Adding nitrous oxide to your hot rod to make it faster is nothing new. In the late-model Mustang market, people have been using it to make their Ponies gallop faster since the '80s. The problem with using nitrous back then was that you got all of that horsepower and torque instantly, much like dropping the clutch with an extra 100-plus horsepower. Eventually, the folks at Nitrous Oxide Systems (NOS) developed an electronic controller that would pulse the solenoids and add it gradually. Some of those controllers are still in use today, but we're here to show you NOS's latest progressive controller--the Launcher.
With the proliferation of handheld tuners, advancements in personal digital assistants, and other similar devices, the aftermarket tuner devices have come a long way from the plug-in chip. These days, you can reprogram the computer simply by pushing a few buttons on a handheld tuner. While this progress works wonders for enthusiasts, the graphic displays and interactions with them are limited. This is probably for good reason, as the majority of enthusiasts aren't knowledgeable enough to be programming their own rides. That, combined with the fact that flashing the ECM is basically a set-it-and-forget-it proposition, and it's easy to see why the graphics and interaction are limited. It also helps keep the price point down.
For those who are using nitrous oxide to make their cars go faster, maintaining constant control of nitrous delivery can offer great benefits when traction is limited. NOS takes this control one step further than its past progressive controller by utilizing a new handheld unit with a touch-screen graphical interface called the Launcher.
This powerful little black box is loaded with software that allows you total control over the nitrous delivery. The Launcher can control two stages of nitrous on its own, or if you add the optional slave controller, it can control a total of four, and all of them can be operated progressively. There's a wideband connection that you can use to shut down the nitrous in the event of an overly rich or lean condition, and an SD memory card is included with the LCD touch screen to store extra programs or to take advantage of the Launcher's data-logging capability.
You can set the progressive control to run off of engine rpm, boost pressure, or a time elapse, and you can also set the actual curve of nitrous delivery using the touch screen. The Launcher itself can be triggered by voltage inputs, such as a TPS switch, WOT switch, or tach signal. The touch screen makes it pretty easy, much like a video game, but you can also install the software on a PC laptop and program it that way as well.
Having all of this state-of-the-art technology available to us, we just had to install it on a car and see how it worked. After contacting Tony Gonyon of HP Performance in Orange Park, Florida, we found a great candidate in Jason Wells and his '93 Mustang. We've worked with Wells before, as he provided his 418-cid Windsor-powered coupe for a drag suspension installation. Wells uses a two-stage nitrous plate, but up until now, he had never used the second stage.
We met up with Wells at HP Performance and followed along as he and his father, Mike, performed the installation. The directions are fairly straightforward, and there are just a dozen or so wires to hook up. Wells employs an MSD 7531 programmable ignition, and we had to connect the Launcher to the 7531, as it provided us with two stages of timing retard. Once the system was installed and tested in the shop, we headed to our local quarter-mile strip of pavement, known as Gainesville Raceway, in Gainesville, Florida, and loaded up in the staging lanes. We set the first stage of nitrous for 225 hp, and the second for 150 hp.
The Nitrous Oxide Systems...
The Nitrous Oxide Systems Launcher programmable nitrous controller with the 3.5-inch LCD touch screen (PN NOS-15975) retails for about $750. NOS also offers the system with a digital handheld controller (PN NOS-15976) for a little over $500, and if you have your own laptop, you can get the base system for a little over $400. It comes with just about everything you need to install it. Our use of the MSD 7531 ignition controller required an extra pair of electrical relays that we sourced from the local parts store.
The master controller can...
The master controller can be installed in the interior, or in the engine compartment. NOS specifies that you do, however, isolate it from vibration. The master controller has provisions for a wideband meter, a slave controller, USB connection, and the eight-pin main harness. Be sure to copy down the serial number from the back of the unit, as it must be entered in the software upon startup.
The red and blue wires are...
The red and blue wires are connected to the ground side of the solenoids, while the black goes to a chassis ground.
With the master controller...
With the master controller wired up, the handheld controller, or in our case, LCD touch screen, needs to be connected to a ground and switched to a 12-volt power source. Once you have plugged it into the master controller, the unit will be recognized once you throw the power switch.
Normally the configuration...
Normally the configuration files are stored in the master controller, but our LCD screen takes over those duties and sends the program to the controller when it's time to go to work.
The eight-pin main harness...
The eight-pin main harness carries the system trigger wires (white with red and white with blue wires), a green wire to pick up the rpm signal, and another ground. Normally you would connect the white and striped trigger wires to a manual button or microswitch, however we wired them to the transbrake so the nitrous will start flowing the minute we let go of the transbrake. The yellow and orange wires are general-purpose output wires (GPO) and are used to trigger an ignition retard. Their function is programmable through the controller, and since they are low-current grounds, these are connected to relays, which trigger a 12-volt signal to the 7531 ignition retard we are using.