31 Dec 2011

Between visiting friends, two family obligations, Christmas, shopping, returning stuff, and being on-call, the car’s seen about four hours of work :(. However, the car at least has a proper grill, made the same way as the other wire mesh grills. Need to make the cover over the air filter and the “gills”, and also start the car just because. With next week being really short I’ll probably take off to make it a full week’s vacation, which “should” allow for some decent progress.

One problem with vacations is that the wife considers my time as free, to be assigned. Inevitably, a lot of honey-dos pop up around now which consumes far more time than just the tasks themselves. Just this morning, she was hovering around while I was writing this up, always a bad sign. It means that she’s thinking about something that was no doubt going to consume time. Yup, “the bedroom lamps are old.” I said, “but they work fine.” “But they’re old.” There’s a lot of things I could say to that but didn’t, knowing that we’d be getting new lamps no matter what I say.

18 Dec 2011

Pretty much have the front hood assembly done. “Pretty much” means that it still needs a prop support, and epoxy is needed to fill the uneven flange on the composite nose, but at least the hard part’s done.

Not sure what to work on next. Since the car hasn’t been run for over a year(!) that should be done for several reasons. The ECU wire harness has been shortened up, so there’s a little concern there. However, since only one wire at a time was shortened, it “should just work.” Also, during the dyno run, the idle air bypass control valve destroyed itself, and while it’s been replaced, it’s unknown whether the valve itself was bad or if the ECU was sending it a bad signal. Going to have to start it again. Need to make the “gills”. While the cardboard templates are done, it might be a bit interesting to do the combination bend and curves that each will require.

A local company, “Aptera” went out of business recently. At one time they had a car with a 300 mpg claim (uh huh) but hard times and lack of funding killed it. (Makes you wonder if all the people that put down $$$$ deposits will get their money back…) They’re auctioning off all their equipment this week, and for a little while I thought of checking out their lathe, mill, and MIG welder. After some thought though, I don’t have space for any of it, and the lathe and mill, even if cheap, would need heavy equipment movers, so, eh. The MIG was attractive for a moment, but MIG is intended for production, which I’m not, and since my chassis is virtually done (uh huh) the MIG would just sit. Nope, decided to pass on it, much to my wife’s relief.

11 Dec 2011

Worked on the lateral rib for the front cover which both stiffens the assembly and keeps exiting radiator air out of the passenger compartment. Also took the wife out to get her Christmas presents which cut into the work session, but hey, it’s all about balance 😉

4 Dec 2011

Fabricated the second hood pin bracket, note this one’s a lot less involved that the first, just a tipped-on-edge nut.

With both pins done, the next step was to cut clearance slots for the suspension push-rods. Due to not thinking the whole tilting-hood thing through completely, only now did it become clear that simply vertical slots wouldn’t do. Because the hood pivots on a pin below the radiator, the entire assembly moves on an arc about that point, so they have to be triangular in order to allow for both closing the hood and normal vertical suspension motion. Oh well, more character building.

Yet another consequence of having the nose tip forward is that, because that wasn’t planned at the time that the headlights were mounted, they drag some on the nose as it’s opened. Possible solutions include angling the headlight mounting brackets outboard, cutting off the brackets and shifting them outboard, or leaving them be and adding some rub strips. I’m leaning toward the last solution since it’s the simplest and also keeps the lights tight in toward the body, not angled outward and looking bug-like. Another reason is that, being mid-engine, it means that the front “probably” won’t be opened all that often.

Last shot is one of the rare whole-car pictures. I kind of like it’s a bit “sprint car” like. Actually, not having rear fenders is growing on me, too. Not sure how legal it is, but hot rods do it all the time.

27 Nov 2011

No entry last week but work got done, the other hood latch was installed.

Today, the left hood pin bracket (a tricky little son of a gun) was fabricated. It’s pretty goofy looking because the entire hood revolves around a bottom forward pivot point, so the pin has to be aimed just right in two planes. With a couple rivets in it, it looks like it’ll work fine, but the entire assembly’s a bit floppy. Since an internal bulkhead is needed anyway to keep radiator air out of the footwells, it’ll be attached to the hood to double as a stiffener.

