20 March 2020

Contacted a couple more hot rod shops and they’ve been more responsive. While doing so is a bit premature, it’s necessary to see whose out there and still in business. Some are a little sketchy, with websites looking like they were made 25 years ago (you know the ones: varying text sizes and fonts, flashing text, a total pallet of only eight colors, dead product links, etc). I suppose that could be spun to mean that they’ve been around a long time and haven’t updated their site, but when there’s no contact info other than a phone number, it makes one wonder.

Typing out loud, some time is needed to let this stew. The concern is whether I’d be okay with a cookie-cutter hot rod, regardless of performance. I’m not sure. On the one hand, I like to pretend that I don’t care. On the other hand, I’m not sure that I’ll be happy doing anything other than going my own way. What’s testing that creativity is having a weather-tight cab as a top requirement, which for me means starting with something preexisting (don’t get me started on dealing with doors and weatherstripping, see the Kimini blog for that). Technically I could start with a metal truck cab and go from there—modifying composite is undesirable for many reasons listed elsewhere. I have a couple design ideas about how I want it to look, but am I prepared for the years of work to do a full custom project again?

There are other factors too, such as whether the windshield is flat or curved. If the car is used on-track, the windshield is going to get pitted and cracked fairly quickly. If the glass is flat, it’s easy to have another made up. If it’s some old oddball OEM curved glass, there’s always the possibility of hearing “sorry, those aren’t available anymore” (and then what do you do?). One negative regarding flat windshields is that, depending upon angle, it can reflect whatever the driver’s wearing. This may not seem like a big deal until you’re driving into the sun and wearing a white shirt! (Midlana’s flat windscreen doesn’t have this problem because it’s angled back at a steep 45°.)

Speaking of oddball, I learned of a car I’d never heard of before, a Henry J, which was an economy car sold in the US in the early 1950s. It’s quirky and unusual enough to get my attention, but with a 100″ wheelbase (Corvette is 106″), it means shortening the torque tube, something I want to avoid if possible. Overall length is 178″, oddly close to the 15-ft length that keeps popping up.

My garage has a vertical clearance of 8-ft. If final ground clearance of the car is 4″, and the shell is (total guess) 48″ tall, then that leaves 96 – 48 – 4 – 2 (chassis tubing), for a working space between the two of 42″. Not great, but probably workable. There could be an issue as the roll cage is fabricated because it’ll extend up into the shell even with it up against the rafters. Whether that becomes a problem at some point needs some thought. The point of bringing this up is that a multi-piece shell is both a help and a hindrance, as in, where are they stored? Starting with just the passenger compartment (like a truck… again) keeps the clutter down. It does mean potentially paying a shipping fee twice if the nose is decided on later, though as discussed earlier, it’s highly likely that where I’d place the cab wouldn’t be where the manufacturer intended.

Anyway, around and around the process goes!

18 March 2020

A hot rod manufacturer that I requested information from called, pushing to know if I was ready to make a decision. I asked if they’d read my email, which they hadn’t, so I read it and things kinda went downhill from there. He (and I understand why) seemed to think that I didn’t know what I was doing, it wouldn’t work, and that I shouldn’t buy their shell. I tried to explain that I’m familiar with making things work, which only made him flip to the opposite extreme, which, paraphrasing, was, “okay, fine, I’ll sell you whatever you want, you’ll find out.” Neither sales strategy worked.

I suspect that he doesn’t know what a late model Corvette “rollerskate” is. I tried explaining, but he had already decided that it wouldn’t work. He said, “the cab’s not nearly wide enough.” Not true. The Corvette envelope is 6 feet wide, and their cab is 4 feet wide. That leaves 12″ on each side for the wide tires.

He said that the hood assembly wouldn’t possibly fit, and I said there’s no way to know because they don’t supply dimensions (I left out the part about probably not using the front anyway).

I can understand where he’s coming from. If I sold hot rod shells to the general public, I’d probably be pretty cynical myself based upon what people say they can accomplish, versus what actually gets done.

