30 Dec 2012

Sorry for the lack of updates – work on the car continues, a week of finished every panel; no longer will half-finished panels do. There’s been a lot of filing, deburring, and sanding, then the panels will be ready for paint by Wednesday. Some will be powdercoated and the rest painted. Wednesday or Thursday a paint shop will be selected, assuming they’re even open this week. It remains to be seen if the panels will be Alodine-coated, depending what the paint shops say. Just the one picture of the prepped panels – you’ve seen enough shots of the car torn apart.

Update: After reading up on it, it appears that Alodine is highly regarded for prepping aluminum, as in, good luck not using it. It’ll be applied whether the shops want it or not, and the shop will be instructed to paint the panels as-is. That should cut out a lot of time and needless labor, though the fiberglass nose will need some prep.

21 Dec 2012

Surprise, we’re still here, no end of the world as claimed by delusional groups. Fortunately science pulled us through the Middle Ages, with fringe groups giving a glimpse into just how easily civilization could revert back to such nonsense.

Color change! The wife saw a new color and has decided that Midlana shall be Spruce Mica (paint code 6V4), a dark metallic green. In the shade it’s nearly black but in the sun it’s a mix of green and a hint of yellow. I’m fine with the choice as the combination works well with the gray and green.

16 Dec 2012

Worked more on the nose and front cover, which reminded me how much I don’t like dealing with composite, but thankfully there’s not nearly as much to do as with the Mini. The left main body panel was removed again and given its final trim, knocking off the sharp corners, deburred all holes, and gone over with a Scotch-Brite pad. That’s the first panel on the pile for the next step, Alodine.

12 Dec 2012

Received the glass a few days ago, it fits and will do its job fine – and was set aside until the rest of the car is done. Ordered various nuts and bolts. Purchased a section of 2″ aluminum tubing to replace the steel (rustable) section connecting the two fuel filler hose sections together. In hindsight, why I didn’t use stainless I don’t know. Also ordered Dzus fasteners for the engine cover. The “liquid shim” that was poured between the nose and front cover on Sunday looks like it’ll work perfect.

I’d bought what I thought was a cool radiator hose adaptor to connect to the rear of the K24 cylinder head, only it… leaks. Every time I give it the “wipe test”, there’s a drop or two of coolant hanging below it. If I don’t have any spare O-rings, it’ll be welded together to fix it once and for all – I hate leaks.

9 Dec 2012

So the plan is to finalize, clean up, and prep all the exterior body panels before paint. In general, when confronted with a bunch of different tasks I always start with the hardest. This provides incentive that as tasks are finished the next is easier and faster, so the first to deal with was the nose/front cover combo.

The return flange on the fiberglass nose wasn’t parallel to the front cover panel behind it and while it was tempting to leave it as “good enough”, the concern was that when the rivets are pulled they’ll deform the aluminum panel. Being as the gaps in the turn-down area were as much as 1/4″, the two were carefully positioned and epoxy poured into the gaps. Slow-setting epoxy was used, and it being a cold day it was left to set-up. They were popped apart at the end of the day and it looked like the epoxy did its job. I thought of trying to make the nose/front cover a one-piece assembly right from the start but it seemed highly likely that the seam would always be visible and plus, dissimilar thermal properties of the fiberglass and aluminum would likely cause the paint to crack at the junction. For that reason the two will be prepped and painted separately then riveted together with the seam visible – a feature.

At the other end of the car, the engine cover had always bugged me because I’d used 0.050″ sheet – it’s just too floppy. While stiffening ribs could be added, the real concern was that since the panel is fairly large, it wouldn’t take much low pressure above it to cause it to bow upwards or even  flap in the wind. Plus, several of the Dzus fastener holes were mis-located, so with those excuses, a 0.063″ panel replaced it. The Dzus fasteners were more carefully drilled (this time!) and line up much better. Next, the correct-sized Dzus fasteners need to be chosen.

Also messed with the “gill” panels on the left side, trimming them to play nice with the side panel, nose, and front cover with no overlaps or interference. Next is the other side. After everything fits, all panels will have sharp edges and corners knocked off, irregular cuts filed, sanded, acid-etched, and Alodine-coated, and then it’s off to paint.