The last picture shows a happy but sleepy Midi in my computer chair – I end up on the carpet since there’s not room for the both of us. He was happy we were around over the last four days. In related news, a stray young female pitbull was found in the neighborhood. She got along great with Midi, and the guy who found her has contacted the humane society, so we’ll see if she gets claimed. If not… hmmm, we’ll see. My wife’s going to kill me…

13 Nov 2011

Came close to ruining the hood due to some over-exuberant trimming. It was saved, barely, with one edge left not quite even, but to be honest, it was so much work to make, and since the indiscretion is not too easy to see, it’s being left… gives the car character…

Next up was starting on the hood latches. I saw them first on my buddy, Dennis’s site, dpcars.net They aren’t cheap but were the perfect solution for locking the hood down (Dennis also happens to be a distributor.)  The pictures show the latch design and it’s pretty sweet (the red rod in the pictures is the locking pin.) With the locking version, it means having some semblance of security, at least for the front storage area. Mounting them was easy enough, but everything was made much more difficult due to having the hood tilt forward. Doing so means that the entire assembly rotates around the front hinge, so the locking tabs that have to extend into the latches move in an arc. That’s going to take some fussing with but I think it’ll be pretty sweet, after the sweat-work is done.

Completely off-topic but nevertheless awesome, is this car owner and her car. I can only hope I’m half that able at her age! Changes her own oil and plugs… hah!

6 Nov 2011

Me: I’m going to go work out in the garage.
Her: It’s raining…
Me: Yeah, perfect for working in the garage, and it’s not hot out.
Her: Are you going to back out my car?
Me: …. (uh oh.)
Her: You always remind me your car rusts when my wet car is put back in the garage.
Me: … (nuts.)

So I worked on the book instead, which was just as well. Beta builder Jim is back to working on his car and found a couple embarrassing mistake in the manuscript, now fixed.

30 Oct 2011

Today was the big day to bend the front “hood”, in quotes because of course there’s no engine up there. “Boot” maybe? Anyway, it went okay; 0.040″ 3003 is about as thick as I’d want to go free-hand. As you can see I made due with what I had as far as bending tools go, a welding bottle, several heavy cardboard tubes, and I-beams.

It came out okay but the real work lies ahead, very carefully determining where the final trim cuts go. There’ll be 1/8″ rubber padding along the cowl and down the sides, and there’ll be locking pins that’ll apply some tension. There’ll be tubes or angle material down the sides; it’s just too critical to risk bending the hood material itself and having it off by “just a bit.” As you may recall, I chose to have the front pivot forward, so it’ll be permanently attached to the nose. Since it’s such a visible component, it requires care in getting all the edges to line up and that the hood/boot/whatever doesn’t bow, or worse, flap at higher speed. Regardless, psychologically it’s a big step forward.

23 Oct 2011

Looks pretty much the same, doesn’t it? This is the third take on the cardboard hood pattern and it’s finally done. The extra work was fine-tuning the edges to eliminate irregular gaps, and then there was the small detail that, once it was time to transfer the pattern to the aluminum sheet, there wasn’t any! Well, there was a piece large enough but it was only 0.040″ – too thin and floppy. Oh well, next week.

My brother’s finding that the LS-3 upgrade is expensive. Between the engine, transmission, clutch, wheels, tires, and dry sump, it’s turning into a $10K upgrade. It didn’t seem like it initially, buying just the engine and thinking it was practically done. However, research showed that the drysump is far more of a requirement than a nice-to-have, as there are numerous track reports of people going through two or three engines in one day due to oil-starvation. Of course, I can’t say much; getting a reliable 400 hp from a Honda four-cylinder wasn’t cheap either.

16 Oct 2011

The cowl is done, more or less; the curved end pieces really need a
couple backing pieces to keep the edges perfectly lined up with the
panels to either side. Not hard, just another “thing. What looks like
an irregular cut around the chassis tube is actually black marker ink,
the cutout is very uniform all the way around. In hindsight I should have
bought 100 clecos instead of 50… I’m always having to steal them from
other parts of the car when working on a new component.

With both ends of the cowl fabricated, attention finally turned to something new and fun – the hood. The car sure looks different with even the cardboard in place, much more finished, and does a lot for my attitude. There’ll be “bumps” on the hood (probably separate pieces) to give space for the rockers to move. It was decided early-on that the suspension overruled the aesthetics, so the bumps will be another feature of the car, but if they’re teardrop-shaped they should look okay.

The last picture shows why it’s always a good idea to make cardboard patterns, especially before cutting large sheet material. Due to the goofy angles involved, the forward edges around the nose cone have to curve forward a bit. What’s nice is that the entire hood is made from one 4 x 4 foot panel with material to spare. Also, part of fitting the hood is deciding where the uber-cool hood locks will go; you’ll see those in a bit.