No matter what the pace of human evolution is, one thing is for sure – the pace of technological evolution is fast and furious, with new processes and design changes able to be performed with speed, repeatability, and accuracy thanks to today’s computer-controlled machinery. Over the last several years, the wizards out at ProCharger have been building a better mousetrap through constant product evaluation, development, on-dyno and on-track testing.
The company’s record-setting, championship-winning line of F-Series superchargers has been at the forefront of the street-legal drag racing movement for over a decade, and that heritage carries over to the products they’re offering to the market today with the revamped F-Series lineup. This article is going to focus on the redesign of ProCharger’s newest race-friendly models – the F-1X, F-3A 121, F-3R 130, and F-3R 136, all of which are winning and setting records at the highest levels of street-legal drag racing today.
Why the Changes?
With the F-4 we learned a lot about improved efficiency and how it interrelates with the drive power necessary to turn the supercharger. – Dave Werremeyer
You may remember seeing photos on the web a couple of years ago of the huge ProCharger F4 supercharger, which became the basis of development for this latest incarnation of the F-Series program. While testing the different components of what would later become the F-4 supercharger, the engineering team hit on a few key developments that proved they were on the right track. According to ProCharger’s Dave Werremeyer, “The gains we found were mainly in the impeller design in the blade angles and just the overall efficiency of the design.
We were playing around with some ideas in a new software package we had, and went to the test lab to try out some of those designs. Before we put the F-4 on the dyno we had baselined performance with an F-3R 139, so we had a bunch of data to work with. Discharge temperatures and the amount of CFM the blower produces are the main things that we were looking at.
At the end of the day the amount of CFM we were able to create with the F-4 was great, but to support 3,500+ horsepower we would need to create a larger gear case designed for that power level, and it’s not clear how many customers are needing that much power. We felt like we could cover the majority of the market with the F-13R-136, which supports over 3,000 horsepower.” Those key developments led the engineering team back to the drawing board with the dimensions of the company’s other F-Series superchargers, with intentions for a better race program moving forward.
ProCharger has been at the forefront of centrifugal supercharger technology over the last two decades since the company’s inception in the early 1990’s – anyone remember the P600B?
ProCharger CEO Ken Jones took a couple of minutes to sit down with us to explain the company’s rationale behind their success. “ProCharger’s engineering director, Damian Kuiper, has a master’s degree in compressor design, while Senior Mechanical Engineer Mike Carlson, who manages more of the new ProCharger compressor design projects, also possesses a Master’s degree. We do a ton of testing, but it’s definitely not trial and error. Our approach is an engineered approach, followed by empirical validation in the test lab, on the engine dyno, and at the track,”
Jones explained. That ‘test, test, test’ mindset is a culture that permeates throughout the ProCharger organization and is passed down to its sponsored racer contingent.
Compressing The Air
Impeller design in a supercharger is critical. As air in this instance is considered a fluid for the purposes of engineering, the impeller must be dimensionally constructed so as to induce a minimum of turbulence. To give a quick lesson on how centrifugal superchargers work, air is drawn in through the inlet and compressed by the impeller. When the air charge leaves the impeller, it is high speed, but low pressure.
As the air passes through the vane-less diffuser on the back side of the supercharger, it is converted into low speed, high-pressure air. The high-pressure air is forced into the engine, where increased fuel volumes allow the engine to set the higher-oxygen, higher-fuel-content mixture aflame. This makes more horsepower due to the gain in efficiency.
So one could see where efficiency gains within the supercharger assembly itself might permit even more horsepower to be made and Werremeyer explained its importance. “Over the entire line of blowers, from the older ProCharger models to the new F-3R 130 and 136, the main differences are obviously the impeller design and improved discharge temperatures, but it’s really the overall efficiency. The efficiency picked up so much that it lowered the drive power needed to turn the supercharger, which translates back into more horsepower gain. It takes a lot less drive power to turn these new blowers than the older series. We also picked up boost, which is a big deal. It’s pretty tough to pick up boost and efficiency at the same time – usually you’ll gain on the efficiency side but you may not pick up any boost, but all of the new F-3 designs pick up 4 to 5 psi,” he said.