As an aside, I’m very impressed with the Odyssey PC680 battery. Even after sitting for years it didn’t lost much charge, as evidenced by it topping off in minutes. It has no problem turning over the engine, even during the marathon engine cranking episodes. At 13-lbs and with its small size I’m pretty happy with it.

2 Dec 2012

Gave myself a good scare this morning. Apparently the manuscript editor didn’t properly close last night and corrupted the book project, which wouldn’t open this morning. “No problem,” I thought, I’ll just load the back-up copy from my thumb drive… nope, I’d forgotten that I’d erased it… from all the thumb drives. However, since the PC does automatic backups every week, the missing project file was recovered. That wasn’t the worst of it though – when I went back to open the project, the entire folder was completely empty. There were several moments of panic wondering how every file got erased, until I realized that there was a stand-alone Midlana folder that was never used, and I was in it. The actual files were still there, but whew…

The fifth anniversary of the Midlana website coincided nicely today with… a test drive – followed by three and a half hours of editing to produce a 5-minute video! Nothing fell off(!) and as you may have expected, I don’t do anything nuts on first drives, mostly due to breaking about a dozen laws as it is. It feels great, quick, maybe even qualifying for my buddy’s coveted “stupid-fast” automotive rating. Enjoy, Midlana’s first drive

1 Dec 2012

Received and installed the new fuel rail – too early to say if it reduced the fuel smell because some gas was spilled during the swap. It can only help though as the old rail definitely smelled.

While I was at the mechanic’s today dropping my truck off for a smog check, I asked about a CV boot strap tool. This was because after I cut off the band off my axle CV in order to get the engine out, the boot has had only a hand-tight replacement strap on it. The mechanic loaned me his, made exactly for the job, which I really appreciated – he got a tip. Too expensive to buy my own and have it sit around on the shelf unused. Now I don’t have to worry about it spewing grease all over – probably.

In anticipation of editing video, Cyberlink PowerDirector was purchased, and while it looks awesome there’s sure to be the usual “flailing until I figure it out. So while first drive will probably happen tomorrow, whether video gets posted sooner or later will depend on how using the software goes…

29 Nov 2012

Ordered the windscreen, plus a spare, roughly $90 each CNC-cut and delivered. They’re going to send a CAD drawing to sign-off on; can’t blame them as apparently they get people complaining that their stuff doesn’t fit, which they made exactly as ordered. They have clear, plus very light green, and very light gray glass. I ordered the green but am wondering how green it really is. The idea is that a slight tint would be nice, and it would go along with the gray chassis and light green panels. However if it’s too green, either the gray or clear might be better. Probably have about a day to make up my mind.

Speaking of green, it’s time to start finishing the external panels for paint, which means finding a decent paint shop in town. That shouldn’t be a big deal, though fussing with the Dzus fasteners on the engine cover might take a while. Then there’s finalizing the fit-up between the nose and front cover; the nose flange doesn’t follow the curve of the outer surface, so there’s a big gap between the two. The panels need final touch-up, sanding, then Alodine coating before paint.

Oh, and I was reminded that this project, from beginning to end, is fast approaching its 5-yr anniversary. Hmmm, what could be done to celebrate that, I wonder 😉

And finally, work on the book continues. The bulk of it is there but it’ll take some serious finishing, plus adding more pictures. Probably going to be 400 pages by the time it’s done.

28 Nov 2012

Received the replacement 2.5 bar MAP sensor, plugged it in, rescaled the software, reset fuel pressure, and it runs fine now. Backed the car out into the driveway but that’s as far as it went, being dark and all.

The thing sure smells of fuel but it doesn’t “seem” to be coming from the tank! I’ve run my fingers – and nose – along every seam and don’t find any trouble areas. However, standing over the car, ever once in a strong whiff comes along. Somewhat surprising, it seems to be coming from the fuel rail, which reminds me of the problems I had with it when the engine was first built. At the time I had to fabricate spacers so that the injectors wouldn’t slide too far out of the rail and spew gas everywhere. While the “wipe” test always comes up dry, the nose test sure points at it as once source of the smell.  For that reason a proper fuel rail was ordered today – hopefully that’ll help cut down on the smell, even though I realize that I’ll never be rid of it entirely (the lawnmower syndrome.)

