Kimini 2.2 - Build Diary, Jan-June 2003


June 28-29.

Drill and ream the front wheel hubs for oversize studs, clean them up and powder-coat (using the Eastwood kit.) Install wheel studs and wheel bearings. Turn down the Prelude front brake disks, destined for the rear. It's a shame to cut them down, but there's simply no way they (and the Honda calipers) would fit inside of a 13" wheel. Found a great deal on Brembo rotors through the GroupBuys web page, specifically Import Replacement Parts – great price Mike!!

Upper right picture above is where I finally confront my nemesis - dealing with rear bump steer. Until I had most of the real components, there was no way to accurately measure it. Visible at the inboard end of the toe-link is my "do-anything-move-anywhere" mounting point. It allows the inboard point to move around to quickly find the correct x-y point, then the real mounting bracket can be made. Rear bump-steer will be very slight toe-in away from ride height in both bump and droop. Toe out under any situation at the rear is to be avoided.

Shown far right is the assembled front upright – clean parts are a delight. Also shown is the inside of the wheel, where there's NOT much room. Visible are the wheel weights, which did NOT miss the caliper, nicely removing a bit of new red paint.... so off they came to be relocated. Bottom shot is with the wheel on, have to admit the red calipers look nice.

Regarding the header; I've never made one before, and I'm using expensive 321 stainless. So I ate my pride, admitted there's a good chance I'll screw up, and ordered mild-steel tubing bends for a mock up. The cheapest price I found for mandrel bends is Magnum Force, $7 per U-bend.

June 25. Brake caliper rebuild. Got a big Thumbs Down on glass-beading the calipers from someone who knows a lot more than I. He said no matter how much they're cleaned afterwords, there will always be some abrasive residue which will mess up the piston seals. Okay.

Painting the calipers was messy but uneventful. The paint from G2 (widely available) is a two-part "system", and while the paint appears to be high quality, I had to laugh about how they insist it's "easy" to paint calipers on the car. Whatever; anything to sell a product I suppose. (The funny thing is just last week I saw a car where the owner had apparently done just that – paint runs everywhere – on a new Honda S2000 of all things.) Anyway, as the paint dries it remains pliable, which means it should be very resistant to chipping. They also claim it isn't dissolved by brake fluid. We'll see.

After the painted parts dried for a day, it was fun to put new brake parts on clean painted calipers. Of course that couldn't go smoothly. For whatever reason I bought the caliper rebuild kits from CarQuest Autoparts. What can I say, I think they have chimpanzees filling the boxes, using the randomness theory that if you put enough parts in a box, eventually some will be correct. Parts were either missing or the wrong size, with each set of identically number boxes not containing the same components. They're off my list.

Front brake calipers are 1979 Nissan 280ZX, while the rears are 1986 Mazda RX-7. While the rear rotors are still Honda, the stock Honda calipers were too large to fit within 13" wheels. Pads for the Mazda calipers were easy to find, but not so for the Nissan. Apparently that vintage 280ZX was transitional, with not many being sold, so it was tough finding anything other then stock pads. EBC is one place that does carry different compound pads for the Z, so as a starting point I chose their Green compound. Later I may graduate to Red pads for the track. Rear pads are Hawk.

Got a scare when loading the rear calipers with the pads. Looking at the rear, I kept thinking there didn't appear to be enough room for the Honda rotor. So I measured the rotor width then measured the space between the pads. It was too small! Oh crap, what had I done! Did I measure them in the junk yard when they had half worn pads? Then I measured the other caliper, and calmed down once I realized the piston wasn't fully retracted. They -just- fit. That would have been a real drag.

Regarding the picture, the shadow is from the camera lens masking the flash, which happens with close-up shots. Anyway, I wanted red calipers and I got them! Ricer-Red, bling-bling, call it what you will, but red on gray looks good, and while the calipers had been cleaned, they still looked dirty. It's nice to put together a car with new looking parts.

June 22. Odds and ends.

Finished wiring the fan switch. The thermostat and ECU turn the fan on automatically, while the switch can turn it on manually.

Disassembled and degreased the calipers - they were filthy, and will glass bead them before they get the "Rice-Red" caliper paint (yes I know, well when you build your car...) They'll also get new pads. It occurs to me these will be the first subassembly to be truly 100% finished, complete and painted... huh, guess that means I'm getting closer. If you're wondering why I didn't use new calipers, Wilwood for example, it's because their brake pads are too wide for my rotors.

Disassembled the front hubs (old Nissan 280ZX) for cleaning, new rotors and bearings, and much longer wheel studs. One was fine, but the other had a bearing seat that could be removed by hand(!) The car must have got smacked pretty good because there's some ugly scoring in the bearing race. I'll get a second opinion whether it is usable, otherwise it's another trip to the wreaking yard.

When I designed the car I chose to have zero Ackerman steering, yet I felt like a goof when I reread Carroll Smith's "Engineer to Win," and rediscovered he is (was) a fan of more Ackerman rather than less. I really believe there is no more debated topic then how much Ackerman to use. I have several seriously technical design books, all written by experts, all of whom have different opinions. Nuts.

Starting to think about building the header; it'd be nice to have a muffler while I'm running the car, rather than blasting the neighbors will a straight pipe. Instead of buying a second muffler and adapting it to what's left of the stock system, it might be time better spent to build something I'm going to keep rather than something that'll get tossed later.

Anyway, the cylinder head exhaust manifold ports are oval, and almost, but not quite, the perfect size if the primary tubing is slightly flattened. Looks like a mandrel will still be needed to stretch them 0.060" to be a snug fit. I don't want to build it on the engine, so there'll be a fixture to make so it can be built up on the bench, with far better access. I have to decide soon whether to build it up with mild-steel first, or dive right in and use the expensive stainless...

June 17. Installed the alternator belt, connected the alternator wire, and started the engine. No smoke or sparks, and the battery voltage jumped up to 14.4V, right where it's supposed to be – cool! The goof on my part is I ordered the wrong belt. Since the engine used to have air conditioning and doesn't now, I ordered the non-AC belt, 050375 - wrong. The A/C-equipped car uses a 6-rib belt and the non-A/C a 5-rib, and apparently the pulleys are slightly different size since this belt couldn't be tightened. The "050" is the rib count, and the "375" is the length. So it turned out that a 060365 is correct.

