28 July 2013

Work continues on the book, another editing pass is being made before hard-copy drafts are produced – that’s when the real editing starts. For some reason I can catch more errors looking at paper pages instead of the computer screen. The two remaining tasks, an autocross and a trackday event have yet to happen, but they’re separate enough from the rest of the book that they can be added last.

Figuring not many people know about the Palomar Mountain road, here are two Google Earth shots – it’s a sweet drive 🙂

The wastegate springs haven’t arrived yet but probably will early this week.

27 July 2013

Jeremy at Drag Cartel built my engine, and it wasn’t until now that I realized he not only sells the same gears I’m using but also drag-races the exact same transmission. Finally, an expert. I’m going to meet up with him in the next few weeks and either give him a ride or let him drive it. I want him to hear two noises, the “bang” during hard shifts, and the rattling/buzzing sound when slightly off the gas. Best case he says “it’s perfectly normal.” Almost as good (because I’m fed up with not knowing) is “I know exactly what’s going on and it has to come out.” Worst case would be “Yeah that’s really strange – I have no idea.”

22 July 2013

Ran Palomar mountain on Sunday, enjoying the drive up the twisty road, and having power is great fun on steep roads, especially coming out of corners. It’s been a long time since I’d done this and the sportbike crowd was out in force. In fact, about half way up the mountain appeared to be a support station for several bikes, complete with trucks, large trailers, shade, and some guys apparently waiting for their buddies to come in from their last “lap.” I suspect they also radio the guys if a cop passes by… This is a public street and not all that long ago the cops pretty much set up camp on the hill, but today there were none to be seen. Part of me wanted to see if I could keep up with the bikes as they headed up the hill but no one was at the bottom when I came through. A lot of them were coming down though, some dragging their knees around the turns. When I headed back down I got stuck behind a number of cars, most of which nicely waved me by… though there was one exception…

In a not-so-surprising tradition of modern irritation, a Prius was driving painfully slow (and I’m not the only one who notices this behavior; there’s even a term for it – “Prius Rage.”) He/she was really taking his/her sweet time coming down the hill – okay, fair enough, it’s a public road, but they never pulled over in any of the 47 places they could have. More so, they went round the turns at – and I checked so I wouldn’t be exaggerating – 18 mph. The road is double-yellow the entire way and while there were a couple places I could pass, there was a concern that a sportbiker just might be heading up at full power. So I gritted my teeth until the bottom then blasted by it, no doubt confirming in their mind that sports car owners are jerks. Fair enough, ’cause they’d already provided another data point that Prius owners are as well. Or, maybe they were just oblivious, and I don’t envy their choice between the two.

That rant aside, a change of topic: I gave my buddy, Lee, a ride last week and he said something that’s been bugging me ever sense, that if I really have 400 hp, how come I can’t spin the tires in second gear, and I admit to wondering the same thing. Granted, the type of dyno that was used tends to read about 10-12% higher than the inertial-drum type, so for an apples-to-apples number I probably have more like 350 hp or so – but still. Then there’s the wide sticky tires, the rear weight bias, and the limited-slip… but still. Digging back through the dyno information turned up a few interesting things. Back then I only had one wastegate working and as a result, the 409 hp was at 9 psi, and it just hit me that I’m currently running 7.7 lbs! Well… that’ll never do 🙂

Another interesting tidbit is that boost doesn’t always equal spring pressure. Tial, the wastegate manufacturer, notes, “Boost pressures are only an approximation based on intake manifold pressures equaling exhaust manifold pressure.” I never thought about it that way but it make sense, that the turbine is a restriction in the exhaust and only if both the compressor and turbine wheels are doing equal work will an “X psi” spring result in “X psi” boost. Indeed, boost has been lower than the rated spring pressure in the last two changes, with a “5.8 lbs” spring resulting in an actual boost of 4.4 lbs, and a “8.7 lb” spring resulting in an actual boost of 7.7 lbs. Because the engine builder said it can handle 10-12 psi, new springs have been ordered – and the numbers say to expect roughly another 40-50 hp 🙂 A turbocharged engine is a very slippery slope…

14 July 2013

Spent much of the day working on the book – that hasn’t happened in a while, especially on “garage day.”

