Kimini 2.2 - Build Diaries
2005, August - September


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Want a job? If you're a professional, listen up!

I work for an aerospace company that's growing quickly - we need people! Since business is so good and we're so busy, we're going to 50-hr work weeks, however, the sooner we get more employees the sooner the work week will return to normal. Our name is General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and we make the world famous Predator UAV. If you are interested, go to the site and check out the job listings. If you see a job you like, send the job code and your resume to me and I will forward it appropriately. What do I get out of this? A normal work week, more time to work on the car, and a finder's fee for finding good people. Best of luck!

30 Sept

Seemed a good time to extend the fender rear edges... not like I'm an expert but here's how I did it. Bend some aluminum to match the curve of the fender. Wax up the part we don't want the composite to stick to. Use Bondo to temporarily glue the aluminum to the outside surface of the fender. Apply composite to inside surface. Since slow-cure epoxy was used I have to wait until tomorrow to remove the aluminum and trim it to fit.

That last shot? That's Dennis of dpcars hot-shoeing it through the turns at Portland Raceway. It's pretty impressive what ordinary cars can do on a track. What amazed me was how the Corvette he was following through the turns wasn't really pulling away... check out the video at his site. Picture courtesy David Birkbeck, daimage.

As this is the last day of September and this diary is big enough, a new one starts tomorrow, click here to go back to the diary sub-menu.

29 Sept

Started in on the rubber cushion strips for the front Dzus fasteners. The 3/16" and 1/4" rubber strip, from McMaster, is Shore 30 softness, just right for cushioning the carbon without being too soft and having it crack; the back pressure also keep the fasteners from coming loose. Before the rubber is glued down it all gets fit up and various combinations of fasteners and mating springs tried until the correct tension is found. The riveting of the spring also registers the composite and chassis so everything lines up. I should have done the same thing with the engine cover, fitting the fasteners, before sending it out. It's not a problem but it means the springs or rubber strips can't be installed until the cover comes back. In the fourth shot the fender needs extending a bit to better cover the gap between fender and door. The door will stay on until that's taken care of then it'll go back to the bodyshop for touch up. In hind site I should have fit up the doors before painting them, but I had no reason to think anything had moved enough for such drastic measures like cutting the door up!

Ordered additional rubber strips since I'm a bit short, plus some really cool stainless, flat socket-head screws for attaching the Lexan. Don't need them right now but I learned my lesson ordering from McMaster before, order one of something small and pay $10 shipping, order 100 of the same thing and pay... $10 shipping.

28 Sept

Things went better today. Decided to finish the ugliness I started yesterday just to get it behind me. Made a couple window frame stiffeners, figuring a simple butt weld won't be reliable. The back of the frame simply needed to be "repointed" but the front needed to be shortened by about 1/8", so be it. Tacked in the frame, closed the door, and bent to suit, then fully welded. Now the door closes without too much fuss. The weatherstripping will need a bit of fiddling but oh well. Couldn't help but temporarily install the door handle and confirm the door latches without being a pain... it does. Oh, and probably the coolest thing I've seen in a long time is how the Mk1 Mini door is opened. The picture is in the bottom row, second from left. See that black cable? That's how the door is opened... very cool! It works like a street-car, the cable is pulled, which releases the door latch. It's just too cool and adds a lot to the retro look. After that the passenger door was fit up. This one went much smoother, only requiring some spacers for the hinges to space the door rearward about 1/8" - no cutting or welding needed. The last shot shows Kimini looking more and more complete.

Quit early today as we're having our first seasonal "Santa Ana." For those not from around here, each year around this time we get hot air blowing from east-to-west, out of the desert (normal winds come off the ocean, from west-to-east). The winds can become very strong though they aren't bad today, but in any case it's hot! It also signals the start of our fire season, once a fire gets going blown by 40+mph winds and <5% humidity, it can get nasty.

27 Sept

We'll start with the good news. I shot a test coat of primer on the radiator exhaust... it looks somehow... what, female? Anyhow, the primer shows I have lots more work to do. So, I figured I'd change jobs and fit up the doors...

First task was to make tapered washers for the goofy Mini door hinges. Why they went to all the trouble to make those threaded holes in the hinges lean at 12 and 6 degrees, then require tapered washers to make bolts fit I'll never know. After making those it was time to install the doors!

