31 Dec 2010

Cut out the panel behind the headrests, completing the upper engine compartment, though some panels don’t have fastener holes yet. These panels, unlike on Kimini, are being made removable. As noted elsewhere, Kimini unfortunately became something of a Rubik’s cube it was built from the center out, making it all but impossible to access certain areas once they were buttoned up. Lesson learned, all the panels around Midlana’s engine compartment are being made removable increase accessibility.

Based on Kimini’s diaries, it was 3.5 years from the start of construction to first drive, then it took years more of fussing with the composite shell and doors. Midlana’s construction just passed the two-year mark so it’s going pretty well. The rough goal is to drive the car down the street and back in February, which gives time to make the front caliper brackets, plumb the front brakes, and whatever else needs to be done – things like, oh, a temporary floor! While the real floor panel is cut and drilled, the car sits so low that there’s a risk of removing Clecos over a speed bump, or perhaps worse, bending them over so they can’t be removed. The “drive down the street and back” means just that, no smoky burnout, no drifting around turns, and no multiple laps – simply a mental milepost that it can move on its own, and no doubt a reminder of the thousand loose ends.

Happy New Year everyone!

30 Dec 2010

Received a well-intended e-mail licking from a good buddy who saw my proposed lime-green/gray color scheme – and hated it. Proving that I’m somewhat insecure and not impervious to negative input, other color schemes are being considered. One much more sedate and understated combo is substituting navy gray for the green. Yet another is flat black for the paneling and light gray for the chassis and suspension, though it’s becoming less and less “original”, what with the so-called rat rod look becoming so prevalent (how much do I care?) I’m a bit hesitant to go to a three-color combination though Kimini pulled it off: red suspension, gray chassis, black interior panels, and a silver shell. We’ll see – colors are subject to change at any moment…

On-call through Sunday morning, so progress will range from none to decent.

29 Dec 2010

The engine cover mounts are done, short of sizing the Dzus fasteners. Aerodynamic lift might be (I really don’t know) substantial since the engine cover is so large, so fasteners are on 12″-centers around the edge plus one near the center. Don’t want the thin material to bow upward due to low pressure, or start flapping about. There’s the small chance of getting rear-ended and having the forward edge of the engine cover try to enter the passenger compartment. It shouldn’t be an issue due to the seat-backs and main roll hoop diagonal, but some people may use low-back seats and no diagonal (really bad ideas for a number of reasons), so I don’t want to set a bad example.

I was asked why I don’t buy brackets instead of making them; some places make all sorts of brackets so surely I could find ones that would work as-is. Hah, I’d love to but there’s no way they’ll be correct. Every bracket, no matter how well-chosen, would have to be reworked, so I don’t believe there’s enough time-savings to warrant buying them. Also, due to build variations, even brackets which should be mirror-images of each other are slightly different due to build variances, so I  don’t see that they would work out, but I could be wrong.

Not sure how much will be accomplished tomorrow, as I’ve been informed I will be going “shopping.”

28 Dec 2010

Things are moving along, albeit slowly. The coolant overflow tank and engine catch-can mounts are done. The coolant overflow tank isn’t an option because without one the cooling system will slowly pump itself down each time the cooling system comes up to temperature. The other tank, the catch-can, collects and separates  air-oil blowby from the engine block and head. In an OEM car it’s recycled back into the intake to be burned, but since the engine’s turbocharged (and no emissions issues are at stake) it’s not a good thing performance-wise to recycle it. Some people just run a hose from the engine down to the ground and as much as I’m all for simple, light, and cheap, the thought of having a hose spewing smoke from under the car doesn’t paint a pretty picture.

This is the stage of the project that can become a big mental drag due to so many loose ends (it was the same with Kimini, too.) Coming into the garage, there are no longer any  clear-cut sub-projects to work on; virtually every part of the car is unfinished to some degree so there’s no rewarding sense of progress happening after a day’s work. Brackets are a big culprit to this malaise; they take a disproportionate amount of time to make, and yet every one of them is needed, but offer up little in terms of payoff (they’re just silly brackets!) Then there’s the danger of second-guessing what’s already been accomplished.

Every time I look at the screen at the rear of the engine cover, there’s a very strong desire to cut it out and do it over again with a denser mesh. Anyway… next are the brackets for the Dzus mounts on the engine cover.

19 Dec 2010

Worked on two small light projects: the high-mounted rear brake light and the rear view mirror. The reasoning goes that since everything has to be done before it comes apart for paint it doesn’t matter the order in which things are finished. Both got done though the jury’s out on the brake light, being offset below the main roll hoop to leave room for the wires to exit the unit. It’ll be left a few weeks then it’ll be looked at again and maybe cut off and raised to be in-line with the hoop.

