More consistent tune and improved cold starting for Gen I and II vehicles
Marine City, MI (September 14, 2022) – Howell EFI, recognized as a leading supplier of EFI and TBI systems for Jeep inline 6 and GM small block kits, now offers TBI kits to convert any first or second Generation Dodge Ramcharger or Plymouth Trailduster to throttle body injection for improved drivability, cold starting and fuel mileage in one plug and play system. Howell’s Chrysler TBI systems improve starting and idling with a more consistent tune equates to improved fuel mileage and drivability.
Complete turnkey TBI conversion kits are now available for any first generation (1974-1980) or second generation (1981-1993) 4WD or 2WD Ramcharger SUV which includes the factory 5.2L 318 CID Magnum V8 small block or the factory option 360 cu in 5.9L V8 or the more powerful 7.2L 440 CID big block V8.
Matt Howell, Howell EFI President, says, “Whatever your Ramcharger is equipped with from the factory we have a TBI system that will make a significant difference that you will immediately notice and with gas prices as high as they are, this is a good time to invest in TBI for improved mileage.”
Each kit includes everything needed to convert early model Ramchargers from carb to TBI and is customized to work with vehicles with or without a modified engine or headers. The kits feature a remanufactured GM throttle body appropriate for the engine size, all sensors – MAP, coolant and oxygen, components, and a stand-alone wiring harness covered with an attractive black nylon braid for protection from abrasion and chemicals in addition to a diagnostic lead, oxygen sensor, under the dash installed ECM, fuel pump, clamps and one of three available size adapter plates. The weather resistant harness is also available in one of three lengths and includes a diagnostic connector similar to a 1987-92 GM pickup. The fuel pump installs into the main fuel line and bypass fuel is returned to the tank. The kit utilizes the OBDI GM diagnostic capabilities for scanning codes. Every Howell TBI kit allows for custom calibration PROM for the engine and no adjustments or tuning is needed to plug and play.
Howell takes pride in their attention to detail by offering options for vehicles with a heated oxygen sensor for headers, either a 2BBL or 4 BBL intake as well as popular aftermarket ignition systems – MSD or Vacuum Advance. Additionally, a 670 CFM 2BBL throttle body is an option with most of the available kits including the Universal V-8. All kits are guaranteed with a money back guarantee and come with full installation instructions and troubleshooting guide.
Marine City, MI (April 28, 2022) – The Scout is going through a renaissance of popularity, especially at auctions nationwide. Howell EFI offers eight different Throttle Body Injection (TBI) kits that can be used to convert classic International Harvester Scout trucks to TBI. Whether driven off-road, used for show or a daily driver, Howell’s TBI conversion kits are designed to convert classic Scouts (Scout 80, Scout 800, 810, Scout II) quickly and efficiently to fuel injection improving cold starting, drivability and fuel mileage. And for off-roaders, your Scout will be less likely to be fuel starved when taking the trail at an angle.
The kits include everything needed to convert these classic styled Scouts from the original Scout 80 (1960-’65) to the 810 (1971) to TBI in one easy kit and can work with or without modified engine or headers and with options for 2BBL or 4BBL intakes. Howell TBI kits feature a remanufactured GM throttle body appropriate for the engine size, all sensors – MAP, coolant and oxygen, components, a stand-alone wiring harness available in variable lengths based on where the TBI will be located, ECM and fuel pump, clamps and one of three sized adapter plates. The Howell TBI kit allows for custom calibration PROM for the engine and an ECM that installs under the dash. No tuning will be required. The fuel pump installs into the main fuel line, and bypass fuel is returned to the tank. The weather resistant harness includes a diagnostic connector, and the diagnostic is like a 1986-92 GM pickup. The kit utilizes the OBDI GM diagnostic capabilities for scanning codes.
Current available kits include IH461 CID, IH478 CID, IH304 CID, IH345 CID, IH392 CID, IH401 CID, IH446 CID and IH266 CID. Options exist for the kits to make sure that installation is true plug and play and a knowledgeable staff is available to assist with specific questions on installation.
