Multipurpose Cockpit Simulator
Reviewed By: Troy Dalton - November 28, 2007
I first discovered the Obutto oZone very much by accident. I was a little bored one evening and decided to do some random searching on the web.
Before long I stumbled upon an article at askmen.com, entitled "Top 10: Gearhead Gifts." The list contained all the obligatory gear head type gifts,
Momo Shift knob, Fabricator Gloves, Tools, etc…but when I got to the final page of the article, I was quite surprised to see a sim racing chassis
listed as the #2 gift!
I have been a sim racing enthusiast for many years and I have constructed four homebuilt cockpits myself, so I like to consider myself somewhat
of a subject matter expert, or at the very least, a fairly well informed hobbyist. However, I must admit that I had never heard of the oZone before
and its reasonable price tag just demanded further investigation.
At first glance the oZone appeared to have everything that I was looking for in a race frame cockpit; a built-in monitor stand, adjustable keyboard
tray, adjustable wheel mount, and a fully adjustable racing seat. Yes, there are many other commercially available race frames out there that offer
all of those same features, but non are nearly as affordable as the oZone's base price of $249.00US. While visiting the Obutto.com site, I noted
that they were offering a full oZone cockpit with G25 shifter mount for only $185.00US. Sufficiently impressed with the product, I sent an inquiry
via the Obutto site and less than a half hour later I received an email from Chris Dunagan, Chairman & Managing Director of Obutto.
Chris explained that some of his US inventory had some flaws with the surface metal and that the blemishes were merely cosmetic. He even sent
me pictures of the models in question and explained that the blemishes would not affect the durability or performance of the cockpit. He also,
explained that the shipping cost would be approximately $60US for anywhere in the US and that my total costs would be a very reasonable
$245.00US with everything included.
After looking at the pictures very closely, I was comfortable that the minor blemishes were of no consequence and the $185.00US price tag was
very enticing, but I was still a bit skeptical that unit would support my ECCI 6000GT wheel/pedal combo. All of the pictures of the oZone depicted
the race frame being used with a Logitech G25. Now, I have nothing but the greatest respect for Logitech products and those people who chose
to use them, but there is just no comparison between the ECCI 6000GT and a Logitech G25. The ECCI 6000GT is simply a piece of engineering
artwork and since it retails for around $1200US, it is usually reserved for those, like myself, who take their sim racing just a little too seriously.
Further more, the combined weight of the ECCI 6000GT is a whopping 54lbs and the wheel assembly alone is 29lbs!
My initial concern was that at some point my very heavy and very expensive wheel, might actually
snap off the wheel mounting plate and land squarely in my lap. Not only was I apprehensive about
damaging my wheel, but I was seriously concerned about my own well being. Ensuring that the
ECCI stayed in place and that the frame didn't fail under stress was of the utmost importance. Chris
explained that the wheel plate supports came to a "V" underneath the mounting plate and that it
would indeed support the weight of the wheel, but he could not guarantee that the plate itself
wouldn't flex because most of the weight of the ECCI would be hanging well over the front edge.
He then offered an alternative solution that involved using a discontinued acrylic G25 shifter mount
(Like the one depicted in the photo). I agreed that would most likely do the trick, but unfortunately he
didn't have any in his US stock at the time, so I was unable to obtain one before the unit shipped.
Chris informed me that in the future they may offer the original acrylic G25 shifter mount as an
option, but it is not available at this time.
The ECCI fits very nicely on the original wheel mounting plate with the additional
acrylic shift mount and there is virtually no distinguishable flex!
Convinced my ECCI would fit well in the oZone and satisfied that it was sturdy enough to stand up
to the rigors of some serious abuse, I placed my order on November 13th and DHL delivered the
package exactly seven days later on the 20th.
My package arrived a day early and the DHL guy showed up with my oZone on a hand
truck. Before I could tell him where to put the enormous box, he begs to know what is
inside. I say, "It's a sim chassis, but please don't ask me to explain it." He shakes his
head, laughs, and promptly dumps the 107lbs box in my garage, completely ignoring the
"This side up" written on the side of the box. He wished me a happy Thanksgiving,
shook my hand, and gave me a look that gave me the impression that he was con-
vinced that I was completely insane. Oh well, I didn't care, my oZone
was here and it was time to open my early Christmas present. The box was pretty beat
up to say the least, but everything on the inside was securely bubble wrapped and upon closer inspection
all of the parts were inside and to my great relief they were undamaged.
