29 Mar 2009

After the engine teardown last weekend I couldn’t decide what to do today – still can’t. The day’s not a total loss as the manuscript is being worked on. I may be taking two weeks off later in May which will allow getting a lot done. I’m sure I’ll be back at it next week, but for today, meh.

The manuscript is almost fully imported into LaTex. One unintended side-effect is that Justin – who’s doing much of the work to import the document – says that against his better judgment, he’s now looking for a welder…

23 Mar 2009

Engine disassembly was straightforward but took longer than expected and having a cold doesn’t help. As each part was removed it was like uncovering treasure, wondering if what lay within was in like-new condition or a nasty surprise. Other than a worn connecting rod bearing the engine is in good condition. The biggest problem was underestimating how hard it would be to remove the front pulley bolt. They’re tightened to something like 250 ft-lbs, plus they tend to stick, laughing at feable attempts at loosening with an impact wrench. It was finally removed by jamming the flywheel, laying the engine on its side, and having my wife stand on it while I used a 4-ft breaker bar to pop it loose.

The purpose of disassembling it is to measure the piston wrist pin offset to get the new pistons on order. Some engines have offset pins and some don’t; what’s strange is how (AFAIK) aftermarket pistons don’t have an offset upless specifically requested. That, and how no one on earth seems to know the pin offset, so I had to measure it myself: 0.0325″ if you care.

20 Mar 2009

After getting a late start in the garage (double-checking suspension CAD one more time) wood was cut to length to mimic the A-arm lengths, the ends drilled and rod-ends screwed in. The lengths were checked then bolted to suspension pivots tacked-in for this test. It’s a relief to see that nothing terrible is wrong; no visible toe change and the suspension’s free to move beyond its full range without the axles bottoming out or trying to disassembling themselves – good. It’ll all be double-checked because the upright’s weren’t precisely positioned but it’s looking good.

18 Mar 2009

The book manuscript is being moved into Latex, a somewhat-dated yet extremely effective text editor. It was created back in the 1970s-80s before Microsoft existed, back when programs were lean and fast, before feature-creep and bloated buggy features. The big deal with Latex is that when you tell it to do something it does it. It’s almost a programming language where in-line keywords control formatting for text, figures, pictures, and tables, while the bulk of the text just kind of goes along for the ride. When it’s told how to deal with pictures, it just does it, not like Word where what you tell it is treated more as a suggestion than a command, and which it’ll changes on its own when it feels like it. Latex is what nearly all math-intensive books are (or were) written with because it so easily handles creating formatted equations and formatting tables.

Here’s something that I found amazing. The author of Latex has a standing offer that if anyone finds a bug he’ll pay them a cash award. Granted it’s been out a long time, but the point is, he stands up for his product. Imagine how Microsoft products would be if they took as much pride in their products. To be honest I probably wouldn’t have gone with Latex mostly from fear of the new and different (and the associated timesink.) However, reader Justin took it upon himself to get my manuscript into Latex. This is huge because it speeds up the learning curve by about a million times since I learn fastest by example and I’ll have examples of virtually everything I need. Once it’s in there I can take over, adding more sections and using his examples of how to handle formatting. Hopefully this will end the battle with the tools rather than getting the job done.

The plan for this weekend, now that the rear suspension points are more or less in place, is to make a pair of wood A-arms and double-check that I haven’t made any bonehead CAD errors. After that, engine disassembly!

15 Mar 2009

The last of the four engine mounts is done along with more of the rear suspension framework. This brings the chassis to the point that the engine’s no longer needed for mockup. It’s probably a good time to pull it to get it both out of the way and off to being rebuilt.

Remember the engine builder that took forever to return correspondence? He finally answered and says he’s still interested. So, as something of an experiment, I’m corresponding with him about my goals, which really serves to see if he proves to be more on the ball than I thought. Last time he wrote he asked for my phone number, saying it’s a lot faster for him to communicate that way. Okay, fair enough, so I gave him my number… haven’t heard anything and it’s been a week. At this point it’s just become sort of sadly amusing, wondering how long the next exchange will take; the consistent slow replies do indicate a trend. It would be far from funny if he had all my parts and wasn’t answering…

Somewhat related, Honda offsets the rods on the pistons in order to quiet them down (by eliminating the piston side-loading that causes them to knock into the cylinder walls.) The strange thing is that almost all aftermarket piston makers don’t offset this unless requested. The catch is that they have to be told how much offset them yet one seems to know the OEM amount. Regardless who builds the engine I plan to disassemble it myself to become acquainted with it, so the pistons will be measured then.