BTW, Napa Auto Parts sells Gates belts, yet Gate's own website doesn't say so. You give your zip code to locate a retailer, yet it ignores Napa stores, instead listing only a few other retailers far away.

June 15. Finally finished the battery box. Since I had no way of bending the thick material I had the individual panels sheared then I welded them together. Got lots of practice welding stainless... good for the upcoming header project... which may be sooner rather than later.

Fabricated the radiator cooling fan mounts, mounted the fan and wired it up. Only the thermostat input to the fan relay needs to be connected; I guess I'll employ one of the (presently unused) thermostatic switches originally feeding the Honda fan controller.

I'd like to get the engine charging the battery by getting the alternator on-line, but need an alternator belt. I found out the hard way that ordering a “non-A/C” alternator belt is very difficult (everyone apparently has A/C these days.) I'd like to order a Gates belt, which only makes finding one all the more difficult. Guess I could order one from the dealer or one of the on-line Honda parts places (though even they don't seem to have them listed.) After the belt is installed, it's going to be “interesting” connecting and powering the alternator for the first time. I'm a wee bit concerned about the potential enormous current that could flow if I goof up...

If you check this site only once a week, note that lately I've been working on the car mid-week, so check out the additional entries below.

June 12. Odds and ends. Fixed the oil pressure sensor leak and wired the O2 sensor. Realized a couple days ago I have no easy way to drain the coolant system – other then pulling a hose off and having water go everywhere. So... I drained the system and welded a drain plug to the radiator. Marked where to put drains on the low points of the coolant pipes. Reversed the radiator hoses so the tank bleed is now on the pressure side of the radiator. Plugged both heater hoses... I don't know if it's better to block off the heater lines or connect them together. Anyone know?

Yet another friend strongly recommended that I get it drivable and went on to suggest going to several Track Day events to really wring out the chassis, all this before doing the shell and paint. That surprised me, that it could be so soon that it could be drivable. It also presents a whole set of new issues, like how to get the car around; I don't own a trailer and have no room for one. I rather not flat-tow it because there'd be no way to get it home if something serious breaks, which is quite possible. Anyhow, there's plenty of time to think about it, because I made a “To Do” list, and it's almost three pages long. Maybe when I accomplish most items will I consider what comes next... Like I've said before, as long as I keep my head down the mountain of tasks isn't so daunting. So right now I'm concentrating on the cooling system and battery box. One thing at a time.

June 10. I couldn't wait for the weekend. Picked up the necessary hose bends, finished plumbing the cooling system, and tightened all the hose clamps – the moment had come. With great trepidation I filled the system... expecting to see leaks at any moment, but all was well (and dry.) So... I started the engine, this time to run for 15-20 minutes, long enough to heat up everything for the first time. Unfortunately the engine was (again) running on two cylinders. This happened a year ago when I first started it, which was understandable due to plugged-up injectors. With no problem since then it was a bit worrisome when it did it again right after adding water. Gradually cylinder 3 came back, then about 5 minutes later cylinder 4. I wouldn't be surprised if there's crap in the injectors again, perhaps from the new fuel rail. So after everything else is done I'll send the injectors to RC Engineering to be cleaned and flow balanced. Anyway, back to the coolant system...

So as the system warmed up I watched intently for any leaks, constantly topping off the header tank. I was surprised that the coolant line getting warm first was my return line from the radiator! How did I get that backwards? I thought coolant flowed out of the engine past the thermostat, but it seems to be the other way around (or the thermostat isn't where I thought.) Understand that the Honda H22A1 is different in that it appears to have two traditional thermostat housings. The Helm's manual clearly shows where the thermostat is, so I'm confused. Not a problem really since I can swap hose connections, but it makes me wonder what's going on. A good side effect of swapping them is the system will purge faster, since with the bleeder on the return (wrong) side of the radiator, there's little incentive for the coolant to go though a 0.125” bleed instead of a 1.25” return pipe.

The good news is there are no coolant leaks! There's a small leak from the oil pressure sensor, but that's because while the block is threaded correctly, it's not a tapered pipe thread. That's easy enough to fix with a tap.

Other stuff:

It was suggested I consider using tail lights off the new BMW Mini. Hum, that has a certain appeal to it. I'll have to see if the curvature of the assemblies is similar to my body shell. It was also pointed out by the owner of the mold that using anything but stock Mini tail lights will make it look like a “trailer-park kit car”. Right, we don't want that, do we.

A buddy asked, “So what's left to do before you drive it, without the shell of course.” Not a whole lot actually, brakes and rear toe links would be enough to drive it around the block. The reason he suggested I drive it, even briefly, is that it's a great way to find missing things, like brackets or holes that would have been discovered missing only after it's painted. But it's also something of a Catch-22 because of the riveted panels, which aren't installed yet. They aren't installed because it would be crazy to rivet 3000 rivets just to drive it around the block, then remove them all before it get painted. But driving it without panels isn't great either because of... what, flex? I don't know... maybe it's okay. In any case it would have to be a quick drive so I don't attract the wrong kind of attention.

June 8. Summer is here and the goal was to be done by July... guess not. Oh well, things are moving along; I'm enjoying the adventure.

Received and installed the fuel rail so now we have proper AN fittings and nothing leaks.

Cut up the stock lower exhaust header to reroute around a chassis tube. Not pretty but at least the engine can be run in the garage without asphyxiating myself. Building a proper header and exhaust is on the to-do list, but not right now.

Started assembling the stainless battery box. Welding stainless isn't more difficult then steel, just different.

I've been briefly running the engine - without coolant - so the plan is to fill the system next weekend and run the engine long enough to pressurize everything. So... the remaining coolant bleed line adapters were fabricated but I ran out of time (and hose) before I could finish the system. It doesn't make sense to stop work and go get more hose during prime “work time,” so I'll pick it up mid-week.