Aaaaa, I don't like $@#$%*!! doors! Next car, NO doors! There, that sets today's mood. It was just as much a PITA as before... as kids say, a real biotch, and surprise, ignoring the fit-up problems for a year didn't fix anything. I don't know what happened, but stuff seems to change size when I hand it to someone else. My engine undertray somehow grew 1/4" and had to be cut down... it USED to fit. Now the door, which at least fit the door opening at one point, no longer does. Huh? Did the shell warp? Did the chassis warp during powdercoat baking? I wonder. Anyhow, the situation I've got is the door rubs at the bottom front corner, and the top front corner, and the top rear corner... Downright impossible I say, but that's what I've got. However, one thing this project has taught me is, you can waste lots of time figuring out what happened until you turn blue, but in the end you just have to make what you've got work. Not only did the window frame hit in opposite corners, it was also very bent - inward. When I tried bending it the door made very scary noises, like I was about to kink the window frame. So, since the door has to go back to the paint shop anyway to fill the side mirror holes they forgot, out came the saw. Yup, I cut that little bastard right off, and it felt great. It'll be very slightly shortened to miss the upper door flange, then welded back on.

Oh, and then there's mischief with the weatherstripping. A buddy said it didn't look like "real" Mini weatherstripping to him, though I did get it from Mini Mania. Anyhow it's a bit close to the door, making it hard to get it shut all the way due to over-compression. Trimming it may not be an option because it's of the hollow-bulb type of weatherstrip. And one more treat awaited me, apparently Austin changed their doors many times and it appears my replacement "Mk1" door I bought may be a later version. That's because a portion of the weatherstrip completely misses one section of door. Whatever... at the end of the day it fit "pretty well." The last shot shows it nearly closed without interference, without weatherstripping of course. I note with some humor you can see the "adjustment tool", the big rubber mallet on the floor. I'll deal with the weatherstripping and the other door tomorrow...

26 Sept

Delivered the engine cover to the bodyshop. As he was looking it over, I couldn't help but hear his deep breath and sigh... amen brother, I know how much work it is, that's why I'm dropping it off! I'm hearing more and more bodyshops simply refuse work like this; they make more on insurance repairs, enough that many do only that. Not sure what that implies about overcharging... Anyhow then it was back to work on the nose. Tons of sanding on the radiator exhaust... thing. I think that'll be done tomorrow and then it'll be on to the rest of it. "Done" here means good enough to give to the bodyshop, not paint-ready.

Since the immediate push was the engine cover, now that the bodyshop has it there's no point in giving them the nose too; they aren't going to work on both at the same time. Given that, if I get bored of sanding I may tackle a very unpleasent sub-project, installing the doors.
25 Sept

Finished the engine cover! Almost didn't bother checking the license lamp holder; I mean, of course it'll fit, right? Wrong! Not sure what happened since the mold builder gave me the lamp assembly to use. Oh well, nothing a die grinder can't fix, digging out the sides to make room, then patching the resulting holes from the backside; sorry for the blurry picture. After that the license plate mounting holes were drilled; at least I know THAT fits. Sanded all edges of the cover with a sanding block to get rid of my wavy cuts made with the cut-off wheel, then it was mounted on the same stand I used for the passenger compartment. The paint shop really appreciated having it at work height and it also keeps it safe from damage. In the final shot I made lots of dust with an initial sanding of the radiator exit duct. Filled the low spots with more epoxy/micro and left it to harden overnight.

In other news I finally contacted an owner of a Megabusa, a Hayabusa-powered Super-7. Turns out it's none other then Dennis's (DP Cars) old car. He's going to give me a ride to help answer the question, can a sport-bike engine power a car "adequately." (Insert your idea of what that means.) There are other issues I need to answer too, what's it like to live with, does the sound get annoying, how long does the engine last, what's it like driving something with no flywheel, and how is reverse handled. In related news I hear Kawasaki has a new superbike, 1400cc and around 200hp... hmm...

24 Sept

Push on with the engine cover; looks like it'll head to the bodyshop Monday. Continue trimming, cutting, drilling, and sanding edges smooth. It was fun fitting up the Mk1 Mini tail lamps, yet another step toward looking like a real car. Third shot shows a goof, when the cut-off wheel I use to trim the carbon got away from me. The ensuing gap is filled with carbon from the backside and will be trimmed tomorrow. Bottom row, this was the only way I could keep the darn drill bit from walking; using the dzus fastener itself as a drill guide. The last two shots show the replacement scratch-resistant Lexan sheet. McMaster came through, picking it up and replacing it with no complaint... they get good marks from me for making things right without remark. The new sheet showed up in much better condition and this time they packed it so the large staples wouldn't be a problem again. Used the various Mini glass parts as cutting templates. While I didn't really need to cut up the Lexan now - I should be working on the engine cover and nose - the sheet was so large I didn't have room to store it, so it volunteered to be cut up now. The only mischief was the rear quarter window cutouts, seems the carbon shell, or the original car, wasn't exactly symmetrical. Not a problem, that's what a saw and file are for.

I'm debating how to treat the edges of the rear quarter windows. Leave them as is, or paint a black margin around the edges to look more finished. Not sure about that... the stuff's so expensive I'm not sure I want to risk trying it. I hear there's vinyl sheet made just for the purpose so I might try that instead of risking messing up the paint. Anyone know where to get it?

