29 Sep 2010

I followed a link back regarding the results of Midlana’s dyno test. It was interesting reading the comments, some of which dismissed the 409 whp as “lame.” I didn’t bother registering to comment, but wanted to ask the poster how much would have been enough. Have any of them driven a 1500 lb car with 400 hp? Have any of them managed to get this power to the ground in such a light car, where it’s like having 800 hp in a 3000 lb car… is that enough? Have any of them made 800 hp on 91 octane pump gas? Would 800 hp that hits like a freight train only at the top end be “better?” Amateurs.

In other news, been thinking about the rear end styling. Between a few helpful comments and some sketches, I may try out a few new ideas in cardboard to see how it looks. No matter what’s decided upon, a decision has to be made.

Speaking of registering, when I explained my inability to log into a car forum, a buddy asked, “Is that such a bad thing?” Huh… no. Frees up time for working on the car and book, doesn’t it?

28 Sep 2010

I seem to have been banned from one of my favorite car websites… well, “banned” is too strong a word since as far as the admins can tell, I haven’t been yet I can no longer access it. This is from two different PCs on two unrelated ISPs. First one PC couldn’t due to the site not recognising my password. Asking the forum site to send it to me, it said it didn’t recognise my user name… huh? Meanwhile, the other computer continued to access the site just fine, with the user name the other one said was no good. Then a couple days later, the second PC starting having the same problem. Before that happened I asked the mods what was going on and no one knew. I tried clearing cookies, which meant signing back into every forum I’m on. In every case—except one—that was uneventful. The one failure was the above site. I even tried signing in as a new user, and oddly it let me register using my old user name – which should have been impossible. Anyway, the last step to registering is that the forum then sends an automated e-mail that has to be responded to in order to make it official. Surprise, never recieved it. Went back and requested the registration e-mail again, and again, nothing, and no it wasn’t in the spam folder. Sent an e-mail to the mods, again asking what’s going on, and nothing. I don’t get it.

27 Sep 2010

Took care of family matters over the weekend. I’m glad I had last week off and not this week. While we got off easy here in SoCal as far as hot summer weather goes, she still sent us a parting shot. Yesterday in Orange County it was 96 deg as 6 pm. Right now it’s 89 deg inside the house at 6:27 in the evening, and a lot warmer earlier on. Not a bad time to be at work where it’s air-conditioned (though our local electric company warned all businesses that they could pull the plug at any point due to high electric usage. I wonder how that’s going to pan out when everyone has their electric cars charging at work during the day…)

So anyway, what’s next. Adding brackets for Dzus fasteners, and drilling rivet holes for the remaining panels. As far as the tail of the car goes, it’s looking like it’ll be a 1930’s hot rod look. That is, a curved cover over the exhaust and muffler. As mentioned before, a place has been located that does large louvers, which pretty much matches the look I want.

There’s the easy stuff, sizing and drilling the side panels, along with Dzus fasteners for the nose, engine top and side covers. Then there’s deciding what to do about the side vents. As mentioned, it’s been a highly-contentious issue, no one agreeing on what looks “best.” Eh, this is my car, so I have to do what I like… but on the other hand, if it’s universally despised, that kills book sales… and there’s the great compromise. How much do I compromise what I want versus building what most people might like?

In other news, a wastegate was disassembled to see what springs are in them, red, 5.8 lbs, which makes sense because the dyno chart shows boost rising to about 6 psi, then flattened out. I think the reason it rose to 9 psi at the high end is because only one wastegate was enabled (venting only two cylinders.) Once the other wastegate is enabled, boost will probably be fairly flat, and should get rid of the dip at the top. The reason spring color was checked is so weaker ones can be ordered. A boost controller is in the system, but it can only increase boost above what the springs provide, and having 400 hp as baseline is a bit much. Starting at a low boost and “boost-by-gear” allows boost in each gear just short of wheelspin, providing maximum acceleration. It’s free since it’s already built-in to the ECU. The next lowest spring (and the lowest rate available) is 3.6 psi; the boost controller can duty-cycle that up to an equivalent of around 11-12 psi… shouldn’t be any need for more than that – famous last words.

