Adapting A Sniper EFI System To A Vintage Volkswagen

10 min read

Adapting A Sniper EFI System To A Vintage Volkswagen

10 min read
Red-E Motorsports Shop

The Red-E Motorsports shop. Since they specialize in air-cooled Volkswagens, vintage Porsche stuff is on their radar as well.

“I almost didn’t have a choice,” jests Eric Allred of Salt Lake City, Utah. “When I was kid my family had a ’59 VW Bug and a ’68 Karmann Ghia, and I grew up working on them. They’re not always the most reliable machines, but they’re relatively simple. I remember watching my dad swap engines between the two cars when I was about five years old, and it just blew my mind.”

These days Allred runs Red-E Motorsports, an outfit that specializes in air-cooled Volkswagens. “We build engines, we do a lot of suspension work, electrical wiring – just about everything but upholstery and paint,” he says. “We do a good bit of old hot rod stuff, also.”

While the shop is a relatively new venture for him, Allred’s been a fixture in the VW community for some time now. In 2019, he broke the record for the world’s fastest street-legal Volkswagen Beetle, hitting 155.186 mph in his ’63 Bug on a 2.5-mile course at the Bonneville Salt Flats during a World of Speed event.

Turbocharged and water-injected, he says the 2276cc engine is good for about 365 horsepower on 16 pounds of boost. There’s more in it, he tells us, but adding more boost would likely get him booted out of his race class for going too fast. “It’s probably the most complex Volkswagen in Salt Lake right now,” he says with a laugh.

But his latest endeavor has focused on the shop truck, a ’65 VW Single Cab. “We use it to haul everything around, and it’s kind of a rolling billboard for the business,” he explains. “I picked it up four years ago or so, and it was pretty rough – its had a hard life. But we cleaned it up a bit – we put new upholstery in it, did some body and paint to improve the look and play up the vintage vibe, and went through the mechanicals.”

The low-slung, 2600-pound truck rides on air shocks at the front and bags in the rear. “It’s lowered quite a bit,” Allred notes. “The previous owner actually pocketed the front fenders to tuck the tires in higher, and the rear end has been tubbed to make room back there as well.”

Outfitted with a four-speed manual gearbox, the Single Cab gets its motivation from a warmed-over 2000cc flat-four with a forged and counterweighted stroker crankshaft and big bore cylinders from CB Performance, along with pistons and cylinder heads from AA Performance, the latter of which Allred hand-ported. “On my dyno it made 70 horsepower and 100 pound-feet of torque,” he says. “And because we have a dyno here at the shop, we were able to do back to back tests versus the bone-stock 1600cc dual port engine that was in it when I got the truck. It’s damn-near double the power.”

Allred had a few options to choose from when it came time to decide what to do with the fuel system. “Originally I was running the stock 34 PICT-3 Solex carb on it, but I wanted to convert it to EFI. I've been doing MegaSquirt EFI systems on Volkswagens for about 15 years now, but it can be cumbersome to use if you’re not familiar with it, and it was just not something I saw myself being able to sell to customers without constant tech support calls.”

Red E Motorsports VW 2200 with Sniper EFI

The Sniper EFI Autolite 1100 manages to squeeze into the tight confines of the Single Cab’s engine bay. The adapter that Allred developed can be seen here sandwiched between the throttle body and the intake system.

He instead selected the Sniper EFI Autolite 1100 (550-552) for the job, a system originally designed as a carburetor replacement for – you guessed it – the Autolite 1100 series, which was the OE carb of choice for many mid-60s Fords that were equipped with inline-six-cylinder power. “It’s similar to the size of a stock VW carburetor but, obviously with all the EFI components, there’s some additional bulk here,” he points out. “It didn’t quite fit on the stock manifold right out of the box, so I made my own adapter. I had to basically shift it over and offset it, but I also had to make sure it was short enough to fit under the engine lid. We’re actually working with a foundry to start mass producing those adapters to make it more of a bolt-on deal.”

He also modified both the throttle plate and the linkage to get it to play nice with the VW mill. “The linkage needed to change because the throttle pulls the wrong way,” he says. “And as far as the plate goes, if you open the throttle too much, it starts exposing the vacuum advance and making the idle surge, so you have to make some tweaks to the plate to avoid that.”

Allred did all of the heavy lifting on the software side in order to get the system to jive with the requirements of the VW flat-four as well. “I think I changed just about every parameter in that EFI program to make it work. But I really like that the Sniper system self-tunes as long I provide it with the right targets and parameters for these engines, and keeps itself tuned.”

Red E Motorsports VW rear at Bonneville

Eric notes that the Single Cab makes for a great shop truck because, unlike the VW bus configuration, the truck’s side and rear panels fold down for better access. “It’s actually sort of a flat-bed design,” he says. “It’s a really cool truck – it’ll haul a ton of stuff."

The Sniper EFI Autolite 1100 supports up to 175 horsepower with one 100lb/hr injector, making it more than capable of keeping up with the 2000cc air-cooled power plant in the Single Cab. And with a straightforward design that includes an internal fuel pressure regulator and only four required wiring connections to contend with, the Sniper was well-suited to the needs of Allred’s project.

“Our goal is to put together a complete kit – the throttle cable, modified plate, the air cleaner adapter, linkage, and the software tune needed to make this work in an air-cooled VW,” he says. “At that point, it should be as easy to do this as, say, what the four-barrel guys are doing with the other Sniper EFI systems – bolt it on, set your idle, and just start driving it to get it tuned.”

Although the truck is pretty well dialed in at this point, Allred’s got more in store for the Single Cab. “We’ve got these cylinder heads we’ve been working on – I’ve got a machine shop that’s making me special tooling so we can modify the heads for better cooling capacity. I haven’t seen anyone do anything like what we’re trying. We’re going to raise the compression, add some quench to the chamber, and with the modified cylinder fins we’ve designed, it should add a pretty good amount of cooling capacity. The way I see it, what good is a big engine with more power if you can’t keep it cool? You can’t, you know, put a bigger radiator in these things – you’re stuck with the fan that you’ve got, so you have to maximize the airflow that you do have.”

In the meantime, the Red-E Motorsports shop truck is seeing plenty of miles as Allred’s test mule for the EFI system. “I’ve been driving the heck out of it. The cool part is that I can be in fourth gear at 800 RPM and floor it and there’s no bucking, no coughing – it just starts pulling. It’s great. I hardly ever need to use first gear anymore!”

Red E VW dyno graph

This dyno comparison shows the difference in power delivery between the Single Cab’s stock 1600cc engine and the fuel injected 2000cc power plant.


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