Beginning in 1957, General Motors offered Rochester
Ramjet fuel injection as
standard equipment on the new Pontiac Bonneville, and as an option on
the Chevrolet Corvette and certain other big engine cars. Officially
known as style #2867SDX, the 1957 Star Chief Custom Bonneville convertible
coupe was a special, one-to-a-dealer car, with a total of just 630 units
produced. Most of them were painted from the factory in the same color,
Kenya Ivory, a shade of white, with Fountain Blue or Bonneville Red
Missile shaped side spears. In the new fuel system the gasoline was injected, not aspirated by being mixed with air by a carburetor. The engineers believed
that fuel injection would soon replace the standard carburetor. They were wrong only about the timing: carburetors didnít disappear from the U.S.
car market until the 1980's, and then only for reduction of emissions, not performance. GMís
fuel injection system, essentially mechanical, worked perfectly. The hefty
price of the option deterred many Corvette buyers, though, considering performance was hardly better than that of
the same engine fitted with dual quad carburetors.
Since 1954, Chrysler engineer Bob Rodger and engineers from Bendix Corporationís Automotive Electronics
Division had been studying fuel injection. Rodger, being the hot rod guy
he was, was always open to suggestions as to how to make Chryslers faster.
In February 1957 a 300C coupe was fitted with EFI or Electronic Fuel
Injection and tested by the factory. The trial outcome was evidently good, for on Sept. 28, 1958, the
EFI "Electrojector" was offered as an option on Chryslerís
performance models; Chrysler 300D, DeSoto Adventurer,
Dodge D500, and Plymouth Fury. (Sorry, Imperial didn't want to go fast and
opted out.) Cars to be so fitted and sold to unwitting victims were sent to the DeSoto plant on Warren Ave. There, the
carburetors were removed and EFI installed, along with an electric fuel pump and a 40-amp generator. Unlike today's cars, in which mechanics have to remove the gas tank to gain access to the fuel pump, Chrysler installed a black metal cover over a cutout in the trunk floor of the 1958 models to make access to the coffee maker-size fuel pump easier.
Finally, side emblems were removed and replaced with new ones identifying
the cars as potentially undriveable. A tow hitch would have been nice,
The rather exorbitant $400 option supposedly put you on the cutting edge of progress.
Customers were unaware that it would more likely put them on the side of
the road, or on the back of a wrecker. They soon found out,
though.........the Bendix EFI system was way too complicated and
nobody knew how to work on it. Injection was regulated through
valves actuated by a solenoid, which was also electronically actuated.
Miniaturized transistor electronics (not vacuum tubes as alleged by some
uninformed writers) were then in infancy and worked when
they felt like it. Great for listening to Cousin Brucie on the beach with
your radio, but bad for your 300. Even with periodic adjustment, the system was unreliable.
After a rash of complaints and a few nasty threats, Chrysler told the
hapless owners to take their cars back to the dealer for conversion
back to carburetors.
One 300D with fuel injection was sold
to bandleader Larry Elgart. Larry was so dissatisfied with the
way the engine ran that he threatened to drive the car through the
showroom window of the Chrysler Manhattan Company in New York, if he
could get it running well enough and make enough speed to do it. Another
was sold to legendary stock car racer Carl Kiekhaefer, who picked it
up at the Jefferson Plant and drove it back to Fondulac, Wisconsin.
The next day he called and said he didn't want the car because it only got
about 10 miles per gallon.
The superintendent of the DeSoto plant has said that between Jan. 20 and July 15, 1958, 35 Chrysler 300Dís were equipped with fuel
injection along with 12 Dodges, 5 DeSotos and 2 Plymouths. These figures donít agree with the microfiches, which show 16 EFI-equipped 300s.
10 or so of them have survived with their replacement carburetors.
Chrysler didnít carry its EFI experiment into 1959 or subsequent years. Only at the end of the 1980s did
fuel injected Chryslers reappear on the market.
I guess they figured that by then all the previous owners were probably
dead or not driving any more, and they could get away with it.
In 2002 a 1958 DeSoto Adventurer convertible with the Bendix system was restored.