For more information about Howell TBI conversion kits, visit www.howellefi.com. To learn more about installing a Howell TBI kit, view this video. All kits are guaranteed with a money back guarantee and come with full installation instructions and troubleshooting guide. Tech tips on TBI carburetor adapters can be found here. Follow Howell EFI on Facebook.
Marine City, MI (April 7, 2022) – Howell EFI is known widely in the industry for their easy to install GM-based EFI and TBI kits for Jeep CJs, most of which are 50 state emissions legal. Now available are Howell’s Ford Inline 6 and V8 TBI Kits ideal for converting carbureted first generation classic (1966 to ’77) Ford Broncos to TBI. Whether driven off-road, used for show or as a daily driver around town, Howell’s new TBI conversion kit can be used to greatly improve performance, cold starting, drivability and fuel mileage for any Inline 6 or V-8 carbureted Bronco.
Howell’s I-6 and V8 kits include everything needed to convert a Ford Bronco (Wagons, Roadsters or Half-Cab) to TBI in one easy kit for an immediate increase in power and fuel mileage and the ability for off-roaders to attack trails at any angle without loss of fuel.
The Howell TBI kit features a remanufactured GM throttle body appropriate for the engine size, all sensors – MAP, coolant and oxygen, components, a stand-alone wiring harness available in variable lengths based on where the TBI will be located, ECM and fuel pump, clamps and one of three sized adapter plates. The Howell TBI kit allows for custom calibration PROM for the engine and an ECM that installs under the dash. No tuning will be required. The fuel pump installs into the main fuel line, and bypass fuel is returned to the tank. The weather resistant harness includes a diagnostic connector and the diagnostic is similar to a 1986-92 GM pickup. The kit utilizes the OBDI GM diagnostic capabilities for scanning codes.
President Matt Howell, says, “ Broncos are all the rage right now, especially the early models. Our TBI will make your Bronco more fun to drive, more reliable and save you money at the gas pump.”
For more information about Howell TBI conversion kits that are for most carbureted Ford engines, visit www.howellefi.com. To learn more about installing a Howell TBI kit, view this video. All kits are guaranteed with a money back guarantee and come with full installation instructions and troubleshooting guide.
Howell EFI sells only the best quality components, and all are covered by a money back guarantee. At Howell, we 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.
Before ordering your Howell TBI conversion kit, there are a few important things to check on your vehicle to ensure proper installation and function.
Inlet manifold carburetor flange – Due to the many variations in design between carburetor manufacturers and vehicle models and options, there are several factory applications that will not work for converting to our TBI kits.
The first thing to look for before ordering is a 4-hole, 4-barrel factory inlet manifold flange. (photo 1)
(Square flange vs. spread bore flange differences discussed further down.) When the adapter plate for the 2-barrel TBI unit is placed over the stock carburetor flange, the bolt pattern may be the same, but the placement of the throttle bores is in the center of the flange, creating an obviously unusable restriction. (photo 2)
The easiest cure for this problem is either to find a factory 2-barrel inlet manifold to use, or an aftermarket 4-barrel manifold with a divided, 2-section carburetor flange. (photo 3)
This will allow for the proper air/fuel distribution into the manifold, and unrestricted airflow.
If you’re running a stock engine, going from a 4-barrel to 2-barrel manifold won’t usually affect performance in normal street or off-road driving. If you plan to run at higher rpm and power levels, an aftermarket aluminum 4-barrel inlet manifold is probably the better choice. You can closely match the cfm rating of the original carburetor by choosing a similarly rated TBI unit for your kit.
Another potential issue with using an aftermarket inlet manifold is the thickness of the flange/carburetor pad walls. On some manifolds, the thickness of the casting surrounding the carburetor pad is barely enough to allow the plate-to-manifold gasket to seal. (photo 4)
The material thickness varies between manufacturers, so you will need to check yours to be sure it has enough material to work with. On some manifolds, minor blending may be needed inside the bores to eliminate the step below the adapter plate into the plenum, as shown in photo.
There are 2 different sizes of Rochester 2G carburetors, referred to as ‘small bore’ and ‘big bore’. As of this writing, we have adapter plates available for the small bore version (and Carter BBD) only. To determine which version you have, use the small bore illustration below for measurements –
The material thickness varies between manufacturers, so you will need to check yours to be sure it has enough material to work with. On some manifolds, minor blending may be needed inside the bores to eliminate the step below the adapter plate into the plenum, as shown in photo.
