Rechipping an RV8

Peter Wallis posted a query on the V8BB in February 2005 seeking information on re-chipping an RV8. Here Gavin Bailey (BRG 0766) from Surrey describes his experience of having a chip fitted at RPI in Norfolk together with a V8BB posting from David Farrer-Brown and an earlier note from Chris Hunt Cooke (Woodcote Green 2038). (Feb 05)

In querying information about RPI's Optimax Chip for the RV8, it may be my posting on the V8BB Peter was referring to as I had such a chip fitted to my UK-spec RV8 last year at RPI's workshops in Norfolk. In terms of my subsequent experience, apart from the initial observations of improved fuel economy and engine flexibility, there is not much more to report as the car has been laid up since last November. I did however take the car on the V8 Tour of Shropshire, covering 600 miles or so over the course of a week. I am still more than happy with the modification, and would recommend it as a priority to any RV8 owner with a 'standard' engine. The chipped engine is noticeably more willing and flexible, and I have seen a useful improvement in fuel economy too - from 27/28 to 33/34 mpg on a run.

The fitting instructions from RPI are comprehensive and recommend that the chip is fitted at their workshops in Norwich for which they charge around £35 in addition to the basic cost of the chip. In my case however the 'fitting' was very simple. On arriving at their workshops I removed the ECU myself from the car (you need a small torx screwdriver to remove the lid once the unit is off the car), and then all they did was to remove the chip (marked in the photo with a green dot), and fit the new (visually identical) Optimax Chip. It goes without saying that you really must have the ECU on an anti-static mat to do this, and ensure you have earthed yourself and are wearing an earthing strap on your wrist to avoid damaging any of the chips on the ECU board. I should also mention that to get to the chip it's first necessary to remove the plastic cover marked 'Lucas' that covers the chip and which is held on with some double sided tape. The best way to do this is very carefully with a pair of thin-nosed pliers, rocking the cover back and forth until the sticky tape gives way.

After I plugged the ECU back into the car, they quickly checked the timing using timing light and that was that. All that remained was for me to take the car for a quick trip up the road, and provided I was happy with the performance it seemed that the chaps at RPI were too! It was a lot simpler than I thought, and on reflection I could have saved myself a trip to Norwich and £35! Now this is not a gripe at RPI, as if they fit the chip they take full liability for any subsequent damage to it which is not the case if you do the job yourself. Furthermore, if any further adjustment had been needed, I certainly couldn't have done this myself and it would therefore make sense to have them to the job if you have any doubts about your skills or your access to the right tools for the job.

RV8 ECU unit with the cover off and the 'chip' marked with a green dot (please note that the green dot was added using Photoshop after the photograph was taken, and standard ECUs carry no such markings). (Photo: Gavin Bailey)

In summary, chipping is not 'rocket science' and provided a car is standard and running well before chipping, there is no reason why fitting the chip (in socketed ECUs only otherwise some soldering is involved), should take any more than 20 minutes plus a timing check.

In a subsequent posting Gavin clarified the total cost including fitting by RPI was in the region of £400. I subsequently noted the engine is much smoother and is an altogether more enjoyable drive. That, coupled with the uprated Konis now available from Clive Wheatley mgv8parts which have also been fitted have certainly transformed the car.

An earlier posting on the V8BB from David Farrer-Brown reported his experience with rechipping saying "I have had my current RV8 for eight months - it was supplied by HS Imports and sold to the owner from whom I bought it. My initial feeling was the RV8 went well but not as one might expect with almost 4 litres of V8 under the bonnet. The handling of the initial Michelin Pilots left a great deal to be desired and did not inspire much confidence to use the power on tap. Clive Wheatley was very helpful, recommending a change from the ageing Pilots and some new uprated Koni shock absorbers. These changes have been made and the car now runs on a new set of Michelin Primacy tyres. The ride and handling are very much better and the car feels sharper and more stable - and a great deal more fun to drive".

"My next trip was to see Chris at RPI Engineering at Horsfield near Norwich. He is a specialist in V8 engines and certainly has transformed mine! A new Optimax chip, uprated plug leads and ignition amplifier plus new carbon fibre intake trumpets have transformed the performance. The car pulls much harder and smoothly from anywhere in the rev range and is much more urgent and responsive than before. I used 30 litres of fuel going to see RPI and 25 on the way home in similar road conditions so smiles all round!" David says he can recommend both Clive Wheatley and RPI - they are well worth a visit!

Earlier Chris Hunt Cooke (Woodcote Green 2038) from Hertfordshire reported that he had recently acquired his reimported RV8 and although he was greatly impressed with the performance of the car, he realised that it was not as happy as it should be. The engine was lumpy, fluffy, idling unevenly and pinking under load. Having picked up the name of RPI Engineering from the V8 Website, he called in to see what they made of it. Chris Crane obviously knows these engines backwards and immediately suspected that the timing was out. He explained that the Japanese spec cars have a different timing to compensate for the modified vacuum advance and, although his RV8 had been correctly changed to the UK layout, the timing might not have been correspondingly adjusted. So it proved to be, with the timing on the car was some 10 degrees out! This point is not brought out in RV8 Workshop Note 60 on this subject, so Chris suggests it might be worthwhile adding as a footnote.

The visit to RPI was partly to find out about the Optimax chip that RPI sell and Chris Crane was pleased to show Chris Hunt Cooke a selection of photos of V8 engines fitted in sports cars that were heavily coked up after quite low mileages because of incorrect fuelling by an ECU designed for the much heavier load of the Range Rover's weight. So in went the Optimax chip and the car was transformed, but Chris Crane was still not completely happy with it and suspected the poor quality ignition leads fitted as standard to the engine. A set of good quality leads were fitted and Chris drove home with the car running very sweetly indeed!

Chris Hunt Cooke was very impressed with RPI Engineering and Chris Crane's diagnostic skills. Whilst he was there a Range Rover owner from the West Country had driven up because his local dealer could not solve a problem with his car, but Chris Crane managed to find that the cause was a ruptured diaphragm in his cruise control unit of all the obscure things!

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