I tried explaining how all I need are the cab and doors but, being a salesman, he kept pushing to sell the whole set (with nose and bed), saying it would cost more to ship them separately, and seemed puzzled that anyone would want just part of it (how do they not know about rat rods?). The conversation ended with him never saying what the cab and doors would cost, but he did say that he would talk to the experts. Okay, though I’m not sure what’s to discuss.

There are other manufacturers out there so I’ll try them. If that fails, there’s always starting with a mid-60s OEM steel cab. Heavier, but more easily available, cheaper, and with no unhappy sales people. I have time on my side (assuming viruses stay away!).

17 March 2020

Moving pieces of the mental puzzle around, I realized that, without a full-size workshop/garage , this build will be difficult. It would require one car bay for the ‘Vette “rollerskate”, a second bay for the car that’s getting converted to sit over it, a third bay for all the parts as they come off, and a fourth bay for the “machine shop.” That’s basically twice the garage that I have now, but even if somehow this home’s garage was doubled in size, it cannot be one large area due to the exiting floor plan and plot. It’s just not going to happen. Because of this, unless we move (unlikely, especially now), the Corvair/van/Volvo/etc imaginings have to get shelved. So what does this leave?

It suggests using the construction technique used with Kimini, where composite subassemblies were used, carefully measured, the tube frame chassis build, and the composite placed over it frequently for test fitting. During the build, the cab assembly can hang up out of the way from the ceiling on pulleys such that it could be lowered and raised at will during the build.

This narrows down the ideas to something already under consideration: a pickup truck. The advantage of starting with a hot rod truck is that it’s already in three pieces: the front hood assembly; the cab; and the truck bed. I only need the cab initially because that’s where all the work happens. The cab gets placed such that it’s not interfering with the engine. I don’t want the engine intruding through the firewall because it gets crowded and hot, and it’s hard to work on the engine if it’s buried under the windshield. So that locates the cab. The front and rear suspension ends up wherever it has to be, and the engine and front suspension can either be left open, hot rod/rat rod style, or integrated into an existing hood/fender assembly, and maybe it’ll fit. Leaving it open though, means not having to worry about where the tires end up relative to the wheel wells.

This leaves the truck bed, which handles two issues rather conveniently. Since the cab was likely set back further than stock, the rear tires almost certainly won’t line up with the factory fender cutouts. No problem, the bed and wheel arches are cut to align it. Also, since I keep complaining that most cars are too long for the garage, the rear of the bed can be cut such that it just supports the rear wheel arches, while keeping enough internal volume underneath for the gas tank and mufflers. If the truck bed ends up being short, like 4.5 feet long, so what. The truck bed is very straightforward to fabricate, and also avoids the expense and shipping of a fiberglass bed assembly I’d have to chop up anyway.

There are several vendors advertising composite cabs for hot rod trucks (a stretched version is nice because the actual size cabs are cramped). Also, most have doors available, along with glass and electric lifts.

This is much more pleasant to think about, rather than certain other things going on right now!

15 March 2020

Whether you enjoy sci-fi movies or not, we’re all playing a part in one now…

Assuming I survive (mostly kidding) I’m thinking about the next project (does that mean that I’m an optimist? On that note, is this a really good time to do the remodel, or a really bad time? I really don’t know).

Anyway, I asked for suggestions on Grass Roots Motorsports and there are some pretty cool ones, with a few shown below. As you can see, I’m still all over the place. My rules include it being older than 1975 (or appearing to be, for the California SB100 exemption), 15 feet or shorter, a wheel base of around 106″, doors, roof, and provisions for a heater and A/C. Right now I really like the look of the Corvair in black, and the black rat rod pickup truck, two very different approaches. The Volvo does offer some quirkiness as well, and I doubt that early 1970’s ones are worth much. So many decisions…

Regarding the rat rod approach, a search for fiberglass hot rod truck cabs shows that to get one in-hand, with doors, would be on the order of $8K, which is pretty high for what it is. Starting with an old car shell could be a lot less, but then there’s the inevitable rust and rot to deal with, and maybe impossible-to-find body parts.