Spread-bore 4-barrel carburetors
We currently only offer a spread-bore adapter plate for Rochester QuadraJet, Carter Thermo-quad, and Holley 4165 carburetors. (See illustration below for specs.) Other spread-bores, such as the Ford/Motorcraft/Autolite 4350 have a different bolt pattern, and also different throttle bore spacing measurements. We do not currently offer an adapter plate for these carbs. Most spread-bore kits are supplied with a Holley 670 TBI unit with 2” bores, though adapters are available for use with standard GM/Rochester TBI unit with 1.68” bores.
Unlike the adapter plates for standard square-bore carburetors, the spread-bore adapter plate locates the throttle plates of the TBI unit over the secondary bores on the manifold, blocking off the smaller primary bores completely.
Marine City, MI… October 7, 2021– Howell EFI, a leader in EFI conversion kits (GM/TPI/TBI) and wiring harnesses for direct injection swaps, now offers plug and play LT1/LT4 and EcoTec3 wiring harnesses for classic muscle cars, Corvettes and trucks. Howell now offers multiple options to transplant power for both automatic and manual transmissions and even supercharged classics.
The LT1/LT4, and EcoTec3 wiring harnesses are customized to the customer’s specifications and include fuse block, check engine light, GM diagnostic connector, and electric fan control in a complete street rod type, stand-alone design to control engine functions. There is only one ground for the entire system and only three points of power to hook up the harness – battery, ignition, and fuel pump. They are available with or without wiring for electronic transmission and all emission connectors are included to ensure this harness is street legal in all 50 states as a replacement harness. All Howell EFI harnesses are OE quality, American-made, and backed with a lifetime guarantee and Howell’s experienced technical support staff. GM ECM programming or custom GM ECM tuning are available specific to your engine and transmission combination.
“We see a lot of online conversion kits that claim to be a one size fit all solution for folks converting their cars to electronic fuel injection,” said Matt Howell, president of Howell EFI. “But the fact is that these are very complex systems that need special attention to the layout of the wiring harness and the right matching components. We spend a considerable amount of time during the order process to make certain every kit is what you need for true plug and play.”
Howell EFI harnesses are designed to transplant powerful engines into an unlimited number of applications from Street Rod, Pro-Touring, Off-Road, Sand Rails, Street Machines, and more.
For more information about Howell EFI LT1 wiring harnesses, view this video. For more information about Howell EFI, visit www.howellefi.com, or call (810) 765-5100. To review or download the LT-1 Fuel Injection Harness installation manual, visit here.
Marine City, MI… August 26, 2021 – Automotive pioneer and industry legend, Billy “Bill” Haegen Howell, passed away on July 22, 2021, after a battle with ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease. Recognized as a leader in the development of Chevrolet performance engines and electronic fuel injection, Howell’s career with Chevrolet spanned from 1961-1987. While at Chevrolet, he became one of the core team members in the development of the new big block Chevy motor that replaced the 409 while working as a test engineer in high-performance engine development for the Chevrolet Product Performance Group. During his career there he also served as the company’s representative for many racing sanctions throughout the country including the ASA series where they promoted first Pontiac, and then Chevy body styles.
Upon retirement from Chevrolet in 1987 and always a trendsetter, Howell focused his attention on developing electronic fuel injection. At the time, only Corvette had port fuel injection and people were beginning to put Corvette engines into other classics. In 1988, Billy and his son Matt Howell formed Howell Engine Developments, Inc. and began to build EFI wiring harnesses for Corvette/Camaro TPI engines and TBI V6/V8 fuel injected truck engines. Hot Rod Magazine was quick to take notice and helped spread the word among race and performance enthusiasts in an article in May 1988. The business that started in the basement of their home was off and running with the phone ringing off the hook.