Technology at Work
The folks at ProCharger are heavily invested in the technology and machinery to keep their products at the top of the heap. Countless hours of dyno and track testing come together in the minds of the engineers when it comes time to lay out a new product. “The advantages we have by being able to work on our product in the test lab, combined with the software programs that the engineers have, and our machining capabilities, brings the product all together at the end,” Werremeyer explained.
Continuing, Werremeyer said, “We are able to simulate all of the designs through a software program to get all of the data points we are looking for, mainly the flow trim analysis, to get an idea of whether we are going down the right path. Once we can confirm that the data works well, we head out to the machining centers, knock out some blanks, and then put the five-axis to work. We’ll build one unit, put it on the run-in stand, and start the testing process. We have a long tube that attaches to the inlet where we are able to measure CFM and differential pressure and the amount of boost, and we’ll throw it through a restrictor. That restrictor can be changed to simulate differently-sized engines, which allows us to test the supercharger in a variety of conditions and operating ranges. Every time we dyno a new blower, we will first test the blower we are looking to replace. After the baseline, we will switch them out for the new design and then go back to the first. This A-to-B-to-A comparison helps us to confirm all of our findings.”
ProCharger’s aerodynamics test lab utilizes state-of-the-art equipment and three separate test cells to help ensure that ProCharger superchargers are the best available. This test lab, the industry’s largest and most capable, allows ProCharger engineers to simultaneously perform aerodynamic, gear case, and long term durability testing. Once those findings are confirmed on the test stand, product is then delivered to the track and their ‘test fleet’ of numerous racers all over the country. With over 20 years of experience in the racing supercharger market, the team at ProCharger has been able to help crown more champions in the last ten years than all of their direct competitors combined.
F3′s Are Making History
The F-3 series supercharger redesign was completed on the NMRA Super Street Outlaw-spec F-3A 121 supercharger, the F-3R 130, and the F-3R 136 units that are used at higher levels of competition. Although the F-Series superchargers have dominated in competition over the last several years, any company that rests on their laurels instead of continuously moving forward will eventually be left behind the pack. The ProCharger mantra is to lead by example and that’s exactly what the newly-designed F-3A 121, F-3R 130, and F-3R 136 superchargers do. Although the stillborn F-4 program has been pushed to the wayside, the engineering discoveries made possible by that program has helped the team push the smaller F-3 series blowers to new heights.
The end result of all of that research parlayed directly into the development of the new blowers. Werremeyer explained, “We took everything that we learned, made it more compact, played around with impeller design and the vane-less diffuser location, and the first blower we worked on was the F-3A 121 for John Urist and the guys in NMRA Super Street Outlaw. We learned a ton off of that portion of the project. We started in the beginning of November in 2010 and worked on it until April or May of 2011 as far as getting the design working, getting parts made, testing, redesigning, and more testing, until we had come up with a product that we felt was ready to get into the hands of our guys so we could get some good numbers on it, and the rest is history.”
History, in fact, that resulted in Urist closing his unprecedented eighth NMRA Super Street Outlaw championship run in Bowling Green in early October, and history that Steve “Stevie Fast” Jackson is counting on to make a run at the Outlaw Drag Radial title this coming weekend at the Shakedown at E’town.
The Domination of the F-1X
What about the supercharger that has taken the x275 world by storm – the F-1X? Where did that one come from? Again, we went back to Werremeyer for an explanation. “That one’s a whole new redesign. We were always so constricted to the 9 ¾” housing from the old NMRA Drag Radial specs, but once Donald Long set up the rules for his 275 class in 2012 we were able to step outside those boundaries a little bit. We were pushing towards that class to give our guys a little bit of room to grow. In those rules we were permitted to use a 10.5” housing.
The key is that the impeller efficiency was improved, but the basic dimensions of the impeller from the F-1R to the X are virtually unchanged. The larger housing’s improved efficiency really helped the blower to make more power, because anytime the impeller-to-housing ratio isn’t 100%, it becomes such an inefficient piece and hard to make power. We had been forced for so long with the F-1R to work within those dimensions, we kept on playing with R sized wheels and dimensions behind the scenes. But you’re still restricted by the housing – you can only get so much bologna in a one-pound bag, ya know?”
