4 Dec 2016

I’ve gone back and forth on whether to post non-Midlana content and decided you have a choice on whether to read what else I’m working on.

Work on the rotating drum filter continues and having a workshop sure makes things easier. The large ring was first bolted together using the top of the drum as a template – big mistake. Turns out plastic 55-gallon drums – while fine for their intended purpose – aren’t a good platform on which to build accurate “mechanisms.” That is, nothing is consistent, wall thickness varies tremendously, the top and bottom aren’t precisely flat or round (the top was out of round by 0.6″!), and neither top nor bottom is square to the sides. The fabricated ring had to come back off, epoxied together into a proper circle, then the original bolt holes “adjusted”, and finally the now-round ring forced onto the top of the drum to fix it’s bad attitude.

The filter’s changed some from its original design, with a stainless frame added so it can be removed and serviced rather than working on it inside the IBC container (the big white 275-gallon container). All the rest of the bits needed to finish it are on-hand, including plastic roller chain (I had no idea that existed), sprinkler valve, power supply, and timer module. I couldn’t help but notice how the gear assembly looks oddly like a clutch and flywheel assembly.

When the stainless frame was tacked together I went to turn off the welder and found water everywhere. There was a small leak I’d been ignoring and it promoted itself to “can’t ignore this” status. At first I thought I could just clip out the oddly bad segment (within 6″ of the end of the hose, which is never moved nor touched) but nope, it’s a crimped connection at the end. Of course the welding shop is closed on Sundays but then I realized the coolant unit could be unplugged and the welder used as an “air-cooled” unit. It works fine as long as no heavy welding is performed. Interestingly, unplugging the water cooling unit makes the welder so quiet I can’t even tell it’s on; the welder’s own fan only kicks on when under heavy use.

That Garolite is very tough stuff; I destroyed several saber saw blades before coughing up the money to buy proper carbide blades. I have to buy several more good blades to deal with the stainless material; the usual blades from Home Depot last about 1/2″. Mcmaster.com loves me right now…


24 Nov 2016

I’m still here!

Midlana-related, I’ll finish the composite sanding within the next few weeks then deliver it to the paint shop.

Yard-related, the pond/garden project is in full swing, meaning much shoveling is happening, in parallel with building a new filter, starting with the particulate filter. Unlike how I usually do things – researching a subject to death then going my own way – I came across a filter design that I felt I couldn’t improve on, so I’m following that builder’s lead. It’s called a rotating drum filter: dirty water flows into a horizontal drum then through screens in the walls. When the screen clogs up, the output water level drops and a float switch turns on a sprayer and rotates the drum. The waste is drained off through its own separate pipe and the nice thing about the design is that it’s completely hands-off, other than checking it once in a while to ensure nothing’s broken.

When the float switch trips, the sprayer and drum need to run for maybe 10 seconds. How to do that caused other builders a lot of grief but a 12V timer module with a built-in 10-amp switch solves that. It’s got a bunch of different modes which could be applicable to car projects as well, like – as its name implies – a third brake light flasher, or a methanol pump timer, or maybe a self-cancelling turn signal. I used this 10-amp timer module from 3rdbrakeflasher (they also sell a third brake light blinker with a G-force sensor, pretty smart).

Though not car-related, it’s funny how much car-building stuff is getting used. Clecos were used to hold the template for the drum holes, hole saw for the 380(!) holes, then there’s the gear motor, chain, electronics, and all sorts of mechanical goodies – my wife was very crafty in luring me into this project. That said, I’m torn on how much of the pond project to put here. People come here to read about the car, so there’s mixed feelings on how far out into the weeds to go.

In other news, just watched the first episode of “Grand Tour”, the replacement for “Top Gear” with the original hosts, now hosted by Amazon. The first five minutes… just… wow. I though it must have cost them millions and I was right. Sadly I knew nothing about it when they filmed the intro – I would have loved to have had Midlana there, but so it goes. (Search YouTube for “Grand Tour” as it’s already there.)