Soon thereafter, Chevrolet proposed to ASA that they switch to the new Corvette LS-1 engine in basically stock configuration – sealed engines with only a dry-sump scavenge pump, cam change, and valve springs. ASA had been looking for an option to leave the V-6 engines, as they were getting more expensive. Matt shares that Howell was able to get the contract to build the wiring harnesses and service the systems at the racetrack. GM ran a test program throughout the 1999 season to develop the package and bulletproof it. They switched the series to the LS-1’s in 2000, and they proved to be easy to tech and bulletproof. We maintained the harnesses and provided tech support for the series until ASA sold it.
The IndyLights program started in 1993 and the Indy Racing League program started in 1995. “Of the 33 starters in the Indianapolis 500 in 1998,1999 and 2000, 30 used engine wiring harnesses manufactured by Howell Engine Developments,” says Matt Howell.
Howell Engine Development, aka Howell EFI today is a leading supplier of wiring harnesses for direct injection swaps for classic muscle cars, Corvettes, Jeep, and trucks for both automatic and manual transmissions with unlimited applications for Street Rod, Pro-Touring, Off-Road, Sand Rails, Street Machines and more. Howell EFI is now in the company’s 34th year of operations from their headquarters in Marine City, MI with Matt Howell serving as president/co-founder.
Billy spent most of his life in Detroit, MI, and then for many years in Lake St. Clair near Algonac, MI. He retired in October of 2003, to Punta Gorda, FL. During his retirement, Howell continued to travel and to demonstrate his innovation genius. Here is one story from his long illustrious life that gives insight into the man who loved speed and performance and was responsible for the development of many iconic engines and engine components.
In 1989, TV personality Don Johnson had an ocean-racing catamaran with 4 large MK IV supercharged engines that were having durability problems related to fuel starvation. They developed 1100 BHP each, with 2×4-barrel carburetors on each engine, and any loss of fuel pressure would cause detonation and a head gasket failure. They were built and maintained in Harold Grady’s shop in Ft. Lauderdale. Convention in those boats was to use two electric fuel pumps per engine. Holley carbs can stand only about 7 or 8 PSI fuel pressure at idle, or they will flood the engine with fuel. At speed, this fuel pressure goes down slightly with more fuel demand. This would give an occasional lean-out if there was any problem in the system or a pump malfunction. As a fix, he recommended they change to belt-driven fuel pumps which would provide more fuel delivery as speed increased. This cured the problem. During this program, Bill went to races at Marathon Key and Key West, Florida, and got to ride in the boat at a test on Lake X in Kissimmee, Florida at over 100 MPH.
Billy Howell is survived by his son and the co-owner of Howell Engine Developments Inc. Matthew Howell (Gina), and his daughters Deborah Bradford (Jerry) and Molly Reeves (Tracy), a sister, Barbara “Bobbie” (Pete) Petersen, and his loved grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his mother, father, and beloved wife, Barbara Ann Caudle Howell. The family is thankful for all the kind words of support and shared experiences during their time of grief and has asked that memorial donations be made to either St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Doctors Without Borders, or to the Wounded Warrior website. To read Billy Haegen Howell’s full obituary, visit here.
For more information about Howell EFI, visit www.howellefi.com, or call (810) 765-5100.
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.”
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.”
Bill recalls of his early retirement, in 1989 TV personality, Don Johnson had an ocean-racing catamaran with 4 large MK IV supercharged engines that was having durability problems related to fuel starvation. “They developed 1100 BHP each, with 2×4 barrel carburetors on each engine,” says Bill, “and any loss of fuel pressure would cause detonation and a head gasket failure. They were built and maintained in Harold Grady’s shop in Ft. Lauderdale. Convention in those boats was to use two electric fuel pumps per engine. Holley carbs can stand only about 7 or 8 PSI fuel pressure at idle, or they will flood the engine with fuel. At speed, this fuel pressure goes down slightly with more fuel demand. This would give an occasional lean out if there was any problem in the system, or a pump malfunction. As a fix, I recommended they change to belt driven fuel pumps which would provide more fuel delivery as speed increased. This cured the problem. During this program I went to races at Marathon Key and Key West, Florida, and got to ride in the boat at a test on Lake X in Kissimmee, Florida at over 100 MPH.
people wanting to put Corvette engines into other cars. So I thought I would learn how to build wiring harnesses and maybe that’ll be a thing.”
