Project Hugo – The How

Wow, the last post for Project Hugo was two years ago!  A lot of work has happened in the interim but not much actual progress.  In part my anxiety diagnosis earlier this year, as discussed in my previous post, plays a part as I’ve been getting my head sorted before tackling the head gaskets but mostly it’s because I’ve been hitting my head against the wall with the sodding engine!

before (2)
Hugo when I collected him, with an engine that started and everything!

A Recap

The master-plan for Project Hugo is to take a Mini and modernise the hell out of it without ruining what makes it a Mini.  So far I’ve had a few tweaks to the engine, the suspension has been replaced with more modern kit designed by the original designer, the wiring loom has been completely replaced and an electronic ignition fitted.

Sounds Promising But…

Here’s the thing, I’ve always said I’m better with electronics and computers than engines so I’ll leave the latter to those in the know.  The problem with that approach is how will I ever learn if I don’t try?  To break the cycle I thought I’d have a go at tweaking the fuel mix as the exhaust and spark plugs were sooty as hell.  Very quickly I learned how not to tune a carb…

While troubleshooting this issue I discovered that though my Mini is supposed to have a ballast ignition I had a coil that was for a non-ballast car.  It turns out that the when I ran out of fuel on the original drive home and my mate had to replace the coil this was likely the same issue!  I decided to order a new coil and electronic ignition to make sure I had a kit that matched and cracked on, this was about a year and a half ago.  I swapped them out without issue but despite my best efforts I have never got the sod to fire though I’ve learned a hell of a lot about how the engine works by understanding why it isn’t.

broken down
A couple of hours after collecting him, parked on a curb outside a petrol station having run out of fuel due to traffic…

A New Plan

I went to EMF earlier this year and it was an unbelievable experience!  I could waffle for hours about how awesome it was, and I’ve been known to do so, but one of the last talks I saw got me thinking.  Engines are a bit of a dark art but the dark arts I know are computers and electronics…

Classic car, check.  Modernising the crap out of it, check.  Back to the Future reference, check.  Guess what happens next?

I’ve had a look into it and Specialist Components have been building kits for the Mini for a while now that give electronic fuel injection and apparently it makes the car a lot more reliable, smoother to drive, more power and better efficiency too.  Oh, also an auto-choke and a CAN bus interface for my digital dashboard!

From the rest of what I’ve learned in the work I’ve done so far I’m confident of getting this fitted and working and it’ll give me a big bit of knowledge to keep Hugo running for years to come too.  I’m trying not to think about the twin cam upgrade ST do either but pretty sure that may be added to the list for big upgrades in the future along with the five speed gear box.  Expensive but pretty much the ultimate upgrades I can do while keeping the original engine block.

So far this week I’ve done a load of work in the garage to get it tidy enough to work in and I’m going to start work on this in earnest later this week.  Alongside the engine mods I need to fit an MPI fuel tank as mine doesn’t have a fuel pump, to support that a pair of new fuel lines and wiring for the fuel pump.  Times like this I realise how much I’ve learned that I’m happy to tackle this rather than running scared!  Pride before a fall and all that but fingers crossed.

CAN Bus Project

I mentioned Project Hugo in the site update a while back and an idea I’ve been toying with is implementing a CAN bus for my 22 year old car, a Mini Thirty.  I say I’ve been toying with the idea, one of my friends at the pub starting talking about the advantages of CAN bus and after that I couldn’t resist!

In the Mini and most classic cars there is a “simple” wiring loom that uses simple techniques to get the job done.  For example, for the headlights and rear lights there is a switch on the indicator stalk that connects to a relay, this relay has a connection to the battery and to the lights.  Simple, does the trick but as every light and device has a couple of wires each the loom soon becomes complex, a bugger to wire, troubleshoot and if nothing else heavy!

The idea behind CAN bus is that each component of the car is networked and listens on a single bus and has a power feed.  This means that you only have to run a ring of cables around the car that each component connects to rather than having separate wires for each component.  There is a diagram on the following site that explains it quite nicely;

(Not an endorsement of the product, just a handy diagram.)

With regards to developing a CAN bus I purchase a dev kit which appropriately comes in a can!  It’s the Stallaris LM3S2965 and was about £55 from Farnell.  I’m still getting to grips with it and to be honest I haven’t managed “Hello World” yet.  As awesome as the .NET Gadgeteer, Netduino and Arduino undoubtedly are it’s always good to be reminded of that fact.  This project will include a steep learning curve but will be well worth it in the end.

For those wondering why I’m going to this much effort the answer is simple;  Why not?

It’s going to be a slog but the result is a wonderful little car with 1950’s styling, a modern Honda engine and massively updated everything.  It’ll allow me to integrate a modern car alarm very easily, I’ll be able to connect to a PC for diagnostics and control the components of the car programmatically too.  For example, if I want to have the side repeaters switch on in a constant mode with the headlights to act as running lights I can, same goes for the fog lights switching on with the main beam.  The beauty is that this behaviour would be switchable on the fly and I’d be able to add other behaviours too such as a rain sensor to activate the windscreen wipers and light sensors to switch on the headlights too.

This is without a doubt shaping up as the biggest project I’ve taken on so far but should be well worth it in the end.  More posts as it happens.