I've been looking at alternative radiator hose, Cool-Flex is one, great stuff but dang expensive. So I searched the web, looking for some nice industrial (read: just as good and cheaper) equivalent. Someone beat me to it though, this guy explains pretty well what he found and how he used it. I haven't decided what to use yet...

I can't decide on light assemblies so I canceled my order for the controller mentioned below. If I use dual element units at the front, and three separate units each side at the back, I don't need any controller. It also gets around having to deal with a goofy turn signal switch, replacing it with a simple toggle switch. My current thinking is that 2” round assemblies at each rear corner would look good. Guess I'll just have to wait until I have the body shell.

June 3. Found a light controller that handles everything except the headlights. Intended for restorations and hot rods, it controls each corner light with only one wire. If you know how a turn-signal switch works (it's pretty crazy) you'll appreciate this controller; by modulating the lamp's intensity, a single filament lamp can do triple duty as a turn/stop/brake light. Using it with LED lamps allows using LED lights not originally intended for turn signals.

Thanks to Alan for shearing the stainless plate which will become the battery box.

Called around looking for coolant bleeder hose... much tougher to find then I thought, because it has to handle 250deg F and perhaps 20psi, ruling out most common hose. Checked out Teflon, Hypolon, and Silicon, and the first two are too expensive. Pricing for silicon hose is all over the place... and no one has it in stock. Once again the trucking industry comes to the rescue - 3/8” ID silicon heater hose at $3.00 a foot. Not the cheapest, but certainly not the most expensive ... and they have it in stock. Come to think about it, it makes sense that the trucking industry uses very high quality parts; after all, truckers absolutely count on their trucks to stay in business, so only high quality parts will do. That's fine by me.

June 2. Tail light search: A dark gray Lexus IS-300 with it's clear tail-lights looks really nice – nice enough that I've decided that's the color/light combination I want (hence the screen color change,) so I've been looking for clear LED tail lights. I found American SuperLite who makes some nice ones; $35, 1/3 the cost of Mk1 Mini tail lights, lifetime warrantee, widely available (they're replacing lights on large trucks,) and best of all they're of similar size to the originals.

Not sure what to use for the front turn signals; all “truck related” LED turn signals seem to be 4” diameter. I'll mock up one anyway on the front to see how it looks, but the Mini is so small, 4” turn signals may look goofy. One option is to use another set of the above oval lights for the fronts. A second option is to use motorcycle LED turn signals and yet another option is to use stock Mini clear front turn signals with LED bulbs. (Funny, a 1959 Mini had clear turn signals... they beat Honda kids to the punch.) Of course I'm getting ahead of myself. I don't “need” lights right now, but it's nice to have it decided when the time comes. I want to avoid buying and installing something only to later see the “right” solution and feel bad about choosing the “wrong” part. Like I've said before, by the time I've built 10 cars it'll be perfect... but the first one has to be right too.

Ordered my first official “aftermarket part,” a fuel rail, which must be one of the most useless, most marked up parts I've ever seen. $135 for a CNC'd bar of aluminum. I wonder how many cars out there are “fuel rail limited,” probably zero – I think it's just another superficial “I'm cool” part. I didn't want to mess with modifying the stock rail to use AN fittings, so I guess that's the price of laziness.

Installed the oil pressure and water temperature sensors. Don't know where to put the oil temperature sensor, in the future enlarged oil pan I suppose.

Cut and rewelded one coolant pipe to better clear the shifter. Added a coolant bleeder to the top of the radiator. I've decided to plumb the cooling system without my wonderful swirl pot. While it's nice to have, all it really does is lessen the time it takes to purge the system. Using only the header tank, the air should still get bled off quickly because of the bleed lines from the radiator and the cylinder head. I just don't feel the swirl pot is worth the liability for faster “auto purging.” Of course if I'm completely wrong I can always put it in.

Just remembered I have to tap into the heater pipe which is right at the input to the water pump. That's the point where the header tank feeds back into the system and preventing the pump from cavitating. Yet another tip from Carroll Smith, who for all I know, is now watching my progress over my shoulder.

Also marked up a sheet of 0.080” stainless which'll become the battery box. The stuff is nasty enough I'm going to have it sheared. Next week I'll weld the bits together... my first stainless welding.

May 29. I learned today that Carroll Smith, author of the “... to Win” series of books, died May 16. I hope he knew how many people he helped – certainly saving more than a few lives by teaching us how to build safer (and more reliable) race cars. I own all of his books and have read them many times to help myself build a safe car. I never met the man but I think we lost “a good one.” He'll be missed.

May 26. Memorial Day. Cooper is making very slow but steady progress. I (we) look forward to many long walks together.

Hard to believe it's been a year since this site was started, and amazing to see this much interest (>30,000 hits) in such an odd-ball project. It's also been exactly a year to the day that I last started the engine. Well, I started it again today; nice to hear it running that's for sure. It's also good to be able to start it from here on out, at anytime, without a rats nest of wires all over the floor. It started right up, though not without a little incident during wiring checkout...

Knowing a battery has essentially unlimited current capacity, I carefully checked out each system as it was connected. First was the dash, no excitement there, then the cables running to the engine computer and on to the starter solenoid (first goal was to crank the engine but not start it.) Turned the key to “ON”, and pushed the IGN button... the engine cranked fine, so I switched the ignition back to Off... and saw smoke! It was very brief, and from an unexpected place... from the edge of the carbon fiber dashboard, right where it touched the steel frame. Carbon fiber is electrically conductive, so it meant I had a hot wire touching it somewhere, though I was sure I had checked for that. Checking out everything found nothing at all. So I turn the ignition on again... same thing, a momentary puff of smoke from the edge of the composite, just like last time. Huh? If the ignition was Off, or On, there was no problem, with only a problem while switching. So I started removing parts and isolated it down to the ignition switch itself. Check out the top picture... note the bottom probe is connected to, yes, the keys! The brand new switch has a short to ground in one tiny part of the key switch's travel as it moves from Off to On. I was able to get the switch to stay there long enough to take a picture. If I had an aluminum dash, the consequences would have been dire, either a melted or burnt wire harness - nice. Bought a different brand ignition switch.

