Kimini 2.2 - Build Diaries
2005, October -


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30 Nov

Just back from the funeral. A coworker passed on advice his father had told him, "Go to as many weddings as you can when you're young, because you will be going to many funerals when you're older." Wise words. This was my third, and probably not the last.

This is the last entry in this diary; I'll start a new one with the next entry.
29 Nov

Ordered rubber sheet which will be glued into the wheelwells to prevent rocks from cracking the composite and/or making a racket. Enough was ordered to also make curtain-like partitions to keep dust and stones from bouncing around in the engine compartment. As said earlier, having some sort of protection is even more important at the front of the car. Especially suspectable is the fuel cell, where getting a small stone down in between the steel container and rubber bladder is asking for trouble.
28 Nov

When I get myself into a corner, suspecting I'm doing things the hard way, I ask around to see how others do things. It's frustrating to be too close to a problem and be blind to the simple solution. Annoyed with my attempts at mounting the front grill and radiator exit screen, I mentioned the issue to my coworker Alan, who worked on the Nissan factory GTP race car. His suggestion for attaching the front grill, short of using Dzus fasteners as they did on the GTP car was, "You want it to flex some, like when you hit cones, and since it doesn't need to be easily removable, why not just use silicon adhesive?" Why indeed... I may mount the radiator exit screen the same way... Sometimes I feel like such a dope... everyone else sees the simpler, lighter, cheaper solution, except me.
27 Nov

I was going to post pictures of the Click Studs I was all excited about, until I snapped off several by applying a slight side load. I think it's my fault for not roughening the carbon enough, the evidence being the adhesive came away with the studs without taking any carbon with it. Nonetheless I get bugged when things don't go right. Wasted money, wasted parts, and the worst, wasted time.

As far as real accomplishments go, the door latches are now permanently installed. Also fixed the headlights, I simply hadn't run +12V to the front bulkhead connector for the headlights since it wasn't needed at the time.... Welded on brackets to the front grill, which are mounted with more of those click studs. I had some larger ones and none of those broke so I'll replace the small ones with those. As far as using them to mount the upper radiator exit grill, it's not looking good. The studs catch on all sorts of stuff when removing and installing the nose (which is how I managed to break two.) Right now I'm not sure how to mount it. One way is to bond it in, though I'd like it removable... just because. Whatever method is used it needs to be very low profile.
26 Nov

I want to thank everyone for the support. Several suggested if we had a hospice involved things would have been better. Though I don't know all the details, apparently the hospice worked together with the nursing home. And I should add initially the kids were taking care of her, but the level of care became such that they needed outside help.

Okay, off the heavy stuff and back to the car. Ordered paint protection film from StickerCity. Between rocks at the track and cones at the autocross, I'd like to protect the paint as best as I can. I ordered various lengths of 6", 12", and 18" sheet, to cover the front face of the car, where the majority of the strikes are expected, and the sides of the rear flares. Hopefully this'll give the paint a fighting chance. They also make a thicker film to protect headlights. After collecting a 1/2" diameter, 2" long bolt in my headlight last time at the track, I feel it's worth $13 per side to protect them.

Received some "click studs" from Aircraft Spruce - these things are cool! I got enough to attach the front grill and radiator exhaust grill.
25 Nov

Just got back from the hospital. From time to time I include life-lessons in these diaries, and today are more.

A close relative was diagnosed with liver cancer four weeks ago and checked into a nursing home. Typically the patient fills out a form describing how care should be administered once they can no longer specify treatment. Unfortunately by the time she was checked in she was unable to fill out the forms, so another relative took care of it, with a legal witness present. The patient made clear she did not want an operation, resuscitation, or being tube-fed (thanks no doubt to the Shiavo fiasco.) Unfortunately this caused infighting because not all the kids were aware of the relative's desires. Once the person became more sick and couldn't eat, another relative suggested tube-feeding. When the nursing home said they couldn't because of the agreement, the (grown) children got upset because some felt the sibling who'd help fill out the paperwork must surely have biased the answers since they knew the patient would never decide that (even though she had.) So, Lesson #1 is, get this stuff out in the open early, at a family meeting, with the patient, while they can voice and defend their decisions.

Lesson #2: If you know someone very sick, and one day it is announced they are going on morphine, make Sure you have said *everything* you want to say to them *before* they start the treatment. Yes they're still there and still alive, but they aren't really. They're in such a drug-induced haze to kill the pain they are oblivious to everyone and everything in the room... their eyes, when open, do not track movement, and they cannot talk. So say what you want to say, now.

