The Flux Bands and Reactor on this 1:8 scale Back to the Future DeLorean are normally lit using some LEDs and basic fiber optic cable. While this works OK, the result of this solution typically means the fiber optics have dim middle sections with mildly brighter ends.
I originally planned on replacing the included fiber optic cable with some high performance side-glow fiber. However, the team from Model Modz have created something much better….The EL Light Mod. This mod replaces the stock LEDs and fiber optics in our models with real electroluminescent (EL) wire that evenly emits light along its entire length. If you are not familiar with EL wire, it works by passing alternating current (AC) through and around a thin copper wire coated in phosphor. This electricity cycles down the wire at high frequency causing the phosphor to glow. The wires are then encased in a protective PVC sleeve so there is little danger of any harm to us.
While the power requirements are relatively low, it does require an inverter system to convert the on-board DC to 100V AC and bump the frequency to about 1000 Hz. Because of this, the AAA batteries normally used are insufficient and you will need an much better external DC source such as The Power Mod, which I already have installed.
Quick note: This installation is long and can be challenging. I have split it into four smaller parts on this page to make it easier to follow:
- PART ONE – Chassis Preparation
- PART TWO – Body Preparation
- PART THREE – Flux Band EL Wire Installation
- PART FOUR – Reactor EL Wire Installation
The EL Light Mod includes:
- DC to AC Inverter Unit
- Front Flux Band EL Wire
- Left Side Flux Band EL Wire
- Right Side Flux Band EL Wire
- Reactor EL Wire
- Extension Wiring for all connections, with color-coded heat shrink
NOTE: For Part One, I had just finished Issue 58 of the build so these steps are based on that level of completion. If you are farther along, you may have to remove additional parts of your model to access some of these components. Also, I already have The Power Mod installed, so these steps and photographs reflect that mod.
PART ONE – Chassis Preparation
Before You Start
We will need to make some slack in the power cable so we can work inside the Fuel Tank. Therefore, you may want to remove the three Tabs holding down the power wire first. This is a picture of the original battery wiring, but you get the idea:
The instructions available from Model Modz come in three flavors (Standard, Advanced, and Body-On), but I am going to go a little different route. Also, depending on how far into the build you are, you may need to disassemble things until you can get the lower interior assembly (floorboard) out of the car.
We will start with the EL Extension Wiring which has color-coded heat shrink on each plug wire (red, blue, green, and black):
The red and blue plugs (color-coded heat shrink) need to pass through the Center Console of the interior assembly from the rear to the front. You could take the interior apart until you have removed the Center Console, but I found that is was not that difficult to feed these plugs through the assembled interior just by taking it slow and easy:
I carefully inserted these these two wires into the rear opening of Center Console…
…until the thicker middle section (black heat shrink) of the Wiring Extension lined up with this square opening:
At the front of the interior, I used tweezers to grab on to the plug ends and pull them through this opening under the dashboard:
This process was preferable to taking the most of the interior apart, considering all the work I have done on the decorative wiring details. Luckily, this step was pretty easy to work through while leaving everything in place:
With The Power Mod installed, there should be two power connectors available at the front of the chassis:
One of these connectors needs to be fed back into the Fuel Tank through the notch in the chassis:
On the underside of the model, remove the six (6) screws holding the Fuel Tank Cover in place and move the cover aside. The two rear screws are type LM (circled in blue below) and the front four screws are type BM (circled in red). Be sure to keep this in mind for re-installation later:
Now, you can pull the power connector the rest of the way through the chassis notch and into the fuel tank compartment…
… and move the Fuel Tank Cover out of the way:
This step requires some cutting and grinding/sanding. The old power switch housing and these two tabs need to be removed:
First, I used some flat-nose snips to cut most of the plastic away, like this:
Then, I used a rounded sanding bit on my Dremel to carefully grind away the remaining plastic until I had a flat surface at all three locations:
We can now install the Inverter. There is a pre-installed adhesive strip on the front surface:
Remove the backing paper from the adhesive strip and attach the Inverter to the center of the forward edge of the fuel tank. If you are feeling adventurous, you could alternatively drill two holes in the front of the Fuel Tank and use some screws to attach the Inverter instead. The adhesive was enough for me, so I left it alone:
Connect the power lead plug you passed through the chassis to the red socket of the Inverter. Be sure the red wires line up and match each other. Otherwise, the Inverter will not work. This provides the positive (+) power connection:
Next up is this long thin black wire. It is used for the negative (-) power connection to the Inverter:
The mod instructions say to feed this plug/wire towards the rear of the car by running it under the radiator water pipes, around the transmission mount, over the driveshaft, and up through the chassis to get to where the rear plug for wire #23 is. I decided not to do that. I didn’t want the wire that visible, so I fed this plug back through the notch in the chassis instead:
I flipped the car over and ran the black wire along the existing wires, under the clear sticker, and over to where the other plugs were:
Next, I located the plug at the end of Wire #23 (right rear of the chassis):
I temporarily removed the rearmost Tab holding these wires down, slid Wire #23 out, and folded it forward so I could connect it to the black wire from the Inverter. I prefer this way of routing the black wire more, as I don’t have it visible on the underside/engine bay of the car:
At this point, we need to connect the red heat-shrinked lead of Wiring Extension we installed through the interior to the Inverter. As attaching the interior to the chassis is part of Issue 59, you may want to refer to that issue for reference. Bring the interior down close enough to feed the ‘red’ color-coded EL plug through the notch in the chassis and into the Fuel Tank:
IMPORTANT: On the underside of the chassis, connect this plug to the matching plug of the Inverter.
