Monday, June 18, 2012

DMC-12’s Digital Clock: “It’s Alive!”

“It’s Alive!” 
That is what I said, channeling Victor Frankenstein, when my 30 year old DeLorean clock came back to life. I should explain.

If you haven’t seen my older blog about my search and ultimately a solution for a replacement digital center console clock, I’ll summarize it quickly: My car came in great working order from the previous owner, except, and I was told upfront, that the digital clock on the center console did not work.  I knew I was going to have the clock running again, it was only a matter of time (bwahhhah, unintended pun. Ahem.).

So options I investigated were:

  • Find an new old OEM working one. Negative. All NOS clocks were long gone.
  • Find a used one. Negative. Everyone holds on to their clocks and it’s not like there is something else to replace in that position. BTW: these same clocks are used on the Lotus Elise, but I believe with a  different end connector or wiring configuration.
  • Make one. 
Negative. I’m too much of a perfectionist and not enough of an electrical engineer to do a good job.
  • Find an alternative. OK, that is the course I pursued.

Alternative pursued: 
1) $5 stick up LCD clock.
Negative, too cheesy.

2) $10 modern-ish low power LCD clock.
No.....just not the right style.

3) Scouring the Internet, I found Dakota Digital offered a digital clock, just about the right size and display, but of course not a direct fit. A few emails and phone calls confirmed that they could build their clock into our removable center panel.   I chose this route and have been very happy with the results now for over two years.

More details here on the Dakota Digital Clock from my previous blog.

..wait, a new Alternative:
So that should end the story, except that  a few weeks ago on the DMCTalk forum, out of the blue, someone from Europe says they are working on a custom clock replacement, and then posted pictures.  Wow, my clock revival OCD kicked in again, and I contacted him for details so I could blog it.  So this is the longest introduction ever, to this new product:  Mr. Maurice Blom’s (most excellent) replacement digital console clock for the DeLorean.

First the Details:
For this alternative clock solution, you will need:

  • Your original clock case, doesn't matter if the clock is working , or semi-working, you just need the case anyway as the actual internal digital clock is easily removed, and will be replaced with this option.
  • If you don’t have case (with working clock or not), perhaps a “Wanted” posting may produce some candidates. I am sure there are quite a few sitting out there with dead clocks.

Features of Maurice's clock
Replaces the original Printed Circuit Board (PCB) electronics of original clock, without any permanent modifications to your dash, center console, wiring, with a very modern design.
Zero power consumption when ignition switch is off (has a long life rechargeable battery built in).
Remains on time without external power source, car battery can be switched off.
12 (original) or 24 hour display formats.
Display brightness is dimmed when parking/side lights or head/side lights are on as in original clock.
Setting the time is identical to original clock, to small buttons on front.
Available with green or blue digits.
One year warranty.

Having just converted the car to nearly 100% LEDs, and benefiting from their low power dissipation, I was particularly interested in the zero power consumption aspect of it, when the car was off.

Clock arrives
The clock arrived a few weeks after ordering it.  I think it took much longer than typical because most likely a U.S. Homeland Security scan of the package probably generated a flag for further inspection – even though the package did not appear to be opened.


1. Clock Module DMC-12 PCB
2. Replacement connector with colored tags
3. Two foam spacers
4. Two replacement push buttons
5. Instructions/installation manual  (well written, with pictures)
(Not included:  A clock case, as discussed above, you reuse your existing one, or obtain one.)

Bench Test
I have a small portable power supply, so I hooked it up on my kitchen table and turned on the power supply to feed the clock power, before installing it. To my absolute surprise, the clock lit up, out of the box, with the correct time.

I have pulled power many times before on the Dakota clock solution that I have been using (and the OEM clock would behave as well), only to have to reset the clock’s time, every time – not a big deal in the big scheme of things, just a minor nuisance.  But this new unit has a built in battery, which runs the clock when there is no power, so thus the time was correct, that is, not blinking 12:00 like the VCRs of days gone by, immediately after being powered.

In practice this means that:
  • As the "Features" bullet point above indicates, this unit consumes Zero car battery power when the car is off.
  • If you park your car for extended period of time and disconnect the car’s battery, when you reconnect it, the correct time will display on the clock.
  • The clock's battery should last for many years, and is a commonly available replacement.

Detailed Pics
Below are some close ups of this new clock. You can see that this is very, very professionally engineered and manufactured.

Here is a side by side with the old clock, with ‘70’s technology LEDs, the front/clock side of the board.

…and the rear of the circuit boards. 

Dave McKeen explained to me that these old clocks operated the LED portion inside a vacuum, inside the glass case (mid to late 70's tech!).  A common failure is that the end seal of this glass case, being...well: glass, is very fragile and many broke, thus disabling the clock. Another common failure point for these old clocks are delaminated circuit boards, which lead to intermittent behavior and ultimately 100% failure.


Installation was very straight forward.  You basically snap off the cover from your OEM clock housing, cut the end connector off (or you could attempt to pull the pins from the OEM connector, and then pull the old clock out of the case.

You then essentially repeat the process in reverse (adding the provided internal spacers and reset buttons) but you now use the new clock PCB.

The clock module is then put back on the center console, and to complete the installation, you will most likely have to set the clock to your appropriate time zone (mine arrived with East cost time, which is the time zone where I reside).  Then you hook up the wires to the (also provided) new connector, and it’s done.  This all can be done in 10-15 minutes.

How does it look?
After I got through the coolness of the battery backed up time, is when I sat straight and saw that my 30 year old clock case was alive again with a working internal LED clock.  Curiously I never really noticed that the color of the Dakota one is more blue than the OEM green.  This green one actually matches the green illuminated 12V intercessory socket (aka: cigarette lighter) ring.

How cool. It felt like bringing something back from the dead (..well, I imagine, at least), thus the “It’s alive!” comment at the opening.

The price of the package is, for a display with:
green digits: 179 Euro.
blue digits: 199 Euro. (blue digit components are more expensive)
Click on this link for a EU to USD converter.

These prices are exclusive shipping costs, and vary per the destination from the point of origin in Amsterdam.

There was some initial discussion on the forums that this was too expensive, but you really have to value what has been done here.  This is a custom engineered, modern, reliable, and direct fit replacement for a 30 year old component (and it includes new set pins and a connector), for a limited run car.

If you are looking to replace your clock because it went bad, or is on the way, or is intermittent, this is the perfect replacement.

If you'd like to order one, here is the contact information:
(Maurice Blom)

Would you like to roll with a DeLorean console clock even if you have a greater than 6000+ VIN?  DMC still sells the center/shifter console panels, with an opening for the clock.  In fact, at this writing they do not carry the non-clock version.  So that means that you could just buy a new center/shifter panel (sell your old one), remove the trim and rheostat from your current one and put them on the new one, then add your new clock (remember though, you'll still need at least an OEM clock case). Re-install the center/shifter panel, and viola tracking time like the 80's but with modern reliable LEDs.


As always, if you have a few minutes, be sure to check out the "Best of" postings

1 comment:

circuit board said...

This project looks like so much fun! Thank for sharing!!