When it comes to an engine that runs nitrous, the last thing you want is wheel spin; not only does it make you lose a race, it is also potentially harmful for the engine. Not all tracks or cars are created equal and you need a tool that allows you to harness the power potential of your nitrous system. It doesn’t matter if it is a 75-shot or three stages on your Pro Street car; a nitrous controller like the NOS Launcher can help get those ponies to the pavement. Follow along, because we are going to show you some of the latest and greatest from NOS on their nitrous controller technology and follow up with an installation and track test on Fastest Street Car Magazine’s Maverick.
FSC Technical Editor Jake Amatisto runs the magical gas on his Limited Street Maverick and is looking to step up his game and eliminate wheel spin that has already cost him a few runs.
“After crashing my Race Pages project car, ’The Super Smav‘ (’71 Maverick) in October of 2006, I was in the process of fixing the front end with a fiberglass setup when I came across this one-owner ’70 Ford Maverick for cheap, which I bought from a friend to be a host for my old car’s engine and drivetrain,” Jake explains. “This was a much nicer platform to work with compared to my other Mav, and we eventually dubbed it ’Brownstorm’ as a joke, due to it’s poop colored paint. After degreasing and painting the engine compartment and the underside, I shoehorned my 347/C4 combo in it.”
The 347 has managed a best of 500 horsepower and 650 foot-pounds on a 125-shot direct port kit. Things got serious in early 2008 when Mike Ryan fabricated in a 25.5 spec chrome-moly roll cage. Other upgrades included adjustable shocks, springs, spool and axles. The car had previously been as fast as a 6.45 @ 110 MPH in the eighth-mile with the 125 shot. The direct port kit was ditched for a NOS plate and the shot was upped to 250. No doubt Jake was going to benefit from the Launcher.
An Overview of the NOS Launcher
The Launcher is NOS’ latest and greatest in nitrous control technology. “It takes the general concept developed by the Mini and pushes it from linear to fully customizable nitrous curves,” says Senior Product Manager, Jay McFarland.
There is also a plethora of add-ons available for the system, including a wide band O2 sensor that can shut the nitrous off on lean conditions, to full data logging capabilities with all inputted sensors. Before we get into more about the Launcher, let’s look back on how nitrous started and the evolution of progressive controllers.
Horsepower in a bottle
The ‘70s is when nitrous started to become popular in racing, in which a lot of engines were damaged. Initially, nitrous was brought to the market by entrepreneurs that didn’t have a firm grip on how to properly use it and the end result was a lot of erratic trial and error.
In 1978, Mike Thermos and Dale Vaznaian started up Nitrous Oxide Systems (NOS) with a promise to make nitrous use repeatable and safe. The first years were spent on engineering kits that were easy, yet safe for the end user. Print magazines then began to test the systems and that is all it took for nitrous to gain the momentum it needed to be recognized as a cheap and reliable source for increasing horsepower.
Evolution of NOS Controllers – The Early Years
Early kits were low-frills and simple to install; a fuel pressure safety switch was one of the only safeguards that existed. The traction control options for nitrous systems included your jet selection and your right foot. The advent of the RPM window switch gave a racer the ability to have the nitrous turn on and off at a given RPM for safety and traction purposes. Computer-aided devices were out of the question due to the simple lack of technology. But now we live in an era that has USB rechargeable double AA batteries and flat panel monitors, so the capability for 21st-century technology in nitrous applications is a given.
The first generation of true nitrous controllers from NOS started with the “Digi-Set” timer that used small switches and later developed to the NOS Time Delay Controller that had easier to use, spin-style knobs. These controllers would delay the time of the activation of a second or third system from a fraction of a second to nearly two minutes.
The First Ramping Nitrous Controller
The controllers later evolved into their time-based and programmable Progressive Controller that was introduced around the same time on the turn of the century. The Time Based system was the more simple of the two and would allow a start percent of the solenoid’s duty cycle that would allow you to ramp it in over ten seconds. Since solenoids are off and on only, the timer would pulse the 12-volt power going to them to limit the percentage of nitrous injected.
The Programmable Progressive Controller was a step up in technology for nitrous controllers, having multiple functions. Mostly mechanical, this system looks relatively primitive by today’s standards, but they were cutting edge for their time. This controller used all the previous and current generation functions, such as an output delay for a second stage, delay for the stage it is controlling, and simple ramping capabilities. The first generation progressive controller gave the ability to limit the end percent as well as the start percent. Now you could delay the start of the nitrous after the full throttle switch was activated and then ramp the nitrous from a start to final percent over up to ten seconds.
