31 Jul 2009

I think part of the reason for the lack of motivation is that work is now shifting from the fun big stuff to all the small fiddly stuff. I had a flashback of fabing the suspension brackets on Kimini – they took forever and were a real mental drag – real familiar… I now remember being told by a chassis fabricator that brackets take a disproportionate amount of time. He said there’s two parts to building a chassis: tubes, and brackets. Tubes are fun, like building a house; big pieces going up which give a great since of progress. Brackets? Ugh, they take longer than the chassis and after a full day of work there’s often little to show for all the work.

Anyway, turns out there’s a bit more to the intake manifold I picked up; apparently the seller knew about as much as I did. Turns out it’s a high-performance part that’s hard to find so instead of selling or swapping it I’ll modify it to work.

30 Jul 2009

First day of my working vacation’s not off to a good start. Spent all morning getting the engine connected to the tranny, bolts, starter, blah, blah, blah. While working on it I realized that since the head I’m using isn’t the head that everyone commonly uses in these swaps, the modifications I made to the intake manifold render it unusable! So that’ll have to get sold or swapped for another manifold.. grrrr.

After the drivetrain was ready to go, hooked it up to the engine hoist, and realized the drivetrain can’t be lifted high enough to clear the rear chassis cross tube. That’s nice, so now the drivetrain will take up valuable garage floor space until the chassis is more complete. Actually, I can still make it work… slide the chassis forward, set the drivetrain on the table, then lift the chassis up and set it down over the drivetrain. I’ll need help to do that though.

So right now I”m not happy about the lack of progress. At least the wire harness, switches, and electrical troubleshooting manual showed up.

29 Jul 2009

Received the headlights. Ordered wire harness, switches, and wiper assembly 🙂

In other news, I let Midi out last night to do his business before going to sleep. When I let him in he came running in all happy and excited, jumping around the room like a deer… then he dropped what was in his mouth. It had been either a rat or gopher, but from the smell it was pretty clear it wasn’t fresh… Ewwwww. Put Midi out, picked up the mess and cleaned the carpet, then let Midi back in, who was immediately sure that his trophy had run off, looking all over for it.

26 Jul 2009

Other stuff came up so another Sunday and no car progress. It’s still warm, forecast the same through Tuesday which works out okay since my vacation starts Wednesday. In the meantime, work is still progressing on the book. Right now the Electrical chapter is being expanded: working out the power budget, choosing a fuse-block, and planning the schematics. This is a very different process for me, not “winging it” like I normally do, with just notes on scraps of paper that barely pass for documentation. No, this is going to be very well planned out and there will be real, actual schematics to work from when the time comes. Huh, that’s be a refreshing change.

24 Jul 2009

A reader suggested I cool the garage in the morning by opening the door to the house and let the air-conditioner cool the garage… what air-conditioner? We pay too much as it is for electricity so I’ll just sweat – and complain.

Ordered the headlights and buckets. Why now? I’m working my way through the electrical design and these combo units are perfect. Just hope they don’t block my field of view because the rest of the car is pretty low! Other electrical goodies will also be ordered this week.

22 Jul 2009

Engine arrived safely and on-schedule! A big thanks to Jeremy of Drag Cartel for delivering as promised, something that these days is more the exception than the rule. I’ll probably put it back in the chassis simply to get it off the floor but it’ll be a while before it’s started. Only then will I know how well put-together it is… no, I have a lot of faith in Jeremy’s work; he has a well-deserved reputation as a top builder. The heat’s still on around here, 97 degrees in the garage and just moving the engine pallet from one side of the garage to the other was enough to start sweating. Or maybe I’m just getting old…

Before starting the engine I’d like to have a full schematic on-hand for the car, something Kimini never really had (other than hand-drawn sketches and connector spreadsheets.) To do that means finding a wire harness kit but what brand to use is undecided – not a big deal but another item on the to-do list. The schematic will be in the book though I wonder how useful it’ll be. I mean, people are going to be using all sorts of drivetrains, different lights, and different dash instruments, so there may not be a lot of commonality. However, if it helps even a little bit it’s a plus, and some people will be using the Honda K-series – beta-builder Jim is. Drawing the schematic will be a time-intensive sub-project… just like all the other parts of this project, lol.