13 Nov 2016

If Midlana drops offline for a bit, don’t worry. Apparently WordPress (the sw that this site runs on) has susceptibilities and someone’s up to mischief, drawing the attention of server management. I’m working with them to resolve it and hopefully it’ll be seamless.

I was originally going to paint the ducting myself but have gradually changed my mind, as it’s yet another messy smelly error-intolerant task I’m not sure I want to do. I’ll ask the same place that painted the body panels what they’d charge and go from there. Apparently summer isn’t done with us; over the last week temperatures have been way higher than normal, which contributed to not wanting to sand panels again.

6 Nov 2016

The weekend goal was more sanding but to be honest, I’m a bit “sanded out” and was looking for something else to do. A big yard project that’s been brewing for several years has my attention. After 23 years, the pond liner’s degraded, the deck was full of termites and dry rot, the shading’s already partially collapsed due to the same, and the filter housing is tipping due to apparently collapsing gopher tunnels.

The plan was to fill in the pond and replace it with a vegetable garden, but as these thing seem to go with me, the project took on a life of its own. The plan is to dig out part of the rear bank for an above ground pond, albeit a smaller one. The advantage to above ground is that nitrate-rich pond water can be gravity drained into the vegetable beds “for free.” Actually it’s the other way around: the vegetables get water regardless and having it come from the pond makes the pond effectively “free” in terms of water usage. Above ground also means a gravity-fed filter will be much easier to implement and much of the equipment is already on-hand so the outlay wouldn’t be too much. The first pictures shows the whole mess – there’s a lot to do. The second picture shows the area where the new pond will go; the back edge of the dig has already run into the excuse for soil we have around here, clay/sandstone, which can be hard as hell. A jackhammer will be needed to break it up and speaking of work, there’ll be plenty: building a retaining wall for the bank and extending it around the front of the pond. Then there’s moving all that dirt out of the way in preparation of filling the old pond; at least this is happening in the cooler months. In parallel I’ve been looking at the latest filter technology and while it’s advanced in terms of media and equipment, the underlying pricipals remain unchanged.

All was not lost car-wise though. After the yard work I took the car out then visited mom. It was a chance to take some pictures of our two cars side by side, my brother noting how the wheelbase on my car is about 3″ longer than the Stalker, and the front track is a lot wider. Oh, and on the way home while passing through the rich part of town I saw a Mercedes-Benz SLR Mclaren Coupe (~$450,ooo when new). I’ll admit a bit of concern about possibly pulling up alongside it but the guy turned off. We might have had similar acceleration but I’d lose to his much faster shifting gearbox, never mind breaking a bunch of laws in mere seconds ;).

1 Nov 2016

Something I’ve wondered about for a long time is transmission longevity when running a turbocharged engine. The stock gearbox handles about 170 ft-lbs torques (as Clarkson calls it), but add a turbo and torque can be double that. 1st-4th isn’t an concern since they were upgraded to PPG straight-cut gears; the concern is about 5th and 6th which are still OEM helical parts. Certain tracks like Autoclub Speedway are set up for NASCAR and track day events run half the oval, a billiard-table smooth freeway where you go flat-out. Fast cars can easily do 150-165 down the front straight and with fourth gear at 0.909, it results in 139 mph at 7500 rpm. 8000 rpm is 149 mph but I’d rather not (regardless of what my engine builder says) since the K24 has a piston-rod geometry that isn’t as friendly to high rpm like the K20 is. Okay, part of my reluctance has to do with popping the first engine and wanting this one to last*.

Anyway, I asked on a Honda forum what the guys with turbocharged cars had found and unsurprisingly, several had stripped the teeth off 5th and 6th. The gears will still be used for cruising, but for longevity, boost will be reduced on those gears. I don’t want to spend $$$$ on a very nice sequential Quaife transmission because I have to draw the line somewhere on cost.