25 Nov 2012

Short story: Fixed!

Long story: Tried a bunch of experiments to corner the problem but couldn’t find anything. Received a lot of insightful comments from the guys on K20.org, and a common theme was that many had made the exact same goof I’d made, accidentally swapping the MAP and throttle position connectors.  Anyhow, the other car owners said that quite often the MAP sensor gets fried and needs to be replaced. (I went back and checked the schematics, and somewhat unbelievably, Honda wired the two identical connectors opposite, so that if you ever accidentally swapped them, the MAP sensor would be powered with reversed polarity. What were they thinking, especially with both sensors so close together.) Anyway, what threw me off was that the sensor appeared to work so I didn’t really consider it as failed. However, enough people said they had the problem, and being that I still couldn’t get it running, I figured there was nothing to lose.

Since my car is turbocharged I had installed a non-stock MAP sensor – one capable of reading higher boost than the stock part. Because of that I don’t have a spare, but do have the original factory sensor. Because KPro is so easy to use it was just a matter of telling it that I had put the stock unit back in and it handled the rescaling. The first hint of success was that instead of reading -28″ MAP during ignition-on (which in hindsight should have tipped me off immediately) it read ~0″. Sure enough, once started it settled into a nice smooth idle.

The only downside was figuring it out so late in the day – as my curiosity of whether it could be that simple of a fix demanded coming back out to the garage in my PJs. So while my PJs now reek of exhaust I’m very happy. The bummer was not getting the test drive in, but that’ll happen soon enough, but this is a huge load off my mind.

Oh, and I still smell gas but can’t figure out where it’s coming from. It’s as if there’s an open cup of fuel hiding in the garage – every once in a while I get a good whiff of it. However, after going over every inch of the fuel tank and every connection in the fuel lines, it’s still a mystery, as nothing showed up with the “wipe test.” It’s always something.

24 Nov 2012

Though I don’t have much faith in epoxy-based patching solutions for fuel tank leaks, there’s been a lot of progress in adhesives lately so it was given a try. The stuff has the consistence of play dough, which is stuck on the tank over the leak (turns out that there are/were two weeping leaks.) It “seems” to be fixed but only time will tell.

As for the rough-running, as Doctor Horrible said, “So close!”

People smarter than me with the KPro ECU asked some pretty obvious questions, like what are MAP, air/fuel ratio, and throttle position? Well, good questions. Connected the PC and it said that throttle position was “105%” all the time, no matter where it actually was. Hmmm. Pulled out the wiring diagrams and noticed that the wire colors on the throttle-position sensor plug were wrong – uh oh. Sure enough, I had swapped the MAP and TPS connectors, having completely forgotten that they’re the same size and pin-out. Cool, I thought, we’re good to go, uploaded the original fuel map, set fuel pressure back to 38 psi, and started it up. It started right up and idled smoothly, with no smoke, for about two seconds, then quits, so I’m still missing something. The fact that I could get it to idle yesterday implies the wiring is correct (other than the obvious goof) so I’m still stumped.

23 Nov 2012

So, the day went something like this:

1. Remove plugs to spin up engine in order to build oil pressure.
2. Try to start car. Car starts but runs really bad, won’t idle, tons of black smoke, like it’s really rich.
3. Check that all sensors are connected – they are – then stare at car for about an hour, waiting for it to tell me what’s wrong.
4. No answer, so I pulled out the laptop, figuring the Hondata ECU would certainly flag a obvious problem.
5. Nothing, not one single error or warning. Engine runs but crazy-rich.
6. After watching it run so rich, I tried an experiment: turned off the ignition, unplugged all the fuel injectors, then tried starting it. Not only did it start, it idled smoothly for a couple seconds… huh?
7. Checked that fuel pressure regulator was working and set to ~40lbs – it was.
8. Figuring, “what do I have to lose” I cranked the fuel pressure down to 10 lbs and tried starting the engine. It idled much better…
9. Looking through the parameters (having saved off the original set) I figured there was nothing to lose by messing with things.
10. I’m running 1000 cc injectors, which the Hondata ECU confirmed. However, just for fun I tried changing it to “2000 cc”, meaning that the ECU would then inject half the fuel. It idled better…
11. Injector size was then increased to “4000 cc” and it idled better still…
12. Further messing with idle settings improved things to the point that it idled just fine, nice and smooth. However, anything above idle speed was once again met with a big cloud of black smoke (unburned fuel.) There would be no drive down the block.

