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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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...
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?
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
work tomorrow, but I made tons of progress the last 12 days.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
20. Added “The Overall Process” to the Design
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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”
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
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...
on to the dash layout.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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...