Index Home About Blog
From: John De Armond
X-Source: The Hotrod Mailing list
Date: Apr 1992
Subject: Re: TPI thread, etc.

>I'm interested in auto electronics, like engine management systems, etc.
>I'm not out to start a business or sell anything, I just want to learn
>more about how things are done.  I will graduate at the end of May with
>a BSEE degree from Bucknell, so the electronics part won't be the limiting
>My question is where to start?  I can't afford to buy systems to cut up,
>and my new 5.0 'Stang has to keep running 8^)
>What references on the subject exist?

You can get a lot of good book learning that is invaluable but there's
not much way you're going to really know what you're doing until
you actaully get some grease under your fingernails.  And you're not
going to really understand the limits until you break a few things.
I present as Exhibit 1, my piston collection (points to dozens of pistons
and pieces of pistons :-)

First thing you need to do is join the SAE and be prepared to spend a
kilobuck or so on literature.  Or if your school library is an SAE
repository, burn any funny-money you might have on the xerox machine.
You need to get the annual publication "Sensors & Actuators" as far
back as you can.  Then you need to get all the SAE specifications that
apply to engine management.  Finally, buy a copy of the SAE handbook.
A couple of other books are the Bosch Automotive Handbook and the
Bosch Automotive Electronics handbook.

Then there's the Michell's "Electronic Fuel Injection" Books. These
books, one for domestic and one for foreign, present a page or two
on each fuel injection used on cars in the last couple of decades.
This book is handy not only to see how things are done but also to
determine what part you need to look for at the junk yard or parts store.

Finally, buy a FACTORY service manual for some representative cars.
The 'vette manual is pretty good.  I hear the Mustang 5.0 manual
is pretty nice.  Most of the jap manuals are very good, even if
writting in japlish.

Next,  you're going to need some basic test equipment.  A good DMM,
a tach, a method of measuring pulse width (A Fluke 89 does all this),
a pulse generator and a selection of electronic parts.  You'll need
basic mechanical measuring instruments such as a micrometer,
a caliper, a fuel pressure gauge and so on.

There are a couple of inexpensive methods of getting started.  One is to
buy an old car with fuel injection and consider it your experimental
vehicle.  I'm quite fond of the 75-76 vintage Datsun Z-cars.  The
fuel injection is pure Bosch L-jetronic and is trivially easy to work with.
Just about any asian car of that vintage would be good.  Detroit was
still ignoring electronics during that time.  Whatever you get, buy a
service manual and start experimenting.  Fool around with sensor calibrations
and see what happens.

Another method that is useful not only for getting started but also
for advanced development work is the research engine.  While factory-made
research engines are expensive enough to make your lips sputter,
you can easily construct one from a common single cylinder engine
and an electric motor driven with DC and acting as an eddy current
dyno.  Or a hydraulic pump.  I've used motorcycle engines and the
ever-present Briggs & Stratton engine.  The B&S is nice because if
you completely 'splode it, you have not wasted much money.  A PC,
a data acquisition and control card and a bit of custom written
software will get things going. You'd want to measure the engine and
control the dyno.  About the only thing you cannot investigate on
a research engine such as this is multicylinder interaction in the
intake and exhaust.

The advantage of the research engine approach is that you can build it on
a nice little roll around cart and move it out of the way when you're
not experimenting.  And you can run it anytime and not have to
worry about the pigs generating revenue at your expense.

What may be your biggest task, if you're a typical college
student, is de-programming yourself from the college method.
College forces you to conform to the rules and do things to get
an arbitrary result defined by others. In racing, there are no
rules other than physical limitations.  Oh, the sanctioning body
writes some rules but these are only obsticles to work around.
You have to condition yourself to ignore those who tell you you
cannot do something.  Maybe you can, maybe you can't.  Almost
all major advancements in the art have come as the result of
some rebel or  another doing something unconventional.
And you've got to be willing to break things.  The old saw "tuning
involves cranking things up til something breaks, then backing off
a hair." is the gospel truth.  If you don't bother to find where
the breaking limits, the guy who has and therefore knows how
close to the edge he can get will beat you.

