well known for the company’s large number of Jeep TBI kits for off road, in addition to kits for the 304, 360 and 401. Howell now offers Ford TBI kits for any classic carbureted inline 6 or V8 Ford application. The Ford TBI kits are ideal for increasing drivability, and improving fuel mileage and cold starting in older street-driven classics and 4-wheel drive vehicles.

The Ford TBI kit provides everything needed to convert an I6, V6 or V8 engine from carburetor to throttle body fuel injection. Howell EFI Owner Matt Howell says, “For ignition systems other than points, and regardless of the configuration, we are able to develop a TBI kit that will do what you want it to do.  If you don’t see the part number you are looking for, give us a call. This is a simple system that you do not have to tune.”

Every Howell TBI kit features a remanufactured GM throttle body appropriate for the engine size for both engines with, or without ECM controlled ignition including all sensors, components, wiring harness, ECM and fuel pump. Every kit includes custom calibration PROM and an ECM that installs under the dash. The fuel pump installs into the main fuel line, and bypass fuel is returned to the tank. The harnesses are equipped with a diagnostic connector that works similar to a 1987-92 GM pickup.

Howell EFI Ford 390 CID TBI Conversion Kit

ABOUT HOWELL EFI At Howell EFI, we choose to sell only the best quality components and all are covered by a money back guarantee.  Some TBI kits come in a one size fits all offering. We at Howell understand that one size does not fit all, and work closely with every customer to be certain each aspect of their set up is discussed to ensure kit components are a perfect fit. For additional information visit Howellefi.com, or call 810-765-5100.  Howell EFI is located at 6201 Industrial Way, Marine City, MI  48039

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Why FJ Industry Leader Landcruiser Northwest Chooses Howell EFI Conversions

Landcruisers NW Rubicon

Four-wheel fun comes in a variety of methods and manners these days from the bombastic custom builds of Baja trucks and buggies, and jacked up Jeeps and pickup trucks from the ‘big three,’ to foreign import models cruising down the road built more for comfort and convenience over outdoor spectacle.

With everyone getting in the game of conversions, regardless of the intention for on or off road use,specific to the Pacific Northwestern region lies a specialized shop converting the classic 4 wheel Toyota Landcruiser, supporting the many years of classic models and nostalgic Japanese imports. Along with many various suppliers and vendors, Landcruisers North West (Portland, OR), chooses Howell for their EFI.

“They don’t just sell you the parts and ignore you after the sale. In over 10 years of working with Howell, they’ve been easy to work with and if there was a problem we’ve always gotten it sorted out. They help with troubleshooting and assist in finding any issues we may encounter.”

Matt Gustafson of Landcruiser NW

Landcruiser NW co owner, Matt Gustafson, has been raised on Landcruisers from his first days with a driver’s license, to his current ‘91 2-door soft-top 70-series, with an 89” wheelbase, sporting a V8 5-speed. “My first car was a Toyota Landcruiser,” says Gustafson. “When I was 16 yrs. old, I bought a 1970 Landcruiser and that was the start of the hobby. Five or six years later, my buddy and I started our Landcruiser shop.”

Gustafson started his company at 22 years of age during an internship straight out of college. With his first dabbling in corporate America, he quickly learned the soul-robbing trade of time for money, corporate agenda and yes-man games required to succeed in the suit-n-tie role, probably wasn’t for him. In seeking out his personal interests instead, the two-man team decided to start their own brand of Landcruiser shop.

Landcruiser NW Rubicon
Landcruiser NW team wheeling with customers and FJ enthusiasts at Rubicon

Specific to the Gustafson brand is the opportunity to leave the city streets for the splendor of the Pacific Northwest outdoors. Plus with the lack of a harsh winter, nor any salt on the roads, Gustafson says, “Landcruisers survive here very well. We don’t have any corrosive chemicals all over our vehicles. And with our SUV/outdoor-based lifestyles, our heaviest load is a surfboard and maybe a bike, on our way to the beach or up in the mountains.”

