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The Computer Code Epiphany

By now you know that the technology content of vehicles has always interested us, starting with transistors, and moving to black boxes.

Perhaps its the fact that The Colonel decades ago built a capacitive discharge ignition system from scratch, and at the time realized that technology made an appreciable contribution.

We could keep on going, but you surely grasp the overall picture.

Let's rewind for a moment...

  • Way back in the day of mechanical vehicles, you knew the specs on a camshaft, you could alter the advance curve on a distributor, rejet a carburator to name a few.
  • You could alos tweak the oil pressure in an automatic transmission, adjust the kick down linkage, again to name a few more details.
  • In the early days of computer programming you wrote your own code, used a flow chart, and transferred the code to punch cards to program the computer.

If you were a hard core "gear head" you knew exactly what was going on with your vehicle, and could tweak, and alter a myriad of parameters. There was a fun factor attached to the exercise.

You perhaps even remember Don Garlits during the days of Saturday night drag match races mention that he finally bumped the advance on his nitro Hemi to some obscene amount and dramatically improved the performance. While deeply fearing that he would grenade his motor.

While reading various comments and opinions on the VW debacle...

It struck us that in 2015 we have absolutely no clue of what is going on with the engine, transmission, and most of the technology (ABS, traction control) in any vehicle...think about this for a moment.

The programs, computer code are closely guarded proprietary information...think of this for a moment. All manufacturers are totally reluctant in sharing the code for the programs, or even how they arrived or developed the code.

Here is a modern vehicle controlled by millions of lines of code in the various programs, and we are clueless as to how this code was derived, the thinking, the rational behind it....agreed its a Wow moment.

Simple example...

Way back in the day a 327 with a Duntov cam, you had the specs for the cam, you ran a roller timing chain, tweaked the advance curve, the jets in the carbureter, to optimise the performance of the engine above 3,000 RPM. Keep in mind that you still need gas to make horsepower, and the more power you want to make the more gas you need.

Today do we know what goes on when an engine gets on the cam or the turbo?

Do we know how this engine is tuned/adjusted to meet emission standards?

Do we know when an engine "opens up" to generate the massive amounts of power some of these engines develop?

A couple of months ago we had a Camaro SS for a few days. The 6.2 small block once it opened up would slam itself against the rev limiter in a nano second, if you paddled a shift a nano second too late. At lower RPM's that engine gave no indication of how aggressive it is once it got on the cam and opened up.

You can speculate that with variable cam timing its retarded at lower RPM's for a multitude of reasons, and its probably also retarded at highway cruising speeds. Once it gets on the cam, how far is the camshaft advanced, the timing, what is the delay between paddling a shift on the automatic and actually shifting.

The other side, is the folks at Chevrolet being very discreet, and activating an aggressive rev limiter to safe guard the engine. A rev limiter is a fool proof to keep the code / software locked.

Which begs the question "What would Smokey Yunick have done?"