Second shot is the rear of the dash. At this point only the essential switches are connected: ignition, starter button, gauges, and fuel pumps. It'll be fully tie-wrapped after all the additional wires are added.

Third shot is the fully wired engine computer. Coil of wire is for rear lights and additional engine sensors.

Fourth and fifth shots are a couple of my rare “big picture” photos, the coiled wires being front and rear lights, plus the electric cooling fan. I have to decide what to do about the rear stop lights, because real Mk 1 Mini taillights are a silly $110 each. Not sure what to do, but since this is hardly a stock Mini, there's no reason I have to use them. Some taillights from various hot-rod catalogs look okay, though I realize if the car is dark gray, clear lights would look really nice (yes, I know...) but I doubt I'll find anything. Whatever choice lights, I want to use LED bulbs.

Back to work tomorrow, but I made tons of progress the last 12 days.

May 22. A really nice vacation.... days and days of nothing but working on the car with no interruptions and taking care of the dog. Making really good progress, especially considering I normally work on it about six hours a week. I've been working on it eight days, eight hours a day and I'll keep at it through Monday. I'm hoping to start the engine for the second time this weekend. After that I'll plumb the coolant system, though that reminds me there's a swirl tank that must be moved and a coolant pipe that needs rewelding.... but I'm not complaining.

May 17. I'm home on “vacation” caring for Cooper while my wife's out of town. Cooper is coming along, though very slowly. I think it's going to be months more. The good thing about being home is I have lots of time to spend on the electrical system.

Business first.

Made complete spreadsheets of all electrical connectors which took a really long time and required many corrections. There's just no way to cheat and jump right in when it comes to wiring. Have to have a road map. The actual wiring started today, though I have a nagging feeling I'm forgetting a wire or two. As long as the connectors have spare pins it's not a problem... except the main one at the dash has only one position left... Top shot should be titled, “In the thick of it,” or, “At the office.” I like electrical stuff like this, especially when it's non-work related. That is, no Engineering Change Orders, no BOM, and no schedules... it's just fun. Picture was taken just as I started.

Had a couple visitors in the yard. The iguana came into our yard several years ago and we kept him in an outside cage for about a year before escaping. We found him again - 6 months later. About a year after that we went on our Yellowstone trip and we decided to release him, “If he leaves, fine, if he stays, fine,” and never saw him again. Now, 11 months later, he's back! My guess is he never left our yard, just hanging out in the trees, but he's REALLY hard to see in green foliage. Most people don't know iguanas only eat dark green veggies, no bugs or anything else. I have no idea how he survives the winters here; mild as they are, it can still get down into the 30s... iguanas are supposed to die at temperatures below 70deg, but I guess no one told him that.

Possums show up around here every spring. Several years ago we caught a baby just like this one and raised “Sneezy” (he was always sneezing) for a couple of months, so I got to learn all about them. Possums are cool! There's a misconception about them carrying rabies because their body temperature is about 93deg F or so. The rabies virus cannot live in blood that cold, so the only way a possum could ever have rabies is if they happen to have a fever when they eat a dead animal who had it. They are quiet and don't bother anyone and if you have snails in your yard, a possum is your buddy. They eat them up, though watching him eat one is kinda gross. The glove is overkill, because when they're this size, their jaws don't have any strength. If fact after I took the photo I removed my gloves; they're extremely passive other than putting on a show of growling when they feel threatened. When I tried to let the little guy go, he wouldn't leave my hand, he apparently liked the warmth. Good thing for him Cooper's not in the yard. Oh, and the “playing possum” thing is real. What's interesting is that it's completely involuntary – they just shut off. That's a good thing, especially when a dog has you in his mouth. Actually not a bad way to go now that I think about it.

May 12. Cooper status: Very slow recovery, which probably says more about my impatience than anything else.

Wiring, wiring, and more wiring. Also drawing schematics. Can't wire it if I don't know where the wires are supposed to go...

May 4. Cooper status: He took a couple of steps all on his own... I nearly cried.

Wiring moving ahead. No pictures - just imagine wires all over the place as the harness routing is determined. I need to find suitable connectors for the dash because the alternative is pretty ugly. That is, removing 30 or so connections everytime I want to remove the dash. Far better would be one or two nice circular connectors. Also need to stop by the welding supply shop to pick up battery cables.

“Side project #1.” At my “day job” I've been doing some work with a turbocharged 4-cylinder. Turbos are nice... very nice. So naturally, I started thinking... a mild 6-7lb setup on a slightly modified H22 would net about 280-290hp, and lower ¼-mile times into the 11's (if I could get traction.) That's a project for another day, after the car is done, but it's fun to work through the numbers anyway. The only “problem” is that of lag, since the car is more for autocross and timetrials. A fun “what if” project nevertheless.

“Side project #2.” Been re-reading “New Directions in Race Car Aerodynamics” by Katz, and “Theory of Wing Sections” (very technical.) For track events, I'm planning on a rear wing and have started reading up on what'll work best. The concern is the steeply inclined windshield pushing the air up and over the rear wing, missing it entirely. Regardless, I'm proud to say that unlike “ricer” wings, I'll know the lift and drag coefficients of whatever ends up on the car.

April 27. Decided to wire the car – a pleasant change from cutting, grinding, welding, and drilling. I spent a good hour just looking at things, deciding where to run harnesses and where to place the fuse panel. Technically every component should be as low as possible for CG reasons, but placing the fuse box on the floor doesn't look good, plus passengers can kick it and drop dirt in it. Of course I could make a cover but then that adds weight. Aesthetically it looks “proper” above the battery in the passenger footwell, and besides, the fuse box itself doesn't weigh much (the wire harness is another story, but that can stay low.) So another design decision made... which meant I got to do some cutting, grinding, welding, and drilling to make the fuse box mounting bracket.

