31 Dec 2014

Snow came within about five miles of here, pretty cool. With the storm gone and the skies clear, it’s going to get even colder tonight – bad news for our simi-tropical area where people grow just about anything.

Here are the promised pictures of the air box redesign. The pictures pretty much show everything, accomodating wildly differing filter thicknesses; the first picture shows a K&N filter on top of an Amsoil filter – pretty huge difference! What prompted the project to happen now was finding a reasonably priced bell-mouthed inlet. I may have gotten a little carried away with the bell and segmented intake but that’s what it took to make it flow and fit at the same time. The cardboard mockup proved its worth, catching the detail that the taller Amsoil filter element won’t fit a sloped or ramped box so it was replaced with a rectangular design.

As an aside, when I visited K&N, they politely pointed out that I had their filter element installed upside down. It doesn’t hurt anything but looking at how the Amsoil filter is constructed, it could become an issue if I let the filter get dirty, causing the turbo to suck the filter element downward. I’ll keep an eye on it; one fix is to have a support just below the filter element – or just don’t let the filter get dirty! It could be asked, why didn’t I just design it the right way the first time? It was because I had no idea how the filter element was oriented in an OEM application, and I didn’t feel like building an entirely new one this time.

As is tradition, this build diary will join those in the “Old Diaries” link and a new “Current” build diary will begin with the new year for the next entry.

30 Dec 2014

Yesterday we ran a bunch of errands, including stopping by the Apple store. Like always, the place resembles a block party, and even in the middle of a work day there were about 200 people there. Right when we walked in, a young person in baggy pants and a hoodie turned from the nearest table and bolted past us out the door. About two seconds later the alarms went off – he’d cut the wires on two display iPhones and run off with them. What I can’t figure out is what he’s going to do with them. Within minutes Apple remote-bricked them, so they can’t be used for anything other than maybe an iTunes player. Sucks to be the loser who buys it and tries to connect to the web…

Talked to the dry sump pump manufacturer and they not unexpectedly said that there should be no strange noises from the system. I asked if there was such a thing as too much vacuum and they said “10-13 inches of vacuum is best” but I don’t know if that’s anecdotal or actual fact. Any any case I’ll buy a vacuum gauge to see what it is, and check around with a wood dowel held to my ear to find the source of the noise.

Anyway, Sunday and today were spent making the new air filter box, which I thought sure I’d have done today – almost made it. Instead of powder coating the part they’ll just get Alodyne coated and be left bare. Pictures tomorrow.

Tonight there’s a forecast of snow(!) down to 1000 foot altitude. The last time it snowed around here was 1967 – I know because we made a small snowman when I was a kid in elementary school.

26 Dec 2014

Took the car out on a longer drive to see how the dry sump performed. Everything was fine, with neither coolant nor oil getting above 75 degrees C, though the car wasn’t being pushed and it was a fairly cold day. In fact, I got to the base of Palomar mountain but between being at the end of a long line of slow cars and it getting colder, I turned back.

When at idle, I can clearly hear the noise, apparently caused by the scavenge pumps doing their job. As said before, let any air into the engine and the noise vanishes. Next week I’ll ask the pump manufacturer what the noise might be and am hoping they’ll say it’s normal. The pump certainly seems to be doing its job – during several full throttle romps there was no blue smoke visible; apparently engine oil is no longer getting pushed through the turbo bearing into the intake tract by crankcase pressure.

Once home it was on to the next project: the air filter box. It was disassembled to start on one with more space for thicker filter elements, in addition to a 4″ outlet, and bell (the new turbo has a 4″ inlet while the old one had a 3″).

Haven’t decided on whether to do the January 10 track day at Auto Club speedway… guess I need to make up my mind.

In other news, the Arial Atom I saw around town came to a sad end. A news article reported that the 21-yr old driver lost it on a turn and spun it backwards into an oncoming SUV. No one was killed but both occupants of the Atom were evacuated by helicoptor. No word on whether they hit water, oil, or just over cooked it. I’ve driven that same S-shaped section of road about 1000 times and it’s all too easy to break the back end loose and start a “tank slapper” – but that’s speculation.

25 Dec 2014

Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone.

Getting the alternator working was easy thanks to an extensive and very helpful article on Pirate4X4. It’s a 4-wire GM alternator, so connecting the “L” wire to ignition through a resistor and the “I/F” wire directly to +12V ignition resulted in 14.5V even without using the remote sense.