Turns out the brilliant mind of Chevy big block development had a pretty good idea for his own endeavors as well, and Bill Howell sought out a new outlet to keep himself busy. Not only did Howell Engine Development begin in January of 1988, it did so with a substantial client intact for launch of the new business. “GM contracted us to build EFI wiring harnesses for the Buick V-6 powered Indy Light series cars. In addition to building the harnesses, we attended the race series to trouble-shoot and maintain the harnesses and ECM’s that were used.”
1993 Indy 500
“During this same period, GM paid me to follow the ASA series and promote first Pontiac, and then Chevy body styles. Buick was also actively promoting their V-6 engines and body styles. During this time, AC Delco was a major sponsor of the ASA, which was running exclusively V-6 engines: Buick, Chevy, and Ford,” says the new entrepreneur.
In 1998, Chevrolet proposed to ASA that they switch to the new Corvette LS-1 engine in basically stock configuration. They would be sealed engines with only a dry sump scavenge pump, cam change, and valve springs. ASA had been looking for an option to leave the V-6 engines, as they were getting more expensive. “We got the contract to build the wiring harnesses and service the systems at the race track. GM ran a test program throughout the 1999 season to develop the package and bulletproof it. They switched the series to the LS-1’s in 2000, and they proved to be easy to tech and bulletproof. We maintained the harnesses and provided tech support for the series until ASA sold it.”
Bill presenting Howell award money
“Also during this time period, we built and maintained the EFI wiring harnesses for the Oldsmobile based V-8 for the Indy car series when they split from CART. We worked with Ned Baker from the Chevy race group on this project.”
Bill with friend, Jack Hahn
And for the past 20 years since, Howell EFI has continued to become a household product in the name of refurb shops, conversion kits, the backyard mechanic, anyone seeking efficiencies in the motors previously listed above, and far beyond. From car rebuilds, to jeeps and off road, to powerboat performance, HOWELL EFI and harnesses not only provide custom-fitted design and harness layouts, but also customer service second to no one. Even more so, originating from an offshoot innovation forged from years of legendary history, development expertise and innovative design, Howell Engine Development is an ongoing salute to one of the pioneers of big block and performance design, immeasurable in the reach and ongoing innovations of automobile performance around the globe.
These days, one can find Bill in either his Michigan or Florida-based home, still involved in the operations at Howell Engine Development, and still providing his expertise to a variety of customers, relations and friendships he has built along the way. Hats off and limitless congratulations to Bill Howell and his son Matt for carrying on the legacy!
Not at all ready to sit back in the rocking chair of retirement and feeling he was still too young to sit around and do nothing else, Howell instead began looking ahead and observed the trends taking place around him. “I knew fuel injection was a coming thing. At that time, only the Corvette had port fuel injection – with eight injectors. There were
Howell followed the 1985 ASA series with Trickle and Miller. He did some development with Fischer engines for Miller on bore/stroke ratios, rod length, and crank overall weight. And Miller was unbeatable in most of the races. “We also did some promotion of a lower level ASA series called the ‘Grand Marquis’ series using a lesser-tuned 90 degree V-6, with lots of production parts, and Chevy Celebrity bodies. We were not able to get enough teams to participate, so it was a one-year series. Many more teams switched over to Camaro body style, as Pontiac had no participation in the series,” says the engine man.
Above: Mario Andretti test drove V-6 Corvette
Below: Line-up of Grand Marc Cars at Winchester
Below: Line-up of Grand Marc Cars at Winchester
Chevy also continued association with the Carson team in IMSA, but switched to V-8 powered Camaro in a different category with Jack Baldwin driving. “We were also developing a turbo V-6 application with Ryan Falconer for a rear engine Corvette in a category for IMSA called Prototype. That team ended up with Rick Hendricks running it. It was driven by ex-drag racer Danny Ongias and a South African driver,” says Bill.
“We also developed a Turbo V-6 Indy engine for Ongias at Indy, but ended up not racing it because of oiling problems and insufficient development time. We tested after Indy and ran 200 MPH with it. Plus Bob Frey won the sprint car division of the Copper World races with Neibel’s V-6 car in January.”
