29 Jan 2009

The engine builder I wanted to do the work never answers his e-mail and while he might be really good, not corresponding with potential customers just isn’t acceptable. So… a change of plans; I’m going to build it myself – with help. Very fortunately for me, is a coworker buddy was one of the top Honda engine builders back 10 years ago and has agreed to mentor me on the build. Even better, he has all the special measuring and assembly tools for the job – pretty darn cool. Anyhow, first thing on the list are Pauter connecting rods with EDM-drilled holes to lubricate the wrist pins. The exiting oil also splashes onto the bottom of the piston to help cool them, avoiding the task of installing oil squirters in the block.

Pistons are next but will take a bit more effort to define. The manufacturer has a big form to fill out and I don’t know half the parameters. We’re going with custom pistons with a few “enhancements” which should make them live a long time. Granted I’m not building a 1200 hp engine but whatever can be done to make it very reliable engine is worth doing.

The timing should work out about right. The rods and pistons won’t show up for probably a month, giving time to build the chassis around the drivetrain enough to know where everything goes. Starting to get exciting.

25 Jan 2009

This is a reminder of much fun fabricating Kimini’s radiator mounts was… not. It was and is an annoying awkward thing to mock up, not helped by the radiator not having mounting brackets, made more fun since it’s inside the nose cone. Anyhow, the frame under the rack and radiator is done, now it’s “just” a matter of welding tabs onto the radiator and picking them up with rubber-isolated brackets off the frame. As I was told years ago, and it’s proven true over and over, brackets take the majority of the time when building a chassis.

Been thinking about the front storage area and one item that would be nice to hide is a helmet. Right now the space isn’t deep enough for one but since the footwell is fairly tall, the floor of the storage area can be lowered some on that side… we’ll see.

Speaking of Kimini, had a weird dream about her, one of those disjointed dreams where nothing makes sense. I’m reminded of what my mom told me as a kid about not eating nuts before bed or I’d dream, yup, still happens. Anyhow, my sister(?) shows up driving Kimini. I basically said, “WTF?”, and she explains that she’s dropping it off per instructions from the new owner, handing me a list of things he wants changed or added. I remember thinking that he’s not going to like the bill since he didn’t call first, assumed I’d even do it, and assumed I have nothing else going on, and then the dream ended – good! I can only handle one project at a time.

23 Jan 2009

Fit-up the aforementioned front diagonals. The triangular area will house adjustable door vents to pass warm air from the radiator to the footwell – a free foot heater – plus crushable material for “accident mitigation.” Next task is the rack mount and radiator supports.

21 Jan 2009

Finished placing the front diagonals (in CAD.) The trick was to have them double as both chassis stiffeners and panel mounts. I had marginal cooling on Kimini and am designing in a kick-butt solution: open entry into the radiator, minimal tube obstructions, puller fan (allegedly 20% more efficient that a pusher), a splitter to guide exiting air into low pressure areas between the body and front wheels, and a double-pass radiator. That should fix it!

There may also be a panel across the forward end of the footwell to block whatever hot air gets through the splitter. If that’s done it gives an opportunity to install some sort of energy-absorbing material into the otherwise unusable triangular area. Not sure what to put there; I had the idea of a vent between the radiator outlet duct and the footwell – cheap heater? Or maybe some real high density foam that doesn’t weigh anything? Beer can crush space? Have any ideas?

18 Jan 2009

No welding today; mocked up the nose, radiator, fan and steering rack to ensure they package well. Jim, Midlana #2 builder, asked if there was room for a puller fan. Right after I said “No, pusher only”, I remembered I’d bought a puller fan myself, doh(!) so now there’s room for a puller <em>or</em> pusher. Still deciding on how the radiator exit ducting will route. Verified that steering shaft routing is a no-brainer; it’ll route upward using a second U-joint to ensure the shaft clears the driver’s feet and to ensure it’ll collapse into a “Z” in an accident.

16 Jan 2009

Catching up on pictures for the last couple weeks, sorry about that.

Received the master cylinders to confirm the front cover clears them – just. Also picked up 20′ of 3/4″ square and round tubing to use as diagonals at the far front and back. Makes nice crush structures and for rivet flanges for paneling.

14 Jan 2009

Changed some of the diagonal tubes in the front a bit, nothing that’s been built yet so no time or material wasted.

Reader (and first Midlana builder!) Jim told me about a type of cut-off saw I was unaware of. I own an abrasive cut-off saw and haven’t used it in years due to it throwing grit and sparks all around the garage. At the other end of the spectrum are cold saws that cost a fortune so they’re out. So, for years I’ve been using the little weenie Harbor Freight horizontal bandsaw that does okay. What Jim introduced me to is a “dry saw”, something like a cold saw but without the coolant system. He loves his and hasn’t used his abrasive chop saw in years either, so I ordered a remanufactured Makita LC1230.

12 Jan 2009

Ordered brake master cylinders in order to confirm I absolutely have enough space for them and the remote cylinders. With Kimini it took three tries to get the master cylinder sizing just right and it may be the same there, but I have to start someplace. At the same time I decided to go straight to Wilwood front calipers since they weigh 3 lbs which I’m sure is way less than the stock ones.

