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RE: User-programmable engine computers

Hi Frank,

>I'm curious: how much demand do you all think that there would be for an
>easy-to-program engine computer which was fully plug-compatabile with the
>original engine computer?

As mentioned befors, this might be a bit difficult with all the connector 
combinations and variation in sensors.

>Current after-market engine management systems are rather hard to program 
>they typically require detailed knowledge about maps and such, and it is
>typically rather difficult to make sweeping mods which are parameterized.
>It is also all but impossible to add new sensors, or change existing sensor
>strategies -- say, adding another knock sensor, or another air mass sensor,
>or even adding a second injector per cylinder.  The engine management 

>So, would you think there is a market, and if so, how big would it be, and
>what sort of price point would you envision?  (I'm thinking Audi, VW, 
>and perhaps BMW, at first.)

I started looking into these systems this past summer and started collecting 
information about who is making them. The file is at home, but I will try to 
summarize what I came across. I looked into the Haltech/Emtech, 
Electromotive TEC series, J&S system, EFI, DFI, the Simple Digital System 
and maybe a few others. One trait that rises to the surface is almost all 
the systems were designed for 4/6/8/12 cylinder vehicles. When you mention a 
5cyl, you get a big huh? The only one who supported it out of the box  was J 
& S, they included a DIP switch setting for the 5 cyl. The SDS system out of 
Canada was the cheapest, around $700 for a 4 cyl setup. They said that they 
could make a custom 5 cyl version and their software would have to be 
recompiled to deal with it. The usual prices were in the $2000-$3000 range. 
I believe not one system had an integrated knock sensor built into the 

As for uses, a few years ago a friend installed a Haltech system onto a 
Porsche 914. It was a pretty clean installation on that car, as he was 
transitioning from carbs. The car was dialed in using a laptop running the 
Haltech software and the Haltech Air/Fuel LED meter. I got to play with the 
software, it wasn't anything outstanding, you changed the fuel and timing 
curves by adjusting points on a curve which is displayed on a graph on the 
screen. Nothing too fancy, but it got the job done. It took a while to get 
the system dialed in, but at that point, the car ran great. He dialed in the 
car without a dyno, spending much time driving the car around and tweeking 
the settings.

I know another mechanic who has used the Electromotive TEC-II or TEC-III (I 
can't remember which) on I think a V6 Maseratti. He mentioned something 
about trying to use it, but it wouldn't work because the V6 had some 
different firing sequence? I've got brain fade real bad on this 
conversation, sorry. I also have seen a Solo II CSP Mazda Miata setup with 
the Electromotive system. It ran great, but the owner said it took a while 
to get there. My TQC runs in CSP and he trounced me good.

Right now John Bekius, owner of Sportwheels in Glenwood Springs, CO and TQC 
mechanic,  is using the Emtech setup on Scott Davis's 85 TQC with a 20V 
turbo engine installed in it. The first version of this setup was running 
the 85 TQC CIS K-jetronic system with the 20V engine. Last year they 
installed the Emtech system which controls timing and fuel. At Brainerd, 
they were finally getting the system mapped out, and the car ran great. They 
program this system with a laptop, and every now and then you would see them 
take the car out  and change some settings. I think this system didn't have 
a knock sensor.

On thing I learned is that some of these systems don't even run closed loop 
with the O2 sensor. They run strictly on a lookup table basis. Also at the 
time, I don't think any of these systems had CARB certification, so none are 
street legal. With the EPA stuff only getting worse, this would affect the 
legality of the car. I wonder if any system with such programmability woudl 
be certified by CARB? As some of the places mentioned, most of these systems 
are designed for  race/drag cars and boats etc.

As to building a system from scratch, it would take some time, but there are 
some great parts out there. National Semi has some neat injector 
controler/driver chips and they also make the frequency to voltage 
converters for the crank sensors. There is also new knock sensing DSP 
technology which sounds interesting.  The parts seem to be out there and 
others have done it.

You could also go the HKS route and build a seperate box which interfaces 
with almost every input/output of the computer seperately and charge $600 
per box.:-). The Crane interceptor idea is also interesting although this is 
mostly being used on the Ford stuff.

Anyone else looked into these systems?
Dave Lawson  dlawson@ball.com