This certainly isn’t Midlana related, but as long as nothing’s been purchased, and the path forward remains nebulous, I don’t see it as direct competition yet. I have decided that if this happens though, that it’s time to move into this century and do YouTube installments instead of a blog or book. Whether that’ll be better or worse depends upon one’s definition I guess.

10 March 2020

Thoughts on home repairs continue, with future car projects orbiting in the background. The good thing about this stage of such car projects is that they cost nothing, mistakes don’t matter, and all sorts of different approaches can be tried in one’s imagination without concern.

I asked for input on another car forum about what to put on the Corvette drivetrain, and they’re as out there as I am, ranging from Corvairs, El Caminos, vans, early mini vans, trucks, rat rods, used NASCAR chassis, Teslas, and even a Pontiac Aztek (lime green of course to match the one in Breaking Bad). Anything more recent though from 1975 is an automatic disqualification.

I keep going around between a rat rod truck to a van-ish sort of thing, because I want storage for stuff ( track tires, jack, cooler, chair, etc) during trips so I don’t have to trailer the car. So there’s that, and wanting working doors, rain seals, air, and heat. There are a fair number of fiberglass hot rod shells available, but by the time doors and glass are added, they’re up around $8K shipped just for the truck cab. Moneywise, it seems to make more sense to start with a mid-1960’s truck, and then I’m right back to something like what that guy bought to the Del Mar hot rod show, a “farm truck” on a corvette chassis.

I guess it’s pretty obvious that I’m not trying to be unique, but instead want something usable, something that makes me smile to look at (I appreciate sleepers) and is fun to drive. The only downside with the truck approach is that after a lot of work, it could end up weighing as much as a complete Corvette, but with twice the aero drag. Can’t have that. There are complete fiberglass truck bodies, but they’re set up for drag racing and have non-working doors. They certainly are not trivial to add, what with weather stripping, rain channels, glass guides, etc, but who knows.

Oh, regarding using a Corvair donor, a number of people have put V8s in them mid-engine, ahead of a transaxle. That’s fine for them because they can apparently afford the $12-18K for a proper transaxle that won’t break. Also, these builders claim that their cars have a 50/50 weight distribution. I can’t see how that is because a Corvette, with its front engine and rear transmission, is also 50/50, so someone’s incorrect. I still want to stick with pretty much a dead-stock Corvette driveline (engine, tranny, suspension, and brakes.

BTW, I read that late model Corvettes use the latest generation of LT1 engine, which is direct injection. You know what DI engines work really well with, right? Turbochargers, but there I go again 🙂

16 Feb 2020

Regarding last week’s post, I think I’m getting way ahead of myself, for a number of reasons:

  • The house needs a lot of work.
  • The “25-yr smog rule” apparently no longer exists, so that angle’s out.
  • What I was considering won’t fit in the garage.

So fear not, potential builders, Midlana is staying. I think first on the list is for us to decide what needs to be done to the house, what we want it to be, and weighing that against the inconvenience of a messy remodel, versus… moving. That’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish, as there’s as many variables in that as there are in building a car from scratch!

In the meantime, I need to learn how to drive Midlana better; that’s a project that can happen along with, or in spite of, everything else.

9 Feb 2020

It’s raining, I’m on-call, so here’s an infrequent stream of consciousness.

I’ve started a thought experiment on a future project, but there are a lot of questions, so fear not, Midlana builders, I’m not jumping ship. First, some background:

In the back of my mind has been to build one more vehicle before I’m too old, different from what I’ve been doing, like: motorcycle powered?; electric commuter?; 3-wheeler?; or ? Initially, there was thought of an electric “something”, but I can’t get past the value-per-dollar aspect which makes it a no-go for me. There’s already a couple electric Locosts out there, but there isn’t much detail on power, range, and most importantly, cost. While I agree that someday, people will build custom electric cars just as we do now with internal combustion parts, but I feel it’s currently too expensive for what you end up with (ignoring specific goals such as autocross, where one could do very well, but I have no interest). In addition to overall cost are other potential gotchas such as Tesla remote-bricking cars that have been written off. That’s fine for their liability, but what about the guy who buys it at auction, thinking he’ll get it running again (this has already happened). Avoiding Tesla parts, at least their controller, means building a hybrid, which is all very doable, but again, what do you want at the end of the day? That said, one good thing about Kimini and Midlana is that they aren’t powertrain specific, so if someone acquires the parts, an electric version is certainly doable.