24 Sep 2010

Most dyno video looks about the same, but of course it’s a big deal for the owner!  There’s a couple parts of the video where you can hear it being loaded down, the boost building up, hearing the turbo whistle, and of course the blowoff valve 🙂 The Dynopack is perfect for doing partial-throttle variable loads. Because the entire tuning session was so long, the video is of course just a sample of various runs. Sorry I didn’t record “the” run; I forgot to have him signal me ahead of time.

Okay, time to announce the “guess the horsepower” winners! The rules were that the three closest guesses would win a copy of the (future) book. There was a tie for the closest two, 425 hp by JR Crosby, and 394 hp by Bob Callaway. Second closest guesses were also tied, 426 hp by Chris Poglitsch and Nick Schultz. While I said only three would win, it seems fair to give these four a win. Now I have to finish the book…

I must give a big thanks to Jeremy of Drag Cartel for building an awesome engine, and to Daniel at Church Automotive for his hard working getting the car tuned so well and putting up with my nonsense. Oh, and Jeremy just e-mailed me, saying that he has new cams coming out that should push it over the 500 hp mark…

23 Sep 2010

The big day.

Towing anything through Los Angeles is always stressful, at least for me. Pulled in about 30 minutes before the appointment time which worked well because the guys who had reserved the slot before me didn’t show, so they got an early start on my car.

Churches used a dyno called a Dynapack, which allows applying a load at a fixed rpm, rather than the drum-type dyno which counts on speed changes to establish a load. The Dynapack is great for setting things like cam timing, or anything else requiring the engine to be held at one speed with a given load. The entire process of tuning an engine – Hondas at least – takes anywhere between two and four hours, depending what needs to be done and if anything unexpected comes up… which it did.

Nothing really bad happened, but it was embarrassing: the intercooler hoses blew off, the transmission oil drain plug tried to unscrew itself, the gas pedal tack-welds broke – twice, the idle air valve disassembled and destroyed itself, I misplumbed the wastegates and blowoff valves, the knock sensor was acting up, and I came home with two bolts in my pocket from the engine… somewhere. I’ve got no one to blame but myself, not double-checking that everything was tight first. All the guys there were very patient, but it was still humbling.

Anyhow, how did it go? About as well as could be expected. Daniel did many runs as part of setting air-to-fuel ratio, ignition timing, VTEC crossover rpm, and cam timing, both high and low cams. The magic figure can be found in the last photo, 409.5 hp, with a very gentle and wide torque curve, a lot like a V8. Boost came up fast to 6 psi at 2800 rpm, then was a straight line to 9 psi at 8000 rpm. The dip at the top end is because only one wastegate was properly plumbed; that’ll get smoothed out after the plumbing’s taken care of.

I’m going to have to read up on why the knock sensor was picking up so much knock – which appears to be completely false readings. They tried substituting some 109 octane racing gas, which acted exactly the same. For this reason I think they were a bit nervous about pushing it as far as they could, but I’m fine with that. I wanted a smooth torque curve and not a high rpm screamer, and it turned out great – embarrassing things aside. I’m beat; towing three hours back through rush-hour traffic sucks eggs.

21 Sep 2010

Tuesday morning:
The situation with the bad idle was explained to the dyno shop, and since I’m going to be a customer they gave me a tune to try – much better; now the car idles like stock and the throttle doesn’t make it die. Okay, with that out of the way the car was left idling to let it come up to temperature. Right on schedule the cooling fan came on… but the engine just kept getting hotter and was shut down when it reached 220 degrees. The coolant line leading to the radiator was getting hot like it should, but not very fast. By the time the ECU saw 220 degrees, only about 2 feet of the coolant line was hot. A big air bubble in the head? Thermostat not opening? In backwards? (It was tested early in boiling water to confirm it opened.) Since the coolant line leading to the radiator was getting hot, it is working – sort of. Sent an e-mail explaining the situation, figuring it doesn’t hurt to ask, since the sooner I show up the sooner they get my money.

