30 Oct 2009

The guys who bought the Kimini body mold are looking to sell it. Don’t know if they changed plans or pulled some shells from it.

Beta-builder Jim is doing his build in a slightly different order than I am since he doesn’t have to mess with a turbo. He’s about to start on the A-arms, flying without a net since – while I’ve written the A-arm fab chapter – I’ve not yet actually followed the directions!

I’m coming down with something… hope it’s not the H1N1 thing… it is flu-like.

26 Oct 2009

The two beta-builders help keep me in line, pointing out issues and asking questions that, if left unanswered, will be amplified once the book is released. Part of the burden of keeping them busy is the occasional grenade they lobe in, asking some innocuous question or asking about a dimension of such magnitude that it gives me a good scare. The last one was a big deal, something about the rear wheels not fitting(!), but a fast mock-up appears to show all is okay. This could have been a big deal since axle lengths come into play if there’s something major amiss in the rear axle track width. Whenever one of these problems gets lobbed in, it always makes me wonder what they think, after they’ve discovered I don’t know as much as they thought… That’s the deal with beta-builders, they see all the dirty laundry.

Both are apologetic about pointing things out, but that’s exactly what I need and the input is extremely valuable. Also helpful is the input from the third beta… guy. He’s not a builder, but has been a big help on quickly getting the manuscript into Latex, and who has recently started an initial copy-edit. He’s also reluctant to mention my many errors, but the truth is, the more the better. I won’t get my feelings hurt – much – because I already know my skills are less than perfect! (Oh, and he says the manuscript has already caused him to buy a welder in anticipation of buiding his own…)

21 Oct 2009

The exhaust is almost finished and in hindsight it’s overdone – again. Thing is, what’s the point of doing something half-assed? It could have been a constant reminder of corners cut, so no corners were. How much better will it work than an ordinary turbo with a built-in wastegate? Who knows, but we’ll have an idea during the first tuning session and first drives. The tube at upper-left isn’t welded; it’ll be replaced with a flex-joint. It, along with the oil supply and oil return lines were ordered.

Still have to figure out a support for both the turbo and muffler. On Kimini, all the rubber muffler mounts did were to melt and smoke, so Midlana will get stainless supports. After that’s finished up, time for the electrical system!

Heard from my brother who said at the trackday weekend, by the end of the event he was laping faster than a Porsche GT3. That’s very impressive – those GT3s are serious track cars.

20 Oct 2009

Ordered fasteners for the turbo system… nuts, just realized I forgot to order bolts for the muffler flange… oh well. Will work on the rest of the exhaust next, and if there’s time, figure out where the remote oil filter is going, which determines oil supply line length. The plan is to tap into the housing for oil pressure, temperature, and the turbo oil supply.

My brother is leaning on me to go with him this weekend when he takes his Super Stalker to Button Willow raceway – sprung it on me today since his other passenger backed out. But, Midlana’s gets built because I don’t do other stuff. That’s what it comes down to, doing family activities, or selfishly working on the car – the all-consuming time-sucking car which I really enjoy working on. So now, if I don’t go, I’m the bad guy; wonder if he regrets badgering me about how slow things are moving along, How many times I’ve heard, “Is it done yet?” Well, it’s getting done becomes it’s being worked on.

18 Oct 2009

After a very long day, the turbo manifold is done. Still left is adding the muffler tubing, along with the wastegate exit pipes. The exhaust tube in the turbo is just stuck in there for effect; it’ll be rerouted, but yeah, it’s pretty big. Made a list of all the bits and pieces needed to finish it up, included the oil system. An oil pressure and oil temperature sensor are needed, and will be plumbed into the remote oil filter housing, after figuring out which brand to buy.

I got some grief on a forum after posting how expensive the exhaust is. I could have used 304 weld-els which would have lasted for a while, but went with 321 to ensure longevity. Ask anyone who knows about turbo track cars and they’ll say to use cast-iron, 321, or Inconel to have it last, or risk it disintegrating or cracking. What’s it worth having a trackday terminated by a cracked header? The wasted entry fee, gas to get to the track and back, food, lodging, it adds up. Around here, having that happen twice would pay for the 321 header.

Also, having the car break is a poor way to instill confidence in potential builders; what’s that worth? The goal is to built a high-powered example of what the car can> be, proving the chassis can handle it, and if builders choose, they can do the same; it gives them options. For example, using a stock drivetrain means they may be able to use the OEM exhaust manifold – which no one wants – for practically free. Maybe I’m looking at this wrong, maybe I should put on my Marketing Weasel hat and mislead people how cheap it is to build a turbo engine – “Joe Smith built his for $50, you can too.” I don’t think so.

