FORCE

When Nail Bryce couldn't find parts of his car, he de­cided to make his own. lit­tle did he re­al­ize how many other car own­ers he'd end up help­ing out! WORDS: TODD WYLIE PHO­TOS: TODD WYLIE SUP­PLIED

NZV8 - - MEGUIAR'S MOTRE -

Any­one who’s ever built or se­ri­ously mod­i­fied a car will, at times, have thought to them­selves, I wish there was a prod­uct that … Well, Neill Bryce, an elec­tron­ics en­gi­neer by trade, had ex­actly that thought — ex­cept that, rather than re­main frus­trated, he de­cided to do some­thing about it. A self-con­fessed car-build­ing rookie, Neill set about build­ing a Mad Max Main Force Pa­trol In­ter­cep­tor clone back in 2007 — no, not the black two-door coupe; the yel­low and blue sedan vari­ant. While the orig­i­nals used in the movies were XBs, Neill’s was, and still is, an XC. Al­though that meant it’d never be 100-per-cent movie ac­cu­rate, he was happy none­the­less. Not even hav­ing a tool­kit at the time, Neill de­cided that the best way to get what he wanted would be to buy some­one else’s un­fin­ished project. That way, in the­ory, some­one else would have spent the money and done some of the hard work. Sadly, the seller saw him coming and what Neill got wasn’t as com­pleted as he’d hoped. Un­de­terred, he set about a re­build of mam­moth pro­por­tions — a re­build that’s still some years from com­ple­tion. With his elec­tron­ics back­ground, there was one as­pect of the build Neill could look af­ter him­self — the elec­tri­cal side of things. But a quick look at the gauge clus­ter soon showed him that the task would be more com­plex than he’d hoped. The ve­hi­cle’s clus­ter re­lies on a thin plas­tic printed cir­cuit board, which, by this stage, was more than 40 years old, so many of its func­tions weren’t work­ing as they should. The rea­son was ob­vi­ous to Neill: the volt­age-con­duct­ing cop­per was de­lam­i­nat­ing from the plas­tic back­ing, and de­te­ri­o­rat­ing to boot. With the cop­per so thin and the plas­tic easy to melt, there’s no easy way to make re­li­able re­pairs to com­po­nents such as this, so Neill set about look­ing for an al­ter­na­tive. When none came up, he knew that he had only one op­tion — to build his own from scratch. The process started with Neil scan­ning the orig­i­nal item and dig­i­tally trac­ing it. While spe­cific pro­grams have been de­vel­oped to do this for tra­di­tional elec­tronic com­po­nents that uti­lize a hard cir­cuit board, in this in­stance, with the goal be­ing to build a com­po­nent that looked iden­ti­cal to an ex­ist­ing one, Corel Draw was used.

Dur­ing the many hours this task con­sumed, Neill be­gan to re­search the next step, which was to find a com­pany that would be able to print the fin­ished prod­ucts. Hav­ing pre­vi­ously been burnt by over­seas sup­pli­ers, his fo­cus was solely on the New Zealand mar­ket. Neill soon came across the only com­pany that could pro­duce such a large flex­i­ble printed cir­cuit board — Auckland-based busi­ness Cir­cuit Labs. Hav­ing told fel­low mem­bers of a Ford fo­rum to which he be­longs what he was up to, Neill soon had price en­quiries from both New Zealand and Aus­tralian car own­ers with the iden­ti­cal prob­lem. Not hav­ing thought about selling the cir­cuit boards, and cer­tainly never think­ing of making money from them, Neill soon found he had spawned a crowd-fund­ing scheme, whereby in­ter­ested pur­chasers pre-or­dered. Soon, the first run of 10 XC clus­ter boards was be­ing printed. One can only imag­ine how stoked Neill was to get his first batch back, but what sep­a­rates him from many others out there is that he was equally happy to be get­ting those who’d pur­chased them their prod­ucts. This is the driv­ing force for him: help­ing out other car guys with an is­sue to which there’s no al­ter­na­tive so­lu­tion. Selling the com­po­nents for around $160, Neill knows he’s not making money, but that was never the aim. Once word spread of the high-qual­ity parts Neill had built, more or­ders came flood­ing in, along with re­quests for as­sorted com­po­nents for other ve­hi­cles. Happy to oblige, Neill soon had clus­ters be­ing lent to him from across Aus­trala­sia so that he could start the process all over again. He’s now pro­vided so­lu­tions for var­i­ous mod­els of Fal­con and the Holden HK. For­tu­nately, the de­vel­op­ment time th­ese days is a lot less than the 60 hours it took Neill to do the first ones, and he says that it’s now be­come a sat­is­fy­ing thing to do. To date, there are more than 160 grate­ful cus­tomers out there, most of who are in Aus­tralia, where he sells the prod­ucts via eBay and Ford fo­rums. As more peo­ple come to Neill with prob­lems with their orig­i­nal equip­ment, he’ll con­tinue to de­velop so­lu­tions — and not just elec­tronic ones, as he’s re­cently cre­ated a very dif­fer­ent prod­uct. That prod­uct is a brake com­po­nent for — you guessed it — XC Fal­cons. Again, the com­po­nent was cre­ated for his own use and be­came in­stantly pop­u­lar with those suf­fer­ing from sim­i­lar prob­lems. Of course, due to the pop­u­lar­ity of his prod­ucts, Neill had to come up with a brand name; none was more ap­pro­pri­ate than Main Force Prod­ucts, a name that’s now etched into each com­po­nent he pro­duces and a great re­minder to others of why Neill cre­ated the items to start with.

the du­pli­cates pro­duced by Neill of­ten fit bet­ter than the gen­uine items did — in ad­di­tion, they do not have the dis­crep­an­cies that are found with the orig­i­nals. While most of Neill’s de­signs are per­fect the first time around, the item he made for a P6 LTD required mi­nor tweak­ing be­cause the way in which the ma­te­rial curves around the clus­ter is hard to ac­count for on a 2D de­sign. Once Neill is happy with a routed mech sam­ple, the job of print­ing be­gins. A fi­bre­glass sub­strate cop­per sheet is drilled with any holes required be­fore un­der­go­ing what’s called ‘pho­tore­sist lam­i­na­tion’. In this process, the ex­tremely thin sheet — the fin­ished prod­uct is only .15mm — is in­serted into a spe­cial­ist prin­ter that uses laser to print di­rectly onto the metal, the printed area of which will later be­come the only part of the cop­per to stay. Once printed, the whole sheet is dropped into a spe­cial de­vel­op­ing bath to cure be­fore be­ing etched. Dur­ing the etch­ing process, the cop­per that is not required — not cured — is eaten away to leave just what is needed to con­duct the elec­tri­cal cur­rents once the com­po­nent is fin­ished. The next step — known as ‘me­chan­i­cal brush­ing’ — is when the surface is pol­ished. From there,

COP­PER THAT IS NOT REQUIRED ... IS EATEN AWAY TO LEAVE JUST WHAT IS NEEDED TO CON­DUCT THE ELEC­TRI­CAL CUR­RENTS

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