Last September, the decision was made to push forward with the F-1X project. The engineering team got some ideas on paper and started the initial design phase. The vane-less diffuser and impeller design were identified as the critical areas of concern, and the team was ready for testing right after PRI.
“By the time we had known product that was good, we were able to get them onto six or seven cars in time for Donald Long’s race at SGMP in February. We tested them here in house and what we observed, and the difference between the R and the X was just incredible. We picked up three to four pounds of boost with the new design, but again, it was just the efficiency side that was so impressive. Although it is an all-new impeller design, all of the F-Series blowers have self-contained oiling, the patented, ultra-high speed compound bearing assembly and precision ground 9310 steel gears. The transmission in the blower is the same as the day it was designed originally – the internals haven’t changed at all,” says Werremeyer.
Racers on the Hunt with ProCharger
Phil Hines has been running a ProCharger for years in the NMRA’s Super Street Outlaw class in addition to various other events across the country. Hines stepped up this year to one of the new F-3A 121 superchargers on his Racecraft-built Mustang, and the difference was immediate and immense. Hines was on his way to run in Outlaw 275 at the Radial Revolution No Mercy III race when we caught up to him, and he raved about the new 121. He said, “Oh my god, we saw a huge change. The biggest and most important thing is reliability – this is far and away the best one I’ve used. I’m seeing three to four pounds of boost at the top more than the old blower. It’s just a night-and-day difference.”
We have the most powerful ProCharged engine in the world – you can quote me on that! – Stevie Fast
Steve “Stevie Fast” Jackson runs a big-block Chevy-powered Mustang ingesting huge amounts of methanol that is boosted by an F-3R 136 blower and has run a best eighth-mile ET of 4.32 at 183 MPH in the Outlaw Drag Radial class with an F-3R 136. His combo used to be powered by the 139 version of the F-3R and he was happy to explain how the F-3R 136 has made his program better. “The main difference from the two superchargers is the area where they make power.
The 136 is much more efficient in the mid-to-upper RPM range, and the 139 on my car was more efficient down low. Once you get to 6,000 RPM and on up from there the 136 runs over the top of the 139. It provides 80-100 degrees cooler intake air temperatures, which is a big deal for someone who runs methanol like me. It seems to make about 3-400 more horsepower and is ten miles an hour faster in the eighth,” Jackson said.
New Jersey’s Bruder Brothers have been at the forefront of the X275 envelope, trying to tear it open every time out on the track. With Rich behind the wheel and Nick and Mike Modeste performing crew chief duties, they have a best eighth-mile ET of 4.59 at 160.8 mph. The team is in a mad scramble right now to make the SGMP race this weekend, and Nick explained, “We started racing x275 with the F-1R, and in Georgia this year we put the F-1X on for Donald Long’s February race. It makes two pounds more of boost on our engine and doesn’t take nearly the same amount of power to turn. It doesn’t beat up the air so much, we’ve been real happy with it.”
ProCharger Racing Milestones
- 1999 – First national championship for ProCharger was in 1999
- 2000 – The ProCharger D-series superchargers dominated Renegade, Pro 5.0 and Super Street classes.
- 2001 – F-series blowers were released
- 2001 – First Pro 5.0 racer into the 6′s was ProCharged (Mangrum), and three total ProCharged racers in the 6′s in the same year (Mangrum, Walsh and Summers)
- 2002 – Jim Summers joined ProCharger as Motorsports Director
- 2005 – the F-2 became the first 10.5″ blower to run in the 7′s
- 2006 – Bo Butner won the first NHRA championship powered by a centrifugal supercharger with a ProCharger in his AA/SM Cavalier
- 2006 – Steve Morris was the first to produce 2,000+ HP on pump gas with an F-series ProCharger
- 2007 – ProCharged customers won 11 international championships.
- 2007-2011 – racers running ProChargers averaged seven championships in the period of 2007-2011
All in all, the ProCharger team seems to have every angle covered when it comes to engineering, testing, manufacturing, and supporting their product. The performance they show on-track is representative of their efforts in the testing laboratory, and whether you run into Werremeyer supporting the ProCharger racers at one of the large race events or CEO Jones pitching the product’s features and benefits at a trade show, you’re bound to get an education in supercharging. The same education the competition’s been getting since 1999.