MegaSquirt 3 Digital Dash

I am pleased to announce and introduce a little side project that I have been working on the past few months (years). The projects initial main focus is to create a HD digital dashboard for the MegaSquirt ECU, to be built using as much COTS (commercial off the shelf) hardware as possible. This means that hopefully with some conscious design planning it should be possible to produce copies fairly easily just by following some documentation and ordering a few bits of the Internet here and there (This is the plan at least, who knows how things will pan out). Theres no reason other ECUs can’t also be supported in the future, however thats the only aftermarket ECU I have at hand and since thats what I run in my cars.

Project Brief

Create a digital dashboard that respects the character and history of the original cluster gauge, whilst also providing access to additional metrics that are critical for any high performance or turbocharged engine.

And so after a bit of hard work this is what I have come up with for now..

Mk1 Escort Digital Dash
The original dash is on the left (front cover removed)

The dash features an 8 inch 1080P LCD display powered by a Raspberry Pi 2 (soon to be RPi 3) running a stripped down build of Linux to allow for fast booting. The dash communicates with the cars MS3 ECU via CAN bus and will include some additional power features that allow it to turn on/off safety via a switched ignition input.

The main motivation for having a digital dash is to take advantage of displaying all the extra sensor data the MS3 ECU utilises and accumulates. There are sensor outputs and ECU calculations that I would be interested in knowing whilst driving, but at the same time I don’t with to clutter the dash with additional gauges and dials as that would spoil the general aesthetics of the interior. Creating a digital dash in the same style as the original dials is a good compromise on having access to the data and not ignoring the originality of the car.

The development and install of the first dashboard will be a prototype version retrofitted into my Mk1 Escort. This type of instrumentation is something that I have wanted for many years, however it wasn’t until recently that I felt I had gained the right knowledge sets and courage to attempt such a project and not forgetting the funds to back. Believe me when I say this has been a long time in the works.

I will post more details on the project in the upcoming weeks but for now just wanted to give a glimpse into some of the more complicated long term projects I’m working on.

3D printing automotive connectors – Part 1

Spread out over the past few months I have been gradually reverse engineering the entire wiring diagram for my Mk1 Escort. This is for when I recreate some of loom to update and surpass Ford’s original specification in order to be more accommodating for my MS3 ECU and larger loads placed upon the cars electrics. In addition to having a more reliable and updated car, I personally benefit from the knowledge gained by having a good understanding of the attitude Ford engineers of the 70’s/80’s had with designed cars. My research has also led me to writing more of my own more in documentation which provides much greater detail than some of the existing diagrams and service manuals currently available.

Recently I have found myself modelling a few connectors I will need for upcoming project work on my Mk1. I believe most of the connectors are proprietary and were produced specifically by Ford, resulting in the connectors being decades out of production and cannot be sourced online easily (or cheaply).

This 12 pin round male connector connects the main 2/6 pod cluster gauges to the main loom inside the dash. Using a set of digital vernier callipers I measured and poked all over the original connectors to document the measurements as best I could. I then fired up Autodesk Fusion 360 for the first time and began modelling after watching a few YouTube videos showing basic parametric modelling techniques.
Being my first ever 3D CAD model and also my first time using Fusion 360, I was very pleased with the final model outcome.
Mk1 Escort connector render

It was 3D printed using white PLA plastic with 100% fill rate on a Ultimaker 2 3D printer. I understand PLA is not ideal material for automotive applications, so I will most likely reprint in ABS plastic when it comes to using the final part.

This was also one of my early 3D prints, and was my first time printing something I had directly modelled myself. The white part to the left is my 3D printed copy and the clear part on the right is the original.
Mk1 Escort dash connectors

The pins fit nice and snug on the copy as they do on the original piece.
Mk1 Escort dash connectors

My latest model is the 8 pin connector which pokes through the firewall for the main engine loom. I will probably have a go at printing this in flexible PLA filament, however I really do not think the material will be up to scratch coping with the harsh environment exposed in the engine bay (high temp, oil, moisture, extreme vibrations etc). So this model will most likely serve as a mould of some kind in order to allow use of a more suitable material (yet TBD).
Mk1 Escort engine loom connector render

I’ll keep posting updates as I continue to model and print new parts and pieces for my Mk1 Escort.

Crossflow Turbo Part 1 // Car History

Ford Escort Mk1
My 1974 Ford Escort Mk1 1.3 XL – Christmas day 2007.

