by Mark Palmer
OK, I know, this is supposed to be vintage racing. We don't need no stinkin' tech-nolla-gee! Well, unfortunately the reality is that many vintage race organizers are starting to require transponders - that is, if you want to be timed & scored.
As of this writing, transponders are required by SVRA, VSCDA, VARAC, and the VIR Gold Cup. If you want to participate in our 2003 Focus Event, or the Simms Cup at Mosport, or the Collier Cup at the Glen, best to install one now.
We are darn lucky that all these organizations selected the same make & model transponder! The unit is made by AMB-i.t., and it's their model TranX-260. It comes in two versions: one is powered by your car's electrical system (the hard-wired model); the other version is a battery-operated unit that must be re-charged (either from 120 VAC house current, or 12 VDC via cigarette lighter in your car).
I recommend the hard-wired unit. It makes your life simpler. With the battery-powered unit, you have to remember to recharge it before the race weekend and possibly again during the weekend - why add another responsibility to your race weekend? The hard-wired unit is also a little less expensive. You also have the option of renting a unit from the race organizer, but after a few weekends the rental cost will start to approach the purchase price. And rental adds another hassle to an already-busy race event. So I recommend that you buy one & install it.
Where to buy? For U.S. residents, I'd say buy it from AMB direct. Their prices have come down, and I haven�t found any discounted prices anywhere else. The hard-wired unit is now $260, the battery-owered is $295. You can contact AMB at:www.amb-us.com
AMB-i.t. U.S. Inc
3200 Highlands Parkway
Smyrna, GA, 30082
It's easy to order one directly from the web site (go to www.amb-us.com, click on "here" to enter, then click on "shop" - the first item shown is the TranX-260).
For Canadians, the VARAC organization has set up a deal through CASC. The final cost, with Canadian taxes, is $256 I believe for the hard-wired unit. That may be a better way to go, for VARAC members in Canada.
Installation is a breeze. There are good instructions with the unit, so I won't repeat them here. Suffice to say the most important task is finding an appropriate location - an area where the transponder will have a clear view of the track surface. Most people mount them somewhere in the front wheel-well. I mounted mine to the MGA front frame extension, in the left-hand wheel well area. It's out of the way, shielded fairly well from track debris, but visible from outside the car (there is a little green pilot light on the unit that shows when it is working - nice to be able to check. Also nice to be able to read the serial number if you forget it).
The only odd question I had, was whether I could hard-wire to positive ground (I have never bothered to convert my MGA to negative ground). The answer is yes, you simply connect the red lead from the unit to positive (ground, in my case) and connect the black lead to negative ("hot", in my case). The unit is NOT grounded through the case, so it doesn't matter how the car is grounded.
I connected the black lead to the "A4" terminal on the MGA control box - this is a fused circuit that is only hot when the ignition is switched on. So the transponder will be energized whenever the car is running, but it will not deplete the MGA's battery when it is parked. There are some very useful tips at www.scca-milwaukee.org/RoadRacing/transponders_for_2002 so it is worth checking that site, too.
Online Editor: Christopher Kintner
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