A Simple, Feature-Packed Interior For Project Cobra Jet Challenge

When building a kit car like our Factory Five Cobra Jet Challenge project, there are a lot of variables to consider, such as how much it will be hitting the track, how often it will be driven on the street, what options to add, etc.

When we started building Project Cobra Jet Challenge, it was decided that the interior was going to have a minimalist look, but be packed with technology and driver-focused features. As there isn’t much room for activity in the two-seater cockpit, we wanted every component that adjusts vehicle behavior close to the driver for easy accessibility on and off the track. We also didn’t want a lot of buttons and switches cluttering up the dash, so the audio and engine management controls were consolidated into a Dell Venue 11 tablet PC, while a three-switch switch panel from Watson’s Streetworks handles the turn signals, headlights, and momentary battery disconnect functions.

Racepak supplied us with their IQ3 Logger Dash to further minimize clutter, in favor of simplicity. Instead of having multiple gauges behind the steering wheel, we only have one display, and it tells us everything we need to know about the car, as it is connected to an AEM Infinity ECU.

If you attended the 2015 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, you may have seen Project Cobra Jet Challenge in the Toyo Treadpass, or in our spotlight feature from the show. Follow along as we recap Project Cobra Jet Challenge’s minimalist, technology-packed interior. We talked to Chris Vopat of Racepak about the IQ3 dash and its features, as well as Harvey Richardson from Watson’s Streetworks about their innovative, modular switch panels.

Racepak IQ3 Logger Dash

The Racepak IQ3 may look like a traditional Racepak digital dash unit, but it represents an entirely new concept in data-logging dashes. Instead of being strategically mounted throughout the vehicle’s interior, the 32 channel data-logger, 512 MB memory card, GPS board, and three-axis G-meter are now integrated into the unit, in one central location. The 32 channel data-logger is one of Racepak’s exclusive smart sensor units, meaning that only one little V-Net cable is needed to transmit all of the information from the sensors to the back of the dash.

“Racepak’s V-Net system makes it easy to get data to the dash via OBD-II, or nearly any popular aftermarket EFI or ECU,” explained Vopat. “Plus, for carbureted vehicles, we have V-Net modules that allow a vehicle’s sensors to feed data into the dash, as well as our own sensors to measure anything the driver would need to monitor. The Racepak V-Net system makes it easy to add sensors to increase the IQ3’s versatility, and it’s CAN Bus technology keeps wiring clean and simple.”

With the IQ3 only needing one CAN Bus cable to read all 32 sensors, this means that no bulky wiring harness is needed, nor is an external data-logger. With GPS built into the IQ3, no wheel speed sensor, beacon, receiver, or transmitter is needed, as the GPS provides track mapping, vehicle speeds, and lap times. The IQ3 stores all data samples in the included 512 MB SD card located between the shift lights, however, recording time depends on the number of channels monitored and the sample rates – up to 100 samples per second can be recorded.

The LED shift lights on the IQ3 dash are completely user programmable, and are protected from sunlight by a molded shield right above the lights. Visibility in all light conditions is great thanks to a low-glare LCD screen, blue LED backlight, and the fact that the screen is recessed into the housing.

Dell Venue 11 Tablet And Watson’s Streetworks Switches

Instead of a conventional dashboard cluttered with buttons and switches, we wanted it to be simple, and straight to the point. The Dell Venue 11 tablet’s function isn’t only to look cool and bring our dash up to par with the Tesla Model S, but to connect directly with AEM’s Infinity ECU, as well as control the Clarion audio system. The USB cable remains accessible to plug into a laptop, and the stereo uses the headphone adapter to plug into the RCAs.

With the InfinityTuner software, we can monitor parameters such as temperatures, idle control, traction control, wide bands, and virtually every other sensor in the car;. Since it is a standalone ECU we can tune the car on the fly as well.

A neat feature of the AEM Infinity ECU is data logging. All controls in the Infinity ECU are synched to logged data, which allows us to edit calibration data during log playback, ultimately to minimize tuning time. With the included AEMdata analysis software, we are also able to review logged data and sync video we capture during the session to the logged data, which creates a video overlay with parameters you choose to see.

To go with the AEM Infinity ECU, we installed AEM’s AQ1 data logger. As we are already utilizing the AEMdata software on the Infinity ECU, we are going to use the AQ1 simply for its track mapping capability when using the video overlay function of the AEMdata software.

Mounted right under the tablet is a billet aluminum switch panel with three switches. Watson’s Streetworks produces the slick brushed billet aluminum switch panel, which conveniently fit the theme of our build perfectly. The modular design of the switch panel allows Watson’s Streetworks to build it any way you want. If you want 2, 4, 6, or even 20 switches, they can make it happen.