Then, tuck all of the wires into the Fuel Tank and replace the Fuel Tank Cover. Remember, the longer LM screws fit the two holes towards the rear of the car, while the shorter BM screws fit the four holes to the front.
You can now flip the chassis back upright and secure the interior assembly to the chassis per Steps 40-41 of Issue 59 as required.
Step 9 (optional)
With The EL Light Mod, you won’t need Wire #19 (front left of the chassis) or Wire #22 (left rear of the chassis) installed your model. It won’t hurt anything to leave them installed, but I chose to remove them. I loosened the Tabs holding these wires in place, pulled them out, replaced the Tabs, and tossed the wires into storage:
Feed the blue heat-shrinked wire toward the left rear of the car, securing it under the Tabs if you want:
Feed the green heat-shrinked wire toward the right rear of the car, securing the long lead under the Tabs if you so chose. Be sure the short lead that splits off this wire remains at the center of the chassis behind the bulkhead (this is the plug for the Reactor EL wire, circled in yellow below).
Feed the plugs on the ends of both rear EL wires towards the middle of the chassis and down towards the ground (circled in red below). Later on in the build, these will eventually fit in the rounded notches you can see in the frame near the wires:
These two plugs should hang below the frame like this:
That it! This completes PART ONE of The EL Light Mod installation. The rest will have to wait until I get the issues where we install the Flux Band boxes and Reactor. However, to make sure it all works, I connected the power supply, attached all of the EL wire, and pushed Button #1. Wow, this looks amazing and I can’t wait to see the finished product!
PART TWO – Body Preparation
In ISSUE 87:
When I reached this issue, I did NOT install the Wire + 2 LEDs (part 87K labelled 20). These are the roof Flux Band LEDs. If you have already installed this part, you should really open the car up, temporarily remove the Roof Interior, and take this part out:
In ISSUE 91:
There is no need to install this Wire 19, it is safe to remove from the car:
When putting the body onto the chassis, completely remove this Wire 21 (orange/yellow) from the car:
Next, connect the Orange EL wire to the empty EL plug behind the bulkhead (these wires both have green heat shrink on them):
Now, we can feed the end of the Orange EL wire up through the same hole in the Engine Surround where Wire 21 was:
At the front right of the car, feed the blue heat shrink EL wire plug through the opening in the body/fender, as shown. We will need this wire for the front Flux Bands:
Once the body and chassis are connected, this Orange EL wire should be waiting for us on top of the Engine Cover, as shown:
Once Issue 91 is built out, Part Two of the installation is complete. I hooked all the EL wire up real quick for a picture; this is what we should have so far:
PART THREE – Flux Band EL Wire Installation
In ISSUE 98 (Front Flux Band):
Instead of attaching the Stock Filaments to the LEDs on either side at the front of the car (which now don’t exist), I installed the front EL wire (with the blue heat shrink) into each of the Junction Boxes:
The EL wire is looped through the left-side Junction Box, and the EL wire end and heat shrink are tucked into the right-side Junction Box:
The left-side Junction Box can then be installed to the car and the EL wire tucked into these notches of the closest Power Coil Bracket:
Run the EL wire along the front of the car tucking it into the notches of each Power Coil Bracket.