First photo: All the gauges and switches went back into the dash to figure out wiring. Looks nice, giving me a (rare) sense of progress. In the passenger footwell you can see the battery, wire harness, and fuse box.

Second photo: While 1” square tubing for the fuse bracket is overkill, the harness puts a lot of torque on the panel, plus that size tubing is convenient for the 1/4” bolts and fasteners (need room for a socket to fit over the nut.)

Third photo: Side view of the footwell layout, with battery and fuse box above. There isn't a problem with leg room, people can bend their feet, plus I don't expect passengers will be taking many long trips with me... The battery will be replaced with an even smaller unit, a Hawker Genesis. (I haven't figured out the difference between the Genesis and the Odyssey.)

Fourth photo: Painless Wiring fuse panel mounted on sturdy bracket. From here the wiring will branch out to the dash (close), the battery (very close), the front of the car, and there'll be a harness heading to the rear, both to the engine computer board and on to the rear tail lights. It worked out to be a good location, up out of the way, and like I said, it looks right.

Cooper status: If I “walk” him and support his rear legs, they move, but not too coordinated yet. He can't walk on his own though and still has a lot of difficulty even standing up.

BTW we've had some kids throwing rocks into our yard... about once a week for several months – haven't caught them yet. Last night I suddenly realized, I bet Cooper had been hit by a rock. I asked my wife if right when he got hurt, were the neighborhood terrorists lobbing in their rocks. Yes they were!!! In fact the vet said it looked like he'd been hit by something, but since I wasn't home at the time I didn't make the connection. Then several days ago we were in the back yard and it started again, nearly hitting my wife. Okay, that's it. There's a harsh but true saying, “Don't fuck with another man's shit.” If I ever catch them, they or their parents will pay a very, very expensive vet bill. A police report is already in the works. We'll see how amusing that is....

April 24. Aaaaaaa! Spammers! Changed my e-mail address.

April 20. Cooper managed to get a rear leg under himself, and teetered precariously for a few moments. That was really, really good to see. We're keeping our fingers crossed regarding how complete his recovery will be.

Made brackets for the engine computer tray, and mounting tabs for the Accusump, taking all afternoon of course.

Left is one of my rare “big picture” shots, giving an overall idea where the stuff below is in relation to everything else. Center shot is a passenger-side view of what'll be behind the passenger seat. The vertical board with the wires is the engine computer panel, and the cylinder at the bottom is the Accusump. The computer panel is tilted slightly just to keep the screw heads from knocking against the front side of the bulkhead once the front aluminum sheet is in place.

Right shot is the same area viewed from the front. The main wire harness is shown dangling over the top of the main bulkhead, but will pass through it, right below the tube it's resting on. The AN hose from the Accusump will go straight into the center tunnel from the solenoid at the right end. Haven't figured out how I'm going to seal the hole... The pressure gauge on the left end of the Accusump looks like it sticks out past the main frame rail, and it does. Thing is, the actual side of the car is several inches further outboard, so it'll have room. I'm considering putting a 90 deg angle on the gauge, to keep it out of the way and out of mischief.

April 13. I didn't know what I was going to work on today, but since everything has to get done, it doesn't really matter as long as I'm working on something. The near-term goal is to be able to start it again, but this time with everything engine-related pretty much where it's going to go, and more permanently connected.

Fabricated mounting brackets for modules that went on the Prelude's firewall, the injector resistors, and the MAP sensor. Top photo is the injector resistor module, mounted at the left rear of the engine compartment. It's on the diagonal of the removable undertray/suspension/engine mount, but since that's rarely removed it should be okay. Bottom photo is the MAP sensor on the opposite tube. While it 's tempting to put both on the engine itself to keep the wires short, it's not a good idea. In the case of the MAP sensor at least, it's heat and vibration sensitive. (Where I work we've had trouble with MAP sensor readings drifting because they were mounted on the engine.)

Of course these brackets took all day... but I should know better by now. I can't help but be amused by some other builders who say they'll have their car completed in one year. If they pull it off I'll be impressed.

Cooper's situation is that he's fully recovered from the trauma of the surgery, now it's a very, very, long wait to see how much he's going to recover. As far as what functionality he's regained, it's just too hard to say. He is trying to draw his legs under himself though, in an effort to stand which does seem like a good thing to me. I've told him that he just has to get better, because my wife says she just can't go through this heartbreak with another dog... so Cooper just has to pull through!

April 6. I moved the parts into the house so I could babysit Cooper and work on part of the car at least a little. I finally finished the computer board and like everything else, I was surprised how long it took. You can see all the wires broken out on the terminals, which will make debugging and future expansion really easy.

Cooper's legs haven't shown any improvement :( As far as his first therapy session, it was disheartening to see that once in the pool, his back legs just don't work. And that was after the therapist said, “Oh yes, even most completely paralyzed dogs will often move their legs once they're in the water. Yeah, “most.” Crap.

Thanks for all the notes of support. Those of you who love your pets know what we're going through. Unfortunately the situation just isn't improving and while we're trying to remain positive, it's really difficult. I'm beginning to realize there's something worse than putting a pet to sleep who's in a lot of pain. It's the possibility of having to put a pet to sleep who's perfectly active and healthy, but simply can't walk. Unfortunately the “wheeled” solution isn't an option in our yard. I don't get depressed, but this is pushing my limits, because it just goes on and on. I realize there's still many weeks for him to heal, but I also realize healing isn't going to happen over night, and not seeing any improvement at this point gets me down. I'd like to see something. About the only good thing is that it'll be over one way or the other in about six weeks. It also gives me some idea what parents go through when caring for a very sick bed-ridden child at home. Geez, with a child it could be a life-long commentment. I can't imagine.

Some may wonder why I put this non-car related stuff in here. Well it's because everyone needs to be reminded from time to time what is important in life, and what isn't. If you don't like it, visit again in about two months and by that time it'll be “back to business.”