So if electric is off the table, how about motorcycle-powered then? I thought about it, but for me it would be track only because I don’t think bike drivetrains are a good choice for a street car. I also don’t want to spend 1000s of hours building something that I can’t drive without towing it 100s of miles to a track.

Three wheelers? Mentally I’m stuck on the styling (like I’m fashionable, hah). I just can’t get around how a 2-front-wheel-and-one-back-wheel design looks. Well, it can look good if the nose can be kept low, and the CG kept toward the front, but those two are at odds with each other.

So this leaves what? Right now I still think the best bang for the buck is an internal combustion car engine. Having owned a turbo car, I’m tempted to go the other direction for the performance per dollar, meaning large displacement.

I’m also considering taking a different tact with the chassis in an effort to avoid spending 5-10 years both designing and building it (as I’ll be how old by then?). One way is starting with an existing frame that can be adapted into what I want, so what kind of tube frames are on the used market? Dune buggies, meh… and NASCAR shells. Hmm.

Now the catch: would it be street legal in California? The law that both Kimini and Midlana used—SB100—worked great, but that was for a truly scratch-built car. Using a preexisting tube frame that looks like a Chevy or Ford may make it ineligible. Here’s the exact phrasing from SB100:

These vehicles may be built from a kit, new or used parts, a combination of new and used parts, or a vehicle reported for dismantling (junked) that, when reconstructed, does not resemble the original make of the vehicle that was dismantled.

A specially constructed (SPCNS) vehicle does not include a vehicle that has been repaired or restored to its original design by replacing parts or a vehicle modified from its original design.

Example: A Volkswagen “Beetle” with modified fenders, engine compartment lid, and front end, but still recognizable as a Volkswagen is not considered a specially constructed vehicle.

The key term phrase seems to be “does not resemble the original make of the vehicle,” which seems to mean brand. So if it uses Chevy parts but doesn’t look like a Chevy, does that makes it legal? NASCAR vehicles looks very little like their street-going counterparts, but I don’t know if that’s good enough. OEM parts that I’d want to use include the door frames, lightweight doors (hah), windshield frame, and roof, but nothing else. As far as asking the DMV, the answer can change depending on who’s asked. Another approach (at least in California) is to buy a >25 years old car so that there’s no smog test and go from there, but then I’m back to building an entire tube frame chassis, but there are tube frame kits available. Regardless, the legality has to be worked through before anything else but that’s the thought, preexisting frame and single donor drivetrain, exact brand left as a surprise if it happens. My brother says that he’s got it all figured out, so all I have to do spend my money and time… That’s good to hear, because I don’t know exactly what the end goal is at this point.

Of course, there’s also remodeling the house, but thinking about this is more fun, and is free for now.

26 Jan 2020

A TV show that I refer to often, both in the books and in previous build diary posts, is the 3-part documentary, Plane Crazy, that ran on PBS years ago, where a guy sets out to design and build a plane in 30 days. Yes, really. It remains a show that’s really stuck with me (when it aired, I’d just completed Kimini). It became all but impossible to find copies of, and those that exist are on VHS tape. No more! It’s now on YouTube, where you can relieve the painful/funny/sad/entertainment of watching someone set an impossible goal, then drive himself crazy trying to meet it. It’s an excellent study in human nature and psychology when it comes to any big project. It’s three hours, but very much worth the watch:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

4 Jan 2020

Just a quick PSA about following sketchy “Midlana” URLs.

