Kimini 2.2 - Build Diaries
2004, January - June


June 30

If I have to put fasteners along the same edge as the hinges,  why have hinges at all?  The rear side windows will hinge open so I can check simple stuff like water and oil.  For anything more serious the cover will come off.  Simple, cheap, and light is hard to argue with.

On another note, I see Car and Driver did a review of the Lotus Elise.  Sure enough, it couldn't do a 12.0 second 1/4 mile like Road and Track claimed... disappointing but expected.  At 13.4 seconds it's certainly not slow, but it's an enormous difference from 12.0 seconds.  So it looks like the estimates I got from drag racing people may be right, they're guessing I'll do mid-12's.  I'd be very happy with that!  And that's with a stock engine... with street tires.  I don't plan to drag race more then maybe once just for curiosity sake, but still....

I should add here that if you're reading this, there's a new diary for the later half of the year, use the "Back" key above to go get it.
June 29

<Sigh>, what's that saying, "Pride comes before the fall"?  I don't think the hinges will work.  This morning I visualized what will happen when the low pressure above the roof sucks the cover upward - the leading edge will open!  This is due to my too-fancy, too-smart-for-my-own-good hinge that moves the cover slightly to the rear as it first opens.  That's the very direction the air is trying to move it, up and to the rear.  Sure the back-lower edge will be fastened down, but the cover is flexible and I can see the front edge lifting as much as an inch... or worse, ripping off entirely.  Not good.

So I have to rethink the whole thing.  I could use it as-is
if I fasten down the leading edge of the cover but that really offends me as an engineer... I shouldn't have to fasten down the same edge that has hinges on it!  I can make a sliding, pivoting hinge and have the engine cover tuck under the lip of the passenger compartment.  That way the cover is effectively trapped under the lip when shut.  Another approach is what I didn't want to consider earlier, a clamshell arrangement.  A sliding pivot type hinge at the rear edge would be relatively simple.  I need to think about it more.
June 28

Once again fixed the dynamic sizing of this page.  Mozilla, while a very cool open source application I use for editing, tends to "forget" settings.  When a thumbnail here doesn't link to anything, it's because I forgot that Mozilla forgets... once I set a picture link, if I move it after that, the link breaks.  Guess I should report it rather then whining...

Found a link to a cool on-line
video of some European "amateur" hill-climbs (I think.)  I put "amateur" in quotes because after you see it... geez, these guys are serious... and have serious money in their machines.  Many have sequential gearboxes at about $15,000.  I'd love to have one of those in the Kimini...  After watching the guy near the end of the video in the formula car... I don't think I could do that - zero margin is what I call it.  Anyway the link is to a place that sells amateur racing videos, pretty good stuff.
June 27

Okay, I've come up with an engine cover hinge design; instead of trying to describe it I posted a short
video demo of a proposed working model on the Video page.  After the fact I realized I should have described things a bit more.  The top edge of the board represents the roof line, and the reason why it can't swing back much further is that the lower edge of  the cover nearest the rear tires has to clear also.  Making a full-size working model is the only way to know if it'll work. The next step is to make a working model in place on the car before making the real ones.  The reason I'm "sneaking up on it" is because I found some of the linkage dimensions are surprisingly critical; if they're off just a bit it really makes an amazing difference... and usually not for the better.  The unknowns right now are, if it'll clear the rear wheels, and more importantly miss the passenger compartment as the cover starts to move forward.  Since the upper portion of the shell slants inward, overlapping them shouldn't be a problem.  It's kind of like stacking Dixie-cups, lifting one slightly higher then the other makes it able to fit over the first.  At least, I hope it works out that way...
June 22

I'm going to hinge the engine cover, making it a hatchback.  The reason is the same as I had with the front nose section, of  the wind blowing it around if it were a separate piece.  Then there's the small nuisance of always having to disconnect the taillight harness when removing the cover.  I'm going to design a pair of compound hinges; these things are great.  As the cover is lifted, in the first inch of travel the hinges "steer" the cover to back away to the rear slightly to clear the front flange, then the cover rises almost parallel to the ground for a couple inches to clear the front roof edge and rear wheels, then finally tips forward.  Gas cylinders will keep it open, but more importantly keep it from opening too far, like when the wind grabs it.  A clamshell design was considered, but as cool as it seems it just didn't work for me.  I need to access all parts of the drivetrain and a top-hinged cover fits that requirement, the clamshell layout puts the cover right in the way.  Plus, top hinges prevent the cover from getting ripped off at 120mph unlike a clamshell design.  Saw that happen once driving behind one of my all-time favorite cars, a Ginetta G12 at Laguna Seca.  His clam-shell engine cover must have gone 30 feet in the air and being right behind him was, um, interesting for a moment, wondering just where it was going to land.
June 20

I'd like to salute a group of incredibly talented people on their quest to be the first privateers to reach space (100km,) tomorrow morning in the California desert.  The unusual vehicle shown here is the mother ship lifting the manned rocket to launch altitude - looking a lot like a Klingon Battle Cruiser.  There are so few cutting-edge adventures left in the world and I think
anyone, especially those of us constructing their own car or airplane, can certainly appreciate what it's like.  I doubt they're going to get much sleep tonight!  Have a safe flight gentlemen.

Okay, I started the day rechecking the tape marking the cut-line with the laser.  Should have bought one a long time ago, what a wonderful tool.  First shot shows how helpful it is at projecting a plane of light onto a curved surface.  Second shot shows the cut line in its final position.  At this point I got cold feet... cutting the panel is a huge step, one not easily backed out of if I screw up.  So I  took off some work time and made some tools I'd been meaning to do years ago.  They're used to form smooth curves in metal, the tool itself is clamped in a vice.  I struggled long enough without them and decided it was time to make a set., finally convinced they're worthwhile.  The trouble was... they didn't take very long to make!  So I was back to staring at the shell, wondering when I'd get the nerve to take a big step of faith.  So finally I did...

Yup, out came the air-powered saw and vacuum.  The pictures below pretty much sum it up, there's no going back now.... I have to get the mold now to put the now separate sections back into alignment while the flanges are layed up.  There'll be an overlapping flange for the two sections for connecting them together and to prevent air leaking in.  A second flange at 90 degrees to the first will seal the shell to the steel flanges fabricated earlier.  The white stuff in the lower-right shots is the foam core between the inner and outer surface of the rear flares.  Note that because of the angled cut of the cover, it can be removed without messing with either the exhaust or (future) brake ducts.  The most important issue was being able to access the lower rear links, no problem.

June 19

Bought a couple tools, the first an air-powered reciprocating saw.
  I never realized how nice these were until I saw one in use; small, maneuverable, and a throttle make it very useful.  The other tool is the Craftsman laser level for setting up the chassis.  I should have bought one a long time ago - infinitely better then using a string.  The level will also be used during the next project, a home remodel, which is going to make building a car look like a piece of cake.  Instead of thousands of choices, how about millions?  Although... I may get a proper workshop out of it... be still my heart.  Anyway that's not going to happen until Kimini 2.2 is done.

If you enjoy reading about my project car, also bookmark
Grabercars.  Steve's building his own awesome car from scratch and he's even selling tee-shirts... hey, that's kind of cool.  I'm seriously considering doing the same; I'd have a logo on the front, and on the back a large X-ray/cut-away of the car with all major components labeled, in addition to the web address of course.  That could be fun.

Regarding paint and colors, a buddy asked the obvious, "why not paint the chassis the same color as the shell?"  Good question, it would certainly accentuate the "all business" look.  It was also pointed out that I don't have to powdercoat the chassis, that I could use an awesome-looking new coating called Rust Bullet.  I've heard "rave reviews" about it so I'll keep it in mind.  The one downside of it is that it comes in only one color, sort of a navy gray.  That's not bad though since it's one of the chassis colors I was seriously considering...
June 16

It's slowly become apparent to me (and apparently obvious to others a long time ago,) that painting the shell should be done after testing the car.  My original thinking was to finish the chassis, do the body work, take it all apart, and send it out for paint.  Then, all the shiny new parts having returned, assemble it exactly once.  The thinking was, I'm putting it together exactly once, and it's done, not to be fiddling with after that.  What was I thinking...

Let's say I do the above, get it finished and painted before driving it.  Then during testing, I find the vents are too small, or too big, or in the wrong place, or that I didn't need them at all.  Or I find the rear wing should have been bigger, or smaller, or... well, you get the idea.  It wouldn't be a good idea to get the car "done," and then find I did it wrong; by then it's a bit late to be changing things around...  not impossible to correct of course, but it adds needless work and expense.

