One day all cruise controls will use radar

Posted on June 20th, 2004 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

It’s now a few years since we drove the Alfa 166 – a car that, overall, left us unimpressed. The resulting road test was cutting and the Alfa Romeo distributor in Australia, er, liked it so much that since they read it we haven’t received an Alfa (or Citroen, or Kia – they’re all imported into Australia by the same company) for road testing.

But there was one aspect of the 166 that I was enormously impressed by. What was that, you ask? The navigation system. The VDO Dayton system was the first in-car navigation system that I had experienced and its capability blew me away. No more struggling with a street directory – if in fact you even had the right book in the car in the first place. No more trying to orientate yourself in unfamiliar surroundings. No more swerves when turn-offs were sighted at the last minute. And it worked just as well in the dark as daylight.

In fact I thought the nav system so good that when I moved interstate, one of the first things I bought was a very similar VDO Dayton navigation system for my car… it was fitted to an Audi S4, then when I leased a Lexus LS400, I moved it across.

If you’re not familiar with in-car navigation you could assume from the discussions in the media and on web groups that it is pure wank – no-one, the argument goes, needs one. Unfortunately, that argument most often originates from those who actually have no need of a navigation system in the first place!

One media stunt springs to mind. A magazine decided to have a shootout between people in one car equipped with a street directory, and people in another car featuring nav. I can’t remember which car won the navigational race, but either way, it was a close thing. Therefore, went the story implication, why pay a heap of dollars for a navigation system when you can instead use a $35 book?

An intercooler fan powered by turbo boost?

Posted on June 6th, 2004 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

Some months ago in Fan-Forcing Your Intercooler, Part 1 we covered the fitting of an intercooler fan – a device that forces air through the intercooler either when it is getting over-heated or when the car is moving slowly and so there is little outside air being pushed through it. It’s an especially effective approach for underbonnet intercoolers.

Making that particular design even better was the use of a very powerful centrifugal blower. The blower – salvaged from the tip – was a VW/Audi cabin ventilation fan from a Kombi. And it sure moved a helluva lot of air!

Unfortunately, despite my disassembling the motor and greasing the (plain) bearings before it was put into service, after a few months of hard work the blower failed. Delving inside it (again!) showed that the top bearing was completely stuffed – not only was the bearing surface badly worn, but the shaft was also pitted and scarred. Given the rubbish tip origin of the blower, perhaps it was already well on the way out – although I don’t remember there being much of a problem the first time I looked inside it.

Anyway, this particular unit needed to be retired. Or the electric motor part of it did, anyway. That thought prompted another – could I retain the compact centrifugal blower and its associated housing, but use a new electric motor? I tried a few different ones but none had the power of the original – not surprising, when that bugger drew no less than 15.5 amps!

But did the motive force even have to come from an electric motor? What about instead using another fan on the other end of a common shaft, and driving this second fan with a nozzle connected to a turbo boost source? Kind of like a mini turbo but using a bleed of boost off the plenum and spinning a fan that pulled air through the intercooler? Such a system would need no maintenance or control, and would increase in speed as boost also went up. The downside would be that it wouldn’t operate when the car was off-boost (say stopped at the traffic lights), but that was possibly not too great a downer, particularly if when on the boost the thing worked like a Trojan.