On the other hand, the rear view mirror worked out well because the windscreen top is lower than the main roll hoop, so it’s got a good field-of-view. It’s also nearly invisible from the front yet doesn’t block any forward visibility. I had one of these Wink multi-pane mirrors before and really like it, though it remains to be seen how the flip-down sun visors will integrate with it.

12 Dec 2010

It must be a sign of being married a long time: sitting at the computer writing, when over the sound of iTunes I gradually become aware that my wife is talking to me. I didn’t ask how long the conversation had been going on…

Anyhow, after picking up her at the airport late Friday night, shopping yesterday, and being on-call the last three days, the book was worked on instead of being out in the garage. While the majority of the book is done and the framework is in-place, there’s still many missing sections. Also, it’s rather vexing to look at literally any of the 340-something pages and see things that need changing. Even though it’s moving forward, it doesn’t give a big sense of progress.

9 Dec 2010

The passenger-side body panel is done, trimmed and drilled. The remaining engine compartment panel which is behind the head-rests, has been mocked up in cardboard. However, I’m on-call tomorrow and the weekend so further progress is uncertain. Looking forward, front brake caliper mounts will be made up early next month in preparation of at least driving down the street and back. As it is, the new rear brake pads and new rear rotors do NOT work well at all, barely keeping the car from rolling down the trailer ramps, so they’re being considered useless until they’re bed-in.

8 Dec 2010

Finished the engine compartment screen vent. It came out okay, though aestetically it might look better with a higher wire count, but as was said, the fewer the wires the lower the resistance to airflow. I was reminded that another way of attaching screen to a frame is via TIG brazing, something I’ve never tried and don’t have the rod for, but it’s filed away for next time. Still waiting on the second two LED taillights… On other fronts, the right-hand side body panel will be completed tomorrow morning, then there’s cleaning up the house and babysitting the refrigerator repair guy… we’ll see how that goes.

7 Dec 2010

Cut out the right-side chassis panel; note the corrosion, caused by it raining on the way home after picking up the material and not drying off the sheets. The consequences of letting two sheets sit with water between them wasn’t fully understood, but it is now! In this case it’s not a problem since the panels will be painted, but had the car been set to use polished panels it would have been. Speaking of polished panels, I’ve yet to ever buy a sheet of new aluminum that wasn’t scratched and/or dented – maybe I’m buying from the wrong place.

Anyhow, right after the panel was cut out, the screen arrived for the engine compartment. For a change of pace, the rest of the day was spent welding 0.047″ diameter wire to the frame – and it’s still not done. It’s pretty safe to say this isn’t something that can be done with a MIG welder! It could have been riveted in, but because Kimini’s front grill (fabricated the same way) came out so strong that it seemed worth the effort. It remains to be seen if this screen density is too thin, because the material is a bit too flexible. Doing it again, 0.063″ diameter wire probably should have been used, but once in the frame it may be just fine. That’ll be clear tomorrow after it’s fully welded. The reason thinner wire – and lower wire count – was used was to minimize air-flow restriction. Same goes for the inlet screen on the sides of the engine compartment, and the radiator inlet screen. That one however, uses a higher count screen to cut down on the size of pebbles that can make it through.

In other news, I’ve had a few people say I better go with colored taillights, but as was mentioned, it’s hard to see what’s wrong with it when new cars on the road have the same arrangement. I was sitting behind a Toyota Prius today and sure enough, it has completely clear taillights so I’m not too worried.

6 Dec 2010

After a lot of mocking up and double-checking the left-side side panel was cut. This was something of a big deal, both psychologically and financially. Psychologically because putting big parts on the car does wonders for a sense of progress. Financially because it’s a 8-ft long piece that was expensive to have cut (my truck is too small to easily get a 4′ x 8′ sheet home.) Anyway, all is well, and it seemed a good time to take another family picture with the incredibly handsome builder. The car is once again sitting on her own wheels and the nose has be lowered to near ride-height, it gives a better sense of its size.

The last picture shows the relationship of the nose and front tires. When it first became clear that the front tires are at the same height as the nose, and will be even taller once the front fenders are in-place – cool.

The dash cover may be redone. The first one’s okay but a little rough and perhaps best left as a learning experience. I also want to try a slightly different way of fabricating it in order to make it a lot simpler. If the redo isn’t any better, no problem, the original will do – we’ll see.

