25 Dec 2013

Merry Christmas/Holidays, everyone.

Due to some very abnormal weather (80 deg F!), everyone was out this afternoon walking on the beach and driving their toys along Coast Highway. Ferraris, high-end Audis, and a few Cobras were just a few. A very nice Ferrari 458 Spider came up behind me in an apparent attempt to put me in my place (what place is that, that I hadn’t bought my car at a dealer?). I let him by and he did the obligatory pass to establish the pecking order, but I ended up behind him at the next light. So he took off with me on his tail, just to see if I could. I backed off early since traffic was so heavy, but it was very rewarding to see his eyes glancing in the mirror, as if thinking “wait, that’s not supposed to keep up” – that was good enough for me.

On the list of things to do is to take a handling class. My brother did that in a BMW class, where one of the tasks was to drive a figure-8 with the back end hung out all the way around. I can’t think of a better way to establish car control at the edge. I’ve had Midlana fairly sideways, and the good news is that it doesn’t have any nasty habits. Still, I’d like to take a class to find out just where the “edge” is. Anyhow, someone posted this video on a forum, as proof that a rear-engine car can be drifted, http://www.carthrottle.com/you-know-youre-a-sick-driver-when-you-can-drift-a-turbocharged-porsche-like-this/. While I’m not into drifting (way too slow around a track and way too abusing to tires) it seems like an awesome way to find the outer edge of a car’s handling envelope. To have the knowledge of just where the edge is and what to do when it’s approached would be very valuable… and make for some good videos :).

19 Dec 2013

The local gas station just installed an E85 pump. Why they would do so is rather baffling, given that there are so few flex fuel cars in SoCal, and even fewer that actually bother using ethanol. If anything I’d have thought that they’d install a second diesel pump, given that the number of cars using that fuel is definitely increasing.

Anyway, the only reason I mention this is that it is an evil temptation to have an alternate fuel map for ethanol. Why? It’s because turbos just love ethanol since it burns cooler and has a much higher effective octane. The end result is that I could – no kidding – have around 600 hp, just like that. What’s holding me back are several things: much worse mileage, hardly any stations carry the stuff (like, about six in all of California), and, what exactly is the point on the street having that much power. If anything, it makes a lot more sense to use the stuff on-track, where it helps protect the engine from detonation. However, thankfully I’m lazy enough, and busy enough on yard things that it’s just not a big deal. While it’s fun to dream, in the end, it’s just not what the car’s about. I want to do more track events to more fully understand the limitations of the both me and the car.

Oh, and I’m finally getting into the new century and setting up an Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook account in order to better spread the word about Midlana.

15 Dec 2013

Yard work continues, retaining walls, shoveling tons of dirt, taking dozens of rotted railroad ties to the dump, only to have half of them rejected as “not rotted enough.” (Okay, so they’re still going to get them, several pieces at a time in the trash can… what did they expect?)<br>
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Anyhow, for the time being, I’m working on yard stuff (rebuilding wife points). In other news, I was into amateur radio a long time ago, then got out of it and let my license expire. As I was going through my father’s stuff, I ran across his license, and it made me want to take it up again, so that’s in the works.

A local car club has organized a Dyno Day (each car gets a couple free pulls). This should prove interesting because it’s been several years since it was last done, but more importantly, is on the far more common drum-type dyno. The numbers will be about 12% lower than on the other type, but then again, the car probably have about 10% more power, too. On the other hand, a couple people have questioned my claimed horsepower numbers, as in, why can’t I spin the tires in second gear (actually, when they’re cold, I can), and also, why wasn’t my top speed at Fontana faster? Anyhow, that’s not for another month or so.

Meanwhile, I check in often on the Midlana Forum, http://www.midlana.com/forum/, where there are currently two people building cars. Check it out.

1 Dec 2013

As promised, http://www.lulu.com/shop/kurt-bilinski/midlana/paperback/product-21323272.html

Being self-published means using a Print-On-Demand (POD) service, sort of an automated Kinko’s copy center. I use Lulu, the same POD printer used with my previous book, Kimini.  An author sends Lulu a manuscript, which they store on a server. When an order comes in, it’s printed, bound, boxed, and shipped. It’s a decent deal for authors that are unable (or unwilling) to deal with “real” publishers. Once the manuscript is uploaded to Lulu’s store front, the process is completely hands-off; Lulu handles sales, shipping, and any customer issues. The downside is that because they aren’t printing thousands of copies at a time, the cost per page is a lot higher, but for many writers, that’s an acceptable overhead to get a book to market. Also, since Lulu has printers located around the world, your book is automatically printed at a regional facility, including Europe and Australia.

The question comes up, “why can’t I buy it on Amazon?” Long story short: book stores don’t like dealing with PODs because they expect a huge discount, and expect to be able to return unsold inventory at the end of each month; neither of these conditions work well in the POD ecosystem. The question also comes up, “Can I get an eBook version?” Short answer: not at this time.

With this enormous task complete, I’m going to start on the backlog of home projects!

24 Nov 2013

By working on the book all day, all corrections have  been completed! This frees up a week I didn’t expect to have, so one more test copy was ordered as a “last chance” check. Even with express shipping, it’s unclear if it’ll arrive next Friday, Saturday, or the following Monday. This means that assuming nothing terrible is found when it arrives, the book will likely become available in about a week.

One think I’ve not discussed is price, which will be $100. As far as I know, there is no book out there that so fully covers the construction of a mid-engine sports car (or any car for that matter). Sure, a few books have plans but they’re light on actual construction guidance. Midlana is 393 pages of meaty detail, explaining why things are being done a certain way, the best way(s) of doing so, yet offering up many options along the way. It’s very doubtful that a Midlana owner will ever seen another car exactly like his (or hers), and that’s a good thing. Anyhow, I guess I felt the need to get out in front of any commentary regarding price and to explain the reasoning behind it.