The dry sump system is now full, 9 quarts between the tank and two filters. Took the car out and warmed the oil up to 70 degrees C in light driving; the oil-to-coolant heat exchanger worked well to help warm it up, so there shouldn’t be any issue with overly-cool oil. After the drive, oil pressure was 60-65 psi above 2000 rpm and 25 psi at idle, but until the car’s run hard it’s unclear where it’ll end up. Since it’s 60 psi at 2000 rpm, that seems promising for when it’s hotter. At this point nothing will be done until the car is run hard to better establish a baseline – it may well be correct where it is. That said, I’m going to ask the pump manufacturer what “normal” is. That is, since the oil pressure regulator is kicking in at 2000 rpm it means that at any speed above that, excess oil is flowing through the regulator instead of the engine. I’m wondering if the pump could be slowed down so that oil pressure rises more proportionally with engine speed, something more on the order of 10 psi per 1000 rpm perhaps.

Since I’m still using the OEM valve cover, the vent is still present. Out of curiosity, with the car idling I put my finger over the vent to see how well the pump was sucking air out of the crankcase. It was doing its job and it gradually started pulling a vacuum, which was good, but what was surprising was that at the same time, a noise became audible. It’s hard to describe what it sounded like, sort of a warbling. As soon as I removed my finger it disappeared, so it’s definitely vacuum related – the question is, what’s making the noise? Google-foo shows that when a dry sump system is added to an engine, some people report hearing interesting new noises. I can probably find the source by using a stick held to my ear, but then what, what would I do about it? I suspect it’s just the way it is.

Somewhat related is deciding how much vacuum is correct and there are two very different views on this. One says that there’s no such thing as too much crankcase vacuum, while the other says that the vacuum will cause all kinds of problems because it’ll unseat engine gaskets and piston rings. From an engineering point of view I have a hard time believing this since a perfect vacuum is only 15 psi. Applied over the cross section of say, the valve cover gasket, (between mounting points for example) and it’s only going to see about a pound of force. Plus, such gaskets tend to be well contained so I have difficulty seeing how they’re going to get unseated.

22 Dec 2014

Tentatively added six quarts of oil to the system and cranked the engine with the fuel injectors removed to build oil pressure, which happened in a reasonable time given that the hoses were empty. Once pressure came up, the injectors were reconnected and the engine started – bam, an instant 65 psi at idle and no leaks. Setting oil pressure will have to wait until the oil’s warm to see what it settles out at.

I did have to tweak the pump mount slightly to get the belt better centered. The trouble (or maybe it’s a feature) is that since neither pulley is crowned, the roughly 3/4″-wide belt is free to wander on the 1″-wide crank pulley – the one pulley with guides on it. Watching the belt slowly move to one side of the pump pulley was enough to make me loosen the pump bolts and rack it slightly to bring the belt back toward the center, which of course made it move to the other side. I suspect it’s a no-win situation and that as long as 100% of the belt width is always on both pulleys, it’s not worth worrying about.

Next up is connecting the field winding on the new alternator so it’s pulling its weight, then I think a drive is in order!

A tentative track day is coming up on January 10 at Auto Club Speedway.

21 Dec 2014

The dry sump install is nearly finished and will probably be ready to start tomorrow. There’s also connecting the new alternator – I think I know which wire to connect, but it’s always a bit dicey when it comes to potentially high current.

Some of today was spent patching the unneeded holes in the spare valve cover: oil filler, dip stick, and a spare bolt boss. The “Honda Motors” was filed off and a nice CNC “Midlana” plate will be fabricated, then either welded or riveted on.

Also ordered parts for a new air filter box; the current one is too shallow to accept larger (deeper) air filter elements. Doing it again also allows improving how the air is ducted into the turbo, hopefully this one will be a bit cleaner than the first try.

14 Dec 2014


Long term readers will recall that reinforcing was added to one of the trusses supporting the shade cloth above our fish pond. That was several years ago, and while it’s still there, recent rains have finally brought doom to other parts of it, though not unexpectedly. Dry rot, termite damage, and rot cause by some posts being in contact with the soil are finally doing it in. Two trusses came down overnight, taking with them their posts. Today was quality time spent with the chainsaw, cutting up the downed trusses, the posts, and the long truss in the picture which wasn’t looking good either. Then there was carrying it all piece by piece around to the side yard – I’m pooped.

