22 May

Made good progress on the new website; one of the sticking point was providing easy visibility into the old diaries and it’s more or less squared away. There’ll be four search methods: post by post, by year and month, a Midlana-centric Google search bar, and categories and tags. It all works but I need to format the categories and tags better, then start back-filling the old diaries. When I’m in the middle of something that’s going well I tend to keep going even at the expense of other projects, but car progress was still made. By the way, one thing very noticeable is how much clearer and sharper the images are. Even though they’re the same root images, the web software apparently handles them different and they look way better.

Sunday was spent deciding where the dry sump tank, Spintric air/oil-separator, the relocated ethanol sensor, and the new fuel filter will go. Both the Spintric and ethanol sensor are now mounted in their final positions. The dry sump tank’s position is set; it just needs the mounts, and the fuel filter’s position is loosely decided.

On the engine front, Drag Cartel is making fast progress now that they have all the machined and cleaned parts in-house. It may be here as early as the first week in June so I need to keep working on the ancillary projects. The intercooler mount will probably wait until the new engine’s in place, unless I get everything else done first.

15 May

A number of things have happened:

The forum is back online and the forum software updated; this should be the end of interruptions for a long time.

Intercooler placement was finalized (read: “make a decision and move on”), placing it on the centerline of the car. In a straight-on rear-end accident, if it gets pushed forward it’ll hit the main roll hoop diaganal, and if it somehow gets past that, it should pass between the seats. With that out of the way, the end tanks were finished and welded on; in 15 years, this is only the third time the cooling fan has come on – welding thicker aluminum requires significant current. As to how much air can be fed through it, I’ll be learning along with you guys. An F1-style scoop would certainly work but will block rear visibility. Another approach is having scoops protruding from each side feeding air in that way. All will become clear after some aero testing.

It’s official, the cylinder head and various engine parts were delivered to the engine builder, Jeremy of Drag Cartel; we met midway at an import car show. I only took a few pictures because it irks me that so many people do the “I’m different – just like all my friends” thing, a lot of chrome, a lot of turbos, and not much independent thinking, including a surprising lack of air filter elements. Independent thought was noted, such as an old Honda 600 with a Honda bike engine (and gas tank) that fit like a glove. Jeremy’s drag car was a work of art, very elegant; it was clear that someone knew what they were doing. That engine generates around 400 hp at 10,000 rpm. I noticed that the car used the same remote oil filter adaptor I am – the one where the nut backed off, leaving me stranded with oil everywhere. I let him know. I got there really early to hand off the parts to Jeremy before the crowds arrived, and arrive it did. I left about 10am and there were 100s of Hondas backed up out to the freeway heading toward the event. The police took notice as well, with several cars pulled over at any one time. Get a bunch of young roosters together and there’s always one that has to show off, and presto, red lights. Need to learn to contain it, guys.

Lastly, work on the new website continues. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to use the blog page for this year’s blog, but somehow have an archive directory to previous years.

6 May

On the home front, we’re finally considering adding air conditioning; several months each year it gets downright unpleasant, both hot and humid. Our home was originally built for central air; the hoses are hanging out the side of the house but we never installed the outside unit. The reason is that they’re really inefficient and expensive to run; my brother says his electric bill increases as much as $300 a month, cooling off the entire home just to cool even one room. Always wanting to learn new things, I started looking into alternatives.

The first candidate was portable units, but the overwhelming volume of negative comments about them made me not even want to go there: very inefficient, noisy, and really lacking in cooling capacity.

The second candidate was window units. They’re typically noisy, both themselves and allowing in outside noise, they’re a security concern, don’t look good (especially sticking out the front of the house) and in our case at least, a no-go because our windows are too narrow.

The third candidate was through-the-wall units. The concern again was noise, and cutting and framing a big hole in the wall.

Then I discovered a fourth type, widely used in Europe and Asia, “mini split” systems, where a small unit is attached high on an interior wall, containing only a very quiet fan and radiator. Refrigerant flows through two hoses through a small hole to an outside compressor. It’s virtually silent, the compressor can be hidden from view, the wall unit is small and unobtrusive, and no big holes are needed. A system consists of: an external compressor (already charged with refrigerant), the wall-mount unit, a set of hoses, control cables, and a remote control. This is where things get interesting.

