Tripping the light fantastic
We look at three of the best-selling trip meters in the UK, the well-known and loved Brantz, Monit's fantastic G series and GaugePilot Rally, far, far, more than a trip meter. Which one is for you?
Trip meters are a hotly debated subject, “what do I need”, “how do I install it”, “how do I calibrate it” are some of the questions posed prior to purchase, in this article we look at three of our best-selling trip meters and look at the pros and cons of each unit.
So, why do you need a trip meter for regularity rallying? Even digital odometers that are fitted in modern vehicles aren’t accurate enough to be competitive in regularity rallying, hark back to the analogue versions in our historic vehicles and you take a step further back, there are many things that can lead to inaccuracies, wear in the drive from the gearbox, wear in the cogs of the odometer/speedometer are just a couple of issues amongst many others.
A trip meter is a highly accurate device, and depending on your personal preference and budget, there is something out there that will fulfill your requirements to be able to compete. A common thing amongst first-time buyers is to specify a GPS/Satellite driven trip meter to aid installation, although these are becoming more accurate as technology progresses they aren’t yet accurate enough to win an event. The reason behind this is that the antenna for the unit has to be able to receive signals from several satellites to be accurate, consider a regularity section under trees, in a tunnel or in between a gorge. The GPS driven versions will lose signal and even though this can happen momentarily, it is enough to make the reading inaccurate. Another situation is on a series of twisting hairpins, these sections of road can be so close together that the GPS signal cannot determine the difference in location, sending the reading out again.
It may well be that you don’t want to or cannot fit a mechanical or pulse driven sensor, that’s fine, just don’t expect to be as competitive as crews that do. Look at some of the top crews and they go that little further to ensure reliability by fitting two sensors, one will be an electrical pulse and the other will be mechanically driven, should one fail, the other can be switched in immediately. These sensors can be fitted in a multitude of places, the mechanically driven ones are generally driven from the gearbox/speedo drive whilst the electrical ones are taken (as a rule) from a sensor fitted on a bracket on a hub assembly or a propshaft. Where you fit the sensor(s) is down to your preference, but be mindful that there is a good chance of encountering water and/or mud along an event, both can have adverse effects.
The amount of units out there is bewildering and over time the three we have chosen to feature have become favourites in the historic rallying world for a host of reasons, ease of use, ease of installation, price and functions available are all factors in their success. At the top-end of the scale, you will find data-logging, engine sensors and many other functions are available, should you want to go that far. Do you need them to compete? No, is the plain and simple answer.
Let’s have a look at the various meters and go through their pros and cons, you can read more about them by clicking on the product name.
Tried, trusted, reliable and dependable, the Brantz International 2 PRO is probably the most easily recognisable and used trip meter in UK historic regularity rallying. Along with the Gauge Pilot featured later in this article, the Brantz range of meters are designed and built in the UK.
It has a large LED that is easily read, however, it does struggle in strong daylight and can be over-bright at night - a shroud or one of Brantz’ sun screen/night filters is a wise choice should you be thinking of using the unit in either of those conditions. Once the unit is calibrated, which, we have to say is incredibly easy, more on that later, there are only two switches and one rotary knob that affect the way the unit operates. The main control is the rotary knob and this can be used to trim the meter if something has caused deviation along the way. The other switches are forward/reverse, should a wrong turn be encountered and freeze/zero total to re-set the meter.
Calibration is very straightforward and Brantz describe their way of setting an initial reading in their clear and concise instructions that come with the meter. Another way of setting the unit is to (when you are on an event) use the organiser’s measured distance. Go to the ‘Start of Measured Distance’ and input the total distance the organisers specify at the ‘End of Measured Distance’, so if the measured distance is 5.17 miles long, input 517 on the Brantz calibration buttons. Drive the measured distance section as you would in a regularity, not cutting corners and junctions, and at the end, note the figure that comes up on the unit’s total mileage display. Now, input this into the Brantz calibration buttons and voila, your trip is set, it is that easy.
This ease of operation is brilliant for newcomers and novices alike, but if you look in many of the more experienced crews’ vehicles, you will see a Brantz meter sat there. One downside to the Brantz International meters is the units’ size, they are quite bulky and in a smaller vehicle where space is a premium, they can be tricky to mount due to their size. Saying that though, we have seen some pretty ingenious ideas in the past that have either hidden or recessed the unit into a dash or glove box, negating the interior real estate needed to utilise the unit.
All in all and value wise, the Brantz is a serious contender for those who want a no-frills trip meter that is reliable and won’t break the bank. HERO’s Arrive and Drive Team use Brantz meters in their fleet.
Made in New Zealand and used by a host of international teams, including WRC stars, Monit have built an enviable reputation for reliability with their G-range of trip meters. These units are used in HERO Recce and Event vehicles as they are discrete, easy to use and have great visibility thanks to their LCD screens and anti-glare coating on the units’ display.
