BLACK BOX SCARE TAC­TICS EXPOSED!

Brit ex­perts re­veal Euro scare­mon­ger­ing over ECU threat to mod­ern clas­sics

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Front Page -

The Fédéra­tion In­ter­na­tionale

des Véhicules An­ciens (FIVA) has been ac­cused of us­ing scare­mon­ger­ing tac­tics af­ter ex­perts have con­firmed that there is not an up­com­ing elec­tron­ics cri­sis that could bring clas­sics to a halt.

Some crit­ics sug­gest that FIVA’s latest call to arms about elec­tronic com­po­nents was de­signed to cre­ate a dis­trac­tion from its un­pop­u­lar state­ment that cars had to be ‘at least 30 years old’ to be classed as ‘his­toric ve­hi­cles’ ( CCW, 2 March).

In a re­port re­leased last month, FIVA re­vealed that it was anx­ious about the fu­ture of our hobby and in­sisted we needed to act now to pre­serve car elec­tron­ics in the fu­ture.

FIVA cited mi­crochip tech­nol­ogy ex­perts, but clas­sic car restora­tion au­thor­i­ties in­clud­ing Fuzz Town­shend are keen to play down FIVA’s out­burst.

FIVA has been ac­cused of us­ing scare­mon­ger­ing tac­tics af­ter ex­perts have con­firmed that there is not an up­com­ing elec­tron­ics cri­sis that could kill clas­sics.

In a state­ment re­leased last month, the Fédéra­tion In­ter­na­tionale des Véhicules An­ciens (FIVA – the Euro­pean um­brella or­gan­i­sa­tion of his­toric ve­hi­cle clubs) re­vealed that it was anx­ious about the fu­ture of our hobby and in­sisted we needed to act now to pre­serve car elec­tron­ics.

Some crit­ics sug­gest that FIVA’s latest out­burst was de­signed to cre­ate a dis­trac­tion from its un­pop­u­lar state­ment that cars had to be ‘at least 30 years old’ to be classed as ‘his­toric ve­hi­cles’ ( CCW, 2 March).

FIVA cited mi­crochip tech­nol­ogy ex­pert Stephen Joest, who claimed: ‘Around 50% of 40-plus-year-old ECUs are “dead on ar­rival” – not in work­ing or­der when in­stalled freshly out of the box. The older the elec­tronic unit, the harder it will be to find re­place­ment units that still work.’

Clas­sic car restora­tion author­ity Fuzz Town­shend is keen to play down FIVA’s sen­ti­ments. He says: ‘If your car’s seat needs an ECU, you de­serve to have it fail. In­so­far as older en­gine and fu­elling ECUs are con­cerned, I would re­place such units fea­tur­ing ‘Speak and Spell’ tech­nol­ogy, with mod­ern, pro­gram­mable equip­ment.

‘If there is a de­mand for other pro­gram­mable con­trol units, able to serve a num­ber of func­tions, per­haps now is the time for de­mand to be sup­plied.’

We also spoke to Cal Fairey of RRR En­gi­neer­ing, an ex­pert in ECU remap­ping and cre­at­ing new stand­alone ECUs. Cal feels that there’s no cause for con­cern about ECU fail­ure. ‘We don’t see a prob­lem with dig­i­tal age­ing – it’s pos­si­ble to repli­cate and oc­ca­sion­ally im­prove upon orig­i­nal ECUs us­ing new ones. We of­fer this ser­vice al­ready, and can even hide our new ECUs un­der the orig­i­nal cover to pre­serve orig­i­nal­ity un­der the bon­net.’

Cal also states that pre­serv­ing orig­i­nal ECU cod­ing for the fu­ture would be fruit­less. ‘Most ECUs are coded dif­fer­ently, which means that un­less you’re putting the map back onto an iden­ti­cal ECU it won’t work. It’s eas­ier and cheaper to cre­ate a new map for a re­place­ment ECU – and when we have the map avail­able fol­low­ing the first ex­am­ple of each car we do, we’ll be able to sup­ply ECUs as plug and play items. They’re all fu­ture-proof, soft­ware is con­stantly up­dated and we can email up­dates. All they do is plug the ECU into a lap­top via USB and update.’

De­spite this, FIVA is urg­ing us to act now and re­trieve and store data from func­tion­ing ECUs to en­sure that we will be able to en­joy our mod­ern clas­sics in years to come. Bosch has claimed it will work with mo­tor man­u­fac­tur­ers to de­velop so­lu­tions on a longer term ba­sis, but what op­tions are open to those with ECU equipped cars now?

We asked the Fed­er­a­tion of His­toric Ve­hi­cle Clubs. Com­mu­ni­ca­tions director Ge­off Lan­caster says: ‘We wel­come FIVA’s in­volve­ment – it’s well-re­searched and con­sid­ered, and we think this is ex­actly the sort of cam­paign they should be do­ing. We’re go­ing to watch it in­ter­na­tion­ally and li­aise to find out how we can con­trib­ute at a na­tional level.

‘If we don’t do that and make pro­vi­sions for the fu­ture then the fu­ture of the preservation of his­toric ve­hi­cles cer­tainly ap­pears bleak.’

Gra­ham Bar­ber of Citroën CX and XM spe­cial­ist Wolsey House Mo­tors feels that long term ECU dam­age could po­ten­tially crip­ple gen­er­a­tions of clas­sic cars.

‘There’s cer­tainly a prob­lem, and I’m not en­tirely sure how we’re go­ing to avoid dif­fi­cul­ties if in years to come even new old stock items turn out to be cor­rupt. I’d ad­vise both own­ers to start stock­pil­ing elec­tronic parts now – it’s not a guar­an­tee but it will give 1980s and 1990s cars a stronger chance of sur­vival if the parts are kept as spares.’

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