As you may remember, we left the story after Practical Performance Car’s £999 Challenge in June 2012.
It had had a bit of an ignition Gremlin appear on that day, when the old coil gave up and cooked itself.
In March 2013, it went to Stainless Exhaust Specialists @ Huthwaite, to have a new stainless exhaust made, the standard system was twin 40mm, and 3 silencers, the new system is twin 50mm and a single, straight through back box.
Which looks great, and sounds gorgeous too!!! (as most who have heard it on track agree).
I also noticed at Mallory the year before, that the rear end got quite “floaty” going round Gerrards (the long sweeping corner around the lake).
So I decided to try a rear wing/spoiler to see if it settled it down a bit,I couldn’t hurt to give it a try.
I bought a twin blade adjustable alloy spoiler, without any mounting brackets for £5, it was buried at the back of my local motor factors, with about an inch of black dust over it.
Next I made some mounting brackets out of an offcut of 3mm aluminium.
Surprisingly, it did make some difference, and did seem to smooth it out round Gerrards.
I had also started emailing Owain Llloyd, who had competed in the 2012 London to Cape Town World Cup Classic Rally, in a Mercedes 280CE coupe, the 2-door version of my car.
Obviously, his budget was vastly different to mine, but he did give me some valuable advice, my exhaust was a near copy of his, and he also told me of a great, simple, and cheap handling mod that he’d done that I’d never thought of.
He had replaced the massive soft rubber engine mounts, which are designed for comfort and to reduce vibration(left), with hard rubber mounts from a Series 2 diesel Landrover(right), this stopped the engine moving about under cornering.
This did also make a big difference, and only cost £6!!!
It’s next outing was in May 2013 at PPC in the Park, at Mallory Park.
By then it had received a new coil, distributor cap, rotor arm, spark plugs, and leads, which had all been original and not replaced before, so it seemed sensible to replace the whole ignition system.
We got there and it was a good day, and then the Gremlins attacked!!
It started to run badly on track and was missing like mad.
When we got back in and had a look, the coil was overheating, and we could barely touch it.
We assumed that it was just due to thrashing it like we were, and the coil was struggling to produce the sparks for the 6 plugs at the RPM that we were running at lap after lap.
So naturally, we pulled the headlight out so cool air could get to the coil, which made perfect sense to me…
Unfortunately, this didn’t work, and after a few laps it was running badly yet again, so that cut the day short.
So, once I was back home, I leapt into action and forgot about it for 4 months, until the week before my first ever charity track day at Blyton Park in September.
I ordered a genuine Bosch coil, rather than the generic brand coil that was on it, I checked the distributor, leads, and plugs which all seemed ok.
With the new coil on it ran ok, and all seemed well, then…
The Gremlins attacked AGAIN!!!!
All of a sudden it wouldn’t rev above 3000rpm, and I couldn’t find a fault anywhere?!?!
A couple of mates came over, as it was only 2 days before Blyton!!!
We went through everything, and still couldn’t locate the problem, then all of a sudden it located itself, the distributor internals fell apart!!!
I tried in vain that night and the following day, but couldn’t get my hands on a good distributor, so I turned up at the first track day I’d organised without a car!!
It was then that I decided it was time to upgrade to electronic ignition.
So, after doing a fair bit of research, I contacted David @ Canems ECU’s, he is a really nice chap and was extremely helpful.
I explained to him what my plans were, which was to fit coil pack wasted spark ignition for the time being, then convert to full EFI at a later stage.
He supplied me with one of his full EFI ECU’s, but with just the software for running the ignition installed(this would be returned to him to have the injection software upgrade at a later date), an installation manual, software cd rom, a trigger wheel, and an unterminated loom, for me to complete to suit my engine.
He also was more than happy to talk me through any steps in the process if I got stuck.
The rest of the parts needed could be easily sourced from local motor factors, or eBay, these included a 3 bar MAP sensor, Ford Focus crank sensor, Vauxhall 2.5 V6 Vectra coil pack, a set (well 2 sets) of Vectra V6 ignition leads, a water temperature sensor, various plugs for them (these are called junior timer housings, for some strange reason), and some sleeving, etc… for the loom wires.
Now it was time to figure out how to fit this mystical box full of wizards and pixies, and how to get their magic to work my sparks, and fight off the Gremlins!!
From here onwards this is turning into a basic EFI “How to” guide, with bits of the story in between.
There are a few simple rules to always remember when starting doing any mod/project, these are in no particular order…
1, DON’T PANIC, you can do it, if it seems a bit overwhelming, walk away and have a cuppa.
2, DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE YOU PICK UP A SPANNER, if there’s a manual, read it, if not, get googling, or ask on forums, but always have your bullshit meter switched on!!!
3, DON’T PANIC, have a brew and give your brain a rest.
4, HAVE A BASIC PLAN, after you’ve done your research, make sure you’ve got a clear plan of attack in your head before you start, chop it up into a series of small jobs, that way you won’t get in a muddle.
5, NEVER BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS, there’s no such thing as a stupid question, if you don’t know the answer, the question isn’t stupid, knowledge is power!!
6, DON’T PANIC!!!!go on, have another cuppa, you deserve it (are you detecting a theme here?).
7, ASKING FOR HELP ISN’T ADMITTING DEFEAT, sometimes it’s good to get some help from your friends, it also never hurts to have a 2nd opinion on the project.
8, HAVE A CUP OF TEA, go on, put the kettle on, you know you want to.
9, DON’T RUSH IT, try not to work faster than your brain can cope with, better to take a bit longer and do it right.
10, DO YOUR GROUND WORK, you’ll find when doing a project there’s a lot of groundwork you can do, such as fitting certain bits of hardware, before you have to take your car off the road.
Right then, back to Cunning Plan…
The first thing I did, was sit down, have a mug of tea and start reading the Canems, and Haynes manuals…
(WARNING SELFIE AHEAD!!)
After this, I made a list of the parts I needed to get, and got them all together.
Then it was time to start the series of little jobs, that would turn into the whole thing.
First was to figure out how to mount the trigger wheel to the crank pulley, and fit the crank sensor, to begin with I removed the radiator, to get a clearer view of the front of the engine.
After looking at this engine, and a spare engine from another car (this had had A/C), I decided the best place for the sensor would be mounted on a bracket bolted to the bottom alternator bolt.
I also found on the spare engine, that Mercedes fitted an extra bottom pulley, on the front of the crank pulley, on the A/C model cars, using an alloy spacer with longer bolts, this was perfect for the trigger wheel to be mounted to.
I removed the crank pulley, and spacer from the spare engine and gave them a clean and a paint.
I also removed the broken distributor, cut the top off it, removed the internal shaft, and had a plug welded in to seal the hole, then used it to fill the distributor hole in the engine block.
I then bolted the crank pulley, and the trigger wheel on, and set about making the bracket for the sensor, out of 25mm angle, I made sure the sensor had a gap of around 2-3mm from the trigger wheel.
The next job was to make a mounting bracket for the MAP sensor, and coilpack, I bolted this to the threaded holes in the block that are for the A/C compressor to bolt to.
I made a cardboard version first, but then decided that 3mm aluminium would be a better choice.
Next was to mount the ECU, I first got hold of a large alloy heat sink, and bolted it to this just to be sure it wouldn’t get too hot, then mounted it behind the headlight on the inner wing.
Now it was time to get the loom out and start wiring!!
First thing I did was pick out and separate all the wires required for the ignition system taping them into there groups for each sensor and component.
The rest of the wires I coiled up and put inside a Tupperware container, bolted next to the ECU, so they were safe, and ready for the future injection upgrade.
With the ECU, and all the sensors in place, it was just a case of working out the route the wiring would take, mocking them up in place, and cut them to length.
I threaded the wires through some heat resistant sleeving, and then crimped the plug pins in the wires, then took extra care to make sure I put them into the right pin locations in each plug.
It was fairly straight forward, thanks to the very clear Canems manual, lots of tea, double checking as I went, and not rushing it.
The only snag I had during this process was, I found out that I couldn’t use the water temperature sensor on the engine, as it didn’t give the right signal for the ECU.
Also, I couldn’t find a modern sensor that would thread into the engine, so I ended up with an alloy joiner in the top hose with a sensor screwed into it, so problem solved.
It was then just a case of double checking all the wires and connections, to confirm everything was in the right place, and refitting the radiator.
Now, it was time to get the ECU plugged in to the laptop and set a few parameters, such as what MAP sensor I was using(3BAR ready for a future turbo), at what position was the crank sensor to the missing tooth on the trigger wheel when at TDC (which can’t be done on some ECU’s such as Megasquirt), and to check the correct map was loaded in the ECU.
David @ Canems had pre-loaded a base map to run the ignition on first start up, and could be tweaked later (it turned out to be spot on, and didn’t need any adjustment!!).
Then, it was time to cross my fingers and turn the key, I turned the key and it fired up instantly!!
It was running spot on, the wizards and pixies in the magic box had defeated the Gremlins!!!