As said before, just because welding isn’t happening doesn’t mean the project isn’t moving forward. I think of it as a big pile of soil, with boulders, rocks, sand and dirt in it. The entire pile has to be moved so it doesn’t really matter what’s moved, just that I keep working at it. Like the saying goes, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” In a week I’ll have some solid work time so thing’s will move along.

On the dog front, Midi has this odd habit of bending his head over backwards so far he can almost rest it on his back. When he sleeps it’s often with his four feet up, and in that position he snores – loud. Amazingly loud actually, loud enough that we can’t hear about 1/3 of the movie we’re watching. It add character.

20 Jul 2009

Well, one thing does great in the heat – this is about how many we collect each day, and no worms – yet. This reminds me of a story…

I went on a tour through our county sewage treatment plant (there are many similarities to a fish pond filter.) Anyhow, I asked the guy how the tomato plant got there that was growing next to one of the million gallon tanks… suspecting the answer. Sure enough they’d cleaned out a transfer hose and some tomato seeds ended up there. What to guess where the seeds come from? You, me, everyone… tomato seeds are unaffected by human’s digestion so they show up in the darndest places. In fact Cooper liked tomatos and plants were always popping up where we hadn’t planted them… Oh, and the engine is done and on the way 🙂

19 Jul 2009

Too hot – again. Got to play grandpa and took the family to Sea World which even on the bay was darn hot – a lot of sunburned and cooked tourists. This guy didn’t put these penguins around him or sit down in the middle of them, they recognized him and came waddling over. The one on his lap had jumped up without help and seemed to really like him – he said he had helped raise her. Several others squabbled over who else got to sit in his lap. I was about to ask why the water gear when one took a dump in his lap – ah.

Work continues on the book during the week. I will be taking some time off again so things will happen… at least during the mornings!

17 Jul 2009

Here’s Jeremy’s latest picture from Drag Cartel of my engine due to be done in a week or so. There’s something very pretty – even elegant – about newly-coated pistons in a fresh block.

Even though I don’t work on the car everyday, the thinking about it never stops. Here are some recent notes that give a glimpse into the many parallel threads currently running through the project:

 … change rear cowl frame to ½” to be easier to bend and to cover the edge of the dash. Or, use ¾” angle material instead of square tubing… probably easier. Front may have to stay at 1” wide though due to attached flange. Split 1” sq tubing then trim? Assumes bandsaw or saber saw. Do I make cowl – and front cover – very slightly crowned so center front cover doesn’t vibrate or lift at speed? Inner framework for front cover? Hinge the cover? If so, have to lean front cowl frame back slightly to clear lower edge as it rises… + latches, gas pistons. Option? Probably should lean front cowl frame back regardless… just in case, but same angle as side tubes? Probably can’t due to outer surface of flange needing to be parallel with front cover. In fact, are side flanges on cowl even needed… hmmm, not really structural, but will leaving it out make cowl flimsy?…

On the dog front, we may have a bit more of a water dog than hoped for. Caught him running up and down the fish pond stream having the time of his life. I didn’t have the heart to yell at him and just let him be a kid. Last night he was dreaming and wagging his tail, that was nice to see because it means he’s at peace.

Yesterday he got to meet about eight dogs and wanted to play with all of them, and met a bunch of kids, wanting nothing more than have his belly rubbed. One of the little girls was fascinated by his, um, boy parts and asked lots of questions. She was concerned that something was wrong with him – the purity of children’s thoughts – and I said no, it’s just that he’s a boy dog. After asking more questions I suggested she ask her mom who was nearby. I don’t think having your 6-yr old daughter hear about sex from a creepy old guy in the park (me) is how it’s supposed to work… I can just imagine her telling her mom something and mom asking, “who told you that?!”, to which she’d point at me. I don’t want to get on the 6-o’clock news that way…

Lastly, regarding the Kimini book and issues with the printing company, it’s still unresolved but my book sales has been incrementing, “implying” that things are working. That’s in quotes because the company isn’t answering my requests for Support so who knows what’s going on. If you order a book and have issues please let me know.