Lesson #3: I'd never been to a nursing home before - they are just like in the movies, very, very, sad places. It was hard not to feel these people had been abandoned by their children, the modern equivalent of being put on an iceberg and pushed out to sea. Yet on the other hand they have 24-hr care and are surrounded by people their own age. Seeing volunteers there, doing whatever needed, sometimes as simple as being there to listen, made me feel ashamed about the thousands of hours I spend on my selfish car project. Walking by rooms, it was hard not to look in. The toughest case was a nice elderly lady, who, when she made eye-contact with me, virtually lit up and said "Hello." She was just dying for company - where was her family, when would they visit, did they ever? And I kept walking, feeling very small, with my own selfish thoughts. When we made our way to our relative's room, seeing a once-strong woman sunk down in the bed, with labored breathing, I realized who I saw - me, you, all of us. Someday, if we don't drive off a cliff, we too shall slowly waste away in an anonymous room, in an anonymous facility, maybe with family visits, and often without. Lesson #3 is, beware when you visit a nursing home, you take with you many hidden emotions and insecurities, and it can be very hard to face them.

Lesson #4: Dying isn't so terrible. Between liver cancer, a lung infection, and the decision she'd had enough, it was amazing, scary, and almost awe-inspiring how fast disease eats up a person. Not one week ago she were pain-free, talking fine, and eating, but once the pain started, and the morphine, it all but killed her as a human being. This morning, watching her labored breathing slow and stop, with her heart stopping a couple minutes later at 9:29am, only then did she look peaceful, like she was simply sleeping. No thrashing about, no terrible screams, no turning blue, just, at peace. In a small way I envy her, to be able to leave here, having said your peace, with no prolonged painful illness, that's not so bad.

Think about what you have to be thankful for this year.
22 Nov

The site saw 663 unique visitors today, a new record, and >50,000 hits (though hits don't mean anything.) I'm happy this site is useful, or at least entertaining! The best part were two recent messages that made me realize it has really happened. What's that? That after reading through this site, a couple readers decided to go ahead and build their own car too. That was the whole purpose of this site from the beginning, to prove (well... we'll soon see) that just about anyone who knows which end of a wrench to hold can build a car from scratch.

On the insurance front, I've picked an insurer and have sent in the paperwork. I'm going to insure the car as a kitcar, which, well, is what it really is. They categorize kit cars as "an assemblage of different parts from different makes of cars." Guess that's me. The good thing about calling it a kit car is that the rollbar question goes away. It's an agreed-value policy too which is what I wanted, though limited to 2500 miles a year. I'll post the name of the insurer after they approve me, or whine and complain if they don't...
20 Nov

Backed the car out for some insurance photos, or at least tried to. It wouldn't start, and after cranking it for a while, decided to see what the fuel pressure was. Ah, 5psi, that would do it. Apparently what little gas was in the cell had evaporated (to where?) to the point the pickups were dry. That fixed, it started right up! Anyhow, here it is more or less complete, with lots of odds and ends to finish. After the photos I removed the nose and wired up the lights. The parking lights work, but not the headlights, which will take some head scratching... I remember I could hear the headlight relay when turning on the lights, but I don't hear it now, just another thing to fuss with. The last picture? Someone asked I take a picture to give a better idea of the size of the car. The goofy guy there is me; I'm 6-foot, it's a very small car! Kind of looks like one of those rides in the front of stores... I expect it to be a kid magnet.

19 Nov

A number of readers have suggested Haggarty Insurance, one of the largest, specializing in classics and hotrods. Since I'm responding with similar replies, here's a recent one:

Haggerty was my first choice until someone pointed out their limitations. They explicitly state they do not allow driving to work, or doing anything "that an ordinary car could have been used for instead." So yes, perhaps my comment about stopping to eat is a stretch, but it certainly makes me wonder where they draw the line. If stopping to eat is okay, can I stop at the grocery store? In other words, how long can the car be left unattended before they stop coverage?

Here's a practical example, say I take a "pleasure drive" (their term) which they allow. I drive several hundred miles to spectate at a car show (but don't show the car.) Is the car insured for the drive there, I think so. Since many car shows are both Saturday and Sunday, I get a hotel room for Saturday night. Is the car covered sitting in the parking lot? Technically I used their "pleasure drive" allowance to get there, but now what? Since the car isn't in the show, I could have used a regular car to get there. If they use their same logic of why you can't drive to work (could have used a normal car, car sits unattended for hours), this seems like a similar situation, so it probably is not covered. Yet many car shows run over the weekend so what do people do? Guess I need to ask Haggerty. My point is, what they cover and what they don't could potentially be interpreted for whatever outcome they want. If the car vanishes overnight, and I put in a claim, I can see how it would be very easy for them to say it was not covered, since doing so would save them a lot of money, and they can hide behind the vague rules. Of course 999/1000 nothing happens, but it's that last case, when you really need them... will they be there?