March 30. Only spend a little time working on the electrical. The dog experience is teaching us much about ourselves that's for sure. He's recovering well from the surgery, but what's worrisome is the complete lack of leg movement with not even a glimmer of motion. This in addition to no bladder control which makes for constant 24-hr care, and is very stressfull on all of us. But we signed up for this and will follow it through to it's conclusion, which is in about seven weeks. That's what the hospital said, if recovery occurs it'll happen in the first eight weeks after surgery. Tuesday we'll know more with a follow-up visit and therapy.

What's tough is realizing we're putting him through hell for our benefit. I can't help but wonder if we're just another one of those pathetic couples who are so clingy with their pet that they'll put their dog through hell just to keep him around. They don't realize it's all about quality of life for the dog, not themselves. So is that couple us? He's not in pain, in fact he's practically already his old self, he just can't walk. Yeah, he'll be pain-free, but will he be happy with dragging useless legs around? What's creepy is that we can already see him shifting how he gets around. It's the simple doggy decision of, “okay, so the back legs don't work any more, I'll just make the front ones do.” That's what the therapy is for, to force him to begin using the back legs instead of ignoring them.

I really, really hope for good news Tuesday.

March 23. Thanks for the notes of support about our dog.

We decided not to go down without a fight, so we took our dog to a really good animal hospital and he came out of surgery yesterday. It's still too early to tell how complete will be his recovery, but regardless, we gave it our best shot. And yes, I did ask many times what his expected quality of life would be.

What did it cost? Well that's a question I hope you never have to answer, “How big an expense would it take, right now, for you to put your dog to sleep?” I couldn't live with myself if I had put the car project first. “Yup, here's my car, ain't she a 'beaut? Sure I had to kill my dog to finance it, but it was worth it, right?”


Without kids of my own, I can't imagine what it must be like to have a child with a life-threatening illness. Or have a child in Iraq right now... It's one of life's little reminders that there are things more important then material objects.

So between that, and picking up a nasty flu, perhaps due to the stress, I'm down and out this week.

March 21. Our dog very badly hurt his back – meaning in an instant he became paralyzed from the “waist” down. It's worse than a severely slipped disk in a human because there was apparently previous damage, though we have no idea where it came from. In fact the vet said he though he was looking at an x-ray of a dog which had been hit by a car.

I didn't realize that once it “pops,” there is only 24 hours to deal with it, after that the paralysis is permanent. After our last dog died, it was almost too painful to get another. All I can think is, “Not now, it's too soon, he's only four.” Makes this project seem really unimportant...

March 20. Added “The Overall Process” to the Design Link, a suggested list of steps to be followed when designing and building a car. Added comments from an automotive engineer regarding the infamous lightweight crank pulley.

March 18. Received the Accusump... it's a big sucker, about 20” long with the valve and gauge installed. The electric valve will prove handy since I can't easily reach if it were manual. The electric valve needs a right-angle adapter to both point it rearward toward the engine, and to keep the assembled height within reason. There's just enough room to install it crosswise behind the passenger seat, just ahead of the engine computer board. While I could have stood it on end to move the CG over farther to the right, I decided keeping the overall CG low was more important.

March 16. Sorry... been rather busy with work. Proceeding with engine computer/terminal board. Being a EE means diving into it without much planning (familiarity breeds contempt?,) which meant I had most of it wired before realizing I didn't have enough terminal positions. An order to Digikey fixed that, by increasing terminal count to 64 from 30. There's no wasted effort since all the wiring can be transferred straight over to the longer strips.

March 9. Beginning to wire the engine computer sub module, mounted on another sheet of the carbon-hex core as a base. It'll be mounted behind the passenger seat against the main bulkhead. It consists of the engine computer and six terminal blocks to keep the connections clean. It also allows me to wire it on the bench, plus be able to remove it as an assembly at any time. The terminal blocks are nice because they act as a “break-out box,” that is, they allow monitoring signals while the engine is running -something the stock harness certainly does NOT allow.

Received news about the new dry-sump system from Peterson - it'll cost about $4000 for everything! Geez, I can't justify that expense, so that made up my mind to use an Accusump along with a well baffled pan. Speaking of the pan, looks like I get to make one myself since no one seems to like the Moroso unit (the only one I know of.) So now I need to figure out where the Accusump will go... either the passenger footwell or behind the seat ahead of the computer. That's to offset my weight, and to try to keep weight forward. Right now weight distribution is at 41% front, 59% rear, and I'm trying to keep it as forward as possible.

March 3. Fabricated the panel for the center tunnel, behind the dash. Other than the panel around the shifter, this completes the sealing of the center tunnel from the passenger compartment. My primary concern is liquid spillage (gas, coolant) in an accident; hopefully the riveted panels will give enough time to get out. After the photo was taken I added holes for the bottom of the dash.

A few shots of the whole car... looks like a train wreck, doesn't it. As bad as it looks... or should I say, as messy and incomplete as it looks, it is moving along.

In case you're wondering, here's what's still left to be done:

1. Electrical, which means drawing a schematic before wiring starts.

2. Lower engine tray panels, plus undertray tunnels to the rear of the lower rear suspension arms.

3. Fix alignment of left coolant pipe, it hits the shifter.

4. Battery box.

5. Flanges need to be welded on the edges of the rollcage to seal the passenger compartment to the body shell, to keep out dust and exhaust gases.

6. Body shell and modifications, including cutting the body laterally, behind the main roll hoop, and adding return flanges. This so the entire rear half can hinge up for engine and rear suspension access. The front clip need mods too, filling a huge depression in the original mold, which has an enormous bump in the hood for a non-stock Mini motor... something I don't need.

7. Door installation and hinge fabrication. (I'm using stock Mini doors because composite ones are too hard to make. Maybe later...)

8. Header fabrication. I already have the tubing waiting.

9. Rear toe-link design and fabrication.

10. Rebuild brake calipers and replace bearings.

This should keep me busy for a while...

Feb 22. Geez, I see it's taken a whole month to do the dash...