14 Jul 2009

Received an e-mail from reader Glen: “… When do you anticipate the book ready to publish, (for those of us who don’t have a lot of patience)? I know you have the two beta builders, and don’t have time to tutor any more. Are you going to wait to publish until the car is complete? Or can we get some bits and pieces in advance?”

My reply: Have you read through the forum? There is – or was – a few people who were itching to start a build so I listed all the things they could do in the meantime – which can take a while. I’ve yet to hear back that anyone (beside the two beta-builders) has done these things – I suspect not. If you’re serious about wanting to get started, great! Start by cleaning out the garage and reviewing the Midlana forum about what parts to start accumulating. This can take a while, like locating a powertrain. If it’s in sad shape, have it rebuilt now, which takes a while on its own. Cleaning up, building a table, gathering all the Miata parts, sourcing seats, it’ll takes time, never mind building a sufficient budget to get most of the parts up-front – something most builders don’t expect to have to do.

I am having the engine professionally built to save time and right after the car’s moving under its own power (whether it’s painted or not) it’ll be put on a chassis dyno to be fully tuned. These two actions save literally months of floundering around with building the engine myself and fiddling with tuning. So, while some have pointed out – correctly – that rebuilding an engine at the same time as the car is asking for trouble, by having the pros handle that it should go far to avert additional delays.

Best case, the book will come out next Spring. It’s moving along in parallel with the car pretty well, staying just ahead of construction so it’s being used by me and the beta-builders to validate it as we go, corrections being made as required. After the car is done it will go through shakedown testing, street driving, and at least one trackday event to validate the suspension and overall design. Throughout the build and during testing, pictures will be added to the manuscript to aid construction (and motivation), up to the day when the last picture is inserted, probably of the car on-track. On that day the book will enter the finish phase of editing and copyediting. Then there’s dealing with formatting for the printers, ISBN numbers, etc, etc. That in itself could be a couple months.

Given that it took 10 years to build Kimini, expecting this to be done in one year may be optimistic. However, we’re seven months into the year and it’s probably 60% done – so far so good. Of course, electrical can take a long time, then there’s the shifter, paneling, turbo manifold, plumbing, etc, etc, so who knows.

12 Jul 2009

Ugh, too hot, mid-90s and a persistent headache means book work instead of car work. Since the first week of September is traditionally the hottest around here, hope this isn’t a sign of a long hot summer.

The cowl/dash, front cover, and diffuser chapters are done, minus photographs of course. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that pushing forward on the book means dealing with all the “how-am-I-going-to-do-this” issues now rather than dealing with them in the garage. I guess this is a partial excuse for not working on the car, that when I do, things will move more quickly since it’s already mapped out.

11 Jul 2009

Working on the cowl/dash, front cover, and diffuser chapters. The decision on whether to split up the manuscript will wait until the manuscript’s done, then the final page count will decide. Another way is to have everything in one book, but offer an optional laminated “garage book” containing only the dimensioned figures.

9 Jul 2009

I’ve about had it with Lulu, the Print On Demand (POD) business that prints my Kimini books. While they haven’t yet screwed up my color version I’ve taken the black/white version off-line until I get the situation sorted out. Either they get their sorry house of cards in order or I find another printer. Having seen what goes on behind the smoke and mirrors, along with their incredibly poor “Support” system, I’ve had my fill of their amateurish operation. As I told them, when you make paying customers  start managing things you know you’re in trouble – they’re in trouble.

I may end up having the books printed and I handle sales and shipping. After what I’ve been through that’ll actually be a relief – at least then I’ll know things are being handled correctly. Unfortunately it does make it a pain to handle international orders. Suffice it to say I’ll also be considering my options for the upcoming Midlana book.