5 Dec 2010

The radiator ducting took a while due to the coolant lines and steering shaft being in the way, but they’re done, in cardboard at least. After messing with that it was tempting to see what the car will look like with the rest of the exterior panels – it’ll do 🙂

Also show is the access port for getting at the lower rear inboard front suspension pivot. It’ll look nice because it’s hidden, but a pain to get to unless they have a cover to get in there. A smaller issue is the radiator exit ports. While starkly functional they don’t look all that great, sort of unfinished. Options are to leave them as-is, cover with screen, or perhaps fabricate some really big louvers. Still time to settle on something.

There’s still lots to be done: footwell, center tunnel, and the firewall area. After that, hmmm, a million little things: rear screen install, holes for the rear lights, third taillight mount, front cover fab, seatbelt mounts, passenger seat mounts, and front caliper bracket fabrication, needed for the first drive down the street and back. Then there’s other fiddly stuff: a dead pedal, foot rest, cup holders (really), side mirror mounts, rear view mirror mount. The build is slowly heading towards hours of fun fabricating brackets! Getting there though – no complaints.

4 Dec 2010

Started early since the nose hinge was expected to take a while. It didn’t seem to, and I was a bit surprising to be hungry after only an hour. Nope, five hours had shot by, and more hours were spend after lunch. Anyhow, after what seemed like a hundred mockups and trial fit-ups, I’m pretty happy about how it turned out. The biggest perk is not removing a flimsy aluminum front cover at a show and having no where safe to set it down; having it permanently attached to the nose fixes that. The only small catch was having to trim part of the radiator since the tilting nose was an afterthought and the hinge interfered. After that, started in on radiator ductwork, starting at the nose and working back.

Periodically, the little hairy kid lets me know he wants to play, so there are time-outs to chase him around the yard. If you’ve ever tried getting action shots of your dog you know how tough it can be. After a bunch of failed attempts this one came out great, a lunatic flying Ninja dog.

3 Dec 2010

Set out to do the big side panel but before that could be done, the inner panels aft of the radiator really need to be done first. That lead to deciding the panels ahead of those need to really be done first, a couple of which bolt to the nose. And that lead to deciding the hood and nose will tilt up, which means a hinge is needed. So as a result the day was spent cutting out lots of cardboard patterns many times, trying to settle on a simple design before committing to metal. That’ll happen tomorrow.

Changed plans slightly on the rear lights, going with two amber units for the turn signals and the two-circuit red units for stop and running lights. It was pointed out that I may be pushing my luck having non-red lenses (as in getting a potential fix-it ticket.) However, I’ve been seeing brand new OEM cars with clear lenses just like these so I don’t think that rule is being enforced any longer (wishful thinking perhaps.)

Also discovered that our kitchen refrigerator is slowly losing its mind. Even with its temperature setpoint at 37 degrees, it’s at 28… freezing everything. The damper is hidden too well to make diagnosis easy, if that’s even the problem. Too expensive to just start replacing stuff, which means calling a service guy, which will be expensive… or less expensive if he correctly diagnoses it the first time, unlike me. Going to be expensive either way, but we can’t have our food freezing up either.

2 Dec 2010

This month marks the end of the second year of construction. It seems to be taking forever, but since Kimini took 10 years I guess I should be pretty happy. Yesterday and today (and the rest of the vacation) is being spent on paneling. Yesterday the bottom rear panel on the removable tail was finished up, and today the engine cover was measured and cut. It’ll be fastened with Dzus fasteners since it has to come off easily. The rear side panels are permanently riveted to the removable tail so they comes off with it. The forward side panels will be fastened with rivnuts which are more permanent then Dzus fasteners and won’t rattle as much. As for how the rear looks, keep in mind the rear suspension’s is at full droop, so it’ll look a lot more hunkered-down than it does now. Also, the pictures for some reason make it look kind of ponderous but it doesn’t look it in real-life. Haven’t decided if the rear portion of the cover will be louvered or not.

Got the two LED taillights and was reminded about production stop/turn/tail lights. In “real cars” there’s some electrical trickery in the turn signal switch so that three functions are handled with two filaments at the rear of the car. Knowing this, the electrical system is set up for three-bulb assemblies – no problem. But, I kinda fell in love with the round-taillight look, so the rectangular lamp assemblies were sold, then took the opportunity to go with LED lights. Thing is, they’re set up for “real” cars and only have two circuits… one dim and one bright. Instead of mucking about with the turn signal switching – and really liking the look of having four round taillights – two more were ordered. That effectively gives four circuits per side, and paralleling two circuits brings it down to three (one for stop, turn, and running lights.) Both bright circuits will be for brakes, one dim circuit for turn signals, and the other dim circuit for running lights. Oh, and while the lenses are clear, the LEDs are red, which I think both looks better and is a better indication to following cars that they’re on. That is, a red-lensed lamp goes from “dark red” to “bright red” which isn’t as easy to discern, but with these it’s an obvious color change.