Above: Turbocharged V-6 Indy Engine Prototype
Below: Ryan Falconer at work on Turbo V-6
Chevy reentered Trans-Am racing in 1986. Bill says that, “Herb persuaded the team of Selix, Riley, and Pratt who had won several championships for Ford and Jack Roush to set up shop in Wixom, Michigan and build two V-8 Camaros for TA, with engines to be contracted from Dennis Fisher in California. Drivers were Wally Dallenbach and Jim Miller (financial backer). These cars were beautifully executed except for two features Riley carried over from Roush. The cooling system plumbing design was faulty and there was too much backpressure in the dry sump scavenge system. Both errors were pointed out to Riley before the cars were ever run, but he insisted that they worked at Roush and refused to change them. Both errors cost us race wins before the season was over. By mid year we had them build a 3rd car using V-6 power and it was introduced at the Detroit street race, driven by Greg Pickett. The V-6 car was so good that Dallenbach wanted his own before the season was over. All the engines from Fisher were outstanding.”
Dennis Fisher at his Dyno
Howell adds that as manager of the engine program, “Riley and Selix were a pain in the butt to work with.”
The 1987 Trans-Am program continued, but Howell had little to do with it. Also that year, Bob Frey won the first of four consecutive Little 500 races at Anderson, Indiana in Glen Neibel’s sprint car. Howell continued updating the editions of the Chevrolet Power catalog and attended the historic races in Laguna Seca, California.
As the mid to late 80’s set in, GM implemented a reduction in their staffing and overall workforce, and started eliminating jobs. When offered his early retirement exit from the Detroit behemoth, after 26 years of employment, Bill Howell retired from GM in September of 1987. “Chevrolet had a dynamite retirement party for me with friends from all over the US in attendance,” says the legendary engine man.
Retirement for Howell however, did not result in departing his engine expertise. Instead of tires on the ground, Bill was now helping props in the water. The following year,” says Bill, “Herb sent me to Ft. Lauderdale to look into an engine problem with a 7 liter hydroplane owned and driven by Steve David. He had recurring problems with his 465 CID MK IV engine, primarily oiling. His dry sump oiling system was improperly routed, with excessively long lines, and a terrible oil pan design too shallow due to constraints of the hull. Steve modified the hull and Herb had Pro-Motor Engr. (Chicago) build a new engine. With Reher-Morrison cylinder heads and a new oil pan, the engine was more than 150 BHP better. I also convinced Steve to run a rev-limiter to limit RPM when the boat jumped out of the water. At that time, most boat racers were afraid to use rev-limiters, as they were sure the boat would crash if it came back to the water with the activated rev-limiter. They were wrong. As part of this program, I went to hydro races at lake Wheeler, North Carolina, and Montreal, Canada helping prevent further engine failures.”
The introduction of a 229 CID Chevy V-6 in Chevelle and Monte Carlo, and a 231 CID V-6 became Buick’s only production built engine in 1978. “By design,” says Bill, “the Buick had an even firing order every 120 degrees of crank rotation. The Chevy was an Odd-fire design of 108 and 132 degrees of crank rotation. These firing orders were produced by splitting the rod journal and separating the 2 rods on it by 30 degrees (Buick) or 12 degrees (Chevy). This increased the difficulty in manufacturing a racing crankshaft and lowered the potential durability by narrowing the width of the rod bearings. Chevy had no interest in making a racing engine out of their V-6 and Buick had no choice. They no longer had a Buick V-8. In 1978 we also switched our performance engine development from McLaren Engines to a new source named Katech, started by two ex-McLaren employees John Kayl and Warren Friese, located ultimately in Clinton Township, Michigan. This gave us a more focused program which we could direct.”
Due to apparent oil shortages and major increases in the price of gasoline, GM started on a major downsizing of the fleet in 1979. “Our group started looking at performance options on V-6 engines. The 229 was not a viable candidate, but there was a 262 CID version under development (3/4 of a 350) that would be even-fire, so we started design on aluminum heads, and a box style, large plenum inlet manifold for the V-6 engines,” says Howell.