No, I've finally realized that determining the cooling and wing requirements can only be found through testing, before paint - tested on the road and track.  As the internal airflow is figured out, the vents and fin placement will be finalized, holes cut, primer applied.  I'll also be sanding and filling the hundreds of spots that need it, with the chassis of the car providing a convenient "stand" for sanding purposes.  After that's all finished, then the panels will be pulled off for final painting.

So while it'll be primer black during testing, who cares, and it'll be on the road sooner...
June 15

Miscellaneous ramblings:
I've had my head in the previous work for so long I got surprised when it was finished... last weekend's entry shows I was unprepared about what to do next.  Like I've said so many times before, everything is connected to everything else, so before I start cutting holes in the shell I have to give it a lot of thought.  Deciding where to place the engine cover parting line turns out to be fairly easy... because it ends up going where all the cooling vents aren't!  This is where the air has to go:

Air consumed by the engine:  Preferably from a high pressure area, free of dirt or rocks kicked up the front tires or cars ahead, implying it should be up off the road surface.  One place is the right-rear side window, which is going to be Lexan anyway and it's fairly high up.  A clear plastic NACA duct in the window could work.

Air cooling the engine compartment:  Since the bottom of the car will theoretically have low pressure, that's the last place to get air for any reason so that's no good.  The sides seem obvious except I suspect the enormous front fenders are going to make airflow down the side of the car a mess.  Does that matter?  I have no idea.

Air cooling the brakes:  See above.

It was pointed out that the sides of the rear flares are a good place for NACA ducts; since the flares taper outward, the boundary layer is smaller and it'll be at a higher pressure and in fact might lower drag.  This works on the driver's side, but some bone-head (me) put the exhaust on the right side, right about where the NACA duct would naturally go.  Still, ducting would be better then nothing and I could make the inlets fit somewhere.  The only thing is they'd be located differently left to right because of the aforementioned exhaust.  So what...

*  *  *

I've had a crazy idea for a while about how to get air back there, but it's a bit "much" even for me, who claims "I-don't-care-what-other-people-think."  I'm thinking of an inlet at the top edge of the windshield, tapering down and widening toward the back, like the picture at right.  It's in a great high-pressure area, certain to supply all the cool air needed for the engine, both for cooling and consumption.  Heck I could probably pick off brake cooling air from it too and keep the sides clean.  The radiator air outlet in the hood can be split left and right ensuring it doesn't supply heated air straight into the inlet.

The thing is... geez, I just don't know.  It's so darn pretentious... yet it's functional and solves a problem.  It's just that, well, if I had 700hp somehow it wouldn't look so out of place.  And since I'm not going to average >150mph it looks even less at home.  Oh, and in addition to the engine inlet, the picture also shows a good example of fender vents.

Oh what "problems" I have to solve...
June 13

Lots of pictures.  First two shots show the main roll hoop flange being finished... it's about time as I'm ready for something different.  So now what...

Seems like figuring out where to put the engine cover parting line in the shell is next.  Several people said I should make it a hatchback, but I need full access to everything, engine, tranny, axles, uprights, and suspension arms.  Since the drivetrain will have a full undertray I can't just slide under the car to work on things (other then changing the oil) -
a hatchback just isn't going to cut it.  The top center shot shows tape where the parting line might go, the vertical tape line just aft of the flange is a logical place but it means the shell will interfere with the exhaust when lifted off.  Yes the shell could be bent outward to miss it, or I could cut out the shell immediately below the exhaust, or I could angle the parting line and miss it completely like the second tape line shows.  I don't know... I have to think about it.  Somehow having it angled looks more finished and less "garage-like," whatever that means.  If I have a "tilt cover" at the back, the angled approach makes more sense from a geometry point of view.

I also realized removing the whole engine cover frequently to check simple things like water or oil level could be a pain.  The right two shots, top row, show what's visible through the rear side windows.  On the driver's side is the orange oil dipstick and on the other side is the coolant header tank.  This seems to imply I should hinge the side windows aft of the parting line so it's quick and easy to check oil and water...

Okay, on to other undecided issues...  The engine compartment may get very hot because of how sealed up it is.  So where the cooling air is coming in and how it gets out is something to be considered early.  While there are millions of ways to configure and shape exhaust vents, here's two versions that came to mind, two vents above and one along the bottom, above the diffuser.  The lower one is necessary because there'll be air coming up through the undertray where the suspension arms are... which needs a way out.  The diffuser also has a potential second purpose of being a diffuser on it's lower surface, and a "wing" along its upper surface.  If air does get in there above the downward sloped panel, it might add a small amount of downforce as it's forced upward on the way out.

It wasn't until I stood back did I realize it looks like a face with sunglasses... that'll never do.  Dennis over at is going through similar issues, finding the angle of little things makes a big difference in appearance.  So applying my own advice I tipped in the top edge of the vents, increased the radius of the corners on the bottom vent, and sure enough, it makes the "face" look less friendly... scowling actually.  The only thing is, the upper edge doesn't really follow the edge of the rear window which is the natural line for it to parallel.  I'd rather not join them since cutting big holes in the shell will make it much less rigid.  Of course I can add foam core and another ply on the back to strengthen it... <sign> so many choices...  All this stuff is going to take some thought.


1uip\74une 12 Finished bulkhead window frame.  Notice in the first shot high-tech device for applying proper radius to template.  Second shot is of the finished left and right window frame.  Third shot is placing the pieces before tack welding.  Last shot, all tacked; full welding will happen after the chassis is stripped down.  Good to be making progress...
June 11

First shot is the main roll hoop flanges ready for installation.  Before removing the shell to weld them, which is a bit awkward, I decided to do the bulkhead window frame.  Because of the compound angles formed by the roll-cage tubes it would be hard to install the window, never mind getting it sealed.  With the frame, the window will be easy to make and mount without worry.  The window will have a blacked-out border to give a finished appearance.  Center shot is the first cardboard mock-up and, like magic (several hours later,) it's turned into steel in the third shot.

While I was thinking of it I ordered a
3D camera mount for a safer, more versatile and stable camcorder mount.  After my test drives I realized what would have happened if the camcorder mounting screw had backed out.  It would have fallen through my non-existent floor onto the street!  It'll need a dedicated mounting perch so this is a good time to deal with it, not after the chassis is painted.  At $26 it beats the $100 the race shops get, and besides, I know you expect only the best quality video!
June 10

Took a couple days off.  Got tired of messing with Dzus fasteners at the front; I have to decide if I'm going to make a new nose or not, which dictates how the bottom-most fasteners attach.  Reasons for doing a new nose are:  The big hole in the hood may be almost impossible to cleanly and seamlessly fill, forever being visible though the paint.  I want to add fender vents.  The shell is too thin, and as said before, I don't like the shape of the front fenders, especially the back lower part.  Haven't decided what to do yet...I may just use this one, getting the car on the road, then make a second nose...

First shot is of "pip pins," removable pins that lock in place due to small stainless balls at the tip.  Pressing the button at the top of the pin retracts the balls allowing the pin to be removed.  They'll become removable hinges for the front clip - yes it will be a "tilt front" plus the nose can be removed completely in about 15 seconds, the best of both worlds.  I rather not remove the nose if I don't have to because I worry about the wind.  I'm wary of Willow Springs Raceway in the Southern California desert.  It's either 45 deg or 115 degrees, and always really windy.
Since the front shell only weighs about 7lbs it wouldn't take much wind to completely trash it, if it where sitting loose, separate from the car... I'd rather keep it attached to something sturdy.  The second shot shows roughly where the pip-pins will go, below the radiator at each end of the steel tube visible at the very bottom center of the car.  The car looks nasty from the front doesn't it (or ugly, but I like it.)  I can just imagine what some import "racer" is going to think seeing it come up in his mirror, "What the..."

Third shot is one of two curved flanges, shown installed in the fourth shot at the upper corner of the main hoop.  These will be welding on; together with the other flange strips (not shown,) they'll form one long flange along the entire length of the main hoop.  A carbon flange will be bonded to the inside surface of the shell which will overlap the steel flange and they'll be riveted together.  The idea is to fully attach the shell everywhere, then cut it along the path of the roll hoop.  This should absolutely locate the shell so there's no headaches maintaining alignment after it's cut.  Another important function of the flange is to completely seal the passenger compartment from the engine to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning and to minimize noise to some extent.

Fifth shot is another portion of the main flange (I do the hard parts first) where the main electrical harness passes through on the passenger side just behind the door jamb.  The picture reminds me I need to add another hole for the battery cable and maybe a spare.

June 6

Saw a good looking (vintage) Mini in gray and was surprised to learn it's the gray from the new BMW Mini... doh!  Add that one to the list.