21 Sept

This site is supported by Lunar Pages. I was just notified they increased monthly bandwidth from 40GB to 100GB, all for the same price - very cool! As my notice at the top says, if you need a great domain provider, they're it and I'm completely happy with them. What this means for you is I can now provide more and longer videos without worrying about exceeding bandwidth limits.

In other news I'm taking time off from work for The Big Push - I'm going to finish the car; getting the nose and engine cover done and out to the body shop. I don't quite know what to say... it's been such a long time building the thing it never really sank in just how close it is to being... done. It's such a strange feeling to realize it's nearly there. While there's still lots of odds and ends to finish up, dare I say... it's nearly complete! I've been working on it for so long, and the goal always seemed so very far away, I quit thinking about ever getting there and was just enjoying the activity... the journey. And now... I don't know, it's an odd mixture of being a little scared, nervous, and excited. What's it going to be like to drive? What will shakedown testing reveal? What are the consequences of all my design decisions? What will it feel like to dive into that first corner? I've been working on it so long, it became a pleasant hobby to work on each Sunday, but now, the thought of that actually... ending... it's a whole new feeling.
19 Sept

I was looking for a safe place to store the painted Mini doors until installation. I was considering several places in the garage but nothing was looking good until my wife asked, "why don't you put them in the house?" Well bless her heart.

McMaster promises to make it right concerning the Lexan, picking up the damaged part and replacing it with a new (hopefully unscratched) sheet.

Looking ahead to protecting the new paint, a buddy pointed out a decal-like film made by 3M. It looks like pretty good stuff so I'll be ordering several square feet for the front end and the forward-facing surfaces of the rear fenders.

I'm a bit surprised about the low interest in the job openings, having received exactly one resume. I guess I expected, oh, several dozen by now. Web stats say there's about 350 unique visitors a day, but I guess people who read this are all over the world, have a job, and don't want to move. I'd think though a few would be college students, maybe even FSAE participants looking for something cutting edge, but who knows. Apparently the job market is pretty good right now. If you don't know what I'm talking about, look above for the notice in yellow.

I'm hearing a few readers are having a hard time viewing this site, saying either it doesn't come up at all or it messes with their browser so badly they have to close and reopen it. Really? How many are having problems? If you're having problems with the pictures, try clicking on older pictures from earlier diaries. I want to find out where it all went wrong, though I have no issues using W2000, XP, and IE or Firefox. If you're having problems please let me know. Darn computers...
18 Sept

A busy day, the focus being the engine cover so I can get it out to the bodyshop as soon as possible. First thing was applying the rubber gaskets that rest between the main shell and engine cover. They cushion and apply back-force to the Dzus fasteners ensuring the cover won't come off at a most inopportune time. Because the gasket was also used as a spacer back when the flanges were built, it came out really nice as seen in the third shot. Marked the window cutouts for trimming later. The fifth shot shows how busy the upper main bulkhead is, with the bulkhead window, roll cage tube, lower and upper steel flanges, and capped by the shell flange.

Bottom row, dealing with the lower engine cover mounts; as suspected it's tipped to the left. Second shot shows what it took to fix it, somewhat medieval but quick and effective. I'll weld a sleeve over them later but it's fixed, lowering the right side 1/2"(!) to level it. Center shot show some unnecessary Dzus holes being plugged, they'll get filled with epoxy/micro after the carbon sets up. Next shot shows the top Dzus fastener holes, all seven of them; perhaps a couple more then necessary but I'm taking no chances about the top lifting up at speed.

Last shot, grrrr. I bought a 4'x4' scratch-resistant Lexan sheet from McMaster for the side windows and it was my first bad experience with them. (The white surface is a self-adhesive film to protect the sheet, little good it did...) While the sheet arrived well packed, they had treated it poorly in their warehouse. Not only did it have long nasty deep scratches, their fine shipping box was fastened with those industrial size staples. Yes you guessed it, the inside surface of the staples dug into the opposite side, so it's completely ruined for my use. At $187 + $57 shipping(!) I'm not pleased, so it's time for an "Angry Guy" letter. I want a replacement... we'll see how that goes. It's a good thing I don't need it right away.

15 Sept

Thanks for the replies everyone, I really appreciate it! It looks like I "misunderstood" the flange on my shell; it's not supposed to be there. If I remove it completely the opening becomes 16.5" top to bottom. Some helpful readers said the opening should be 16.25", which in my case leaves some of the turned-down flange, so the gasket isn't going to work. Even if the flange were completely removed, part of the chassis along the top would be completely exposed. Oh well, so it goes. It means the glass must be affixed to the existing flange with silicon or butyl rubber tape and count on the hold-down clamps for insurance. Not terrible, but it'll look a bit less finished.

