Performance Buyers Club/Bell Engineering Turbo kits

Aerodyne EC Turbocharger - Bell Engineering/Performance Buyers Club

[11/2/99] Reviewed by: Keith Maxwell -

Applicable to: '90 - '97 1.8 liter

The Aerodyne EC Turbocharger is a non-intercooled, 4.5 lbs of boost turbo kit from Bell Engineering and Performance Buyers Club (PBC). The system produces power similar to the Sebring supercharger without the belts and pulleys. It is designed to give the Miata the power it needs to be a true sports car, reliably and with little to no additional maintenance or tuning.

Kurt from PBC helped me with the install at their garage. It took the better part of five hours to pull the old stuff off and install the entire EC kit. Getting the old stuff off was two thirds of the work. Half an hour of tuning yielded one very fast Miata with no bad habits. Acceleration is non-linear in all gears. from 1000 to 3500 RPM the car is a little quicker than stock, but comfortably. From 3500 to 6800 RPM the turbo kicks you in the chest.

I was exceptionally pleased with the quality of all the pieces, especially the turbo itself. PBC preassembles many of the components to expedite the installation and ensures there are no missing parts - a problem I have noted with other kits. The finished job is clean and impressive to look at. As I rack up miles on the system and as soon as I get it dyno'd, I'll be happy to give anyone interested an update via e-mail.

If you are somewhat mechanically inclined and have access to a good selection of tools, this is a very straight forward install. This kit is not for people who want to constantly screw with the settings, spend weeks tuning or attempting to produce 250 bhp. The Aerodyne EC is for people who want to add a big dose of affordable, reliable, usable power to their Miata. It does that job really well!

Over 30 minutes to remove completely

Reviewed by: Glenn Buononato -

Hi-quality, well engineered forced-induction kit.

The following is a review of the Performance Buyers Club BEGI AeroMax I turbo kit.

When I first decided to look into forced-induction for my Miata, I was under the impression that the only product of this kind available was the Sebring Supercharger from Moss Motors. Just before I committed fully to the idea of a $2,400 or so expenditure, I searched the World Wide Web for alternatives and found Performance Buyers Club, a Miata performance parts dealer. These guys were hawking the Bell Engineering Group, Inc. Aerodyne AeroMax turbocharger kits. I called PBC and spoke with Pete, one of the two owners. Over the course of half an hour, he answered all of my questions and informed me of all the different bolt-on forced-induction products for the Miata currently available. He recommended the AeroMax kit over the Sebring for several reasons:

1) It was upgradeable to higher boost levels in the future,
2) It produces more HP and torque at all RPMs,
3) It came with an MSD ignition control unit (Forced induction requires retarding of ignition timing under boost to avoid detonation),
4) It came with a boost gauge, hi-pressure auxiliary fuel pump and variable fuel-pressure regulator (all key items to proper tuning and accurate fuel/air ratios throughout the engine's operating range, and all are items not included in the Sebring kit ),
5) It came with a 3-year, 36,000 mile warranty, and lastly
6) It was a kit designed and produced by Corky Bell of Bell Engineering, AKA "Mr. Turbo."

Additionally, he explained that the Aerodyne turbo was a "new" kind of turbo... the Aerodyne turbo is a self-contained unit, so no cooling or lubrication lines need to be fitted or installed, so no drilling holes in your engine. Additionally, the Aerodyne turbo also has a variable-pitch vane design in its turbine portion that allows it to spool up much faster than traditional turbos, eliminating the dreaded "turbo-lag." He also told me that the Aerodyne kits were pre-assembled, in-house, to simplify and shorten installation. Each kit also comes with an explicit and clear installation manual written by Kurt, one of his staff members who also creates manuals for a living (as well as being a regular track racer and fellow Miata Maniac as well).

The AeroMax kits come in two flavors, a 6-psi. Stage I version and an 8-psi. Stage II version with an intercooler, at prices of $2,695 and $3,695 respectively. As I had originally planned to spend $2,400 originally, I opted for the 6 psi. kit. I placed my order on September 9th, 1998, and settled in for the approximately one-month wait for my kit to be assembled and shipped to me.

Finally, at the beginning of November, I received my kit. All the disappointment I felt for having to wait the extra 2-3 weeks disappeared as I tore into the boxes (at work) and began to hungrily read the installation manual. The manual itself is an absolute masterpiece; Kurt is a true artist. The entire manual is half an inch thick, and comes assembled flawlessly in a quality notebook-style binder I haven't seen since my college days. There are ample black-and-white photos, plain English directives and bold-faced warnings. It was so clear and concise that I decided to go to work that evening and complete the installation in time for my morning commute, instead of taking the two days off from work I had planned for the following week!