First picture... the dang thing isn't even done and already there's a failed part...  the brand new Tilton clutch master cylinder is leaking, if you look close you can see the drips on the floorpan :(.  I'm not sure how much compassion I'll get from Tilton, "Yeah technically it's two years old, but I haven't even driven it, well, except twice..."  I don't know whether to buy a new cylinder or just the rebuild kit.  It's probably the piston seal but I suppose the cylinder itself could be bad.

Second shot, eight of ten Dzus fasteners are in, this is the passenger side.  There isn't one at the bottom yet, turns out there isn't enough room since the fender turns outward almost immediately from the body.  Fortunately I can put a right-angle flange on the inside and have the bottom fastener rear-facing, on the backside of the fenders.

Third and fourth shot, temporarily gluing in the 3/16" soft rubber that the front nose will sit on.  This spaces the nose off the body as it will be "for real" and was the only way to line up the fasteners correctly before drilling.  The soft rubber worked out really well, it's just soft enough that the Dzus fasteners compress it only slightly.  Thanks to Lee for that idea.

Last shot, it was tricky keeping all the fasteners and mating flanges aligned while drilling... I almost got them all right. 
Yup, screwed up, so now I get to learn how to plug a hole in carbon.  No doubt it'll be a skill needed later I fear...

One other thing, I found a really good thread on
wheel alignment ... at least for me.  He made his own alignment tools, much cheaper then buying them outright.

June 5

Eh, Toyota "Phantom Gray Pearl" is off the list, too much blue.  So many choices... saw a good looking PT Cruiser color today, "Graphite Metallic Clear Coat"...

Here's a tip for when you need big sheets of heavy construction paper for a project (for patterns.)  Next time you're at Costco buying toilet paper, notice the 48"x48" heavy paper separating the layers.  They throw it out... "I'll take that, thanks."  Cool.
June 4

It's amazing how hard it is to find the right color.  Just today I saw a Toyota Matrix with a very cool gray with a slight blue tint, "Phantom Gray Pearl."  Though I still feel any non-gray color will look wrong on the car, a very slight blue tint could work well, complementing both the subtle light blue chassis and the blue hoses.  Of course the Nissan Maxima "Smoke" color is good too.  Then there's my original choice, Lexus "Graphite Gray Pearl", and I've been told to check out Acura's "Anthracite metallic."  Since these are all metallics I probably shouldn't do the paint myself... it's something that if I screw it up, it could be really bad.  Pearl paints are also hard to do, and "hard to do" = expensive, which means I should find out ahead of time.  Well, at this point it's just dreaming... this is kind of fun.
June 2

There are two ways to mount Dzus fasteners... and I choose the less popular way.  As shown below I mounted mine from behind for a cleaner look, yet most race cars mount them from the front.  That makes sense from a structural point of view, the bearing surface is higher, plus it's in compression.  Only the rivets are holding mine in.  Oh well, the nose isn't really structural, I'm going to have 10 of them to keep the edge from vibrating, and yes, I'm not blind to looks.  Guess I'm willing to give up the "best" way for a cleaner appearance.  Time will tell how smart that was...
May 31, Memorial Day

Two years to the day after starting this site and I'm constantly surprised at the attention it's received - 89,000 hits and counting.  It's probably actually higher because I suspect a lot of people have the diary bookmarked, which bypasses the hit counter.  Oh sure many other sites get thousands more hits a day, but I still shake my head (in a good way) to see there are people out there who actually like goofy projects like this.  I guess I shouldn't be too surprised though since over the last few years I've found there are others out there, each with their own goofy, strange, and wonderful project car.  I hope this site is adding something to the collective pool of knowledge and craziness!

It's heading into summer here and between the heat and having a day off, it was all to easy to go have some good barbecue chicken mid-day... especially after finished the no-fun stuff just completed yesterday.

Worked on the Dzus mounts.  Left shot shows the base of the windshield with the first two Dzus fasteners in place.  The rivets are aluminum so they're them easy to remove, necessary since they have to come out to get the shell back off again.

 As I was about to close the garage door I realized it's been a while since I took a "big picture" shot.  Many of these pictures are so close up it's hard to tell what's where, and what the whole car looks like overall - here you go.  The poor thing is getting so dirty... I need to do some clean-up.

As time goes by I realize it isn't going to be done this summer, which would be about... now.  Realistically it looks like it'll be near the end of the year.  A big unknown is body shell prep, am I going to do it or have help.  The guys who were to have helped were busy back a few months ago but are probably available now.  I just need to decide what I really need help on.  I think I'll press on with all the stuff I know I can do, and involve them only when it really is necessary, 'cause they're going to cost me!
May 30

Finally finished the driver's side chassis/shell sealing.  These flanges, along with the doors, have been a real bitch and I'm very glad it's done!!!  First shot is doing the ugly deed, suspension moved out of the way, side panel cleco'd in, finalizing the row of rivets between the hinge mounts.  Later there will be stainless rock deflectors mounted to the front of the hinges but that can be done later.  Center shot shows the same area from the other side, this time with the nose on.  For some reason the front of the car reminds me of a 50's or 60's hot-rod pick-up truck, but half size.  The last shot shows where the fuel filler will probably go, where the gasket is.  I'm not sure where the windshield wipers will stick through and whether they'll interfere with the filler.  I dont' have the motor/cable drive yet and truthfully... I'm tempted to not have wipers at all - just use Rain-X...  The windshield cutout looks odd because it hasn't been trimmed out to the full size of the glass.  The cutout in the nose remains, one of many things left to do...

May 28

As I sat at the computer I heard my wife pull into the garage, then I heard a car with a bad exhaust system coming down the street.  I heard it slow down, stop, back up, and stop again.  Knowing the garage door was still open I thought, "Uh oh."  Out I went, and there were a couple of "interesting" fellows in a beat up truck checking out the Mini.  When they saw me they took off, grins on their faces... Great.

You know... they could be really nice guys who simply love cars... you just never can tell.  If they were I'd have expected them to perhaps ask a few questions rather then take off and appear guilty of... probably nothing.  I hope I can just chalk it up to my paranoia.  It's part of my nature to be a bit secretive about the Mini, not being too specific about personal stuff, names, places, and so on.  No point in putting out a sign, "Steal me."  (Of course, I wonder what they'd do with it, unfinished as it is.)  I try to keep the garage door closed to avoid exactly this sort of thing, of some dubious characters casing the garage and deciding to come back "later."  Of course, maybe they just like cars...
May 23

Continue with driver's side bulkhead.  The steel portion is done with only the aluminum pieces remaining.  Getting there...
May 19

I thought I had a good idea of what "big" engines look like... then this...A really big engine!
May 17

Got a good look at a Mini Cooper (old style) and was very surprised to see how poorly the weatherstripping fit, there was at least 12" of daylight coming through!  Granted this was only one example but I admit it made me feel a little better about having such a tough time with the doors.
May 16

Continue sealing the shell to the cage, a long day, a lot completed... it just doesn't look like it.  First shot is "cardboard fun," figuring out the goofy shape needed, which took a long time because I kept changing my mind.  First it was going to be riveted steel, then riveted aluminum, then welded steel.  In hindsight I'd be welding in some of the steel panels instead of riveting... oh well, next time... sure.

Second shot shows how invasive this is.  Everything had to come off this corner to get that aluminum panel on.  It was made years ago but was dusted off and installed to find how much it had to be modified.

Third shot, like magic, and many hours later, it's done.  The steel panel is welded to the roll cage, then riveted to the door flange.  The original aluminum panel is riveted to the same tube, but shorted to bring its mounting point forward.  All this nonsense is because while years ago I knew the door hinges had to go somewhere, I had no idea exactly where, so the car was built with the understanding I'd "deal with it later."  "Later" turns out to be now, and it wasn't much fun.  Doing it again I'd be more careful about exactly where the forward cage upright would go.  As it is, the door hinge mount made it awkward since it passes through the panel.  But, I'm happy it's done, and ready to do the other side.

Fourth shot is the passenger-side foot well.  When the car is put together for real, all panels will have clear RTV applied before riveting, acting as an adhesive, weather sealant, and "rattle suppressor."  Also visible are the rivets through the door flange into the new panel.  Last shot is Cooper checking up on me, asking, "When are we going for a ride Dad?"

May 15

Picked up the mold for the front clip and a very original, very sad and rusty, Mini Cooper hood to use as a pattern to make the mold insert, to remove the big bump on the composite hood.  I haven't decided whether to modify the existing nose or make an all new one.  It's good to have the mold as there's a good chance it'll get crunched at some point.