The Landcruiser NW business has seen recent upticks in business with the Landcruiser now coming en vogue. As with many auto enthusiasts, when the daily driver becomes a toy to play with as well, often times the wrenches come out and the imagination starts to run wild with ideas of modifications and enhanced performance. “Many of our customers look at the prospect of restoring a cool old car and driving something that’s fun and exciting, over spending the same amount of money on a modern-day design that doesn’t have much soul to it,” says Matt.

With not only his personal passion for Landcruiser supporting his business, but also the reputation of a solid product from the manufacturer, Gustafson says it’s helpful to build our business on quality and reliable products. “When you start with a good foundation, and stick to the high standards and the same quality of your modifications, it’s easy to develop a good reputation in our work, and the cars will last for a long time. And regardless of crazy modifications or remaining with stock from the factory, we want our work to make the car as safe, if not safer than it was, and we have to deliver a reliable car that many times is even more reliable than when we started.”

Toyota 4wd emblem
Classic FJ’s get full restorations and upgrades at Landcruiser NW

“For example, we use Howell EFI because they offer a fuel injection conversion that works with the factory Landcruiser engine,” says Gustafson. “Howell uses basic throttle body and fuel injection components that have been proven over the last 30 years.” Gustafson claims that if he does some work and then sometime later the car ends up in someone else’s shop, “If they have to scratch their head to figure out what we have done in our shop, our modification is not all that good. With Howell however, if I make the mod and it goes somewhere else, the other shop is going to easily recognize the parts and the process.” As with many shops, the mechanic is often handed a project of wiring and harnesses that have seen multiple modification and molestation over the years. “One of the things huge for us,” says Matt, “is that Howell makes a stand alone wiring harness for old cars that I can install and easily rebuild the system, reliably and correctly.”

When Gustafson started his business in 2002, he says he was looking for a company that made a stand alone wiring harness so he could choose his own inputs like A/C, electric fans, or whatever their needs become. “There is a lot of generic stuff out there but there are very few that I can determine for myself this type of connector for the fuel injector, I want it to have two electric fans over one, I’d like the harness adapted to the passenger side instead of the driver side of the engine, or even super long so I can install from the trunk, or whatever the situation may be, with Howell, they make all of that stuff, and provide the full kit with everything I need, in one stop. Yes we work for improved efficiency, horsepower and enhanced performance, but we strive first for quality, safety and reliability in our builds. Many times we need the attributes of one harness included in the attributes of another harness. Howell helps us do that.”

Camping with a classic Toyota FJ
Landcruisers need to be able to go almost anywhere reliably, and Howell EFI conversions can make them even more reliable

Matt also enjoys the reliable customer service from Howell, with their dedication to ‘make it work.’ Matt says, “They don’t just sell you the parts and ignore you after the sale. In over 10 years of working with Howell, they’ve been easy to work with and if there was a problem we’ve always gotten it sorted out. They help with troubleshooting and assist in finding any issues we may encounter.”

Matt advises for any modifications to always keep in mind reliability, safety and the future service. And whether a fuel injection conversion from a carburetor, or swapping in a fuel injected engine, stick with the basics. “When someone gets too exotic with their mods, it makes it very tough to service five or 10 years down the line.”

After 20 years in business, Gustafson continues his excitement for his Landcruisers and auto projects to come. “Just last week I found a really cool ’65 FJ45 pickup out in the middle of nowhere, and I am super excited for the previously unavailable ‘70 series Landcruisers coming in from Japan too! We end up in a lot of treasure hunts. When someone knows of something cool out there, they usually give us a call. We are picking up a Landcruiser fire truck, coming in this week, that will be a really fun conversion.”

For more information visit: https://landcruisernw.com/

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Howell EFI Is The EFI Conversion Solution of Choice For Wagonmaster Restorations

The Jeep Grand Wagoneer was an iconic sport utility vehicle dating back to even before SUV was ever coined as a hip genre of automobile. For many it was the original 4-wheel drive wagon allowing a sporty flair, not only for off-road adventure, but also toting around the family and perpetual drives to the grocery store. For Jeep/Chrysler, the Brook Stevens design was a gold mine, making its way from the woodsy trails to suburbia driveways across the map. With the signature woodgrain panel sides, the Woody was recognized coast to coast as the go-to family four-by.

