The Logbox!

WARNING: Geeky Stuff ahead!

Over the winter, I have been diligently working on a new part for the Talon. It’s probably fair to say that I’ve been spending way too much time working on it, but it’s starting to come together now, so I’ll tell you about it.

Last year, I spent a lot of time looking at professional data acquisition systems for the Talon, but ultimately made the decision to make my own drag race data acquisition box. Now, If you don’t know me, you might think I’m a little crazy to do something like that, since it’s not really normal for people to decide to do such things. But, if you know me, you know I’m crazy enough to actually just go and do something stupid like that :D

I literally looked at dozens of systems, and while most of them would be somewhat adaptable to what I want to do with them, many of them are kind of sub-par. Edelbrock has a system that logs has software for “Windows 95/98/NT” – it’s 2011 for crying out loud! There are a systems containing 5Hz GPS units – something completely useless for a nine second drag car. One professional “modular” system I found has a 12.2Hz sample rate (12.2 times per second) and they claim that they are adequate because they log twice as fast as your foot can move. All of these systems cost more than $500, but many of them aren’t even as adequate as the $65 in parts I used on my first datalogger I told you about earlier. There are some systems that are very capable and very cool – and very spendy. At the end of the day, all they do is sample data, save it somewhere, and let you look at it later – it’s the details that you really need to compare. I want a capable system, but I just don’t race enough to justify $2500 for a data logger. Would I take one if given to me? Hell yes I would. Can I justify buying one? Well, no, apparently I can’t.

And so began my original logger (pictured above.) It was a decent system, but much of it was through-hole construction and it was all designed to interface with my laptop, which was going to be in the car at all times. Throughout the past few years racing, I’ve had a harder and harder time keeping a laptop in the car. Between 1.3X 60’s, along with the ridiculous heat in-car, I just don’t like subjecting any laptop to those extreme circumstances any more. I actually had three or four situations where my laptop just locked up from heat – I don’t exactly blame it. If you’ve been inside a tin can in 95 degree heat at a track in the summer, you know what I mean :-)

Anyway, last year I started designing a new board and spent a lot of time trying to determine what I wanted to do. I am familiar with Atmel microcontrollers, but haven’t spent very much time on embedded applications so I wasn’t sure exactly what processor I wanted to use. I spent time evaluating some .NET micro controllers and didn’t like the lack of speed that the managed code offered, so I looked at using c code running on ARM processors. Thinking that would be quite a learning curve, I decided to stick with Atmel processors, but use their big bad awesome new ATXMEGA processor. So, that’s what my new logger is based on.

My new Datalogger

The main processor on the logger is an Atmel ATXMega192A3 running at 32MHz using an external sixteen channel 12-bit Ti ADS7953 ADC to acquire analog data. On the Analog side, I’ve setup four 0-12V channels, with the other twelve channels being 0-5V analog channels. I can measure a ton of stuff with this – Battery voltage, fuel pump voltage, accelerometer data, suspension sensor data, data from TPS sensors, AIT sensors, CTS sensors, and a bunch of other stuff if I’m so inclined…

I also have a bunch of digital signals – six input that measure on or off on a 12V level. This allows me to measure other things I don’t need the analog signals for, like my Line lock or my trans brake. Additionally, I also have four tachometer inputs so that I can measure Engine RPM, driveshaft RPM or whatever else I want to measure. These are controlled by a second ATXMega processor, which is probably complete overkill for the application, but still less expensive than analog options available for measuring this sort of thing.

Aside from the Analog and Digital acquisition options, I also have another add-on to the board that allows me to log six Thermocouple channels, along with CAN information from the Haltech. Of course, I will have to write software for the datalogger to do that, so I will probably have to do some hacking to make that work, but that’s down the road a little bit anyway.

All of this will be accessible through a microSD card that is integrated into the datalogger – this means I won’t have to have my laptop in the car in order to capture all this data – it will go straight into a format that my laptop can read. I will be able to pop the card out of the datalogger, put it in my laptop and open up the file immediately. So, the end result is that I should have a bunch of data from each pass that I will be able to look at and tweak the car to meet my needs.

