There's a technology revolution going on in the performance world, and it's happening in the area of electronic fuel injection. A quarter century ago, the aftermarket introduced electronic fuel injection (EFI) to gearheads. Early adopters embraced the technology, but it was a laborious learning curve that required fierce devotion. Those who chose to master the art of EFI soon became the experts, while the rest of us watched slack-jawed, hunkering down with our carburetors and boxes of fuel jets. And while incremental improvements in EFI technology have come in dribs and drabs over the years, the big breakthrough needed to breach the knowledge and performance gap between the EFI experts and the rest of us hasn't come-until now.
The turning point comes in the form of EFI systems that can literally be bolted on like a carburetor—only unlike a carburetor, these systems tune themselves. No jets, no adjustments, no laptops—just bolt it on and turn the key. By mimicking the look and feel of the classic four-barrel carb, not only are they a whole lot prettier than EFI systems of yesteryear, they're also unbelievably easy to install. If you haven't upgraded yet, you'll want to consider one for your project.
Companies like Edelbrock, FAST, Holley, and MSD are all serious players in this emerging segment, and today's crop of aftermarket throttle-body EFI systems all work on a similar principle. They bolt on in place of a traditional 4150-style carburetor, and include fuel rails, injectors, engine sensors, and a throttle-linkage integrated into the throttle-body assembly. Since they'll bolt on to any square-bore intake flange, anyone who can swap a carb can install one of these EFI systems. Unlike a multipoint EFI system, there's no need to drill and weld injector bungs into the intake manifold. After installing the hardware, the injectors and engine sensors plug into a stand-alone ECU to create a baseline fuel map based on information you enter-such as engine displacement, camshaft specs, and desired idle speed-using a handheld controller. Without ever laying a finger on a laptop, the motor is ready to fire up, and as the miles pile on, the self-learning ECU automatically tunes itself using feedback from a wideband oxygen sensor.
An easy-to-install EFI system that tunes itself might sound too good to be true, but there are plenty of satisfied hot rodders in the real world to make us believers. Hang out on cruise night long enough and you'll eventually run into one of them. That's exactly what happened when we met the stand-in model for this story, Craig Murray. He installed a FAST EZ-EFI system on his '62 Impala—which packs a 427 small-block Chevy that dynos at 550 hp—and has been absolutely ecstatic with how well it has performed over the last two years. "The EFI system is by far the single best mod I've made to the car. The improvement in throttle response and low-end torque is incredible," he says. "The very first time I turned the key after installing the system, it fired up immediately, and the driveability kept getting better and better as I put more miles on the car. I can let the car sit for weeks, and it will fire right up on the first crank every time. The ethanol that's blended into gasoline these days made my carb run very poorly, but all that's gone away with the EFI system."
Perhaps the best news of all is that these modern EFI kits are more affordable than ever, with prices starting at less than $2,000. Now that the driveability, reliability, and fuel mileage improvements of EFI are no longer tempered by shortcomings in user friendliness, there's never been a better time to upgrade.