YOu'll notice I did not list any magazines.  That's because there
are practically none.  About the only one I know of that even
skirts technology is "Turbo" magazine.  Even it is about as shallow
as a mud puddle in the middle of the desert.  I'm fixing to do
something about that.  Stay tuned.

>It is good to see someone other than big companies working in this area.  The
>spirit still lives.

Hey, I think hotrodding has never been better.  I can do my
tuning with a PC instead of tools and obscure parts such as jets
and a wish and a hope.  A lot of computer people don't realize
it but the automobile is the ideal target for  embedded systems
hacking.  don't stop with engine management.  Look around the
car.  Consider, for example, the cruise control I built many
years ago.  Not restrained by the safety nazis, I could design
one that met my needs.  This system had a speed setpoint
joystick instead of forcing one to achieve a speed and push a
button.  With this joystick, I could vary the car's speed -
still on cruise - to accomidate traffic or changing road
conditions.  All with the flick of a finger. That one was all
analog but I'm going to redesign it with an 8051  as soon as I
get time.


From: John De Armond
X-Source: The Hotrod Mailing list
Date: Apr 1992
Subject: Fuel injection and Automotive high technology

>I'm glad to see I'm not the only one that wants to dabble with fuel
>Thanks to John for saving months of research and experimentation.
>Getting that sort of information here is almost impossible and the cost
>of parts to play with is rather prohibitive.

You're welcome.  Your problem is one we all face.  I'm ready to talk about
a solution.  The problem is, of course, that no really technical information
is available to the public or really even the trade.  There are the
"GEE WHIZ girls'n'rods" magazines like _Hotrod_ magazine.  There is
the SAE where _Automotive Engineering_ publishes just enough information
to whet the appetite and SAE standards, the purchase of all of them
requires the budget of many third world countrys.  As I've poked around
in and out of industry, my worst fears are being realized - that is,
practically none of the modern automotive research is being published
because of obsessive secrecy within American manufacturers.
Most publication of interest is being done in Japan in japanese and
thus mostly unavailable to the average enthusiast or engineer.

I've been pondering a solution to this problem for over a year.  I just
returned from the _Midnight Engineering_ magazine first annual conference,
ME-SKI 92 in Breckenridge, Co (neither machine nor human breathes
at 11,500 feet!)  For those of you who don't know about ME, it is
the hottest thing going for technology entrepreneurs and those who want to
be.  I write a regular column for the mag.  Bill Gates, the publisher,
(not the evil empire Bill Gates) just decided one day that he wanted
to publish a magazine to fill a niche and made it happen.

I spent a goodly part of the weekend pigeonholing Bill in the bar talking
about magazine publishing.  Bill pretty much convinced me to proceed
with my plan which is to publish a high technology automotive magazine.
Several critical issues remain to be resolved but here is the developing

This magazine or newsletter (yet to be decided) will be chartered to
provide the same depth of technical and engineering information
to the mobility field (which includes practically anything that moves)
as magazines such as _Byte_ or _Circuit Celler InK_ does for computers.
There will be a mix of theoretical and practical how-to articles, all
aimed at the individual enthusiast and the current and potential
small businessmen.  The publication will be subscription and advertiser
supported.  Authors will be paid a rate commeasurate with other
publications of similar circulation.  Theoretical and/or articles
that involve the design process will be peer-reviewed for accuracy.

I had contemplated just proceeding here on the net or with a mailing list
but there are many problems, among them:

*	Can't include pictures or other graphics on the net.
*	Lack of credibility that paper publications have - important in
	being able to reach those in the know.
*	I don't have time to do yet another non-paying project.
*	Potential authors tend to be more responsive when they get paid
	for their efforts.
*	Lots of potential audience is not on the net.

