Daniel J. Dyke
My children bought me a Ninco lap timer for my birthday a few years ago and I enjoyed every moment of it until I got the more advanced SRM-2 and TrakMate systems.  The first question that must be addressed is that of the type of user for which this piece of hardware is suited.  The answer is that it depends.  Obviously it works with the Ninco track, but with the proper adapters and the modification described in this article it can be used with SCX, Scalextric Classic, and Scalextric Sport.  Without major surgery it will not work with Artin and Carrera systems.  But is it for every Ninco/SCX/Scalextric user? No, since it lacks a computer hookup one cannot do database functions like the SRM-2 software has and it has a small display and computers are much easier to read..

The following users will find it beneficial:

1.  People with limited space.  The footprint is small and it fits inside even the smallest track.
2.  People who do not want to dedicate a computer to the task or who cannot afford a second computer.
3.  People who race alone and only want to race against the clock.
4.  Groups who are using it for qualifying purposes.
5.  Someone who got it free and wants to experiment with it.
A second issue is the accuracy of the timer.  I would never recommend a timer that was not accurate and consistent.  Accuracy is hard to determine as one has to have a timer to measure it with and then the question becomes which one is wrong if there is a major variation.  I hooked up the sensor for TrakMate right beside the Ninco timer.  The TrakMate sensor was used as it is compatible with both TrakMate and SRM-2.  The Ninco timer was dead on with both the TrakMate and SRM-2 software once I shifted to a Pentium class computer.  The maximum variance after the last computer change was 1/1000th of a second.

A lap timer gives the user something to race against, the clock!  This one is a beauty in that it measures down to the thousandth of a second.  With certainty a person can know what a car will do and the results are surprising in that some cars are not as fast as they look and others are much faster. The timer also has the ability to alter a person's driving style.  I find that my driving is much smoother than before because I am a lousy driver I need all the help I can get against a young man with quick reflexes and neurons to burn.  Fishtailing a car may look great, but it slows the lap times dramatically.  Sliding is a different matter on some turns on my course.  If you get the right slide your lap will be great and if not you can count on about a .2 second loss.

Well, if it is so great, why modify it?  It has two faults.  The first is that it has a connector so that it can be hooked to a computer, but alas it has no software.  The second is that it draws its power from the same power supply as the cars.  The first problem I can't fix, but the second I can.

The original Ninco power supply is rated at 17.2 volts DC according to its label.  Also, it only has an 800 milliamp rating, which is fine for running the two original cars, but I have bought or made about 170 other cars in the past few years. Some of these draw far more power than an NC-1 and caused the timer to malfunction.  My first attempt at rectifying the power problem was to attach a regulated 13.8 volt power supply rated at 3 amps from Radio Shack.  This solved the problem temporarily.

Initially all I noticed was that the timer's LED display was a little dimmer and flickered slightly.  Then one day disaster struck when I dropped something metal (my glasses slid off my nose) and shorted the track.  The timer shut off and did not come back on.  I powered off and on, but the timer did not come back.  I thought I had cooked it, but my teutonic upbringing makes me patient and so I decided to turn the power off and leave it off for a while and see if it would come back.  When the power was turned on my good buddy the timer came back.  Later I noticed that the timer would occasionally reset itself on one car that made a heavy demand on the power supply.

Warning the User should proceed at his own risk!
This modification will probably void your warranty!

"If you do not feel comfortable with this, do not do it!"

The resolution to the problem is simple, give the timer its own power source.  The logical source was the one it was designed for, the stock Ninco power block.  I did not need it and never will as I bought a second set to get the track and the two cars.  The whole set cost me about $5.00 more than just the cars.

The problem in hooking the timer to the power supply is that both have female connectors.  Several solutions are possible.

A.    Cut one connector off and find a male connector that will work with the remaining connector.
B.    Cut them both off about ten (10") inches from the end of the cable the connector is on and do one of the following:
1.    Put a male connector on one and a female on the other.  Plug the two together and then you can turn them off by pulling the plug.
2.    Solder an inline on/off switch between the timer and power supply.
3.    Solder the wires of both units together.  The power block is then plugged into a fused power strip which already has an on off switch.
I opted for the option B. 3. It works great.  No muss, no fuss, and no money spent as I had the power strip already.   The same power strip turns the track's power supply, timer, and other accessories off in one click.

The only remaining problem I had was to identify which wire on the power supply went with which wire on the timer.  If you hook it up wrong, the timer will not work.  I know because I hooked it up wrong.  The timer did not start and so it was turned off very quickly to avoid damage.  The wires were then inverted and the power was turned back on. It worked!

In this discussion I am assuming that Ninco is consistent in their wiring, which they probably are.  The first wire that needs to be identified is the one on the power block.  In the first picture you will notice that one wire has white lettering on it and the other does not.

Figure 1: The Power Cord on the Power Block

Now look at the picture of the timer in figure two.  The one wire is white and the other is red.

Figure 2: The Lap Timer

    Here is a step by step set of instructions.

1.    Solder the white wire on the timer to the wire with the white lettering on the power supply. The red wire obviously goes with the wire without lettering.
2.    Wrap electrical tape around the solder joint of each wire and then wrap both wires together. (White wire connection gets wrapped, then the red wire connection gets wrapped).
3.    Hook the timer to the track.
4.    Plug the power block in and turn on the power strip.
If the timer lights up as normal then you did it right. If not turn it of because the wires could be backwards or you have a bad connection.  If Ninco is consistent and you do the job carefully, you will have no problems. I have not had a reset or any other problem since I did the  modification.  Since I originally wrote this article I moved beyond the capabilities of this timer, but I still respect it greatly and am working on integrating it into my test bench in the workshop because it takes up so little space.  Would I buy it again?  Yes, but I would do the modification immediately.  Things work better when they don't share power supplies and the last longer too.

Spei meliorum temporum
(In the hope of better times)