While the engine was warming up, the clutch pedal-stop was set. The Competition Clutch instructions say to gently push it into gear while pushing the clutch pedal down slowly. The idea is that once the clutch disengages, push the pedal down another 1/4″; that’s where the stop should go. However, I have a dog-box, and in the back of my mind I vaguely remembered that one feature is being able to shift without the clutch. Yup, it sure did, and it was a good thing I had my foot firmly on the brakes. Way before the clutch released, first gear dropped right in, with Midlana leaving its very first skid mark – doh! That lesson learned, the clutch stop was set using 5th gear which is syncromesh. Pretty funny – in hindsight.

Tuesday evening:
Because I installed a new tune, I forgot to reenable the serial data stream that’s needed for the dash, so after doing that, alas, still no tach. Called up Race Technology and they asked if I’d set the dash to get rpm from the serial stream. Nope. Turns out that 90% of the dash’s configuration is set via its… configuration file – makes sense, but that’s not all. Turns out there’s another 10% worth of stuff that’s only accessible via dash-mounted push buttons – ugh – which are probably left over from before they had ECU interfaces, but I digress. The good news is that the tach works, though at first it read 1/4 the actual value, which is strange since the KPro application reads it fine. Anyhow, once its scalar was set, presto, it’s now joine the I’m-working-fine club.

Last issue: the engine still overheats, just getting hotter and hotter the longer it idles. After a lot of reading, suspicion fell on the thermostat. Even though it opened when placed in boiling water, there have been reports of people having problems with them. Back the car out, drain the coolant, disassemble the thermostat housing, remove said thermostat, reassemble and fill the system. Yup, no overheating at all. Great I thought, it’s the thermostat. Go to the store, get another (different brand), back the car out, drain the coolant, disassemble the thermostat housing, install the new one, reassemble and fill the system. Overheats again… huh? Did I put it in backwards? Fine, drain the coolant, disassemble the thermostat housing, flip it around, reassemble and fill the system. Still overheats… crap!

I’m using an nifty aftermarket thermostat housing, and after comparing it to the Honda housing… well, it’s a lot different. The OEM setup isn’t trivial; gone are the days of one coolant path into and out of the thermostat. Now, some thermostats are a two-tiered affair, switching the coolant system at a different temperature than the radiator path. Plus, the coolant flows very differently through the OEM housing compared to the aftermarket part; I can’t see how the thermostat bulb in the aftermarket assembly gets heated. A few people reportedly added holes in the thermostat surround plate so there’s at least some flow when it’s closed. If I have time tomorrow I may try that. Anyway, right now there’s no thermostat in the engine until that’s figured out.

So, after that long explanation, yes, the dyno date’s been set: Thursday’s the day, leaving tomorrow to deal with the trailer. Oh, forgot to mention, both MAP and AFR both work fine!

20 Sep 2010

Good news, mostly.

Stopped by the local Honda go-fast shop and, surprise, they don’t stock what I need – should have called first. Yes they could get it but it will take time… no, no, no. So that forces the situation: make what I have work. The existing setup was measured to see how much the injectors could be pulled out of the fuel rail when in-place: ~0.15″, which is huge. The first shot shows how the injectors sit in the rail with fuel pressure applied… gee, no surprise they leak. I can’t figure out why the manufacturer added slots in the injector bosses, anyone know? All it does is provide a leak path, which it did. So spacers were made up to keep the injectors seated in the fuel rail, pushing them into the fuel rail by adding the spacers at the intake manifold side of the injectors.

That done, the fuel system was pressurized again and, surprise, no leaks. Good, so a second start was tried, and it did, though idle was so-so, and annoyingly, the tachometer isn’t registering (here we go again.) Anyhow, managed to run the engine for a bit, but as it warmed up, the idle got slower and slower. Applying any throttle whatsoever immediately causes it to die. Either the tune is completely off (entirely possible), or there’s a vacuum leak – hope not.

There was a coolant leak at one fitting so things had to come apart for that, but otherwise nothing terrible happened. I just wish it would idle smoothly so it could be left to run until everything came up to temperature. Overall I’m happy but that tach is an irritation, but not a show-stopper.

