30 Dec 2012

Sorry for the lack of updates – work on the car continues, a week of finished every panel; no longer will half-finished panels do. There’s been a lot of filing, deburring, and sanding, then the panels will be ready for paint by Wednesday. Some will be powdercoated and the rest painted. Wednesday or Thursday a paint shop will be selected, assuming they’re even open this week. It remains to be seen if the panels will be Alodine-coated, depending what the paint shops say. Just the one picture of the prepped panels – you’ve seen enough shots of the car torn apart.

Update: After reading up on it, it appears that Alodine is highly regarded for prepping aluminum, as in, good luck not using it. It’ll be applied whether the shops want it or not, and the shop will be instructed to paint the panels as-is. That should cut out a lot of time and needless labor, though the fiberglass nose will need some prep.

21 Dec 2012

Surprise, we’re still here, no end of the world as claimed by delusional groups. Fortunately science pulled us through the Middle Ages, with fringe groups giving a glimpse into just how easily civilization could revert back to such nonsense.

Color change! The wife saw a new color and has decided that Midlana shall be Spruce Mica (paint code 6V4), a dark metallic green. In the shade it’s nearly black but in the sun it’s a mix of green and a hint of yellow. I’m fine with the choice as the combination works well with the gray and green.

16 Dec 2012

Worked more on the nose and front cover, which reminded me how much I don’t like dealing with composite, but thankfully there’s not nearly as much to do as with the Mini. The left main body panel was removed again and given its final trim, knocking off the sharp corners, deburred all holes, and gone over with a Scotch-Brite pad. That’s the first panel on the pile for the next step, Alodine.

12 Dec 2012

Received the glass a few days ago, it fits and will do its job fine – and was set aside until the rest of the car is done. Ordered various nuts and bolts. Purchased a section of 2″ aluminum tubing to replace the steel (rustable) section connecting the two fuel filler hose sections together. In hindsight, why I didn’t use stainless I don’t know. Also ordered Dzus fasteners for the engine cover. The “liquid shim” that was poured between the nose and front cover on Sunday looks like it’ll work perfect.

I’d bought what I thought was a cool radiator hose adaptor to connect to the rear of the K24 cylinder head, only it… leaks. Every time I give it the “wipe test”, there’s a drop or two of coolant hanging below it. If I don’t have any spare O-rings, it’ll be welded together to fix it once and for all – I hate leaks.

9 Dec 2012

So the plan is to finalize, clean up, and prep all the exterior body panels before paint. In general, when confronted with a bunch of different tasks I always start with the hardest. This provides incentive that as tasks are finished the next is easier and faster, so the first to deal with was the nose/front cover combo.

The return flange on the fiberglass nose wasn’t parallel to the front cover panel behind it and while it was tempting to leave it as “good enough”, the concern was that when the rivets are pulled they’ll deform the aluminum panel. Being as the gaps in the turn-down area were as much as 1/4″, the two were carefully positioned and epoxy poured into the gaps. Slow-setting epoxy was used, and it being a cold day it was left to set-up. They were popped apart at the end of the day and it looked like the epoxy did its job. I thought of trying to make the nose/front cover a one-piece assembly right from the start but it seemed highly likely that the seam would always be visible and plus, dissimilar thermal properties of the fiberglass and aluminum would likely cause the paint to crack at the junction. For that reason the two will be prepped and painted separately then riveted together with the seam visible – a feature.

At the other end of the car, the engine cover had always bugged me because I’d used 0.050″ sheet – it’s just too floppy. While stiffening ribs could be added, the real concern was that since the panel is fairly large, it wouldn’t take much low pressure above it to cause it to bow upwards or even  flap in the wind. Plus, several of the Dzus fastener holes were mis-located, so with those excuses, a 0.063″ panel replaced it. The Dzus fasteners were more carefully drilled (this time!) and line up much better. Next, the correct-sized Dzus fasteners need to be chosen.

Also messed with the “gill” panels on the left side, trimming them to play nice with the side panel, nose, and front cover with no overlaps or interference. Next is the other side. After everything fits, all panels will have sharp edges and corners knocked off, irregular cuts filed, sanded, acid-etched, and Alodine-coated, and then it’s off to paint.

As an aside, I’m very impressed with the Odyssey PC680 battery. Even after sitting for years it didn’t lost much charge, as evidenced by it topping off in minutes. It has no problem turning over the engine, even during the marathon engine cranking episodes. At 13-lbs and with its small size I’m pretty happy with it.

2 Dec 2012

Gave myself a good scare this morning. Apparently the manuscript editor didn’t properly close last night and corrupted the book project, which wouldn’t open this morning. “No problem,” I thought, I’ll just load the back-up copy from my thumb drive… nope, I’d forgotten that I’d erased it… from all the thumb drives. However, since the PC does automatic backups every week, the missing project file was recovered. That wasn’t the worst of it though – when I went back to open the project, the entire folder was completely empty. There were several moments of panic wondering how every file got erased, until I realized that there was a stand-alone Midlana folder that was never used, and I was in it. The actual files were still there, but whew…

The fifth anniversary of the Midlana website coincided nicely today with… a test drive – followed by three and a half hours of editing to produce a 5-minute video! Nothing fell off(!) and as you may have expected, I don’t do anything nuts on first drives, mostly due to breaking about a dozen laws as it is. It feels great, quick, maybe even qualifying for my buddy’s coveted “stupid-fast” automotive rating. Enjoy, Midlana’s first drive

1 Dec 2012

Received and installed the new fuel rail – too early to say if it reduced the fuel smell because some gas was spilled during the swap. It can only help though as the old rail definitely smelled.

