The Prescott Rally 2011 – Some last minute drama…

Last Tuesday after a marathon weekend of mounting seats, belts, lights, etc. I wanted to drive the 2GN rally car to work and get some miles on it before the rally. I start her up in the garage – *blub *blub *blub *blub “Why does that not sound right?” *blub *blub… Sounds like it’s running on three cylinders. I open the hood and the engine is bobbling around pretty good. Rev the motor, drive it around the block, no power, call it done, and park it back in the garage.

In the evening I pull the code P0202 from the computer. This means the “Fuel Injection Circuit has failed on cylinder 2.” Only three things to check and replace. I swap injector 1 and 2 and nothing changes. I test the wiring going to the PCM with a meter and it’s fine. The only thing left is a bad PCM / ECU (Power Control Module / Electronic Control Unit) and I have no idea why it failed. Right now I think it had hesitation issues when I bought it and they got worse. Plus the wiring loom in the front went into the AC compressor, remember?

Wednesday morning, worst nightmare happens – no one has a computer in stock. The last one in the US (you think I’m kidding…) is sent over-night to Tustin Dodge for Thursday. I formulate a backup plan and find one from a junkyard for an automatic (I confirm that it will throw a code, but still run). To add to the drama, you can’t just plug in an old ECU and expect it to work in a car from this century. The dashboard and key module are aware of the VIN number and won’t start without re-programming from a dealer. 😡

On Thursday morning we are all packed on the tow dolly and ready to head to Arizona with a car that only runs on three cylinders. 😐 I drop the 2GN off at the dealership at 7am and go to work. I finally receive a phone call later in the day. The part is in, and the tech I know there (who is a past Neon Owners Club member) has installed the new PCM and was able to re-flash the junkyard one (sometimes it won’t go). The car is running great and we are good to leave for Prescott after work. Now the real adventure can begin. 😀

The 2GN gets dropped off for its roll cage

Streetwise MotorsportsThere was some excitement this morning in the garage. The 2GN was loaded up onto the tow dolly and brought down to Streetwise Motorsports for roll cage fabrication. We’re looking to get her back in July, but in the mean time we have some electrical issues to sort out on Ze’Neon (our first rally car) and some serious garage reorganization.

Quick note on choosing a builder: I’ve been talking with Doug at Streetwise about the 2GN rollcage details over the last month (and known him for about 4 years) and I think it’s important that you have a good working relationship with your cage builder – as their work is what really makes a strong and safe rally car. Sure, you and your buddies can weld up a cage, but consider that someone who has built a number of cars, and been around rally for years, is going to have a lot more experience with what works and what doesn’t.

Race seats will be on order shortly. Pictures of the build, fitment, and process to follow!

2GN Progress Report

The interior and extra weight is out. I need to get a couple extra grinding discs and wire wheels to get the drivers side door metal out and the extra thick seam sealer in the hard to reach spots. The air-box for the heat and AC is dependent on the heater core and I’ll need to drain the coolant before pulling that out and re-engineering it.

Draining the coolant means that it’s just about a good time as any to pull the motor. The motor has to go if we’re going to seam weld, plate, and strengthen the front end. To keep it easy I’m going to cut the radiator support out and we’ll be changing that up anyway. I don’t know if I’m ready to put “tubular K frame” on the to-do list, but it’s being considered.

This weekend some friends and past crew members will be giving me a hand. Soon the 2GN will become more of a shell then a car. Rally prep at the garage is well under way!

Wiring Effort

Wiring Effort Scale
Somewhere between a rats nest of wires doomed to start an electrical fire and military grade wiring found in attack helicopters, you will find what I’m doing with the wiring on the 2GN. Primarily for organization and keeping things neat, I took the “wiring trough” that sits on the dash out and went through the harness. I wrapped everything remaining up with zip-ties and removed a lot of the sticky tape. You certainly don’t want bundles of exposed wires, but if you need to fix an electrical problem, you don’t want to spend an hour on the side of the road identifying and unwrapping wires. Unlike a turbo swap in a GC8 Subaru, I really don’t need to change anything with the harness for the SRT-4 motor. The 2003 SXT plugs right in, and is a major reason why we sought out that particular year and model.

Automotive resettable fusesI’ve had my eye on 12v resettable fuses for a while now and it’s something that I think will really come in handy on a modern rally car. The E-T-A 1620 series are automotive grade circuit breakers that fit in a “mini fuse” space. Around $5 each they beat a zip-lock baggy of replacements in the ash tray. Along with these I ordered a number of switches for the cockpit panel and some some separate 12v circuit breakers for things like lights, rally computer, and transceiver. I also ordered some spare Molex type connectors to better interconnect the harness in the rear of the car. I will be able to change out the melted and cracked connector that goes to the lights and blinker switch. 😮

The little needles… flipped over.

The 2GN is just about done its ‘daily driving‘ duties. The battery is original to the car and I thought I could hold off replacing it – and instead concentrate on the future Optima Red Top in the trunk for rally duty.

It finally gave up and died, leaving Christine stranded at the library. She managed to find a nice by-stander to give her a jump-start. I have no idea what they did wrong, but somehow – the tachometer and speedometer needles went too far, swung completely around, and got stuck on the other side of the pin. As some of you know the Neon gauge cluster does the ‘defi’ calibration upon startup: Pause at zero, fifty percent, one hundred percent, and then back to zero. The needles twitched and stayed at zero, it wasn’t until Christine got home did she realize that the gauges were messed up. “Why are the needles in the 2GN on the wrong side of the pin?” “WHAT?!” was really all one could say.

I guess there’s a way you can hold down the trip to reset it, but this didn’t work.
What DID work, was taking the gauge cluster out of the car and slowly rotating it 360 degrees clockwise. It was rather comical. 🙂
The gauges now work, battery is trickle charging, and pretty soon Christine’s new car will arrive and the 2GN project will really begin.