Having thought long and hard about a Van Aaken SmartBox, I finally felt it was time to take the plunge. I called Van Aaken at their Crowthorne premises and spoke to Alex Feher the Sales Manager. After explaining that I had a Fiat 2.3 JTD, Alex informed me that they didn’t have a SmartBox for it. However, if I would let them develop the settings etc on my Van, they could read the parameters of the ECU and after a road test make the adjustments. I arrived at their workshop at Noon on the appointed day. Sean McGowan, the Senior Technical Representative, met me and walked me through the procedures that would be carried out. Next, Mark McDonel the Technical Manager popped the bonnet and connected a lead to the fuel rail and the to an unprogrammed SmartBox and then to a laptop. Pete Harrison the Development Engineer took the van for a test drive to get the information from the ECU in normal road trim. On his return, Pete programmed the SmartBox with the settings required to improve the engines performance. Next step was the rolling road to see what the BHP and Torque the engine was producing. Van Aaken have a state-of-the-art 690BHP and 150mph Chassis Dynamometer ("rolling road") installed at their works in Crowthorne. Their dyno room has been prepared so that it can accommodate all types of vehicles, from motorcycles (using special software, a holding device and a cooling fan adaptor), to cars (up to 690bhp), right through to trucks and Motorhomes - Their cell is large enough to contain them all. Van Aaken have gone to great lengths to provide more than adequate ventilation and extraction to cater for large engine capacities and high power outputs. Our cooling fan blows air at over 60mph. Van Aaken decided to add to the already impressive specification (150mph/690bhp) of the Maha rolling road by adding a customised version of a supplementary software data system, made by TAT Messysteme based in Germany. This gives them very powerful software to record, and display in real-time, many different engine operating parameters. Their expert engineers use this information to achieve the best possible performance and reliability from any of their conversions. Although rated as 110 BHP the 2.3 JTD engine was actually giving out 116.3 BHP. The torque was 198 lb ft at 2888 rpm. This test was carried out twice to get a mean average. The SmartBox was switched on, the engine started, and this time the readings were 144.8 BHP and 247 lb ft torque at 2485 rpm. The second run produced the same results. Overall, a very significant improvement on the standard settings. After double checking all the parameters, Pete removed the programming leads and retuned the van to me. Sean came out to see me and I paid the bill. Van Aaken Developments charge £150 + VAT for the SmartBox when you allow them to use your van for the development of a box they don’t have. A big saving on the £450 a SmartBox normally costs. The trip home was astounding. I immediately noticed an improvement in performance and get up and go. Gear changing was smoother, and the response to the pedal was vastly improved. Overtaking lorries on the motorway was rapid and all in all the van was a delight to drive. The increase in Torque was very noticeable. I slowed down to 40 mph and floored the pedal. Response was again astounding, with an immediate acceleration to my desired speed of 60 mph. The RPM reading was also lower for the speed so, it could mean an improved MPG. However I will need to fill the tank and work out the MPG. I know that the van did 28.7 @ 55 MPH before the SmartBox was fitted. Watch this space. Would I recommend them to friends etc? Yes I would and without reservation.