11 Jan 2009

The wood and clamps at the top are during fit-up of the brake pedal assembly. There will be bolt-on brackets for the assembly with multiple holes to set the pedal position (or not – it’s up to builders.) The way it’s done there won’t be any large holes for dust and hot air to sneak through. There was some concern that it might hit the cover but it fits fine. A nice perk is that a convenient diagonal to the left of the pedals will serve to mount a dead pedal to, something missing from Locost foot wells, never mind having actual foot space!

The piece of wood at the top of the first picture is the hood line while the lateral wood at the back is the top of the cowl. It was raised slightly to make space for instruments and to make the car look a bit more sprint-car-like and less dune-buggyish. It’s still below line-of-sight with the nose so it doesn’t impact visibility.

Slight design change. The front suspension pick-up brackets stuck out nearly 3″, kind of nuts and looked, as the Brits say, daft. The tubes they mount to were moved outboard to get closer to the pivot points. The nose has to be trimmed to fit around the tubes but it’s not a big deal since it gets trimmed anyway. It looks kind of different… have to see what it looks like once done. It was either this or have side-loading on elephant-ear-size brackets.

I hope wherever you are you got a chance to see the moon-rise last night or tonight. I hardly ever use the word “awestruck” but it fit. Between being closest to the earth right now and the clear air – just, wow.

9 Jan 2009

Fabricated the major front tubes. It always amazes me the extent and force of simple tack welds. The far end of the top cross tube pulled upward about 1/2″ when tacked at the other end. It wasn’t a problem and was forced back into place but I imagine the total force in a finished chassis must be massive.

For the two longitudinal tubes a simple jig was created by cutting notches in a masonite sheet, saving the trouble of wondering where the front end of the tube are supposed to go. These two tubes are square because the sides of the “engine” cover sit on the top, and a panel is riveted in to form the floor of the storage area. There are more tubes to add but these form the framework and will make the rest of them go pretty fast.

After the tubes were tacked, the nose was test-fit for the first time. The natural width of it at the back corners is about 26″ but the design requires 28″. However it’s flexible enough to accommodate the increase, and could go a bit further but I don’t want to press my luck. The reason for the 28″ is because the mid-engine layout moves the passenger compartment
forward causing the front tubes to have slightly more taper than a
standard Locost.

Oh, and I got a note from a reader who wasn’t real happy about the huge pictures, which greatly slows down his page downloads. I guess I get lazy and spoiled here in SoCal where everything’s on cable modem. If you’re on dial-up, let me know so I can get a sense of whether it’s worth the time to create thumb size pictures. It does take time to do it which is why I’ve stopped, giving more time to work on the car and book.

8 Jan 2009

This week the manuscript was updated, adding detail chassis drawings to bring it up to the same level as the build. Drawings were also added
for the front chassis tubes which will be fit-up tomorrow (every other Friday off, whoo hoo!) These tubes, the ones forward of the foot-space,
have reduced wall and diameter to serve as crush space.

At the rear, behind the main hoop, 1.5″ tubing is used but thinner wall. Between that and the small suspension tubes, the idea is that it becomes crush space for rear impacts. Worst case, it’ll let the drivetrain break free before the cage is compromised. That’s all theory of course – I can’t afford to submit a completed car for official crash testing!

3 Jan 2009

Welded up the tacked-in tubes and added a few more, completing the basic cage.

Fully welding the tubes always results in a vivid demonstration of heat warpage, note the 3/16″ gap under the tube. Having a wood fabrication table with wood clamps is no match; the metal just laughs at the pathetic effort to contain it, ripping the screws right out of the wood. Never underestimate the power of (the Force, sorry) contracting steel. This is why the suspension brackets get attached last, and why adjustable rod-ends are used everywhere. This happened in Kimini, and in every other welded-chassis car I’ve asked builders about. We learn to coexist with it…

It has been pointed out a couple times that the window frame and X-roof is not really structurally sound; the forward-outboard corners have little support to resist folding down. Granted the main hoop prevents the entire top from caving in, limiting the front corners from deflecting more than 5.5″. For builder who are concerned there will be alternatives, one is to add a tube from the upper corners of the windscreen frame down to the waistline tubes (third photo.) It conveniently forms a triangular area that could house small windows and greatly reduce the infamous wind whipping around the ends of the flat windscreens Locosts are known for. Mocking it up showed it doesn’t cause much problem when getting in and out so a decision will be made before going to paint – if I don’t forget.

Of course that’s not really structural either. To do it “right” means running tubes from the top corners back to the junction on the main hoop at shoulder-level. To really go nuts means adding horizontal tubes from the top front corners back to the main hoop, but doing so will make getting in and out very difficult. The final decision will be up to builders.

As the vacation time-off winds down I’m pretty happy with the progress. Getting the SB100 ball rolling really helps the motivation as well. Not sure how much I’ll get done tomorrow, might just goof off for a day.