While I was at the mechanic’s today dropping my truck off for a smog check, I asked about a CV boot strap tool. This was because after I cut off the band off my axle CV in order to get the engine out, the boot has had only a hand-tight replacement strap on it. The mechanic loaned me his, made exactly for the job, which I really appreciated – he got a tip. Too expensive to buy my own and have it sit around on the shelf unused. Now I don’t have to worry about it spewing grease all over – probably.

In anticipation of editing video, Cyberlink PowerDirector was purchased, and while it looks awesome there’s sure to be the usual “flailing until I figure it out. So while first drive will probably happen tomorrow, whether video gets posted sooner or later will depend on how using the software goes…

29 Nov 2012

Ordered the windscreen, plus a spare, roughly $90 each CNC-cut and delivered. They’re going to send a CAD drawing to sign-off on; can’t blame them as apparently they get people complaining that their stuff doesn’t fit, which they made exactly as ordered. They have clear, plus very light green, and very light gray glass. I ordered the green but am wondering how green it really is. The idea is that a slight tint would be nice, and it would go along with the gray chassis and light green panels. However if it’s too green, either the gray or clear might be better. Probably have about a day to make up my mind.

Speaking of green, it’s time to start finishing the external panels for paint, which means finding a decent paint shop in town. That shouldn’t be a big deal, though fussing with the Dzus fasteners on the engine cover might take a while. Then there’s finalizing the fit-up between the nose and front cover; the nose flange doesn’t follow the curve of the outer surface, so there’s a big gap between the two. The panels need final touch-up, sanding, then Alodine coating before paint.

Oh, and I was reminded that this project, from beginning to end, is fast approaching its 5-yr anniversary. Hmmm, what could be done to celebrate that, I wonder 😉

And finally, work on the book continues. The bulk of it is there but it’ll take some serious finishing, plus adding more pictures. Probably going to be 400 pages by the time it’s done.

28 Nov 2012

Received the replacement 2.5 bar MAP sensor, plugged it in, rescaled the software, reset fuel pressure, and it runs fine now. Backed the car out into the driveway but that’s as far as it went, being dark and all.

The thing sure smells of fuel but it doesn’t “seem” to be coming from the tank! I’ve run my fingers – and nose – along every seam and don’t find any trouble areas. However, standing over the car, ever once in a strong whiff comes along. Somewhat surprising, it seems to be coming from the fuel rail, which reminds me of the problems I had with it when the engine was first built. At the time I had to fabricate spacers so that the injectors wouldn’t slide too far out of the rail and spew gas everywhere. While the “wipe” test always comes up dry, the nose test sure points at it as once source of the smell.  For that reason a proper fuel rail was ordered today – hopefully that’ll help cut down on the smell, even though I realize that I’ll never be rid of it entirely (the lawnmower syndrome.)

25 Nov 2012

Short story: Fixed!

Long story: Tried a bunch of experiments to corner the problem but couldn’t find anything. Received a lot of insightful comments from the guys on K20.org, and a common theme was that many had made the exact same goof I’d made, accidentally swapping the MAP and throttle position connectors.  Anyhow, the other car owners said that quite often the MAP sensor gets fried and needs to be replaced. (I went back and checked the schematics, and somewhat unbelievably, Honda wired the two identical connectors opposite, so that if you ever accidentally swapped them, the MAP sensor would be powered with reversed polarity. What were they thinking, especially with both sensors so close together.) Anyway, what threw me off was that the sensor appeared to work so I didn’t really consider it as failed. However, enough people said they had the problem, and being that I still couldn’t get it running, I figured there was nothing to lose.

Since my car is turbocharged I had installed a non-stock MAP sensor – one capable of reading higher boost than the stock part. Because of that I don’t have a spare, but do have the original factory sensor. Because KPro is so easy to use it was just a matter of telling it that I had put the stock unit back in and it handled the rescaling. The first hint of success was that instead of reading -28″ MAP during ignition-on (which in hindsight should have tipped me off immediately) it read ~0″. Sure enough, once started it settled into a nice smooth idle.

The only downside was figuring it out so late in the day – as my curiosity of whether it could be that simple of a fix demanded coming back out to the garage in my PJs. So while my PJs now reek of exhaust I’m very happy. The bummer was not getting the test drive in, but that’ll happen soon enough, but this is a huge load off my mind.

Oh, and I still smell gas but can’t figure out where it’s coming from. It’s as if there’s an open cup of fuel hiding in the garage – every once in a while I get a good whiff of it. However, after going over every inch of the fuel tank and every connection in the fuel lines, it’s still a mystery, as nothing showed up with the “wipe test.” It’s always something.