Race Car Build Series – NMRA Mustang – Build a High Quality Aluminum Electronics Panel for a Low Price

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Earlier we introduced Rob Farley’s NMRA Mustang Build (see the article at http://tinyurl.com/k9qslmg). Rob originally planned to have his 1985 Mustang GT prepared to run in the NMRA for the 2015 season, with the first event being in April. Yet, as it often does, life got in the way and Rob’s preparation schedule was pushed out. However, Rob is now performing modifications, and we are able to bring you the first project article!

Keep in mind that Rob has successfully raced this Mustang since the late 1980’s, including winning a WALLY at Raceway Park in Top Street during the 2010 race season. The Mustang is currently running a carbureted 351 SVO Motorsport engine bored and stroked to a 408 that pushes over 1,000 hp. Other modifications include a tubular front end with a coil over set up. The modifications he is making are to further increase performance and engine efficiency, improve handling, and make diagnosing electrical problems more convenient.

Project One is the installation of an aluminum panel in the passenger footwell area on which to mount and organize electronics. The panel will allow placement of some electronic components, including ignition devices, away from the engine compartment as well as provide a mounting location for a FAST EZ EFI 2.0 control unit, a second fuse panel, and an RPM activated switch for the shifter. The conveniently located aluminum panel will allow quick access and thereby reduce the time needed to diagnose electrical problems or replace electronic parts. It should be noted that while this project provides excellent safety and convenience, the total for parts (aluminum panel, fuse panel, and wire connectors) came to only $41.00!

Before we describe the installation procedure, let’s visit the fuse panel. Over time Rob has been adding electrical components to the Mustang and has had to find power sources for a fuel pump, electric water pump, oil accumulator, gauges, line lock, and transmission brake. Initially he added a junction strip to provide power, the safety of which he wasn’t comfortable; the factory fuse panel wasn’t designed to handle these additional loads. So, Rob decided the safest thing to do is add a second fuse panel designated for the race car related components. By mounting this fuse panel on the aluminum panel it will clean up the wiring under the dashboard, and provide quick and easy access for diagnosis or fuse replacement.

Aluminum Panel Installation Procedure

Rob determined that mounting the aluminum panel on the inside of the vehicle will best to protect the electronics from outside elements such as heat, rain, and dirt, while providing the most convenient access point. He found his ideal location to be the passenger side footwell/firewall. Note; the factory heater box has been removed to install the panel. Hey, this is a race car. He don’t need no stinkin’ heater.

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Rob measured the area he had to work with, and fashioned a template for the aluminum panel. Since the mounting location was not a flat area he used a piece of cardboard for the template, which could be quickly cut down, therefore making it much easier to determine the best size with the least amount of bends or modifications. Rob found the ideal size was 12″x12″ square. After laying out the electronic components on the template to ensure proper fit, he used it to cut a 12” x 12” panel from 1/8” aluminum sheet.

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With the aluminum board on the ground, Rob placed the components in a location that would work best for him: The rpm switch for the shifter would be low so he could view it from the driver’s seat. The EFI computer is positioned so he can view the indicator lights, and there is room for the harness to plug in. The fuse panel was installed on the top right out of sight (since, Rob says, he hopes to never have to inspect it in the future…)

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Rob positioned the panel on the firewall to mark the location to where it was secured. He took care to position the panel so the floor mat would overlap the bottom edge, as he wanted a clean look.

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All components were secured to the panel before installation, which eliminated the hassle of trying to mount them while inside the car. Rob used five self-tapping screws to secure the panel to the firewall. The lower left corner of the panel had to be bent slightly to fit flush with the contour of the firewall to the tunnel.

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Once the board was secure, Rob installed connectors on each wire leading to the fuse panel, and secured them.  Extra care was taken to ensure the wires were not near any sharp edges that could cause abrasion and a potential electrical short. When finished the wires were zip-tied together on each side of the fuse box and wire loom was fit over them.

The power source for the fuse box came from the voltage regulator, which in the case of the Mustang is mounted on the strut tower. An 8 gauge wire was run from the regulator to the fuse box. All wires going through the firewall were protected by a rubber grommet.

In the future, Rob will install an LED light under the passenger side dashboard to allow inspection at night. The switch for the light will be mounted of the aluminum panel.

Rob Farley has shown us his aluminum electronics panel is a high quality solution that provides excellent organization, safety, and convenience, and can be easily duplicated at a budget friendly cost.

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