My first logger would log at 150 samples per second. Even with more channels, the new logger should be able to log more than 200Hz without a problem. This will help me a lot. I’m just waiting on the prototype boards to come back from the fab house. Once that happens, I will start soldering it all up, and then write code for it.

Parts for 2011

Working on getting parts together for the 2011 season. I actually received this for Christmas:

Kiggly Racing HLA

I don’t need to say much about it – Kevin’s parts speak for themselves. Beautiful – functional – necessary. Kiggly doesn’t really make anything that’s not necessary to go fast.

And yes, I need to post more ;-) I will here in a little bit. I have a lot to talk about regarding the end of last season, and Shootout 2010. I took third in Bracket 1.

Don’t buy a BBK Throttle Body!

A BBK Throttle body that broke - BBK wont sell parts or service it for me!

A BBK Throttle body that broke - BBK won't sell parts or service it for me!

Okay, It’s not very often that I actually actively tell people not to buy a product – but I’m telling you right now not to buy a BBK throttle body for your DSM. Or Mustang, for that matter. Maybe you’d want to reconsider any throttle body from BBK, at all. Why?

This email exchange pretty much sums it up:

Hi – I have a 75mm Ford throttle body (part number 1701) from you guys, and broke the throttle shaft at the drag strip over the weekend. Can I buy a replacement shaft directly from you or do I have to send it in to have it serviced in order to get it replaced? I’m asking mainly because I like to have backups of things that tend to break, and this it one of those
items – I would like to be able to replace it at the track should this
happen again (I’m not blaming your product – I didn’t make sure my pedal stops were properly adjusted after removing/replacing the throttle body
over the winter) – Breaking the shaft at the race cost me the price of the
throttle body alone :- Ugh.
In addition to the broken shaft, I am pretty sure a few other pieces are missing. The cam mechanism (where the throttle cable attaches) broke off the shaft and fell off the throttle body, so whatever lies between the cam plate and the main body is probably missing. What can you guys sell me to get this thing fixed?

The long story short is that I hadn’t readjusted my throttle stop after removing/replacing the throttle body – I am full taking the blame for the fact that my throttle body broke – it was my fault that I didn’t make sure things were properly adjusted. Anyway, I awaited a reply from BBK and figured that a worst-case scenario would mean that I would have to send my throttle body in for repair. I was blown away at the response I got from BBK:

Unfortunately our insurance prohibits us from selling service parts
for throttle bodies and we are not set ip[sic] to do repairs.

The best we can do is get a new throttle body out to you at our cost plus shipping.
The throttle bodies are not prone to breakage other than situations like yours where a proper throttle stop is not set up on a custom application.

Yeah, let me outline that: insurance prohibits us from selling service parts
for throttle bodies and we are not set ip[sic] to do repairs.

So, not only will the not sell parts due to insurance reasons, they are also unable to repair my throttle body. Now, I basically have a $200 paper weight, and the “best” they can do is sell me one at cost?

I don’t use other people’s quotes much, but: “Fool me once? shame on you. Fool me twice? shame on me.” Why would I even consider buying another BBK throttle body knowing BBK will not be able to do anything in regards to repairing it if I end up in the unfortunate situation of having to have it replaced again? two words: Fuck that. Oh, and the “cost” on a new BBK?

Summit Racing: $209.99

And after prying a price from BBK (I had to ask them in two more subsequent emails what the freaking price was – they *would not* tell me:

It would be $180.00 shipped.

Thanks BBK. I’ve learned my lesson. Nobody discusses this anywhere, but BBK won’t be able to fix your throttle body if you happen to break one. I hope this post allows other people to not end up where I did.

Milan, Dyno, a Wing; So much to post about!

Things have been crazy around here lately – Batshit crazy. I guess I should begin a few weeks back…

Getting things together for this race season has been kind of crazy – from valve springs to new cams to a new ECU and 5 bar MAP sensor, things on the car have changed up quite a bit. So, it came to a point where I decided I needed to go to the Dyno. Years ago, I went to a place called Dewitt Service Center, so I thought I’d make another appointment to rent out their Mustang for a few hours. With the way the scheduling worked out, I actually ended up out at Milan before going out to the dyno.

