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By Dave Koehler, photos by Dave Koehler, Combo-Flo - 12/8/05

n the future, all racecar electrical-activated items will be wireless. You heard it here first.

Why would I wish for such a thing? I always found the proper wiring of a racecar to be the most time consuming and sometimes annoying of all racecar systems. I want a better way.

In the meantime as I trudged on, dealing with wire, numerous relays, switches and the labor required to install and maintain a nitrous system I dreamed of an air system to control the nitrous. An air operated system could virtually eliminate any if not all of the amp draw, all the wires, terminal blocks and relays.

A broad statement can be made that 95 percent of racecar problems can be traced to electrical issues so if I could eliminate some of the electrical hardware the percentage of potential mystery problems would decrease.  A single stage plate can pull down 10 - 40 amps and a nozzle system can pull down anywhere from 20 to 50 amps per stage depending on the solenoids used. This is a huge amount of battery drain.  If I could get rid of that amp draw perhaps but not likely, I could quit badgering nitrous racers to install alternators and voltage controllers. At the very least, a huge portion of the battery capacity could be better utilized keeping the ignition doing the job it was intended to do.  With less amp draw and likely lighter weight units it would almost be like free HP.  I believed air could be the next step until the no loss battery and miracle wireless; no amp solenoid coils were invented. I really wanted to simplify my job but alas, my education was insufficient in this area so nothing tangible ever came of it.

Air operated systems have been around forever in the industrial world. If you work in any kind of manufacturing I will bet that there is some item or function that is air controlled. Air throttle controllers, shifters and trans brakes have been around in drag cars for a while and proven their dependability and quick action. The nitro Fuel teams utilize pretty complicated air logic systems to run their fuel and clutch and I just figured an air operated system had to happen some day.

Eureka! Doug Mills of Mills Specialty Products has come to the rescue. His company, Combo-Flo is producing air operated valves for nitrous systems. After working with them for a while I felt that calling them pneumatic operated nitrous valves was a bit long and boring so I have dubbed them Airnoids. The Airnoids are designed to replace and upgrade nitrous systems that currently use electric solenoids.  

Doug Mills is not a newcomer to the racing world, as he is the original inventor and manufacturer of the stainless steel HiteMike and CamCheck brought to market in 1976. You may be familiar with them by another name as they are sold primarily through equipment distributors. Any engine builder or shop will recognize these nice tools that many of us use to set valve spring installed height and to degree our cams.

Doug is an industrial automation engineer and designer that specializes in air powered robotic components and holds patents in that field. Doug has raced several interesting cars over the years. In 1991 he was the UDRA nitrous pro stock rookie of the year. In 1993 he was credited with being the first UDRA car to run a 6 second pass at 200 MPH. Bill Kuhlmann and Animal Jim had run either one before him but not both. His current house R&D car is a 6.40 Outlaw ProMod Mustang. The car features a 773 Ford Shotgun with 4 stages of nitrous. Naturally, as is so often the case, it was only a matter of time before his work and his recreation would result in a product for racing.

Today I would like to show you my results of testing and doing my best to kill these Airnoids.


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