Ryan Falconer & Dyno
Buick was doing serious development on their V-6 as a turbocharged candidate for the 1980 Indy 500 race. Bill’s group began similar development with Ryan Falconer Engines in Salinas, California. Ryan had managed Indy engines for Galles racing at Indy. Hilborn did a fuel injection intake and system for the Chevy V-6, and a second team, Armstrong Mold out of Winchester, Indiana was also interested. IRL rules allowed 209 CID for the turbocharged version of stock block engines. These engines were too small for a full size Chevy V-8, but acceptable for a V-6.
Chevy checked into a major racing event in 1981 that had been run for several years, on the mile paved oval track at Phoenix, known as the Copper World Classic. The event consisted of 3 open wheel races, midget, sprint car, and Silver Crown cars, plus a late model stock car race. In the midget class any engine of six or less cylinders, no more than 200 cubic inches could be used. “This made our V-6 engine eligible for use,” says Bill. “Using a fuel injection manifold built for Indy turbo use, and a cast iron crank destroked to give us 200 CID, we had Katech build a suitable midget engine. Bob Higman built a new car for the engine, and entered it at Phoenix for the January race with Ken Schrader as driver. The car set a new track record, dominated and won the race, and was promptly outlawed for future Copper World races. But, we proved our point that the V-6 could be competitive and attracted the attention of Glen Neibel who ran a car in the sprint division. We then initiated a program with Neibel to equip a USAC legal sprint car with a larger (280+ CID) V-6 provided he could get a weight break from USAC, which he did. The car was entered into several events, driven by Larry Rice, with its most successful run as a second place finish in a 50-lap race on the mile dirt track at the Indy state fairgrounds. The advantage of the car was in the weight break, allowing higher turn speeds than the regular USAC cars.”
Neibel’s V-6 USAC Sprint Car
“During the year, we concentrated on development of the even fire 4.3 L V-6 for racing, focusing primarily on the cylinder head and intake manifold. We adopted the box plenum cross-ram design that was much easier to use than on a V-8, because the firing order alternates from side to side on the V-6. We also discovered that we could use the 4500 series Holley carb to advantage, along with the box manifold.”
“The Cavalier compact car was to be introduced in 1982, so we approached a stock car builder named Ray Dillon to see if he would build and campaign a Cavalier in the American Speed Association series. This would require ASA to agree to a 200 lb. weight break, which they did. We supplied a J-car body-in-white to Dillon, and Katech built the engines at 265 CID (4.3L),” says Bill. He continues that the car was competitive at several tracks, primarily ½ mile or less, winning one race at the Minnesota fair grounds, driven by Butch Lindley. The car was also driven several times by Pancho Carter. Ultimately, ASA decided not to let the V-6 continue beyond 1981, due to the extra cost to their owners to use both V-6 and V-8 engines. Plus, neither Ford nor Chrysler had a competitive V-6.
By 1982, ASA and other Midwest stock car circuits had begun limiting the compression ratio of their engines to 9:1, in an attempt to increase engine life. There was much concern that there was no foolproof way to verify the engine CR without disassembly of the engines. Howell says that, “In January, we got a call from the promoter at New Smyrna, Florida, wanting to borrow a device used by GM to measure compression ratio without engine disassembly. It induces air to the combustion chamber with the piston at top dead center, through the spark plug hole, and creates a sound that can be measured in frequency to determine the volume. GM was not willing to loan their device, but I was able to locate a cruder portable device that lab technician, Ken Sperry had developed. I arranged to send it to New Smyrna and went there during Daytona speed weeks to demonstrate it. Later, with demonstration in several engines of different CRs we proved the accuracy of the device. In the summer, Katech and I approached the ASA to see if they would finance development of a more sophisticated device that would be easier to use, and could be marketed as THE WHISTLER. This device has proved its utility and several hundred have been manufactured and sold to racing tracks and teams all across America.” At first NASCAR opposed the device, as they thought their competitors could probably cheat it, however, now they also use it.