What if I drove these same miles but put the car in the show, but overnight had to park it at the motel, is it covered then? Might be, and might not, I'm just not willing to roll their loaded dice. I know lots of people insure with them, but I bet the majority are using their cars in situations where they aren't covered and don't realize it. As long as nothing happens, no problem...

I haven't yet selected an insurer, but given a choice I'd rather not pay for coverage I have to question and can't count on. The latest research seems to show it would be easier to ensure as a kitcar (go figure.) Only then do they stop asking about the roll-bar/roll-cage issue, which seems to be the kiss of death for coverage. The thing is, I don't technically have a discrete component called a roll bar; I have a space frame, a tube chassis. I cannot remove any part of the chassis without structurally weakening the car. This isn't true in the case of an aftermarket add-on roll bar. Oh and I was reminded recently what those big heavy hoops are in the bed of trucks. You know the ones, they look just like roll-bars, but they aren't! They're called "light bars." Uh huh. Even manufacturers have to play the game. I can almost hear the agent, "oh so it's a light bar, then that's okay."
17 Nov

The search for insurance goes on. One place said they'd insure the car if I provide proof of what cars like mine sell for. Now where do I find that information? I offered I might find such info, in England, which they didn't really want to hear. They think there must be someplace in the U.S. making cars "just like" mine... Uh huh, I'll call them right away. So at the moment I'm not sure what to do, how do I come up with a typical selling price for a car "just like mine"? The closest thing I can think of is Z-car's Hayabusa-based Mini, but that's in England, isn't a car engine, and has a steel shell. used to offer a conversion similar to mine but no longer does (no surprise there.) So what is my car worth? I have absolutely no idea... it's worth whatever people will pay. The insurance company said I could get it appraised... now wouldn't that be interesting to watch. I wonder what the poor guy would come up with for a value. My concern is he could claim (without needing proof) it's only worth, oh, $4000. If he reports that to the agent I'd be screwed since it's unlikely I'd be able to disprove his "expert" opinion.

Unfortunately what I want doesn't seem to be available. If all I want is liability, insurance companies are easily able to provide that. The problem is I also want an agreed-upon value in case it's a total lose - stolen or burns to the ground. If it ever got stolen I would be very, very depressed. I want a check if that happens... receiving zero compensation for the car I spent 10 years building would be a very hard hit. The received compensation would at least help dull the pain and cover material costs, never mind the 3000 hours (no kidding) for labor. So I really do want it to be worth something, but unfortunately that means I have to sign up for comprehensive coverage, which suddenly makes everything more expensive. Then they'd think if I get a dent in it I'd take it to a repair shop. No, I would fix it, but they can't deal with a self-sufficient owner and it doesn't matter what I tell them anyway... once again, I just don't fit in their form with the checkboxes... This stuff isn't impossible, it's just really annoying...

Oh and as an entertaining side story, I got in a discussion with a buddy about how insurance companies pick and chose their business. The issue was my roll bar, deemed a high risk because I'd "likely drive in a more agressive manner then if I didn't have one." I countered if we get rid of seatbelts, that would make people slow down, making the streets "safer." Years ago I read a comment from an automotive engineer, after he'd heard driving speeds increased after the introduction of airbags. His remark? "If we replaced the airbag with a 8" steel spike, people would drive more carefully." I really have to wonder, if insurance companies had their way, might they back such a rule? People would drive slow for fear of being impaled, insurance companies would have very few claims, and isn't that their goal, to maximize the income/claims ratio? While they're at it, may as well ban motorcycle helmets to keep owners from speeding quite as often. It's a real shame they're kept from thinking of such things... Okay, ranting off for the evening.
16 Nov (Rant warning)

So I'm checking with insurance companies to see what's available. Hearing AAA recently started covering classics and hotrods I thought I'd give them a try. The phone conversation went well, they had very reasonable rates, so we moved to the next step, having pictures taken. After that was taken care of, I get a call later that day...

Them: "Sorry, we can't cover your car."
Me: "That's disappointing, why not?"
Them: "With that roll cage it looks like a race car."
Me: "Yes but if I remove even one tube, the car will collapse - the cage *is* the chassis - don't you cover Jeeps with roll cages?"
Them: "Then, what's that blue tank on the floor?"
Me: "An oil accumulator, called an Accusump... uh oh, wait, you think it's a nitrous bottle, don't you."
Them: "Yes."
Me: "Well it isn't, and notice it's not connected to anything, and why didn't you ask?"
Them: "And there's no passenger seat."
Me: "I already explained that, the car isn't finished, see the mounts for the seat? It's up in the rafters, which you didn't ask about either."
Them: "Well, sorry, we can't cover you."
Me: "Thanks, a lot."