NOS Goes Digital with the Mini 2-Stage Progressive Controller
The Mini was the fully digital nitrous controller from NOS and it did everything the Programmable Progressive Controller did, and more. “In late 2004 we came up with the idea to make the fully digital Mini. With electronics these days, it can actually be cheaper due to the technology. This gives a better product for less money,” McFarland remarked. The options that were carried over included:
• Start and End Percentages
• Delay After Activation
• Delay on an Auxiliary Control
• Ramp Time
The main options that were added included:
Two Stage Controller – Previous generation controllers only had the ability to actively control one stage of nitrous, but the Mini now gave a fully programmable second stage.
RPM Window Switch – To increase safety during activation, a RPM function that allows you to select an activation and deactivation RPM eliminates the need for an external window switch or worrying about flipping your activation switch after a given RPM.
Activation Options – Instead of having only a micro switch for determining your activation, it included an option to use your TPS offset voltage as an activation signal, which also helped simplify wiring.
Ramp Pause Mode – If there was a point that you had to lift and the system deactivated, this option allowed you to continue the ramp as it left off or to restart the ramp over again. The restart would allow you to progressively reintroduce the nitrous if you had to pedal the car, and not aggrivate the wheel spin by coming back into a fully developed ramp.
The Latest and Greatest from NOS – The Launcher
The Launcher adds more options than any other controller NOS has produced, and the R&D team spent over a year building the Launcher. McFarland says, “We can make the Launcher do a lot more than what it does currently, and sooner or later we probably will, but you don’t want to confuse people right off the bat.” The Launcher is a fully laptop-programmable unit that also has the option for a touch screen display that offers the same tuning options as a laptop, but on the fly. Here are some of the options carried over from the Mini:
• Start and End Percentages
• Delay After Activation
• Delay on an Auxiliary Control
• Ramp Time
• Two Stage Controller
• RPM Window Switch
• Activation Options
• Ramp Pause Mode
There are a plethora of new features and piggyback options that were released for the Launcher. “We search the Internet and talked to racers to see what they wanted for features. We then sat down in a brainstorming session to figure out which ones we wanted to use”, says McFarland. Below are some of the key additions NOS incorporated into the Launcher:
Fine Tuning the Ramp with Adjustable Points – There are 20 points on the ramp that allow you to adjust the ramping speed. This allows you to tune a ramp in specific points, rather than just one progressive ramp. There is also a smoothing option that will help take out any drastic dips from your graph.
• Time Based – Traditional style; the ramp will build over a given time frame.
• RPM Based – Gives the ability for the nitrous to start at a given RPM and rise depending where you are in the RPM band.
• MAP Based – This is a feature that is best suited for a turbo car. The internal MAP sensor will determine the boost level and allow you to tune the MAP according to your boost level. This will generally be a backwards-facing ramp, decreasing the amount of nitrous as the boost grows to help eliminate lag. There is a MAP cutoff that will end your curve once a predetermined boost level is met.
First Gear Lockout – The concept is simple; if you don’t want your nitrous to activate in first gear, simply set a upper RPM deactivation that MUST be hit. Once it senses the deactivation RPM, it will begin its first ramp once you shift into the desired activation RPM. You must reach a deactivation RPM, or this option will not work.
Input Selection for Activation – There are more (and easier) options for setting up your activation trigger. TPS rising, TPS falling, 12-volt, and ground switch are all potential triggers. This gives you the ability to use either a traditional wide-open throttle switch or TPS wire with a simple click.
Purging – More on the minor side of things is the built-in purge button that will allow you to run your purge through your input options if you want to eliminate having another button in your car.
Expanded Output Trigger Capabilities – The output switch for activating outside electronics expands to allow you to trigger a switch depending on RPM or nitrous percentage.
Datalogging – One of the most important parts of racing is being able to see what just happened and adjust accordingly. The Launcher will allow you to graph all inputs you having coming into the controller, such as RPM, TPS, MAP, stage ramp percent, and wide band signal.
Expand it Out!
The master controller has ports for expandability to add other goodies to your Launcher.
• Wide Band O2 Controller – This is probably one of the most crucial add-ons you can put on your Launcher. The wide band will work in conjunction with the Launcher as a safeguard to cut the nitrous off if your air/fuel mix get to a selectable ratio.
• Slave Controller – Allows you to control up to four stages of nitrous with an additional controller
• LCD Touch Screen – This is the option we used for our installation. The touch screen eliminates the need for a laptop and allows for quicker, on the fly changes. Additionally, the screen comes with an SD card for saving your log files.
• Hand Held Controller – This smaller version will allow for some last minute tuning in the staging lanes with a limited amount of changes.
As we mentioned before, there will be other add-ons that NOS will introduce later. “The newest feature we will probably introduce will be more datalogging features by offering a second datalogging controller that will connect through the BUS port. That way you can datalog other things like fuel pressure or driveshaft speed”, McFarland remarked.