I worry about hitting a 70mph cone at the autocross... clipping one that snags the rear edge of the front fender flare, quite likely ripping it right off, so I may even trim the fenders to prevent it.  Things happen at open-track events too... one time with my old Datsun 1200 I collected a 1/2" x 3" bolt in my headlight!  I always wondered about the car that dropped it, that they could keep going without such an important bolt was pretty amazing.  Or maybe they didn't... who knows how long it had been sitting on the track.

Read about the Holeshot turbocharged Hayabusa-powered Mini.  3.2sec 0-60, and 11.0sec 1/4 mile.  Dang!  However, I really doubt the drivetrain will live long, as the engine was never made to push 3-5 times the weight, and boosted at that.  That's why I went with a larger though heavier automobile engine - reliability.  I want to drive this thing not keep rebuilding it.  Dead stock it should do mid-12's all day long.  With a little work I'd like to think it could break 12.0sec... who knows.
May 14

The plan was to do the Dzus fasteners today, except they depend on the paneling behind the front tires, which isn't done yet.  Nuts; under the rule Everything-is-connected-to-everything-else, the paneling has to happen first.  It's in an awkward place too, where the roll cage, shell, door hinges, and weatherstripping all conspire to create a situation reminiscent of the darn doors.  It has to be done - the paneling keeps the dust and rocks kicked up by the front tires out of the passenger compartment.  The other side of the car won't take as long, it never does.  It's always like this, I spend a lot of time figuring out how to do it on one side of the car, and the other side becomes a no-brainer since I have an "example" to follow.
May 13

Took off a couple days from work to "decompress" and what better way then to work on the car.  Finished the driver's door... bitch.  It'll be a delight working on simpler stuff from here on out.  The mold owner suggested we lay up a new front clip, one without the huge bump, not sure when that'll happen.  I'm also starting to get an itch to run the engine again...

Found a place selling a Mini similar to mine.  Give
Race Ready Technologies  $25K or so and they'll put a VTEC drive train in the back of your Mini, complete with brakes, wheels, bodywork and paint.  Seemed expensive until I realized I'd charge about the same...  labor isn't cheap.

Did something pretty cool tonight. 
You can find out exactly when the ISS (International Space Station) is visible in your sky by going to Heaven's-above and entering your location.  I went out in the back yard with binoculars and waited.  Sure enough there it was...  unfortunately too small to make out any detail, but pretty neat anyway.
May 9

Driver's side door hinges are nearly done but I have some tweaking and re-welding to do.  That's what happens when you're TIG welding and feel a draft.  You know full well a draft can blow the Argon off the weld, resulting in a weld that looks like a sponge, but you keep welding, hoping you can finish before that happens.  Nope, the draft blew the Argon away and presto, I now get to redo it.  I'm also not real happy with the door fitments, it's not as good as the passenger side.  I'll see what I can do once the hinges are fully welded and I can make some factory-like "adjustments".

Also quite a little early for Mother's day.

A neighbor had a buddy visit who owns a Lotus Esprit Turbo so I finally got a close look at one.  Very nice, but I sure wouldn't want to work on the thing, that engine is buried!  Then again I suppose if you own one you never do your own work anyway.  He claimed a 0-60mph time of 4.0 seconds - that's pretty quick.  But you know, ever since starting the Mini project I have absolutely zero interest in other cars, except for maybe the Lotus Elise, which I can't afford anyway.  No, I'm quite content driving a truck, knowing what's taking shape in the garage, and for a lot less money then many new "sports" cars.

I'll be taking several days off later this week in order to put in a big block of time into the Kimini.
May 8

Downloaded a really cool racing game for the PC.  I'm pretty picky and critical of driving sims, but this one, well, rocks.  It's not released yet but a free demo is out.  It's worth it for the engine sounds alone.  It's called GTR and can be downloaded from
BHMotorsportsLook for "GTR Demo" under Demo Hotlap Competitions.  A warning - this isn't for a weenie PC, it needs some graphics horsepower.  It really helps too if you have a wheel, driving with the keyboard is really tough.  Make sure to set up your controls before starting...  It's just amazing doing donuts on the front straight, complete with tire smoke and skid marks, listening to that engine.  Alright... back to work...
May 5

Heard from a couple readers that I'm being way, way too gentle with the doors.  I guess I've been treating them like they're valuable... which they are.  However, after hearing from some former Austin Motor Company employees(!), it seems it's quite normal to literally bend the doors to make them fit.  Stories of pushing on them like hell, or bending them against 2x2 boards, means I need to adjust my thinking!
May 2

Continue working on driver's side door.  The thermometer says it's 104 deg F outside in the shade... the garage is warmer, ugg.

The support below the door is finished, door hinges fabricated, and work continues on the chassis-mounted hinge supports.  What's a little bothersome is the shell is apparently warped a bit.  That's not surprising in itself, but it's odd the door fits the frame everywhere except at the upper forward corner, where it's very close.  That'll be dealt with, somehow, after the door is attached.

Once the doors are hung, the Dzus fastener mounts will be added down the sides of the fenders, then the front support/pivots installed for the front clip.  After that I'll seal the passenger compartment around the front of the doors and windshield.
April 25

Finished the passenger-side door, the last item being the back-up plate for the door guide and latch.  The picture shows the back-up plate itself, the guide and latch are on the other side of the door flange.  I may add a couple small flanges to it since it's going to take the shock load of the door slamming shut.  Normally I don't bother with lightening holes, but here it helps since the plate is 0.125" steel - and it looks nice, like someone cared enough to go the extra step.  At least that's what I would think if I saw it on someone else's car.

I'm fairly happy with how it all turned out though the door takes a bit of force to latch due to the weatherstrip;  I'm tired of messing with it for now.  Now I have to do it all over again on the driver's side.  Ugg, not fun at all.  I'd say the doors are the most unrewarding part of the entire project.  In fact the doors are the only part that seems like a real "job," where I have to force myself to work on it.  The worse thing is that there's two of them!

I really look forward to painting the chassis.  When the steel was still shiny it felt good working on something "new" but now it seems kind of, well, dirty and old.  Like the picture above shows, a nice "new" part tack-welded to a ancient-looking chassis.

Regarding paint, the chassis color will be a light blue that complements the silicon hoses and AN fittings. It goes well with carbon, bare aluminum, and offsets the shell color which will be either "Lexus Grey" or Mercedes Silver.  I keep going back and forth.  Silver doesn't color match well if something needs repainting (likely,) and it doesn't look nice (to me) alongside bare aluminum paneling.  The dark gray would, but it has it's own issues.  Dark colors show surface flaws easier and it'll make the inside of the car hotter.  We'll see.

Found my camcorder does time-lapse!  This is very cool because it means I can record the entire build of the car, once all the shiny new parts come back from the paint and plating shops.  Weeks of work will be distilled down to a 10-30 minute build-up on the DVD that'll be available after the project is done.  Details of the other DVD features are at the bottom of the
Video Page.  I'm still working out the details but I'm definitely going to produce it, for myself if no one else.  A few people have already reserved one - if you want to be put on the list (no commitment,) drop me a note.
April 20

Door arrived in good shape.  Airborne Express charged $24.... while the shipping place the seller used added an "oversize charge" of $70.  Amazing.
April 18

I <gasp> did family things... I'll be back at it next week.  Gotta go, a walk on the beach, then fire up the charcoal for BBQ steaks...
April 14

Send off payment for the door.  This was a lesson to myself about jumping to conclusions and being too quick to assume guilt.  The seller never tried to cheat me, but it sure looked like it for awhile.  But looking guilty isn't the same as being guilty... my bad.

Ordered new pins, bushings, and reamers to recondition the existing hinges.  In addition a bronze washer will be added to take the vertical loads.  These two things are easy to do and will make
the hinges "install and forget."  Unlike how I usually do things, I bought the right size reamers to make the holes exactly right.  A reamer should be used anywhere a precision hole is needed; unfortunately I never have the right one when I need it, don't have a set because they're expensive, and being impatient, cheat and use a drill.  That costs me forever after in the form of slightly loose pivot points.   Striving to do better this time.

BTW, if you own an old Mini and want to repair the external door hinges, McMaster-Carr has the bushings cheap.  I say this because they offer the same one's sold by Mini Mania for 1/4 the price.
April 12

FedEx says shipping for the door is $42, but apparently
the only FedEx place anywhere near the seller is a mom-and-pop place that severely overcharges.  Geez, a $50 overcharge on a $42 shipping fee is steep!