They really got me steamed... I like how they made their decision based upon uneducated guesses. I don't really see how what I've built is different then many 50's or 60's hotrods, so modified they have virtually no original parts in them. In fact I bet I have more real Mini parts in mine then some of the American hotrods running around. I wish they'd just been up front about their real motiviation. If they feel it's a race car, okay, say so, but don't start looking for excuses. Good thing it wasn't red... or had racing stripes... I can practically hear Napoleon Dynamite now, "You guys are retarded!"

I guess I have the street racer Honda kids to thank for their paranoia. So if I don't have a roll cage it's easier to insure? Does that mean it's safer? Is't that odd, the more safety stuff you have the less insurable it is. If I raise the car, making it less stable, and looking less like a race car, is that "better"? For who? Yet a Jeep Wrangler, with a CG around three feet off the ground, and a roll cage, is deemed no problem? I guess my car simply doesn't fit in any of there checkboxes, they're afraid of the thing. Well, so am I, but that's a different subject...

I'd drive less then 5000 miles a year, probably just get liability and comp insurance, it just can't be that hard. Like I said, there's lots of odd cars running around out there, and mine actually looks like a real car... Geez I wonder if I'd told them it was a kit car if that would have made it "okay." Boneheads. So, my question to you, my audience, is, who can I call to insure this thing? My latest lead is State Farm, who I will call tomorrow. Hagerty, known for insuring classics and hotrods, is *not* a good choice because they have fine print saying you can *not* drive the car to work or anywhere else where a regular car could be used. That means if you stop for milk on the way home from a car show, the car is *not* insured. No thanks. Grrr, I'm still pissed at AAA... What this tells me is the next insurance company to come take pictures will see a car with no Accusump... I mean, nitrous tank, and it will have a passenger seat. Same freekin' car, but if it makes them happy, whatever. About insurance companies, Napoleon Dynamite says, "You guys are idiots!"
13 Nov

Worked on the nose. Dzus fasteners were first, then the lights. It's amazing how much it looks like a real car now. Cut and for now layed the grill in the radiator exhaust just to see how it looks... pretty nice. The pictures here don't look so good; after the pictures were compressed to JPEG, busy stuff like the grills looks goofy. I'll take some high res shots later, it really does look good. Also installed Mini door latches, though I have a couple questions about them, like what holds the door handle shaft in? Regarding the Mk I Mini slide windows, what's the correct sequence of installation of the tracks? I can see it's all to easy to get the tracks in and have no way to get the glass panels in. It was surprising that's all I accomplished today... the day went by fast!

10 Nov

Since it'll take a while to deal with I'm looking into insurance now. In California you have to show proof of insurance before registering a car, a good idea I think, so I need insurance taken care of first. It's not too bad considering what the car is, around $400 a year, limited to 5000 miles a year. In expensive, sue-crazy, California that's a good price, but I'm still shopping around.
9 Nov

The nose is back(!) and the pile of parts has turned into a real car... a bit overwhelming actually. It now makes clear I have work to finish up, still lots of odds and ends, but, well, here it is, ten years after the project started! Of course it's not exactly complete, as there's silencing those darn noisy fuel pumps, installing Dzus fasteners on the nose, double-checking every nut and bolt, finishing the rear windows, door weatherstripping, door latches and locks, screen fabrication and powdercoat, air filter intake housing, side mirrors, and wiring the headlights and front turn signals. Oh and I found an electrical issue last week, that shorting out one bulb in the back of the car caused the main fuse to blow, killing everything including the engine... that ain't right... But hey, the list is getting real short now.

Anyhow, with all the painted parts back, I'll find out what the consequences are of having the pieces painted on different days, in different weather, and from different batches of paint. Under the lights it looks fine but it won't be until it's rolled out into the sunlight will it be obvious what I've got. First thing I noticed is the nose is much more shiny then the rest of the car, though I doubt it really matters. Once it's waxed it "should" all be shiny, I hope. Actually I don't even know why I even mention this... it's good enough; I guess I just can't help it. Yes, a big day... a big day indeed.

6 Nov

Fabricated the right side window forward of the engine cover and behind the passenger door - that finishes that. Finally got a good closeup shot of one of the flat head screws. People keep thinking they're rivets... they look nice. There's also a picture of the screen for the aforementioned diffuser and radiator outlets.

