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Fuel Injection: How Did We Get Here?
Published on: June 15, 2020
Corvette Fuel Injection

Almost every automobile in the world today is fuel injected but that was not always the case. As the shadows of WWII started to fade further into the past the American automakers were involved in a serious horsepower race. Nothing was off the table in the quest for more performance and better driving characteristics and that included fuel injection.

Fuel Injection is the introduction of fuel into an internal combustion by the means of an injector.

Gasoline engines can use direct fuel injection, where the fuel is directly delivered into the combustion chamber or indirect fuel injection where the fuel is mixed with air in the intake manifold before entering the cylinder head’s combustion chamber during the intake stroke.

The primary difference between carburetion and fuel injection is that fuel injection atomizes fuel through a small nozzle under high pressure while a carburetor relies on suction created by intake air accelerated through a Venturi tube to draw the fuel into the airstream. 

In 1954 Mercedes-Benz became the first automaker to produce more than one horsepower per cubic inch with their 3.0 Liter inline six-cylinder, gasoline engine. 

Adapting that engine from their biggest luxury sedan they added fuel injection as a way to make more power without investing in an all-new engine for their revolutionary sports car, the 300SL Gullwing.

Mercedes-Benz was able to produce 240 HP from a mere 183 CID using a fuel injection system that had been developed for them by Bosch AG. That achievement equates to an astonishing (especially for the time) 1.31 horsepower per cubic inch.

Prior to that time, only diesel engines had been fuel injected but this new technology opened up some new avenues to pursue. The very next year, 1955, saw the arrival of the renowned small-block Chevrolet engine. This engine set a new bar for efficiency in a small package.

In 1956 Chrysler Corporation became the first American automaker to release an engine with more than one horsepower per cubic inch.

Their Chrysler 300B carried a 354 CID HEMI engine that produced 355 HP. That was the equivalent of 1.002 horsepower per cubic inch and was accomplished with the use of dual four-barrel carburetors.

The performance train kept rolling in 1957 when Chevrolet introduced their new Rochester mechanical Fuel Injection on their small-block engine. When combined with their solid lifter engine package they were able to extract exactly 283 HP from their 283 CID small block engine.

That gave Chevrolet a horsepower to cubic inch ratio of exactly 1.00, an accomplishment that they highly promoted but, in fact, was not a first for an American or European auto manufacturer.

Ionically, 1957 also saw the arrival of electronic fuel injection at American Motors. Bendix was the manufacturer of record but few were built and they remain just a small footnote in automotive history.

Chevrolet might not have been the first with fuel injection but it is, by far, the most famous adaptor from the early days of automotive fuel injection. Led by the Corvette’s brilliant head engineer, Zora Arkus Duntov, Chevrolet jumped into the new technology with both feet.

Attached please find a variety of articles about early fuel injection that we have compiled and saved as PDFs for your viewing pleasure.

Zora’s shadow looms mightily over Chevrolet even to this day, more than 60 years after his landmark work. In fact, we have heard that the upcoming, ultimate version of the C8 Corvette is going to be simply named Zora. A fitting tribute indeed.

Published by: Jim Luikens

Owner at Rise Sales A full-service Marketing and Public Relations agency that has specialized in the Automotive Performance Aftermarket since 1981.

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