Sunday, 4 December 2016

Clocks - sorted

Clocks came back from Caerbont mid-week;  Just re-installed this morning and they look perfect again, all the lifting decals replaced with new cards free of charge.



Typical of before/after shots - the before is in dim lighting and a little sad, and the after all lit up happy and shiny - we'll have no like for like comparisons here!

Monday, 21 November 2016

Smiths Gauges - out for repair

The decals in my Smiths Flight clocks had de-laminated; It started about 12 months in after the car was on the road and just looks untidy, all the dials are affected - speedo the worst.

The weather is nasty at the moment - so the dials are all out, about a month ago, and off to Caigauge in South Wales who makes them. The initial feedback is it was a bad batch of materials - so hopefully I get them back soon and can get the Zero back on the black stuff!

Looking pretty empty...

Update - Phone message today (25th) from a nice welsh lady at Caerbont Automotive - clocks should be on their way back to me by next Tuesday. Its taken a few weeks - but if they are right when they come back that is a result!

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Wideband Lambda - 14Point7 Spartan2

Time to upgrade the old narrowband sensor with wideband. This is partly due to continued challenges getting emissions correct for MOT, partly because its something new to play with, and significantly because I was made aware of a wideband setup with an in-build calibration mode to null out some variables caused by the install.


I'm using a Spartan2 setup from 14Point7 supplied by ExtraEfi.

I don't need a dashboard indicator - so went for the simple sealed unit.
The processing box was installed in the engine bay next to the gearbox - which should be reasonably protected from both the road and away from the hottest parts of the engine bay.

The sensor must not be detached from its cable or plug - due to built in calibration - meaning a hole in the car side panel large enough for the whole sensor to pass through. A small marine clamshell covers the hole, riveted in place for simplicity - if I ever need to replace the sensor its easy enough to drill out the rivets.


The unit has simple wiring requirements - 12v, Main and Signal Grounds, optional LED output and a couple of Lambda outputs for wideband and simulated narrowband. Sensor ground and wideband feeding into the Emerald on pins 30 and 34 currently. Best advice from Emerald is use pin 10 as the input - however its working fine on 34 so I'm not changing just yet.
I wired in another circuit for it through the main fusebox to avoid having a trailing inline fuse on the loom, while everything was open I unsheathed and re-bound this part of the loom.

The Spartan2 takes its power from the ECU relay via its own 5 Amp fuse so starts up and shuts down when the ECU does.


The interesting part of the Spartan2 is the calibration mode.
As soon as the wide-band module starts up it sends 2x known voltages/AFR readings, 5 seconds each, to the ECU. 

This permits correction for linear shifts and angle of the AFR graph, not the shape of the graph, but should factor out differences/voltage drops in installation wiring and even differences in Emerald's voltage measurement.

14Point7 supplies a spreadsheet which converts the calibration AFR outputs to two corrected points which can be input to Megasquirt ECU.

Emerald has a single decimal place on AFR, but shows and allows entry up to 3 places on voltage - so I re-worked the OEM spreadsheet to input voltages and calculate voltages from known AFR values.

Entering the calibration readings in volts, 1.642 and 3.314, in the top green boxes and the desired AFR points the sheet works out the voltages which correspond exactly to those AFR values.

Emerald does not allow selection of any voltage so the error column works out the potential error due to data entry - negligible and well inside the wide-band units accuracy.

.. Just needs copying in to the ECU settings and job's a goodun.
I suspect the wide-band has enough damping built in - so reduced the emerald signal smoothing to 0.

Gotcha - the only issue I found was by the time the ECU had powered up and connected to my laptop the wide-band had already gone through its calibration steps. The resolution was to power everything up with the wide-band fuse out, open the right Emerald Lambda screen then plug in the wide-band fuse, only needs doing once to calibrate.

Minor tweaking to restore the original powermap target AFR, and adjust the closed loop gain to get a stable idle. The idle zone used to have a lower AFR on the 500 revs column - meaning, as the ECU interpolates, its getting mixed messages - I flattened that out to 14.7 to try and give it an easier time of finding a stable tick over.