While promising, because the unit arrives as separate pieces, it’s not as simple as mounting the boxes, screwing the hoses on and opening the valves. Humidity trapped inside the hoses freezes into hard pellets and destroys the compressor, so the air must be vacuumed out to boil off the humidity, so a pump is necessary. It’s also good to purge the lines with nitrogen, so between the two, it’s why nearly all mini split systems are installed by professionals. But because they aren’t all that popular here yet, HVAC guys seem to be taking advantage of the situation and charging $1000-2000 just for installation. Always looking for a challenge, I could almost hear Jeremy Clarkson asking “How hard could it be?” Turns out there are a few issues:

First, doing it myself would require a vacuum pump, hoses, a good vacuum gauge, and a source of nitrogen, running around $300. Second, installing it myself means voiding the warrantee – virtually no manufacturer covers a unit not installed by a pro. Third, most air conditioners require 230VAC, of which there was none nearby.

Buying my own gear isn’t that terrible, especially since the vacuum pump could also be used for, oh, vacuum-bagging composite parts. Also, for what the pros charge I could risk it, and if it ever broke, either fix it myself or just buy another unit – and still have spent less than having it professionally installed.

Regarding the power, air conditioners in general take a lot, at least they used to back when they were fairly inefficient. For that reason, running them on 115VAC was always a bit iffy, so manufacturers sell way more 230VAC units (read: like 10 times as many). The good thing is that they’re more efficient than 115VAC units, and because of improvements over the years, they’re getting seriously good at what they do, some cooling a bedroom for several months a year for only about $1 a day. The trick is running 230VAC to the unit, but our fuse panel was already full. Worse, even if there was space for another breaker, because it’s an older panel, replacement breakers are ridiculously priced. Wondering if I was stuck using a 115V unit, I noticed the 230-V breaker on the panel labeled “dryer” – “Hey wait, we have a gas dryer, well isn’t that convenient!” So the plan is to reroute that circuit over to where the remote compressor will go. That’s the plan for now, and the goal is to get it online before the seasonal misery hits, which is typically around the first of September.

5 May

Yup, the inner workings of websites and host management is just as much fun as I remember – nothing ever “just works.” The suspicion was that building up the site locally (hosting it on my own PC) would be pretty straightforward – and it is. The suspicion was also that migrating it onto my host’s server would be a pain – and it was. With 10’s of millions of WordPress sites, it’s amazing how the host’s reaction was essentially a shrug, saying it’s not their software. Nice try, since virtually none of the database management software they use was created by them. I pointed out that I had just installed WordPress – which they provide – onto their own server and once installed, nothing could be updated. Again, “we know nothing about those plug-ins, try contacting the creators.” I pointed out that every single plug-in failed to work and in fact WordPress itself requested an update, which also failed. I suggested that – just maybe – the problem was at their end… not mentioning that my local installation worked just fine. Finally, “well we can try migrating you to a server which has a more recent version of xxx.” Given no other choice, that sounded like a great idea… Waiting now to see if that fixes things.

That’s the dilemma of working on the car and maintaining the site; both need to be done but only one can be worked on at a time. It’s frustrating when hours go by with nothing to show for it. On the car side of things, the 4″-diameter tubing arrived, the welding tanks are filled, so there should be some actual progress this weekend!

3 May

I couldn’t access a slip roller and gave up on trying to bend 0.080″ aluminum into a cylinder. The pieces will just be too visible for something beaten by hand to pass inspection. For that reason, two 12″-lengths of 4″-diameter aluminum tubing were ordered through Mcmaster.com. As said before, they’ll be cut lengthwise to sit on the ends of the tanks, and starting out as tubing means they’ll look a lot better than whatever I’d have come up with.

Saturday morning, took the argon tanks over to be filled and surprise, I forgot that the welding shop had a new owner, who apparently decided to take Saturdays off. Fine. I didn’t feel like doing anything in the garage so instead the day was spent working on the new website. I work with this stuff so rarely that every time it’s like starting over, but the website building program WordPress certainly helps. Things are moving along, lumps and all, and I try to work on it a bit each evening.

My brother signed up for the Virginia City (Nevada) Hill Climb. It’s not held until late August but even that far out, I’m not sure Midlana will be fully sorted by then, meaning engine received, installed, running, tuned, and intercooler ducting figured out. We’ll see how it goes, but the closer the date comes the higher the entry fee gets, currently at $600. Ugh… the cost of our fun.