In order to give you a flavor for what this publication will be, here is
a short list of topics:

*	Designing and building your own fuel injection system.
*	Blueprinting fuel injectors.
*	A homemade fuel injector tester for under $200.
*	Ignition system design.
*	How <system of your choice> works.  "Systems" can be anything from
	OEM ECMs to ignition control boxes.
*	Do it yourself dynomometers for under $1000.
*	A homemade G-analyst.
*	A homemade flow bench.
*	A homemade exhaust gas analyser
*	Using Nondispersive Infrared Analysis of Exhaust gas for performance
*	High performance electric drive controllers (yep, electric cars too)
*	Design considerations for jet powered drag cars (yep, have a source
	for that one.)
*	The science of nitro-methane and its use.
*	Instrumenting an exhaust system for performance optimization.
*	High performance hydrostatic drives.
*	Using a homemade radar gun for performance tuning.
*	Natural Gas as a high performance fuel.
*	Propane as a high performance fuel.
*	Home Shop heat treating.
*	Home Shop composites techniques and materials.
*	Home Shop anodizing.
*	Home Shop electroplating.

The above topics are those that either I personally will write or
where I already have a reliable source of information.  You get the

Coupled with this effort will be a subscriber-only mailing list
on the Net and a BBS for the net-less wonders out there :-) and
a mail order store where project kits and supplies can be
purchased.  This is not new; _Circuit Celler Ink_ does it but
mine won't be the ripoff his is. ($350 for an 8051 SBC indeed!)
Wouldn't it be nice to buy fuel injectors, MAP sensors, MAF sensors
and the like complete with mating connectors and  data sheets at
reasonable prices? Thought so.

This is the first public discussion of my idea and I'm not 100%
committed yet but since this list contains the elite of the hotrodding
world :-) (at least on the net), I'm presenting it here first.
What I'd like from you is any of the following:

*	Are you interested?  Would you pay up to perhaps $4.50 per issue
	in the beginning?
*	Would you be interested in writing?
*	Do you personally know authoritative people who might be interested
	in writing?
*	Do you personally know decision-makers in companies who might be
	interested in advertising?
*	What do you think the potential audience size might be? (I'm
	estimating 20,000 at the end of the first year.)
*	Would you be interested in investing in this venture?
*	Am I completely crazy or what?

Finances will be an important consideration.  I have a very good idea
what it takes to do this after talking with Bill and while I can
swing it, I'm not convinced I'm ready to risk that much by myself.
Bill recommends I jump right in with a 4 color, glossy paper, ~100
page magazine like he did.  I'm not so sure.  It may be that a
thick newsletter might be a better start.

OK guys, what do you think?  Feel free to call me a nutcase or to
lend support as you see fit.  If you have specific names, please
email me directly (


From: John De Armond
X-Source: The Hotrod Mailing list
Date: Apr 1992
Subject: Re: Fuel injection and Automotive high technology

>You mentioned a price of about $4.50 per issue; I assume that it would be
>published monthly so that's $54 per year.  Yeah, it's a bit high but I
>would go for that for the first year anyway.  Presumably advertising
>revenues would build so that the price could drop in following years.
>I can justify that price if I read just one article in it that saves me
>$50 in some automotive project in a year.

I'm anticipating bi-monthly to begin with but who knows?  If the demand
is there.

>The big question in my mind relates to product reviews.  Most mags don't
>do honest reviews for fear of antagonizing current or potential advertisers.
>How do you plan to handle this problem?

It's only a problem when the publisher allows it to be.  That's one
reason I plan to keep the subscription price moderately high - I
want the magazine to be supported by the readers to a degree that
editorial content can be independent of any advertizer.  My plan
regarding product reviews is still evolving but one component of it is
that whenever a product review comes out negative, the review will
be peer-reviewed for accuracy before publication.  That  insures
fairness both ways.  Perhaps they ought to be reviewed in all

>A newsletter format to get started sounds fine to me; look at Dr. Dobb's
>journal - it was loaded with good stuff and came in "white box" packaging
>at first.  I don't think it hurt them any.