Ah, but I forgot to mention that I have been doing a ton of organizing – I tend to overpack for going out to the track since it’s always pretty handy to have things that you’ll need rather than hoping someone else has a spare. So, I have been doing tons of organizing. I purchased a few more portable Rubbermaid-type storage boxes and stuff to put additional things in and help get more organized in general, so that I can pack more stuff away in the truck. So, that’s been good, but has also taken a fair amount of time to get accomplished too (as any of my friends will tell you, I’m generally a little messy. Even still, I know where I put things most of the time ;-p)

Anyway, so I needed to get fuel to go to the Dyno, and the only place I was able to pick it up was out at Milan. What better time to try to tune a little bit before going to the dyno? First pass of the trailer, and it was very apparent that my o2 sensor has now died. Awesome. The good news? I matched my 60′ and bested my best 9.70 pass with a new ET: 9.63. Hell yes. It’s not even tuned that well. With the new MAP sensor and the new ECU, I had to interpolate data points on the old E6S and 3 bar MAP sensor into the new Haltech. Apparently, most of my math was okay enough to net me a nice number. Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, my O2 sensor was dead. So, I pulled out a backup sensor setup that I had and tries again. Now, this is a JAW that I put together, calibrated, and then promptly packed away for just such an occasion. And yeah, it sucks. It read 10.0:1 throughout pretty much everything I did with the car. Additionally, my laptop was been giving me issues. I have a Dell Mini9, which is has terminal issues with it’s USB bus. No matter what I do to the laptop, I am unable to get it to maintain a connection with the Haltech. I even had issues with my old E6S and four different USB -> Serial adapters. I went so far as to replace the motherboard on the laptop and it still had issues. This leads me to believe that the USB bus has something up with the design. And if you don’t know me; I’ve developed software for more than a decade – I can find my way around a computer :-) Anyway, the laptop and Haltech would not play well with one-another, so I only ended up with data from the first run. Even without the wideband, I was able to glean some useful information from that data. The next few passes I added some fuel here and there, and ended up slowing down (found out later that fuel wasn’t what I needed, but the o2 sensor didn’t tell me that) and made a few more passes – 9.74 and 9.88. After that, I was pretty much done for the day. at least I backed up my 9.63 :-)

So, the Thursday after Milan and a new O2 sensor during the week, I ended up at the dyno in Dewitt, MI. It’s a Mustang Dyno, and my best pass on it before this year was a 426whp with 342 lb/ft of torque. After getting setup (which actually took a long time – the dyno had some… well, Data acquisition issues) the first pass on the car netted a 411whp. Now, before I go much further, I’m going to justify this number… It seems reasonable that this number is a little on the low side – the 426whp netted me a 10.15ET my first pass with that tune, and now here I am allegedly making 411whp and running 9.63ET’s. How is that possible? Well, looking at some later dyno pulls, the dyno shows me maxing out at 7200rpm, while the Haltech (and my tach) both showed me revving the Talon out to 7900 RPM. So, the Dyno is 700 rpm off. Knowing that the dyno has a 0-5V input for RPM, and a digital->analog converter to calculate rpm and convert it to a voltage to feed into the computer, it would seem reasonable that this could be off a little bit if things weren’t quite right in the dyno software itself. I’m not actually really concerned about that though – at the end of the day, it’s about the improvements made on the dyno – that HP figure is really just an ego thing ;-p So anyway, back to the story: Throughout the dyno session, I started working with the boost controller and ended up turning the boost up to around 32psi. After that, it was just a matter of pulling fuel out – the car was way way way fat the whole time. Every pull I would pull a bit of fuel out somewhere – and the results were usually immediately apparent. The car finished up the day with a 522whp pull, making almost 380 ft/lbs of torque. That’s a 27% increase in horsepower. I still have some tuning to do, but this is a start, right? Enough power to help me get that 9.63 down to a better number – or, it should be anyway..

After the dyno, I started thinking about my newly found horsepower… what if this netted me another 10mph? That would put me awfully close to 150mph in the 1/4. Would I start to have aero issues? I had previously thought about what I should do with a wing, but I had never come to a conclusion on what I was actually going to do. After thinking and waffling for a solid week, along with talking to Rick about it all quite extensively, I came up with a quick and easy solution that I could at least test out. It also wouldn’t destroy the look of the car, which is something that I think most wings end up doing. Anyway, I made up some 2″ spill plates to bolt onto the factory wing, along with a 3/4″ gurney flap that bolts across the back of the wing. I am amazingly happy with how it all turned out – it looks better than I thought it would; now all that was left was to test it out… I will make a separate post about that here in a little bit.

