Breathe Easy

Upgraded Induction Systems Mean Improved Engine Performance

MODERN CARS have spoiled us. They start on the first try, don’t need to be warmed up, make decent power and sip relatively little fuel. It makes sense that we want the same for our classic cars. For nearly any car, there are many paths for improvement.

The first step is to ensure your engine, ignition and induction system are in good shape. If tuning isn’t your thing, find a shop.

If you want improvement over the dated factory systems, plenty of upgrade options exist. We’ll focus on induction here, but remember to have a good ignition system first; many "carb problems" are often due to ignition issues.

The first options are improved carbs and/or manifolds. You can upgrade to a carb that is easier to work on, has an automatic choke/fast idle, and is ideally matched to your engine. But a carb is just one part of the induction funnel and sometimes needs a matching intake manifold to function at its best. A properly chosen carburetion setup can work wonders.

For cars from the late 1960s into the early ’80s, the emissions cat-and-mouse game often left drivability and performance behind, until manufacturers started mass-producing fuel-injected vehicles. For these cars, induction upgrades are sometimes to “backdate” to pre-emissions-era setups. For example, it’s common with British cars to retrofit multiple SU induction setups in place of single Zenith/Stromberg setups or to install various Weber carburetors. For American cars, Holley and Edelbrock offer many options. Of course, like all upgrades, they may not fit your state’s emissions regulations, so check first.

Fuel injection is an increasingly common choice. Options start with throttle-body carb conversions and move on to full engine management systems that take care of ignition and everything else. One new system is Holley’s Terminator EFI. Systems like this provide true modern-car drivability, but require a more complex set of components and a deeper pocketbook.

The final option is forced induction through supercharging or turbocharging. Again, there are many systems available. Properly designed and installed, they will not only transform the drivability of a car but greatly increase its power band.

If properly researched and installed, these upgrades can be done at home by a hands-on enthusiast. However, it’s often helpful to find a professional partner who can answer questions or perform the final tune — and bail you out of a jam if needed.