After 6 months, the truck made its way to Fla, and they determined that the computer system was malfunctioning. They replaced the computer module, several sensors and a lot of the wiring. The problem wasn't so much the computer technology as was putting on a British made engine . . . that leaked oil. It managed to damage some of the wiring which I guess in turn fried some of the components.
I owned a Vega back in the day. Actually two Vega bodies and three engines. The first one had a disagreement with a pile of concrete debris on the side of the road. The car kind of bent in the middle and I drove it around for another six months with a big gap in at one point in the passenger door frame due to the bent frame. I also replaced the right front fender with one I made out of plywood. I eventually bought another Vega to replace the first.
Not that that's an interesting story, but I was a big Vega fan and really wanted a Cosworth. I think that's a case of setting really high aspirations in a really low bracket.
When the '75 & '76 Cosworth Vega's were built, it and the Cadillac Eldorado were the only U.S. cars available with Electronic Fuel Injection and they were totally analog. Each dealer zone was supplied with a diagnostic tester. Never heard of a 'truck' with special equipment. Today we would first check the ignition module in the distributor. Only 3508 Cosworth's were made in its two years. A small but energetic group of owners, the CVOA, meet once a year around the U.S. with their cars. See www.cosworthvega.com
Many of those early "computer" systems were fully analog, and not even as complicated as an (analog) television. But servicing them was practically impossible, because the manufacturers didn't give enough information even about what they were supposed to do, let alone how they did it.
Which was a shame, because many mechanics were so scared of them that the first thing they always did was to replace the "computer".
Even if you were only there for a flat tire!
On the other hand, when my trusty 160kmi Camry started sputtering, I plugged in my OBD reader, read out code 'Cyl1 ignition circuit failure' via Bluetooth on my Droid smartphone, Googled directions to the nearest dealer, bought the ignition module, installed it right outside the parts store, and was back in business.
Thank you, California environmental extremists, for the OBD-II.
I do know an individual who did actually repair something on his car computer control box. It was a failed relay driver transistor.
But a Cosworth Vega would certainly be a puzzlement for the good-old-boys, who could probably have fixed the four-barrel carb in just a few minutes. Of course, those automotive computers are not meant to be fixed, only replaced. The under hood ones are encapsulated, mostly. Even if you could get into it and find out which part was bad it would still not be possible to get a replacement part. Just pay $600 or so for the new box and hope that was the problem because you can't return the box if it was not the problem. I agree that computers in cars is a poor choice, and will continue to be a poor choice. That is why current models have so many of them. They are a great profit source once the warranty expires.
Reminds me of my Volvos. Had a '69 with twin sidedraft carbs. Then, got a '72 with the Bosch electronic fuel injection. My, my. Took the panel off the control module and viewed all the transistors - no ICs. Didn't ever have any trouble with it.
But, the following '74 Volvo had a CI system (Continuous Injection), which was a purely mechanical system with a damper in the intake controlling the fuel flow for each injector. Now, that system was very problematic. This was the same system in the Audis and Mercedes of the time.
Never really understood why the European auto industry moved from electronic to mechanical, only to go back again. Perhaps the electronic systems were not really mature enough at the point and I was lucky to not have any trouble with mine.
When I worked at a service station in the early 80's, we just referred to those little modules under the hood as FRED - f*@&*%g ridiculous electronic device. Strictly replacement-only items, and usually by trial and error..
Clearly something to do with the electronic engine control system -- something almost no auto mechanic had ever seen before in the mid-70s.
In those days, they probably really did repair those electronic modules -- use that "special diagnostic equipment" to determine the problem and replace fried ICs or resistors or whatever.
In the early '90s I had a vehicle problem that sounds suspiciously similar to the one in this story. I was able to drive it to the dealer in limp mode. By then, any mechanic anywhere could plug into a port and read diagnostic codes -- or in my case, plug into the port and get no response at all.
"Computer's bad, y'need a new one," he said. "But can't you fix this one?" I asked. "Nope, the thing comes as a whole assembly, just one part number." After paying way too much money for a "computer", and it taking him almost no time to install it, my vehicle ran like a champ.
At about that time, I think I fully agreed with the last statement in the article -- putting computers in cars really DID seem like a stupid idea :)
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