This is the only known existing restored, driveable Chrysler product with fuel injection. When
club member Bob Dupin passed away, his cars (one was an original FI car)
went to a friend. In the trunk were two original Bendix units that Bob had
located. Pictures are in the gallery courtesy of Wayne Graefen. Another
club member owns 3 of the remaining FI cars and has supposedly been
accumulating parts for several years. Who knows, maybe we'll see a
finished one some day.
AMC had intended to offer the Bendix
unit on its 1957 Rambler Rebel, a quick little 327 powered car that could
match the 300C's 0-60 times. The picture below from the New York Auto Show
features the Rebel. In front of the car is the engine with the
Bendix unit. This was to be the first electronic fuel injected production
engine, but problems with the Bendix "Electrojector" unit meant
that only a few engineering and press cars were built, estimated to be no
more than six units, but at least two were known to have been built. One
was sent to Daytona Beach for Speed Week. It was the second fastest car on
the beach, bested only by a 57 Corvette with mechanical fuel injection,
and only by a couple tenths of a second! The EFI 327 was rated at 288 hp,
the production 4V carbureted model at 255 hp. All the EFI cars were
reportedly converted to 4V carb before being sold -- none are known to
have existed outside the engineering department at AMC. The main problem
was that early transistor electronics just couldn't keep
up with the demands of "on the fly" engine controls. Here
is an excerpt from the owner's manual:
"Electrojector" Fuel Injection
The optional Bendix system is monitored by an
electronic control box, located on the right side panel under the
instrument panel, to gather the following data; full throttle enrichment,
acceleration enrichment, idling requirements, fuel enrichment for quick
starts and warmups, and deceleration fuel cutoff. The control box gathers
this information and correlates it for timing the fuel charge by
electrically actuating the injectors. The injectors spray fuel directly
into each intake port in calibrated quantities at timed intervals.
||255 @4700 RPM (4-barrel carb)
288 @4700 RPM (Electrojector equipped)
Fuel delivery is accomplished by a trigger
selector unit driven by a flex-cable from the ignition distributor. This
breaker point control unit controls time interval for fuel delivery to
An electric fuel pump delivers fuel at a
constant pressure (20 PSI) from the gas tank to the injectors by a
common-rail fuel line system with a tank return line. This fuel pump is
adjacent to the gas tank and is activated when ignition is turned on. A
fuel filter in the engine compartment insures against foreign particles.
Your authorized dealer has factory-trained
personnel to service the fuel injection system.
Chrysler records show only 35 cars built with the complex multi-port system which had two dual-point distributors;
one for the ignition, and one for the injectors. An electric fuel pump was
mounted in the gas tank, and two "black boxes," a resistance box and a modulator
box, were mounted to the radiator support and were the brains of the system.
(Apparently the brain suffered from a tumor.) The system was built by Bendix Aviation in Elmira, New York, and
was first used on aircraft during the Korean War. Aircraft engines require fuel systems that only need to work at idle or wide-open throttle,
so the Bendix engineers had to devise a way to make the system work in a car. In theory it worked, but the system proved very
troublesome due to the crude wax paper covered capacitors inside the black box, which failed often.
Me, I would have used aluminum foil from a TV dinner. At least that way,
when the thing crapped out in the middle of nowhere, you could have
something to eat. I kinda like those Hungry Man Veal Parmigiana dinners
myself. Across town, GM's simpler Rochester mechanical fuel
injection system proved far more reliable, though few people wanted to
pay for it.
The Bendix system had many components modern fuel-injection systems employ including a fuel-pressure regulator, fuel rails, individual injectors, throttle positioning valve, an electronic cold start and
warm up sensor, primary and secondary throttle bodies, manifold vacuum sensor, idle sensor, air temperature sensor, acceleration sensor and two fuel lines.
