Dash, gages, data collection…

I’ve been thinking about how I want to setup the instruments.  I don’t want to go all-out right off, but I also don’t want to re-buy things by buying parts that are going to be obsoleted by future upgrades.  My primary need now is simply to get the car on the track.  I can use the stock instruments since in the ‘92 all the gages are truly analog gages (not indicators).  Eventually, though I want to replace these with good Auto-meter gages.  Next I want to get a predictive lap timer, and finally a data acquisition system.  I thought about the stand-alone lap timer….but, that is $300-$400 that will be obsoleted by a data-acq system…that’s 1/3rd the cost or so.  Since everything kind of stems from the final Data-Acq system…I figured I should start with selecting that.  I’ve looked at several, but it seems like there are three pimary systems that are in the amateur price range:

Traqmate

AiM (Mychron 3, MXL Pista)

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RacePak (G2X, etc)

My overall plan for the dash is to keep it simple.  I prefer to look at dial gages rather than digital. I build aircraft for a living, and there are a number of compromises associated with digital displays when the workload gets high.  Its harder to read a number than see a needle.  So, I really don’t want an all-in-one digital dash.  I don’t need to spend time looking for the water-temp NUMBER….or worse, freaking out because I confused it with oil pressure.

As a result, I like the traqmate over the AiM products.  In addition, traqmate has a GPS rather than pure-inertial solution for track mapping.  Neither approach is a deal-breaker/maker…but, it might break an otherwise tie.  The thing I don’t like about the traqmate is the limited expansion.  Initially, when I get the DAQ I’ll want it to help improve the driver.  That means monitoring my “line” and smoothness of control inputs.  Traqmate has an expansion to monitor 4 analog inputs.  So, I could monitor throttle, brake, and steering angle just fine.  But, you can’t add more than 4 inputs…so, in the future when I want to add some engine or suspension monitoring….I’ve got a hard problem to solve (based on today’s offereing).  Not really ideal.

The AiM products are much more expandable, having options for adding plenty of additional analogs.  But, here’s the thing.  Everything I’ve read suggests that the best real-time feedback is a predictive lap timer.  The MXL line does have this…but, the MyChron 3 line does not.  The MXL line is $2k+…more than I intend to spend on the base setup.  MyChron 3 is $1k, which is my limit…but, as I said doesn’t have predictive.  Further, all the AiM products have a large digitial dash.  Since, I’m not a fan of that kind of setup…again, AiM is less than ideal to me.

Then I discovered the RacePak G2X.  This system is a little more modular than either of the other two.  The DAQ module is a box that mounts somewhere convenient and out of the way.  Then there are several dash units (including a digital dash…which I don’t want).  They have a smaller dash unit that can display two selectable parameters from the DAQ unit.  The G2X has four direct analog inputs, as well as an expandable digital bus that can read another 12 inputs from any of the RacePak sensors I want.

So, I can start with just the DAQ (G2X) and its native predictive lap timer for just under $1k.  Then, later I can add throttle, brake, and steering angle.  And someday in the distant future I can monitor any 13 other inputs I want (engine parms, suspension positions, etc).

Regarding gages, the AutoMeter Ultra-lite gages all have a 0-5v output that varies linearly with the dial indication.  This prevents you from having to install two senders (one for the dash, and one for the DAQ).  Here’s the autometer 5” in-dash tach with memory:

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