“We recently built several seven and nine switch panel switches, explained Richardson. “People can get very creative with their needs and we welcome the opportunity to work with them.”

The neat part about Watson’s Streetworks’ switch panels is that they can install momentary-off-momentary switches, on-off or on-off-on switches to fit you build’s needs. They can even add LED indicators to the switches to show when they’re in use. In our case, the left switch is an on-off-on switch for the turn signals, with amber LED indicators to show when they’re working. Down is left, center off, up is right.

The middle switch is a momentary-off switch that runs to a Ron Francis battery disconnect. To shut the car off in an emergency, we can hold that switch in the down position for a couple of seconds, and it will disable the car’s entire electrical system temporarily. The third and final switch on the right is simply for the headlights. The switch’s configuration is on-off-on, so in the down position, the low beams are activated, and when in the up position, the high beams are activated.

RingBrothers Shifter Kit

To add some flair to the minimalist interior, we installed a RingBrothers shifter kit, which included their 10-inch throwback shifter, a billet aluminum bezel with leather shift boot, four different shift levers, and billet aluminum shift knob – you can never have too much billet! With the shifter being located right next to the driver, we didn’t want too high of a stick, or one that swept too far back.

With the RingBrothers 10-inch throwback shifter mounted correctly, it swept too far back. In the name of improvisation, we actually mounted the shifter facing the dash so it swept forward, giving us a perfect shift knob location and height.

It might look a little out of place mounted that way, but the shifts feel absolutely great. The RingBrothers kit really pops in the midst of the mostly black interior, and the leather shift boot is a really nice touch. Although we opted for everything in natural billet finish, a black anodized finish is available as well. Right ahead of the RingBrothers shifter is our Tilton bias adjustment knob for adjusting braking force from front to rear. We mounted it there to be within reach of the driver, yet out of the way.

Tim McAmis Tube Protectors

To protect the door bars and other areas of the chassis, Tim McAmis Performance Parts provided us with some of their neat carbon fiber tube protectors. The tube protectors come in 59-inch lengths and cover tubing ranging from 1.25-inch to 2-inch sizes, and they’re an absolute breeze to install.

To install the tube protectors, we cut them to our desired length, and then riveted them in place. The cool thing about the tube protectors is that they are completely replaceable; just pop out the rivets, cut a new piece, and rivet it back on. Aside from the door bars, we installed them in the engine bay as well to protect the two tubes above the valve covers. They not only provide protection to the powdercoat, but they go great with the other carbon fiber accents throughout the car.

Lokar E-brake

While Project Cobra Jet challenge definitely doesn’t have an automatic transmission (there is no park), and we needed a way to keep the car in one place, rather than bringing tire chocks everywhere. Lokar’s handbrake setup (P/N EHB-7000F) is pretty simple, but is designed after the automotive industry standard; the ratchet-cut gear plate and lock are heat-treated for added strength and safety. A special feature of the hand brake is the four-point mounting capability, meaning it can be mounted on the floor, or side-mounted for personal applications, like our Factory Five Cobra.

The clevis that made it possible to adapt Lokar’s handbrake cables to our Baer brakes.

The handbrake assembly comes with a clevis for properly mounting the emergency brake cables, which are sold separately. For our application, we needed a clevis to adapt the cables to our Baer brakes (P/N EC-80CC), and fortunately Lokar had those on hand. As far as the emergency brake cables go, we went with the universal emergency brake cables with the black housing (P/N EC-8001U).

With the handbrake assembly installed in Project Cobra Jet Challenge, we can finally ditch the wheel chock and firmly pull a lever to lock the car in place when it isn’t in use. To add more subtle flair to the interior, we garnished the hand brake assembly with a leather boot, and a billet aluminum bezel to secure the boot (P/N 70-EHBF).

As you can see, we didn’t add the Lokar hand brake until after the SEMA Show, but we’re glad we did.

Project Cobra Jet Challenge’s interior has been mulled over for quite some time, and with the simple, yet technology-packed theme we went with, we feel we’ve hit the nail on the head in terms of ergonomics. As we are still finishing up some last minute odds and ends with the car, we cannot wait to get it out on the track and put everything to the test. Stay tuned for more updates!

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About the author

Josh Kirsh

Born in Van Nuys, Raised in Murrieta, Joshua Kirsh is a SoCal Native. With a love for anything on wheels since the ripe young age of two, Joshua Managed to turn his love for automobiles into a career. As Power Automedia's newest writer, he plans to bring you some of the industry's hottest news topics while he's not out in the shop wrenching on some of our badass in-house project builds.
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