Brief history

It gives me great pleasure when someone asks what car I drive, as my pride and joy happens to be a 1974 Ford Escort Mk1 in Daytona yellow.
I have owned the “Yellow Peril” since 2006. It was won at auction off eBay back when I was 16 from a nice chap in Birmingham. My dad was excited when he found out I wanted an old Ford as my first car, as he himself has been into them all his life. At least that was the case until he saw how expensive RWD Escorts had become over the years. That was the case at least until he saw how expensive RWD Escorts had become over the years. My mom, well she simply just wasn’t too keen on having another ‘banger’ on the drive.

As with most classic cars, when filling up at petrol stations you usually turn a few heads. More often than not you get chatting with the folk who come over to admire the car. These conversations 99% of the time go one of two ways. Either that; back in the day they themselves learn to drive in a Mk1 Escort (followed by a lot of reminiscing), or that there was once a time when you could go to any scrapyard and buy Mk1/Mk2 Escorts up for a penny a piece. If only RWD Escort owners of the late 80’s and 90’s knew how much of a cash cow their ‘old runarounds’ would become today, that they sure would of taken better care of them and held onto them for much longer than they did. That said, perhaps for future investments we should all be going out today and buying old Sierras and Mk1 Focus’s.

Ford Escort Mk1
Upgrades all complete, ready for the new year.

First car

It was my mom who first found the Escort listed on eBay. Back in late 2006, early one saturday morning I was suddenly awoken to the sound of my mobile ringing. I’d only managed to get in a few hours before and having crashed on my mates bedroom floor, I was still hungover as hell from a big night out. After scrambling round trying to find the phone, I answered, it was my mom. She had found a newly listed Mk1 on eBay that was local and that it looked in good condition. Me being me I just couldn’t wait to get home to arrange a viewing, that was until I found out the car was yellow.. After getting back home and reading the listing for myself, I reluctantly agreed to go view the car anyway as it was the only ‘complete’ Mk1 we had seen listed in a while that was within my price range.

So far, the Mk1 has steered me through college, undergrad uni, postgrad, and now even has accompanied me down to London for full time employment, Huzzah!.. cough’.. studentLoan.. crippling debt.. splutter.. In addition it has seen me through; numerous girlfriends, countless camping trips, too many late-night KFC runs, several relocations, and recently even had the honour of being a wedding car for a best mate.

It’s my first car and to this day still the daily driver (I’m now 25).

Ford Escort Mk1
How the bodywork looked in 2008, the same as when we first bought the car.

Initial upgrades

Upon purchase, the car was a stock 74′ 1.3 XL Automatic. It was in reasonable condition for its age and it drove well considering it was an old automatic, however it wasn’t long before my dad and I had future plans for the car circulating between us. My dad Barry is an ‘old school’ mechanic, he’s been in the trade over 40+ years and runs a garage back home in the west midlands. Back in 2006 the insurance for a young male driver who had recently passed their test was starting to get expensive. Luckily, this helped to narrow our focus on the upgrades that would only improve the overall reliability and practicality of the car without increasing it’s performance too much, which in turn helped control the spending and stopped us from facing a hefty insurance premium.

Ford Escort Mk1
Original Dunlop D1’s were a period addition.

The top item on our to-do list was to drop the automatic transmission and convert it to a manual. A suitable Type 2 four speed was sourced as the replacement box, along all the necessary bits to bolt on; manual pedal box, flywheel, clutch, clutch cable and ring gear (to fit pre-engaged starter type).

Ford Escort Mk1
Untouched stock interior.

Second on our list was to improve the brakes as the drum brakes were still used for both front and rear braking. The original front suspension struts were replaced with a set of Mk2 Escort struts; along with Gaz inserts, M16 callipers with solid discs. In addition, we also focused on adding features that you would typically find on any normal modern car. Christmas holiday 2007 mainly consisted of installing a remote central locking and alarm kit purchased from eBay. This was followed with adding a Sony head unit, front door speakers, rear parcel shelf 6×9’s and a 6 unit CD changer in the boot. January 2008, the car was taxed, MOT’d, insured and on the road!

Ford Escort Mk1
Took some rubbing to get that shine.
Ford Escort Mk1
Completely stock 1.3 Crossflow HC (high compression).
Ford Escort Mk1
Aesthetically, the car was left unchanged since purchase.