Retrotechtacular: Horseless Farming With The Ford Model B

Does everyone watch a load of videos on YouTube that are somewhat on the unadmissibly geeky side? In my case I might not care to admit that I have a lot of videos featuring tractors in my timeline. The mighty Russian Kirovets hauling loads through the impossible terrain of the taiga, tiny overloaded 2WD tractors in India pulling wheelies, and JCB Fastracs tearing around the British Fenland. You can take the girl off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl.

Tractor versus Tractor; a guilty pleasure but not Retrotechtacular
Tractor versus Tractor; a guilty pleasure but not Retrotechtacular

So my recommendations have something of an agricultural flavor. Like the video below the break, a 1917 silent film promoting the Ford Model B tractor. This one was eye-catching because it was a machine I’d not seen before, a rather unusual three-wheeler design with two driving wheels at the front and a single rear steering wheel.

During the early years of the twentieth century the shape of the modern tractor was beginning to evolve, this must have been a late attempt at an alternative. Speaking from the viewpoint of someone who has operated a few tractors in her time it does not look the easiest machine to control, that cloud of exhaust smoke surrounding the driver would not be pleasant, and the operating position hanging over the implement coupling at the rear does not look particularly comfortable or safe.

The film has a charming period feel, and tells the tale of a farmer’s son who tires of the drudgery of manual farm labor, and leaves for the city. He finds a job at the tractor factory and eventually becomes a tractor salesman, along the way meeting and marrying the daughter of a satisfied customer. He returns home with his bride, and a shiny new tractor to release his father from ceaseless labor. Along the way we gain a fascinating look at agriculture on the brink of mass mechanization, as well as the inside of a tractor factory of the time with an assembly sequence in which they appear to use no fasteners.

[Image Source: Tractor Industry Fraud on Farm Collector]
[Image Source: Tractor Industry Fraud on Farm Collector]
All of this is very interesting, but the real nugget in the story lies with its manufacturer. This is a Ford Model B tractor. But it’s not a Ford Model B. Confused? So, it seems were the customers. The Ford we all know is the Michigan-based motor company of Henry Ford, who were already very much a big name in 1917. This Ford however comes from the Ford Tractor Co, of South Dakota, an enterprise set up by a shady businessman to cash in on the Ford brand, manufacturing an already outdated and inferior machine backed up by dubious claims of its capabilities.

On the staff was an engineer called Ford who lent his name to the company, but he bore no relation to Henry Ford. The company didn’t last long, collapsing soon after the date of this film, and very few of its products survived. It did have one legacy though, the awful quality of one of its tractors is reputed to have been the impetus behind the founding of the Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory, the place where if you sell a tractor in the USA, you’ll have to have it tested to ensure it performs as it should. In their museum they house one of the few surviving Ford Model B tractors.

Meanwhile the Ford in Michigan produced their own very successful line of tractors, and their Fordson Model F from the same year is a visible ancestor of today’s machines. But as the video below shows, there’s nothing new about a fake.

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Alleged Hit-and-Run driver Arrested After Her Car Rats Her Out

We had to giggle at this one when it came down the tips line. Last week, a woman involved in a hit-and-run fled the scene — only to have her car call 911 for her.

The woman hit two vehicles and then attempted to drive home when her Ford vehicle called 911 using the Sync Emergency Assistance Technology. When asked by the dispatcher if everything was okay she lied about being in the accident — but the dispatcher did not believe her. After all, the sync feature only calls if the car has seen significant damage, and in this case, the air bag had been deployed. Continue reading “Alleged Hit-and-Run driver Arrested After Her Car Rats Her Out”

Building A Dead-On-Accurate Model Ford Pickup From Scratch

In a world filled with 3D printed this and CNC machined that, it’s always nice to see someone who still does things the old-fashioned way. [Headquake137] built a radio controlled truck body (YouTube link) from wood and polystyrene using just a saw, a Dremel, a hobby knife, and a lot of patience. This is one of those builds that blurs the lines between scale model and sculpture. There aren’t too many pickup trucks one might call “iconic” but if we were to compile a list, the 6th generation Ford F-series would be on it. [Headquake137’s] model is based on a 1977 F100.

ford-thumb2The build starts with the slab sides of the truck. The basic outline is cut into a piece of lumber which is then split with a handsaw to create a left and a right side. From there, [Headquake137’s] uses a Dremel to carve away anything that doesn’t look like a 1977 F100. He adds pieces of wood for the roof, hood, tailgate, and the rest of the major body panels. Small details like the grille and instrument panel are created with white polystyrene sheet, an easy to cut material often used by train and car modelers.

When the paint starts going on, the model really comes to life. [Headquake137] weathers the model to look like it’s seen a long life on the farm. The final part of the video covers the test drive of the truck, now mounted to a custom chassis. The chassis is designed for trails and rock crawling, so it’s no speed demon, but it sure does look the part riding trails out in the woods!

