A quarter century ago, first-generation EFI systems were expensive, difficult to install, and even harder to tune—if you could even understand what was going on in the first place. It wasn't so bad once you got the hang of it, but the learning curve was steep, and right or wrong, news quickly spread that EFI was no easy bolt-on. The negative reputation dogged EFI for decades, but so did the benefits on the plus side. Those benefits, such as sharp throttle response, great driveability, good cold-start manners, and superior fuel economy with no trade-off in performance, enticed EFI engineers to double their efforts, and now we are in a fuel-injection renaissance with third-generation technology. The fact is, you can't do too badly with any of the new systems on the market; that's because manufacturers now know that many consumers (who may have been watching from the sideline) want aftermarket EFI systems that are simpler to install and that do not require a laptop to program them. As a result, today's third generation of EFI systems often have some kind of self-learning strategy to take away the headache of manually filling in fuel load values cell by cell, column by column, row by row. As far as we're concerned, self-learning is the future of EFI, and there's almost no reason not to go that route, especially since there's no real cost attached to it.
Introduced just last year, Edelbrock's E-Street EFI (PN 3600, street price around $2,200) is turning out to be one of the hottest value-packed sellers in the self-learning EFI marketplace. Its four 60-lb/hr injectors feed a cast-aluminum throttle body that bolts to any traditional intake with a square-bore 4150-sized mounting flange. At the system's nominal 60 psi operating pressure, the E-Street system can safely supply naturally aspirated engines up to 600 hp, enough to cover the vast majority of hot rodders. Moreover, Edelbrock has helped simplify the process by mounting most of the essential sensors and actuators right on the throttle body, making the task of wiring and harness routing a minor affair. (The connections for the injectors, idle air bypass, manifold absolute pressure sensor, air inlet temp sensor, and throttle position sensor all terminate at the throttle body.) Only the wide-band oxygen sensor and the coolant temp sensor are mounted off the unit. The base kit comes with the pre-assembled throttle body, ECU (the control box), a pair of relays, harnesses, wideband O2 sensor, all mounting hardware, and most intriguing of all, a 7-inch Android tablet with wireless capability.
The tablet is the rock star in the E-Street show, making incredibly light work of the traditionally laborious job of loading and tuning the ECU. And while competing units offer handheld programmers, the E-Street unit communicates on a wireless Bluetooth channel with the ECU allowing you to load tunes and do setup from virtually anywhere. With the Android tablet's wifi connectivity, you can even access Edelbrock's I-Link tech support, allowing Edelbrock technicians to see your screen and engine performance in real time and even make tuning changes if necessary. The resolution of the full-color 7-inch display is exactly what you'd expect from a high-end retail Android tablet—because that's exactly what it is. (No more squinting at hard-to-read boxes with sketchy block-pixel displays. A big plus for us older guys with not-so-good eyesight.)
The tablet comes with a sturdy suction cup bracket that allows it to be easily attached to the dash or windshield; an antiglare screen shield and vehicle DC power adapter make it even more hot rodder friendly. Once the setup procedure and base program download is complete, you can stow the tablet, or use it for other nonautomotive purposes, however, we liked having it onboard during the self-learning period to see the progress of the fuel corrections. (As the ECU learns the engine, the amount of fuel correction above or below the base fuel map is displayed in percentage points of correction. It was fun to watch the correction factor get smaller over time and to feel that improvement through the seat of our pants.)
When it comes to EFI installations, the elephant in the living room is the fuel system. You can have all the fancy pants hardware underhood, but at the end of the day, you're still yanking the gas tank, installing an electric fuel pump, running fuel line, and wiring a relay-equipped power supply to the new pump. And even with that accomplished, more than half of all EFI conversions on classic muscle cars suffer from fuel starvation unless more steps are taken to sump the fuel pump pickup (protecting it from sucking air on modest cornering or braking). We've covered the subject (and the fix) numerous times, but Edelbrock's Universal Fuel Sump Kit (PN 3605, 60 psi; and PN 3607, 49 psi; street price $546) is a solution so cost-effective, functional, and simple, we're amazed nobody thought of it sooner. When we first saw it, we knew we had to do a separate story just on this kit (turns out, it can be used with any aftermarket EFI system, not just E-Street), so we'll be bringing that to you shortly.