Exactly.  A Dr. Dobbs-like magazine (back when it WAS a real magazine)
is my goal.

>You might want to consider
>making reprints printed on durable stock available because some of us
>would no doubt like to keep some material for reference.

Funny you'd mention that.  I had a couple of long chats with Don Lancaster
at  the ME-Ski conference.  One of Don's things, for those of you who
don't read him on one of a half dozen magazines, is so-called "publishing
on demand".  This concept involves printing books (or whatever) in
real time with sales using high resolution laser printers and bindery
equipment usable from a small office or home.  I would have to produce
the entire magazine electronically in order to do this.  The normal
technique is to typeset the text and then paste up camera-ready
artwork with it.  Electronic publication would require scanning the
photographs and diagrams.  Though do-able, I'm not sure about the
practicality of it in the desktop computer environment.  The Kodak
system my wife works on at the office ($100k), sure.  PCs?  Dunno


From: John De Armond
X-Source: The Hotrod Mailing list
Date: Apr 1992
Subject: Why a factory motor?

Dave Coleman <dcoleman@jarthur.Claremont.EDU>

>>  Last summer I dropped $1000 for a factory rebuilt rotary for my wife's
>> RX7
>	What's a rodder like you doing buying a factory engine?

Bzzzt.  I'll answer that one :-)  You ever hear the tale about the
cobbler's children having bare feet?  Or the plumber's crapper leaking?
Same here.  I have tags and insurance on 5 cars and 3 or 4 more at
any time in various states of repair.  And I still have to
walk around the yard to figure out which one will run good enough
today to get me around!  I'm doing all this nifty neeto state-of-the-art
stuff, mostly for other people, and I can barely find a car that runs.
My El Camino is begging to throw a rod, the Z has a half-completed
fuel injection running it, sorta,  the BMW has a CV joint and/or
a chunk bearing going out and the jeep is in a general state of rot.
I bought my wife a Toyota appliance (Camry) just so we'd have something
reliable to drive.  And believe it or not, it goes to the shop for
everything from oil changes up.

Ok, ok, now I've got you all in tears (bored or otherwise), back to

So whose gonna be at the Southern Nationals this weekend?  I'm headed out
in the morning.  I'll be the big guy with the NRA hat, a Lincoln beard
and the radar gun over my shoulder :-)  Just got through modifying my
gun so it'll accurately display up to 500 mph (just guess how I calibrated
it :-) so I'm ready for 'em :-)


From: John De Armond
X-Source: The Hotrod Mailing list
Date: Apr 1992
Subject: Re: radar gun

>Okay, I'll bite.  How DID you calibrate it?  Enquiring minds want to know...

I have a small cavity with a varactor in it. I drive the varactor with
a signal generator.  The capacitor sweeps the tuning of the cavity and
has the effect of amplitude modulating the reflected signal.  Just
compute the correct doppler, dial it in and look at the radar gun.

BTW, I learned how to radar stealth a car this weekend.  All ya
gotta do is have a kevlar or carbon fiber body and run nitro grade ignition.
My radar gun would not even get a blip from either top fuel or funny cars.
I carried my digital storage scope yesterday to see why.  All that
came out of the microwave stage was %^&%^&%& ignition noise!
I can understand why it scrambles the on-board cameras now.


From: John De Armond
X-Source: The Hotrod Mailing list
Date: Apr 1992
Subject: Re: RADAR GUN

>I've never been to a national event yet (watch for me at Maple Grove
>in September), but they sure sound like one really laid back place
>if a guy with a storage scope and a radar gun can look over everyone's
>shoulders in the pits.  What do the people next to you in the stands say?
>More power to you!

