We’ve reached the point in the Vega Resurrection that it’s all on Chris and me. The chassis work is done. It’s powdercoated. Shawn Johnston and the crew at T2G Customs knocked the body and paint work out of the park. McIlvain Race Cars completed the carbon interior. At this point it’s really just a matter of bolting it all together, stringing some wire, plumbing, and finish work. And ultimately, that’s all on us. Sounds simple and easy, right? In fairness, just about everything we need is in the shop – I’ve been assembling parts and pieces since we first started the tear down. The only problem is: there are a lot of pieces to bolt on. And A LOT of wire to string! So we’ll start there…
Beginning with my father’s altered that I wired when I was 13 years old, I’ve personally wired (and for the most part assembled) every race car I’ve ever owned or driven with frequency for the last 25 years. I actually enjoy the wiring process (no one ever accused me of being normal). At this point, I admittedly outsource or delegate just about everything – so why on earth do I subject myself to the time and tediousness of wiring a race car? It’s a good question. I have two answers. For one, while I know that there are a lot of quality professionals out there, I think I do a pretty good job – and as I said, I LIKE doing it. More importantly, I love the fact that if I have an issue at the race track on a car that I’ve wired, I know where everything is. I understand how it all works. I know where the wires run, and typically can quickly remember the color of the appropriate wires and where they go. Let’s face it; when we have at track issues, it’s rare that we’ve got all day to figure them out. At least, that’s how it seems to always work for me. I don’t blow a water pump fuse in the process of losing in round 3 (where I’d have a week to diagnose it). Instead, I blow a water pump fuse during the quarterfinal round, which I won… Double entered… When they’re yelling for me to get back to the lanes before they run without me! In those instances, I find it very helpful to have a solid understanding of everything on the car – and there’s no better way to do that than to wire/assemble it myself!
The Brain (and the Guts):
As I begin to discuss and justify specific parts purchase decisions, I’ll start with the most core components first, then list some of the options I’ve chosen to add later. Like literally every car that I’ve wired for the past 15+ years, I started with the Super Duty Switch Panel and wiring kit from K&R Performance Engineering. I’m a big fan of everything K&R: my very first delay box was a Meziere 3-digit that I bought at a swap meet in my early teens. My next was the original K&R Gold Box, and I’ve used K&R products exclusively ever since! Their switch panel is really user friendly and makes the wiring process incredibly simple. It comes with all of the pre-labeled wire for the basics and a really handy wiring diagram that simplifies planning dramatically (even on a pretty complex wiring job, like this Vega will end up being). Most importantly, in 15+ years of using this product, I’ve not experienced a single failure related to the K&R switch panel or fuse board. It’s good stuff!
As for the ignition system, I was somewhat conflicted as to which direction to go. I’m not as tech savvy as you might assume, and I really value the simplicity of the older analog MSD boxes. I ran a 7AL-3 for years and years before finally switching to a Grid in my last Charlie Stewart Race Cars Corvette. I was really hesitant to make the switch to the Grid then, because – to be completely honest – it intimidated me. Once I made the switch however, I can admit that the Grid has some very convenient features. For one, I like not having to keep up with “chips” (for rpm or timing retard). I’m not personally a fan of ramping or altering timing down track with any bracket combination (particularly a mid-6-second door car), but I will say that I really enjoy being able to easily alter base timing simply by plugging in the laptop. If/when I want to take this car from 38* to 40*, the Grid allows me to do so without adjusting the distributor, or the crank trigger. In fact, I don’t even get the timing light out anymore. (Note: that took me a few years. I would change the timing in the computer… Then I’d put the light on it to double check it – in case, you know, it didn’t do what I told it to do! Yea, I’ve gotten comfortable enough with it that I don’t have to do that anymore).
Additionally, this is going to sound crazy, but when I began to test that last Corvette (my first car with the Grid) it literally SOUNDED like it had more spark under load. I have no idea how to quantify or justify that thought, but I’ve driven down the track for a long time: I feel like I could tell a difference (and, at least in my mind, more spark HAS to be better).
So, long story made longer, I opted to go with the Grid. Admittedly, part of my decision was uniformity: both of our dragsters have Grids, and it’s simpler to keep one spare in the trailer that would work for any of the cars in the shop.
