And so the upgrade journey commences

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After puchasing my car last year (an Xpower 140) I decided it was time to seek some more power. Taking the sensible approach after talking to Dave Andrews and Kiwirog (Roger Fabry), I decided to swap the standard K16 head for a reconditioned VVC head, along with a set of Piper 1320 cams as these can be run on the standard plenum without much ado, and would allow me to retain the stock bottom end.

A cylinder head was duly sourced from We Love MGF's from ebay and shipped to Kiwirog to cast his eye over. Sadly the first head had damage and was returned as it was unsuitable. Thankfully We Love MGF's were incredibly helpful, and shipped another the same day. This one looking like a good contender.

Whilst waiting for Roger to port the head, I figured it would be wise to replace the standard manifold and exhaust system. After reading on Blatchat and discussing with a number of people, I decided upon the Powerspeed system. As luck would have it, one of our members messaged me to say that he had a brand new system that he no longer needed and it was still in its original bubble wrap, for an imperial S3 chassis. A deal was quickly struck, and the car booked in for fitting at Powerspeed's premises.

Much much better I think you'll agree

The alternator needed removing to reverse the connectors as they were too close to the manifold. After refitting and testing it all seemed ok....
Until that is, I drove off to discover the ignition light wouldn't go out. After removing it again and inspecting it, it was clear the diode pack was damaged. Damn.
Thankfully Powerspeed loaded the car onto the trailer and off we set for Sevens & Classics where I purchased the car last year. Thankfully Tim and Andy did a great job of resolving this for me, and turning it around very quickly.

The car is now considerably quieter which was a pleasant surprise, however when you open it up it has a much more throaty growl. A far more pleasing and mature sound (a lot less raspy). Very pleased. I can't say I've noticed much performance difference, however this may be due to the size of the manifold and system being 1 7/8" primaries, 1 3/4" secondaries, and a 2 1/2" silencer, which on my standard Xpower 140 may be on the large side. But that's ok, there's more coming...

Stage 1 complete!

Whilst waiting for the head, I spoke with Titan motorsport about their Roller Barrel throttle bodies, and to my delight they actually had a few brand new sets being made up. This was because they had a box of parts left over from previous production and had enough parts to make up about 10 new sets. They requested some new castings from the foundry, and I decided to take the opportunity to buy some.
After expressing my delight to Roger, we decided that the Piper BP285H cam would make better use of the new induction. I also decided that these cams would benefit from having the standard VVC head fully ported, but retaining the standard valve sizes. Talk about scope creep?

With the realisation that a potential 200 Bhp would quickly destroy my bottom ending sinking in, I decided I'd at least need a set of forged pistons. And this is where my project suddenly took a turn down a rather more expensive path. With the extra cost of fitting the pistons, and the car being off the road for some time, I started thinking that I'd be better off with a donor engine, and whilst I'm at it, fit new steel rods, some new Mahle bearings, a TTV lightweight flywheel and a full balance. Things are now starting to get rather expensive. Having decided this bottom end upgrade essential, and more practical I then started thinking about more power since the new bottom end would easily cope. It's a slippery slope I know...

So back on the phone to Rog, and I decided that what I really needed was 12.2mm valve lift and solid followers. New Piper 1444 cams ordered. Now, a fully ported VVC head flows approximately 130 cfm at 11mm lift. This means a theoretical maximum output of about 220 Bhp. (130cfm x 4 cylinders x 0.43 = 223 Bhp) Hmm perhaps this will be a restriction? 1444 cams can produce over 230 Bhp on an 1800 engine. Back on the phone to Roger, and some new 33.3mm inlet valves on new seats are being fitted as part of the build. On Roger's flow bench, this spec head previously flowed 153cfm. This equates to a maximum of 260 Bhp. Much more scope for upgrades there then!

I went to see Roger the other day to check on the progress, and have a few pics of what's been completed so far:

On the bench being ported

Standard VVC exhaust port                 And ported (not finished yet)

New insterts err, inserted?

Std 31.5 inlet vs 33.3 inlet

Std rover cam vs Piper 1444. Guess which is which?

Anyway, whilst I am and collecting all the above parts and waiting for the head we move on to Stage 2. The ECU. A friend of mine has designed his own ECU, which he has been fitting to his Citroen Saxo customers for many years. He very kindly offered to build me a complete plug and play solution for my EU3 loom. This weekend, he come over with a test / development Saxo board, and with the EU3 ECU plug I purchased from Emerald, we began painfully figuring out the wiring loom with the help of a diagram I aquired and a multimeter.

Old development board for testing the custom loom. the board looks alarming sparse doesn't it?

We started by connecting the power to the ECU from the loom, followed by the crank sensor. Each wire being stripped and then soldered to the corresponding pins on the plug. We tested the loom using a tone on the multi meter. Surprisingly the documentation I had, had quite a few errors on it. However, this became less of a problem the more progress we made.

Custom wiring the EU3 ECU plug to the test board

ECU now ready to test!

After we had connected the VR sensor, we powered up the ECU to see if the software would recognise the flywheel tooth pattern. We found the pre-configured "Rover 2" selection worked perfectly, and could see the RPM from the engine being turned over registering on the software. Result! Hardest part done. (Apparently. I just watched and made us all tea)

Next we added the sensors, water and air temp, plus the MAP sensor.
The following day, we started early and within an hour we had sparks! Next we setup the fueling and injectors. Andy created a base map and we were ready to try starting the engine.

Bio (John Salmon) kindly assisting on first start up

Believe it or not, the engine actually fired up on the first turn of the key! To be honest I was quite surprised, however Andy (ECU man) was not, and somewhat miffed at my doubts. Well done Andy!

