31 Aug 2009

The heat kept me out of the garage, which provided time to finish the electrical system. It’s finally down on paper – not on CAD, but at least in hard form which is more than I did for Kimini. What’s that saying, “familiarity breeds contempt?” As an electrical engineer I can “wing it”, wiring it on-the-fly and not writing anything down. In fact, just today my coworkers were kidding me about being a wimp because I did write it down – you know, planning. I know they’re messing with me, but I went ahead and explained that yes, I could have done the whole thing without documentation, but doing so sets a future landmine in the form of lots of wasted effort every time the electrical system has to be serviced. Eh, what do they know, ignorant non car builders!

Reorganizing the manuscript, placing chapters in order to make it sequential. That is, a builder starting at the front and working his way through ends up with a car with a minimum of flipping pages back and forth. At least that’s the plan. Currently 236 pages…

Oh, and I ran Midlana through the shareware program CarTest2000, which proved to be oddly accurate for Kimini. If it’s even close, Midlana’s going to be scary-fast, with an estimated 2.6 second 0-60 and a 10.5 second quarter mile. The big unknown is what the test software’s assuming for tire traction. That, and I’m probably overly optimistic on total vehicle weight – again. I’m going to be using boost-by-gear to keep tire spin at bay, that should help some, but regardless, it’s going to be very quick.

Another month gone… People keep asking, “when’s it going to be done?” When it’s finished. Or, “Much faster than the first car.” Eh, you guys can see the progress, your guess is as good as mine.

28 Aug 2009

There’s s line in the movie “Biloxi Blues” that goes something like: “It’s hot – damn hot – Tarzan couldn’t stand this heat.” That’s pretty close. At over 100 in the garage nothing’s going on until the oddly-and accurately-predictable end-of-August heat passes.

However, good progress is being made on the electrical system, which can be worked on in the house where it’s only 90 or so. The lighting drawing is done plus the fuse panel-to-ECU-to-engine interface. Remaining is the dash, wipers, and where to add various harness connectors. The dash “should” be straightforward since the flat-panel is a one-wire connection to the ECU, monitoring various system variables.

One annoyance is that the Race Technologies dash ECU interface provides a DB-9 and the Hondata ECU has a USB connector. Posting about this on the RT Support forum netted this response: “The [Hondata ECU] does work with our ECU adapter. We’ve done a number of installs with this type of ECU and it’s working very well.” What I needed to know is, do I buy (another) serial adaptor or, what wires do I need to cut and jump, instead of the Corporate Reply saying there’s nothing wrong. I’d like to see a picture showing how they plugged a DB-9 into a USB socket… Nice try but come on guys.

Anyhow, until the heat lets up, work will continue on the wiring drawings. Oh, and I received a contribution of a Miata shift knob for the project, thanks Zach!

25 Aug 2009

While waiting to be called during jury duty I started drawing up the electrical system and good progress was made. In other news, the shift cables arrived but there wasn’t time to play around with them. Due to the heat (right on schedule) I don’t plan on welding for a bit. There’s boatloads of other tasks so no problem there.

24 Aug 2009

The creature has a face! The headlight mounts took way longer than expected. It’s what happens when I go into something with no idea how to do it, figuring, “how hard could it be?” Yeah well, even the simplest thing can take a while – doing it over and over as I figured out during “prime time” how to do it the simple way. Good thing builders won’t have to do the same. They turned out great, as well they should for having consumed half a day. I like how they block very little of the driver’s view. They’re fairly low (21″) but builders can raise them if needed. The suspension bracket and chassis tube is a good sturdy base off which to mount them.

Regarding the side panels, not sure how to fasten adjoining riveted panels. I think overlapped panels would look bad, so maybe drilled strips welded to the tubes might work. Doing that deals with some people’s concern about drilling holes in the chassis. We’ll see.

Still no shifter cables. Off to jury duty tomorrow! I hear the way to speed things along is to tell the court, “I can spot a guilty person like that (finger snap.)”

19 Aug 2009

Ordered the push-pull shifter cables. If they show up by Friday, great, otherwise there are lots of other odds and ends: headlight mounts, steering rack spacers, mounting brackets for the front swirl tank, tons to do. Or maybe start in on the front paneling. For now I don’t feel like dealing with anything major, like electrical. It doesn’t matter what’s being worked on as long as something is being worked on.

The Midlana forum has been pretty quiet though membership continues to grow. I feel like I’m sitting on stage, the auditorium slowly filling. Once it’s full and the book’s done, it’s going to get quiet, time for the show to begin. I hope I don’t let anyone done.

18 Aug 2009

Measured the lengths needed for the push-pull shifter cables to get them on order this week. Also edging forward on the exhaust, at least planning where to get the bends, how much tubing, etc. And then there’s the book, which is slowly taking on a life of its own – again. Than again I can’t bring myself to leave stuff out and get pummeled with questions about why some topics are glossed over. Nope, it’s going to be a beast – but a very complete beast.

16 Aug 2009

The shifter’s more or less complete; it needs a few more bits and a more robust pivot bearing but I’m very happy with it. I have to give credit to Locost builder Alan for how he did his shifter, and to Honda for the OEM shifter I dissected. Dang if there isn’t any other obvious way to control a transmission using two push-pull cables – it’s just geometry – so they can’t help but work similarly.