I’m completely stumped – it ran fine before. The fact that I could juggle variables and get it to idle – without sensor errors – seems to indicate that everything is working. It’s almost as though the ECU completely lost its mapping, but that doesn’t make sense because there’s obviously some kind of map in there. And, the PC-based interface confirmed that the important parameters (MAP sensor scaling and injector size) are correct. Because it was running rich instead of lean means there’s no vacuum leak on the inlet side.

I had planned to eventually take the car back up to Church Automotive for final tuning but it now looks like that schedule has been moved up a bit. Hopefully they can make sense of whatever is going on.

With no drive around the block happening I decided to eat my pride and remove the fuel tank, so that was done. Tomorrow I’ll try repairing the leak. If there’s an update tomorrow it means that I didn’t blow myself up…

22 Nov 2012

Well, good news, sort of. Finally cranked up my courage and poured in five gallons of gas – it doesn’t leak – exactly. However, I can definitely smell gas in one specific spot on the tank, along a weld seam of course. However, it’s such a small leak that it’s not even damp… that’s the “good news.”  Ignition was set hot and the fuel system properly pressurized and retained pressure – no leaks there at least. Still, that smell will continue to fuel my obsessive tendencies until it’s dealt with. Sigh.

As the saying goes, “if that’s your biggest problem in life you’re doing well” and I get it. I can’t complain, I have a wife that puts up with me, a happy dog, good kids, and my health. Thanksgiving is a good “scenic view point” in life, where all it asks is that we stop for a moment and consider all we have to be thankful for – keeping us “grounded.” Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

In addition to the fuel, the coolant system was also filled, so other than setting toe there’s nothing preventing seeing if it starts and drives… like, oh, tomorrow. Been messing about with my GoPro, which is an earlier model and now “obsolete.” However the newest one – just out – appears to have software issues so I’m fine with this one.

21 Nov 2012

Installed the shifter, which is unpainted but it’s just as well since the bellcrank leverage was changed slightly to move the shifter slightly to the right and shorten travel. Made adaptors for the fuel filler and installed the fuel-filler hoses (hard to believe that those two pieces of fuel-filler hose were nearly $100…) Added endless tie-wraps to various cables and harnesses, especially down the center where there’s not much room, though it’s a testament to how little “center tunnel” is actually required. Double-checked the fuel and coolant hose junctions, connected the ECU and verified that the fuel pump comes on at ignition-on. Filled and bled the clutch and brake systems.

This thing is very close to having fuel and coolant added and starting it up for real. A very nervous time for me with fuel leaks being the concern. It’ll be done early in the morning to maximize the time available to addressing any leaks… we’ll see. I added the last picture of the brake lights just because it looks nice.

It’s somewhat ironic getting ready to start the new car for real because just yesterday I heard that Kimini may be sold to a guy in Texas – and he’s considering driving it the 1000 miles back home! I think that’s awesome and hope he keeps me updated; I never got round to doing a big road trip in the Mini myself – my bad.

18 Nov 2012

Out of the blue mid-day Friday, a coworker asked, “hey, want to go see Leno’s garage? We have to leave right now.”

So up we went – just amazing. 130+ cars and motorcycles sweeping the automotive spectrum, from a Model T, to classic Bugatis, steam cars, the McClaren F1, and Jay’s turbine-powered motorcycle. Then there was the fab shop which was just heaven to me, with every tool and machine you could imagine for fabricating virtually anything automotive. After several hours of being shown around, I think I was more impressed by Jay’s employees; there’s a very good reason why they’re there, due to their extremely extensive knowledge, and how they’ve known Jay for decades. It was pretty clear that he trusts them because he knew them before he made his money so he knows they’re sincere.

As we were leaving I was the first one out the door and held it open for everyone else, then kept it open because someone was coming the other way – then I realized it was Jay! I’d like to say he was happy and upbeat, but whatever he had come from had really tired him out. He said hi and tried to be polite but it was clear that he was beat, and headed on into his shop. Later we saw him leave driving an ordinary pickup truck, which speaks volumes for his practicality. I told my wife later that I had held the door open for Jay Leno(!) – and she asked if I got a tip… no, but he paid me back in a big way by sharing his collection. No pictures because they didn’t permit any – which I can very much understand.

