Thursday, December 29, 2011

First Bluetooth Data!

My Android app to read the PakTrakr data is complete, except for the actual reading of the battery data - kind of an important feature to get working!  I can pair the phone to the Bluetooth transmitter and open a connection in software, but can't get the code to read the data stream - nothing shows up.  I confirmed this with an Android Bluetooth testing app called Bluetooth SPP.  It will connect, but no data flows.

The Bluetooth transmitter has multiple switches and software settings and I tried every combination I could think of.  I know the PakTrakr serial port is working since I can plug it into the COM port of my laptop and see the data streaming through.  So the problem is the link between the PakTrakr serial cable and the Bluetooth transmitter.

I got a pointer from Steve Dolan, a potential user of my app with an awesome electric catamaran, to a similar project for PakTrakrs and Windows CE devices called EVDashboard.  The directions say to solder a wire from pin 4 (DTS) to pin 7 (RTS).  In desperation I did it this afternoon and BINGO!  I see the PakTrakr data flowing in the Bluetooth SPP app!  Thanks a million Steve!  You win 100 Internets!

Serial ports, formally known as RS-232, are a 40-year old technology with most of the behaviour shrouded in mythology and magic.  I believe this fix has something to do with constantly signaling that data is ready to flow.  I don't really care why this works, but it does, so I can move forward by finalizing the data reading and handling in the app.  I hope Ken Hall will offer a USB connector or a native Bluetooth solution so developers and users don't have to go through this pain.

Here are the components of the PakTrakr - Serial Cable - Gender Changer - Bluetooth Transmitter - Android phone data flow.  I can't support any other combination of parts or settings, unless you prove it and I can easily recreate it.  I'd love to avoid soldering the wire so anything that avoids that is greatly appreciated.
  • Buy a "Serial Bluetooth Adapter" from
    • Note that the IOGear Serial to Bluetooth unit is popular but I wasn't able to find a supplier and have no experience or advice on using it.
  • Set the following switches on the Serial Bluetooth Adapter
    • DCE - DTE switch to DTE (Data Terminal Equipment)
    • N/G - G switch to N/G (Non-Group)
    • S - M switch to S (Slave)
  • Buy a DB9 Male-To-Male gender changing adapter from Radio Shack
  • Gently pop the two sides of the PakTrakr serial cable connector apart
  • Solder a single small wire into the PakTrakr serial port circuit board as shown in the picture below.  This will connect Pin 4 (DTR) to Pin 7 (RTS).  We benefit from the Pin 4 circuit coming through the circuit board to the leg of the chip, and just jumper from there to the connector's Pin 7.  If you aren't confident with soldering the wire, contact me and we can work something out.

Here's a closeup of the jumper in place.  The angle is deceiving - it comes up from the pin of the chip and loops back down to Pin 7 - it's not touching the next pin on the connector.

Snap the two sides of the connector back together again.  Put the three parts together into a sandwich.  I don't trust the ridiculously tiny and hard to turn screws built into the parts, so I used two small zip-ties to hold the three pieces together, then two more around the assembly which pulls the zip-ties tighter and locks everything together.  You should end up with something that looks like this.  Boy would a single cable with Bluetooth be a great PakTrakr option!

Place this assembly into the vehicle and run power to it, and set the power switch appropriately.  I used the USB hub I installed earlier to drive power to it with the supplied USB-to-MiniUSB cable.

When you run the app, you'll see the blue Status LED flash then go solid once the Android phone is paired.  More info to come once I debug the data stream handling.

Carpet wrapup

The carpets dried in the sun by the next day, so it was time to pop them back in.  I used spray adhesive to attach two pieces of vinyl on the bars just in front of each seat, and the pieces on the side members.  I put the pieces behind the speakers and mounted them in place.  Then I laid the rest of the pieces in place.  The center piece is bumping up a bit due to the unused connectors for the instruments in the non-existent center console, so I'm going to remove those and wrap the wire ends.  Same for the seat sensors.  It's starting to look like a car!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Start of Interior - Carpets

Alert readers will remember that I felt I needed a bit more clutch pedal travel to gently shift gears, so I bashed the firewall back about and inch and took a drive around the yard.  Just right!