[Headquake137] managed to condense what must have been a 60 or 70 hour build down to a 14 minute video found below.

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Castrol Virtual Drift: Hacking Code at 80MPH with a Driver in a VR Helmet

Driving a brand new 670 horsepower Roucsh stage 3 Mustang while wearing virtual reality goggles. Sounds nuts right? That’s exactly what Castrol Oil’s advertising agency came up with though. They didn’t want to just make a commercial though – they wanted to do the real thing. Enter [Adam and Glenn], the engineers who were tasked with getting data from the car into a high end gaming PC. The computer was running a custom simulation under the Unreal Engine. El Toro field provided a vast expanse of empty tarmac to drive the car without worry of hitting any real world obstacles.

The Oculus Rift was never designed to be operated inside a moving vehicle, so it presented a unique challenge for [Adam and Glenn]. Every time the car turned or spun, the Oculus’ on-board Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) would think driver [Matt Powers] was turning his head. At one point [Matt] was trying to drive while the game engine had him sitting in the passenger seat turned sideways. The solution was to install a 9 degree of freedom IMU in the car, then subtract the movements of that IMU from the one in the Rift.

GPS data came from a Real Time Kinematic (RTK) GPS unit. Unfortunately, the GPS had a 5Hz update rate – not nearly fast enough for a car moving close to 100 MPH. The GPS was relegated to aligning the virtual and real worlds at the start of the simulation. The rest of the data came from the IMUs and the car’s own CAN bus. [Adam and Glenn] used an Arduino with a Microchip mcp2515 can bus interface  to read values such as steering angle, throttle position, brake pressure, and wheel spin. The data was then passed on to the Unreal engine. The Arduino code is up on Github, though the team had to sanitize some of Ford’s proprietary CAN message data to avoid a lawsuit. It’s worth noting that [Adam and Glenn] didn’t have any support from Ford on this, they just sniffed the CAN network to determine each message ID.

The final video has the Hollywood treatment. “In game” footage has been replaced with pre-rendered sequences, which look so good we’d think the whole thing was fake, that is if we didn’t know better.

Click past the break for the final commercial and some behind the scenes footage.

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CAN Hacking: Protocols

We’ve gone over the basics of CAN and looked into how CAN databases work. Now we will look at a few protocols that are commonly used over CAN.

In the last article we looked at CAN databases, where each bit of a message is mapped to a specific meaning. For example, bit 1 of a CAN message with ID 0x400 might represent whether the engine is currently running or not.

However, for more complex communications we need to use protocols. These can map many meanings to a single CAN ID by agreeing on a structure for sending and receiving data.

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Smart Brake lights and more with OpenXC

smart-brake-light

At a recent hack-a-thon event, [Al Linke] tapped into a vehicle’s OBD port with an OpenXC vehicle interface and hacked an LED screen in the rear window to display data based on events. If you haven’t heard of OpenXC, you can expect to read more about it here at Hackaday in the near future. For now, all you need to know is that OpenXC is Ford’s open source API for real-time data from your vehicle: specifically 2010 and newer model Ford vehicles (for now).

[Al] connected the OpenXC interface to his Android phone over Bluetooth, transmitting data from the OBD port to the phone in real time. From here, the Android can do some really cool stuff. It can use text to speech to announce how much your lead foot cost you, add sound effects for different car events, and even interact with additional devices. Although he managed all of those features, [Al’s] primary goal was to add an LED screen that displayed messages on the vehicle’s back window.

When the phone detected a braking event from the car, it directed the LEDs to light up with a “braking” image, adding some flavor to the process of stopping. He could also change the image to a “Thank You” sign with a waving hand, or—for less courteous drivers—an “F U” image with a slightly different hand gesture. You’ll want to check your local and/or national laws before attempting to strap any additional lighting to your vehicle, but you can watch [Al’s] car light up in the video below. For a more detailed look under the hood, he’s also provided an Instructables page.  If OpenXC catches on, the number of vehicle hacks such as the Remote Controlled Car may skyrocket.

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A very dash-ing iPad mini

iPad-mini-dash-install

The work which [Mark] did to mount this iPad mini in the dashboard of his Ford truck is commendable. It looks like it came from the factory this way, and the functionality matches that illusion.

He actually started the project before he had the iPad mini on hand. A PDF that mapped out the exact dimensions was used as a template for the layout and alteration. He took the stereo controls out of the original faceplate. That opening was made to fit the screen by cutting, adding putty, then sanding and finishing.

Since the bezel won’t let [Mark] get at any of the buttons on the iPad itself he picked up an external home button on eBay and mounted it just to the left of the screen. Inside the dashboard a docking connector is responsible for powering the tablet and connecting it to the sound system. There’s even a WiFi connection thanks to the MiFi system he mounted in the overhead console.