Lately there have been a bunch popping up with URL extensions “.de” (Germany). I have nothing against Germany, but all the sites are the same in that they’re just random text snippets from the Internet, designed to trick Google into pointing to them as legitimate sources of information. I recommend staying away.

Dec 31 2019

Sorry for the lack of posts, it’s not been from a lack of working in the garage.

A few weeks back I posted the first picture below, wondering if anyone could guess what I’m building. Not one message, which either means that no one guessed, or that no one reads this stuff other than myself, hah. Anyway, it’s done – a power drawbar for the mill, very much a copy of the Kurt brand. Sure, there are a lot of DIY power drawbars on YouTube, but having always been a contrarian, where’s the fun in copying a simplistic one when I could spend a lot more time figuring out how Kurt designed theirs. It’s mounted and working; the question now is how long my custom 3/4″ socket will last against the hardened drawbar. I may do a Youtube series on its development…

In the last picture, my brother mentioned that someone he knows regularly waxes his metal workbenches to keep them from rusting and to keep liquids from the metal. Seemed worth a try and it came out pretty nice, but time will tell.

Not much going on with Midlana, as it’s been raining a fair bit. After that, it got cold enough for snow in the mountains, which means tons of traffic during the holiday, never mind wet roads to spray down Midlana. Being on-call also serves to put a damper on fun things, for now.

13 Dec 2019

Checking over the car, a front spring was found hung-up on its spring  perch. Makes me wonder how long it’s been that way, because it changes where the tire is on the camber curve. Oh well, tire wear isn’t much different, but it is a reminder to keep an eye on things.

In the garage department, my brother made a workbench that sits over the front of his car, and given how little space I have, it seemed like a good idea. I almost went with wood, just because, but due to the design, worried that over time it would sag, so I went all steel. The fun started with a 36′ x 72″ sheet of 1/4″ steel plate, having not figured out what I signed up for—180 lbs., by the way. The first entertainment was that when it was pulled out of the truck and the back edge sat on the ground, it caught on the cement joint between the driveway and garage. No problem, I thought, because it kept it from sliding the rest of the way out of the truck. I managed to stand it up vertical, but then the bottom edge dropped all the way down into the joint. The joint is deep and narrow enough that I couldn’t lift it out far enough to keep it from sliding back in, but it also wasn’t deep to keep it from falling over if I let go of it to go get tools, and would likely snap off the cement along one edge. Fueled by many bad words and getting irritated, it finally came free.

The plan for the table was for the legs to fit between the front wheels and the nose of Midlana, offset to miss the front suspension. The top would be offset over the car, creating a new workspace in otherwise wasted space. Locking swivel caster wheels means that it can be rolled out when necessary.

So that’s what was done. Once the legs were done and welded, with a connecting frame between them, came the next challenge, getting the sheet onto the frame. Theoretically, one end could be sat on the frame, then the other end lifted up and slide over. In practice, it didn’t go well, and I’ve learned to listen to the little voice saying “you’re going to hurt yourself.” Time to pull out the chain hoist, which made short work of lifting the sheet onto the legs. It’s tack welded to the frame in case it ever needs to be removed, and also forms a convenient electrically conductive welding table. Not shown is that the four corners have been radiused to avoid damaging clothes and flesh.

Once in position, it was time for the first project, which I may have mentioned before, a wooden-gear clock. In short, this project hasn’t gone well. The first problem was finding that my laser printer doesn’t scale drawings properly in both dimensions. Next, I tried having the parts cut with a CNC router. The problem there is that the edges are somewhat splintered and in a few places, chipped. With a lot of work with sandpaper, they’re probably usable. Still, I was frustrated by the daunting amount of work, so checked into having another set cut with a CNC laser. This leaves very nice (if somewhat burnt) clean edges, and given the number of gears, that’s a pretty big perk. Unfortunately, going that route is around $600 and kind of took the wind out of my sail. Until I decide which way to go, again, that project has been set aside, again.

Next project… well, let’s see if you can guess what it is based upon the last picture, hah.