This leads me to the step of finalizing the wiring and installing the carpets.  The carpets were a dirty mess when I got the car, then a year of sitting on the floor in the shop with sawdust was not a pretty picture.  Fortunately I have an electric pressure washer with a "gentle" tip, so I first soaked each piece, then sprinkled environmentally-friendly detergent on them, then spent the next hour and a half cleaning and rinsing with the pressure washer.  I was amazed at how much dirt and grime came out, and how long I had to rinse to get all of the foam out.  I let them dry in the sun (did I mention it's the day after Christmas and it's 67F and sunny?) and install them tomorrow.

I have some 1" wire loom on order so I'll pick it up tomorrow morning and protect and run the big cable bundles under the dashboard and down the center of the car, then pop the carpeting on top.  I do have some major work to fix the pad that goes behind the seats, it has some major tears in the vinyl.

Here's all of the carpet drying in the sun.  I'm really glad I have the little mechanic's rolling seat as all that time bending over with the spray nozzle would have killed my back.

Headlights Done - Really

I try to own up to my mistakes, so I have to admit I scratched the driver's side headlight cover as I was installing it.  Argh!

I tried to do a touch-up job on it, including wet-dry paper and everything, but I just couldn't get it right.  I took it in to Tom's and asked him to sand it down and respray it as he was doing the rear trunk hinges. Well the hinges are lost and will take a while to come in, so Tom sprayed the cover and gave it back in a couple of days.

I gently installed it and got it aligned.  Now the car looks symmetrical with the lights up and down.  Soon comes the front hood!

Tail Lights Are In

The latest saga was installing the tail lights.  First I have to say that I thought I had lost them!  I wanted to install them several weeks ago and tore up the workshop and two storage bedrooms with no luck finding them.  Then last week I was talking with Tom at the body shop about picking up the rear trunk hinges and he said "Oh yeah I have that box of other parts too".  I asked him what parts and he said "Tail lights, side mirrors and stuff".  I just about cried.  I wasn't looking forward to buying two new or used units, that is some expensive plastic!  Apparently he asked for them when they were finalizing the metalwork around the rear end and I forgot I took them in for him.

I got the "box" from Tom last Friday.  This is what I saw.  Covered in body shop dust.  So yet another clean / paint / install project!

As with the rubber trim on the rear bumper, the red lenses had some silver overspray on them, so I sanded them with 1500 and 2000 grid wet-dry sandpaper.  It left the lenses red but cloudy, but I had a plan for later.

When I disassembled the left side, I found most of the silver paint had come off the plastic reflector unit, causing poor reflectivity.

It was tricky to get the reflector out of the housing, so I just cleaned everything, gave it a light sanding, tucked paper under from all sides and taped up the bulb holes, then painted it with silver plastic paint.

I also found extensive corrosion of the bulb bases and sockets on that unit, I assume due to the missing gasket between the red lens assembly and the main housing.  I cleaned everything with sandpaper and electronic contact cleaner spray, then reassembled.

Bingo!  The lights all work but the right-blinker doesn't blink, so I'll have to put that on the to-do list for later as it's probably the infamous relay.

You can see the dulling of the lenses due to the sanding, so I bought a 3M headlight restoration kit.  I skipped the initial steps which are for badly scratched and clouded front headlights.  That left me to use a wet pad in my drill, followed by a buffing compound on a sponge in my drill.

And you can see below that it looks magnificent!  I'm thrilled with the way it turned out.  The whole back end of the car looks factory new and shiny!  I put a big order in for door fuzzy seals and rubber pieces from 914Rubber, including new gaskets that fit between the taillight housing and the body.  I'll loosen everything up and pop them in when they arrive.

Radio Comes to Life

I bought the new radio a long time ago, driven by the need for it to connect to my Droid (now upgraded to Droid Bionic) phone.  The two devices will talk Bluetooth for music and telephone calls, and USB for charging and music also.  I don't really care for the blue fluorescent display, but it was one of the only units on the market that met my needs at the time.

First think was to install a new powered antenna.   The original antenna worked, but was badly pitted from age and would cause wind resistance when I wasn't actually listening to FM.  The new antenna went in fairly well, with a reinforcement bracket rivnutted into the fender and sprayed with undercoating, but the angle of the fender is just slightly off the closest adapter so there's a small gap that will always bother me.