I may have forgotten to explain why mounting the glass is such a big deal. Well, since the shell is carbon, and because I plan on driving on-track, it's only a matter of time before I collect a stone in the windshield. The trick is to be able to remove it without damaging the carbon. The usual method people use is to pry, cut, or scrape at the gasket, or use a wire to cut through it. In my case I have to be very careful not to damage the carbon; getting the old gasket out without removing the paint or worse, the composite. That's why I want to use something soft and plyable, not that "space-shuttle quality" super nasty adhesive that's normally used.

The above is a good example what it's like building a car. Even though I only work on it Sunday afternoons, a whole lot of additional hours go into thinking things through before building, cutting, or bending, or screwing up something. The figuring-it-out-beforehand goes a long way in avoiding big mistakes. Not all of them... but most.
14 Sept

I'm thinking about how to install the windshield (windscreen to you fellows across the pond.) I have a stock Mk1 Mini windshield and gasket; the gasket is the type with the locking-bead that installs after the glass is in. Referring to the poor pictures, how much of a flange width do I need around the circumference of the windshield cutout? As it is now, if I lay the glass onto this flange, the glass and flange overlap by about 1/2" all around. What worries me is if I trim the shell back far enough to make room for the glass and gasket, I'll have cut well into, and perhaps past, the flange in the shell. That doesn't seem correct and for obvious reasons I don't want to screw this up; once I open up the cutout larger then the glass I've sealed my fate. A remote possibility is that I'm not supposed to have the flange (I'm not exactly sure the car the molds were taken off of was a Mk1, but since Mk1 doors fit I believe it is.

An alternative is to lay a bead of silicon seal around this flange and lay the glass onto it, then count on the six hold-down clamps to keep it in. The gasket approach has a much better appearance so I'd prefer to go that way, but I'm real nervous about exactly how big the windshield cutout must be to fit Mk1 Mini glass. Anyone know?
13 Sept

I need to rethink the order in which I'm doing things to be more efficient. Instead of installing doors next, I should be doing whatever's necessary to get the next body panel out to the bodyshop. Since the nose isn't done and needs the most work anyway, I should push ahead with the engine cover, get that out to them, and while they're working on that, work on the nose. Since it'll take them several weeks it should work out about about right. So the plan Sunday is to install the rubber padding between the body and engine sections, carefully line the two up, and drill the remaining holes for Dzus fasteners along the roof line. Window cutouts need final trimming, and, what may take the most time, making sure the Dzus fasteners along the rear bottom edge line up. Regular readers may recall I had an inexplicable misalignment of the engine tray (I still haven't figured that one out.) Since the alignment was fixed by cutting a main support tube, alignment of the bottom row of Dzus fasteners is now almost certainly wrong, seen here in an old picture. It's not a big deal, just annoying. Worst case I have to cut off the tube and reposition it; all doable, but the question remains, how did it get misaligned... at this point I'm almost afraid to know.
11 Sept

A long and busy, but rewarding, day; I'll let the pictures do the talking. The main shell was trimmed, a stainless shield added for the exhaust, then installed the shell permanently with rivets and sealant - it isn't coming off. Pretty cool stuff.

9 Sept

The painted passenger compartment made it home without incident. The real challenge will be finishing the car without scratching it; that's almost guaranteed because I'm always bumping into stuff... Anyhow here's a few shots of it before I mess it up! It's not perfect but that's not what I paid for; I wanted "nice" and that's what I got. I noticed some orange peel, but a buddy said I could color sand it out; I'll wait until I have the entire shell done before messing with that. As you can see the doors came back too and they look great. I did forget to have them fill in the door mirror mounting holes but they said they'd take care of it if needed. I am a little surprised how the color turned out though; I'm hoping it's the cloudy skies, but the bright metallic silver I expected sure looks flat and grey. I made sure I gave them the correct paint code, and that they wrote it down correctly, so that's not it. I did spot a VW with the same silver and it looked a bit dull too; I supposed I'll just have to see how it looks in the sun.

The task Sunday will be to mount the shell, seal it to the chassis, and mount up the doors. I expect that'll take all day - the doors were a royal pain the first time I worked with them, especially getting the blasted weatherstriping to seal. I expect more of the same nonsense again because as it was left (when I got sick of dealing with it) the doors were compressing the weatherstriping a bit too much, resulting in them being hard to close and latch. [Next car - no doors!] After that's dealt with it'll be confirming the nose and engine cover align properly with the center section before finishing my share of the bodywork and finally handing them off to the bodyshop. It's getting very close to being drivable, for real.

8 Sept

Guess what's finished.

