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John Lamb has been tuning cars since the early 1970s and using a rolling road dynamometer since the mid-1970s. Given his experience and success in modifying and upgrading engines, cylinder heads, camshafts, carburettors and other engine components, it is no wonder that he has become one of the most sought-after specialists in his field, tuning engines for professional race teams and individual owners. Today much of his work is on Porsche 911s and Jaguars, but he tunes anything from 1920s supercharged Bugattis, through to state-of-the-art race cars with sophisticated fuel injection and engine management systems. He even tunes race cars that run on methanol, and from time to time he tunes diesel engines. Around six years ago John Lamb made the decision to invest in an ECM Lambda 5220 air-fuel ratio (AFR) analyser that he purchased from Labcell, and this is now a critical instrument in his dynamometer.


In the 1970s John Lamb was one of the first people in the UK to operate a Dyna Tune rolling road. This used water brake technology and was entirely analogue, which meant it was difficult to log other parameters onto the power/torque graph. In particular, John Lamb wanted to log the fuelling - as an AFR value - alongside power output. Around 12 years ago, when the Dyna Tune system had effectively reached the end of its life, John Lamb replaced it with a MAHA dynamometer that uses eddy current electronic braking technology. The new MAHA dyno was much more versatile in terms of integrating other instrumentation, so John Lamb was able to log and map the fuelling by using an AFR meter and wideband lambda probe.


Although the dynamometer was operating as required and John Lamb was successfully mapping the fuelling with the power and torque, there was a problem: the wideband lambda sensors only lasted a matter of weeks and cost hundreds of pounds to replace.


John Lamb was aware of the ECM AFR analysers and was particularly interested in the two-channel 5220 instrument that could be used with one or two lambda sensors. This was important because the Porsche 911 boxer engines have two banks of cylinders and ideally the AFR should be read from both banks simultaneously. Similarly, the straight-six Jaguar engines normally have one exhaust manifold for cylinders 1, 2 and 3, and another for cylinders 4, 5 and 6, so the AFR should be measured in two places. John Lamb had a number of telephone conversations with the experts at ECM and was increasingly convinced that he wanted one of their instruments, but he had to justify the cost.


In the end it came down to having confidence in the AFR readings. Some of the engines John Lamb tunes cost from £50,000 to £100,000 and it is therefore vital to avoid doing anything that could damage the engine during the tuning process. If an AFR reading is inaccurate, it is possible for the engine to be run with a lean fuel mixture, which can result in catastrophic failure. In addition, to squeeze the maximum possible power from the engine, the tuner needs to know that the engine is operating on a ‘knife edge', which precludes building in a safety margin to take account of any instrumentation inaccuracies. John Lamb has built an enviable reputation for his meticulous work and the results he achieves; customers trust him so it is imperative that he can trust his instruments.


Interestingly, having invested in the ECM Lambda 5220 analyser, together with the associated sensors, intermediate module boxes and cabling, John Lamb has found that the sensors last almost indefinitely, so the money he has saved by not continually replacing sensors has more than paid for the ECM analyser. He comments: "I always look after the sensors by keeping them clean, making sure I don't damage them by incorrect fuelling, not leaving them in the exhaust overnight and handling them with care. As a result, I have only used three or four sensors in the six or seven years I have had the ECM analyser."


In most cases John Lamb installs the sensors in threaded bosses in the exhaust or manifold. He is now so adept at installing these bosses that he can drill a hole and weld in the boss in as little as 20 minutes. This means the sensor is in the ideal location for obtaining an accurate reading, as he has found that inserting a probe into the exhaust tailpipe is not as accurate at part-throttle settings.


Space around engines can be very restricted, particularly with race cars, so John Lamb has constructed small stackable housings to make it easier and neater to mount the modules near the sensors.


One of the advantages of the ECM instrument is that the sensor can be recalibrated using just the analyser and module. The sensitivity of the sensors is such that changes in the weather can alter the output, so daily calibration is essential.


Another benefit of the analyser is the choice of outputs. Although the 5220 has CAN, USB and RS32 ports, John Lamb finds it best to use the analyser's analog output as an input into a four-channel input module connected to the MAHA dynamometer's control system. By programming the control system accordingly, John Lamb can view the AFR readings in real time on the MAHA display, as well as overlaying the readings on a power/torque curve at the end of a power run. Nevertheless, the large, clear LED display on the AFR analyser is easy to watch, particularly when an engine is first being run, for signs of severe over-fuelling or under-fuelling, either of which could be problematic.


John Lamb has taken a great deal of time and effort to get his dynamometer and instrumentation set up so he can use the overall system exactly the way he wants to. Other operators may prefer alternative arrangements but John Lamb believes he has created a system in which he has full confidence, giving results that are accurate and reliable and enabling him to set up engines to the best possible state of tune . To achieve this goal he has had the full support of ECM's UK distributor, Labcell. John Lamb comments: "The support I have had from Labcell has been fantastic. Whenever I have a query, they take the time to listen and are brilliant, doing everything they can to help. If they can't answer my question, they ask ECM and then get back to me very quickly. So much of my work involves the dyno and associated instrumentation that I cannot afford to be without it for any period of time, which is why I always have spare sensors, cables and a module on the shelf. On one occasion there was an issue with a module so Labcell provided a loan unit while mine was sent to the USA. Labcell truly understand the nature of my business and have looked after me very well, for which I am most grateful. Having said all that, the ECM analyser, modules and sensors have never let me down such that I cannot operate the dyno."


Labcell is the sole UK distributor for the ECM range of engine control and monitoring instrumentation. Download data sheets directly from Labcell's website at or contact the company with specific enquiries or to request a demonstration by telephone on +44 (0)1420 568150 or email 


With compliments:

Taylor Alden Ltd

Unit 2, Temple Place

247 The Broadway


SW19 1SD

United Kingdom

Tel: 020 8543 3866