Went to the “Big 3” swap meet in San Diego. There they had tons and tons of domestic car parts, everything to keep your 1920-1970's domestic running fine. Got some info on local powdercoaters. Two interesting things were a twin-turbo V8 Corvair (street legal)... slightly terrifying. And a hybrid 427 aluminum big block with Porsche 928 heads... making it a quad-cam. Wonder how many horsepower that would be... Looking at the traditional hotrods, it's slightly terrifying about the lack of chassis rigidity (and roll-over protection.) No wonder they can't handle... imagine doing a four-wheel drift on a circular on-ramp in a 1940s-style hotrod. No thanks, and I guess the owners know better too. Never have seen one at an autocross...

Looked at many very nicely painted show/street cars. My wife's beginning to think Lexus Grey would look better than the Corvette Blue... could be. And if we go with that, I'd change the chassis color to a less distracting shade of gray rather than the bright green I was considering. The third choice of British Racing Green is fading a bit unless we see a really cool shade we haven't seen before.

Feb 23. Didn't do much... sorry. Tilted the dash forward some, as it was too vertical. Drilled the dash and dash frame for Rivnuts. Received air-fuel ratio meter. My “day job” has been intruding and I had to work on that. When other stuff is bugging me, I can't concentrate on the car, which usually means I'll make a mistake.

Feb 17. Carbon dash. Couldn't help putting in the gauges and switches for a photo... it does look nice. The switches are, left to right, top to bottom, spare, spare, radiator fan, alternator hi/low, starter button, hi beam, vent fan, high/low pressure fuel pumps, headlights, emergency flasher, key, windshield wiper, and brake bias (the large red knob.) The missing gauge will be an air-fuel ratio meter.

Okay, a puzzle; you see the headlight switch below? Notice it's missing from the dash, in the center-right hole. It's a standard “GM” type switch bought through Painless Performance. I wasted about 30 minutes trying to get the dumb knob off and I can't! I even disassembled it to see how the shaft is fixed in place – no luck. I've tried pushing it in, pulling it out, turning it pass the stops, in both directions, and there's of course no set screw; I've tried everything short of breaking it, and it just mocks me.

Feb 18. Switch problem solved. Sure enough, there is a “secret handshake” to get the knob off. There's a little button on the bottom of the assembly which must be held in, and the shaft pulls completely out – the shaft is permanently attached to the knob. Good thing I didn't pull on it too hard.

Feb 8. Helped work on my buddy's house again. Amazing what can get done when there's a bunch of people working together. Like the barn-raising scene in the movie “Witness.”

Feb 9. Worked on the dash a bit. Cut and rewelded part of the frame because it bowed outward on the right side. As it was in a very visible area it would have driven me nuts... it just had to be fixed.

I gave in to using a carbon dash panel. I say “gave in” because it rates high on the “Rice meter”, but in this case it serves the purpose well - dark color, matte finish, and light weight. The left two photos show where the gauges will go. Also visible is the “keep-out” zone, the area hidden by the steering wheel. Another example of, “I get to make it how I want,” and that means no hidden gauges. (Case in point, my Toyota pickup truck has a clock I hardly ever see. They put the clock in what can only be called the most stupid place on the dash, right behind the steering wheel so the driver has to lean about a foot over to see it. Bonehead designers. The right side of the dash will hold all the switches but I haven't decided exactly what goes where yet.

The right two photos show the carbon honeycomb, about 0.5” thick. Wish it was thinner, but beggars can't be choosers. The back side will have to be routed out so the switches seat onto just the front layer, otherwise the mounting screws will crush the honeycomb.

I've been thinking a lot about the body shell. A buddy has just about convinced me to do the lay up myself. Need to see if I can borrow the mould... I've heard a rumor that it would cost about the same to do it myself as it would to have a company do it, due to their much lower composite costs... that seems unlikely, but we'll see. As I've said before, the day is coming that I'll be needing it. For example I need to know where the dash will tie into the base of the windshield, and where exactly the sealing flange needs to be forward of the dash.

Someone asked that I post more photos of the “whole project” rather than the closeups I usually take. I'll try, but the problem is they'd all look the same! That is, all the work typically occurs in little tiny areas. A full shot would look exactly the same week to week... other then the neighbor's tree's getting taller across the street...

Feb 1. Columbia - a very sad day. But in a way I admire them, they went out in style, doing what they loved, with the end coming quickly. Far better than wasting away in a hospital for months. They got to see a little bit of our solar system, now they get to see the entire universe...

Spent Saturday with friends helping a buddy finish his house, as he recovers from surgery. I've heard this many times about helping others and it's true, you give and get back more. In my case I got to see how to do many aspects of interior finishing that I always thought I couldn't do, which makes me feel much more confident now about doing a future home remodel.

Feb 2. Finally finished the dash frame, which of course took longer than I expected. The curves look far better than a sharp edged dash would; a lot of work but I'm happy with it.

I will soon have to get the shell again for more fit up, specifically, marking it so I'll know where it ties into the roll cage. Keep in mind the passenger compartment will be fully sealed from the outside. That means I need flanges on all sides to bond the cage to the shell. As I've mentioned elsewhere, I'm not going to do any composite work myself because of the dust. Once the shell is marked up, I'll deliver it to a shop where they'll take care of adding flanges for the cage, rear flanges so I can open the entire engine compartment, and perhaps NACA ducts on the rear flares for brakes, air intake, and possible an oil cooler.

Jan 25. As I mention elsewhere I plan to make my own headers... why?, oh, because I thought it would be fun. As a very sobering story, I offer up this tale of woe from a builder of a sportbike-powered car who goes through hell making his own. He had far more patience than I - I would have thrown them across the yard long before they ever got completed. It makes me think I may have severely underestimated just how tough the job will be. Headers from hell

Jan 26. Superbowl, bah!, there's a car to build... well okay, I watched a little. Top picture is the lower dash tube, and yes that's the mock up and yes that is a ruler taped in there to keep the tube straight. Since I don't have a tubing bender I cut notches out of the square tube, bent it so the segments touched, then welded it back together. I decided a dash with curves would look much, much better than square corners, especially since the car itself is all curves anyway. The upper dash tube will attach to the other side of the tunnel and have a similar but larger arc.

