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.

9 Oct 2011

Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. It’s been a combination of competing interests and a big mental stumbling block. I absolutely <em>loathe</em> doing anything over again on the car, and nothing has hit harder than redoing the cowl. The knowledge that I had already bought the material, cut it out, shaped it, drilled it, trimmed it, was a big relieve. Great, put it behind me, close the door, and move on. Nope, after staring at it for months I couldn’t bring myself to stick builders with having to bend the cowl in order to slip it around the down tubes because it was almost for-sure would crack the paint.

Soooo, it’s being redone, made in three pieces instead of a nasty one-piece affair, and has been extremely hard to push through it again (I was done). Anything else seems much more interesting; it’s like not wanting to write that big term paper. But as you can see, progress, as painful as it is, is happening, and it should be done by next weekend (though I have to help the kids move…) After this I’m looking forward to doing the hood – that’s be much more fun (and new) than the cowl.

19 Sep 2011

Did the rough-cut on the air filter hole on the engine cover. The filter housing cover itself will take a bit of doing and I got distracted and did the screen on the intercooler inlet instead. I’m not to thrilled how it turned out but it’s a case of functionality. It was tempting to do big louvers to match those at the front, but the trouble is, being where it’s located, it’s going to take a lot of hits from rocks kicked up by the front tires. If the louvers point forward, they’d catch the rocks directly which will then bounce off the louvers and hit the intercooler fins. If the louvers point aft, they’d then catch the rocks bouncing off the fender… it’s always something. The screen will actually do well to deflect the stones coming in at a angle, and if everything behind it is painted black I think it’ll end up looking okay. Some of the panel visible now will be trimmed back to increase the surface area of the inlet, which should also help improve the look. Another is also needed for the other side.

18 Sep 2011

During a garage clean-up last week I found my 30-yr old Datsun 1200 fuel injection intake manifold. I had big plans to make my own EFI engine computer – from scratch – but after realizing how big a job it was, twin side-draft Dellortos were used instead.

The air-cleaner assembly is now complete, at least the portion under the engine cover. It’s mounted parallel to the cover and a foam gasket will keep it from sucking in hot air from the engine compartment. A reverse-pointing scoop will pick up air from atop the engine cover, and is needed to keep rain from getting into the inlet.>

Finished up the exhaust. Couldn’t help but spend some time on the trim ring due to how visible it is. Came out really nice 🙂

13 Sep 2011

My brother bought an upgrade for his Super Stalker… a brand-new 430 hp LS-3 engine. He’s not the first to do such a conversion, and the guys who’ve done it say they get wheelspin up to about 80 mph, so I “probably” will have him on traction, but the torque curves of a V8 vs a turbo-4 are different so it’ll be interesting.

Regarding Midlana, while the distractions continue, I’ll be working on it all next week, and may have a surprise 😉

28 Aug 2011

Amazing accurate, the farmer that told me years ago that the hottest week of the year is the first week of September is right on track to be very close if not flat-out right again. It’s too hot to be in the garage so the book is being worked on.

Received all the Mcmaster parts this week (see last update.) Also received a different third-taillight blinker. I’ve never been happy with the slow-blinking units that are so common—I wanted something like what ambulances have, 5-10 flashes per second. To me, that’s far more attention-getting than the slow half-second-on, half-second-off units. I like that both the number of flashes and blink rate is adjustable. This particular unit is from xdponline.com

25 Aug 2011

Typical Mcmaster order. What I ordered is in the foreground and came in the box behind. I’m convinced their shipping department does its part to increase profits. The actual shipping fees aren’t shown up-front either, added in after it’s gone out the door. They’re a great place to deal with and have fantastic service, but who would have thought that they’re also doing their part to clean up Los Angeles smog… shipping it elsewhere, four cubic feet at a time…

21 Aug 2011

Lots of odds and ends. Rerouted the turbo oil supply and return lines. Welded in mounting studs for hose clamps. Made an adaptor for the coolant overflow tank; its plastic outlet is larger than the inlet to my coolant header tank. Welded a V-band flange on the outlet of the muffler (and am still wondering why I did.) Punched a rough hole in the lower rear panel for the exhaust; it’ll have a trim ring. There’ll also be a swappable straight-through pipe to replace the muffler for certain track events.

Last picture, a baby lizard in our back yard, about 1″ long and they move quick! I’ve managed to feed them out of my hand by holding a small worm real still and when they see it, zip!

Speaking of worms, last week there was a baby bird sitting in the street so I moved him into a bush. Coming back from our walk I saw him again… in the street. No mother around but there were crows so I brough him home. He was making noises the whole way home and when we got there, we fed him a couple tiny worms and some water. He was chirping away and seemed content, and when we put a towel over his cage he quieted down and went to sleep. The next morning – dead. That sucks. You’re born, and get one day out of the nest and… “Nope, sorry, rides over, you’re done.” He may have been sick before I got to him because it isn’t normal that I should be able to pick him up, though he “seemed” okay. Some things just aren’t meant to be. That’s too bad; I was looking forward to letting him go and hearing him sing in our trees 🙁

14 Aug 2011

Welded an aluminum bend onto the airbox, which is now complete other than the support rods. Every now and then, usually toward the end of a bunch of welding, my aluminum welds look presentable – you only get to see those!