16 Oct 2009

The book is moving right along, currently at 268 pages. It’s worked on every evening, while the car’s worked on each Sunday, and more when I can (three weeks off coming up at the end of the year.) The ratio works out about right; 6 evenings of typing keeps up with one day of fabricating.

I want to start the engine, so after the exhaust is done, the oil system will get sorted. Dual remote filters and an adaptor plate will get mounted, along with oil supply and return lines to the turbo (so the bearings won’t fry during a brief startup.) Water lines can wait until later; I just want to run it for 30 seconds or so, not minutes. A complete fuel system isn’t necessary either (a hose stuck in a gas works fine for test starting). That’s because I don’t want the real fuel tank with gas and fumes in it stinking up the garage for months while everything else is finished. Anyhow, after the oil system’s plumbed, electrical work will be tackled.

12 Oct 2009

Sorry for the late update; yesterday was a long day. Pushed hard to get the entire manifold tacked up and got it done late in the evening; the pictures pretty much sum it up. A header is great fun to make – lots of room for creativity. The primaries are within about 1/4″ of each other, and for a turbo manifold I’m not going to sweat getting closer than that. While not intentional, the manifold somehow looks like it belongs on a drag boat…

The big concern – like always – is heat distortion. The worry is that as it’s finish-welded, the tube assemblies will move round enough to ruin the collector slip-joint alignment; all four tubes have to line up just right or the tubes will jam part-way on. Each tube assembly will be welded separately, polished, then welded to the cylinder head flange, giving one last chance to tweak alignment. Even then, as each tube is welded, the flange will distort (it’s common that header flanges have to be ground flat after final welding. Small misalignments at the flange-end mean big misalignments at the collector.

8 Oct 2009

Received the additional exhaust tubes, so Sunday will be busy. Made the decision to sell what turned out to be an expensive intake manifold and am replacing it with a part that fits with less bother for less money. Right now everything necessary to make big progress is here; it’s now up to me to make it happen.

4 Oct 2009

The exhaust. Lots of time is spent placing the turbo while keeping space for two wastegates. Once located, the turbine flange is temporarily welded in place, and the turbo removed. With the flange fixed in space, the two rectangular secondary tubes are added, then the collectors. You can tell which welds I did and which were done by the experts… Fortunately there’s enough Eastwood polishing materials left-over from Kimini’s header to make this one shiny, too.

Once the collectors are in place, the fun starts, creating primary tubes connecting the cylinder head flange to the collectors. Romex house wiring serves as the mock-up material. The trick is to bend it with the same radius as the tubing – no cheating. At the end of the day, one primary is tacked-up, but as was re-learned, an exhaust takes more U-bends than expected. The thing with 321 is that it’s really expensive so there’s no rush to buy too many up-front. Hopefully they’ll get here before next weekend. The book will have more pictures and details on assembly 😉 Fun stuff.

2 Oct 2009

Good news on the shifter; it turns out all the drag is being caused by the very snug end seals – nearly five pounds of drag. Remove them and it works great, the shifter centering itself as it should. The seals however, must remain in some form since they’re the sole protection against dirt and water getting between the inner and outer sleeves. They were trimmed back to decrease the contact area but still retain a seal, and now all is well. Excellent, since it avoids a lot of extra work, and the exhaust manifold can be concentrated on.

1 Oct 2009

I do not like SketchUp “Pro” at all. Make a drawing, dimension it, save it, export it as a DXF. Turn around and import that DXF file, and the scale has changed. Huh? Okay, fix the scale of the DXF file, save it. Open it again, and the scale is once again off. If you want to use SketchUp, stick with the free version – that’s all it’s worth. Every single reason for why I bought the Pro version has proven to be a mistake.

30 Sep 2009

The great performance of 321 stainless comes at a very steep price, but it shouldn’t fail, ever. Part of the reason it’s so expensive is having two 2-1 collectors fabricated, with double-slip joints no less.

Been doing a lot of thinking about how to solve the cable drag problem with the shifter. After talking it through with some engineer buddies, it seems the best way is to remove the offender, the cable handling lateral shifter motion. But, doing so means admitting I messed up, so it becomes an issue of how to fix it and not let my ego get in the way.

With Kimini, and now Midlana, I’ve done pretty well getting things right the first time, so in the rare case it goes wrong, it doesn’t sit well – at all. A sense of failure, along with the lost time and wasted money, is a bitter pill to swallow. Part of me wants to put blinders on and just say, “It’ll be fine,” moving on to other parts of the car – you know, ignore it and it’ll go away. But for this particular problem it’s enough of a concern it has to be dealt with. All it takes is one single mis-shift, going from second back into first instead of third, and it’ll grenade the engine… what’s prevention of <em>that</em> worth? More testing this weekend.