Setting the idle, and checking sensors etc

Following the successful running of the engine, Andy is taking the mocked up loom adaptor and base map, and is now beavering away to redesign the Saxo plug ECU board to fit a Rover EU3 plug. This should take a few weeks. In the meantime he will come back with a tidied up loom adaptor and a proper ECU so that I can run the car once i've fitted the throttle bodies.

So on to stage 3

If you're still with me, I'm impressed. I know I waffle a lot. Something even my 6 year old daughter reminds me of frequently.

We decided to try fitting the RBTB's. And this is where we have hit a snag. I found there was no air filter backing plate in the kit, the std fuel rail and adjustable FPR doesn't fit, and the caterham RBTB support brackets also don't fit. (At least, the rear doesn't). I've also had to order an LC-2 wideband sensor to plug into the exhaust and ECU so that we can put a proper map on the car. We'll do this on the road once its all working.

Ready for fitting

First set of problems uncovered..

More to follow.... (Shortly I hope!)



Part 2

So its been a busy week and I managed to collect all the parts I required to finish the roller barrel and ECU install. I've also picked up the finished head, plus cams and ancillary parts, ready to take to Jason at Hellier Performance for the new engine build. I'll try and get it all there this week if possible. This is of course assuming all the final parts arrive. That is, a new set of Omega pistons, Mahle Tri-metal bearings plus a set of Westwood spun cast liners. Seven's and Classics are supplying me with a donor block which has been modified ready for the Caterham install which I collect on the way.

Head complete

Nice chamber work. Note the recess machined around the exhaust valves. Helps flow apprently. 101 CFM at 11mm lift to be precise. Inlet's were 140 cfm. Enough for about 240 Bhp according to our Rog.

John came round after work during the week, such is his generosity to help get the throttle bodies installed. After the initial dry run, we fitted everything tightly and it was all looking pretty good. (Thanks again John!)

Far tidier than the plenum setup

Well, everything except the throttle cable. (Which is a pig to route btw). It was too long internally, and we couldn't see any way to tweak the nipple (oh Matron!) to shorten the length. I thought I must need a different cable for the roller barrels. A quick call to Caterham the following day revealed I didn't need a new cable at all. No, its adjustable. "How?" I hear you ask. By bending the throttle pedal!! Yep that's right. This is what Caterham apparently do too. With engineering ingenuity like this its amazing us Brits won the war. Twice. The Germans would certainly never allow this.

Now the car was ready to start, and we were just waiting for Andy to return on Sunday morning with the ECU and loom. After a slow start, (we had to stop to watch Mercedes throw Lewis' victory away. Seriously, what happened there? They said they had an error in the data. With all their resource, all they really needed was a Sky Sports subscription. All 3 of us could see it was never going to work) we got the ECU plumbed in, plus the LC-2 wideband sensor. We then calibrated the water and air temp sensors by putting them in the freezer, then measuring the temp with a pyrometer, and measuring the resistance with a multimeter. We did this again at room temp and at boiling point. Its not easy holding a sensor in boiling water and measuring the resistance and temperature all at the same time. Job done.

Next job was replacing all the coolant we'd lost. Finally it was time to try firing it up for the first time on the bodies. We'd balanced them visually to get us going. Amazingly it fired first time again and idled quite smoothly. We adjusted the balance using a manometer, then double checked this by measuring the amount of revs the engine dropped when pulling an injector from each bank. Once this was equal on both sides we were done. It took about 15 minutes. Another job done.

After the engine had warmed up we set the idle. It seems to idle quite high, even with the barrels fully closed but this appears to be an inherent issue with the design. If you block the trumpets up with your hand the revs completely drop so they are not leaking from the manifold/head. It's not that bad as to be of any concern, as once the 1444 cams go in it will idle a little high anyway I am guessing.

With Andy strapped in with laptop at the ready we began the mapping process. Part throttle settings first at low revs. It was actually driving quite smoothly right away. Some good educated guess work on the fuelling. We slowly progressed up the load sites whilst annoying everyone on the A41. Sorry if you got stuck behind us! By the time we got to Wendover, we had done most of the fuel mapping and the car was running great. Too great in fact. Then something went wrong, and it started running slightly rough. Still driveable though. Since the light was fading we called it a night.

Next morning we took the bonnet off. Andy spotted straight away that the idle control bolt and the balance adjust bolts had both fallen out. Damn it!! Thankfully I had a few M4 bolts I'd bought for something else only 2 days before. So with the bodies balanced again we set off. We spent about another hour honing the fuel map with only a minor adjustment to the timing. It was pinking ever so slightly so we retarded it a fraction and no more pinking. The car is now running far better than it did on the plenum and std EU3 ECU. The throttle response is so much more linear and direct. A vast improvement. This was quite a surprise given all the bad press I've heard relating to the roller barrels and part throttle driving. Have I mentioned the noise yet? They sound like the end of the world! The noise alone has shaved off at least half a second off the perceived 0-60! The car now pulls really hard all the way to about 6700 rpm, where it was running out of puff about 6000 before. And this is despite us only being able to get about 96% throttle. The linkage is jamming on the return spring at the moment and needs filing down. Annoyingly we'd need to take them off to do this and since its only temporary we decided to leave it.

I'm glad that its all come together so well, and I'm pleased we got the roller barrels set up and mapped prior to the new engine. I can't imagine having any dramas whilst trying to run in a brand new engine. Now I just have to wait to get the new engine built, for the final part of this trilogy....