Normally-Aspirated Volvo Owners, You’ve Got Choices
Lucky of ARD tells us exactly what NA owners can do to make their Volvos faster, a topic which has been asked in Volvo Forums as long as there have been NA Volvos and forums.
Much Love, Just no Turbo
This week I thought we’d take a fast forward into our Non turbo build that will be happening in the next few weeks. So many times non turbo owners jump on the forums and ask what they can do to improve performance and power and are met with the old stand by answer, “Sell it and buy a turbo”. While this advice may actually be well intentioned, and possibly the best option for a high powered build, there are still ways to improve the performance of these non turbo models. Our scheduled build is intended to be very approachable to the average owner with off the shelf parts and tuning of our 1995 Volvo 850. So let’s start by outlining the build and talk about what we can expect.
First things first, not all non turbos are equal. With regard to the 850 chassis primarily there are two fuel systems used in the non turbo models. From 1993-1994 the LH 3.2 Fuel system was used and can be easily identified by the use of two ECU’s to control the engine, one for fueling and one for ignition. Later 1995 and up models used only one ECU as Volvo switched to Motronic engine management version 4.3. The earlier systems are harder to make gains with since the rudimentary LH system is not exactly brimming with technology that can be easily modified for power gains. So for the rest of this article we’ll focus on 1995 and later cars including the Denso fuel systems that were used in non turbo cars starting in 1999.
Tuning I’ve started tuning the car already just to get a sense of how hard we can push the timing advance in stock form by simply taking advantage of the improved gasoline quality that is available day by day at your local gas pump. The added ethanol and other additives allow us to add as much as 6 degrees timing advance in spots on the ignition map. The fuel and ignition calibrations from a car that is nearly 20 years old are unsurprisingly out dated with respect to today’s fuel content and quality. This translates to a much peppier car coming of the line and down the midrange. With some added enrichment I think we can provide a very notable increase in power. Granted it won’t be quite as considerable as the 30-35 bhp we can so easily attain with tuning turbo models but should help scoot us down the quarter mile drag.
Air intake The plan for the air intake is to swap out the original long runner 850 manifold for a shorter runner ME7 manifold from a later 1999+ car out fitted with a 70mm throttle body and K&N Shrouded intake. This along with some cam timing and tuning should bring the power band further up the rev range where it naturally tends to fall off. This is in hope to spread the power over a broader section of the RPM range which will help get us down the track more quickly. Shorter runners are more desirable for taking advantage of intake wave pulses at higher RPM’s which can promote dynamic cylinder filling that exceeds 100%. Sort of like turbocharging but without the turbo.
Exhaust For this one we’re going simple, high flow OBX header and a cat back system from the turbo cars as the piping is larger diameter and freer flowing.
Ignition The folks at Eurosporttuning.com were kind enough to donate an MSD coil kit for our build. Thanks to Frank for offering to be a part of this! We’re running Bosch Motorsports plugs even though these are overkill for this setup, but they needed replaced and we had them on hand J The remainder of our Stage 0 maintenance has all been completed including cap/rotor and wires.
Misc We’ll add on the ARD light weight crank pulley just to help shed as much unnecessary weight as we can as well as remove the 5lb resonance block under the center console (You can see the yellow weighted block in the picture below)
We’ll leave the spare and jack in the boot since that’s an everyday item we all would normally travel with.
We’ve got all our parts in hand and we’ll be heading to the track first though to get some baseline data on the car in stock form and also stock plus a tune. Then the following week it’s install time and all the go fast parts will be installed and tuned for, then we’re back to the track to see if we can make this little green monster go!
It’s Fast Friday #34.