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.