4 Dec 2016

I’ve gone back and forth on whether to post non-Midlana content and decided you have a choice on whether to read what else I’m working on.

Work on the rotating drum filter continues and having a workshop sure makes things easier. The large ring was first bolted together using the top of the drum as a template – big mistake. Turns out plastic 55-gallon drums – while fine for their intended purpose – aren’t a good platform on which to build accurate “mechanisms.” That is, nothing is consistent, wall thickness varies tremendously, the top and bottom aren’t precisely flat or round (the top was out of round by 0.6″!), and neither top nor bottom is square to the sides. The fabricated ring had to come back off, epoxied together into a proper circle, then the original bolt holes “adjusted”, and finally the now-round ring forced onto the top of the drum to fix it’s bad attitude.

The filter’s changed some from its original design, with a stainless frame added so it can be removed and serviced rather than working on it inside the IBC container (the big white 275-gallon container). All the rest of the bits needed to finish it are on-hand, including plastic roller chain (I had no idea that existed), sprinkler valve, power supply, and timer module. I couldn’t help but notice how the gear assembly looks oddly like a clutch and flywheel assembly.

When the stainless frame was tacked together I went to turn off the welder and found water everywhere. There was a small leak I’d been ignoring and it promoted itself to “can’t ignore this” status. At first I thought I could just clip out the oddly bad segment (within 6″ of the end of the hose, which is never moved nor touched) but nope, it’s a crimped connection at the end. Of course the welding shop is closed on Sundays but then I realized the coolant unit could be unplugged and the welder used as an “air-cooled” unit. It works fine as long as no heavy welding is performed. Interestingly, unplugging the water cooling unit makes the welder so quiet I can’t even tell it’s on; the welder’s own fan only kicks on when under heavy use.

That Garolite is very tough stuff; I destroyed several saber saw blades before coughing up the money to buy proper carbide blades. I have to buy several more good blades to deal with the stainless material; the usual blades from Home Depot last about 1/2″. Mcmaster.com loves me right now…


24 Nov 2016

I’m still here!

Midlana-related, I’ll finish the composite sanding within the next few weeks then deliver it to the paint shop.

Yard-related, the pond/garden project is in full swing, meaning much shoveling is happening, in parallel with building a new filter, starting with the particulate filter. Unlike how I usually do things – researching a subject to death then going my own way – I came across a filter design that I felt I couldn’t improve on, so I’m following that builder’s lead. It’s called a rotating drum filter: dirty water flows into a horizontal drum then through screens in the walls. When the screen clogs up, the output water level drops and a float switch turns on a sprayer and rotates the drum. The waste is drained off through its own separate pipe and the nice thing about the design is that it’s completely hands-off, other than checking it once in a while to ensure nothing’s broken.

When the float switch trips, the sprayer and drum need to run for maybe 10 seconds. How to do that caused other builders a lot of grief but a 12V timer module with a built-in 10-amp switch solves that. It’s got a bunch of different modes which could be applicable to car projects as well, like – as its name implies – a third brake light flasher, or a methanol pump timer, or maybe a self-cancelling turn signal. I used this 10-amp timer module from 3rdbrakeflasher (they also sell a third brake light blinker with a G-force sensor, pretty smart).

Though not car-related, it’s funny how much car-building stuff is getting used. Clecos were used to hold the template for the drum holes, hole saw for the 380(!) holes, then there’s the gear motor, chain, electronics, and all sorts of mechanical goodies – my wife was very crafty in luring me into this project. That said, I’m torn on how much of the pond project to put here. People come here to read about the car, so there’s mixed feelings on how far out into the weeds to go.

In other news, just watched the first episode of “Grand Tour”, the replacement for “Top Gear” with the original hosts, now hosted by Amazon. The first five minutes… just… wow. I though it must have cost them millions and I was right. Sadly I knew nothing about it when they filmed the intro – I would have loved to have had Midlana there, but so it goes. (Search YouTube for “Grand Tour” as it’s already there.)

13 Nov 2016

If Midlana drops offline for a bit, don’t worry. Apparently WordPress (the sw that this site runs on) has susceptibilities and someone’s up to mischief, drawing the attention of server management. I’m working with them to resolve it and hopefully it’ll be seamless.

I was originally going to paint the ducting myself but have gradually changed my mind, as it’s yet another messy smelly error-intolerant task I’m not sure I want to do. I’ll ask the same place that painted the body panels what they’d charge and go from there. Apparently summer isn’t done with us; over the last week temperatures have been way higher than normal, which contributed to not wanting to sand panels again.

6 Nov 2016

The weekend goal was more sanding but to be honest, I’m a bit “sanded out” and was looking for something else to do. A big yard project that’s been brewing for several years has my attention. After 23 years, the pond liner’s degraded, the deck was full of termites and dry rot, the shading’s already partially collapsed due to the same, and the filter housing is tipping due to apparently collapsing gopher tunnels.