It won’t be until the push-pull cables arrive can shifter effort be evaluated and the linkages altered to suit. Final shifter placement will also have to wait for the cables since with nothing connected there’s no shifting effort – no fair fixing its position only to find it’s uncomfortable once connected. Guess that means I need to get them on order… Kimini’s shifter fabrication took weeks so it’s good to see this one moving along much faster. I’m not a fan of the shift knob; it was just sitting around. A leather one that doesn’t heat-soak to 160 degrees in the sun would be better but may not weather as well. A knob better suited for sitting in the weather is probably one off a convertible like a Miata.

Oh, I frequently get e-mails asking something along the lines of, “I’ve been looking to build a car like Midlana, do you sell plans?” Sigh… I guess I need to put in large font on the front page that the book’s not done yet. It’s a dead giveaway that they aren’t reading past the first page. Speaking of the book, the manuscript’s currently at 221 pages.

9 Aug 2009

The cowl is the first sheet metal component to be fabricated. Clico fasteners are awesome and I don’t know how something like this could be made without them. These misleading pictures make it look like in a few hours it went from cardboard template to “done.” Hah, there’s at least 20 hours in it and it’s not yet completely done. Endless adjustments, measuring, and trimming, over and over again. I made it tougher by having it smoothly transition around the down-tubes but think it looks pretty cool.

It turned out okay though a little rough but I’m not doing it over again. A sheet metal roller would have been really nice to smooth out the curves but oh well. I’ve seen Locost builders complaining how much work cowl fabrication is and have to agree. Not as bad as doors or electrical, but still a lot of work. There’s probably easier ways of making it but don’t know what it would be.

Anyhow, back to work tomorrow…

6 Aug 2009

The way I get so much done in these “work sessions” is by taking vacations timed to coincide with the wife being on business trips – and by doing nothing else – which includes ignoring the house and yard. The bill always becomes due the day before the wife gets back, so everything comes to a stop as I frantically catch up on all the chores I was supposed to be doing. It’s just as well – still real warm. Good thing she doesn’t read this diary…

5 Aug 2009

Started today with no idea what to work on, and chose the cowl. The dash frame took all day to get just right but it has to be since several other aspects of the design count on it. I worked exclusively off the manuscript’s Cowl Chapter… which now needs work based on what was learned today – which is good for you future builders. The hot humid weather didn’t help – I’m beat.

4 Aug 2009

Steering’s done other than welding or pinning the wheel adaptor to the shaft. For now it’s being left loose until the final placement’s chosen. I like the steering, it’s a lot tighter than Kimini due to tighter tolerances on the support bearings and the U-joints aren’t moving around like aftermarket ones did.

Played around with turbo placement – that was kinda fun but haven’t picked a spot yet. Worked out the basic shifter geometry so now it’s a matter of building the thing in CAD.

3 Aug 2009

I’m beat, it’s hot and time for a beer, but all the suspension brackets are done.

Not sure what to work on next. There’s the steering, to finalize steering wheel placement. This so the center tunnel can be finalized in order to tackle the real task: the shifter. I’ve decided to go custom because the OEM assembly is huge (and ugly).

Or, there’s always the suspension arms. However, I’m tired of dealing with brackets for the moment, and the suspension arms – and fixtures – are a whole project in themselves.

‘Course something fun would be the turbo exhaust manifold; doing the header on Kimini was a lot of fun. That’s the beauty of building a car; get sick of something and there’s always something else to do.

Then there’s electrical. Everything is here but as I haven’t drawn up schematics yet that’ll have to wait. So many choices…

2 Aug 2009

With the engine back in the chassis I returned the engine hoist to my brother then took Midi to Dog Beach. Being the first time for Midi I was a bit nervous. There’s a million distractions so there was some question how well he’d listen. Then, some of the dogs get up to about 100 mph and there can be some pretty severe collisions with other dogs or people. And finally there’s the issue that he (I assume) hasn’t learned to swim yet.

There were probably 30 dogs there running all over the place, puppies, little dogs, medium dogs, and some huge ones, and they all got along great. So… with some trepidation I let Midi go and he joined in with all the craziness. A dog had just headed out into the surf to retrieve a ball so Midi took off after him first. Unbeknownst to us there was a sinkhole in the shallow water and Midi, whose head was just about water-level, suddenly sank below the surface! In about the time it takes to think, “Oh sh…”, his instincts kicked in and he popped to the surface swimming – I’m glad my wife wasn’t there. Anyhow, after that brief panic he’s now waterproof for life, running this way and that and having a great time – and not listening too well. Couldn’t tell if it was the distractions, he couldn’t hear me, or didn’t want to. It all worked out fine since all the dogs he was playing with stayed in one area, but still…

After that we headed over to my parent’s house where they have a young Lab/Shepherd mix, Dora. She’s absolutely in love with Midi, wanting nothing more than to be right next to him. As he was tired out from the beach he was trying to rest and as you can see, Dora would have none of that, pawing at him for attention.

Back home, with a now sleeping dog, work began on the rear suspension brackets. I’ll churn through them just to get them out of the way because frankly, they’re no fun. At the rear, a wood fixture seems to work better than a steel one. It’ll be disassembled and reversed to be used on the other side of the chassis. I think of doing brackets like eating yucky food you know is good for you. Get it out of the way early and everything else looks like desert.

1 Aug 2009

Finally some progress; finished all the inboard front suspension brackets – they were a lot of work. The upper-forward mount sticks out because the location of virtually everything up-front is more-or-less fixed by the nose and steering rack. The headlight mount will be just about that bracket which should help minimize its visual impact.

Managed to get the engine back in. Not using the engine hoist leveling thingy freed up enough vertical space to get it over the rear cross-tube. That gets it off the floor and allows rigging the shifter without trying to guess where the transmission levers are!