Rave Racer Force Feedback Retrofit

After owning Maximum Tune for a few weeks, I cannot imagine a world where a driving game doesn’t have a 6-Speed & Force-Feedback! (FFB) I have one other driving machine in my collection at the moment, a Ridge Racer / Raver Racer 33″ DX.

Unfortunately, the Australian delivered / LAI manufactured Rave Racer cabinets didn’t seem to come with FFB. Given that Rave Racer could be purchased as an upgrade for the existing Ridge Racer cabinets it stands to reason that at the time, many operators would have considered the option FFB as unwarranted additional cost.

There are four, official variants of the Japanese machines;

  • A 33″ DX Machine that may have started its life as a Ridge Racer and then become a Raver Racer by upgrade. (6 Speed H-Pattern Gears, optional FFB)
  • A 50″ DX machine that was similar to 33″ DX, but came with a 50″ rear projection screen and a yet undocumented IO board called the “Deluxe IO” board which I have never seen for sale.
  • A “twin machine” with simple up/down shifter and sans FFB
  • A “SD” machine, pictured below which is essentially the same as the twin in terms of features.

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In Japan, it seems like the FFB upgrade was included as part of the upgrade kit that operators would receive from Namco. I know this because I have the manual that came with the kit. From what I have observed over the last decade of collecting, I have never seen an English variant of this document despite Rave Racer definitely being available as an upgrade globally.

 

A key element of the software for all system 22 driving games is that the cabinet type (and subsequent feature list) options are available in the same rom set – i.e. you don’t need different roms for different variations of the cabinet. If you have seen my post about the 6-Speed transmission you would see how this is done via grounding certain pins on the IO board.

The Australian machines (as well as many other territories) got a version of the machine which had a spring loaded, return-to-center style steering mechanism. As shown below.

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An egg-shaped lobe (not too dissimilar from a cam-shaft lobe) attached to the main shaft would apply force to a spring loaded bar. Due to the non-round, egg shape of the lobe, the amount of force you needed to apply increased in a logarithmic way when you were reaching either side of the 270 degree rotation. It’s a  clever design and from what I can gather it may have been designed by Happ instead of Namco. A clever design, but not what I am after.

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To retrofit the Force Feedback, you’ll need to install the Happ / Namco drive motor in cab as pictured above on the left. Pictured above is the Happ FFB motor on the left, with the original steering shaft on the right. Note that in this picture I have fully stripped the original steering assembly down so I can use the bracket to attach the new motor assembly to the cab.

The benefit of having the fluro light’s ballast here is that you have a 240V AC feed coming to this part of the cabinet. This will be required to feed a transformer which is required to power the additional logic board which controls the FFB motor pictured below;

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Note that if you are interfacing with System 22 hardware then this board is your only choice. Namco made a newer version of the FFB hardware which was designed for System 246 onwards (Ridge Racer V, Wangan Midnight). These later boards are not backwards compatible. Happ apparently make a universal driver board but I haven’t seen anyone use it on System 22 to say whether it works. I’ll come back to the drive board later in the post.

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My cab also required a few extra modification to make the motor fit. As the front of the cab swings open on a hinge, you need to make a bit of a notch in the cab so the motor can swing in and out of the cab. As this notch sits under plastic decals, it wont be noticed

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After transferring the bracket to the new steering assembly, removing the fluro light’s mounting point and notching the cab I now had the motor installed in the machine. Time will tell if the mounting points will hold up the constant twisting motion the FFB motor, however I did upgrade the bolts from the the M6 carriage bolts to wider M8 bolts. This wasn’t for the extra sheering strength, but rather the larger diameter bolt just centralized the mounting points better.

One of the issues that I faced that the shaft of the new steering shaft was much longer and thinner than the original. To fix this, I removed the aluminium hub from the original steering mechanism and machined it so it could go back on the new shaft, in reverse. Although this did not amend the length issue, the steering shaft now completely filled the plastic control panel. To achieve this, I drilled the original mounting holes the entire way through with a 5.5mm drill bit. Once the holes where through, I tapped the the holes with an M6 1.0 die. Finally, I had to widen the section with the key-way by about 1mm on the diameter. I did this by hand with a file as I didn’t have the right drill bits.

 

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With regards to the electrics, there are few simple modifications that need to be performed. The first is to fit an AC to AC transformer in the cab which will give you 15V AC @ 0.5 Amps and 24V AC @ 3 Amps. This transformer is not used to power the logic board but rather as a power source for the large DC motor which powers the FFB.

The Namco manual shows that both the 15V and 24V feeds come from the same transformer. I was unsuccessful in finding the actual transformer Namco used, so I used two transformers. A ‘monster’ 24V 5Amp (more than 150VA) and a smaller 15V transformer. As the Steering I/O has two bridge rectifiers for each AC input, the phase of the two transformers in relation to each other is irrelevant. Below you can see the assembly that I made which is now sitting in the bottom of the cab. Only the 24V is fused here as the 15V is fused on the control board itself. I used the AC line that I removed from the Fluro ballast to power this assembly so it’s nice and neat in terms of wiring.

 

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Next step, you’ll also need to tap a few more wires from the main 60 pin and 50 pin connectors on the board stack. TXD1+ and TXD1- come from your 60 pin connector, whilst the Ground, +5VDC and “Game Over” are tapped from 50 pin connector on the I/O board. As a side note, although the wiring diagram labels the serial connectors as TXD1+ and TXD1-, it’s not a standard serial connection from what I can tell. For example, when a logic probe is applied to the +, you get a normal pulsing line, whilst the – is stuck low with no pulse. Despite this, it works properly.

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I had a spare harness so I could get the extra wires that I needed. Using a very small flat-head screw driver, I pushed the locking tabs downs and liberated five of them from another loom.

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Below you can see a picture of the wiring diagram for the steering control board that I have researched. There is also another post on my blog that has a Google Sheets link to a more comprehensive wiring diagram. I can confirm that the diagram below is 100% accurate for Rave Racer although I’m yet to try others. Note that you can follow this link to find out exactly where each line needs to go on the Filter Board and I/O board

FFB Diagram

Once you’ve got it all hooked up, it’s just a matter of turning the feature on in the setting menu and enjoying all of the quirks on 1990’s era Force Feedback. I’ll update the post in future with more pictures and video, but that’s it for now. I can confirm that this setup works!

 

Parts needed:

  • Happ / Namco FFB Motor assembly including 5K pot if it doesn’t already have it
  • 240V AC to 24V AC @ 3Amps transformer. (Replace 240V with whatever your local voltage is.
  • 240V AC to 15V AC @ 0.5 Amps transformer
  • Namco FFB control board
  • A second Namco wiring loom to pinch pins and wires from
  • 5Amp, slow blow fuse.

 

Process

  • Remove existing wheel.
  • Remove bracket from existing setup and attach to the FFB motor assembly.
  • Remove the back panel in the steering cavity where the fluro light is
  • Notch the cab’s control panel so the motor will fit in
  • Re-install in the cab
  • Change the wiring to the steering pot if needed (if it has a different connector)
  • Install Namco drive board and transformers
  • Install new wires on the main loom and run to Namco drive board.
  • Double check all wires and voltages
  • Re-start the machine and reset the pots.
  • Go in to the test menu and enable FFB.
  • Enjoy!

 

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