Painter’s tape (or equivalent low adhesive tape) was used to keep it in place until the ends were secured:
On the right side of the car, attach the EL wire plug to the EL wire harness that we poked out of the body in the Part Two section above:
When I went to attach this Junction Box to the body, I had some extra slack in the EL wire:
I removed the right side Junction Box, popped the end cap off the loose end of the EL wire, and cut it to the correct length (using sprue cutters). You can cut EL wire to any length and it will still work. I then replaced the end cap on the open end of the EL wire:
The Junction Box was then re-installed:
I connected The Power Mod, pressed Button 1, and my EL wire came to life! This completed the front Flux Band EL wire installation:
In ISSUE 104 (Left Top Junction Box):
Starting with Step 6, we carefully fold one of the rear EL wires (marked with the black heat-shrink) at the midway point, fit this loop inside the Junction Box under the Bracket, and secure it with the two (2) IP screws, as shown:
This was then secured to the top of the car with the NM screw as normal:
I shaped these EL wires along the matching grooves in every Power Coil Bracket along the left side. I even grabbed the actual Power Coils supplied in Issue 107 to make sure the path matched as best as possible. Then, I used painter’s tape to hold them in place for now:
In ISSUE 105 (Right Top Junction Box):
The right side of the car follows the same steps as the left, found above:
Here, I used the Power Coils from Issue 108 as a guide to make sure the shape of the wires was as best as I could get it:
In ISSUE 106 (Rear Support Bar):
Starting with Step 4A, I fit the ends of the right rear EL wire through the ‘junction box’ of the Support Bar, as shown. The ‘capped’ end was a bit long, so I just folded it inside the box:
When I added the Cover, I noticed there was some exposed EL wire (right next to the heat-shrink):
I took the Cover back off and used a Black Sharpie to ‘color’ about 0.5 inch of the EL wire (on both left and right side wire), as shown. This worked perfectly to shield out any excess light bleed:
I repeated this process on the driver’s side of the car as well:
This Support Bar can then be mounted to the car:
Since we are not using the stock LED wiring, there are no wires to pass along the thick black cable between the junction boxes of the Support Bar. Therefore, I made up a wiring bundle of my own. I took Wire 19 and Wire 21 that we are no longer using, cut off the plugs on each end, peeled the wires apart, removed the orange wire, and twisted them up like this:
Next, I stuffed the wires on one end of the bundle into this slot where the EL wire was coming out of the passenger-side junction box…
… ran the bundle along the black cable…
… and trimmed and stuffed the other end into the same slot on the driver’s side junction box:
This completes PART THREE. I once again hooked up the power, pressed button 1, and saw *all* of the Flux Bands come to light!!
PART FOUR – Reactor EL Wire Installation
In ISSUE 113 (Reactor Drum):
Instead of attaching the stock Filament to the LED Wire supplied in this issue, we first disconnect our orange EL wire at the rear of the car:
Next, we remove the protective end cap:
Feed this end of the EL wire up through the notch in the Reactor Drum, loop it around, and feed it back through the notch, as shown:
Slide the protective cap back on the end of the EL wire:
Carefully bend the EL wire to the shape of the circular groove in the top of the Reactor Drum, as shown:
Fit the included Top Plate back onto the Reactor Drum to hold the EL wire in the groove and secure it from below with the BP screw:
Arrange the spare wire inside the Reactor Drum as to not bend the heat-shrinked connection, securing it under the Tab in a way like this:
That’s it! The final part, Part FOUR, of The EL Light Mod installation is now finished!
This lighting mod is so much better than I expected! The Flux Band EL wire is a cool ice blue color and the Reactor EL wire is a subtle orange. All of the EL is evenly lit from end to end and exudes a nice glow. The brightness is not overwhelming and there are no dim sections at all. It is far better than the stock lighting setup and was worth all of the extra time.
Before I turned it on, I was a little concerned about the noise the Inverter was going to make. EL wires require a high frequency current and typically these inverters make a high-pitched squeal. However, I was pleasantly surprised that, while the sound is indeed there, it is barely noticeable.
Overall, I am extremely satisfied with The EL Light Mod, both in quality and ease of installation. Thank you Model Modz!