Yes that's right, the passenger compartment is painted! I'll pick it up tomorrow, driving back very slowly to make make it gets here in one piece. It's a stern reminder that I need to get on with things! Pictures tomorrow.
5 Sept

"Attack of the Blob" is what it looks like after being covering with epoxy/micro. It's great stuff, light and easy to sand (while wearing a mask!) Because of the heat I used "slow" epoxy so it doesn't go off too quickly and since it takes hours to harden I quit early to enjoy the holiday...

About a bike engine in the next project... it's still very much up in the air. I've been researching what it takes to put one in a car and the drivetrain cost can quickly get out of hand. The bike engine + chain-driven center diff + custom axles + custom hubs + CVs + bearings end up being around $7000. For that much I could use a stock Honda K20, transmission, axles, and CVs, ending up with more power and torque plus all the aftermarket support. Perhaps the biggest perk is it's entirely stock end-to-end so it would be very reliable, put it in and forget it. Yes it doesn't have the sequential gearbox, but $7000 is a steep entry fee for one. Of course depending what it goes into there's the issue of a dry-sump. I already know the R1 bike engine does not need it and the Honda... who knows. As you can see I'm all over the place so it's a good thing I'm starting early!

Note: I was just reminded by Pete that my $7000 figure above is way out of line. Well yes... maybe, but for the moment I feel there are a number of hidden costs in using a bike engine in a car, front or mid-engine. Having a chain-driven diff and the various bits to make a complete set up adds up. While I will continue to research a bike-powered setup for next time, if the car ends up being over 1000lbs or so, I think it'll require the torque of an automobile engine.
4 Sept

Sanded down the high spots of the nose exhaust duct then covered it with two layers of fiberglass. A few spots refused to stick to the core, either because of a too-tight radius, or due to low spots, but it's hardly structural. It'll have a layer of epoxy/micro spread over it anyway so I'm not sweating it. The hood opening was then enlarged to the final size... I still haven't decided to use louvers or screen. It's hard to tell but the last shot shows the two layers of fiberglass installed; the stuff gets surprisingly transparent when wet out.

In other news, I'm getting nearer to deciding on a bike engine for the next project. That's kind of funny because I'm also talking to a guy using a BMW V12 for his next project. The thing is... it's just too expensive; maybe not the V12 itself, but for everything else. As much as I'd love to hear the wail of a V12 I'm afraid it's just not going to happen in my lifetime. Anyway, most of my initial reservations about bike engines have been addressed by some very enthusiastic owners. I got the initial "itch" for a bike engine after I'd driven a buddy's shifter kart, and that was all it took for me to lust after a sequential gearbox. I wish I could get a ride in a bike-engined car but they're rare to nonexistent around southern California. The whole car thing here really puzzles me; I'm supposed to live in the "car crazy" capital of the world but that apparently has nothing to do with being a real enthusiast. I think a lot of it is the tight emission laws here, followed closely by high insurance rates. It's almost embarrassing how England has so many kit car manufacturers; why do they succeed there and not here... I'm not sure. Maybe if gas keeps going up SUV owners will realize it doesn't take a 5000lb vehicle to get to work. FWIW, I paid $3.17 a gallon yesterday and there's not much we can do about it. Just for fun I checked the bus schedule; to go 17 miles to work would take three hours, each way. A few coworkers ride their bikes the same distance, taking half the time... So what's that say about our mass transit system?

Also sent off a donation to the American Red Cross. While I wish all the best for the recovery, I have mixed feeling about using federal funds to, as Bush put it, "put everything back the way it was." I hope not, because that means the next hurricane will do the exact same damage. We humans just don't seem to learn our lessons very well... Living below sea level right next to the ocean doesn't seem too bright. Of course the same could be said for us Californians living on earthquake faults... While we won't drown (though there could be a tsunami) the real trouble would be fires. I could easily see half of Los Angles burning to the ground after "the big one."

28 August

It's too hot to do much of anything; I'm sweating as I type this. A local farmer once told me around the first week of September is the hottest and it looks like he's right again. I'm still being productive by working on the book manuscript. Every time I review it I add or rewrite sections; is this what real writers go through? It's pretty much done but I keep adding to it, pictures now, appendices later, including a big spreadsheet that helped immensely. The goal is to have it available after I've had several months to test the car and do some track events, to record thoughts while they're fresh. It'll coincide nicely with the DVD which will be done about the same time; I'll probably offer a package deal of the two. Some may wonder, "why bother buying his book if I can get everything for free on his site?" Hah, I've saved the best for the book, included the step-by-step procedure I used to design the car; where exactly the "magic numbers" came from. If you're considering building a car from scratch, I think you'll find it a great resource. Either way it'll make for entertaining reading as you watch over my shoulder as I figure it all out, warts and all.