Somewhat related, the new engine is noticeably smoother, even with the stiffer engine mount. Just yesterday I wound it out in second gear and got surprised by the rev-limiter. Normally I can tell what rpm it’s at by feel but not so with this engine. It’s more “Swiss watch like” over the old one. I guess that’s a good thing!

31 Oct 2016

Another round of sanding and filling. Took the car out for a short drive – the plan had been a much longer drive but felt it was more important to get as much done on the composite in the time available. Tomorrow the wife’s back and it’s back to work for me. Overall a fair bit got accomplished.

30 Oct 2016

A great deal of composite work is preparing the surface for paint. Shown are some of the touch ups; Bondo wasn’t used because it dries harder and the softer still epoxy/micro gets sanded down more, resulting in a donut-shaped depression around a high spot. The plan originally was to let the epoxy set up while Midlana was taken out for a drive. Nature laughed and sprung some much appreciated but unexpected light rain on us, so Midi came in to keep me company and to see where all the times been going not spent on him. With car stuff done for the day, attention turned to researching how the koi pond will be redesigned. Midi has his own chair right behind my PC chair and periodically taps me on the shoulder letting me know he needs another tummy rub.

28 Oct 2016

Spend the day sanding, which identified the low spots, which a second layer of epoxy/micro filled. After another round of sanding, cheap spray paint will be used to find any remaining low areas.

27 Oct 2016

The last section is finally complete, well, laid up at least! It feels good to be done with the lay-up chapter and move to the next phase – smoothing the surfaces for paint. I may switch to Bondo for that, for cost reasons, a faster cure, and not having to worry about glass micro balloons floating around the garage. As the last picture shows, when working with composite, scissors become consumables, unless they sit in a jar of acetone.

In other news, a Locost builder who had spent many years constructing his chassis only now discovered that his chosen seats wouldn’t fit and that his offset differential requires the center tunnel to be widened. I felt sorry for him but at the same time wanted to reach through the Interweb and dope-slap him. It amazes me that any builder would assume a chassis will blindly fit any seats and any drivetrain. No, all non-negotiable parts (engine, tranny, rear axle, seats, pedals, etc) need to be on the build table first and the chassis built up around them. Being three-dimensional objects it’s very difficult to accurately measure them beforehand and having the parts in position absolutely guarantees this sort of thing can’t happen.

23 Oct 2016

Bah, it took all day to sand the plug so there was only time for two coats of wax before the day was over. This type of composite construction doesn’t technically require a smooth surface on the plug – which becomes the inside of the final product – but because I know it was rough it was smoothed down any  way just because. There are still small low spots sprinkled about but they’re gentle and unlikely to affect airflow.

After applying the second coat of wax, the car was taken out – it was nice to drive her again! For the first time in over a year, gasoline was added, diluting the ethanol roughly 50/50 just to see how it ran. It should have run fine but even with an ethanol detector it was good to see that it still does no problem. There are plenty of back country destinations around here that don’t have ethanol* so it’s nice to know the car handles either. Also, 85% ethanol (“E85” around here) cuts fuel mileage by about a third, a significant dent in range, so knowing gas works is reassuring when low in the middle of nowhere.

*I don’t understand that lack of availability out there, the desert attracts all kinds of people with crazy off-road vehicles and the higher power ones run on E85 – which owners have to transport from home. Why the small towns out there don’t take advantage of that I don’t know. Instead, E85 pumps show up here in larger towns where it’s great for people like me, but makes zero sense for anyone else, short of those wanting to “buy American” at a premium,  since it’s not cheap enough to make up for the decreased range. I suspect there’s some sort of kickback thing going on with stations to install them because the only cars I ever see at the pump are one strongly suspected of running tweaked engines. It’s always fun to ask the STi and Evo owners about that and listen to them swear they’re stock. Of course they are 🙂

22 Oct 2016

Coated the foam plug of the largest section. Tomorrow it’ll get sanded then covered with mold release wax, though how long that’ll take depends how smooth the surface turns out, and how long each coat of wax takes to harden. If time is short then the first two sections – also coated today – will be sanded to see what’s what, or said another way, to see how many go-arounds of epoxy/micro and sanding might be expected before it’s deemed smooth enough to paint.