27 Sep 2009

Didn’t accomplish a lot; for some reason my mind is unsettled and wandering. Messed about with the shifter springs but don’t yet have a good solution – push-pull cable drag isn’t helping.

Did get the fuse block mounted – it’s going at one end of the glove box. The various power relays are mounting to the opposite side of the same panel. With those in, wiring can commence.

Did a mock-up of the brake and clutch master cylinders… they’ll work – just. The master cylinders are just high enough to properly feed fluid to the cylinders, but with nothing to spare. Better is to use the physically shorter pedal assembly to gain a valuable inch of vertical space, but I’m using a standard-height assembly – because I have it… and because I’m hard-headed.

24 Sep 2009

Received several sets of springs; the “winning couple” will serve as the shifter centering springs.

Made the big purchase today for what I hope is all the 321 stainless tubing necessary to make the turbo exhaust manifold. To save time, the supplier is making two two-into-one collectors to fit my divided T03 flange. They’ll have double-slip joints to prevent cracking of the header assembly. Yes I could make them myself, and as much fun as it would be, it takes a long time to get all the angles right. I’ll derive as much fun putting the rest of it together 🙂

Being a divided turbine means running two wastegates. Thinking it through I’m almost sure one big wastegate can work, running a divided tube right up to its valve face. However, big wastegates are very expensive, much more than two smaller units with an equivalent larger total valve area. Of course, had I included the additional tubing into the cost calculations, it might have been smarter just to use the large one…

Anyhow, running two wastegates means running a tube out each side of the turbo flange, with the forward one having to do an unfortunate U-turn to get it to the rear of the turbo, but oh well. If this isn’t clear it will be once the build starts. Until the tubing shows up, there’s a shifter to finish and virtually all of the electrical.

In other news, I saw several car trailers heading to San Diego for this weekend’s Vintage Race weekend. I took Kimini to that several years ago and several people asked if I’m going this year… nope. If I’m there it’ll be bugging me that I’m not working on the car because Sunday is Build Time.

20 Sep 2009

As another example of how everything is interconnected, the arbitrary goal is to start the engine, even if for just a few seconds. To do that requires all the engine wiring, which means shortening the harness and placing the ECU, but it would be good to have the fuse block in place, which is to go in the dash somewhere, dictated by where the instruments are not. That requires figuring out where the instruments go, since their placement is more important than the fuse box, and on and on.

Laying out the instruments consumed the entire day. It’s pretty cool how little room the flat dash consumes. In addition are the usual switches: lights, turn signals, wipers, ignition, hazard, horn, fan, fuel pump, and a couple spares. The cross-hatching is area either blocked by the steering wheel or unavailable due to the support frame. It ensures everything is both visible and easy to reach. It’s hard to see but most of the switches are in pencil to the right of the steering wheel. Not sure where to mount the big heavy duty battery switch. It may go just below the dash and ahead of the shifter.

The right side of the dash is left blank for a real, actual, working glove box. Inside it will be the fuse block, relays, and space for glasses, papers, etc.

My buddy Cecil dropped by and asked how I was going to install the dash cover without risking cracking the paint. I don’t know. Worst case, the split in the dash, which currently allows slipping it around the tubes, can be extended all the way across, making the dash three pieces. That makes it trivial to install, but leave two odd-shaped end pieces that I’m not sure how well will integrate.

One solution is make the dash cover in steel and weld it in permanently, not sure why I didn’t think of that. It avoids needing rivets at all, but also means the dash will be the same color as the tube-frame chassis and I’m not sure builders want that – I don’t. Still, it would make things much easier, though there’s always concern about paint coverage in the corners and overlaps.

Anyway, in other news, the A-arm patterns are being made – that’ll save a bunch of time on setting up the fixtures.

17 Sep 2009

Thank you for the generous offers of help regarding the CAD situation. One of the beta-builders is inputting them into AutoCad, in effect, redrawing them. Thankfully there’s only four drawings and they’re pretty simple. As for SketchUp, as long as it’s quarantined to only providing pictures for the book, it’s tolerable… I just wish Google spent as much time debugging it as they do touting their self-proclaimed awesomeness…

The exhaust manifold design is progressing, mentally if not physically. The turbo has moved a bit further from the cylinder head and closer to the intercooler to provide a straight shot to the intercooler. Tipping the turbine inlet downward allows the primaries to sweep upward into the inlet while the wastegate feeds will sweep downward, as good design dictates.