I've seen plenty of dumb videos on the Web and while most aren't worth the bandwidth, every once in a while a real gem comes along.  This one is of some college kids on a ski trip, pulling a buddy's car out of the snow... it goes from "Yeah so?" to "Oh my God."  I still wonder which one Beavis is.  It's almost 15MB but well worth the download time.  It's on my
Video Page.
April 11

Spent all day working on the passenger-side door hinges.  I expected getting the doors just right was going to be a lot of long, tedious work, and it was.  First shot, hinges tacked in, which took hours to get just right.  Second shot is, in a way, a big step into making the car "real", yes the door actually works!  Third shot shows the door closed as much as it'll go, there's no latch yet and the weatherstrip keeps it open.  I think I'll do the latch before repeating it all on the driver's side.  I'm tired and need a beer!
April 10

A buddy told me about a Mk1 driver-side Mini door on eBay so I checked it out, and bought it... but there is a snag.  The seller says FedEx wants $95 shipping (I bought the door for $86!)  I go to the FedEx website and it says $42.  Hum, I tell seller.  Seller says he talked to FedEx and they say "there's a $50 hidden processing fee."  Uh huh... I call FedEx's 1-800 number and run through the menus... $42.  I go back to their website and read all the fine print... no hidden charges.  Guess we'll find out Monday when I visit FedEx myself.  If they says it's $42, guess I have to get it in writing to send to the seller.  It'll be interesting finding out who's misrepresenting things and hearing the following lame excuse. 
April 4

Continue working on the passenger-side door area.  Finished the hinge halves but they will wait until the door openings are ready, as in, straight and square.  To make that happen we need "shelves" that the shell sits on, below the door openings, holding the shell so the door seal meets the door evenly all the way around the opening.  It also strengthens that area from flexing due to door closures.  First shot is the flange Cleco'd (if that is a word) to the bottom side rail.  Second shot, the flange has been temporarily riveted in place and after much fussing, the lower door flange is now positively located with more Clecos.  Next will be fabricating the hinge mounts, then it'll be on to the other side and do it all over again...

I found a cool one-off car (sort of) from New Zealand that is pretty nuts.  The guy always loved the Ferrari F40 but couldn't afford one so he had one built his way!  While I wonder what the final bill was (as in, could he have just bought a used, real F40,) nonetheless it's very impressive.  Be sure to check out the track videos further down the page.  The flames out the back during shifts are nice, and that 800hp(!) Lexus engine sounds great (yes, Lexus.)
Impressive "F40"
March 30

Picked up steel plate and tubing to continue work on the doors this weekend.  Clamping the door along the bottom like I did in the picture below was bad because it was pushing the door and the shell inward.  So I picked up some aluminum angle to support the shell along the sides of the chassis below the doors, (which was supposed to be there first anyway.)  It's there to hold the shell off the frame so it doesn't deflect inwards when shutting the doors and to also protect the bottom edges of the shell from rocks kicked up by the front tires.  Ordered and received fiberglass and carbon cloth... I'm all set for composite work now.

The seemingly endless list of car parts to buy has finally become very short.  Remaining things to get the car on the road are: Doors (if I replace my rusty ones,) parts to rebuild the doors, powdercoating the chassis, bodywork to the shell (if I don't do it myself,) and finally, painting the shell.  That's about it... finally!
March 28

A lot of work and very little to show for it... lots of mucking about with the hinges.  Some of this extra work is due to my larger diameter tires hitting the front edge of the hinge requiring making my own front hinge half.  It's also because, well, placing hinges is hard.  They have to be within about 0.5mm of "perfect" since any offset will be mechanically amplified toward the back end of the door.

The first shot shows the door where it should sit, clamped to compress the weatherstrip a little.  Like other parts of the car I start with the actual part and design outward from them since they are by default, "non-negotiable."

Making this extra tough is that the hinge should be adjustable.  No matter what, the door will get out of alignment, so how would it adjust if the hinge is welded on?  A bigger concern was when I realized the hinges would make it impossible
to install or remove the shell!  So, trying to solve several problems at once, I decided on the hinge arrangement shown in the second shot.  The stock (white) hinge half is bolted to the door.  The fabricated forward hinge mate will mount as shown (the pivot hole is not drilled yet.)  A square tube welded to the chassis will extend outward, but just short of the shell.  This allows installing the shell, the forward hinge half is slid in, and shims installed if needed between the hinge and the forward surface of the square tube, raising or lowering the back of the door.  I may slot the bolt holes in the square tube to also allow adjusting the front of the door inward and outward to set the amount of weatherstrip compression.

Someone asked, "What do you care if the weatherstrip seals, you aren't going to be driving in the rain."  True, but I don't want to get a lot of dust, wind, fumes, and exhaust noise either.  It's worth a little extra work now to have a quieter, more "civilized" car later.  The goal is to have doors that "just work," that latch when swung closed, don't rattle or rub, and give a quite interior.  Accurately placed sturdy mounts should make that possible.
March 26

Took the day off, changed the oil in the truck, took the dog for a walk and when we came back there was a box waiting!  Woo hoo, hinges!  Spent a lot of time staring at them, wondering how the heck they'd fit... there just isn't any room at the forward end due to the larger tires.  Maybe it isn't the tires since I know some Mk1 Mini's have 13" tires, so maybe it's my different wheel geometry... whatever, something has to change.  So after a lot of looking and thinking I decided to make my own forward half of the hinge.  The good thing is, that half only needs to hold the hinge pin not the bushing.  Working that out took a bunch of time and since it wasn't very rewarding I quite for the day and played the new video game for the PC, Battlefield Vietnam... boy there's a time sink... and a very kick-ass game.

One other tidbit, I hang out a lot on the home-built car site
Locost builders (specifically the mid-engine list.)  Anyway we were discussing composite construction techniques and the Fibre Glast Learning Center was mentioned.  Very, very useful information.     
March 24

Thinking about what I should do this weekend... the door fiasco can't move forward until the hinges arrive so I need a back-up plan.  One item is the gas filler plate, (which means I finally have to choose a spot for it.)  Another item is the instrument cover, which I'll refer to as the "dash" from now on.  So another order went out to Aircraft Spruce to have the material here for when I get bored of other stuff.  I guess this officially marks moving into the "composite end" side of the project, something I never planned on.  It comes from not being able to find knowledgeable people to help me with the composite work - they always seem to be available "in a few months."  Well I'm not sitting around waiting so I'm "heading in" on my own.  The dash should be a good learning project, something not structural so it can't kill me, with lots of curves to work out.  So now I get to play sculptor too, something I look forward to actually.
March 21

The intention was to continue on the front firewall... what happened went something like this.  Start cutting out cardboard mockup for behind front wheelwell.  Realize door hinge mounts will go right where I'm working.  Decide mounts should be done first.  To know where hinge mounts go requires doors...  Take doors down from rafters.  Try to fit up door... doesn't fit due to inside door compartment hitting diagonal door tubes.  Cut off door compartment.  Try to fit up door again... doesn't fit since shell hasn't been trimmed around door frame.  Trim shell.  Fit up door again...still doesn't sit right.  Need weatherstripping... temporarily install weatherstripping.  Door fits better but acts like shell is twisted slightly.  Realize fitting doors is a big deal.  Fiddle with shell... door fits okay.  Realize finding exact mounting point of hinges is going to be a big PITA.  Don't have hinges in hand yet, so do the same work to the other door and door frame.  Find driver's door is very, very, rusty.  So rusty that the lower door channel fell off!  Need to learn door repair. Sigh.
March 20

Today marks the anniversary of Cooper's injury and operation.  This is just a few minutes of him today at the local park playing with a buddy.  Yeah it isn't car related, but many important things in life aren't.  My wife and I are very happy to have him recovered and he seems so glad to be healthy.  I must say I haven't seen too many dogs this happy! Video is of him going to the park,  Cooper's one-year anniversary
March 16

Miscellaneous ramblings...

Due to the unusual design of the Mk1 Mini door, the hinge point must be outside the door surface.  I caught myself trying to reinvent the wheel, or hinge in this case, and decided that was pretty dumb.  The picture shows a (model) Mini with the external door hinges... they're the tear-drops at the leading edge of the door.  To use them will require trimming the front clip a bit to make room, the fenders are so big they intrude into the hinge area, but it's the most efficient solution.  Besides, they do have that cool "retro-look."  I decided against suicide doors because I didn't want to spend time moving the hinges and latch.  No, I just want to get on with it and there's no point in trying to attract more attention...

Another reason for using stock hinges is that a kind reader in Australia (thanks Con!) was nice enough to donate an original Mini Cooper hinge set "to the cause."  Yes, there will be actual, real, Mini Cooper parts on the car!
March 14

Finished the dash, or at least as much as will be done before the chassis is rolled over and final welding performed.  Rolling the chassis over is the only way to get at some of the more difficult weld points.  That'll be done much later after the car is stripped down.