I appreciate the input regarding MS Word; I know real writers all use something else, like Adobe InDesign. The embarrassing thing is… I own CS3 but got so annoyed with its quirks that I went back to Word just so I could get on with things. InDesign had a bad habit of eating pages – they’d just vanish. I think it has something to do with how I was adding new pages. It’s one of those Catch-22’s where I pushing to be productive yet the tools I’m using have problems. Other tools are better but they have their own learning curve which eats time – I’m impatient. So I guess I can’t blame Bill too much. If you’re an InDesign expert and want to help out, drop me a note. If I can get the manuscript into InDesign intact I can probably figure out the rest of it myself.

13 Mar 2009

So I’m writing the book about Midlana, and, just like when I wrote the Kimini book, I’m cursing Microsoft Word. It’s truly amazing how badly it screws with a document. The latest fiasco is having inserted a picture (the problems are always picture-related) then later moving it. Word refuses to use the area where the picture was and won’t allow any text there; it’s an invisible and unusable area. Type something just above it and the letters just jump around the “void.” I’m pretty sure the pages have to be deleted and redone – thanks Bill.

10 Mar 2009

Goodies! The fuel level sensor arrived in a box about 50x its size. The Pauter rods are here, too; you may be able to see the EDM-machined oil hole that runs its length. They’re rated at some astronomical power rating and I wonder if I really need all that safety margin, though broken rods do seem to be a common disaster on turbo engines due to owners cutting corners. And lastly, the dash and datalogger arrived. Pretty sweet; I look forward to making use of the extensive features this combo provides.

In other news, the fuel tank is coming along nicely. Talking with beta-builder Jim; he feels that due to no chassis structure below the tank (other than the outboard rails) it means the bay becomes a collapsible structure… hmmm, good point. So the tank has changed a bit, with 1″ removed from the bottom to make room for a triangulated frame that bolts in below the tank. This causes a small loss with tank volume, now about 14 gallons, but is plenty and worth the peace of mind.

9 Mar 2009

Yesterday started by removing the tubing mentioned earlier; it’s impressive how strong tack-welds are. There was a YouTube video (since removed) of a Locost builder who wasn’t concerned about his tack-welded front suspension and went for a drive. He did a bunch of donuts in a parking lot no problem but on the way home under braking, the suspension brackets broke off. Not good, but still impressive that they lasted as long as they did.

Anyway, with the main cross tube removed the new suspension base was welded on, along with short legs used to extend the bottom tubes back further. Of course it heat-warped terribly, so it was dealt with appropriately, using the truck to hold down one end and jumping on the lever arm on the other end. This reminds me what my boss once said, loudly, to a computer when he was dealing with some troublesome software, “I will beat you, bitch!” It worked.

The last two pictures show the upper suspension cross tubes mocked up. The right-side tube appears to be very close to the blue oil filter but there is plenty of room to remove it. The addition of the two large OD thin-wall tubes on the sides solve the previously nasty issue of how to support the bottom panel. Previously, the A-arms, axle, and shock, plus their arcs, completely blocked any direct path from the upper strong point.

I’m not sure how much of the rear structure to build up; the concern is possibly not being able to remove the drivetrain… kind of important! I would have added this entry yesterday but the day seemed to come up about an hour short…

7 Mar 2009

The good news is that the framework under the rear suspension is being changed to make it simpler, lighter, and easier to build. Unfortunately it means redoing a bunch of drawings, the manuscript, and, since tubes are already in place, the chassis has to be modified as well. It’s worth the effort however; no point saddling builders with something that’s clunky because I was too lazy to fix it. Granted, I could have left my car alone and simply made the changes in the plans, but it would always bother me the car wasn’t per the plans, so it’s being changed.

Today was spent updating the associated CAD drawings. “Real” CAD sw updates all drawings in a hierarchical manner, where one drawing can be changed and however many other drawings linked to it automatically incorporate the change – no so with SketchUp. Soooo it’s a long laborious process to chase a change through all the drawings. Then, all the affected drawing have to be exported as .tiffs into the manuscript to replace the old drawings. It’s not hard, just very detailed and time-consuming.

6 Mar 2009

Today was spent fine-tuning the modified rear suspension geometry, made necessary due to changing the pickup points last week. The drawings are being finalized, which have to be kept up to date so the documentation stays ahead of fabrication. (The rule is that I work from the same drawings that builders will use.)