Decided to confront the task that kicked my butt last time, installing the windshield. This time I thought I'd beat it, seeing as how I had the right parts; alas, the windshield thought otherwise. The first indication of trouble was the trim gasket the windshield place gave me. It didn't like staying on in the corners no matter what I did, even though it came with adhesive to hold it on. The next problem was the flange in the shell, it's just too shallow to work with the trim gasket because the gasket actually hooks behind the glass. This made the glass sit even higher then it did before; it's hard to see in the picture but there's about a 6mm gap where my thumb is... crap. That's because the gasket shape is wrong, it doesn't have enough natural curve downward to cover the gap, so I removed the trim gasket. Pushing on, I applied the butyl tape, and boy is it sticky, messy, stuff. So then the big moment, installing the glass. Since the shop had applied a black border it looked a lot better, but made it hard to tell when the glass was properly centered. Even with markings it was very intimidating to bring the glass up to the shell, knowing as soon as I touched it, it was as good as frozen in cement. Well, on it went, I give the installation a rating of "Eh" - it could be better - but it'll do.

With the glass in it had an ugly appearance all around the edge with part of the butyl tape sticking out. I cut the trim gasket so it could be pressed into the butyl tape and glued, or that was the plan. Nope, in the corners it refused to stay down and finally it pissed me off and I removed it for good. Okay, pull out the caulking gun and black silicon... again. This time I was very aware of how fast the stuff skims over, so it was applied quickly then smoothed with a wet finger. It went much better this time though I don't like the gloss... I have no idea where to get no-gloss silicon. Well anyhow it's a done deal, imperfect as it is. Doing it over I wouldn't bother with the butyl tape, I'd just use the silicon, now that I know how to apply it. There's still the hold-down clamps to make but that's easy compared to this. Next car.... no windshield if possible... and no doors either, my other nemesis.

Ran across an interesting car project. A guy's putting not one but two Hayabusa sportbike engines in the back, of all things, a Fiero. I admire what's he's doing, and the workmanship it requires, but a Fiero? Oh well, it's not all that much different then a Honda in the back of a Mini I guess. I wonder how he's going to drive it... probably pretty hard. If so I hope he has roughly $4000 set aside for two dry-sump systems. That would be a very sad, expensive, weekend to take the car out on track and blow up both engines due to oil starvation. On the other hand I'd better take my own warning too since I expect problems with my stock Honda oil pan. While I have the Accusump installed it isn't hooked up yet and I haven't yet fabricated baffles for the pan.

4 Nov

Side mirrors... I wasn't going to have any, I don't care for aftermarket mirrors because they always seem to come loose. But after thinking about giving the police (another) reason to pull me over I changed my mind. Plus, as good as the panoramic center mirror is, the side mirrors will cover the blind spots better. And I can alway epoxy a load-spreading plate inside the door to give it a solid mount. Most aftermarket mirrors I saw were expensive and probably wouldn't look right on the Mini, and motorcycle mirrors have longer stalks then I'd like; no point having passersby breaking them off. Finally it dawned on me to consider real period Mini mirrors, Minimania has several different types - I liked the brushed aluminum mirror so two were ordered.

Center brake light. I noticed the brake lights on ambulances flash several times before going on solid and I'm concerned my little car won't be seen by soccer-moms-in-SUVs-on-cellphones. So first a 6" high-brightness LED brake light was ordered from Signal Dynamics (thanks to Zoltan for the tip.) Then a flasher unit was ordered from Kahtec. It's reasonably priced, blinks five times fairly quickly then goes solid. What's cool is in stop-and-go traffic, stepping on the brakes again within eight seconds causes it to *not* blink, to not bug other drivers. While I could make one I want to stay focused on the car, not some time-sucking side project, especially this close to the finish!
2 Nov

Picked up the windshield, it looks much better with the black border; I'll probably try installing it this weekend, once I get someone to help. Because of the butyl tape I fear I have one shot at lining it up just right before it grabs; kind of like contact cement.

After receiving the stainless mesh, intended for the rear diffuser and front radiator exit, I changed my mind for a poor reason, it looks bad. Yup, I turned around and ordered some diamond-punched aluminum, just like the street racer kids use. Oh well, what can I say.

Finally got around to adding three videos to the video page. There's the Megabusa, inline-6 BMW-powered hillclimb car, and the Top Gear TV show segment the Ariel Atom, one of my favorites. The three new ones are at the bottom.

Oh, and I couldn't help but call the bodyshop with the age-old question, "so how it coming along?" The reply was "We're just getting it ready for paint." That's good, though, isn't that what bodywork is, getting it ready to paint? Anyhow they said it'll be ready early next week. Cool.
30 Oct

Received solvent adhesive from McMaster for the Lexan. I think they've figured a way to both make extra money and clean up Los Angeles air, ship it somewhere else. Yes, that little can came in the big box but it's nice they care...

