One of the distinct (pant-wetting) pleasures of my recent trip back to Sweden was my call-in to see the guys at Maptun.
You’ve seen a little of that car already, in another entry. We’ll get to more of it later as it really is a showcase for what they can do.
Maptun are primarily known as a tuning house and it is the vast majority of what they do. But they really are a full service Saab workshop and can do absolutely anything that your Saab needs from basic servicea dn right up to what one Saab Central user referred to as “stage-new-underpants” tuning.
The workshop is so clean you can eat your dinner off the floor and there’s a well stocked parts department out the back.
That’s all nice, but that little red machine you see attached to this 9000 is the real star at this workshop:
Visit most tuners and you’ll see a traditional rolling road. Not so at Maptun. They use what’s still a relatively rare machine called a Rototest dynamometer.
Instead of sitting the car on the rolling road, as you’d normally do, the Rototest units are attached directly on to the wheel hubs. They support the car and allow for the rotation of the wheels at the same time. This system has a number of advantages over the traditional rolling road and is typical of the cutting edge approach Maptun take to what they do.
Being attached directly to the wheels, there’s no need to factor in friction losses from the dyno machinery or other things like tyre wear or grip problems. The lack of tyres present also means that they can run the cars for longer periods of time without worrying about the effects of the machinery on the tyres.
The car is running directly through the Rototest machine and being stationary, it’s going to get pretty warm. That’s why they’ve got this ventilation system in place, to blow air through the front and keep the temperature stable whilst the car is under stress.
What’s really cool about this ventilation system is that it’s hooked up to the Rototest unit. As the car speeds up, a hydraulic system powered by the car’s own wheels provides power to run the smaller side fans and keep the car cool. Ingenious. The larger center fan is electrically operated.
Those fans can pump 20,000 litres of air per second.
The car is hooked up to a computer system and the operator sits in the car, runs the computer and gets data back via a bank of screens outside the car. Of course, everything is recorded and accessible.
The tester can set the rototest software to run the car in any way they choose. You want a run that starts recording at 1500rpm, holds at 4000rpm for 30 seconds and then goes up to 6000rpm? Just program it in and the rototest software will run the car that way and provide all of your readings.
Maptun can then use their own software to run the car’s computer systems and change the tuning until the desired levels are reached. Test, tune, rinse and repeat.
The Saab 9000 that you see above is a winter project that a customer handed to Maptun. It’s a normally aspirated version and their brief is to see how far they can take it with basic tuning changes, camshafts, etc.
I sat in the car during a dyno run and it’s quite fascinating with all the wind noise from the fans, the engine noise from the car and the computer screens showing the dyno sweeping through the rev range and taking power and torque readings. The operator can adjust the timing from inside the car and the changes are more or less instantaneous.
You can see the Rototest unit in action in the following video, which has been posted by a 9-5 owner on Youtube.
In customer terms, the rototest unit is mainly used for custom tuning of Swedish cars. Maptun sell pre-formatted tuning kits for all models of Saabs and when you buy up to around Stage III, it’s pretty safe to plug and play.
But if a Swedish customer wants to take things a bit further, then Maptun recommend you come in and have the gear fitted and the car custom tuned to make sure everything’s OK. Obviously, non-Swedish customers are welcome too if they want to make the trip, but at the very least they should have a suitably qualified technician do the install and tune locally whenever things go a bit further than ECU, intake and exhaust.
Maptun do all of their development, design, programming, vehicle communications and testing in-house. They control the whole process so they know that everything’s 100% before it is offered for sale to customers.
I’ve got a bit more to write about Maptun in the near future, including more info on Anders’ BioPower 9-3, the new Maptuner plug-in programming device (which a friend in Sydney has just used to tune his SportCombi) and my own ECU swapover, which will be happening very soon.