In the photos, you’ll see some of the add-ons we incorporated in this build. To some it may seem like overkill, but if you know me at all (Mr. Analytical), I’ve put a lot of thought into what components will bolt to my beloved Vega and why. A few things that we’ll add in (you’ll see several of these or reference to them in the photos):
Nitrous: I’ll be utilizing the same NX Nitrous system that was previously on the Vega. They call it the Gemini Twin Power Pro. It’s adjustable from 100 (nah) to 500 (that’s what I’m talking about) HP. Why so much “MO”? I explained my reasoning in one of our product demo videos on the Luke Bogacki Motorsports page if you’re interested.
Data Logger: Much like the Grid, I initially resisted spending the money on data acquisition. When it became apparent that I needed more information on our NHRA Super Class cars about a decade ago, I gave in. What I’ve learned since has been monumental. Data Acquisition teaches me so much about my combination that I’d probably NEVER figure out without it. At the very least, I’d say that the use of data acquisition speeds up my learning curve significantly – specifically on a new combination or when I have a problem. The easiest way to explain it? I can diagnose and cure a problem or inconsistency – an issue that may have taken me 20+ runs of trial and error without data acquisition – within 2-3 passes. That holds a ton of value for me.
For this build, I went with the Auto Meter LCD dash. Admittedly, this could be considered overkill: it’s literally the cat-daddy of all data acquisition systems. I could have opted for the Ultimate DL; which is a much more cost effective option and honestly records the functions I pay the most attention to: Engine RPM, Driveshaft RPM, G-meters, and 02, plus one user-defined pressure channel. I’ve become a bit of a data zealot (IE, data snob). I went with the LCD to allow myself options to record a ton more channels (this car will have shock travel sensors, multiple pressure sensors, and more). Similar to the grid, I like the uniformity aspect (our other cars have the LCD – which I think is much more justifiable in Super Class competition, because there are typically so many more variables present). Plus, let’s be honest, it looks cool as hell!
MSD Launch Controller:
I view my Vega as a bit of a Swiss Army Knife: I intend to use it for a little of everything (top bulb brackets, bottom bulb brackets, heads up races, maybe even a little NHRA Super Street). I know there are a variety of ways to adjust reaction time on the bottom bulb, but I’ve always been most comfortable altering the launch RPM. I like having the freedom to make last minute changes (IE, when I’m pre-staged). With my previous analog ignition boxes, I accomplished this with this handy adjuster from Fastronix. With the grid, I had to switch to this unit from MSD. Now for the trick: I think I’ve come up with a way to wire this so that I can use the module to adjust my bottom bulb launch rpm when I unplug the delay box – but to automatically revert back to a preset launch RPM whenever I plug the delay box back in. This way, I can leave at, say 4200 anytime I have the box in, and then adjust my launch RPM between, say 2800-3600 for bottom bulb racing (and not have to remember to switch it back and forth whenever I’m running both classes at the same event). Pretty slick, huh? How to do it is a little bit in the weeds, but if you’re interested let me know; I can outline it in a future blog entry.
K&R Twin Dial Boards:
I’ve caught enough hell from the masses about using shoe polish for the dial-in on my dragsters for the past 8+ years. I’m giving in and getting dial boards! For the job, I stuck went with K&R Twin dial boards. While the K&R Pro-Cube delay box comes with fiber optic dial-board outputs (to insure that the dial in you have in the delay box is the dial in displayed on the car), I opted to go with a separate controller box. I did this again, because I intend to run Footbrake and No Box events as well, where the delay box will not be in the car.
In addition, we added several other knick-knacks for various reasons. I run a Jones transmission pump to circulate fluid between rounds (helps when I’m entered in multiple classes). Of course, we built in working headlights and tail lights. We’re re-installed the factory dome light. And we even added a bumpin’ stereo (why not?). More details on all of this to come.
Where to begin:
As I said above, I’ve wired a bunch of race cars. The truth is, there’s no specific place to start (at least in my mind), but you’ve got to start somewhere! I actually started this process while the car itself was at several of its many stops before coming back to the shop. As a result, I did as much wiring as I could outside the car. We mounted the Grid, the K&R Fuse Panel, the adjuster for the 02 sensors, the junction block for the Grid, and a trio of Fastronix continuous duty relays (they’ll control the high-load electrical items: throttle stop, nitrous, and shift solenoid) to the removable kick panel that mounts at the front of the passenger door. We just bolted this complete setup in the car, and I’ll wire out from there. I’m actually detailing my wiring process and how I go about it in a series of trainings upcoming within ThisIsBracketRacing ELITE, so members of our premier community can look forward to that!
That’s all for now. I’ll continue to detail the wiring and assembly process over the next few months. We’ll also have the motor back soon, so I’ll have plenty to share there as well!