So the question now is, is it good enough to present to the dyno shop? I’m going to call them and have them watch the video and tell me what they think. Don’t want tow it 90 miles each way just to hear, “can’t work with this, bring it back when it runs right.”

19 Sep 2010

Well, nuts.

The plan was to start the engine today but a surprise came up. Some time back the RC fuel injectors were replaced with Injector Dynamics (ID) units and until today they hadn’t been tried out. The surprise came when pressurizing the fuel system for the first time, and as pressure rose above about 40 psi, “pop”, and suddenly there were multiple sprinklers spraying fuel all over – good thing the car was backed out. The ID injectors claim to fit exactly like OEM injectors (and maybe they do), but there’s some sort of incompatibility between them, the aftermarket BDL fuel rail, and the RBC intake manifold. There’s play in the fit-up, maybe 1/8″, and while it doesn’t appear to be a big deal, the fuel thinks different. There have been a couple other issues with the BDL fuel rail so it’s going to be replaced. Fortunately there are a few Honda shops around here so a fuel rail will be picked up tomorrow.

While fussing with than, and walking around the front of the car, spotted a couple drops of water under one corner of the radiator. Surprisingly it wasn’t on the side where inlet and outlet had been moved, but the other side, were a bracket had been welded to the end tank. Apparently there was a bit too much penetration on the weld, so, with the fuel issue stopping progress, the cooling system was drained, the radiator removed and rewelded, then put back together.

18 Sep 2010

My brother stopped by, asking why things were taking so long; I said it was because people keep interrupting… Later he sent a YouTube video of someone building a car really fast; I said the car would be done by now if people would stop sending me videos to watch… okay, not really.

Did a bunch of odds and ends, and finally there wasn’t anything left to do but set Midlana on her wheels. I forgot that the springs used were just sitting around (meaning, the wrong spring rate) and that became apparent when the back of the car trapped the floor jack at 3.5″ off the ground. Cranking the spring seats up solved the problem – just. Springs are on the to-buy list.

So even at the designed-to ground clearance, the car looks low… really low. Yeah, all the numbers are in the computer, but it’s quite striking to actually see it; it’s a lot wider than it is tall – I like that. I and a neighbor pushed it out into the street and turned it around, where it became quickly apparent that wheel alignment (meaning, none) would have to be checked – it was a bitch to push, or we’re getting old, or both. Anyhow, it’s back in the garage, nose in, in anticipation of tomorrow… Note the clamped-in floor ahead of the driver’s seat… can’t use Cleco’s because they’d get ripped off when putting the car onto the trailer

I have no ideal where all the stuff going to go that was under the car… I guess that’s why piles were invented…

17 Sep 2010

Added clamps to the more critical areas so hoses/wires don’t get worn through on sharp edges. Double-checked that all the coolant clamps are tight, removed everything from under the car, and finally filled the cooling system. Tomorrow it’s coming off the sawhorses – assuming there aren’t any puddles under it in the morning… Getting close.

Someone asked why I don’t start it while it’s on the sawhorses, since it’s easy to get under it if there are any issue. Since the sawhorses are all-metal, the tops are smooth – and slippery. I worry that engine vibration could cause the car to fall off, making for a very bad day. Also, since the car is nose-out it means filling the garage with exhaust, never mind the increased fire danger. I’ll get some help and push it out into the street and turn it around – don’t want to run it in the garage. It’ll be backed out just far enough to have its butt end out there in case of problems, but far enough in that I can deal with it myself.

The plan was to just sit a plastic fuel container next to the car during the dyno test but I forgot about getting the car turned around, and driving it on and off the trailer… guess the fuel container will be in the car, zip-tied to the cage.

In related news, a buddy (thanks, Alan) pointed me to a shop that has a much larger louver punch than most. That was a major hang up of mine against louvers – their small size. I don’t want the car looking like an air-conditioning unit and big louvers help set it apart. If that works out, matching side panels might be used for the exiting radiator air, too.

12 Sept 2010

So far everything is on-track for a dyno test the week of the 20th.

Rebuilt the Miata rear brake calipers, installed brake master cylinders, and filled and bled the system. Added a clutch stop now since over-extending the clutch – even getting the car on and off the trailer – can wreck it (twin-disc clutches don’t take much pedal movement to disengage them.)