When I arrived home, I spread the contents of the kit onto the floor of my garage in front of my Miata. Each individual part was truly a work of hi-quality art in its own right, especially the turbo itself. Although there were many parts, I was not intimidated at all because I had read the installation manual two times already. I discovered that two items were missing: the fuel-pressure gauge (necessary to tune the turbo after installation) and some heat-insulating material that wrapped around the water by-pass and brake pipes near the firewall. No problem for me, as I used to be a mechanic and had a 100 psi. fuel pressure gauge kit and some Thermo-Tec wrap left over from an old Mustang project from some years before ( uck! I now see the error of my ways ;^)). However, just as with any complex kit, you will want to be sure you have the items you need to complete the project before you begin. Without further adieu (and with ample supplies of food and drink), I began AeroMax I installation at 5PM.

Without any installation headaches whatsoever (aside from the usual aching back and skinned knuckles that come from any major mechanical project), I completed the project at 12AM. I then connected my timing light and adjusted the timing to 12BTDC (you can only use 93 octane or greater, and the installation manual tells you to use it for several tankfuls prior to installation, which I had also done). I then spliced the fuel pressure gauge into the fuel system and adjusted the fuel pressure. For some final touches, I adjusted the turbo boost actuation to come on strong and early. Let me tell you- the last test drive was phenomenal! The car was no longer the doggy, slow-accelerating-although-well-handling sluggard it once was. It appeared that all of the other enhancements I installed merely paved the way for this last, wonderful kit to do its thing. The acceleration was unbelievable... although I immediately became aware of my new stock clutch's limits: I could slip the clutch in any gear. Another mod for the future! I was in awe as I took one last, long look at the engine compartment, with all its neat new plumbing and wiring. I parked my new hot-rod for the night and hit the sack around 2AM, a total installation time of approximately 9 hours. Amazing, being as I had replaced virtually the entire induction tract of the engine, as well as a good portion of the exhaust (not to mention the boost gauge, the aux. Fuel pump, the fuel-pressure regulator, the MSD, etc.) and had really taken my time to boot. As tired as I was, I fell asleep smiling, on account of the newfound performance.

The next day at lunchtime I took my Miata out for a ride on a major interstate near my job. I was amazed at the ability of the car to now accelerate from 50 mph to 75 mph so much more quickly than before... and so much more quickly than any other car around me at that time. Passing was a total breeze, merely requiring more throttle to be applied. This was quite unlike the previous non-turbo days, when a downshift was mandatory. Additionally, the Aerodyne turbo really doesn't have any noticeable turbo lag, since ALL exhaust gases flow through the turbine ALL the time (no waste gate here; the compressor is actuated according to engine demand instead). This, in conjunction with its Variable Area Turbine Nozzle system, allows Aerodyne turbos to achieve half of their rated boost pressure @ 1,000 RPM, and all of it by 2,200 RPM... just like a Sebring or any other supercharger, without the belt drag or noise. The low-end torque is so potent that I am now driving a gear or two above usual, with ample top-end when I need it. It is amazing to see how many cars I can now outrun, especially at speed on the interstate... a feeling I never had before this kit was installed.

I drove 15 miles out in one direction, then turned around to come back. Along the way, a red late-model Toyota MR2 came up behind me. I moved over to let him pass, so that I could follow him. As he passed, I re-entered the fast lane and caught up with him almost instantaneously. Although his eyes seemed to convey a puzzled look, he gunned it and so did I. Before I knew it, we were both flying at about 135 mph, passing other cars to our right as if they were in a parking lot. Even at this speed, all that could be heard was a cool sssssssss noise as the turbo attained and held its max boost, the chassis solid and unflinching. I could have been going only 55 mph, if only my speedometer hadn't told me otherwise. Of course, we soon caught up to an impasse in traffic, and coasted back down to traffic speed. As I evened up with him, we exchanged wild grins and thumbs' up, and I took my off-ramp back to work. You know, even as I was at that speed, in fifth gear my new stock clutch was slipping like mad... gotta order a new hi-performance clutch soon! Amazing power, in spite of the conservative 6 psi. boost level... I wonder how the car would have felt if I had opted for Stage II kit instead!

I have now been driving the AeroMax Stage I kit for about a month, and I am happy to report that there are no irregularities or inconsistencies in performance. I did upgrade the clutch two weeks ago and now there is no slip at all, and the car accelerates even more quickly. The moral of that story is to figure a hi-performance clutch into your forced-induction plans. I am also in deep discussion with Kurt and Pete at PBC to decide when to go to a new Stage III 10 psi boost level, with an intercooler and larger fuel injectors. I will continue to report on these mods as I do them. Special thanks to all those other Miata nuts out there who posted their findings on their projects, from which I gained tons of insight. Total kudos truly go to Kurt at PBC for the awesome manual as well as the superb pre-assembly of this kit. With this kit and a modest automotive tool set, I now firmly believe anyone can do the installation. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Outstanding kit, very easy to install, maintain and tune.

Over 30 minutes to remove completely

Back to Product Reviews 17 November, 1999