About my car, nothing today since my brother and I helped out our parents around the yard – some things are more important than the car project. I’m taking off this week so there will be progress, check back frequently.

11 Nov 2012

Wrapped the taillight harness and checked the operation. The lights work fine but it reminded me that I need to get a proper turn-signal unit – one that works with LEDs. The front turn-signals are filament bulbs and as long as they’re connected, the rear turn-signals work. However, disconnect the fronts and the rears stop working because they don’t draw enough current.

Installed nearly all the rest of the rivnuts – there’s a lot. Installed the fuel level sensor – still afraid to fill it for the first time. It needs to be done early in the day so if there’s a leak there’s time to drain it and get it out of the garage. A middle ground is to remove it and fill it outside, then seal it up and let it sit in the sun for a few hours, which will pressurize it and locate any leaks.  Thing is, I’m getting distracted.

My parents are in their 90’s and while my family has had the good fortune of strong genes, no one lasts forever. Dad’s lately much less able to do things around the house and is having medical issues, so I’ll be spending time helping them out. Getting old and the end of life is a door none of us want to think about, but such is life. This will be a very important Thanksgiving…

4 Nov 2012

There was what I thought I was going to work on, and there’s what I did work on. Today was a grab-bag of odds and ends, adding zip-ties all over, charged and installed the battery, wired up and testing the third brake light and flasher since it hadn’t been connected before. Works really well, like ambulance brake lights. Instead of just going on, it blinks really fast about five times in a half second then stays on. Installed the taillights into the tail section which somehow magically shrank just enough to make them not quite fit – wonder what’s with that. Then there was installing more rivnuts before breaking the 6-32 mandrel – again. Either I’m pulling them too hard, not keeping the tool square to the hole, they’re poor quality, or a combination… oh well.

3 Nov 2012

A buddy wants to borrow the corner scales so I took the opportunity to loosely place the rest of the major components and weigh the car. The floor was very uneven (so corner weights are meaningless) but it showed both the approximate total weight and front-to-rear weight split (which is unaffected by corner weight adjustment.) The first picture is the empty weight, 1388 lbs, and the second includes me, resulting in a F/R weight distribution of 34% front and 66% rear. The fuel tank is empty but since it’s at the CG it won’t alter the front/rear percentage. The coolant system is also dry and once filled will shift the CG forward slightly. While not the real deal as far as a final weighing goes, it’s still informative. There’s probably another 50 lbs or so of paneling, seat covers, and the battery I forgot so it’ll be around 1450 lbs or so when complete. That’s okay.

28 Oct 2012

After a long weekend, the proud owner relaxes, with Midlana finally sitting on her wheels. With bumpsteer dealt with, next is making a jig to simplify setting toe; something I always meant to make for Kimini but never got round to. After that there’s corner-weighing the car, then double-checking everything. Alignment is at least twice the work as on a Locost due to having IRS instead of a straight axle. Once the suspension is really done, it allows moving ahead on other issues with a clear mind knowing it’s a closed issue. The pile of things to do is still large but a lot smaller than it was.

Oh… one of the rear hubs appears to be slightly loose. Even after the big axle nut and wheel lugs were tight, the wheel could be rocked slightly – it’s not the upright itself, it appears to be the bearings. Of course, the rear axle nuts probably only have about 40 ft-lbs on them, and they’re supposed to be tightened to an un-godly 181 ft-lbs, so maybe that’ll tighten things up… need to find that spec to confirm.

21 Oct 2012

Measured and minimized bump-steer at the left-rear, which measured about 0.015″. With that done, next was the left axle, shock, and intercooler. Modified the pressure cap assembly to move the coolant bleed point to the header tank higher so it’s the highest point in the cooling system. It’s been a loose end for a long time and is being handled now while the cooling system’s dry. Next week the car will get moved more toward the center of the garage so the right-rear bump-steer can be measured and minimized. By that time the rest of the parts should be on-hand to finish the front bump-steer.