Speaking of the DVD, I've been reviewing which music tracks to use. I once saw some "making-of" video of Star Wars, where they showed the raw footage of a scene being filmed. Without music it was amazingly different, dull, boring, and lifeless... music really makes or breaks it. The reason I'm doing this now is I want a ready source of great tracks when the time comes. Since it takes time to contact the artists and work out the details, it's a good idea to get that out of the way now.

My trivial problems aside, seeing hurricane Katrina heading for Louisiana is downright scary; I don't remember seeing a storm that big before. Since New Orleans is below sea-level it could be very, very, bad, with the dikes that are supposed to keep the water out ending up keeping the water in after it's all over. That could last for months unless they open the dikes to let the water flow back to the sea, then rebuild them. Best of luck guys.
26 August

Had lunch with a buddy who's in the early planning stage of his own car project. He's no amateur, having designed and built several cars, including the molds (I got Kimini's body shell from him). As we talked, I realized his plan is very, very, close to what I was thinking about as a future project. We'll continue to refine ideas over the coming months and I'll explain more as things become focused, but I can say it's a two-seater and mid-engine ;) As said before, fear not, I will finish Kimini, then deal with a home remodel before doing anything else. This ensures I'll have a couple years to test, tune, drive, and enjoy Kimini before my eyes begin to wonder and I once again start getting "builder's itch".
25 August

Visited the bodyshop to check progress on the shell. I was surprised - they're actually working on it - huh. After the pleasantries I realized they were asking, in a roundabout way, for more money to work on it a while longer. Technically I could have pulled the Angry-Customer ploy, "Look, you guys agreed to a price and we're sticking to it!" If I hadn't done any bodywork I would have, because I wouldn't have known better... but I knew what they were up against. Because the composite wasn't vacuum bagged, and because I hadn't used a gel-coat, they had no choice but to cover it with a thin layer of filler and smooth it. This takes a lot of time and I knew it; in good conscience I couldn't get upset. I also suspect if I'd stuck to the price, they'd say, "okay, we're done with the bodywork then, time for paint" and there were still obvious spots to clean up. I believed them when they said they'd underestimated the work and weren't making money on it. Could they be lying? Sure, but in this case I don't think so. Since they handle composite work, should they have known what they were getting themselves into? To be fair, the composite work they handle is commercially produced stuff with a good finish... not so in my case...

This teaches me a lesson about using carbon for light weight. If the proper methods aren't used, it's a complete waste of time and money. It also confirms what I suspected months back, that all that work I did was pretty much a waste of time; the bodyshop just covered it up and started over. Knowing this will change how I handle the remaining two body pieces - they'll now either be handed to the shop in a raw condition, or I'll save them some time (and me some money) by covering it with a thin layer of filler... they'd do the same anyhow. I know now I was making things harder then it needed to be; the pros just cover it in filler and smooth it.

The pictures aren't that great because of the sun and shade but you can see it's looking good. What always gets me about these places is the tough working conditions, no air conditioning and 90 deg heat, and no masks; they sounded like smokers but I don't think they were... it's from inhaling all that dust. Not good.

22 August

Good news on the DVD front, I contacted the music artist behind The Cynic Project and we were able to come to an agreement about using his material. I had heard some of his tracks a while back and mentally filed it away as perfect for a car-oriented video. Check them out, or better yet, buy a CD! I'm not giving away which tracks I'm using - it's a surprise for later. A big thanks to Alex Smith who made it all possible.
21 August

Continue with hood mods, finishing the basic shape of the outlet then covering the low spots and corners with epoxy/micro so there aren't voids after the composite is put down. It's pretty thick but since there's lots of micro in it it'll sand down really nice. It's kind of like Bondo that weighs half as much and sands without clogging. Since it takes a long time to set up (I'm using slow epoxy due to the heat) I quit early today. It's just as well; I'm having a slight motivational problem - I think it's related to the car being pretty much finished. Don't worry, it'll get completed, I think my malaise is due to all the big "fun stuff" being done, and I'm (still) messing with composite, my least favorite thing. It's not so much that I hate the stuff, just that working with it in a two-car attached garage is completely inappropriate. The dust is pretty much downright evil for the lungs. Even if I wear a good mask, it still settles all through the garage, only to get stirred up when the door is opened. It can't do either of us any good for our lungs...

Here's an amazing lap of the Nurburgring by Hans Stuck in a BMW factory race car. I'd like to drive that track someday but even if I did it probably wouldn't be in a car like that! Too bad the video quality isn't better.
20 August

I started a new thread on the potential future project, if I ever get the chance. It's located off the Diary sub-menu, at the bottom. It'll be updated less frequent then this Kimini build, but it'll give you some visability into my convoluted mindset as I try to figure out what I'd like to do next. Whether or not I get the chance is a separate issue!
15 August

More nonsense regarding Microsoft Word and my book. Recall my document had become huge and I had broke it into individual chapters? After breaking it up, each was virtually the same size. Yes, that's right, each chapter was the size of the entire manuscript before I broke it up. I couldn't figure out why it was so slow to save, since even as large as the files were, it shouldn't be taking so long... well now I know. I thought the chapters were each 156K in size... hah! They're really 156MB!!! Yes you read that right, 156MB. While I'm thankful for all the suggestions about what's going on, I've triple-checked every setting and all the automatic stuff is turned off. No saving off deleted information, no automatic backups or saves, nothing. 156MB... that's absurd.

