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…