First shot: Drilling the lower dash mounting bracket for rivets, the bracket is hidden on the back side.
Second shot: Welding in the lower mounting strip (on the forward side) is helped tremendously by the Cleckos maintaining bracket alignment.
Third shot: Once the lower mount was welded, it's onto the upper forward edge for drilling.
Fourth shot: Dash fully drilled in finished position.
Fifth shot:  Shows how the panel fills in the area below the windshield once the shell is lowered back into position.  The row of lighted "dots" along the base of the windshield are the unfilled rivet holes.

Still to do in this area is sealing between the ends of the dash out to the A-pillars.  That and fabricating the instrument panel cover.  I received the instructional videos showing how to make "moldless" composites.  Pretty cool... made we wonder if I could have done the *entire* car in carbon...  No, no, get my head out of the clouds... a carbon instrument cover will be quite enough at this time...

March 8

Even though the car will only do 125-135mph due to the small tires, I fear it could be a real handful at the top end due to its cube-like shape.  So I had a good long talk with an aerodynamicist who suggested I baseline the car before putting "solutions" on an unknown quantity.   His point being, maybe aero testing will show a wing helps, or maybe air flow will be so bad at the back it's a waste..., at least I'll know.  So I'm not going to install a wing straight off but will install mounts for one.  While testing is a ways off, I have to think about it now now so I minimize reworking the car after its painted.

Another concern are the huge front fenders, they probably need venting.  (Scientific stuff aside, vents look way cool.)  The picture here (copyright Mike Fuller), gives an example of wheel-well vents, just above the tire at the top of the fender.  (Pretty menacing Lola-B98 isn't it...)  Will vents help?  While I can take measurements before and after... then what?  The "after" case has them installed, so if testing shows they don't work, or worse, degrade performance, then it means I should remove them.  Ugg.  Being lazy I'd like to find some data that's "close enough" and make a judgment call now, then either put them in or not, right from the start.

Anyway, several (cheap) aero tests can be conducted once it's rolling:

- Instrument the suspension (with linear potentiometers) to measure lift and find what the Cp (center of pressure) is doing.  This goes a long way toward setting rear wing requirments, and finding the effectiveness of a wing once installed.

- Install pressure sensors along the top of the car to find what the airflow is doing.  The "data acquisition system" will consist of a bunch of fluid-filled U-shaped tubes with either a video camera pointing at them, or a passenger taking notes.

- Using colored drops of fluid or cloth tufts to find how the air flows.  The fluid drops are good because I can drive, then take pictures myself while the tuft solution means I need a "chase car" taking pictures... "Oh officer, while you have me stopped, could you please take a few snapshots?"
March 7

Worked with some cardboard mockups for the dash and decided to replace the second curved tube with a curved aluminum panel.  Why aluminum... it's a combination of having the material now, knowing how to work it, wanting metal between me and gasoline/fire, and impatience about getting on with things.

Dennis mentioned a cool set of VHS
tapes for those interested in composite work.  While intended for aircraft construction the same techniques apply to building a car.  I ordered the ones on moldless construction, suitable for things I intend to make only one of.  I'll probably do the instrument cover in carbon since it's not having to keep out nastiness.

March 3

Forgot about the fire extinguisher.  Let's see, it can mounted in two places:
1.  Flat on the floor on the passenger side
within easy reach, results in a low CG,  and helps offset my weight a bit.
2.  Mount it high on the a-pillar on the passenger side... you know, out of reach when you might really need it, provides a high CG to hinder performance, and helps obscure the field-of-view.  However, what I gain are comments like,  "Yo, mad skillz, now that's sick. Props!" (with associated hand gestures,) all due to where the silly thing is mounted...

Sorry, it's going on the floor...  Kidding aside, it's little stuff like the
extinguisher I'm wary of, some component I forgot, only to realize it after the frame is powder coated.  I don't want to grind off the nice powder coat, weld in mounts for something, touch it up with spray paint, yet always be able to see the reminder through the slightly mismatched paint where I screwed up...
March 2

My internet buddy Dennis over at
DP Cars asked an obvious question; what's the purpose of the second bent tube - since it's bent it isn't structural, so what's it for.  Dang, getting trout-slapped smarts!  I think it's going to come out... and replaced with either an aluminum or carbon L-shaped piece to connect the base of the windshield to the lower roll cage tube.  Or maybe not L-shaped, maybe a smooth curve... <sigh> yes, time to do some cardboard mockups.

In case you haven't seen it, check out the little super car Dennis is building.  Four wheel drive, 180hp sport-bike engine, 6-speed sequential tranny, and 900lbs or so.  The body plug was recently completed on a CNC gantry mill(!)  What he's building is just flat-out amazing and very humbling.  It's the gray car on the left, above the Mini.
Feb 29

I knew I was in for a big job when I started, building a car with doors, windshield, and roof is a lot more work then building, say, a Lotus Super-7. 
Since at the start there was so much else to think about, the above parts were pushed off, "out of sight, out of mind."  Until now.
Dealing with the dash and forward firewall reminds me what happens when something is built by just diving in... like now.  Having given little thought to such silly things such as dashes and door hinges means it all gets a little "clunky" by the time it's finished.  In hindsight it will have been "obvious" it could have been done easier, more elegantly, simpler, and lighter.  Well I guess that's not much of a surprise while building my first car.  Actually I count myself fortunate that I haven't had more problems like this...
This shot shows the second dash tube.  It's the curved one ahead of the instrument panel and to the rear of the other curved tube, immediately below the windshield cutout.  There will be a horizontal aluminum panel mounted to the two dash tubes, and a vertical panel from the closest one down to the large roll cage tube.  Both panels constitute the forward bulkhead to seal the insides from nastiness.  My whining above comes from carefully fabing and installing a straight dash tube, only to then realize I had fallen for the, "since-I'm-busy-it-must-mean-progress-is-being-made."  Not if things weren't thought out... so several hours of work were wasted, and out it came.  Technically it would have worked, but aesthetically it looked awful.  The car has curves everywhere around the dash and to put in a straight tube surrounded by curves was just wrong.  Since it will literally be right in front of me while driving it would stand out like a sore thumb... so it was removed.  Even at this stage the dash is a little "half-baked;" I'm not sure how the instrument panel cover will mate with the dash.  Since these things sort of design themselves, I'm not too worried... it's always worked out before... which shows that there is indeed a certain amount of faith that comes with build a car from scratch...

While I've been typing this, Cooper has brought in his blanket and pillow and dropped them under the desk to make his bed for the evening, and soon he is dreaming peacefully.  It's coming up on a year since his accident and we are very thankful he's recovered as well as he has.  For long walks I still put on his shoes because occasionally he'll still drag a leg once in a while.  Short walks are no problem however and he loves going out even more then before the accident, as though he remembers what he went through with those long months of paralysis.
Feb 27

"Goodies" are arriving, Dzus fasteners, headlight buckets, front and rear turn signals, and door parts.  Regarding the doors, the front wheel flares are so huge, they pretty much consume all the room on the fenders... which is right where the old Mk I Mini puts (un-Godly expensive) exterior mounted door hinges, so the door mounts may have to change.    Either I have to have cutouts for the original hinges, or fab some interior ones, like on a "normal" car, or... do something really unusual and place the door hinges at the rear of the door creating, yes, suicide doors.  For you kids, that means the doors open "backwards," with the forward edge of the door opening outwards.  That *might* look cool... or not... but would sure make it easier to get in and out through the cage.  I don't know for sure yet, and since dealing with the doors is a ways off I still have time to mull it over.  Fun stuff....
Feb 24

Mucked about with the diary layout to make it a bit more efficient.  It's evolved over time, the two-column layout was wasting space so it's been reduced to one; also fixed the table so it now dynamically sizes like the other diaries.  I'm going to make the large pictures smaller, defaulting to 800 x 600 so they don't take up so much server space.  I also noticed when this site is viewed with Netscape, boy, nothing works!  The layout is whacked and most of the pictures are gone or messed up.  Oh well, I just don't have the time or strength to figure that out and besides, Microsoft has seen to it that Netscape is just about dead anyway... a mixed blessing.

Ordered Dzus fasteners and rubber padding yesterday for the nose mounting, hopefully they'll be here before the weekend.
Feb 22

Continued work on the shell mounts around the windshield.  At lower left is the tube along the base of the windshield, the one that took so long to get just right.  It serves multiple purposes, reinforcing the base of the windshield, the windshield retaining clips bolt to it, the Dzus fastener mounts attach to it, and it's the forward edge of the dash/firewall.  So what's a Dzus fastener?  It's a quarter-turn quick-release fastener, perfect for aircraft and race cars.  It's light, vibration-proof, and will look oh so retro. 