2 Jan 2009

So I show up at the local DMV office, pulling into the parking lot at 6:15 am (they open at 8 am) and was disappointed to see there were  already four people in line, freezing. Turned out the first guy in line had been there since 10pm the previous night(!), saving the place in line for his employer, Business Owner Guy (BOG), who’d just shown up. (I have mixed feelings about that, not that he paid someone to save his spot, but that it was his employee. I mean, if your boss came and asked if you’d stand in the cold all night for him, can you say no? If you later lose your job might you wonder if it had anything to do with turning down his “offer”? Anyhow, back to the story.)

Did I mention it was really cold? Anyway, that explained the first two people in line. The other two turned out to be husband and wife, cool, so that meant I was #3. There ended up being five of us, three registering Cobras (big surprise), one GT40, and me; I was surprised no one was registering a hot rod.

It was foggy, a damp kind of cold that cuts right through a jacket – had I remembered to bring one. Long underwear, gloves and a hat helped a lot but by the time the doors opened I could feel neither my nose nor my feet. They were expecting us, handing us numbers as we came in and sat us off to the side. BOG went up first and what we overheard was not encouraging – the clerk was a trainee and had never handled SB100 cases (which isn’t hard to believe since they only do it for about an hour each January.) Hearing BOG’s voice getting louder (maybe it was because he knew he couldn’t buy her?) wasn’t helping, especially since we still had to deal with her – let’s not piss her off right away, okay?

Anyhow, BOG comes back and sits down, shaking his head and muttering “We’re screwed.” However, the clerk was working pretty darn fast and in fact was moving faster than anyone else in the office. The next two got went up and their paperwork didn’t take long, then it was my turn. The first thing she asked was, “Has it been started yet?” Figuring she meant the car project I said yes, but what she meant was the paperwork… oh, sorry, no. She asked for the VIN, “there isn’t one, I’m building it.” Then she asked who I got the frame from, “no one, I’m building it”, feeling sure I was going to get screwed because she was going to get stuck any second (since everyone else’s car had a manufacturer’s certificate.) She asked what the car looked like and I said a two-seat sports car. She asks, “convertible?” Yes. She asked for the total cost of components and I answered honestly (and in fact had totaled up all the receipts beforehand to pump the amount higher else it would be a suspiciously small amount. “Here, write us a check for this amount” she says… okay. Then I go back and sit down, watching the next two people go through the motions, and then the waiting starts.

The local DMV office telephones into the main office in Sacramento to have the official numbers pulled. Getting through on the phone is like trying to win the lottery, with all the branch offices calling simultaneously. We all became immediate close friends, like survivors who find themselves floating on a melting iceberg, wondering if we’ll get saved before it sinks. The waiting was killing me so I called my brother who went through the same process a couple years ago, asking how long he waited, “about 15 minutes.” Geez, 20 minutes, 25, 30, 45, and then a different clerk came over and said, “Here you go”, and handing out our numbers – we’d all gotten them! Whoo hoo! She mentioned she was surprised more people hadn’t applying and wondered if the slow economy means less people are buying/building kit cars – could be. My brother got his number in 15 minutes and was assigned #482. After waiting 45 minutes I got #334. Regardless, I/we couldn’t be happier. When I got home I added a few more tubes.

1 Jan 2009

Happy New Year. A big deal happens Friday, my date-with-DMV-destiny to see if I get one of the coveted 500 exemptions. The car will be built regardless but it would be great incentive to know I can drive it on the street when done rather than trailer it to the track until 2010… Anyhow, have to get up early to be first in line and even though I have an appointment it can’t hurt. I have all the receipts and forms filled out so we’ll see how it goes.

Got a couple more tubes done but quite early to goof off. Oh BTW, attention married guys: I learned a valuable lesson about how to buy a new tool. What you do is come in from the garage clutching your wrist like it’s hurt. When asked what happened, say your <em>non-variable speed</em> 1/2″ drill (the one with 8000 ft-lb of torque) jammed and twisted your hand 180 degrees (the wrong way) in around 0.05 seconds. That drill is like owning a 2000 hp commuter car, only the throttle is either 100% on or off… not pretty. Years ago I was using the same drill to put holes in railroad ties, standing over it to apply pressure, when the same thing happened and the bit jammed. The handle whipped around so fast I honestly though it had broken my leg.

Anyhow, back to the story, so then, casually mention that a variable- speed drill wouldn’t have that problem. Worked like a charm, though I don’t recommend doing what I did; my wrist still hurts and I’m waiting to see how bad it is tomorrow.  That said, the variable speed drill is indeed about a million times better. The reason I’m not using the drill press to drive the tubing notcher is because the long tubes won’t fit.

In other news, I’ve been banned from the honda-tech forum but haven’t posted in months. Here’s their “full explanation”: You have been banned for the following reason: No reason was specified. Date the ban will be lifted: Never. In 2008 the forum was bought by a large internet company and it’s gone downhill ever since due to people getting fed up and leaving. Afraid they might wipe the archives I moved a thread I created years ago, moving it somewhere safe.