As an experiment I opened two windows of Word, highlighting all the text in the 156MB window and pasted it into the second. Guess what, the second identical document is 114KB. There must be a whole herd of elephants hiding in the original document but I can't find where... I transferred over all the chapters so I can get on with things. I've been working on it on and off, and am beginning to add photos now that I know aren't causing the document bloat. So for now it looks like I'm sticking with Word, warts and all.
14 August

Started over on the hood louvers, feeling the suggestions last week both look superior to what I had. While not necessary in a functional sense I feel it is important for styling. Still lots to do; I'll let the pictures do the talking.

13 August

Another paintball event with co-workers; we had a great time. Like previous events, organizing it was like herding cats, some people always sign up but don't show. I have no problem with not showing up, stuff happens, but if they can't go, why leave their name on the list? I'd like to go more often then every two months but as it is we're marginal on head-count; either I deal with it or go on my own as a walk-on. I've never done that, but don't look forward to getting owned by 16-yr olds with 20 ball-per-second electronic guns, their parents financing their $120 a day habit so they can spew paint like it's free... which it is -for them - but not me, hence my old-fashioned non-electric gun.
12 August

Next Monday will be three weeks since I dropped off the shell to the bodyshop. Since they said they'd have it done in three weeks I called to give them the paint code for the metallic silver; also a subtle reminder they're supposed to be working on it. It went as expected as I was left with the distinct feeling they haven't touched it. While far from being a surprise, it always amuses me (in a sad, disappointing, slightly irritating way) how businesses routinely breaks their own promise about when something will be ready; whatever happened to a gentleman's agreement? They're the one who came up with the completion time and they're the experts who know how long stuff takes, but I guess it's business as usual. I think the bodywork industry is the worst though; a buddy was promised "three weeks" but actually got it in three months. It reminds me when, 20 years ago, I had a Datsun Roadster painted... same thing, promised in weeks, delivered in three months. I think they push it to the back of their queue because they make their real money on insurance repairs.

Unfortunately this doesn't help with the completion date does it. If they really take three months, then I finish fitting up the nose and engine cover and deliver those two parts to the bodyshop, that implies it'll be another three months before it's complete... Grrrrr. The idea was, I hand off the bodywork so I'd know progress was being made, not having it sit here in my yard... but apparently it's now sitting in their yard.

This is going to take nagging, which I excel at, starting slow at first, then excalating the visits to check progress. To add incentive, I think I'll show up with the camera and tell them I'm posting weekly pictures of the progress. That'll get them working on it for sure... sure.

In other news, I'm doing casual research into drivetrains for the next project (someday). Alas, just like 10 years ago, finding accurate drivetrain weight is all but impossible. My cleaver idea is to visit ebay and pretend to be a buyer, inquiring what the shipping weight is. This may or may not work since I suspect they round up to make a little extra on shipping. Still, if I ask enough I should get a decent average. Unfortunately the definition of a "drivetrain" is a bit squishy. That is, exactly what consitutes a drivetrain, how many accessaries are being counted? I don't want to get burned like last time, having my wishfully optimistic thoughts of a 300lb Honda Prelude drivetrain crushed under 475lbs of reality when it arrived. I still remember seeing the shipping label that (accurately) stated 500lbs, and thinking, "BS, it's much lighter then that." Now I'm older and wiser. Part of my skewed view of what engines weigh comes from how people always lie about weights; always managing to forget half a dozen accessaries. You can see a good example of this in quoted race car weights when calculating power/weight ratios. They always calculate it using the dry weight of the car and don't include the driver. In some really light cars that's an "error" of 30%, and always in their favor!

Some may wonder, "what difference does it make if you know what a drivetrain weighs, it's the same weight whether you know or not, if you like the engine you'll use it." Not necessarily; knowing the weight beforehand lets me find the CG, more then 60% at the rear isn't acceptable. The weight really does matter since it can make or break an engine candidate, no matter how wonderful.
11 August

Received a couple excellent suggestions from Ian and Stephen regarding the nose louver design, each sending Photoshopped pictures and both looking better then my approach. Dennis at dpcars said the outlet is already pretty much in the best spot and adding anything is unlikely to improve flow. Since it's fine as-is, I'm just styling things at this point and getting input from graphic artists with a much better eye for this stuff is much appreciated. Since the outlet is such a prominent feature of the hood, I'd like to get it "right", whatever that means.
7 August

Started in on the louvers beginning with the outer framework. It's being built similar to the air-box, foam that'll be covered with composite. The white goo is the expanding foam in a can. It served the purpose of taking up gaps and being a fast temporary glue to hold the foam blocks in place until it's shaped and covered. Shaping it is as much a structural thing as it is styling; I hope what I think looks good isn't too offensive to others... or do I care...

