I was reading TJ13’s blog the other day, there is a question over the new Caterham exhaust which has a gas guide vane in exit channel after the exhaust pipe itself ends. However in order to test the legality of this it will require careful measurement to establish whether it lies inside or outside the invisible cone which must be clear of bodywork from the very end of the pipe up to the rear wheel centreline. The easiest way to measure this (in this case) is to use a template/gauge. The ID of the exhaust pipe is probably the maximum allowed, so a template having a straight section of say 74.5mm width and 100mm length should fit into the pipe, then the cone can be added on the same axis. If I were doing the job I would probably use a flat template in 2 or 3 pieces. A straight-edge can be laid on the cone part in order to establish interference at greater distance.
However what this actually brought to mind was my early days at Pioneer, when on only my second day I was told I would be at a meeting with Alfa Romeo at Ambrosetti to discuss the installation of our (Pioneer) head units (radios/cassette combination units though Pioneer always called them “Stereos”) in all Alfa Cars imported to the UK. They would be installed at the import centre of Ambrosetti at Richborough opposite and just a few yards up the road from the power station, which had huge cooling towers. (demolished last year I think) Also about half a mile south of Pegwell Bay where the Hovercraft used to roam and was, maybe still is, home to a colourful Viking ship. Also not far from Sandwich. (nor from The Huntsman pub, Whisky and lemonade for Gordon, Perrier for Murdo and a pint for me, yes it was that long ago, when one could still have a drink at lunchtime, in fact it was quite normal if with customers)
I should set the background to this as follows:
This was a time when car radio was an optional extra when you bought a new car, but some manufacturers were starting to include a car radio/stereo in the car spec as standard or as a standard option. Around 80% of head units sold were as part of the car sale or within one month of car purchase.
Car radio/stereo was the highest value accessory the car dealer sold, and was a major profit source when margins on cars were very tight, indeed most only made any money on the car if it was a large or top end one, apart from that it was what was called “dealer support” than kept many going. So having it already fitted in fact robbed many dealers of a good income, BMW dealers in particular.
The regulations governing what could be fitted in a car differed according to whether it was OEM or aftermarket. This came down to whether it was part of the car spec (requiring Type Approval) or not. (Aftermarket came under “construction and use” regs, very rarely tested, though in theory any car on the road can be stopped and checked) In this case it meant that our head units, which were known for their flashy chrome knobs and levers, suddenly had to pass homologation including the internal protrusion regulations, something very far from the mind of their designer in Japan.
I cannot claim to remember the detail of the internal protrusion regulations but in general they specified that things in the car which could be contacted by either a “kneeform” or a 100mm dia ball must not be sharp. ie It must have minimum contactable radius. If contactable by the headform and having a protrusion of over 3m (I think) then in addition it had to be of a minimum cross-section and remain of said cross-section on application of a load.
The dashboard, where in each car the head unit was to be mounted, fell in the “headform” contactable area and was thus to be assessed using a “headform” To my knowledge at that time the DOT who carried out the tests did not possess a headform, in fact there were only two in the country, both owned by major motor manufacturers.
With more than a nod to the general panic of Italian organisation that I came to have an affection for in later years, the cars had to be homologated by a date only 4 working days away. These dates are usually dreamed up by sales or promotional people who neither know nor care about the amount of work necessary to get things done. Fortunately there used to be a brotherhood of sufferance amongst technical/practical people in the industry, thus under the auspices of this it was made possible that I arrived in the car park of the DOT at Bristol one grey Monday morning with a cardboard cutout of a headform.
[A head form was a 165MM dia ball. pierced by a 50mm dia displaceable cylinder having its axis at right angles to a tangent of its nominated front face. this provided a calibrated measurable displacement when applied to the item to be assessed. In normal tests the headform would be anchored to the frame representing a skeleton and fixed to the car at the hips or “H”points. ]
I also had my tools and the head units, but the problem was that the Pioneer units in those days were intended for aftermarket only and designed to be as flashy and gauche as possible resulting in a nightmare of chrome and sharp edges. So I did the only thing possible and installed the head units recessed a good 10mm further back than normal so that the headform did not touch them at all, however one applied it.
Thus the “We claim compliance….” got stamped “approved” by a bemused DOT engineer who commented that the compliance was very much to the letter rather than the spirit of the regulations.
Thus as it is in F1, it is all in how you write the regs that decides how easy it is to circumvent them. Though in later years, as head units became fitted as OEM, the knobs and buttons all got flatter and wider and designed to shear off under impact. (At least for those who were OEM oriented, Pioneer lagged behind for a long time)
I tried to check the old internal protrusion regs as I wrote this but all I could find was a modern document that has been “EUised” it is here in case anyone is feeling obsessive, I have not checked how much it differs from what we used 30 odd years ago. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:31974L0060:EN:HTML
I am happy to note that Ambrosetti is still there on the same site, (though with different owners) still in the same business of PDI and rectification, but part of a much larger group. http://www.ambrosetti.co.uk/services.php
I wonder if they could still do the job they did back all those years ago on all the old Alfas, PDI, Rectification, special paint, badges etc. Underseal with grillaguard or whatever the nasty black gunge was called (the guys had a less than complimentary name for it) fitting head units, loudspeakers, grilles and antennas all from scratch, wiring it all up, there was no radio prep in those days. (yes we drilled metal then too and we had cars still in wax!)
Looking back now they did a huge job very well, though at the time 30 years ago there was no other option.
I used to go down to Ambrosetti once a month and do a quality check on the installations in the car park of several hundred cars, (hence the reason I have a high vis jacket that still sits in my car.) the guys all worked in pairs and left their initials on the job cards in each car. I used to produce a results table identifying Type, chassis nr, each part of the job (which would be annotated with any fault) and the team initials, then pin it on the workshop notice board. There was some ribbing of each other but all taken in good heart. Cars with faults had to be rectified by the guys that made the error. (I think they were paid per car then so it cost them to make mistakes) Very rarely did anyone need re-training or bitch about being found at fault. One thing I found was that in most of the import centres where we had units being fitted, with either a colleague or myself having done the initial training, the guys doing the job always found better or faster ways of doing it. (and maintaining quality) There is always a huge amount of ingenuity, knowledge and talent on the shop floor which goes largely unrecognised and unrewarded. I learned a lot of respect for the guys doing those jobs, they were there often because that’s all the work there was around, but they made the most of it. Though initially, I may have shown them what to do, there is no way I could have done it myself, all day, all week, all month. So if any guys who worked at Ambrosetti Richborough, fitting Pioneer stereos into Alfas 30 years ago should read this, I salute you.