The nature of the manifold has changed somewhat, with the primaries being longer to minimize lag. Haven’t decided upon primary tube diameter yet; 1.625″ appears to be the “right” size, yet because 1.75″ 321 stainless is used in aircraft, some vendors offer it quite a bit cheaper, so we’ll see. Unlike the Kimini manifold, this one will use double slip-joints from the primaries to the collector. The time is getting near for ordering tubing.

The solution to the lateral centering for the shifter has been worked out; it’s just a matter of ordering springs and making the mounts.

16 Sep 2009

I’ve finally lost all respect for SketchUp, the “CAD” software from Google. Had I stuck with their free version I’d have written it off as a cute drawing program. However, since $12,000 for SolidWorks isn’t happening, I bought the Pro version of SketchUp because it provides output converters to allow generating files in various formats, including PDF for the book and DXF files in case I ever choose to have parts CNC-generated.

This week, DXF files were created from the A-arm drawings. The idea was to create templates to make it much easier to build up the A-arm fixtures. So the drawings were made, dimensioned, and sent off. Get a call the next day saying they won’t work, that the dimensions don’t match the drawing. What? In SketchUp, you draw something, then use the dimensioning tool to do just that. The point is, the line being measured already exists; the dimensioning tool measures it and adds the length text with lines and arrows… only, the value it comes up with doesn’t match the actual length of the line.

Example: draw a line that is 1.000″ long. Now dimension it and it will say 1.000″. Run it through their DXF converter and send it to a CNC shop, where the guys find that the actual line (which is what will be cut) is something like 0.987″ or so. WTF? I don’t know if the bug is in the core drawing package or the DXF converter, but either way it makes it useless for anything requiring precision. (Consider how a complex drawing will have these little errors accummulate…) For the book this doesn’t matter. Builders go by the dimensions listed, but it’s a complete no-go for CNC jobs.

Another very annoying bug: their PDF converter fails miserably, removing lines and adding lines as it sees fit. Completely unacceptable for book use which sucks eggs because the high-resolution looks really good. I recently read something about Google moving into products that they charge money for. One comment stuck in my head, something like “Google’s good at creating free apps but not so good at bug-free apps that people count on.” My advice is to stick with the free version which is fine for making garden sheds and such, but that’s about it.

I know this comes across as yet another rant from a grumpy pissed-off guy, but is it so unreasonable to expect people and products to do as they promise? I didn’t promise these things, they did. It’s especially irritating to have given them hundreds or thousands of dollars. All the above aside, SketchUp’s not a total loss. It serves its purpose of making drawings for the book, but that’s about it because it’s more of a toy than a serious tool.

15 Sep 2009

You may recall we were going to have our roof redone and it’s finally underway. It’s a sad reminder of the level of workmanship which can occur even from people you’re giving money to. For example, today they delivered shingles in a truck with a conveyor belt that puts them on the roof. Of course they wanted to get as close as possible so they wouldn’t have to carry them far on the roof.

What were they thinking? Are they thinking? Do they care? They’d probably laugh to learn they’ll never be allowed to work on Midlana with their demonstrated lack of care and workmanship. Running over a plant and cracking the cement… I’d be embarrassed if I did that, but apparently with this line of work comes the attitude, “f*ck it – not my house.” What a sad matra to live by. Is it a big deal? No, it’s just a bit depressing that the people who care seem to be the exception to the rule.

13 Sep 2009

Finished the shifter. Works great, though it needs a spring (like in the OEM shifter that center’s the shifter laterally, on centerline between 3rd – 4th gear. Need to figure how what type of spring to use and what strength.

With input from various Honda forums, turbo placement is settling down. I finally weighed it, expecting something like 25 lbs or so but was surprised it’s only 14 lbs. I think the heavy weight expectation’s due to holding it up for long periods of time during mockup… no complaints. Regarding the exhaust, received two 1.5″ flex joints for the wastegates. I’m not sure whether to use heavy-but-cheap 304 stainless weld-els or light-but-expensive 321. If the turbo was to go right near the exhaust manifold I’d use weld-els, but the further away it gets, the more concern there is about the weight of the manifold. It’s not trivial since the weld-el manifold would weigh 3X as much… but 321 costs about 5X as much.)

Other odds and ends: Regarding the big sheet of steel picked up last week, there is a potentially much easier way for fixturing the arms. Research is going on behind the scenes to see if it’s doable and if so I’ll describe in more detail later. Received the remote dual oil filter assembly but it’s uncertain where that’s going just yet.