Next was finally cutting the side panel for the air inlet path to the intercooler. I stopped here because it’s kind of up in the air how to make it more finished. A trim frame and screen is very likely, though several forward-facing louvers would look fitting. The trouble with them is that they’ll bounce rocks kicked up by the front tires directly into the intercooler core – the screen would not. Also, I’m counting on the high-pressure air piled up in front of the fender as motivation for making the air turn inboard. The louvers, because they’d point forward, would somewhat shield the inlet from that air, so it needs some more thought.

There are a few nagging plumbing issues that will get resolved this week. Everytime I look at the turbo, the oil supply and oil return lines looked less and less “right”, so they’ll be rerouted. Also, I’d used plastic quick-disconnect lines for all the vacuum lines. However, when the car was dyno’d by Daniel at Church Automotive (who’s seen 100s of good – and bad – turbo setups) he said the hoses will melt. They’ll be replaced with proper AN-3 or -4 lines, not cheap but an absolute avoidance of potential trouble.

The last picture shows why thoroughness, responsibility, and care is important. As-mounted, the Honda ECU has an upward-facing USB port which, if left uncovered, can collect whatever happens to bounce inside. A few months ago I was drilling in that area and later realized that I hadn’t covered the USB connector, but figured, “Meh, how much could have gotten in there?” Over the following weeks I’ve had time to think about the potential for trouble, and the more I thought about it, the worse it seemed, with possibly very expensive repercussions. Because the Honda ECU circuitry is surface-mount, some the pins on the various parts are as close as 0.020″ apart. It would only take a very small bit of metal to cause all sorts of big trouble, so I forced my lazy-self to take out the ECU, remove the lid, and what’s shown here is what came out. Probably the worst aspect of this would be how intermittiant a failure it could have caused, likely occurring miles from anywhere half way round a bend due to the stuff sliding around. It’s a very good thing the ECU wasn’t powered up!

This reminds me of a story from when I was in high school. We’d made a big rocket using steel pipe and our own propellant (obviously pre-9/11). We took it out to the desert to launch, and at some point, someone had to get down under it and connect the two electrical wires to the ignitor. I connected one, and came right up to the ignitor lead with the other wire when the voice in my head said, “are you SURE it’s not hot?” I remembered thinking, being young and immortal, “Meh, the chances of that are about zero, it’s fine.” For some reason though, I reluctantly wasted the time to touch the leads together and was very surprised to see it spark (due to an electical problem at the launcher-end). I think about that day every now and then, wondering how different my life – if I’d lived – would have been.

7 Aug 2011

Good progress. The airbox is coming along nicely and the pictures pretty much show the process. There’s replacing the 90-deg steel inlet bend with aluminum, adding support struts, and making a proper for the filter element to keep rain out of it. The last picture is preparation for cutting the side air inlet. Not sure whether to try and form the entire intake plenum from the side sheet itself or make it a separate assembly. Either way it’ll be covered with mesh. Doing it this way keeps the option open of later adding the big flared-in fenders discussed a year or so ago.

The more I work with aluminum the better I like it. Someone once suggested that I should make the next car (if there is one) panels solely from aluminum – no composite. Yeah I could see doing that. A few more tools are needed for that though, the proper hammers, shot bag, English wheel and maybe a planishing hammer. Meh, that’s all a ways off.

2 Aug 2011

Drove my wife to a business meeting up in the mountains, and on the way there a new Mini passed us in the twisties. A moment later my wife asked if the sudden increase in speed was me trying to keep up with the Mini in her car. “Huh, what?” It was just as well, as some serious thrashing would have been in order to try and even then I’m not sure our 2001 IS300 (RWD) could have done it (serious up-hill twisties.) Anyhow, 180 miles later we stopped for dinner near home and, coming out to the car, the low sun had lit up the front tires… uh oh. The inside edge of both tires were down to the threads! The car’s dead-stock, stock tires, normal tire pressure… so what’s with that? It’s as if it has a lot of negative camber (very doubtful stock) or a lot of toe-out, yet the steering wheel doesn’t pull. Anyhow, it’s going in for tires and an alignment pronto. It made me realize that my casual mountain road antics could have turned out a whole lot different.

On the way home we came up behind a Maserati Granturismo S at a light. From the rear it was rather non-discript, a plain-looking yet obviously-overpriced car that looked surprisingly like the Lincoln in the lane next to it. Then the light turned green. What can best be described as music came out of the dual exhausts, as it should for a $122K car, and strangly, the sound was such that the price suddenly seemed much more reasonable. We switched lanes to get a look at it from the side, and it’s an awesome looking car. Black, black wheels, rad brake calipers, with very nice styling, and I immediately felt bad for comparing it to the Lincoln… well, from any angle any except the rear. But that exhaust note, oh my, but $122K, right now? In this economy? Well, I guess at least one guy didn’t care. Here’s a clip that illustrates its great sound, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoNLbkrS1RE&NR=1