We live in a high-tech world. There's no question about that. From microwave ovens to cellular phones every aspect of our lives seemingly revolves around electronics. When it comes to our love of performance cars, here, too, we are inundated with microchips that control everything from fuel and spark delivery to traction control. But, despite the high-tech attributes of computer-controlled machines there still lies in most hot rodders the desire for the simplicity of raw muscle.
The Italian-manufactured Weber 48IDA downdraft carburetor installed atop a Chevrolet V-8 (be it a Rat or Mouse) is a natural performance combination. When bolted in 2 x 4 configuration on an individual runner (IR) intake manifold, the Weber downdraft provides peak torque and instant horsepower (as opposed to a conventional four-barrel carburetor and plenum-style intake manifold, which progressively builds torque and horsepower). Simply put, a 48IDA Weber downdraft induction system performs much like a mechanical fuel-injection system, yet gives you the driveability of a conventional four-barrel fuel meter.
There is, however, a mechanical downside to Weber carbs, and that is they are somewhat hard to tune. The carburetor's fidgety nature has been known to produce a potentially fiery phenomenon known as "fuel standoff," which can transform a race car into a smoldering pile of ash in short order. However, those racers who knew how to deal with the Weber 48IDA's eccentricities were quite successful. In the mid '60s, 48IDA Weber carburetor systems powered up the infamous Corvette Grand Sport endurance racers, and early McLaren Can Am cars (just to name a few) producing championship-winning results.
When it comes to the street machine set, the 48IDA's looks are the primary reason why these carburetors enjoy such overwhelming popularity. Look at it this way, anybody can bolt on a Holley, but when you slap a set of these sexy little Italian downdrafts onto that small-block-powered Camaro or a restified Tri-Five, you make a high-performance statement which cannot be ignored.
Here's the dilemma. These carburetors went out of production sometime in the '80s, and are in extremely short supply.
While it is true that NOS Webers can still be purchased through a very limited dealer network, their relative scarcity dictates a lofty selling price. On the other hand, used sets or rebuildable Weber cores also fetch a veritable king's ransom at swap meets.
In November of 1999, Bob Ream and partner Wes Henderson founded Imagine Fuel Injection. The Weber 48IDA carburetor was quickly disappearing from the performance aftermarket, and there were enough people out there who still wanted performance, economy, and the looks offered by the Weber 48IDA without having to scour the country and pay the lofty prices being commanded for these carburetors.
Ream and Henderson reasoned that if they could offer an IR-based, electronically-managed Weber-type throttle body fuel injection setup at an competitive price, they could effectively recapture, as well as revive, a waning market segment of the performance induction system's industry.
Today, most enthusiasts drive an electronically managed, fuel-injected car or truck. They drive them to work. They drive them to the racetrack. One thing which the EFI cars of the '90s have taught motorists is that a vehicle can perform at its best at all operational levels with this type of system. So why not install a setup similar to this on the car you drive for pleasure?