Next I wired up the radio's connector to switched and unswitched power, the antenna, the dashboard light circuit and the two front speakers.  I was amazed that it powered up the first time and made the antenna go up and down correctly.  I then spent about an hour getting the radio to talk with the phone over Bluetooth, synchronizing my phone book and the rest.  It will take me a while to fully explore everything they can do together.

Here's a shot of the radio installed in the dashboard, playing some music.  It even comes with a hand-held remote control, so I don't have to lean across and try to fumble with the tiny controls.

Rear Bumper

The rear bumper is made up of three parts.  The top is a hard rubber trim piece, the middle is the chrome bumper itself, and the bottom is a metal trim piece.  Each came with its own set of problems.

The rubber piece was oversprayed in silver paint from the terrible paint job done on the car at some point.  I worked on that with wet-dry sandpaper for hours until I got it all off.  Then I worked through my wet-dry paper finishing up with 2000 grit to make it as shiny and smooth as possible.  It actually came out looking pretty good, and soaked up a bunch of "Back to Black" rubber conditioner.

The bumper took a good cleaning and then some work chrome polish to bring it back to life.  It looks fantastic!

The lower trim piece is a writeoff.  It is damaged and bent in several places and frankly I like the look of the back of the car without it.  In the future if I decided I can't live without it, I'll either buy a replica or try to fix this one up and bolt it onto the bottom of the bumper.

You can barely see I installed the rear trunk key latch, after cleaning everything really well.

Engine Cover and Grilles

Bodywork re-installation is starting now, well except for the rear trunk lid, which I can't install since the body shop has had the hinges for a year and a half!  I call every few months asking for them and the Targa top.  Tom says "Well Mike I screwed you again...  I'll paint them this week, call me on Friday."  I went this week and he told me that he lost them in his shop!  A guy who used to work there "moved" them and now they can't be found.  Tom is buying a set from his parts dealer, will paint them and drop them off at my house.  This is the first time Tom's shop being a complete mess has let me down.  Oh well, as long as I get the hinges...  After all of the hassle with ElectroAuto, nothing can throw a wet blanket on this project.

So that leads me to working on the engine cover and the metal grilles that go into them.  There are small fixed grilles on the left and right side.  A long time ago, I cleaned, sanded and painted all of the grilles gloss black and then sprayed with lacquer to keep the paint in good shape.  Here are the left and right installed into place.  Don't worry about the marks and dust...

The big effort was getting the grille into the engine cover, and then the P O R S C H E letters into the grille.  I bought a bag of "speednuts" as the original ones were all shot from the disassembly.  The grille goes in with a thin gasket along the top edge and a U-shaped gasket along the bottom edge.  The pins on the grille fit nicely into the holes in the cover and then gently held into place with speednuts.

Placing the lettering was an effort in measuring and spacing.  Finally I got it to look good and fastened them down with speednuts.  I'm not going to install the rain-catcher under the cover as I don't think there's enough clearance between the bottom of the cover and the top of the battery box.  I think I'll like the white top of the battery box showing through.

I'm holding off installing it into the car because I want to make sure I have enough working room to install the rear trunk hinges first.  I will also be using Richard Rodriguez' magnet latch method.  I have the magnets, but don't want to install them until the cover is in place and I understand the clearances.

Officially Electric

I have been waiting to stick on the "Electric" badge I got from Plug In America.  I cleaned, lightly sanded and painted the 914 badge with plastic silver paint.  The silver on the letters was badly worm from a lot of carwashes and age.  One I got the 914 badge installed, I used blue tape to make a line across the bottom, then stuck the Electric badge into place.

Not the same size or font, but I think it gets the idea across.  And the font does look a bit Star Trek Next Generation to me...

Steering Column Adjustment

When I bought the 944 wiper/blinker control mechanism, I didn't think the stalks would be set at a different depth, but yep, they're too close to the back of the steering wheel.  You may have heard me comment on the video that I was banging my fingers on the stalks as I turned the wheel.

A quick Google search led me to LTB Autosports and their 1" wheel spacer.  It was just what I was looking for, and it came with beautiful new screws.  The ones that came with the car were scratched up and had most of the allen-key hole rounded over.  You can see it in place between the wheel and the original column.

