BLACK BOX SCARE TACTICS EXPOSED!
Brit experts reveal Euro scaremongering over ECU threat to modern classics
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.’