30 Nov 2019

It’s that time of year when Lulu, Midlana’s printer, starts its annual discount season, and right now, it’s 25% off at checkout. Discounts vary day to day so it’s smart to keep an eye on them (they don’t inform authors). The sale typically extends into the first couple of weeks into December, so now’s the time to hint what you want for Christmas.

On the lathe front, I received the interface board and everything is up and running. The first attempt at threading lead to some head scratching before figuring out that the software was unaware of my 4:1 gear reduction, plus, I had the servo driver box configured wrong, go figure. Got that sorted out and, dang, it works. Only thing left is to come up with a cover over the controller assembly to keep chips out of it.

On my drive home, I go through this stop sign everyday, and everyday I puzzled over this and finally decided to share. Typically, a car doing a burn out goes straight or slews left or right, but not back and forth. Once moving, some cars with independent rear suspension will slew back and forth (“fishtailing”), but not at the start. Given where the burnout starts, maybe it’s a FWD car and the driver’s just turning the steering wheel back and forth… Shows what I know, having never owned a FWD car, hah.

3 Nov 2019

I get into work early, about the same time as the developer of the electronic lead screw posts his weekly videos. I knew he was really close to putting the boards up for sale, and I’d even checked his website the night before. Unfortunately, I had some real, actual work that had to get done and completely forget about it for a couple of hours. When I remembered (“crap!”), I went to his site, he had them in stock, so I tried to order. Unfortunately, there was something wrong with his site, his connection to Paypal, Paypal itself, or the version of IE I was using. After that failed, I tried Ebay. Got there, “two left”, so I tried ordering two. Pressed Buy, and it said “sorry, one left”, AHHHH! Quickly changed my order to one, pressed Buy and it said “sorry, zero left.” Aaaaahhh!

My saving grace is that a kind reader on my build forum bought two and offered to send me one. The plan is to finish up the rest of it first, and if a second batch isn’t available by then, I’ll take him up on his offer. Using plywood for the baseplate was a matter of convenience, we’ll see how it holds up. A metal cover will ensure no chips get into the unit, especially the processor with its 0.020″ pin spacing.

In car news, my brother and I are considering possible trackday events.

30 Oct 2019

The big deal last week was my baby sister getting married. Since dad had passed away, I took on the role of both giving away the bride and making one of the speeches. Everything was going fine, right up until I went to get her, walked down the hallway, turned the corner, and saw someone right out of… what, a wedding magazine? A dream? With the lighting, the dress, and, well, her, it literally took my breath away. Time seemed to compress; it was like two ends of a string had come full circle and touched. One end was when I saw her when she was one day old… and the other end was her there in the dress. All those years flashed by in the blink of an eye, and there we were. It was oddly difficult for us to make our way to the front of the event.

So… back to guy stuff, later that weekend I made a bit of progress on the electronic lead screw, routing the cables several times before settling on running them to the back corner where the hinges are. The plan is to mount all the electronics to the outside of the end cover (not the inside for fear of dust and grit. The idea is that about the time that’s done, the developer of the project will be selling his interface boards. While it runs fine without it—using individual boards—it saves so much clutter I want to go that way. We’ll see.

20 Oct 2019

An update on the electronic lead screw mentioned back in August. As mentioned then, the software was developed by “Clough42” in a Youtube series. My highest form of flattery is when after reviewing someone’s design, I can’t see how I can do any better. Fortunately, the designer open-sourced everything. Also, he used off-the-shelf boards, so nothing has to be fabricated, mostly, meaning that the servo motor and spindle encoder need mounting, and a box is needed for the display, controller, and power supplies, all to tidy it up but also to keep chips from shorting things out. The picture shows the cobbled together—but working—mess . The bracket alone took a fair bit of time and made a huge pile of chips.

I’ll next make the enclosure for the power supplies and controller next, but worked a deal so I don’t have to make the small display box. That’s because the designer provided CNC files for milling the cutouts and engraving the text. Someone else is making one as well and mentioned he’d made his display box using the CNC files, so I asked what he’d charge to make a second box – deal done. It saves a lot of time and I’ve made enough electronic boxes in my youth that I don’t mind avoiding another.