Second from lower left is the first Dzus mounting cup mocked up and ready for welding and the third shot shows it fully tacked. So what's the thing at lower right?  It's a very nice air vent, just like the ones above every seat in airliners.  They can be pointed in any direction, the airflow amount adjusted, then locked in place.  Expensive, but like the gas filler, they're a beautiful piece of machined aluminum, a nice accent to look at.  There will be three, left, right and center on the dash, fed by a blower.  Like the gas filler, Aircraft Spruce has them.

Feb 21

When I write these entries I assume most people just want to know what I did last, not how the pieces work.  It keeps the text to a reasonable length, is efficient, and unfortunately maybe a little lazy.  (I think this comes from a bad experience I had with a professor once who told me to "Get to the point!" while I had asked a question, but I digress.)

Recently someone gave me grief about my use of the word "diffuser," that I showed many pictures of some tubes that, to him, looked meaningless - no where did I explain what a "diffuser" is.  Fair enough... I can at least provide links to an explanation.  An excellent site is
Mulsanne's Corner which goes into amazing detail about current and recent race car design aspects.  He also has a very good technical section explaining various parts of race cars, including, What is a Diffuser?
Feb 20

Started on the forward firewall/bulkhead.  This is an extension of the chassis, between the rollcage proper and shell, doing double duty of supporting the shell and windshield, and seals the passenger compartment from dust, fumes, rain, fuel, etc.  Worked on the tough part first, the bent tube along the base of the windshield.  Six hours later it's done... all for three pieces of tubing... sometimes this stuff seems to take forever... sigh.
Feb 18

I'm getting the same question over and over, "Where did you get that cool gas filler cap?"  Aircraft Spruce  They primarily cater to the aircraft builder, yet many parts are also for race and sports cars.  Since their website is so-so ask for their free catalog - it makes for wonderful "bathroom reading."  The part number for the cap below is 05-28651 - $110 is hard to justify but it's a beautiful centerpiece that draws the eye, at least for me...

Got a ride in a Subaru WRX STi yesterday, very cool.  Tons of grip... no sliding, no squealing tires... nothing, it just goes like crazy and corners like crazy.  Of course having "pencil-eraser-soft" tires help, which I hear last about 10,000 miles... at $200 each.  That's something of a personal bitch to me, about how car makers make a 3200lb car "handle" by putting silly-soft tires on them.  While it's cheaper then making the car lighter, it's putting a Band-aid on the real problem.  Sticky tires are a wonderful invention, and every sports car needs them, but as well as the Viper handles, imagine how much better it would have been if they'd really made an effort to be lighter (and smaller) to begin with.

On the other hand, the Lotus Elise, now *that's* doing things the right way.  Which reminds me, just how did Road and Track
magazine record a 12.0 second 1/4 mile time from an 1800lb (plus gas and driver) Lotus Elise with 200hp?  I don't believe it... but I really want to... since my car has the same power and is 500lbs lighter...

Oh... I'm starting to be drawn toward the color silver.  The tube chassis would then either be light gray or blue.  This is why it was good to start thinking about paint colors way ahead of time, since I normally go through several "I've finally made up my mind" things only to decide later some other color is more "correct."  Best to get this silliness out of the way before I commit to a final color!
Feb 15

My day job has been pretty crazy the last few weeks so I haven't been thinking about the car much. It means when I finally have time, I waste time getting my head back into it.  Mods to the shell are done so it now sits down over the diffuser.  After that... well now what... so many things to do.  Took a shot of the gas filler - pretty isn't it.  Expensive but I've always really liked the nice clean machined appearance of the sport-bike style fillers.  I had to have one!  It'll go at the base of the windshield, probably on the passenger side so any gas spills will drop to the ground rather then down onto the fuelcell and pumps.
Anyway I've decided to start in on the shell mounts, starting with the most difficult part, along the base of the windshield.  Curved in two dimensions it's be tough, but since the passenger compartment must be sealed from the outside, it has to be done.

At a restaurant recently we saw a *very* unusual fellow... to not stare was tough, making sure I wasn't seeing things.  He was so unusual I had to ask who he is.  Pretty amazing what's he's done to himself (not that I'd do the same!)  People at work couldn't understand what I was trying to describe... until I found him on the Web,
Cat-Man.  I wonder what would happen if Cooper were to meet him... maybe try to chase him up a tree?
Feb 8

Finished tacking together the diffuser.  Still have to trim the shell for final fit but it's looking pretty good.  It was tricky to weave the support rods through the suspension tubes so nothing hit during suspension travel.  The lower rear facing tubes will be trimmed after the shell is in place and the size of the end plates determined.  Aluminum panels will be drilled for rivets later... though if it's to be driven again I'm thinking of having the rear tray powdercoated now so I can install the panels.  They are very important to have since they are the primary lateral restraint for the rear suspension.  Seeing the empty half-shaft cup in the picture, on the right side of the tranny, reminds me I need to reassemble those and check out travel limits.
Feb 7

No matter what LED tail-light assemblies I looked at they just didn't look right.  So after going round and round I decided to not outsmart myself, to stay conservative, and ordered stock Mini tail lights.  I can at least use LED replacement "bulbs" which should last forever.  Also ordered headlight assemblies and front turn signals.  All this so I can continue prepping the shell.

The McLaren F1 uses an electric fan to help cool the engine compartment, drawing air from below the car and measurably increasing downforce!  While I may be forced to have a fan, I don't really want the added parts and weight.  If convection doesn't work I can add one to the bottom of the engine tray.  This keeps the CG low, picks up cool air from below the car, and like the F1, would help downforce.  The vents at the rear will either be above the diffuser, and/or consist of a row of holes above (or in) the rear window, below the rear wing.  The advantage with placing it up there is that heat rises, and the low pressure below the wing will help draw the hot air out.  Oh, and being shielded below the wing means rain won't run inside.

After a buddy road raced his RX-7, he mentioned the surprising damage that results from hitting a cone at 100mph.  Yes that brings back some ugly memories...  I suspect it would be very bad for my composite front end so I better add mounts for a "cone bumper" for track events...
Feb 2

Because of the extreme generosity of a reader here, the
Video link is up once again.  No new videos, but if you haven't seen them before, they're back up.
Feb 1

I understand there's some sort of sports event going on... :)  I listened on the radio.

Continued work on the diffuser.  The frame is done though it needs outriggers to support the outer edges.  
Trimmed the shell to match the diffuser outlet.  Sure enough, the shell became a bit more flexible when the cutout was made, and I haven't made the cooling cutouts yet.  It isn't a big deal since it'll have multiple mounting points, and because it isn't structural.  So will the diffuser work?  I think so.  Reading further in the McLaren book, they made a big effort to make the center of pressure (Cp) stay put.  Since I don't have a wind tunnel there's not going to be much research there.  I might be able to do some road tests later as far as downforce goes, but for keeping the Cp where I want... we'll see.
Jan 31

Have the basic frame of the diffuser tacked together, first shot showing where it sits, just to the rear of the lower rear lateral links.  Second shot gives an idea of the angle (17 deg.)  After mocking it up I realized I can add end plates to increase downforce, I hope.  The tubes are extra long at this point since only when the shell is lowered back down will I know where to cut them.  Support for the diffuser will come from rods off the V-shaped structural tube that the suspension links attach to.  The shell will be cut so the diffuser just extends past the shell. It also appears to be convenient mounting points for the shell.  Like much of the car the diffuser won't get aluminum paneling installed until it's painted.      In the McLaren F1 book, Murray said at one time they considered having the whole back end of the car one big mesh panel to get the engine heat out.  I have the same problem, how to get the heat out.  The current idea is to have louvers on the panel below the engine; upward and rearward facing so the bottom of the car is still truly flat.  This gets air in, but how does it get out...  I'm thinking of either extending the cutout for the diffuser higher, or separate cutout(s) above.  The upper portion will be covered with mesh for several reasons, it gives a more finished appearance, gives some safety and security, and finally keeps the back of the shell from getting too "floppy" once the cutouts are made.

