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It seems everyone has a mate that has 'chipped up' their Falcon with a performance chip, but very few know what makes a hot chip tick.

We contacted the leading aftermarket performance chip company, Powerchip Australia Pty Ltd, to provide details of how their chips are produced.

They are located in Melbourne, and were established in 1991 by the owner, Wayne Besanko. They specialise in late model Fords (EA, EB, ED, and even the EF and EL range, including Fairlane's and even the LTD!)

The first thing we discovered was that it was more than just a 'chip' that is needed to increase the performance on a Falcon. it seems that Ford is smarter than the average car company, and they made it particularly hard for the code to be cracked inside the computer.

Instead of changing the chip (which is impossible anyway), Powerchip designed a small electronic module that plugs into the diagnostic port on the standard Ford computer. The Ford computer accesses the modified program when the Powerchip module is plugged in. So the Powerchip claim of Plug in, and take off is right on the mark!

The computer system that is used on late model Falcons is EEC4 or EEC5 and this computer controls many of the engine functions. It gets many signals from around the car, like vehicle speed, air temperature, water temperature, revs and heaps of others. It then looks to "maps" of information that tell the car how much ignition advance, and how much fuel is needed. It also tells the car what rev limit, idle speed, or if the car must not exceed 180 km/h.

When the Tickford make any changes to the engine, they then modify the program to suit, and fit that computer as standard in the higher priced models. Take the XR6 for example. We all know that a XR6 is a great performer, and Ford has a special program for the XR6 that really makes it perform.

Then along comes Powerchip onto the market with a low cost solution to getting a Falcon to perform. Instead of only allowing the top end of the market to get a hot Falcon, Powerchip have used Tickford style mapping to get the car running the way it should have in the first place. And the best thing is that you don't have to buy all the cosmetic bits that come with the Tickford models at the much higher price.

The Powerchip module adjusts the fuelling and timing maps to improve drivability, and allows the smooth and progressive on-off throttle driving style that most performance minded drivers prefer. The flat spots often experienced under normal driving conditions are ironed out.

Powerchip develops the program on state of the art computers running purpose built software that has been constantly updated over the 6 years.

The first thing Powerchip do when designing a new program is to read the standard program.

Then they look at the maps in the program, and see what areas can be improved. This is where the experience and years of knowledge is put to the test. To you and I, the code just looks like gobbledygook, but the software engineers can spot a ignition curve or fuel map in about 30 seconds!

They 'burn' the program onto the module, and the program is ready for placing in the car.

The module is sent to the customer in an overnight courier, and anyone can fit it to their car. You don't have to be in Melbourne to get a Powerchip module, because 90% of their business is outside Melbourne. Most people order over the phone, and pay by credit card, but you can even order one over the Internet! These guys really make it simple to get your Ford performing the way it should have when you bought it.

So what is it like to drive with the Powerchip? Well, it certainly makes a noticeable difference to the way the car performs. In short, it works. The power is increased, and this shows in better acceleration times. It just feels stronger and more willing. We only had enough time to briefly test a car, but we plan to provide a full drive test in a future issue.

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