The only downside was the adapter is painted and won't let the current through to complete the horn circuit.  I did a gentle wire wheel grinding on my drill press to open up some shiny aluminum and it beeps like a champ.  Now it looks great and won't scrape the skin off my fingers every time I need to turn.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

First Drive!

I spent yesterday running the last PakTrakr cable through the center hump, and cleaned up a lot of wiring, putting it in wire loom and zip-ties.  I also did a better job of mounting the mid-battery box's exhaust hose to the opening in the steering rack area.  I then bolted the steering rack area cover back into place.

I charged up the pack, bolted the wheels back on and lowered it down to the ground.  This is the first time it's touched the ground since I trailered it over to the Paso airport cars how in May.  I bolted the steering wheel back on, and realized that there is no clearance between the windshield control stalk and the steering wheel, so I'll have to get an extender of some kind.

I suction-cup mounted my GoPro camera to the top of the targa rail, and ....

It works!  I'm really happy with the acceleration too.  I noticed a clunking noise coming from the passenger-side shock tower.  I'll check on that when I get the wheels aligned.  Also, the clutch pedal definitely needs about 1" more travel because it's not smooth getting the gears.

Now, I just have to put the rest of the car back together.

Headlight Reinstallation

While I was waiting for the PakTrakr extender cable, I decided to put the pop-up headlights back in.  Like every other part of this car, it's a finicky, multi-step process with lots of tiny parts.  Let me walk you through how I put one back in.

First, this is all of the parts associated with the mechanism.  I preparation for the rebuild, I painted the shroud ring black and the cover was painted along with the rest of the body.  The I cleaned everything with soapy water and sanded down any rusty or discolored metal.

The headlight area has a grounding stud, and it's important for quality electrical connection to clean it down to bare metal.  Check the integrity of the bundle of ground wires into the ring terminal and replace if necessary.  Mount the grounding harness and the headlight motor ground wire (not shown yet) to the stud.

I ran the wiring harness in a small strip of wire loom.

I placed the large rubber gasket on the shaft of the motor, and wiggled the relay socket through the lower hole.

Here I mounted the motor ground wire to the ground stud.

I plugged the red, green and gray wires into the connector.

I then placed the motor in place, aligned the round bracket with the holes and put the three bolts in place.  Wiggle the motor into a middle-position in the holes, then tighten down.  Make sure the motor it not touching the body.

I then placed the arm on the shaft and put the nut on loosely.

Next, take the light assembly and gently wiggle the tube onto the post mounted on the body.

Then, take the triangular bracket/post and slide it into the other end of the headlight assembly tube. Slide the bracket down near the three holes.

Take the triangular plate, place it over the three holes and run in the three bolts, finger tight.

Mount the connector to the headlight.  I found that both of my connectors were very fragile due to age, so yours may fall apart.

Make sure the light switch is in the down position.  Mount the connecting bar between the motor arm and the headlight pivot.

Tighten the pivot arm bolt.

Remove the connecting arm, then put it through the rubber boot and re-attach the pivot arm.  Be sure to put the snap ring on the end of the pivot arm.  Fit the rubber boot in place around the mounting plate.  Gently insert the headlight relay into the relay socket. below the rubber boot.

Use the headlight switch to test the pop-up action.  If it doesn't work, check that you actually plugged in the relay (don't ask) and then the fuse in the fuse block.  The lights should be able to work independently.

Tilt the headlight assembly up and hold it in place.

Snap the connector bar onto the headlight's pivot point.  You will have to exert a little pressure with a long screwdriver due to the rubber boot going through a slot to the headlight area.

Mount the plastic rubber boot cover with two Phillips screws.

Screw the cover plate onto the headlight assembly with two small silver Phillips screws, one on each side.

The fender side screw is a little hard to get to, so be careful about damaging your paint.

Place the headlight shroud into place and attach with three small Phillips screws.

 Gently adjust the plane of the headlight cover so it matches the little plate just in front of the headlight.  Tighten down the three bolts.

Test the pop-up action with the light switch about 20 times and giggle that it actually works!  I then zip-tied the 3-wire connector down and made sure the wires were all nicely tucked away.  In hindsight, I should have pained the motors black.