Well I DID draw a crowd everytime I got the radar gun out.  The scope
looks like a  large DVM so it did not attract too much attention.

One motorcycle Pro Stock tuner did ask me if I'd go out on the
road Friday night with him for a bit of impromptu tuning.  I was
game but he decided not to :-)

The laid-back attitude in the pits is one of the nicest things about
NHRA competition, particularly in contrast to the NASCAR types who
stay sequestered in isolated pits.  I can only stand around and
marvel at how the top guns handle fans.  I stood around Don
Garlits' pit and watched in amazement.  He does a lot of his own
wrenching and so was very busy.  He had all kinds of problems
including grenaded motors.  Every time he'd get near the rope around
the pit, almost pitiful hero worship would start.  he'd invariably
stop whatever he was doing and sign a few autographs and generally
be a nice guy.  I felt uncomfortable just listening to some of the
Elvis-style worship.

Again unlike the NASCAR types, where everything gets covered with
blankets when in public view, nothing much seems to be secret.
I saw several instances where the crew chief would set a head assembly
on a table near the ropes where spectators could look at it.  Several
teams did not even bother with ropes.  people are pretty good about
staying out of their way.

BTW, Garlits' two min. Schauers kicks ass on Eddie Hill's dachund. :-)

About the only negative things I can say about NHRA events - and
they are biggies - have to do with money.  It cost me over a
hundred bux for all three days with pit passes.  I can sorta
tolerate that but to pay that much and then have to sit though
hours of commercials (yes,  commercials) is very offensive.
They had the "Winstonvision", a stadium=style big screen TV
mounted on a trailer, there.  Anytime engines were not running,
commercials were on the screen and on the PA.  Worse, they could
only sell a few  commercials so we had to listen to the same
ones over and over and over and over and over...
Made you want to wear your ear protectors all the time.

Speaking of hearing protectors, I have a set of electronic protectors.
These have microphones and amplifiers equipped with squelch built
into ear muffs.  The squelch triggers on 90 db noise. They are
designed to be used for shooting where you can hear normally
except for when the gun goes off.  The microphones are very
directional and very sensitive.  An unexpected benefit at the track
is the fact that one can stand at the edge of the pit and clearly
hear all the conversations taking place within.


From: John De Armond
X-Source: The Hotrod Mailing list
Date: May 1992
Subject: Re: Hotrodder's Creed

>THE HOTRODDERS CREED (author unknown)
>A hotrodder is someone who:

Oh my Gawd, How did they find out?  Now my neighboors, and my relatives
will know.  I'm ruined...

One minor correction..

>Thinks the perfect home would be a three bedroom apartment built
>atop a huge, completely outfitted multi-car garage.

Too much non-shop space plus it involves stairs.  My plans are
already being prepared in this regard (no joke).  My wife said it
has to look something like a house.  Ok.  I'll give her that.
Nice white roof on a Butler Building :-)

Here's the plans.  Sell this house and acrage here in
Yuppieland. It's almost paid for so a bunch o cash will result.
Liquidate other real estate holdings.   Head out to either
North Carolina or Tennessee and buy ~100 acres of good flat land
on a mortgage, preferably butting up against a mountain.
(important for the shooting range backstop.)  Such land in
Tennessee goes for 5-700 bux an acre. At the prime location on
the property, plant a 10 bay garage such that if we really ever
want to, we could connect a house onto it and it would look
right.  Two bays are the bedroom and the kitchen/great room.
Another one or two goes to my wife's stained glass studio.  The
rest is MINE!  The way we figure it, there should  be enough
money left over to put in a decent machine shop buying used
mills and lathes, and maybe enough to put the single lane
dragstrip down behind the shop.

So how's that for a plan?