Some people asked why I’m taking out the shading, deck, and wonderful fish pond which have been with us for more than 20 years. The answer is the drought, cost of electricity, the expense to fix the existing deck and covering, and yes, the liability which has always been at the back of my mind. The plan is that the area will become a vegetable and herb garden. It will be interesting to see whether the water bill actually goes down though; I suspect that evaporation off a pond versus plants of the same square footage might actually be less, but we’ll see. The equipment and Koi will be sold to members of the local Koi club and we’re really going to miss the fish. Anyone who’s owned Koi will understand; those who don’t, won’t.

12 Dec 2014

Some of the plumbing fittings won’t be here until Monday, pushing completion to next weekend – bah. Also, I failed to confirm that the pan and pump fittings were the same size, which of course means that they aren’t; the pan’s -10 while the scavenge fittings on the pump are -12. They’ll be exchanged, which again means it won’t get done until next weekend, but no rush.

In the meantime the pulleys showed up, but other than setting belt tightness, checking how well the belt tracks can’t be tested until the engine’s running, which requires having the plumbing in place, sort of a Catch-22. In the meantime, the previously-cut chassis diagonal was welded back in, the hose assemblies for which I do have parts were assembled and installed (-16 is big stuff!), and the catch can was modified for a -12 inlet. Still need mounts for the oil/coolant heat exchanger since without the panel below the engine, it’s currently hanging from the coolant hoses. Probably the easiest solution is to weld in a few more diagonals since they’re easy to reach around.

This gives time to take care of all the nick-picky stuff that has to get done anyway and if I get bored of that, there’s always figuring out the alternator wiring. Pretty much have to have both working to get the car back on the road!

10 Dec 2014

The dry sump tank mount is done; finally there’s some pictures to go along with my usual blathering! The last picture of the tank might be a little unclear due to the tire peeking around the corner; it’s simply been rolled out of the way and the tank is at the back right corner of the car. The alternator belt routing is hard to see if the picture is zoomed out any more but it resembles an hour glass, with the belt getting within about 1/8″ of itself above the water pump pulley. If the belt ends up wearing on itself a small diameter idler will be added to keep the belt apart but hopefully that won’t be required.

The rather “baller” Barnes dry sump pump was mounted with the inlets horizontal to try and minimize the number of angled fittings. Straight fittings are lighter, much cheaper (by a factor of 2-4!), and flow better. The oil-to-coolant heat exchanger will be retained because with 2.25 gallons of oil now it should help warm up the oil faster than it would otherwise.

The dry sump pulleys and belt should be here this week but they aren’t holding anything up. There’s making up the hoses for one. A second valve cover was sourced so that the car can be run while it’s being modified. There’s no longer a need for the dipstick or oil filler, so plates will be welded over both and smoothed. An AN fitting will be added to the existing vent port in case a crankcase bleeder is necessary. Since the cover’s already being modified, it’s a good time to do something I’ve always wanted to do, mill off the “Honda” lettering and replace it with “Midlana”, then the assembly will be powdercoated. The crankcase breather tank needs a larger -12 inlet fitting, then of course there’s fabricating the new floor panel. Lots to do still but Midlana will be back on the road soon. My brother and I are already working on lining up track day dates.

8 Dec 2014

During the time spent working on the dry sump, it was a chance to look over the engine up-close and a number of gaskets and even the oil filler cap were found to be weeping. Either the engine builder didn’t use enough gasket sealer – unlikely – or the leaks are due to high crankcase pressure. If so it’s very surprising giving that the crankcase vent was routed straight to ground. Since the valve cover has to come off anyway (to seal off the filler port, dipstick, and to plug the original vent), it’ll be interesting to see if the vent was partially blocked internally.

The Barnes dry sump pump arrived last Friday so over the weekend the mount was fabricated and today the pulleys and belt was ordered (the center-to-center distance from the crank to the pump was needed before they could be ordered). In the meantime the dry sump tank mounts will be fabricated, then it’s on to determining hose lengths and fittings and then it’ll be done.

The alternator installation is complete, at least mechanically; a left and right-hand threaded tube and rod ends handle belt tension. Due to the belt routing though, it remains to be seen if the belt will slap against itself and accelerate wear. A mating connector for the alternator was bought and it was surprising to find that the “four pin connector” had only one position populated with a wire; the other three had no wires, no pins, and the pin positions were blocked off! I don’t know what the manufacturer was thinking since it gives up remote sense capability – a big reason for using the alternator in the first place. Another plug was ordered, this one with four wires.

Pictures soon.