The only way to prove this is correct is a garage/MOT testing equipment - but it should be getting close & now have the controls to find the right emissions settings and have the ECU reproduce them using active feedback. I'm planning to try with a friendly garage pre MOT (next June) and if that fails a rolling road.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Radio noise suppression & bluetooth headset

Ground Loop isolation

Testing the new bluetooth output from the radio I had some ground loop noise.
Two options
   - Isolate the 5v feed
   - Isolate the audio connection from the radio to the bluetooth board

I went for the second with a cheap off the shelf component which installs between the radio cable and the bluetooth card. No power required - inside are a couple of audio 1:1 transformers for left & right channels.

Does the job - audio is now crystal clear. 

Headset Mod

I bought a pair of Sena SMH5 intercom units, designed for installation inside a motorcycle helmet. Selection of SMH5 vs 10 is a combination of price, due to being an older model, nice prominent rotary volume control and physical size. They will also work when charging via a 5v USB cable which means my pet hate of flat batteries is not a problem.

SMH5's can pair to each other - for standard intercom functionality as well as mobile phones and receive a bluetooth audio input. I think although have not tested they should be able to also share the bluetooth signal - so the single transmitter installed in the radio should provide audio to both passengers.

The first one is installed on a Howard Leight L0f earmuff. Selection being a combination of price and quality - they are thinner than my existing wired earmuffs but perfect for modding. The SMH5 sticks to the outside and cables routed over and sewn to the headband, speakers stick inside to the earmuff padding.
I didn't want to detach the speaker cable, it is very flexible and thin & dont fancy re-soldering the stereo wiring inside - hence routing it outside the headband, this approach also means I have not damaged the SMH5 in any way - warranty FWIW intact.

The loose cable is for the microphone arm to be installed later.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

AC Ace - head turner

A visit to the Haynes Motor Museum as part of a Birthday weekend away, and - my head was turned by something rather nice.

The AC Ace, the predecessor to the AC Cobra - but to my eye with nicer lines - high grille and a subtlety about its shape. Originally I chose the Zero because it wasn't trying to be anything but itself - straightforward and to the point - not a reproduction. (I know its a Seven - but you can't really say its a copy/repro/trying to be a Caterham)

However - the shape of this thing... hmmm....

No problem at all - an astronomically expensive and rare sports-car.... 


There is a firm, Hawk Cars, that makes a replica kit, and they are less than an hour down the road from where I live... synchronicity?

No, I'm not 'familiar with the works of Jung' - I've just read/seen The Eagle has Landed too many times. 😀

I do miss the build process...

Just a little daydreaming, for now :)

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Alan Lincoln - My Dad 1930-2016

A significant reason for this blog existing at all, apart from motivating me to complete the Zero build, was to also share the build progress with my Dad. 

Over the last four years the blog, as well as being public, was a personal news update - something engineering related we could share and talk about. Dad could see the progress (check my work :) ) on a daily/weekly basis, or watch the videos of the various road trips to Scotland or across Europe.

Dad died on 24th October 2016 on the last day of a family holiday.

It feels like the right thing to do to also record his passing here.

Just after the car was completed in 2013 I took Dad out for a run. 
I'm not sure he knew what he was letting himself in for! I hadn't spun the Zero at this point so possibly I was a little over confident in it's ability to stick to the road.

One of my favourite pictures of Dad back in the late 1940s or early 50s on his motorcycle: coat, tie and turn-ups as was his style.

Alan Lincoln 1930-2016
Husband, Brother, Father, Grandfather
Master builder, Joiner, Model maker & All round scratch builder of almost anything (especially from wood)

My Dad

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Radio hack - bluetooth transmitter

The new wireless intercom allows a media input channel via bluetooth.
The radio is intended to be useful but also: too boring to nick and have minimum of openings/semi weatherproof. The quickest way of adding a bluetooth output appears to be modding it slightly.

Around a fiver buys me a rechargeable bluetooth Tx which charges from a 5v USB supply.
As soon as it sees USB power the unit starts up in pairing mode without the need for an on/off switch. I don't need the battery (nor want a LIPO in the car) so that is removed and I'll just drive it from the USB power input.

Plenty of room inside the Blaupunkt Melbourne 180 - its the shortened version and has no mechanical CD drive. It has both SD card and USB file inputs - the latter means there is 5v on the circuit board easily traceable from the existing front panel socket and on reasonably sized solder pads.