For Chip Miller of Wagonmaster Jeep Wagoneers (Kerrville, TX), the Grand Wagoneer has been a lifelong family tradition reaching back to his childhood. His earliest memory of a Jeep was the 50’s-model Willis CJ3B, owned by his grandfather, on a ranch in Dillon, Montana. Miller says he has a picture of his dad holding him at about 2 years old, with the old-style army looking Jeep in the background, with the hood up.

With his baby pictures providing signs of future duties to come, the 70’s pre-woodgrain Wagoneer Limited entered the picture under his father’s ownership and the passion for Wagonmaster began without even knowing it. “I remember when my dad bought his first Wagoneer Limited in late 1978,” says Chip, “It was the first to have the full woodgrain.” The following year, Chip’s father, Leon, purchased his second Wagoneer as another workhorse for their ranch in Texas. “Versus the open air CJ, with no air conditioning and such,” says Chip, “the Wagoneer was also something that you could get out on the highway for a comfortable drive into town. In 1982, he bought another.”

In 1984, Jeep changed the name to Grand Wagoneer. The wrap around tail lights were replaced by an embedded upright tail light (similar to the Jeep Cherokee), and Jeep/Chrysler added headrests. Both updates were incorporated into the design until the discontinuation of the model in 1991. “We were a family of six kids, and the Grand Wagoneer remained as our ‘people transporters’ throughout the decades.”

Grand Wagoneer Jeep Ad

“We come by all of this (Wagonmaster) business honestly,” says Miller. “When I joined my dad in 2010, I began to listen to our customers’ interests and motivations, it’s still the same thing with their Wagoneer too. That it’s the family heirloom, it’s the heritage, tradition and legacy of their memories; fishing trips, riding in the backseat with the neighbors, the dentist three-doors down having one in the driveway and the eagerness to have one too. And we’ve been lucky to speak to and hear the stories from the Chrysler designers that were in the trenches when assigned the tasks for the new truck to compete with Chevy and Ford.

With their stock well entrenched into the Grand Wagoneer lineage, Wagonmaster has restored over 2000 vehicles, and the shop may have 70 to 90 Wagoneers on hand at any given time. “We continually hear stories of trucks for sale out there and we try to be picky in our selections,” says Miller. “The low mile, barn finds go to the front of the pack, and begin immediate restorations, so we can bring it back to life and get into the hands of our customers. We update the car and our 26 years of business is always forward progression for parts and systems processes, and typically in prices as well. We are always moving forward, producing a steadily more and more enhanced Wagoneer. Plus in doing so, we are raising the value of all the others out there as well.”

Wagoneer at the Wagonmaster Restoration Shop

For example, Wagonmaster perpetuated the carburetor fuel intake for the first 18 or 19 years of business. “As improvements surfaced, we then offered the option of carb or injection (circa 2014). After a year’s time phasing out of the carburetor, however it was clear that injection was the way to go,” says Chip. “Increased additives from the refineries made it tougher and tougher for the carburetor to remain tuned. Modern day fuel formulas were causing the repeated need for carb. rebuilds and we had to eliminate the issue. My dad wanted us delivering vehicles, easy for anyone to drive; without choking, pumping without it dying, blowing power valves, without the backfire and the continual issues of the carburetor. Our customers experience the same nuisance many times, as a helpful incentive for them to sell the car to us instead.”

Miller says, “We chose Howell Fuel Injection as our vendor because they had a much more simple, throttle body-type system that easily bolted on, providing us the ability to install and manage the settings on our own. Plus, we needed an injection system compliant within all 50 states including the California Air Resources Board. With the longevity of the company, and one of the original fuel injection systems on the market, Howell helps us deliver a product of our service, that meet’s my dad’s standard, for the ease of driving a Wagonmaster rebuild.”

Miller approximates that Wagonmaster has installed over 300 Howell injection systems in their vehicles, to date.

“When people ask of typical breakdowns with a Grand Wagoneer, I have three main issues I typically see; 1) Carburetors need rebuilt, 2) Rear main seal needs replaced, and 3) Tailgate window doesn’t function” says Chip. “We see dysfunctional tailgate windows, inoperable relay switches and we always recommend, without hesitation the conversion from carburetor to EFI.” With his advice, he says many will call back saying my car has never run better. “And I love hearing that!”