Installation of the Launcher and LCD on a Carbureted Maverick
Jake Amatisto of Fastest Street Car Magazine brought his 1970 Maverick by for the installation. The Maverick is a full track car with a Ford 347 NOS Big Shot plate kit. The car had previously been as fast as a 6.45 @ 110 MPH with a 125 shot. With the addition of more nitrous and way to control it, we are looking to pick up some better times. The Launcher kit we are installing is the standard kit with the LCD touch screen option.
Installation of the Launcher is pretty simple. Ideally, it is best to install the Launcher with a fresh nitrous installation but isn’t required if you are familiar with the wiring setup on the car. We were not familiar with the wiring and opted to start fresh. Other than a soldering iron, electrical tape, crimpers, and strippers, there isn’t much more you need in the way of tools to get it installed.
Getting the Hardware Mounted
We first started by figuring out where we wanted to mount the LCD and Launcher module. At first sight, a wire harness under the dash deemed the most suitable spot to zip tie the control module to for easy access. From there, we moved to the LCD. There isn’t much interior left in the Maverick and we didn’t want to mount it to the dash due to its shape. The transmission tunnel made the most sense for a mounting point using double-side tape for the LCD display with the ability to easily access it later.
When it comes to a traditional NOS kit, the relay controls the power between the switches and solenoids. Depending on how you have your NOS kit wired (ground or hot trigger) the Launcher may change the use of your relay slightly. One wire on each solenoid will act as your ground that will connect to the thick blue or red wire for solenoid activation. You do not need to add a WOT switch in these wires.
Power will be made constant to the solenoids via the relay that turns on with your power switch. You can wire one switch for the LCD and one for the kit, but we wired a single switch that turns the LCD and nitrous on at the same time. On the other side of the LCD is a ground wire and the NOSBUS connector for the controller.
Your input selection is what you want it to trigger from. On an EFI car, a TPS sensor hookup would be the easiest and safest way to go. Since the Maverick is carbureted, we re-used the WOT throttle switch as a trigger ground for simplified wiring.
Since this car leaves off of a trans-brake, we wanted an additional safety measure to keep the nitrous from activating while the car was on the brake. We used a relay that cuts power to the solenoids while the brake is engaged so there is no worry about premature activation. Another way you can do this is to set your activation RPM a few hundred RPM higher than your stall; if your car sits at 3000 RPM while on the brake, set it up to 3300 or so it and will activate right after you release the brake. We did not hook up the RPM wire at this current time but will later. The MAP sensor hookup was also left unused since this is a naturally aspirated application.
The NOSBUS connectors piggy back off each other, so there will always be an open port. The kit comes with a plug loop that you need to use; if you leave the NOSBUS plug exposed, the kit will not work properly. Trust us, we know.
Installation and Running Tips from Jay McFarland of NOS
1 – The most common issue is people not being able to get their computer to communicate with the controller. People aren’t inputting the serial number into the software. Each Launcher has a unique serial number on it that it uses to communicate correctly. Keep an eye on that part of the instructions.
2 – Setting up the curve, keep an eye on the MAP nitrous cutoff. It comes from us set at zero PSI and depending on where in the country you are at, you may have a little bit of pressure on that MAP port in different environments and it will not activate the nitrous because it’s seeing a cutoff. We recommend people to bump the value way up if you’re not using that function on a forced induction application.
3 – Watch for electrical ‘noise’. Do not run your wiring close to an MSD box or other electrical components that cause interference and glitches.
Using the Launcher for the first time
It differs for everyone depending on their combination, but overall, initially start out small on the progressive. Start at 10-20% over about a second to 100% to see what the car will handle. From there, you can easily make the changes depending on the outcome.
Installation Done! Time to Head to the Track
For the first tests, we created a linear ramp that starts at 30 percent when the Maverick comes off the brake and ramps up to 100 percent over 1.3 seconds. We did not fine-tune any of the selectable points and opted for the smoothed ramp option.
Jake was a little hesitant going into the run, since previous attempts on a hard hit would result in the car going up on the bumper. Upon launch, the Maverick bicycled the tires a minimal amount and flattened out.
The result was a 6.29 @ 110 MPH, a tenth faster in the 60-foot and nearly two tenths faster on the top end with the same MPH. Allowing the nitrous to ramp in gradually kept the traction to the pavement and reduced the possibility of a huge wheel stand. At this point Jake had run faster than his cage was legal for, and we had to shut it down for the time being. Once we get the car back to the track, we will fine-tune the nitrous with the selectable points on the ramp curve.
It works – we are DONE!
Even though we just scratched the surface of the functions that the NOS Launcher has, the kit has shown gains. The ability to precisely control our ramps has given us the ability to safely add more nitrous. Down the road the Maverick might see the wide band option that will give us a huge increase in safety and reliability when it comes to running many more dozens of bottles through the 347.