Patched in mini USB cable on the back of the front panel to feed GND and 5v

Mini Phono patched into the rear C1 connector giving me a line level audio feed.
Even though it is called line level this radio drives it through the volume knob, so still some gain control via the radio.

...all assembled, hot glued in place and hot glued strain reliefs on the new wires. The bluetooth module stuck to the front panel which hopefully helps its range. When the radio turns on, so does the bluetooth module which immediately looks for an existing pairing then streams whatever the radio outputs.

Update - later addition of a ground loop isolator to suppress audio interference

Final mod - a 15mm grommet on the volume knob so its easier to get a grip on when driving and especially when wearing gloves.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Aux Switches change - Savage out

All Change on the Aux panel.
The savage switches are no more, replaced with some robust stainless halo illuminated ones.

These have a 12v illumination, and two single pole switches - one normally open (NO) and one normally closed (NC), requiring a slightly different dimmer circuit.


The load side now also needs a diode to prevent it being driven from the side light side of the circuit but letting it power the LED when on.

When off
  Side lights will light the switches dimly via the resistor
  Load is isolated from any illumination due to the diode

When on
  Side lights are disconnected from the switch on the NC side
  Load takes power from +ve
  Load feeds bright Illumination direct through the diode

(Assuming the switch is open before close)

The diode and resistor incorporated in these inline bundles attached to the load wire, all wrapped with shrink tubing once installed.


Nothing wrong with the looks, just fell out with the switches themselves..


Retro dymo style labels instead of button logos.
The lighter socket is also gone, replaced with a 2x 5v USB unit.

It was dark in the garage, meaning flash, meaning the colours where somewhat skewed - the switches illuminate blue dimly when lights are turned on, and brightly when the switch itself is turned on.

Before the Aux panel goes back in the radio needs a modification so it also transmits on bluetooth..

Monday, 10 October 2016

Mystery part for next little project

Tool and mystery part ordered for the next job...

This marine clamshell vent part I'm hoping will look better than a grommet. The sort of thing that looks potentially easy to make; but not sure if I could get that clean a component shape/finish for under £3 DIY.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Brushed finish clock surround & Shift light

The glare from the clock surround just has to go, and while I'm there installing a couple of warning lamps in the space between the speedo and tacho.

Before for reference:

Brushed Stainless

Temporary tool created from scrap to ensure the sandpaper runs square on each pass:

The process: clamp one end of the dash surround and then straight passes with the tool using the edge of the bench as a guide. Just have to be careful to always drop the sandpaper on to the piece completely vertically for each stroke.

Reflections from my garage lighting now looking suitably reduced which is the effect I am after.

Offered up with clocks re-installed.

The red LED will be a shift light, and the blue  a secondary brighter turn-indicator tel-tale. There is an indicator lamp in the tachometer - its just too small and dim to see when driving and really easy to leave indicators on.

Happy with that - relatively simple process and hopefully prevents or at least reduces spot/sun reflections with the diffused finish. I'm undecided over lacquering the panel - now it is brushed and notwithstanding it's stainless steel it  is probably more susceptible to rusting - I may just leave it and see what it does through weathering.

Loom additions for new warning LEDs

Adjusted the stock GBS plug and play loom to drive the new warning lamps - spliced in the needed 4x lines. The shift light signal switches on ground and the indicators on 12v. The indicator feed is already joined with diodes to prevent crosstalk - so spliced into the loom after the diodes to get a single 12v feed for whichever indicator is lit.

Clocks loom is a bit of a spider - opened up - adjusted - and re-bound as neatly as I can.

No dropper resistors for my LEDS since they have them built in - their current draw at 12v checked at 15ma.

New loom branches:
     Shift light:  Red = 12v, Blue = Shift
     Indicator light: Yellow = Indicator, Black = GND

Tested the indicator circuit which works fine, it will need a daylight test to check on brightness need to tweak the ECU shift light setting to test that.

Update -
Initially set the shift light on a conservative 5,000 revs, well short of the 7,000 redline/cutoff.

During one acceleration test I lit the shift light, and checking on return (Emerald ECU has a max revs memory feature) the tacho showed about 6,200 max rpm. So shift light on somewhere between 5,000-5,500 is probably about right for my road driving.

Has to light in time for me to shift up before hitting the redline otherwise its pointless.