Finished the tail lights so now there's brake lights and turn signals - and they work! I haven't hooked up the hazard flash circuitry yet behind the dash, but I will since there's a good chance it'll be needed. Third shot is starting in on the first of the Lexan windows; may as well finish sealing off the passenger compartment from the engine. The slightly blurry last shot is the finished "windowette." The camera apparently focused on the floor in the reflection rather then the window. I was trying to show the fasteners, stainless flat-head, Allen-socket screws, very nice looking. From a couple feet away they look like rivets. The flanges were to be painted black, but then I found some self-adhesive vinyl edging... also known as electrical tape. Regarding the rear portion of the side windows, part of them will be hinged so the oil and coolant can be checked without removing the engine cover.

28 Oct

Dropped off the windshield. They're going to add a black border, applying it no doubt better then I could, and supplying the trim strip and sticky tape. Received the stainless screen for the engine cover, for the opening just above the diffuser outlet. Between that and the wiring, it leaves only the Lexan windows unresolved... Again, no rush, but it would be nice to at least make a decision which way to go on the rear window.

Corresponding with my e-mail buddy Pete, we've been trading ideas about what each of us wants to build next. He, coming from an R1-powered S7 (Super-7), is thinking about a Mini or other small car to stuff a FWD engine in the back of. And me, coming from a mid-engine Mini, is considering something more like an S7, something without doors (ewwww) and maybe not even a windscreen. As for the engine, I'm still all over the place. Everything from front-engine S2000-powered, to mid-engine Hayabusa/R1/ZX12 bike engine, and a mid-engine mounted Nissan V6. But first there's the house... oh well, I can at least dream about the next project. Of course there's going to be many months of testing and tuning, getting the driving videos compiled, the DVD made, and the book finished. That'll do.
27 Oct

After investigating heat-forming scratch-resistant Lexan - it ain't gonna happen. I still want a vent along the top edge of the rear window though, so now it's finding an alternate way to make it happen. One is to use a strip of non-scratch resistance Lexan, bend only that part, then glue it onto the full-size scratch-resistant sheet. I've seen glued joints that are so perfect they can hardly be seen so that's a definite possibility. There are a bunch of other choices too, though I made it a bit tough on myself. You see, back when the bodywork was being done, the upper window flange looked really bad, bad enough I didn't want to figure out how to fix it. That's when I remembered the GT-350R rear window. Problem solved by filling the sad flange... so there isn't one along the top edge. Because of this I have to come up with something - an ordinary flat window will not work. Another possible solution is to use a simple curved aluminum panel for the curved portion; if I do it right it won't obstruct the view much. Anyhow there's no rush... yet.
25 Oct

Called a professional auto glass place that understood what I'm going through so I decided to get them involved. The only catch is when they found out I wanted the glass easily removable, they didn't want to do the actual installation; lawsuits I guess. What they will provide is the the right primer and paint for the glass, instructions on how to do it so it doesn't look dumb, and the best part, the right rubber trim strip to cover the edge of the glass. Sounds good to me!

Still haven't messed with the rear window. A smooth curve would look best and match the overall curves of the car. The trouble is Lexan needs to be baked at 250deg for about 12 hours to drive out water vapor so bubbles won't appear when bending it. That's all fine as long as getting it bent isn't too expensive. Guess I need to ask... If it is I can either cut and glue on a piece at an angle (though I think it'll look terrible) or simply drill a row of large holes along the top edge for cooling.

I see it's been two years since I first drove the car... good heavens this is taking forever. I'll feel a lot better once I have the last part of the shell, the nose, out of the hands of the bodyshop and on the car.
23 Oct

Finished installing the rollbar padding. Not wanting to start anything big this weekend the engine cover wiring was begun, first with a schematic, then running wires. Instead of buying those oh-so-cool-except-for-the-$5-each-price glue-on studs, ordinary self-adhesive zip-tie mounts were purchased. The weenie sticky foam adhesive was peeled off, the backs roughened and epoxied to the shell. After they set up the harness will be covered and tied down to them, but not before testing out each circuit. Another item on the to-do list is to find a nice high center-mount brake light assembly, preferably LED type. Yet another thing I haven't had time for...

So many loose ends... I keep coming up with more and more things that need to be done. The noisy fuel pumps have to be dealt with else I'll go nuts from the noise. The biggest pain in the butt will be inner fender wells. As it is now there is nothing to prevent rocks, dirt, and sand from bouncing around inside the nose and engine compartment. Even during the very short test drive some months back, the engine tray accumulated a bunch of sand. While I'll never be able to completely close it off (I need a lot of cooling air back there) I can at least try to minimize it. Sand bouncing around under the nose is actually more of a concern since the fuel-cell is up there. The last thing I need is sand getting down between the fuel-cell bladder and its steel container; it'll abrade right through it given time.