With both sections set aside to cure today, the car was warmed up (for the first time in a long time!), then an oil change done with full synthetic (mineral-based oil was used for break-in). The car was vacuumed out to remove as much foam dust as possible because I don’t want it blowing into my eyes while driving (never mind inhaling the stuff).

The last picture is a used “magnehelic” meter I picked up off ebay. It’s a very sensitive (1″ H2O) meter for measuring pressure differences, useful for testing airflow in ducts, intercoolers, radiators, but especially for determining proper placement for vents, measuring diffuser effectivity, airflow around wings, all sorts of interesting goodies 🙂

20 Oct 2016

Ordered enough fiberglass cloth to ensure stock for the last and largest subassembly. There’s enough carbon already on hand that should suffice for stiffening the larger surfaces (by the way, when fabricating, curved surfaces in composite or metal are much stiffer than flat). Expect a lot of progress over the next couple weeks, and after endless sanding, it’s on to paint!

In other news, Lulu is running a 30%-off sale through 24 Oct, code “OCTHIRTY”, book links: coil-bound and regular-bound. Lulu doesn’t notify authors when they have these promotions but I try to pass them on when I see it.

17 Oct 2016

Spent the day touching up the two front pieces to get them ready for a thin layer of epoxy/micro – a layer easily sanded in preparation for paint. Part way through that I figured the middle section should be riveted on as part of becoming a permanent assembly, so that was done. Then I figured there’s no point in fully prepping the front sections with the intercooler section still sitting there in foam.

First up was making a proper aluminum frame that’ll become a permanent part of the assembly, a frame so I don’t have to worry about the attachment points tearing out for whatever reason. It also allows a close tolerance on the fit-up between the composite and intercooler to minimize leaks. With that done, the foam was pushed into place and (not shown) a few areas had epoxy/micro added to bond the aluminum to the foam for now.

In the last pictures is this little guy I found at work  – “little” being relative because a praying mantis is really big for a bug at about 3″ long. It was really cool how how his head could turn just like a person’s and it was intimidating how he’d turn his head and track my movements. In this picture he’s looking at the camera upside down.

13 Oct 2016

Attention shoppers!

If you’re thinking about buying the Midlana book, or hinting about it for Christmas, Lulu has a special offer right until Oct 17:

25% off print book and calendar orders equal to $100 or greater, plus free mail or 50% off ground shipping!

This is an especially good deal because it includes free shipping, effectively lowering the price even further.


11 Oct 2016

“Composite Dave” corrected me on a couple things.

One, there’s no requirement to use one sheet of a layer; using smaller pieces and overlapping them by 1″+ is perfectly reasonable, especially for something which isn’t hardcore structural in nature.

Two, he warned me about painting composite a dark color, where sitting in the sun can cause the epoxy to soften. Not enough to melt exactly, but enough that it can slowly flow/bend/sag if there’s a load on it, taking a set in a different shape once it cools. For this reason I’ll go with the lime green, which is okay by me 🙂

9 Oct 2016

The forward section is done. As with the middle section, it’s not perfect but “pretty good”, with not too many goofs. The first picture shows the unfortunate-but-necessary pattern orientation, necessary so the strands aren’t asked to bend sharply around corners. Orienting the pattern at 45 degrees to the weave cuts the bend angles in half but with the unfortunate side effect of it being more wasteful of material due to the fairly narrow width of the composite roll.

There’s still work to be done (on all pieces), consisting of a thin coat of epoxy/micro, finish sanding, then paint. That decision is a ways off since the rear piece is next in line. Due to the amount of composite needed I may stick to fiberglass for this one; I’ll have to see how much is left over and whether there’s enough for at least one layer and preferably two.