Ordered stainless mesh for the engine compartment rear vent, where the lights will mount. Also ordered thin stainless tubing, it’ll be used on the top rails of the passenger compartment to protect the paint from the expected wear and tear of sliding in and out of the car. Another piece will protect the rear cross tube from exhaust heat from frying the paint.

28 Nov 2010

Right-side panels more or less done. They still need trimming, filing, and flanges along the top edges for the engine cover, but at least they’re basically finished. After these, progress will move along faster since the other panels don’t need as much work, plus I have a car-build vacation starting Wednesday 🙂

14 Nov 2010

Second side panel on. The fit-up is pretty good and the seam between the two is almost entirely hidden by the fender. A few people have asked, and for now simple side grills will let air into the engine compartment. The idea is that high-pressure air will be piling up ahead of the rear fenders and be willing to head into the engine area. After the car’s on the road, testing will find it it’s good enough, if not then scoops will be added. For now that’ll wait until the side panels are completely done and the fender in position before cutting the panel for the inlets.

13 Nov 2010

Only got a couple hours in, but the first side panel is tentatively done. Next panel will be its neighbor toward the front. The small triangular space where the C-clamp is presently is a nuisance to cover nicely with the curved panel, so it’ll become a “feature” by screening it over – leaving people to guess what it’s for. After these two left-side panels are done it means doing the mirror image panels on the right side. Doing any one panel is fun… something new and different. For these same reasons, doing another set is less fun.

Decided to change directions a bit with the taillights. While proper Lotus rectangular lights look fine on the fenders, the render posted earlier showing round lights on the rear grill looks so much nicer they’ll be used instead.

7 Nov 2010

Mocking up the side panels has finally begun. The trickiest are the ones on each side of the engine compartment, with the curve at the tops. After these are dealt with the rest should move along fairly quickly. My brother was at the metal yard yesterday and picked up most of the rest of the aluminum so that helps.

In other news, my manuscript reviewer had some pointy comments about some of the chapters. Though warned ahead of time, he’s finding how the chapters’ cohesiveness and structure decrease the further he gets. That’s because I write in a series of passes, get all the main points down, then keep rereading the chapter, adding more structure and fine tuning the content. Periodically I go back and start working through the entire manuscript from the start, but what always happens is getting distracted by a particular chapter that needs something. The result is that the passes through the manuscript are fewer further the further he reads, and is why reviews are needed. There’ll be numerous passes for structure, general content, spelling, grammar, and an engineering review of specifics. Writing a book is a really big time sink; I can’t help but wonder who spent more time on a book, me or J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter author)… and look at the difference in the two markets! Oh well, I enjoy the process, niche market or not.

31 Oct 2010

The bolt-on rear framework is done; next up is the small hoop at the front. Stylistically it’s coming out okay (I think); a line projected along the front hood intersects the front edge of the engine cover. Once the front is tacked-in, some cardboard will be set down to see how it all looks.

The tricky part is fitting the panels around the rear down-tubes. Done over again it might have been better aesthetically to tip the waistline tubes downward toward the back a bit to make it a bit easier to deal with the curved cover, but not a biggy. The paneling will all be removable, which took some thought; now it’s just a matter of pushing on with the fabrication…

24 Oct 2010

The rear framework is coming along but there’s nothing worth posting – looks very similar to last week. Did make a slight mod, lowering the top rear edge some… you’ll see, and next weekend should see better progress. The rear cover framework should be done. After that’s done, things should move along fairly fast, since there’s little in the way of actual framework fabrication. Of course there’s still plenty of brackets and such: passenger seat mount, seat belt mounts, fire extinguisher mount, high center-mounted tail light bracket, rearview and side mirror mounts, and then of course lots of paneling. A lot more of the paneling will be made removable – as opposed to Kimini – as I’ve learned my lesson about accessibility!

In other news, I, the two beta-builders, and my volunteer copy editor are going to start reviewing the manuscript, starting the laborious but necessary task of sweeping through the chapters to start cleaning up, reorganizing, clarifying, and sometimes deleting unnecessary stuff (sometimes I tend to go off into the weeds, topic-wise…)