In his quest forward, Chip Miller and his Wagonmaster team continue to forge ahead in their service and their deliverables. “I’m always on the lookout for the next Wagoneer, and I’m surprised every day,” says Chip. “When I first started in this business, I always wondered from where will I find the next one, and stay in business? I’ve since learned I’ll run short of money before I run short on cars!”

For more information, visit www.wagonmaster.com

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Howell LT/EcoTec3 Conversion Harnesses and Accessories Now Available for GM Direct Injection Swaps

Howell LT Harness
Howell LT/EcoTec3 Harness – Available for LT1, LT4, L83, L86, LV3 V6

Marine City, MI, (April 11, 2019) – Howell EFI, long been known as a leader in EFI conversions since the late 1980’s beginning with GM TPI conversions, GM TBI conversions for Jeeps, and 90’s LT1 conversions now offers LT/EcoTec 3 conversion harnesses and accessories for GM direct injection swaps.

Over the past two decades Howell added the manufacture of conversion wiring harnesses and accessories for the ultra-popular LS/Vortec engine family. For the 2014 model year GM launched the direct injected LT1 Corvette engine, as well as the companion EcoTec3 engine powered GM pickup truck. As these LT/EcoTec3 vehicles and engines began to proliferate the scene and the scrapyards, Howell EFI began developing harnesses and parts for swapping the LT/EcoTec3 family of engines into other vehicles.

Howell now offers LT1/LT4 swap harnesses for 2014+ Camaro and Corvette direct injection and for direct injection for trucks with EcoTec3 L83, L86, and 4.3L V6 LV3-C truck engines. With Howell’s plug and play harnesses it is possible to transplant these powerful LT/EcoTec3 engines for Street Rod, Pro-Touring, Off-Road, Sand Rails, Street Machines and more.

The LT/EcoTec3 harnesses are made to customer specifications and include a fuse block and GM diagnostic connector for diagnosis and service at any repair facility utilizing the common OBD II port, in addition to a check engine light, electric fan control, and a complete stand-alone design to control engine functions. All Howell harnesses are Made in the USA and sold with a Lifetime Guarantee. Installation requires just three points of power at the battery, ignition, and fuel pump making these harnesses truly plug-and-play. For more information, watch this video.

For more information about LT1 harness options and photos for download, visit here: https://howellefi.com/product-category/general-motors/gm-lt1-lt4-products-2014/

For more information about Howell LT4 harness options and photos to download, visit here: https://howellefi.com/?s=LT4+Harness&post_type=product

For more information about Howell EcoTec3 harness option and photos to download, visit here: https://howellefi.com/?s=EcoTec3+harness&post_type=product

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Howell Introduces Complete TBI Conversion Kits for Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth

Everything needed in one kit for a turnkey Mopar® TBI conversion

Marine City, MI, (April 9 2019) –  Howell EFI, an industry leader in electronic fuel injection since 1988, now offers a full selection of TBI conversion kits for Mopar® vehicles with an I6, V6 or V8 engine.

Developed specific for Chrysler 273, 318, 340, 360, 383 and 440 CID throttle body injection, the kits include GM proven electronic components and Howell’s custom wiring harness with connectors that are the same as the original equipment – each labeled for trouble-free installation.

All kits may be ordered with special options based on your classic’s specific performance modifications – fo example, the use of a 670 CFM 2BBL throttle body for modified engines or a heated oxygen sensor for use with headers, or various intake and ignition system changes.

The Howell Mopar TBI conversion kit contains all sensors, components, complete wiring harnesses, ECM and fuel pump to install fuel injection on your engine. The Howell ECM installs under the dash and the fuel pump installs in the main fuel line. Bypass fuel is returned to the tank.

Howell wiring harnesses are constructed using high temperature (TXL insulation) automotive wire, genuine Packard connectors and terminals, and Packard crimping tools. Howell show quality TPI harnesses are covered with an attractive black nylon hose braid for protection from abrasion or chemicals. The throttle body and any reworked harnesses are covered with production style slit-nylon corrugated tubing.