Someone asked why the brakes are being bothered with at all, since they’re not needed for the dyno test. In order to get the car on and off the trailer means driving it to some extend. I don’t want to risk the car getting away from me and rolling down the street, falling off the trailer ramps, or accidentally running into the trailer itself. Besides, they have to be done eventually, so it doesn’t really matter it they’re done now or later.

Turns out that U-haul rents a standard utility trailer that is 12′ x 6′ 2″… very convenient since Midlana is 72″ outside-to-outside, leaving an inch on each side. It means that a normal utility trailer can be used instead of a car trailer, which is cheaper, lighter, and they’ll let me tow with a compact truck… “I’m helping a buddy move some stuff.”

Anyhow, the plan is to fill the cooling system next weekend, start the car, and run it until it warms up in order to make sure there aren’t issues when getting it tuned. Next weekend leaves a few days to “deal with things” if it doesn’t start, leaks, or one of a million things that can cause mischief. Distilled water will be used so there’s not worry about leaks or having to drain it. Come to think of it, why not use the garden hose, since the water’s only going to be in the car a week or so…

6 Sep 2010

Got a lot done, so much that this list is probably lacking:

Received the replacement ECU Interface module and the entire dash system now works – almost. Engine parameters now read(!), though of course some have to wait until after the engine’s started (more on that in a moment.) While parameters such as engine coolant and air temperature read and update correctly, throttle position is forever frozen at “26.” I know it’s working because the Hondata KManager app sees it just fine, yet the dash says “26” no matter what; gotta be an ECU Interface module software bug. Is it a big deal that throttle position doesn’t work? Well, no, but it is annoying that even with everything now correct, the product still isn’t 100%. I really have my figures crossed that the other parameters – like engine rpm – read when the engine’s started!

Finally pressure-tested the cooling system, and my coolant header tank had (cough) six leaks; some of them were virtually invisible, with the soapy water bubbling up out of seemingly-perfect welds, but it’s all good now. Also moved the coolant bleed fitting on the top of the radiator to better clear the nose. Replaced all the remaining temporary bolts with AN bolts with Nyloc nuts. Cleaned up the last of the loose harness wires around the ECU. Wired up and tested the radiator fan, adding wires to the thermal switch and ECU. This way the fan can be turned on with a switch on the dash, via the ECU, or via the thermal switch. Welding on a muffler support bracket.

So, where is all this heading? Well, the list of things to do before starting the engine for real is getting <em>very</em> short. The goal is to have the car at the dyno shop the week of 20 September, which I’m taking off, so it’s really happening. Things left to do over the next two weekends are: install rebuilt rear brake calipers, add remote brake master cylinders, fill and bleed the rear brakes, fill the coolant system, start the engine in order to set the clutch-stop (which can only be done with the engine running.) Check that the dash correctly reads all engine parameters correctly and adjust if possible. Let the engine warm up – for the first time – nervously watching for leaks. It appears there’ll be extra time left over, so as many rubber-lined clamps will be added to keep everything away from sharp edges. There’s also tying off the various lighting wires, making sure the ends are taped up so there’s no sparks.

In other news, I helped my buddy, Ron, with his genuine 1961 Series 1 Lotus Seven. It was a strange feeling welding a frame that Colin himself designed and perhaps even helped with, back in the early days before Lotus got busy. Ron said it has probably a 1300-something cc engine, packing about 60 hp on a good day (really.) He noted with some mirth that a modern-day 1-liter sportbike engine puts out roughly three times that. The car had been stored in a garage since the early 1970’s – about 38 years. Ron installed a new battery, changed the oil, dropped a hose in a can of fresh gas, and cranked it just to see what would happen – and it started! He planned a first drive today but I haven’t heard how that went.

Then there’s the small matter of how to get the car to the dyno shop. I can borrow Ron’s trailer, but it needs work in order to fit Midlana onto it (Midlana’s quite a bit wider.) There’s renting a larger trailer, versus the time spent reworking Ron’s trailer to work. We’ll see how much time’s available.