The concept is straight out of a high school physics class: The colder you make your intake charge, the denser, and therefore more powerful, your intake charge becomes. With more atmosphere shoved into the engine, there are more oxygen molecules going through the combustion process and a more forceful down stroke on the piston. To that end, hot rodders have traditionally done all that they could to decrease the intake charge temperatures. This ranges from letting your truck sit between quarter-mile blasts, icing down the intake tract of the engine, and using some type of mechanical or chemical means to decrease inlet temperatures.
Recently, the concept of injecting methanol into the intake tract has become popular. Snow Performance, an industry leader in this technology, has developed specific methanol injection kits for all sorts of different applications. Of course, we wanted to know what the effects of methanol injection are on a built-up Lightning, and Matt Snow, owner of Snow Performance, was more than willing to let us test a kit on one of our resident trucks.
Before we get to the details of the Snow kit, let's address the question of why methanol. According to the Snow Performance Web site: "Methanol is a high-octane fuel that is extremely resistant to detonation with an excellent cost/benefit ratio. Its high latent heat of vaporization also makes it an excellent air charge cooler, which means a denser mixture and more horsepower. Because of these facts, it is a better antidetonant than ethanol or isopropanol, although they will work in a pinch. In gasoline engines, as with any intercooler, this suppresses detonation so more power-producing boost and timing is utilized. Water, with its high latent heat of vaporization cools the intake charge and combustion. Methanol cools the charge and combustion but also acts like an extremely high-octane fuel (some researchers claim as high as 120 octane) as well as adding more oxygen to combustion. It has, however, only about 60 percent of the energy content of gasoline by volume, so about twice as much is used to make similar power if used as a straight fuel. It is extremely toxic and should be handled with rubber gloves in well-ventilated areas. Avoid skin contact."
The Meth Kit
With that as a primer, we took a look at our Snow Performance kit. It's based around a high-flow Snow Performance pump that is modified to flow 500 ml/min at the nozzle. Matt assembled the rest of the kit with an eye toward keeping the cost down while maximizing the bang for the buck. Together, it represents one of the hottest trends in the performance-truck hobby: liquid intercooling. Our Stage II MAF Boost Cooler kit ($399) includes a variable controller to optimize the system's activation by working with the MAS voltage to custom-tune the Snow pump output. As we have come to expect from Snow Performance, its methanol kit comes with detailed, illustrated instructions, making for an easy installation.
Our test truck comes from our old friend, Eric Holt, who donated his Lightning for our sheetmetal JLP-intake installation in the first issue of Ford Truck Performance. Eric's Lightning has seen just about everything that JLP has to offer; built JLP bottom end, JLP ported heads, JLP cams, Kenne Bell twin-screw blower, larger heat exchanger, JLP fuel system, headers, roll cage, race trans with converter, JLP's DiabloSport tunes, and even a ZEX nitrous kit. With power on pump gas exceeding 500 rwhp without the nitrous, this is a true test of the Snow Performance methanol kit capabilities.
Remove the stock windshield-washer...
Remove the stock windshield-washer fluid reservoir; it serves as the methanol reservoir for this application. Paul's Automotive Engineering in Cincinnati handled the installation, tuning, and chassis dyno testing. Technician Chris Tino begins the process of Snowing a Lightning.
Assemble the pump as shown....
Assemble the pump as shown. Use sealant to seal the line adaptors to the high-performance Sure Flow pump.
We mount the Snow Performance...
We mount the Snow Performance methanol pump on top of the fender liner below the reservoir. It's down low and out of the way, where nothing will get to it. Of course, that makes the installation a little bit more tricky, but the guys at Paul's were up to the task.