From: emory!!sff (don l doughty)
X-Source: The Hotrod Mailing list
Date: Feb 1994
Subject: Re: Small Wankel
X-Sequence: 7626

Ron Rader aka PTM <emory!!rlr> wrote:
>  Ron "Heck, I'd Like To See Someone Resurrect The Gas Turbine;
>       That's It!  A Turbine Kart!" Rader

why not start with a ~60hp bizjet apu?  i've always wanted to make a
turbine -bike-...  2 hitches -- the transmission [can't decide whether
electric or hydrostatic would be better] and the cost.  even apus cost
tens of thousands.  mileage would also be appalling - i once estimated
-6- mpg!  apus are usually designed to provide lots of 'bleed air' to
start the main engines, so they're not very efficient shaft powerplants.

it'd be truly awesome to cruise on, though.  can you imagine whistling
up to the diesel pump at the gas station?

-andy hay

[I was prowling through some boxes at my parent's house last night
and lo and behold, what did I find but a good chunk of my magazine
collection from the mid 60s up to about 1975.  Among the interesting

Popular Science, Sept 73 - Chrysler's turbine car is on the cover
    and a 2 page fold-out
Mechanix Illustrated, May 73 - On the cover, a homemade 55 lb thrust
	turbojet about the size of a 5 gallon gas can.
Motorcyclist Jan 74, On the cover, DKW's Wankel street bike.
Cycle Guide Aug 74, On the cover, my favorite motorcycle of all time,
	the Suzuki 750 "water buffalo".  Inside, a review of the Suzuki
	RE-5 Wankel.
Sport Wheels (a Ga bi-weekly racing magazine) June 73, on the cover,
Southern Tech's (here in Marietta) bathtub races and Great Tricycle
Races in Oakwood, GA.

The motorcycle issues are particularly interesting because they came
from a time when men were men and road tests included tearing the
engine down for a photo shoot.

I'm going to be scanning some of these articles.  I'll post the text
to the list and send the GIFs (B&W only, unfortunately) to the
archive site.

Thumbing through these old magazines confirms that my memories aren't
being embellished by age.  Things WERE better back then.  The interval
from about 68 to 75 WAS the (latest?  Last?) golden era of motorsports
racing.  Imagine there being enough motorcycle and car racing in the
state of Georgia to support a bi-weekly (later weekly) 65 page magazine!
I counted 10 large racing-oriented motorcycle shops advertising in this
issue from Dalton, GA alone (a town of about 15,000 people back then.)
It was typical for us to race at one track Friday night, another
Saturday night and another Sunday afternoon.  JGD]

From: emory!!dave.williams (Dave Williams)
X-Source: The Hotrod Mailing list
Date: Mar 1994
Subject: duh, humor... funny
X-Sequence: 7799

 Circle Track, April '94, "Behind the Wheel" by Don Alexander:

"In my own racing, I love it when a competitor thinks I'm cheating.
When someone thinks about what you are doing instead of what they should
be doing, you have the advantage.  The only cheating happening here is
to the guy not paying attention to his own car; he's cheating himself.
I have never knowingly driven a race car that was illegal under the
existing rules.  But I have often gone out of my way to make others
think that I was cheating.

 One season, my car owner would put a different color food dye in the
gas before every race.  He'd wait to fuel the car until a couple of our
competitors were standing around, too.  They'd see purple, green, or
orange gasoline going into the tank, convinced that we were cheating.
There was nothing in the rules about food coloring.  We weren't cheating,
but we were having a great deal of fun, and gaining a great
psychological advantage over the other competitors."

[Ohh, I just LOVE mind-games at the starting line! :-0  When I was
racing motorcycles, I spent months practicing so that I could sit on
my stationary bike with both feet on the pegs.  That would absolutely
freak 'em out!  Other tricks included not putting on the helmet
until the very last moment, not starting the engine until the
starting sign went sideways (15 seconds left), attaching funny looking but
completely inert devices to the exhaust pipe, attaching a small bottle
of colored water to the frame with a tube going to somewhere inside the
engine cases.  Mind games are LOADS of fun :-)  JGD]

Index Home About Blog