Might have to find someone else to work on the composite.  While I'd prefer the guys I know to do it, they're both tied up in selling and buying homes right now which apparently will consume months.  In the meantime I'll keep working on other things, but at some point I'll need assistance with the shell.
Jan 27

Picked up steel tubing for the undertray, and lock bands for the CV joints (to reassemble the axles.)  Found a pretty cool (free) road racing simulation package.  Not a game, but a very detailed simulation of what a car will do on a given race track.  Nice to see it includes Laguna Seca... so I've been inputting data for the Kimini, just to see what it comes up with...  It needs to know *everything* about your car, so if you don't have all the numbers, forget it. Bosch's "LapSim" software can be found at their site, Bosch LapSim
Jan 26

Just started reading "Driving Ambition, The Official Inside Story of the McLaren F1", by Doug Nye, Ron Dennis, and Gordon Murray.  Murray has been on my Engineer Hero list for a while, and this book follows his team as they designed this engineering masterpiece.  I hope I get the honor to meet him someday; it's an amazing car and he's an amazing engineer.  Very humbling.
Jan 25

I've been very distracted by work recently.  I didn't have to be there in person this weekend but I was in spirit.  I'm working on a problem that is surprisingly similar to what's going on with the Mars Rover (hw/sw issue.)  Not on that scale of course, but still very tricky to figure out, and because of that I can't get my head into the car today.  So... I decided to do something "light" and design the rear underbody channel (other names are diffuser/bottom tray/venturi.)  This is the upturned rear bottom panel behind the rear suspension.  It's purpose, in conjunction with the rear wing later, is to eliminate or at least minimize lift at speed.  With only an 80" (203cm) wheelbase I'm concerned taking sweepers at 125mph could be "interesting" if the rear end gets light.  With the Mini's cube-like shape it's a fair bet this''' be an issue.

Since I don't have aerodynamic design software I'm taking the low-tech approach by rereading Katz's book "Race Car Aerodynamics: Designing for Speed."  Something between 4-14deg works well, with the lower value minimizing drag and the upper value maximizing downforce.  Since the car is gear limited for top speed I can afford a bit of drag to make it more stable.  Besides, what good is low drag at high speed if it's so unstable I'm afraid to drive it at those speeds?!  After the tunnel is figured out I'll cut the shell to match.  Should make an interesting view from behind.

I have to share something with you that is really, really funny.  The BBC TV show, "The Office," is really good, and they have their own website.  They even have some scenes for download... here, a coworker gets an "interesting" phone call.  Make sure you have your sound turned up (needs Real Player):
Scene from: The Office
Jan 21

Received the new axles.  I highly recommend Summers Brothers in Ontario, California, (909) 986-2041.  While there are other places that "specialize" in the import market, keep in mind an axle is an axle.  If you can tell Summers Brothers what you want they can make just about anything.  They also have the advantage of serving the street-rod, custom car, and off-road market, so they are very familiar with doing custom work, and because of their volume have very good prices.  I highly recommend them.

Something I forgot to say about the motherboard, beware of buying returned stuff from Frys... apparently they don't closely check what is being returned.  While the new motherboard is working fine, it was missing the IDE, SATA, and floppy cables.  Yeah I had ones left over from the old motherboard, but they still should have been included.  Whoever returned it the first time "forgot" to include them... so be careful.  I knew I was taking a risk but it was the only one they had, with  the ominous "Good as New" sticker on it.  Uh huh.
Jan 20

New motherboard installation went without a hitch... it "just worked."  Huh.  FWIW the dead motherboard was a six-month old MSI 875P-Neo R.  The replacement is a Gigabyte GA-8IK1100, basically their 8KNXP without the RAID stuff, which saved a bunch of money.  I've had good luck with Gigabyte boards so I'm hoping for more of the same.  I'll probably send in the MSI board for warrantee repair, then sell it on Ebay.  (I didn't want to be without a computer for months.)

 Anyway, here's the shot of the exhaust.
Jan 19

Tomorrow: new motherboard. 
Jan 18

The exhaust now properly exits the side of the car.  The exit hole took a while to place just right, working slow to not screw it up.  Unfortunately once it was finally right it was disappointing to see the muffler stuck out too far.  Not by much, but enough to be irritating... I should have waited until I had the shell before calculating the exhaust length.  So it was shortened by removing a section between the flex joint and the muffler.  Anyways it's in place now and looking good.  All it needs is a stainless trim ring around the exit, using six Allen-head flat-head screws, to give it a finished look, and to protect the carbon from the hot muffler.

Received a very few orders for my possible DVD project.  Someone suggested that, when I get all the parts back from the paint and plating shop, I should do a time-lapse film of it being assembled.  That would be cool.  Of course with only a few videos being ordered I don't feel very compelled to do so.  While I thought I was objective enough to understand there's a big difference in offering videos for free, versus asking money for them, I did expect better interest.  If even 0.1% of web visitors thought "Cool, heck I'll order one," I'd have more orders then I do now.   Oh well, guess this is another lesson in human nature.

Looks like I still have a USB issue.  While the PC works, I don't seem to have any USB connectivity... so no pictures until I figure it out...


Nuts, looks like the PC problem is still present, all my USB and firewire ports are dead.  Since I didn't change any BIOS settings, I suspect a chip on the motherboard failed.  So if these pages aren't updated for a bit, don't worry, I'll still be working on the car, but the PC may need a new motherboard.
Jan 13

I've stopped offering video downloads... apparently you guys have been downloading them... a *lot*.  The only way to continue offering them was to pay a substantial monthly fee for the very high bandwidth. 
The thing is, at this point in my project all funds are going straight to the car so the videos will have to wait.  Then, I started thinking about it, what if I offer a DVD when the project is done?  What if I create a full-length presentation of the entire project including:
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Initial prototype assembly with pictures and commentary
  • Final assembly
  • All videos
  • Conclusion

I already know what the last video would be, it's been the ultimate goal of the car from the start, running at Laguna Seca.  The DVD is just an idea at this point.  I don't know what DVDs cost to make but if you are interested drop me a note and I'll make a list and see if it's worth doing.  Let me know.

Jan 12

Haven't updated the site because of computer problems. 
XP got to the "Starting Windows" screen then all went black and it hung forever.  Turns out it was the USB joystick (which has been connected for months.)  Unplug it, it boots fine, plug it back in, it hangs, repeat five times... same thing - very odd.  How a USB device can hang the computer during boot is beyond me, and it's a little embarrassing how much time I wasted tracking it down. Playing too much Battlefield 1942 I guess.  Anyway I'm back up for now...

On a related matter.  I use a separate web host for my video page due to the high bandwidth, but their site is down for now.

Let's see... axles ordered.  Adjusted and trimmed the shell a bit more, it's pretty much positioned where it's going to stay for good.  There'll be a bit more trimming, but that's about it.  Unfortunately the composite guys who are to help me out are both selling their old homes and buying new ones(!) so they're out of the loop for a bit.  Not a problem as there's an endless list of other things to do.

Between that and doing family stuff (yes I have one believe it or not,) that's about it for this week.
Jan 3

Shown are the "before" and "after" axles, comparing stock Honda parts with the modified custom pieces, which are really short, at roughly 12".  The gap in the second axle is how much longer that one needs to be.  Like the Honda axles, they differ in length by 0.40".  I can't figure out why Honda would have axles differing by only that much.  Seems like they could have shifted the drivetrain 0.2" to the right and use two identical axles.  If I had been smarter I would have moved the drivetrain slightly to the right during the design phase to fix this very issue.  I could still do it, but it's too much work at this point, time to move on and get this thing on the road.

One thing that's bugging me is that during design I offset the upright and axle centerline slightly.  That was to make sure the axle bearings don't wear a groove in the mating surface; with them offset slightly the bearing path is wider.  But now... since I shortened the axles even more, that small offset looks a lot bigger.  I can "undo" some of it by adjusting the rod ends, but not completely.  Guess I'll find out later if that's going to be a big deal...  Axle windup can be trouble depending how much offset there is and the torque level.

Now that the rear suspension fiasco was solved, I put the shell down over the chassis and confirmed the rear wheel clearance is now correct.  Funny how fixing something suddenly makes all sorts of things suddenly fit better!  So having paid for my design sins, I'm back to where I was two weeks ago.  Alas, I guess that's the nature of building a first prototype... live and learn.

Next will be very carefully fitting the shell, making sure it's level and square before rigidly fixing it in position.  Not to the chassis yet, but with respect to it.  Then I can start fabing mounting plates.  Of course somewhere in there I need help from my composite department buddies...  So many things accomplished yet so much left to finish.
Jan 2, 2004.

Figured out how long the left-side axle should be.  First measurement showed it should be 0.60" shorter... but the more I moved it through its range of motion the more it looked like it should be even shorter.  So, eating my pride (and money spent) I cut the axle in two, a feat in itself since they're hardened, and removed 0.60" from the middle and mocked it up again.  Just as I suspected, it showed the axle had to be even shorter in order to not bind on the side of the plunge bearing cup. 
The cup is a nasty combination of all sorts of angles, and I couldn't see how to figure it out otherwise (other then using CAD, and even then I'd *still* want to physically mock it up just to be sure.)  So I shortened it by another 0.40"... still not enough... so shorted it *another* 0.40 inches.  Opps... a bit too much this time, but not a problem since it's just a mock up.  Okay, so add back 0.20" to be just right.