Anyway, while the designer used commercially available boards, he did go ahead and design a small daughter card that combines several functions together, which really cleans up the installation, so I’m going to pick up one of those as well. It makes the whole installation cleaner and more reliable, plus it keeps my build so that if he modifies the code, there’s no concern about it not working.


5 Oct 2019

A couple things happened this week. First was coming home from work, thinking what I’d accomplish before dinner. That  changed when a puddle of water was found near the front door. “Hmm, and the hot water heater’s on the other side of this wall.” There went that evening. Then while walking Midi back home today, I saw a huge tree branch that came down the night before that had crushed our fence and a small fruit tree. The “good” news is that it’s the neighbor’s tree, but I went ahead and cut up my side of it.

In garage news: this weekend’s goal was to replace the very worn lathe cross slide screw and nuts. The screw is an odd 7/8-8 left-hand Acme thread, but I found a place that sells it in reasonable lengths. A buddy is making the same repair to his Takisawa TLS-800, so he bought a chunk of bronze, along with a 7/8-8 left-hand Acme tap, which he loaned me.

The first job was to machine the bronze block to create the nuts. The key was fully machining it as one block and only separate the two as the last operation. Doing this ensures that both would index to the same position when installed (rather than one ending up off by, oh, 37.5°, for example). With those finished, the next task was repairing the cross slide screw assembly. Rather than starting from scratch, the plan was to cut off only the worn threaded portion and attach the new part. This avoided having to mess with the drive gear, which may or may not have been permanently attached.

Taking out the old cross slide was an education but straightforward, but then I realized the Catch-22 I’d walked into. In order to replace the cross slide screw required using the lathe for two operations: cutting down the new screw shaft, and boring out the forward section of the existing assembly. Thankfully, only the first operation required the cross slide. One end of the new Acme screw was turned down to 0.624″ without issue, though it did act like it had been hardened; oh well, that’s what carbide inserts are for! Next, the original cross slide shaft was removed from the lathe (again) and the worn section of the screw shaft cut off (no going back now!). The bit was installed in the lathe chuck and was bored to 0.625″, with the help of a reamer I had from building Midlana. The new section of screw was installed into the original section, with the far end located with a live center to ensure it remained straight, then soldered together… yes, soldered. I intended to use silver solder that I’ve had for years, but the flux was all dried out and I couldn’t get it to flow. Finally I gave up and used ordinary rosin core solder. I did this because the torque required during use is low, and since it wicks between the two metals and sees only shear torque. I remembered seeing a demo where two plates were attached together. One was lap welded, while the other was soldered together, with the same overlap. Somewhat surprisingly, the soldered joint was stronger because it has much more surface area of contact. We’ll see how it holds up over time. If it fails, there’s always pinning it. Anyway, in the fourth picture from the last is a comparison between the new and old screw thread—pretty striking wear.

Lastly, I’ve been thinking about how to improve my driving. It all comes down to not being comfortable with it in turns (its capabilities are far too high to mess around on the street). Turns out that Willow Springs Raceway has, in addition to the main track and the Streets of Willow, a drifting track. Though smaller than I’d like, it might work for gradually upping cornering speed in order to learn how the car acts at the edge of adhesion. We’ll see.

(Oh, I’m trying something new. I set the native resolution to my cellphone camera low enough that the pictures don’t have to be resized. It saves a step and I think the shots look better.)

28 Sept 2019

 What a difference a week makes. Had the hill climb been this weekend, it would likely have been cut short on Saturday, and be a lot less enjoyable for us open-top cars. Anyway, here’s a video (taken by someone else) at the start of the parade lap up the hill and through town, showing the wide variety of cars that showed up.