The lower picture was my first mock up of the gauge cluster. Since then I decided to extend it on the right side for all the switches, which will be above the shifter. We'll see if I design myself into a corner since I cheated and didn't mock up the dash first.

Jan 19. Finished the seat belt brackets, but it was hard to determine needed strength. Simpson webbing is rated for 5000lbs. That's a scary big number and I doubt these mounts could stand a shock load of four times the weight of the entire car. I used 0.125” steel plate and tried to spread the load, but I suspect even the ones in the main roll hoop probably couldn't withstand 5000lbs. OTOH, 5000lbs per belt is enormous, 20,000lbs for all four belts; there's no way the driver would live through that deceleration. I don't know what deceleration is caused by a “typical” crash, and I'm sure there isn't a “standard” value.

Top picture is the passenger shoulder anchors. They are threaded since the bulkhead will be skinned on both sides and I won't have access to a nut on the bottom. I have the option of using regular bolts, or eye-bolts so the belts can clip in. Seems like plain bolts would be best, since there'd be one less part (no clip) and it won't rattle. The lower picture is the submarine belt anchor. The tube is welded on both the top and back side to strengthen the tube and prevent the lug from tearing out. Of course the entire tube and floor pan will bend upward with enough force... so I may add an additional stiffening rib.

The lower picture shows one extreme of my welding “skill.” That is, if I have real good access to the parts, and have something to rest my hands on, it comes out really nice. On the other hand, if I have poor access, or have to weld left-handed, or upside down, all bets are off. Someone told me that whatever lap times I turn, somebody else will go faster than me in my own car. Why? Because they won't be worrying about every single weld and the consequences of a crack...

Now it's on to the dash layout.

Jan 15. Received the headlight, wiper, and brake switches. Now I can get on with a full size dash mockup. I discuss the electrical system in more detail in Design.

Jan 12. Had a nice visit from another car constructor; it's funny talking to someone who's been through the exact same situations – kind of like being married to identical twins. When one of us says, “you know when you're in this situation, and you do this, and then that happens?”, and the other just smiles and says, “Yup.”

Worked a bit on the seat belt brackets, and some on the dash layout. I'd like to have only the most used gauges in front of me, the tach/speedo, oil pressure, oil temp, water temp, and fuel. Those gauges laid out very nice and symmetrical, and will be entirely visible if placed the right distance behind the steering wheel. That in itself is a balancing act, because the further away the dash is, the more I can put on it and still have an unobstructed view through the spokes of the wheel... but then they might be too far away to read easily. Set them too close and while they'll be easy to read, there'll be less area visible.

The other gauges, voltmeter, and maybe A/F ratio meter, along with most of the switches, will go on the center console, which will angle out slightly toward me. Looks like there will be about 7-8 toggle switches, and an unknown number of LED indicators. Their usefulness is questionable since they'll be invisible in sunlight unless they're really bright. Also haven't decided whether to use carbon for the dash - just because it's trendy doesn't mean it's the right stuff though it does minimize reflections if not glossy.

Jan 7. Beginning to design the instrument panel, on paper at least, making “paper dolls” of the gauges and a list of every switch. I'll work on this during the week, and continue metal fabrication on weekends. The instrument panel will of course be closely tied to the electrical system, which I expect to take a long time... FWIW, Digikey has good prices on toggle switches, and just about anything electronic for that matter. McMaster has everything industrial related and was where I got the toggle switches. Shown is what I want my interior and dash to look like... just kidding... don't bother clicking on it... I didn't want you to gag on your lunch.

Jan 3. Purchased seat belt components for mock up and will use the mounting recommendations from Simpson. Received AN bolts, nuts, and washers from Aircraft Spruce. AN bolts are much, much better quality then typical hardware store stuff (that is used ONLY for lockup,) and fit much tighter. It's amazing how much a bolted connection can rattle using a cheap bolt - then replace it with an AN bolt of the same size... and all the rattling goes away.

Jan 4. Ordered new wheel bearings and caliper piston seals. Fabricated and installed bushings for the seatbelt shoulder mounts; next week will be the lap belt mounts (maybe, there's a lot of work to do there...) Installing all these brackets makes it clear all parts must come off the chassis (again) to access and fully weld everything. Going to hold off as long as possible and just tack everything in place for now, then once every bracket is done, strip the car and fully weld it all at one time.

Jan 1, 2003. A fresh new year! What better time to get up early and take the dog to the beach, which he really loves - Dog Heaven! Watching him play was better than any New Year's Eve party, plus I was back home working on the car before people were even out of bed, judging from the lack of traffic. Fabricated brake and clutch hose mounts down the center tunnel which took all afternoon. Well that's not quite accurate; it's more like it took six hours to mock them up, position them just right, then about half an hour to actually weld them in... The thing with the stylish stainless hose is that with the vibration of the car, it will abraid right through just about anything so rubber lined clamps are a must. Zip ties aren't an acceptable solution since they'd just pin the hose to the powder coated surface, then grind right through the paint.

Even now during initial fit-up things are starting to get in the way of each other. I'll probably have to pull the engine to weld in the rear brake “T” junction.

Dec 31, 2002. My thoughts go out to a good friend who just underwent colon cancer surgery. Reminds us all how petty our “problems” are and what's important in life.

Install front brake lines and mounting brackets. Finally showing a overall top view of the front end instead of the “micro pictures” I keep taking. Not a great angle but you can make out the front brake lines. The routing worked out really nice and came out very symmetrical. Sometimes I'll make some little part, and it comes out... how do I say this... better than I deserve.

I don't know if others do this, but I make cable mounting brackets by welding a #8, 1/2” stainless flat-head screw “head down” to a chassis tube. This gives me a permanent stud on which to put rubber-lined hose clamps. The clamp itself is held with a nylon-lined lock-nut and washer. Seems simple to me since it eliminates one loose part. Since the stud isn't structural and isn't disassembled often, it's unlikely to strip out. Easier and simpler than using a Rivnut. I'm sure someone will now point out a big flaw I haven't thought of.

Which reminds me, it isn't the stuff I've thought of that worries me, but the stuff that I haven't thought of yet...