I stripped away the bubbled wrap, wiped down all the parts, and then took them inside to begin
the assembly. This is when I noted the substantial weight of the individual parts. They were
much heavier than I was expecting. It was clear to me that this was no toy and I was impressed
with the unassembled assembled rig.
It is at this point that you are probably expecting a detailed account of the assembly
with pictures. Well, I did have every intention of doing just that, but anyone who can
operate a toaster should have no problem what so ever assembling the oZone. All
you need is a couple simple tools and about ten minutes. Seriously, it really couldn't
be easier. After the two front and rear portions of the frame are bolted together,
the only tricky task remaining is to attach the seat. After that, attaching the monitor,
wheel, keyboard tray and shifter mount is just a matter of slipping them inside their
apporpriate recepticles and tightening the locking screws as needed. I completed the
entire assembly in less than ten minutes by myself. Honestly, it took me longer to dig
through my tool box and find the proper allen wrench. Speaking of tools, there are
only two essential tools required; a 13mm open ended wrench and an allen wrench.
All the parts fit together solidly and the connections were snug, but not too tight.
Adjustments may require a bit of muscle, but if you apply a light lubricant before
assembly, that should allow you to easily make fine tune adjustments later. Personally, I
find it necessary to apply any lubricant to the connections, but I did use a small brush to clean out some paint overspray inside the
welded nuts to minimize the possibility of crossthreading the locking screws.
If you own a G25, Momo black/red, Driving Force Pro, or anything similar, stop reading this review and just go order your oZone. The oZone
was specifically designed with G25 in mind; consequently the oZone will readily accommodate the G25 and any similar model wheel/pedal
combination and I assure you that you'll be more than happy with your purchase.
For ECCI owners please read on…First, you should know that the oZone's wheel
mounting plate and the detachable floor plate are perfect for mounting your ECCI wheels
and pedals. No holes or trimming are necessary, although you may want to place
a small block of wood in the "V" notch to allow for the small gap between the support
pipes and the wheel mounting plate. That way when you apply torque to the ECCI's
locking mechanism you'll be confident that it is secure. You will most likely find it
necessary to re-adjust your pedals, but they fit so perfectly on the floor plate that you
really don't have to do anything else besides set them in place. The weight of the pedals
on the rubber mat is enough to keep the pedals secure under most conditions, but it
would very easy to drill a couple mounting holes if you felt the need. I used a couple of
long wire ties to attach the pedals to the front of the rig, but that was just to hold the
pedals in place while I was making final adjustments and I don't have any intention of
doing anything else to secure the pedals.
Unfortunately the ECCI's center locking mechanism on the wheel extends below the mounting plate nearly 6'' and that prevents the oZone
keyboard tray from swinging across your lap as intended. I tried every possible configuration, but there just isn't enough clearance and I
finally abandoned any thought of using the keyboard tray in that manner.
Nevertheless, this little problem actually was a blessing in disguise. Since I could
not swing the keyboard tray across my lap, I decided to use it as a support for my TSW
Speedshifter. The only reason I even considered this was due to the rigid
construction of the keyboard tray. After I mounted the shifter in the desired position, I
realized that the keyboard tray was large enough to provide ample room for my
second monitor, trackball, and my wireless keyboard! Amazingly, even with all that
weight cantilevered over the end of the keyboard tray, there was very little flex.
Yes, there was some noticeable deflection, but nothing that would lead you to believe
that the tray would fail in anyway. For additional stability, I placed the PC and UPS
underneath the keyboard tray and inserted a small, padded, wedge, which essentially
eliminated any flex.
I really like this setup because it allows me to arrange the shifter in a very natural pos-
ition and I still have the use of my second monitor for Teamspeak, GTRPD, etc...
Lastly, I never intended to use the G25 shifter mount, but I may temporarily
use it as a drink holder or a spot for my Gyration wireless mouse. In the
future I plan on adding a small, carpeted shelf on the G25 shifter mount
so that I'll have a place for taking notes, keeping my setup binders, or just
for use as an oversize armrest.
I've looked at a lot of sim racing rigs and I must say that I was a bit skeptical
that the oZone was going to support my equipment, but it really does fit like
a glove. Honestly, for the money, I don't believe there is anything currently
on the market that has all the features of the oZone. The fact that it can easily
support an ECCI wheels/pedals is astounding and I just can't find any faults
with the construction. I think the oZone is simply fantastic and I would highly
recommend it to anyone looking for an inexpensive and versatile sim race