Back to the story for a little bit…
It was now ready to try out @ Blyton on my next charity track day.
It ran perfectly, without any issues at all, I don’t know if it was, but it felt a bit quicker.
It still was nowhere near the fastest car on the track, as my videos prove, but that was never the intention of this car, I enjoy the engineering of it, nothing is “off the shelf” unlike a lot of track cars.
Then it sat until the next day @ Blyton in September, where it ran lovely again all day…
So, I got home from Blyton and immediately booked a day at Cadwell in November!!!
It was very wet, I loved it the Merc ran lovely again all day, with a slight hiccup in the afternoon, when I spun into the Armco just after the hairpin, there was an earthquake in that area that day, and Cadwell got moved 2 postcodes, I think my car is the only track car that makes Armco nervous…
LOOK AT THE DAMAGE!!!! (would you like me to point it out?)
After Cadwell, I decided that it was time for throttle body EFI!!!!!!!
Time for me to lay down some more knowledge…
I’d been looking at my options for the injection conversion throughout the year, I’d looked at several EFI builds on various Mercedes forums.
They all seemed to make the same mistake, in my opinion, they almost all kept the original inlet manifold, which isn’t the best performance design. As it was built to carry and work with the old mechanical Bosch K-Jet system, so like the old injection system it was a comprised design. The throttle body wasn’t really big enough to follow enough air, and would involve a lot of modifying to be able to mount a throttle position sensor (TPS). They also all used the original injector holes in the head, which required a custom fuel rail to be made, and the injectors needed to be modified to fit the hole.
So, after some thought I decided that the best way to go was a short custom alloy manifold, and independent throttle bodies (ITB’s), I thought of using bike throttle bodies, but couldn’t really settle on anything suitable, and it would mean making 1 1/2 sets of bodies work together. In the end I settled on using some BMW M3 ITB’s, I ended up buying a set of 2000 E46 M3 ITB’s from a breaker.
I had Bogg Brothers make me a short alloy manifold, to bolt the ITB’s to my engine, once I got it home I made a separate injector loom on the ITB’s before mounting it on the engine, this would mean that I would only have 2 plugs to undo to remove the whole unit, 1 for the injectors, and 1 for the TPS.
There’s not much extra wiring required to upgrade from ignition only to full EFI, it’s 2 more sensors which are the TPS, and an air temperature sensor to read the manifold inlet air coming into the engine, and the wiring to the injectors, so it’s a total of 9 extra wires on a 6 cylinder engine.
Now the injector loom was made it was time to get cold and fit it to the engine and start wiring it into the main ECU loom.
For the time being, I’ve cable tied the air temp sensor above the ITB’s, until I build a suitable air bob (Circled), The TPS, and injector loom plug are at the front end of the ITB’s (arrows, white-TPS, red-loom plug).
By then, I had received the ECU back from David @ Canems, where it had had the injection software added, with a safe base map installed, to be able to start the engine.
So, after setting a couple of parameters with the laptop (TPS open and closed readings), and checking all the vacuum lines are on secure and not leaking, double checking all the connections, both old and new.
It was now time to start it for the first time on the ITB’s…
It ran ok, but not perfect, it needed setting up on a rolling road, I called David @ Canems, and he booked me in to be set up by him at his mate’s garage near Hull.
He did a great job, and got it set up lovely, it even spits flames on over run!!!
….AAANNNDDDD back to the story…
That was a week before my first track day of 2015 @ Blyton, so Richard was very kind and let me drop it off in the hangar there on my way home, all ready for the next weeks fun.
It ran brilliantly all year, I did 2 days a@ Blyton in March and October, another extremely wet day at Cadwell, in September, that I cut short in the end, and a day @ Oulton in November which was great, and it ran perfect at every day.
It was noticeably quicker, sounded great, and surprised a lot of people, although it still gets passed a fair bit, but not as much as it used to.
Just to jump back a little, before Cadwell, early in September, I decided that the springs needed improving seeing as the car had as much body roll as a Channel ferry.
Up to now it had a set of Spax lowering springs fitted, but with the weight that had been removed, they hadn’t lowered it much, and it did seem to be a lot higher at the rear.
So, I got in touch with Coil Springs (1989) ltd, in Sheffield, after talking to them about having some custom made springs which were very well priced, I took the measurements they required and got them ordered. It turned out that the rear was only about 40mm higher than the front, which surprised me, it looked a lot more.
I had the springs made lower, and the rears shorter to level the car, and harder too to try to improve the body roll.
On the rear I had to shorten the trailing arm stops, to stop the springs popping out, as you can see there’s a bit of difference in suspension travel!!