These kits are NOT CARB-approved (California Air Resource Board), and can only be used on vehicles built prior to 1975.

Howell EFI Components range in retail price from $1,400 to $1,560. For additional information visit Howellefi.com, or call 810-765-5100.

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LT1/LT4/Ecotec3 Gen V Swap Harnesses Now Available!

LT1

Howell EFI is pleased to introduce their new 2016 LT1 Camaro, 2014 – 2016 LT1 Corvette, and 2015 – 2016 LT4 Corvette harnesses, as well as its Ecotec3 truck versions for the 2014 – 2016 4.3L, 5.3L and 6.2L GM Gen V engines.  For ease of installation, relays are included, wires are clearly labeled and terminated, and one ground serves the entire system.  Harnesses also include 6L80/6L90 transmission functionality making the installation of these engines and transmissions as easy as possible.

Each new harness also features its own fuse block and a GM diagnostic connector. This allows customers to have their vehicles easily diagnosed and serviced at any repair facility utilizing the common OBD II port. Installation requires just three points of power at the battery, ignition, and fuel pump making these harnesses truly plug-and-play.  Harnesses are prepared to customer specifications, not a one size fits all approach, and each incorporates a rugged nylon or OEM style plastic covering and glued shrink tube.

Howell EFI provides more vehicle coverage for these engines families at better prices than any other harness maker in the industry. With the ability to put an LT1, LT4, or Ecotec3 engine into basically anything you want, these new engines are sure to become very popular swap options. Each harness is proudly made in the USA with a Lifetime Guarantee.

Look to Howell EFI to make it happen with ease.

Application List

2014-2016 LT1 Corvette Harness Designs

  • #HY625846 – Manual Trans. – $900.00
  • #HY625846T – 6L80/90 Trans. – $1,000.00

ECM’s (Reprogrammed)

  • #HY625846E – $450.00 without ECM core trade-in
  • #HY625846EC – $275.00 with ECM core trade-in

2016 LT1 Camaro Harness Designs

  • #HF625846- Manual Trans. – $900.00
  • #HF625846T – 6L80/90 Trans. – $1,000.00

ECM’s (Reprogrammed)

  • #HF625846E – $450.00 without ECM core trade-in
  • #HF625846EC – $275.00 with ECM core trade-in

2015-2016 LT4 Corvette Harness Designs 6.2L Supercharged

  • #HY625846S – Manual Trans. – $900.00
  • #HY625846ST – 6L80/90 Trans. – $1,000.00

ECM’s (Reprogrammed)

  • #HY625846SE – $450.00 without ECM core trade-in
  • #HY625846SEC – $275.00 with ECM core trade-in

2014-2016 4.3L LV3-C-Truck Harness Design

  • #HVL435846 – Manual Trans. – $800.00
  • #HVL435846T – 6L80/90 Trans. – $900.00

ECM’s Reprogrammed

  • #HVL435846E – $450.00 without ECM core trade-in
  • #HVL435846EC – $275.00 with ECM core trade-in

2014-2016 5.3L L83-C-Truck Harness Design

  • #HVL535846 – Manual Trans. – $800.00
  • #HVL535846T – 6L80/90 Trans. – $900.00

ECM’s Reprogrammed

  • #HVL535846E – $450.00 without ECM core trade-in
  • #HVL535846EC – $275.00 with ECM core trade-in

2014-2016 6.2L L86 C-Truck Harness Designs

  • #HVL625846 – Manual Trans. – $800.00
  • #HVL625846T – 6L80/90 Trans. – $900.00

ECM’s Reprogrammed

  • #HVL625846E – $450.00 without ECM core trade-in
  • #HVL625846EC – $275.00 with ECM core trade-in

ADD $100.00 to harnesses requiring emission connections

ABOUT HOWELL EFI

At Howell EFI, we choose to sell only the best quality components and all are covered by a money back guarantee.  For additional information visit www.howellefi.com or call 810-765-5100.  Howell EFI is located at 6201 Industrial Way, Marine City, MI  48039

To learn more or to order your conversion kit or harness contact Howell EFI at www.howellefi.com or call (810) 765-5100.