After that I decided to try to measure the 0 – 60 time. It was decided that having a camera on the car wouldn’t help things if I got pulled over, so it was left at home and the datalogger was used. The end result was, well, unclear. To make it as fast as possible I started in second gear but the logs show it could have gone a lot better. It’s unclear how synchronized the speed, rpm, and acceleration are, and I know I came to a complete stop, so apparently GPS-based speed lags behind actual speed by “some amount.” For these reasons I’m not sure how well it did, but it looks as though I need to rev the hell out of it and be more aggressive on the clutch. Between two tries it looks as if it’s somewhere between 3.5 and 4.3 seconds, but that’s just words, and as we all know, the Interweb demands, “pictures or it didn’t happen”, or at least, datalogs…

Oh, and before someone gives me a hard time about “why didn’t you use first gear”, well I’m working on that – maybe next time. Somewhat related, the logs showed that at higher revs, it takes the engine 0.9 seconds to spend down by 35%, the ratio between first and second gear, and the amount of time that has to pass before it’ll drop cleanly into second. I’m still looking into how people deal with that delay, and what’s interesting in the logs is how linear the engine spins down, almost as though the ECU is managing it in some way.

13 July 2013

Went to Cars and Coffee again, mostly to build time on the car. 90 miles round-trip and three gallons meant 30 mpg – nice! On the way up and back was a chance to check out the cooling system since the last changes. Coolant stabilized at about 70 deg C and oil was about 15 deg C above that. The thermostat is 80-85 deg C (don’t remember which) and apparently the electric water pump pushes enough coolant past the thermostat right when it starts to opens, that the system stabilizes a bit on the low side. Better that than on the high side.

Back in the early 1990s, we went to Hawaii for vacation. While I’d heard of the then-new Corvette ZR-1 and its impressive statistics, I’d never seen one in person. Turns out they had one for rent on the Big Island, at $400 a day no less. But hey, we were on vacation, and when would I ever get the chance to drive something that powerful again? I asked about renting it and at first it was available, but at some point I apparently answered a question wrong because it was suddenly and definitely “not available.” Oh well, at least I saved $400, and ended up putting it out of my mind.

Coming back from Cars and Coffee I happened to pull up behind a nice 1990-95 ZR-1. When such a situation presents itself, I never show suggested aggression by lining up side-by side, instead staying behind the potential adversary. That way it’s clear who started things, and gives the option of pursuing, or not. Also, worst case I’d probably get a slightly lower fine if caught speeding, with the guy in front getting the big “prize.” Anyhow, the light goes green and he leaves casually… I guess nothing’s happening… then he changed his mind :). That was the first time I ran through the gears “in anger”, mostly just to see if I could keep up. Not only did Midlana keep up, she caught up. At the next light the driver wouldn’t look at me, but hey, he started it (sounding a lot like something a 7-yr old would say…)

Anyhow, I was all full of myself until I looked up the ZR-1’s specs,, and though it has approximately 400 hp, it weighs twice that of Midlana. On the one hand I felt a little bad about “showing him”, but on the other hand, there’s a trace of satisfaction in knowing that I own something faster than the car I wasn’t allowed to rent that day 20 years ago.

Speaking of horsepower, it’s amazing what’s happened to power levels over the last 20 years. As any Corvette owner knows, the current Z06 is now around 500 hp, while the latest ZR-1 has a mind-boggling 638 hp. These days, power levels of even pedestrian vehicles are much higher; even my truck has 360 hp, an unheard of number not long ago. I remember my 1985 Mustang GT having a then-impressive 225 hp… less than what a Honda S2000 makes today. How times have changed.

In the second picture, check out how ignition timing is adjusted in this authentic Bugati, pretty crazy.

