Per Schroeder
Per Schroeder SuperDork
11/12/14 6:38 a.m.

Let’s talk about The Man. Whether he’s the government or those large, fat-cat corporations that make the world go around, The Man is a pretty easy guy to hate. Who doesn’t like the idea of sticking it to him?

If the little guy can do it faster, cheaper and better than the big shots, who’s to blame us for cheering for the underdog? This indelible bit of human psyche has spawned the hardcore followings of everything from indie rock to Unix operating systems. It’s part of our country’s very fiber, as we started out as the underdogs some 229 years ago.

The Man’s long reach seems to extend into every nook and cranny of modern life—even the automotive enthusiast market. We’ve all see the ads from the large, impersonal parts supply houses, or the occasional high-end vendors charging astronomical prices for parts that simply don’t work. The Man is everywhere.

Fortunately the underdog ethos is alive and well today in the world of GRM, aided by the Internet and the culture (or counterculture) of online message board communities. In the technical and automotive Web-based communities, the “open” nature of the Internet allows the posting and sharing of information and lessons learned.

Technical support and essentially free help for the enthusiast are just a click or two away as fellow gearheads chip in their knowledge and skills to keep repair bills low. Racers can also learn a lot online about how to make their cars faster without breaking the bank.

One shining example of the online community’s value to the car geek is the MegaSquirt do-it-yourself fuel injection system. This standalone, easily modifiable EFI system is completely user-serviceable thanks to its open architecture and low-cost design.

In this case, the term “open” refers to the fact that the entire set of schematics, wiring diagrams and building instructions are available online, completely free of charge. These plans allow users to build a working EFI computer for less than $150, which is an order of magnitude less than the price of the common aftermarket, ready-built systems.

MegaSquirt also boasts a technical support network that is unrivaled in the aftermarket, with thousands of private individuals posting online to help with setup and troubleshooting. There are also dozens of add-on computer programs that have been developed to help the MegaSquirt user tune their car to its potential.

The appeal of the MegaSquirt system goes well beyond the simple desire to stick it to The Man. Your car’s intake system, whether carbureted or fuel injected, is an integral piece of the performance puzzle, and this is one area where the aftermarket has a wide variety of solutions for more power. Adding fuel injection will often improve both horsepower numbers and fuel efficiency, but prices for these aftermarket stand-alone systems can top $2000 or even $3000.

These prebuilt systems are also often designed to use proprietary tuning software, adding further expense to the average enthusiast’s bill. What if we told you that MegaSquirt can do the same things for less money?

MegaSquirt: A History

The lion’s share of the development of MegaSquirt is credited to two men, Bruce Bowling and Al Grippo. As Grippo explains, the development of the fuel injection system began about 12 years ago thanks to a do-it-yourself fuel injection Internet list started by a graduate student at Ohio State University.

The group, which was quite small by present standards, was discussing how to make a fuel injection board using a 32-bit Motorola MC68332 processor. “This was quite an advanced system at the time, well beyond what the OEMs were using,” Grippo explains.

There was a lot of talk on the list, but nobody was doing anything. Bowling and Grippo decided to take the lead and produce a working system. Their software was written for their own cars, however, and they hadn’t given any thought to making it user-friendly or providing tech support.

“The only reason we even sold a batch of PCBs [printed circuit boards] was to recover the $300 we had to invest to get a run of four-layer boards,” Grippo recalls. “We recovered that and more, but almost all of the people who bought them soon realized that getting it to work for their setup was more work than they were willing or able to [do].”

Several years later, processors became cheaper and integrated with more memory, with both timers and sensor ports being built right into them.

“So one day, out of the blue, Bruce tells me that he developed a really low-end, bare-bones, fuel-control-only EFI system that we could sell at a really low price,” Grippo continues. “I scoffed, but Bruce went on to document the system and develop a user-friendly PC interface. It was ready to go, so I went along, still somewhat skeptical. That was the start of MegaSquirt.”

Through their Web site’s message board and its list members, Bowling and Grippo have developed the MegaSquirt system to the point where it is simple to build, tune and run. They also offer low-priced kits so that anyone can assemble their own fuel injection system.

Read the rest of the story

gearheadE30 New Reader
11/12/14 7:20 a.m.

Megasquirt FTW. The E30 has been running it for close to 80k miles now, and the Caprice is about to get MS as well. Seems to be a lot of people out there who are convinced that it is 'project cars only' and can't be reliable for everyday stuff, but that's not true at all.

spin_out Reader
11/12/14 7:23 a.m.

Well thanks Per. The post is too long for me to read now, but i printed it to read later.

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