Roller skates in the trunk were under consideration when the option was
The difference between a carburetor and fuel injection is how fuel is supplied to an engine. With a conventional system, a fuel pump mounted on the engine gets fuel from the tank and forces it into the carburetor. There, the fuel is mixed with
air and passed through the intake manifold to the engine's combustion chambers. A
fuel injection system supplies fuel to the engine by an electric powered pump in the gas tank. Injectors on the intake manifold
backed by electronic controls determine the exact amount of fuel to
be delivered into the cylinder's intake ports. The advantages of the
Bendix system were faster warmups and performance gains while the engine
was cold because the proper fuel-air mixture ratios and distribution
were more easily maintained. The main disadvantage was sore feet
from hoofing it to the nearest telephone booth to call for a ride
This is how the Bendix system was supposed to work:
Electronically controlled and electrically actuated, the Electrojector had a
transistor equipped modulator, about 5 inches in size. Watch it, I know
what you're thinking. The brain took a timed electrical signal from the ignition distributor. It sensed, through tiny electronic transmitting devices located at key points on the engine, the engine's temperature, throttle position, manifold pressure and even the altitude (or density) of the air being sucked into the cylinders. The modulator integrated all of the information received and instantly translated this data into a control signal that actuated the
injectors. This was according to an article in Bendixline, a company
newsletter dated Sept. 28, 1956, obviously written by an optimist. In a 1956 Bendix newsletter, company President Malcolm P. Ferguson announced that fuel injection "will replace the carburetor and improve performance."
Sorry Malcolm, sober up and smell the death threats.
Ferguson also said in that issue, "Compared to the latest four-barrel carburetor designed for high performance engines, the 'Electrojector' system provides between 10 and 20 more horsepower ó achieved at lower engine
rpm throughout the whole range of speeds, boosts fuel economy, achieves quicker starts and warmups, eliminates the 'smog' problem created by unburned fuel exhausted from the engine and is a system with a minimum of moving parts."
The one part that tended not to move at all was the entire car, but what
the heck, these guys probably drove Oldsmobiles.
Tom White's 1958 DeSoto Adventurer
One man who knows a lot about the Bendix system is Tom White of Hopkinton, Massachusetts, who owns a 1958 Adventurer, one of only 82 convertibles built that year. Today, only five 1958 Adventurer convertibles are known to
exist; White owns two, there are two in Sweden, and the fifth is in
Wisconsin. But White's car is a little different, and just a tad more
valuable. Chrysler Historical Records show White's gold Adventurer to
be the only DeSoto built with and retaining fuel injection remaining.
I wonder if it has a car alarm?
The history of this perfectly restored car, showing 66,671 actual miles, is as interesting as the car itself. Built December 6, 1957, it was a styling exercise and the first convertible built, said White, who has the Chrysler build sheets.
Sold new at Liberty Dormont Motors in Pittsburgh to William Dickson, the car was issued a Pennsylvania title January 21, 1958. White has that same title tucked away in a
pile of documentation. Dickson traded it for a recreational vehicle at Huffy's RV Sales in Harrisburg in 1975. The RV
dealer put it in a barn, where mice proceeded to have it for dinner.
Mouse urine is very caustic and can eat right through sheet metal.
White purchased the car in June 1998 and towed it home. He had stumbled onto what he believed was a fuel-injected De Soto, because attached with speed nuts on the front fenders, albeit they were broken and some pieces missing, were gold and silver "fuel-injection" emblems.
Knowing that he probably had the car that had eluded collectors for
years, he began searching for the fuel-injection unit he needed to properly restore the
While at Hershey's AACA October 2002 swap meet, White was showing a photo of the car to a friend and a felt a tap on his shoulder. It was Paul Gabauer, who
had overheard the conversation and said he could lead White to the original system. It was in nearby Harrisburg. Gabauer told White he could put him in touch with the son of the man who had stored it since it was taken off a car in 1958. White could not believe what he was hearing and contacted the man.
The man was the son of the late J. Gerald Cassel, a Chrysler field representative in 1958, who
had removed a complete fuel-injection system, possibly the one from White's car, 44 years earlier. He put the system in his attic and told his wife to never get rid of it. His son realized how valuable that box of stuff was and White braced himself to pay the
price. He would not divulge what he paid, but after several negotiations, it took a "five-figure sum" to acquire the Electrojector unit, even though the primary distributor which fires the ignition was missing.
The striking De Soto retains its original radiator. The trunk mat is NOS, the only known example, as is the gold speckled carpet, found in Texas. All the original parts are still with the car, like the top well, which somehow survived the rodents in Harrisburg. The dash was repainted and re-padded. Everything on the car, including both
clocks, the dashboard clock and the Benrus watch inside the steering wheel's
center, work. No detail on this car was overlooked. The fit and finish of every component is Pebble Beach quality. Even the door and trunk jambs glisten on this car that cost Dickson more than $6,000 in 1958. Base price of a 1958 Adventurer convertible was $4,369, the most expensive DeSoto in history.