New Springs

Yes, they’re made of unobtainium :-)

Experimental springs from my friends over at Kiggly Racing. As you can see, they’re going in the car right now.

Crower springs with Titanium retainers? They’re soo 2001.

9.70@138 – June 2009

I didn’t realize that this had not been posted to the site until this morning. I thought I would put it up:

This pass was made on June 6th, 2009, and was the only pass that I made that day. After letting the car cool down a little, I went to make another pass, but the sky opened up before I made it to the staging lanes, so that ended the day. Oh well.

Spring Work

I’ve been working on getting things tidied up for the start of the season – lots of random stuff has been going on, so I thought I’d share a quick overview of some of the things I have going on right now:

My Driveshaft Sensor

My Driveshaft Sensor

The new Haltech is almost all buttoned up – I just need to make a mount for it – that should only take a little bit to actually do; I just have to do it already.

I have a new driveshaft speed sensor – this will be used for both the Haltech and the Logger that I’ve made. The sensor is simply a magnetic pickup sensor – it’s actually the same sensor that the Haltech would use for a crank trigger, except that it’s been re-purposed by mounting to the rear differential on the car. My part on this has pretty much been buttoned up – I welded  a bracket to the diff, and mounted the sensor to the bracket. The only thing left is getting the yoke collar made, and I’m waiting on my dad for that since I don’t have a lathe.

I also worked on beefing up the 4-link brackets. The original brackets are simply some 3/16″ plate steel welded to the differential – I had always planned on boxing them but hadn’t gotten around to it – I had actually kind of forgotten about it until last year. So, since the car was down for a bit and I was already welding on the rear differential I decided that now was the time to finish this part up. So, I took some 1/8″ plate and cut and bent it into a shape that closely resembled the shape of the existing 4-link brackets. Then, I took turns tacking it into place with my torch and massaging it into a close fitting shape with my sledge hammer.

4-link bracket being boxed - this was taken during welding

4-link bracket being boxed – this was taken during welding

The picture to the left is what the driver’s side bracket looks like – this was taken while I was welding it up – the end result is completely welded on both sides, so it’s as sturdy as it can be now. This really beefed up these two brackets – they’re just freaking solid now. It actually took me a while to do these, although they look relatively simple. The differential soaked up an amazing amount of heat – while welding it, the brackets really didn’t get even hot to the touch, but I took precautions and pulled the teflon-lined rod ends out of the differential while welding  near them. The rod ends are pretty expensive, and being lazy is not a good excuse to have to replace them – they should last a long long time.

Once that was done, I was able to paint these brackets back up to protect them and get holes drilled to re-mount the brake lines. Once completed, Rick came over and helped me bleed the brakes and get a few other things on the car buttoned up.

Oh, yeah, I also replaced the wheel studs on the rear of the car – I had never really liked the studs that were on there, and the new ones were about 1/4″ longer. They look nicer, too – I’m kind of sick of looking at rusting black-oxide coated hardware ;-)

After that, I spent a lot of time measuring up valve heights and head stuff. I’m working on getting a new set of cams in the car. Basically, I want the largest cams that will fit, but I’m finding that I’m going to have a difficult time getting really big cams in there. Kevin Kwiatkowski helped me out a ton with all the valve information – I provided him with numbers and he provided me with lots of information about different cams. Kevin is crazy, but in a fantastically delicious sort of way :-) Anyway, the end result is that I have a set of cams waiting to go in the car, but I need to upgrade the springs that I have first or I will end up facing some valve-float, and I don’t want that. So, I’m working on that right now, and hopefully will have that issue cleared up soon.

I have also been doing some other random things in order to get ready for the season – making plans and the like. I want to get some sort of notification list or something going because people always ask me what events I’m going to, or ask me to let them know when I am planning on making it out to the track. Unfortunately, it’s hard to stop on a race day and say “George, Bill, Bob, Harry and Mike want to know that I’m going to the track – I better spend the next hour on the phone” – those are all fictitious names, but you get the idea…