The car was a lot lower, and looked better for it…
Seeing as it was so low, I thought it was best to fit a factory sump guard, which was surprisingly cheap from the Mercedes dealer, only about £30 including shipping from Germany!!
The suspension worked well, and in a few places the sump guard was definitely needed, it got a few battle scars over the next few track days!!!
2016, Revenge of the Gremlins!!
All had gone really well over 2015, through he winter I didn’t get chance to do anything at the car, but it had been running so well this didn’t concern me.
So, I took it to my first day @ Blyton with no worries at all, the car had run faultlessly the year before, and nothing had changed since then.
Oh, how wrong I was.
The day started well, got the car ready, mounted the new Sony actioncams so I could try some multi camera videos, I mounted 1 facing forward, 1 facing out the back, and another under the rear of the car so I could see what the rear suspension was doing.
I did the sighting laps fine, then I went out for the first time, the car ran perfectly for the most of the session and was running really strong, until the last half lap, when it started sounding really rough, so I eased off, and came straight in.
I wasn’t sure if it was misfiring or what, it just sounded off.
After looking round we spotted something that wasn’t right, and would probably cause it to sound funny, the hard Landrover engine mounts had torn in half, and the engine had moved sideways by about 40-50mm!! The top half of the mounts was nearly off the bottom half it had moved that much, so that was the end of the day.
So, the tough engine mounts that lasted through a London to Cape Town rally, couldn’t handle 4 track days in my car!!
When I got home and reviewed the video, I also spotted another issue that I didn’t know about, since fitting the alloy fuel tank, when I did the injection conversion the mpg was terrible, but I thought it was due to being on the ITB’s, it turns out that under braking, it was losing petrol through the vent pipe, this was fixed by attaching the vent higher up in the boot, easy!!!
Once I got home I bought some uprated racing Landrover engine mounts, which are virtually a solid mount with a small poly bobbin through the centre, these should last.
These are now fitted and seem a lot better, but were a lot more expensive at £80.
After fitting these, I ran the car round the yard and it seemed ok, so I was ready for the next day @ Blyton in June…
Or, so I thought, but the resident Gremlin had other ideas.
I went out on the sighting laps, and it just wasn’t right, it was running rough and had no power. I came in after that and started checking through everything, it turned out to be not firing on cylinders 1 & 6.
We tried to fix it, by changing leads and plugs, and checking connections, but nothing worked, so I spent the day having passenger rides, which was a great time, some of the cars on my days are amazing!!
We decided it must be a dead coil pack, seeing as it was a cheap generic brand, so I got a new Bosch coil pack, and a set of Bosch Super4 spark plugs.
It seemed better, but still not quite right, but I couldn’t be 100% sure as I could only drive it round the yard and not really try it out. But due to it being my busy time with my shop I couldn’t do much more, so I just hoped and prayed it would be ok in September @ Blyton, as there was nothing more I could do until I could really drive it properly.
So, back @ Blyton in September, It wasn’t right but I decided sod it, it was wet in the morning and I thought it wasn’t going to be fast in that weather anyway, but it still wasn’t firing on 1 & 6.
So back to the drawing board, what was the problem?
The only thing I could think was it must be the leads, they were the only ignition part that I hadn’t changed.
So, I ordered a new set of custom made leads, with Mercedes plug ends, and coil pack ends, with high spec 10mm silicone wire. Fingers crossed for Blyton in November.
But it wasn’t the case, it seemed ok running at low revs and load, but once off the trailer and driving round the paddock @ Blyton it wasn’t right.
I spent a lot of the day trying to find the fault, with help from a lot of the guys who were at Blyton, in the end we discovered that the ECU wasn’t sending a signal to the coil pack to fire 1 & 6!!
So, I spent the rest of the day enjoying other people’s cars, and thanks to those who let me drive theirs.
Once I was home, I called David @ Canems, and he suspected that an ignition driver might have died in the ECU, it’s unusual, but not impossible. I took the ECU off and sent it back home to Scunthorpe, David got it repaired quickly and returned back to me, I’ve put it back on and it seems like it’s running on all 6 cylinders again!!!
I suppose I will find out at Blyton on Friday 24th March at my next day, finger crossed!!!!
Just to jump back a little bit, in October 2016, it went into to a mate’s to have the rear quarter panels replaced seeing as I hadn’t the time to do it.
he did a cracking job, and it’s back at his at the minute having the rear panel replaced, here’s some pictures of the quarter panel work for now…
That’s all for now, but please stay tuned for the next thrilling installment!!!