The color of the ductwork hasn’t been decided. Dark green to keep it low-key (but dark paint shows surface imperfections), or lime green to make it more of a feature but risk making the car look more visually top-heavy? Weigh that against a bright color up high aiding visibility to other cars and being more forgiving of surface imperfections. The only reason the flat black is on there is that it was a spare can of heavy content filler and I was keen to see what it looked like without the oddball colors it had previously.


6 Oct 2016

So me and my dog-buddy Midi, our 60-lb Pit/Lab, were on our regular walk. For the first time ever it went slightly wrong because on the way back, an 80-lb dog ran across the street and immediately started a fight so I let go of the leash (I was bit the last time I got in the middle). In general, dog fights don’t last long though it sure feels like it, ending as soon as both understand the pecking order. What was odd was how they then just stood there next to each other contemplating the outcome. The dog took off down the street so expecting the worst I checked over Midi but he was fine and surprisingly calm, like nothing had happened at all.  The owner walked out to see what was going on and was very embarrassed to find that his dog got out by accident. It all turned out fine, all things considered.

The epoxy showed up so there’s nothing stopping good progress this weekend, assuming our current earthquake swarm out here at the south end of the San Andreas Fault isn’t a precursor to anything larger…

Finally added a Contact page to the main page of this site.

3 Oct 2016

So I ordered more epoxy, a gallon of that and the hardener is $137. But wait, there’s more, in the form of $47 for hazardous shipping and $11 for tax, for just short of $200, or said another way, the product comes with a 43% overhead expense. Just, wow. Yes I know I’m whining about unimportant things, yes I know other people have much bigger problems, and yes I know this falls into the “first-world problems” category, but still, wow.

I know, I know, always bitching about something…

At least I have enough composite for the next section, but we’ll see if there’s enough for the last and largest section.

2 Oct 2016

Spent about 6 hours sanding the the front portion of the ductwork (and ground down several of my fingernails to a shocking degree). The front section is being handled differently than last week’s center section; this “plug” being a permanent part of the finished product so it won’t be coated with wax… probably. With the epoxy having cured from last week, the “side pockets” were dug out down to the inside surface of the epoxy. This allows the cloth to extend around the lip and into the inlet scoop, bonding to the outer skin and forming a sandwich, which is far stiffer than a single layer. The foam I’m using isn’t technically structural (it’s very weak in compression) but it doesn’t need to be in this application.

A pattern was made and a layer of fiberglass draped over to see where the seam should go since the assembly needs two pieces due to the inlet. That’s as far as I got today because laying it up is an operation that once it’s started it shouldn’t be stopped. Also, with the pattern defined I can see whether there’s enough cloth and epoxy; running out of either part way through would trouble.

I included a couple pictures of the rear section and the air cleaner because I’m wondering how much the air coming through the duct gets heated as it passes through the intercooler. It’s sort of tempting to have the air cleaner draw from that same duct since it’s right there. The interesting thing is that under full throttle, the engine sucks in so much air that it would actually increase the cooling air flow through the intercooler. It would be warmer than ambient by “some” amount, but that might be made up for by pulling more air through. Something to think about.

During our errands we saw an old and new Mustang nose to nose. Seeing them side by side, the new one look both bulky and large compared to the first generation. As good as the new ones are, the original has a timeless shape.

Speaking of Mustangs, I happened across this video of a trackday held yesterday at Willow Springs. The reason I mention it was that in watching all the cars heading out onto the track, it was interesting how much has changed since my brother and I did this back in the 1980s. Back then, probably 90% of the drivers drove older cars which they worked on themselves. Watching the video, it’s pretty clear that percentage is more than reversed; probably less than 5% do their own work (Mustang owner included). Of course, what is there to do? Go buy a Ferrari, Porsche, BMW, Lotus, or Corvette, and you’re good to go. I can’t help feeling that we’re losing our familiarity with things mechanical. That’s driven home where if one of these cars has trouble, the owner just pushes it into the enclosed trailer and drops it off at the shop Monday morning. I guess it’s neither good nor bad, it’s simply the new normal.