The G-Series is built using the latest surface mount electronics technology and a light-weight polymer case. This highly integrated design reduces the number of internal inter-connecting wires, reducing the chance of short circuits and breakages. These features result in a compact reliable design that is able to withstand the most demanding rally stage, all at less than 30% of the weight of competing products. Setting the unit is simplicity in itself. Enter the calibration mode, press OK, drive the measured distance and note the number displayed, enter this into the Monit and press OK again, job done, it really is that simple.
The Monit range can be either GPS or sensor-driven and can even be purchased with a suction mount and power plug so that the unit can be fitted into a vehicle on a temporary basis using the GPS option. Again, GPS is only as good as the coverage and signal it can receive, should you venture under trees or in a tunnel/under a bridge, there will be a loss of some data. To achieve accurate results, we’d recommend that wheel sensors are used, there is the possibility of adding several sensors (as with most trip meters) to receive more pulses and therefore become more accurate with the measurements.
In use, the Monit G-Series is a delight to use, the unit is small enough to be unobtrusive but the screen and controls aren’t at all fiddly. Monit has taken great care to ensure that their product is well-built, but some of the accessories you can buy do feel a little flimsy and would possibly benefit from beefing-up. Starting at three times the price of a Brantz meter, the Monit G- Series units aren’t cheap, but it has a host of features to assist you when on an event, including a built-in timer and on the G-200 series it even includes a fuel consumption mode which is ideal for vintage vehicles that don’t have a fuel gauge.
If you want a clear to read, easy to install and good-looking unit that doesn’t take up a lot of room in the car, Monit may well be the trip meter you are looking for, it is a more expensive unit than the Brantz items, but it is a lot easier to read in difficult light situations.
As with the other makes mentioned here, GaugePilot has several different models with various features, to call this a trip meter is an insult to GaugePilot, this is a Rally Computer with features and applications that are designed to be entirely intuitive. From opening the box and looking at the unit for the first time, this product oozes quality, its design will fit in with any classic vehicle and in use, it is a pure joy to have in the car. Let’s cut to the chase though, it is the highest priced unit that we feature but after using it, the price can well be justified if your budget allows. What makes the GaugePilot different? We looked at the intermediate ‘GaugePilot Rally’ and were impressed with the clarity and ease of use for such a complex and advanced computer. In its ‘Twintime’ mode it can display information based on what type of regularity section you are competing on:
Regularity Mode - A press of control immediately resets the stopwatch and freezes its value and rally time on the screen for 30 seconds to allow the navigator to note down the values.
Jogularity Mode - A press of control freezes the stopwatch and rally time on the screen for 30 seconds to allow the navigator to note down the values, but it continues to count in the background.
Whilst this is going on, you also have rally time, section time and the ability to record your time at multiple timing points with the press of a button. Even with the size of the display, the GaugePilot is incredibly easy to read under any conditions. The thought and care that has gone into the unit is superb, GaugePilot founders, Simon Hambly and Nigel Cousins have used their experience in electronics and aviation engineering to fine effect, the body is machined from a solid billet of aluminium and the screen is built from the same people who make displays for the Eurofighter.
Adding to the functions on this model, the ability to wire into 24 different sensors including temperature, oil pressure, rev counter to name a few allows full data-logging capability on the unit, it will even inform you when it senses there is a problem with the car, should you wire up the necessary sensors.
In ‘Rally’ mode, the calibration and use of GaugePilot products are just as easy as the Brantz and Monit meters, it is more adjustable should an organiser’s mileages be a little suspect, the level of ‘trimming’ can go down to a metre or so. If you take into account that this is the only trip meter on the market to offer trip (total and inter), rally time, section time and also the ability to store your timing point times all on one screen, the cost and complexity of another unit on the dash to do these functions brings the apparent cost down slightly.
However, with a four-digit price tag this is a unit that despite its obvious quality and features is going to be a serious investment for any rally enthusiast, is it worth it? Only you can decide that.
The three meters featured here all have their own unique selling points, there are others available, but these are the three we see the most in cars that compete on HERO events. Brantz, purely for its' reputation and price point is by far the most popular with Monit starting to attract a lot of attention due to the units' size and very clear screen. GaugePilot's 'Rally' is a beautifully engineered and clever piece of kit, but it comes at a premium. All three of these meters will allow you to compete to a high standard with a sensor-driven output, it's your choice as to what unit you would install. Many of the top crews (and we do mean many) trust Brantz implicitly, however, as time progresses, things are being made smaller with easier to read screens such as the Monit. If you have a vintage car, all three are perfectly capable units, but, the RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) rejection shown by the GaugePilot range is truly impressive, we all know and understand the issues a magneto and older-style vehicle electronics can cause with modern equipment and GaugePilot have invested a large amount of time into making sure their unit is top notch. You can view the meters in the HEROstore by clicking their name or by following this link.