8 July 2013

There’s been a slow but steady stream of people inquiring about when the book will be done, and with the year more than half gone I realized that time is ticking. The timing is such that I have roughly 120 days before the book should be released if it’s going to get picked up by Christmas shoppers. That leads to the question of a timeline – how will this be achieved? The simple answer is, by working more on the book, and starting today there’ll be a concerted effort to do just that. There are two goals remaining for the car: an autocross and a trackday. However, they’re a small part of the book and with us heading into the hot part of the year, when they happen may get moved around. In the meantime however, 99% of the book effort can still happen, with the track experiences being added at anytime. So there you go.

7 July 2013

Test drives confirmed that the electric water pump is doing its job. Placement was discussed with the manufacturer, Meziere, regarding the pump pushing coolant through the radiator, being mounted immediately behind it, and being a mid-engine car. They said that it’s fine to have both the electric unit and the stock mechanical pump, which is fine with me, having redundant pumps, and not having to fuss with how to reroute the belt.

The oil-to-coolant heat exchanger was installed; through dumb luck there was a natural installation point, in the hose leading from the cylinder head to the tube leading forward to the radiator. It made sense to add it there because the added heat is seen only by the radiator and not the engine, as it would had it been installed in the return hose. Oil temperature has (so far) stayed within 12 deg C of coolant, which now stays below 80 deg C even when stopped. I suspect it’s pulling coolant past the thermostat even when it’s nearly closed, hence coolant temperature’s running slightly below the thermostat’s rating. We’ll see how things are on-track.

Lexan side windows were finally added. A lot of time was spent thinking about the shape and especially, how to attach them. It was decided that they must be removable, for cleaning if nothing else, and the rivnuts leave open the opportunity for alternate attachments. The widows work fairly well in that they decrease the blast of air coming around the sides of the wind by about half (note how they’re bowed outward to avoid flapping in the wind.) As an aside, I tried some “Cobra” style side-wings which were surprisingly ineffective because the wind continued to blow in beneath them. To do a complete job at wind management meant extending them further aft, but they’d block getting in and out (at this point I don’t want to deal with hinged window/doors, maybe later.) Note in the last picture how the window blocks direct line-of-sight between the driver and the tire, for improved peace of mind. A bikini top is also being planned.

Changed the engine and transmission oil to full synthetic. Speaking of the transmission, several times today it made a scary noise, a loud “bang”, as though the engine is hitting the chassis, only that’s not. It’s done it a couple times during up AND downshifts which is odd… almost like a gear tooth is missing, yet when driven “calmly”, is perfectly well-mannered. I’m trying to not worry too much, but whatever it is does sound to be coming from the transmission. I’ll just stick my head in the sand…

Stopped by a store and a 4-yr old girl walked by, heard whispering to her mom, “Mom, that is so cool!” That made me smile.

1 July 2013

Sorry about the lack of updates. By the time everything’s done the day is finished and there seems to be little time for updates. The pictures below have been sitting in the camera for a bit, so in more-or-less chronological order:

1. The oil-to-air cooler, which didn’t work well, at least at any legal road speeds. It’s being changed for an oil-to-coolant heat exchanger.
2. Ferrari F40, yes a real one, at the HRE open house event. Note the oil coolers at the rear corners.
3. Just a small part of the HRE warehouse, wheels, wheels, wheels.
4. The Chinese-import hood scoop works fine, at least until I get round to making my own. Makes the induction noise much quieter.
5. Research found that Amzoil makes better air filters than K&N… gee, I wonder why (and no, it doesn’t fit my air cleaner housing.)
6. A small rock found its way into the steering hub, preventing it from locking in-place. No idea how it got there.
7. Meziere electric water pump in-place behind the radiator. Seems to work great, and after talking with them, they really want to see Midlana.
8. Fish sex!… typically results in a lot of babies if they don’t turn round and eat the eggs.

The oil-to-coolant heat exchanger may or may not get here in time for the weekend. The car is a blast to drive, yet no different than any other sports car when in bumper-to-bumper traffic.