Speaking of that, I’m considering splitting the Midlana book into two, one containing all the text and photographs (the “reading book”) and a spiral-bound(maybe even laminated?) “garage book” that’ll contain only the dimensioned figures. While there’s a small concern that people will try buying only the “garage book” to save money, they’ll be written such that one’s not much good without the other.

Why? The book’s currently at nearly 190 pages and there’s a long way to go. It may easily surpass 300 pages and I rather not make builders have their one and only book (that won’t lie flat) in the garage, subjecting it to dirt, sparks, and being ripped or torn, etc. Figure references would cross over between the two, so that’s not a problem. Builders would read through the “reading book” to decide what they’re going to work on next weekend, then take only the “garage book” in with them while doing the actual fabrication (I think the “laying flat” thing is a big deal.)

A secondary benefit is the drawings can larger to make reading the dimensions easier. Anyhow, I haven’t decided either way but it’s being considered, even though it’s more work. Plus, not all printers do spiral bindings, let alone laminating, but feedback so far has been fairly positive. Eh, we’ll see.

5 Jul 2009

So about the car…

Fixed the steering rack mounts which of course took a while. Puzzled out the first suspension bracket (the first one always takes the longest.) Also, the rear brackets on the front suspension are tricky because they’ll extend through the bodywork. I’m trying to make it so there’s no gaping holes when it’s all done, letting in dirt, water splashed up by the tires, or pissed-off bees. However, suspension pivot points are critical so the bodywork will have to deal with it if necessary. Anyhow, the boxed-in brackets will make them about a million times more reliable than the fine craftsmanship in the 24 June diary entry below.

4 Jul 2009

So at night we put Midi outside in his dog run to keep him from doing mischief in the house. At about midnight he starts barking, and barking, and barking. It’s driving me nuts; it’s driving the neighbors nuts… I have to do something, so I let him out of his dog run to give him access to the yard. I go back to sleep and about 20 minutes later am awakened by someone pounding on the back door. It’s Midi on his hind legs, pawing at the door. I try to ignore it and, sensing this, he starts barking, and barking, and barking. During the week this will be totally unacceptable.

So he finally broke my will and I let him in and, once he’s near us, he’s the best behaved boy in the world, but I’m not sure I trust him to wander around the house at night looking for something to chew on (and we don’t know if he’s housebroken.) So I lie down on the sofa and try to go to sleep with him on the floor next to me. He wakes me up every time he changes position because I’m concerned he might get into trouble – nope, never happened, apparently he is already housebroken, or really smart. I woke up wondered how exactly this little hairy kid has already manipulated me into doing exactly what he wants – crafty he is.

3 Jul 2009

We’re beginning to suspect that Midi-Dog may have been mistreated by a man. He has no problem with my wife but with me he’s a bit unsure. One time I raised my arm to point at something and he acted as if I was going to hit him. Later when I was near his face he was really concentrating on my breathing – it reminds him of something unpleasant I think. He’s a bit skittish, too, more so around me than my wife so who knows what life he’s led.

Cooper was really easy to read, his facial expression, breathing, and tail always gave away his thoughts. This little guy, well, I wouldn’t want to play cards with him – he’s tough to read; his face doesn’t say anything and he doesn’t wag his tail much. My brother adapted a dog with (we suspect) a similar past and it took several months for the little guy to come out of his shell. Anyhow, he’s here on the floor, snoring (Midi, not my brother…)

2 Jul 2009

Here he is, Midi,as in “mid-engine” (and yeah, a buddy already said, “that is so gay.” Whatever.) The shelter claims he’s a Pit “mix”, a catch-all phrase I think they use when they see some Pit and anything else. To me I see a lot of Labrador, though with his really strange bark/howl/squeaky gargled sounds he makes (along with free-standing on his back legs, I wonder if he’s part Basenji, too. The wrinkled forehead could be a product of Pit, Basenji, or Chow. His head’s slightly wider than a Labrador but not wide enough for a Pit, and his body is much more slender. He’s already longer and taller than Cooper but 2/3 the weight, but who knows how big he’ll get. While there are dog DNA places that report the whole mix – for a price – it doesn’t matter enough to find out.