“We also continued serious development at Katech on the 4.3L V-6,” says Bill. “While investigating a main bearing wear problem, we discovered an improvement in the transfer of oil flow from the main oil galleries to the connecting rods, via the main bearing oil supply. We relayed this information to the 2.8L V-6 engine group who used it to solve one of their problems, and it was also incorporated in the V-8 LS series of engines when they were designed.”
“We also discovered we could go to a complete odd-fire configuration on the 90 degree V-6, allowing us to run regular V-8 connecting rods side by side on a common rod journal. This gave us a firing sequence of 90-150 degrees allowing us to manufacture billet and steel forged crankshafts for increased performance and durability. Thanks to Moldex Crankshaft Co for this,” say Howell.
Bob Frey & Tom Steyer
“In 1982, we sponsored a team in the IMSA Kelly American series of road racing. The team was owned by Bob Carson and the car driven by Craig Carter. The car was a 1982 Camaro. Using Katech-built V-6 engines, we were able to capture the series championships for 3 consecutive years, 82-84. Also in ‘82, Bob Frey in Glen Neibel’s sprint car, won the sprint portion of the Copper World Classic in January.”
Howell says, “We solved a recurring cylinder head gasket leakage problem on the Small Block V-8 with a new head gasket incorporating a steel O-ring inside the armor around each cylinder bore opening. We cooperated with Fel-Pro Company on this, as they were the manufacturer of choice on the head gasket developed for the Oldsmobile diesel engine in 1980. This had been a major problem in NASCAR and other high load series. Acceptance of the new gasket was difficult until Wadell Wilson, DiGard’s engine builder chose to use it.”
Due to the NASCAR team’s reluctance to adopt the Monte Carlo body style, GM decided to design an aerodynamic nose for the car and a new nose configuration was designed and tested in the GM wind tunnel at full size in 1982. “Through an arrangement with DiGard, they built a car that could run either nose and we tested it at Talladega speedway,” says Howell. “The new nose was worth about 8 MPH in top speed, and it was decided to incorporate it as a Monte Carlo option in 1983. A build of 6,000 cars was scheduled with two body colors and one interior color. It was a great success on the racetrack and in the dealerships. Many more than 6,000 were sold. This sequence of events convinced GM management that brand image around racing was significant.
Turbo V-6 Corvette Prototype
In 1983, a number of NASCAR teams switched to Monte Carlo. “To my knowledge,” says Bill, “we were not supporting any of them with parts or money. We continued in road racing (Kelly series) and won the championship. Vince Piggins retired during the year, and Herb Fishel was moved from Buick back to Chevy to run the performance departments. We were doing some turbo V-6 for Corvette prototype racing, and naturally aspirated 2.8L V-6 development with Ryan Falconer for off road truck racing. I coordinated this on trips to California. We also started developing a turbo V-6 Indy engine at 209 CID with Ryan using new aluminum block and head castings.”
By the mid 80’s, the American Speed Association competitors had been using Pontiac Firebird body styles as their body of choice due to a lower and more streamlined nose configuration, even though they were all running Chevy engines. Herb contacted Dick Trickle in 1984, and Howell contacted Butch Miller teams to see if they would switch to Camaro body style if Chevy picked up their engine costs. They were agreeable. Trickle was using engines from a Chicago builder (Ron Neal, Prototype Engines), and Miller from Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Howell says, “We switched Miller over to Dennis Fischer, from California. Needless to say, they both continued winning as before. Both teams ran ARTGO races as well as ASA. This gave us a familiarity with Fischer as a new builder. We also decided to support a 1984 Indy Car program with AJ Foyt to run a Falconer-built turbo V-6 209 CID engine at the Indy 500. We ran into ignition problems, and crankshaft unbalance problems that terminated our program before the first qualifying day. Johnny Rutherford was the selected driver. The crank problem turned out to be caused by the distribution of counterbalance weights on the V-6 crank, which had also been affecting our naturally aspirated race engines. By adding counterweights to the center throws of the crank, we cured a condition that overloaded the second and third main bearings in the engine at high speeds. Thanks to Moldex Crankshaft Co for this fix, he welded up a test crank to prove the principal. Sherman Armstrong in Winchester also attempted to run Indy with a turbo V-6 that they developed. Greg Leffler was their driver. We won the Kelly American series again, too.”