22 Oct

The long days at work are running me down somewhat and make it harder to make a mental list of what to do next on the car. I need to order wire for hooking up the tail lights but didn't get around to it mid-week. I'm considering calling a pro in for windshield installation but didn't get around to scheduling that either. Haven't heard from the bodyshop but don't expect to for a while. Other stuff that needs doing, checking every nut and bolt, installing the real brake pads, attaching the VIN (registration) tag, build the radiator exit cover which'll either be simple screen or maybe the large louvers. Add screen over the bottom rear engine cover outlet. Install Lexan windows in engine cover. I'd like to do something cool with the rear window I saw on a Ford GT-350R race car. They curved the Lexan inboard along the top edge, creating a vent right where I need it most, above my engine. The thing is, it requires heat-forming the Lexan and I read someplace that scratch-resistance Lexan can't be heat-formed. I was going to call a custom plastics shop about this but... didn't get around to it.
17 Oct

Took care of a trivial but very important addition, rollbar tubing. In the last several years it was found typical rollbar padding compresses down to nothing when struck hard, essentially meaning it was the same is hitting one's head on bare tubing. SFI 45.1 high density padding was developed to minimize the compression and maximize safety, so that's what I bought. At roughly $15 for each three-ft piece, and being a cheapskate by nature, I ordered only as much as I needed, which of course was not enough. Now I get to pay shipping a second time...

And just in case people think I'm on the ball, master of all that is automotive, I offer up this story for your amusement. I decided to change the oil in the truck, something I haven't done myself for a while because I'm lazy. But after going to the typical oil-change places, where I worry they have any clue what they're doing, I thought I'd do it myself. I have a oil change container made just for the job, with a funnel that screws in while draining, and the same container being carried to the recycle center. Neat.

So I positioned it just so and removed the oil pan drain plug. As I watched the oil filling the funnel, that oh-too-late burst of insight flashed into my head... the funnel was still in its storage position, not screwed into where the oil would drain into the container; after all, it had been a while since I'd used it last. Of course the drain plug had dropped into the funnel so I couldn't just turn off the flood. Instead, I got to watch as 5-qts of hot oil overflowed the funnel and ran all over the floor, while I was running to get lots of rags. Brilliant, just brilliant.
16 Oct

It took a long time to install the Dzus fasteners, all 18 of them, but the engine cover is finally mounted. The first shot is cutting and gluing the various rubber pads in place. One annoyance is the bodyshop left some irregular edges caused by overzealous body filler use. I had tried to make edges as consistant as possible but in a few places now they're now rather lumpy, like in the last shot. In some spots the edges actually touch so I expect the paint will rub off. Given that I may as well remove the lumps and get the edges straight, again; touch-up paint will take care of the raw edges.

11 Oct

Dropped off the nose... I'm not sure what's going on at the bodyshop. I can't tell if they're being honest or doing the old good-cop-bad-cop thing. Long story short, they want more money for the nose then they did for any of the other panels. Something about not making any money on the other stuff and how much work it is, blah, blah, blah. I think my sympathy for them is fading... In any case they have it now so that's another milestone achieved.

Received the butyl tape... and also a lot of e-mail regarding mounting the glass. All good ideas, I just hope I can do a decent job of it (this time). While not a big deal mechanically or structurally, it's very important aesthetically! Whatever solution I come up with will forever be right there for all the world to see, warts and all.
10 Oct

Finished up some odds and ends with the nose - it's going out tomorrow. It'll be a big relief to get the last of the composite out of my hair, figuratively and literally - I honestly won't miss working on it. There's still the dash cover but I can at least do that on my own terms, that is, make sure there aren't a million voids and pinholes...

Received the rest of the Dzus fasteners so now the engine cover mounting can be completed. The butyl tape will probably show up tomorrow too; I hope it works out better then the silicon for windshield mounting.
9 Oct

Added a stiffening rib to the nose. The narrow part along the windshield was too flimsy for comfort, no doubt it would break eventually. Made a rib from some foam and added two layers of carbon, effectively making the assembly tons stiffer without adding a bunch more carbon. The reason it's cracked is so it follows the contour of the composite, otherwise there'd be a void below it.

As that was curing I added the taillights and license lamp to the engine cover. Pretty nice looking, and it'll look even better once some screen is added above the diffuser along with the rear window.

Speaking of windows, I decided to install the windshield. It went along okay... until I tried using a squeegee on the silicon. On one side it came out okay, but when I did the other side, in just a couple minutes it had already skinned over. Note to self, do not mess with silicon after a few minutes. The more I looked at it the worse it looked. In fact it looked like crap... enough that I pulled the glass back out. Nothing worse then spending time messing up a job and having to redo it. It's just too visible though to leave it looking so bad. I'll either try a thin bead below the glass or use butyl tape.