The car was rust-free and no panels needed replacement, so the car
was bolted to a rotisserie and media blasting was used to clean the undercarriage.
Little scraping was needed because the car was built without undercoating.
There was some sound deadener inside the car on the floors, but
it was left intact. The front suspension and frame were also media blasted, repainted with urethane enamel, and clear coated.
Take notice, concours judges! I always thought paint had to be the
original type. All removable panels, such as hood, trunk, doors and fenders were
stripped to bare metal, smoothed out, then covered with six to eight coats of Ditzler PPG primer.
PPG Adventurer Gold was applied in four color base coats, wet sanding between each
coat. Both inside and out of the hood, trunk lid and doors were painted as
well. Three coats of urethane clear were applied, again sanding between each coat with
1,000-grit paper and finishing with 1,500 grit paper.
The original engine was taken apart, but did not need complete
rebuilding. White did a valve job and installed new bearings.
The original camshaft was retained. The engine and all accessories
were done with a base coat / clear coat finish. The gold paint needed to paint the dual air cleaners took their local paint supplier about a week to match correctly. Even the air cleaner lids were wet sanded and hand polished.
The cardboard box of fuel-injection parts was next. To a mechanic in 1958, this
system was nearly impossible to fix. It took White six weeks to figure it out.
He determined the failure was in the electronic modulator. Once the system was operating, it was upgraded with new polyester capacitors and modern
transistors replacing the original wax-paper dipped components.
Being an electrical engineer made the task easier for White. He reverse engineered the unit, found the faults, and got the electrical portion to work. Before he could determine whether the system would pump fuel, he had to machine some parts on his lathe. Using factory
photos to replace the missing primary distributor, White shortened a stock distributor from a Chrysler 413 engine and re-worked the keyway.
The keyway shaft into the distributor was round with a tab sticking out,
and had to be enlarged and re-machined. He also had to fabricate a coupler
and attach it to the secondary or "trigger" distributor, which controls fuel flow.
He then bench tested the unit with air pressure and a power drill hooked up to turn
the distributor, creating a driving environment without fuel. With everything working, the system was completely detailed then placed atop the original engine. White
also received invaluable help from a Bosch
employee and 300 Club VP, Jim Bartuska.
White's Adventurer convertible was built with the 361-cu.in. V-8, power steering, power brakes, power windows, power seat, triad horns, bumper guards, remote driver mirror and matching passenger mirror, dual antennas, clock, steering wheel watch,
Prismatic rear view mirror, Sure Grip differential, and Highway Hi-Fi Record
Player. The NOS fuel injection emblems, the only ones known to exist, were "liberated" from a Chrysler building by an employee and found by White. He also has all factory manuals, fuel-injection schematics and service bulletins, about 200 pages in all, related to the car.
The trademark "Electrojector" was twice registered with the US PTO. The
first filing was 4 January 1957, registered 27 August 1957.
It was registered by Bendix Aviation Corporation in Detroit as "Goods &
Services: Fuel injection systems for internal combustion engines. First use
was 16 NOV 1956. Last listed owner is Facet Enterprises, Inc. in Tulsa,
Oklahoma which is a
spin off of a Bendix / Fram conglomerate, now known as Purolator.
It is owned by Pennzoil. See Purolator's website
for a more detailed version of how they ended up with the rights to the
Electrojector. Bendix bought Fram and got sued for it, so they had to spin
off a company for filter products.
Bendix filed a secondary trademark description under the
Electrojector name in February 1957, which now defines it as "Electronic
parts of a fuel feeding system - namely modulators, distributor-breakers,
amplifiers, and solenoid nozzles." First use is still 11/16/1956. This
trademark was registered in October 1957 and also became property of Facet.
Both trademarks were renewed once in 1977. Both are now expired and
considered "dead" by the US PTO.
They have registration numbers and serial numbers, but these are
trademarks. The only way to search for a patent in the '50s online is by
patent number or current US classification.
A few pix of the system