23 Nov 2013

Received the last set of corrections from my copyeditor buddy. We were both shocked at how many “new” errors we found; we can’t figure out how both of us missed so many the first time through. In at least a few cases though, we were suspicious of TeX, the editing software used to create the book. Case in point, searching for the repeated-word phrase, “the the”, in order to find and correct my goof of repeating the word. Even though I had an example on the page right in front of me, the TeX search could not find it. Trying different search filters didn’t work either, so who knows what was going on. Changing the search terms to non-repeated words showed that it was working.

Anyway… the book is on schedule for release next weekend.

18 Nov 2013

Okay, here’s the video of Midlana at the Fontana event, taken from outside the car, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJUHfOcqU9Q. It gives a good idea of what shows up at track events, and it’s why I enjoy it so much. No rules (other than safety gear) so there’s a huge variation on what shows up, from Radicals, to near-stock Datsun 510s, to older NASCARs. Be sure to turn it up 🙂 I like the spitting and popping of Midlana on throttle overrun 🙂

17 Nov 2013

The week was spent fine tuning the book and adding comments regarding the track experience. My buddy is still checking his copy over for grammatical issues, which means I’ll have about a week to implement his fixes before the book goes live.

Forgot to mention that at Fontana last week, oil temperature got up to 126 deg C (258 deg F). For synthetic it’s “okay” for a while, but the high temperature also caused the oil to thin and oil pressure dropped to as low as 48 psi. I could either “fix it” by going with thicker oil, or do it the right way and get a larger cooler. The new one’s on the way.

When we were there, my brother recorded Midlana from outside with a handheld camcorder. It gave a good chance to see how the car sounds, and though it’s not edited down yet, I’ll post it sometime this week. One downside to Fontana is that from the infield (where everyone was) there are very few places to see much of the track. Anyhow, check back in a day or so for some cool engine noises 🙂

12 Nov 2013

Okay, a belated update for Saturday’s trackday event. There were multiple events going on at Auto Club Speedway: our trackday, a short demo session by – no kidding – Mazda GTP cars, a street racer/poser sort of show, and an autocross.

The trackday went very well. My windshield got cracked, not by rocks, but because the center support padding got compressed (by wind loading, no doubt) to the point that the edge of the glass contacted the bracket – instant crack. In addition, there were a surprising number of rock pits – the consequence of everyone running chewing-gum soft tires. (After the event, there were many impact marks where balled-up sticky tire rubber kicked up by cars ahead hit Midlana.)

Tire wear was very even, no complaints about suspension geometry 🙂

This being my first event ever at this track, in a car that I’ve never driven this fast, I was intimidated by The Wall around turn one and two. What I didn’t know was what Midlana would do if I got the back end out at speed. The concern was that it “might” step out, catch, and whip the car back to the right, up toward the wall. We were told that if our cars started to spin in that turn, to NOT counter steer, to instead, steer to the left, down the inclined turn. I don’t know about other drivers but I think it would be very difficult to undo what’s been engrained into our driving habits for decades, being able to suddenly steer the opposite direction that our reflexes dictate.

I was told that I should have been able to take that curve at around 130 mph, but was simply unwilling to find out what would happen. Of course, this means the question remains, what WILL Midlana do? When I first started driving at trackday events, it was back in the 1980s at Riverside International Raceway. Turn Nine there was similarly intimidating, and it took several events before I got to the point where I was okay with the back end of the Datsun 1200 stepping out slightly. Of course in that car, the speed was a lot less, and the weight distribution was far different. In a car with nearly 70% on the rear axle, it takes some getting used to.

The only “moment” I had (pointed out in the video) was while under hard braking for a turn and was about to heel-and-toe downshift. What happened was – from my perspective – the car didn’t slow. I didn’t panic because there was a ton of runoff, and simply drove straight off instead of attempting to turn. At about the same time I saw the front tires lock up, so I knew the brakes were working, so why didn’t the car slow? It was because I’d adjusted the brake pedal to be just above the gas pedal under braking… but under HARD braking, the brake pedal was lower, enough that my shoe caught the edge of the gas pedal. As a result, I had 400+ hp helping me continue straight, and that’s just what happened. This was a good learning experience, because had it happened with someone immediately in front of me, it would have required some quick thinking to not hit them.

Something I’d been wondering about was confirmed to have happened – Midlana spits flames under deceleration! Cool! Unfortunately I didn’t think to put the GoPro back where it could record it, and as far as I know, no one caught a picture of it. It’ll certainly be something that I’ll have to get some footage of 🙂

My brother found some footage from another car at the same event running in my group, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8CnfEjfo5E. Sure enough, there Midlana was, passing at 19:03 in his video. No exhaust flames, though…

At several times during the day, Mazda (yes, the factory) brought out a few of their “old” GTP cars, the ones with the four-rotor rotaries. Man, I wish I had more time to walk around (as a participant, your day is fairly busy). Anyway, I just loved the way the cars looked and sounded. As one idled through the pits, the doors were open (it was fairly warm) and I got a good look at the driver, who was a big guy. I was later told that it was Mazda’s president… nice perk!

Lastly, there was an separate event held in the pit area that I just couldn’t understand, a pseudo street racer car show. It consisted of a long row of cars on static display, showing off their visual awesomeness (enormous turbos, crazy camber, and little suspension travel), while cars that were heading out to the real track passed by. In any other context (read: away from a real track) I could better understand it. But here, at a real track, surrounded by real race cars, it just seemed absurd to pretend to have a bad-ass fast car, yet not drive it. Kind of like Hollywood impersonators hanging out at the entrance to the Oscars, hoping to be mistaken. Surreal.