8 Oct

Fiddled about with the engine cover, cleaning out the holes. Unfortunately the Dzus fasteners haven't shown up yet so it pushes off being able to mount it completely. No matter, I think it's best I work to get the nose section out as soon as possible. I think I'll work on it all day tomorrow and get it off to the bodyshop next week.

I started the engine the first time since the passenger compartment was installed. The low-pressure fuel pumps are loud, really loud, annoyingly loud. Loud enough I'll probably have to do something about them... nuts. I mounted them on rubber standoffs because the noise was expected... just not this bad. Apparently all the panels are acting like sounding boards which is too bad, I really don't want to change the fuel system around... double nuts.

I layed the new windshield in place; oddly it fits better then the original part. Anyhow it looks promising but installion will wait until I've got the nose done and out of here.
7 Oct

The engine cover is done! A couple shots are a bit disconcerting, appearing as though the engine cover is a different color then the passenger compartment. The last shot shows them side by side from above so I'm not worried. There's some body-filler plugging various holes and a bit hanging over some edges that'll be trimmed off this weekend. It's getting there!

4 Oct

No go on the engine cover, but for a good reason. The bodyshop guy called and said, "I'm not happy with the paint finish, we're going to redo it." I was happy to hear a shop could be professional enough to admit that without the customer complaining about it when they (I) showed up. I stopped by anyway and dropped off the door so they can reshoot both together. I thanked them again for taking the initiative to call and say "we done wrong but we're going to make it right"; I wish more businesses would do that. Anyway the engine cover will be done in a couple days. I'll probably take the nose section down before then and have them give me an idea of what I should do to save them time and me money.
3 Oct

The bodyshop called today; uh oh, I thought, I wonder what's wrong. Nothing was wrong... they said come get the engine cover! Dang that was fast... very unexpected, but in a good way! Thankfully because of the recent progress the driver's door is ready for touch up so when I drop it off I'll pick up the engine cover. Wow this really bumps up the schedule and is a strong reminder Kimini's almost done. I guess I better look into insurance now since here in California we need proof of insurance to get a car registered. Before driving, it also needs roll-bar padding, the good stuff, SFI-45.1; best price seems to be Summit Racing. Guess I better finish up the nose section... soon.
2 Oct

No working on the car today, since it's back to work tomorrow I took time off and had some fun. First was getting a ride (thanks Scott!) in a Megabusa, a Hayabusa-powered Super-7. First picture shows a eye-level view of traffic at a light, giving both an idea of how low we sit and how unlikely it is the guy ahead can even see us... Anyhow my ride answered many questions I had about bike-engined cars and pretty much convinced me if the car is light enough, it's definitely worth doing. My various concerns have been addressed so a bike engine is a likely candidate - if I have the good fortune of building another car someday. And while I took the camcorder, it was such a pathetic representation of the ride it isn't worth posting. As an apology, and as a far better representation of what it's like to drive one hard, I offer this video (from the Westfield site) of a Megabusa on track... Gotta love that power oversteer!

The next activity was going, in the Megabusa, to the local British Car show. It's been a few year since I'd been to one and it was much larger then I expected. Unfortunately we got there late and didn't get to see everything - many were already packing up. Took just a few shots to give an idea. One picture I missed was a guy in a new BMW Mini towing an old Mk1 Mini. While at the show I bought a new windshield and while it is technically possible to carry a windshield home in a Super-7, I'm not sure I'm the one to do it. After I got it home I found a couple extra pieces of glass in the bag... uh oh. Sure enough there's a good size chip in it. It could have been that way when I bought it, or I could have bumped it against something, but I "thought" I was pretty careful with it. It doesn't really matter now, the question is, can I still use it? The last three pictures shows the damage, right in the middle, at the bottom edge on the outside surface. So the issue now is, will this damage spread? Any auto glass expert care to comment?

1 Oct

It took all day to trim the carbon fender extensions, select and mount the Dzus springs, and trim and glue the rubber padding. Doing so showed which size Dzus fasteners still need to be ordered. It was the first time the fasteners were installed and I was amazed how rigid the nose was - it's as though it's riveted on. I'd assumed some core in select places and another couple layers would be needed to stiffen the nose since, off the car, it's pretty flimsy. It'll probably still be done since there's a risk of the paint cracking with it off the car, wobbling about... In the picture the fasteners are not yet riveted in; the springs are, but not the fasteners themselves. That'll happen after the nose is painted, but the advantage now is rivets aren't needed when determining the best size for a given location. It saves rivets and needed to drill them out after the test fit. Even without rivets that nose is on solid.