Not car related, but more puzzlement  about human nature, it was something we saw on Virginia City’s main street. It was a guy sitting at a folding table next to the sidewalk. A sign on the table said “Book Signing”, and in front of that was the title of his book, “Navigating Life’s Challenges Through Poetry.” I didn’t know what to think and still don’t. On the one hand, he may well have poured his heart into his work, so he deserves credit for that. To not only expect customers, however, but also ones wanting a signature, in Virginia City, in the off season, just left me wondering what he expected. During the hour lunch when we were nearby, not one person approached his table, and I kind of felt sorry for him, because he apparently expected some business. On the other hand, it seems like a terrible place to expect a line of eager customers (though I admit that I don’t know what venue would be better… a renaissance fair maybe, a book fair?)

I hope he does well, but at some point, hope isn’t enough to make things happen, you have to be aware of how your product fits with its audience. Given where he was, I think maybe mining or train books might sell, and I certainly wouldn’t expect to sell any Kimini or Midlana books that way. It’s all about picking your battles. People make a day trip of Virginia City to learn about its history, maybe buy a T-shirt and grab lunch, but that’s about it. Of course, maybe the joke’s on me. Maybe someday I’ll see signed first edition copies of his book going for $500,000. You just never know.

27 Sept 2019

Alright, here’s the promised video: Midlana at the 2019 Virginia City Hill Climb.

To be honest, after learning my time and watching the raw video, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to post it. That’s because the video looks, well, slow. If you could have been there in the car, you might have thought different—I did. Learning that I was a good 20 seconds behind my brother was instructive because of how similar our cars are, in terms of weight, power, and even top speed. We were within a couple miles per hour of each other in the fastest section (130s), yet his time was much faster overall. The evidence was on the tires, where his showed the characteristic “beach marks” that indicate that they’re up to temperature and being worked. Mine have some of that, but not as much (ignore the spotted appearance, I had to drive through some oil soak-up granules right before parking).

Another aspect of the tire wear is that it appears that camber should be backed off at both ends, about half at the front, and 25% at the rear. (It’s good to see that camber can be adjusted to too much. The reason is that while it’s easy to dial it out, it’s downright impossible to add more if it’s already at the limit!)

The bottom line is that I’m not comfortable running the car near its limit because I still don’t know how it’ll react (partly the consequence of always changing things). The best place to sort this is on a skid pad, and about the only one around here is at Willow Springs. The thing is, they either don’t use it as such (it’s part of the course, so they just run straight through it), or when they do, they put a really small diameter circle on it, like around 30-40 mph. No, no, no… I want something that I can pitch the car sideways at 60-80 and see what happens. If the back comes out, see if I can hold it there (think Top Gear’s grandiose power slides). It’s also a safe place to try things like lifting off the gas mid-corner to see what happens. That way, when such things do happen outside that environment, they’ll be dealt with the right way.

Anyway, after watching the video a number of times, I see many places where a second or so could be saved, and that adds up. We’ll see.

One note on YouTube: If you use Microsoft Internet Explorer, you’re giving up resolution choices. Using IE, the highest available is 720P, but 1080P is available when using Google Chrome.

25 Sept 2019


My brother, having attended twice before, suggested getting to the bottom of the hill early so that we could park under nearly the only tree near the road; this proved to be a good idea. At 6000 feet, the sun is intense even in September, yet move two feet into the shade, and you might be cold. When wearing a racing suit, however, being cool is better than warm. Coincidently, Midlana’s intercooler intake tract served well to keep rain, hail, and the sun off my head. Anyway, we scored the shady tree, then got in line.

Below is a mix of just a few of the cars; only after the event did I realize I only took phone videos of the line of cars rather than stills. Given that there were roughly 60 cars, I missed showing quite a few. Being new to the event, I got a ride in an old Ford Falcon with a warmed over engine, and the ride was pretty entertaining, though its intent was to show the line and where the corner workers were located. The last two picture show the condition of Midlana’s tires after the day was done. It shows that they were both only starting to work, and both have a bit too much camber. That’s easy to fix and will enhance braking as well.

Next I’ll get to work on the video that I’m sure you want to see instead of my blathering…