The plan was to fill in the pond and replace it with a vegetable garden, but as these thing seem to go with me, the project took on a life of its own. The plan is to dig out part of the rear bank for an above ground pond, albeit a smaller one. The advantage to above ground is that nitrate-rich pond water can be gravity drained into the vegetable beds “for free.” Actually it’s the other way around: the vegetables get water regardless and having it come from the pond makes the pond effectively “free” in terms of water usage. Above ground also means a gravity-fed filter will be much easier to implement and much of the equipment is already on-hand so the outlay wouldn’t be too much. The first pictures shows the whole mess – there’s a lot to do. The second picture shows the area where the new pond will go; the back edge of the dig has already run into the excuse for soil we have around here, clay/sandstone, which can be hard as hell. A jackhammer will be needed to break it up and speaking of work, there’ll be plenty: building a retaining wall for the bank and extending it around the front of the pond. Then there’s moving all that dirt out of the way in preparation of filling the old pond; at least this is happening in the cooler months. In parallel I’ve been looking at the latest filter technology and while it’s advanced in terms of media and equipment, the underlying pricipals remain unchanged.

All was not lost car-wise though. After the yard work I took the car out then visited mom. It was a chance to take some pictures of our two cars side by side, my brother noting how the wheelbase on my car is about 3″ longer than the Stalker, and the front track is a lot wider. Oh, and on the way home while passing through the rich part of town I saw a Mercedes-Benz SLR Mclaren Coupe (~$450,ooo when new). I’ll admit a bit of concern about possibly pulling up alongside it but the guy turned off. We might have had similar acceleration but I’d lose to his much faster shifting gearbox, never mind breaking a bunch of laws in mere seconds ;).

1 Nov 2016

Something I’ve wondered about for a long time is transmission longevity when running a turbocharged engine. The stock gearbox handles about 170 ft-lbs torques (as Clarkson calls it), but add a turbo and torque can be double that. 1st-4th isn’t an concern since they were upgraded to PPG straight-cut gears; the concern is about 5th and 6th which are still OEM helical parts. Certain tracks like Autoclub Speedway are set up for NASCAR and track day events run half the oval, a billiard-table smooth freeway where you go flat-out. Fast cars can easily do 150-165 down the front straight and with fourth gear at 0.909, it results in 139 mph at 7500 rpm. 8000 rpm is 149 mph but I’d rather not (regardless of what my engine builder says) since the K24 has a piston-rod geometry that isn’t as friendly to high rpm like the K20 is. Okay, part of my reluctance has to do with popping the first engine and wanting this one to last*.

Anyway, I asked on a Honda forum what the guys with turbocharged cars had found and unsurprisingly, several had stripped the teeth off 5th and 6th. The gears will still be used for cruising, but for longevity, boost will be reduced on those gears. I don’t want to spend $$$$ on a very nice sequential Quaife transmission because I have to draw the line somewhere on cost.

Somewhat related, the new engine is noticeably smoother, even with the stiffer engine mount. Just yesterday I wound it out in second gear and got surprised by the rev-limiter. Normally I can tell what rpm it’s at by feel but not so with this engine. It’s more “Swiss watch like” over the old one. I guess that’s a good thing!

31 Oct 2016

Another round of sanding and filling. Took the car out for a short drive – the plan had been a much longer drive but felt it was more important to get as much done on the composite in the time available. Tomorrow the wife’s back and it’s back to work for me. Overall a fair bit got accomplished.

30 Oct 2016

A great deal of composite work is preparing the surface for paint. Shown are some of the touch ups; Bondo wasn’t used because it dries harder and the softer still epoxy/micro gets sanded down more, resulting in a donut-shaped depression around a high spot. The plan originally was to let the epoxy set up while Midlana was taken out for a drive. Nature laughed and sprung some much appreciated but unexpected light rain on us, so Midi came in to keep me company and to see where all the times been going not spent on him. With car stuff done for the day, attention turned to researching how the koi pond will be redesigned. Midi has his own chair right behind my PC chair and periodically taps me on the shoulder letting me know he needs another tummy rub.

28 Oct 2016

Spend the day sanding, which identified the low spots, which a second layer of epoxy/micro filled. After another round of sanding, cheap spray paint will be used to find any remaining low areas.

27 Oct 2016

The last section is finally complete, well, laid up at least! It feels good to be done with the lay-up chapter and move to the next phase – smoothing the surfaces for paint. I may switch to Bondo for that, for cost reasons, a faster cure, and not having to worry about glass micro balloons floating around the garage. As the last picture shows, when working with composite, scissors become consumables, unless they sit in a jar of acetone.

In other news, a Locost builder who had spent many years constructing his chassis only now discovered that his chosen seats wouldn’t fit and that his offset differential requires the center tunnel to be widened. I felt sorry for him but at the same time wanted to reach through the Interweb and dope-slap him. It amazes me that any builder would assume a chassis will blindly fit any seats and any drivetrain. No, all non-negotiable parts (engine, tranny, rear axle, seats, pedals, etc) need to be on the build table first and the chassis built up around them. Being three-dimensional objects it’s very difficult to accurately measure them beforehand and having the parts in position absolutely guarantees this sort of thing can’t happen.