While walking Cooper this morning I had second thoughts about using actual louvers as it's more work, weight, and time. The outer frame is necessary regardless because of needing the low pressure, but what the opening gets covered with is still up in the air, subject to my ever-changing whim.

6 August

Mocked up louvers for the radiator exit. It looks okay in person, given it's only wood, but in the pictures it looks lousy. You'll have to take my word for it that it isn't as ugly as it looks, plus the wood side rails would be replaced with composite of a more suitable shape.

First picture shows what I want to cover up. There needs to be a large flap at the front edge to create negative pressure behind it to extract the hot air. I made the front and rear edges follow the front and rear curve of the nose, and the sides follow the creases, apparent in the top view. I made each louver 1/8" shorter then the next to give a cleaner look. The idea, styling-wise, was to create a more finished and aggressive look - not sure that's been accomplished. Functionally it's okay, the louvers serve to stiffen the horizontal portion of the nose, and the additional opening helps relieve any trapped under the nose. I think I have to have faith it'll turn out okay and press on...

5 August

A bit of a long meandering spew...

At the car get-together last week my wife asked me a question about the expensive sportscars, would I ever want to own a Ferrari or Lamborghini? I was a bit surprised by my answer - No (which is the answer I knew she wanted to hear, but that's besides the point.) If I were rich I'd be doing exactly what I'm doing now, building a car from scratch. Oh sure I'd have better tools and a larger shop but I'd still be building a car from the ground up. I had to smile when I realized I really am doing what I love, building something with my hands, a car no less, one unique and exactly how I want. I'm reminded just how fortunate I am to be doing this, and to have a wife who lets me do this silly hobby.

Having said that, and with Kimini not even done yet, I can't help but think about the next project. Don't worry, Kimini will be completed and driven, and besides, that can't get started for several years anyway since there's a home remodel to deal with. Then of course is the issue of where the money would come from. Regardless, since designing a car in my head takes a long time and doesn't cost anything I can start thinking about it now. It will still be a two-seater, mid-engine, but even simpler then Kimini. Simpler means no doors - doors are a bitch. And I'm not a big fan of composite shells; sure it serves a purpose but I don't like the cost, mess, or enormous time-sink they create. No, I want to build something like a mid-engine Super-7. Since I already have the tools and design skills the next design will go much faster and I know what I'd do different to make it much simpler. There are a couple cars out there now I find have many of the points I'm looking for, the Arial Atom and Sylva Mojo.

One thing I learned is horsepower is for top speed and torque is for acceleration. What top speed do you want from an open-frame car with little roll-over protection? I'm interested more in useful, everyday torque, getting away from stop signs and getting out of corners fast rather then top speed. I'd like to use a V6 for even more "umph" then a high-end four-cylinder (brave words from me who hasn't even even driven Kimini hard yet), if, and it's a big if, I can find one light enough. In the case of the Atom they start with an already-expensive four-cylinder Honda drivetrain and add a $3200 supercharger resulting in a very expensive 250hp engine. Yes it's light, cheap it is not, and that's another goal of the next project, to make it affordable. The trick is finding a lightweight V6. First on the list is researching weights of V6 drivetrains such as the VW VR6 and Acura 3.2l. Regardless of engine choice though is getting it through emission testing here in California. No point building something that can't be driven.

Assuming that works out, and after it's proven to be reliable, quick, affordable, and simple, I will sell plans and key parts.

I just recieved word from an auto-recycler saying an entire VW VR6 engine/tranny is around 650lbs; disappointingly heavy but probably realistic. Recall the Honda H22A1 engine/tranny is no lightweight, at 475lbs, and the VW 2.8l is about 1/3 larger displacement... Well that bites, and the Acura probably isn't much different. I believe the VW is iron block and the Acura is aluminum, except it's an even larger engine at 3.2l, so it may be about the same. By the way, one attractive reason to use the Acura is a factory limited slip differential, which saves about $1000 and is one less thing to mess with. Anyway, the plan is to make the new car lighter then Kimini with a goal of around 1100lbs with fluids, so 650lbs just for the drivetrain is already a problem. Might have to stick to a powerful 4-cylinder... but 6-cylinder engines sound so nice! We'll see.
3 August

The two contenders for metallic silver are Volkswagen Reflex Silver, paint code LA7W, and Toyota Silver Sky Metallic, 1D6.