Forget programmable management on the road

Posted on November 5th, 2006 in Engine Management,Opinion by Julian Edgar

Colleague Michael Knowling and I have a standing joke. If we’re photographing a modified car and the car starts with a whir-whir-whir-brmmmm!, we know it’s got programmable management. If it starts with a whir-brmmmm!, we know it’s got factory management. Perhaps it’s modified factory management, but factory management all the same. It may not be impossible to give a car good starting in all conditions with programmable management, but the reality is that this very rarely occurs.

And it’s the same with many other characteristics of factory engine management systems – aftermarket programmable management systems are simply out of their depth in providing stuff fitted to pretty well all current cars, even the cheapies. What stuff, then? Well, things like electronic throttle control, traction control, stability control, auto trans control, variable camshaft timing control, changeover intake manifold control… Sure, there are programmable management systems around that can perform some of these functions (electronic throttle control for example) but the bottom line is that they do so only in a far cruder way than factory systems. Basically, they don’t have the required number of software maps or the development those entail.

I said all of this four years ago – yes, four bloody years ago! – in The Re-Invention of Engine Management Modification and now some of the formerly greatest advocates of programmable engine management systems are starting to see the light. Simon Gischus of Melbourne workshop Nizpro was the most enthusiastic fan of MoTeC engine management systems I have ever seen… bar of course MoTeC itself. Mr Gischus would have nothing to do with factory management tweaking, describing such an approach as being massively inferior to his beloved MoTeC systems. Being geographically located close to MoTeC and having excellent chassis and engine dyno equipment, he was also instrumental in pushing MoTeC forwards in programmable engine management features.

But – and this is just as I said in 2002 – the advent of the turbo BA Falcon changed that. The VL Turbo that Nizpro once specialised in was by then becoming geriatric; the BA Falcon offered a whole new parade of tuning work that would stretch ahead at least ten years. But there was no way Nizpro could compete with other Falcon tuners by putting MoTeC on the cars. Not in cost and, as it turned out, not in results either. (Mr Gischus once took us for a ride in a MoTeC-equipped BA turbo – he wouldn’t let us drive it. The car idled badly and its performance was nothing wonderful.)

Nizpro then tried the ChipTorque-produced Xede interceptor but in the car we drove, achieved dreadful results. (See Cobra Kitted XR6T.) About that three things must be said. Firstly, we’ve driven ChipTorque’s own Xede-equipped BA Turbo and it was fine. Secondly, the APS turbo Falcons we’ve driven drove perfectly, despite using the Unichip interceptor. Finally, Nizpro’s tuning experience had previously all been with programmable management systems: tuning an interceptor (which is basically fooling the ECU into adopting change) can be a very different thing.

And what’s the situation now? Last week, when we were in Melbourne, Simon Gischus was incredibly strong in his denunciation of MoTeC. Amongst other things, he said he wouldn’t accept a pallet-load of even free MoTeC systems; that none of the turbo Falcons in the workshop were running MoTeC; that the idle control available in MoTeC units was poor when compared with the factory Falcon engine management – his tirade went on and on.

The incredible turnaround in attitude can be traced back to one thing – the availability now of flash tuning software for the Falcon. Suddenly, when Simon could see what went into a factory management system, he realised what he’d been missing out on. There are literally thousands of adjustable parameters in the Falcon engine management system – as there are in every factory management system. I’ve known this for 10 years, because it’s that long ago that a man named Ken Young completely pulled apart the then current Holden engine management system to form his Kalmaker reprogramming software. (I asked Simon if he’d ever seen the Kalmaker software. The answer was: No.)

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with MoTeC – or plenty of other programmable management systems. In fact, I think MoTeC’s programmable management units, dashboard displays and data logging software are right up there with the world’s best. And, when price is considered, probably the world’s best. In motorsport applications? – you betcha.

But for modified road cars, the story’s over – forget programmable management.

OK, so four years ago I got it right. What am I predicting for four years’ hence? Well, I told Simon what I thought was the hot thing to get into…. and he was again utterly unconvinced. And what did I say?

Now’s the time to start getting heavily into modifying diesel road cars…

One Response to 'Forget programmable management on the road'

Subscribe to comments with RSS

  1. TonyS said,

    on November 21st, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    Diesel road cars… check out the DPchip range from Berrima Diesel. There is expertise out there, now.

    If Simon is dubious, get him behind the wheel of a Golf (2.0), Mazda3 or Astra diesel, preferably manual, and have him floor it at 2000rpm. These cars all have the “f#$% me!!!” factor… and along with the i30 diesel, made up my short list when looking for new wheels this month.

    Sure diesel is expensive compared with ULP now, but there are a lot of biofuel and synfuel projects out there that will all produce clean diesel cheaply in the medium-long term. It’s time to dip the toe in the diesel pool, because its time is coming.