Kimini 2.2 - Build Diaries
2006, January - February


To me, the best web host is one you never notice. Lunar Pages has done a fine job with great reliability, pricing, and support. I'm not sucking up - if I like a product I say so. If you need a low priced, extremely reliable web host with lots of bandwidth, please use this link. Not only do they now offer free domain names,they just upped monthly bandwidth to 100GB! Very cool.

If you find this site helpful, useful, or at least entertaining, consider showing your support. Your contribution will help keep this site up and running, and help get an enclosed trailer. While an open trailer will work, leaving Kimini outside overnight is a scary proposition at motels (on the way to racetracks.) Show your support and become part of the project!
28 Feb

Ordered the Accusump remote manual valve as it seems to be the best solution. The manual valve has much higher flow then the electric valve, can be left closed for street driving, and opened immediately before heading out on track. The problem with the Accusump on the street is when the engine rpm drops to idle. Since this is when the oil is at the lowest pressure, the Accusump pushes its two quarts into the engine. That's bad news because it overfills the sump and the crank starts hitting the oil, both stirring air into it and heating it up. While the oil temperature sensor isn't installed yet, the water temperature is running about 10 degrees hotter, but only when the car is stopped. Coincidence? Who knows, but it makes sense. That's why I don't want the Accusump involved when cruising at low rpm. Also, ordering the valve was due to the lack of replies from Canton. They answered most of my questions but stopped corresponding when questioned about the effectivity of their EPC valve. I wanted to know how adding it in series with the electric valve could possible improve flow as claimed. Since they didn't reply, I've concluded it isn't worth the money since it's used in series with the restrictive (by their own admission) electric valve. The irony is they still get my money since I bought the manual valve from them...

Regarding the knocking brake pads, the spring clips that push the pads to one end of their travel are suspect. The right-hand caliper is the one making all the noise (though strangely not when the wheel is turned by hand.) It turns out the spring clips are trying to push the pad in the opposite direction of rotor rotation. That is, if the wheel's not turning, the spring successfully pushes the pad backwards, but as the rotor turns I think it's occasionally catching the pad and pushing it forward, compressing the spring, then releasing it and it springs back. So the springs were relocated to the other end of the pad, the "upstream" side. This way the springs are now pushing the pad in the same direction as the rotor's trying to push it. A test drive is pending.

A new diary starts tomorrow.
26 Feb

Visited my parents and saw my sister Ann. Back in the old days she co-drove the Datsun 1200 with me when it was timetrailed. She later became involved in karting, winning her class in the San Diego Region Karting Championship. I'd decided she should drive Kimini... she's nearly as tall as me so it was likely she'd fit and be able to reach the pedals. She fit fine... so it was just a matter of convincing her to drive it...

The annoying clattering is the brake pads rattling around in the calipers (turns out it was the rear brakes.) The rear calipers were disassembled later and nothing was found, other than a leaking right caliper, grrrrr! Anyhow, the "anti-rattle" clips are installed so I'm not sure what's going on, but I want it fixed.

The video was made to give a different perspective of what Kimini's like to drive. I tend to be rather analytical, understated, and I suspect, not very entertaining, but Ann let's you know what she's thinking. Rather then making you ill with MTV camera work, I keep the camera on her the whole time. Missing is her remark after the video ends, "Hey, my hands are shaking..."

Ann's Drive (20MB)
25 Feb

Been out of town testing our UAV at our desert test facility.

Once again attended the Carlsbad car get-together but turn out was a bit light due to many of the Lotus folks attending the Sector 111 event, a Lotus Elise parts supplier. My buddy Dave, creator of the Shrike 3-wheeler, invited me out to his place before heading to the event, and the road out there was, well, awesome. I grew up here and thought I knew all the best car roads... missed this one! It's a very long twisty road that seems to go on forever. Following Dave in his 3-wheeler made navigating the unfamiliar road easier, but he didn't go easy on me! It was the first time I really wound out the car on a twisty road and it performed very well, "unfortunately" so well the limits are still unknown, but that's what the autocross is for. In retrospect it would have been wise to initially install hard compound tires, just so the limits of the car could be found at "reasonable speed", but oh well. Anyway, that road served to really increase my comfort level with the car so I'm looking forward to the autocross, but still fear what cones can do to the front end.

The drive up to Dave's place and the car event marks the longest drive yet for Kimini, around 60 miles roundtrip. No problems at all with the car other then some annoying front brake pad clatter. I need to take the calipers off and see what's going on. It's probably not anything traumatic but the rattling is already a nuisance.

Dave lives in the country, he and his wife have quite the collection of animals, she being a veterinarian has something to do with it. My favorite were the newly born goats, with the little black fellow definitely wondering where lunch was.

After that was the car event at Sector 111. If you have a Lotus Elise they have all the good stuff, call them at 951.551.0900.

In other news, Canton replied through e-mail about their Accusump, only after contacting them a second time (they never called back as promised.) They answered most of the questions, except explaining how adding a pressure switch to an existing electric solenoid valve can possibly improve flow - so they earn a "BS" rating on their EPC device. The electric valve will be replaced with a remote-operated manual valve. It'll be left closed on the street, only being opened immediately prior to heading out on-track at the autocross or track.

19 Feb

Measured ride height again and the car has settled 1/2"! The chassis hasn't sagged, and neither have the coil springs so it has to be the shocks. I guess when I did the corner weights I didn't settle the car well enough. In any case it's sitting too low so I marked each spring perch and cranked it up. That certainly cured the rubbing tires in the back, but the left brake line bracket was moved inboard of the chassis tube just to make sure. The right bracket isn't rubbing so it'll be left alone. While in there I discovered something not cool, a scrape on the inside surface of the left wheel and a matching mark on the caliper. Huh? And it's only on part of the wheel, not all the way around, like the wheel's bent? I put some check marks with a Sharpie pen on the scrape to see if it's a continuing problem. If so the caliper will need trimming, or slot the mounting holes a bit to move it away from the wheel slightly. Of course if that's done the edge of the brake pad will no longer be at the edge of the rotor... it's always something.

While I tried to be careful when raising the car, turning each spring perch the same amount, it really needs to be corner weighed again. The first time it was done without shell, doors, or windshield, so the weights are going to be off now anyway.

After rerouting the brake line I went to get gas and coming back, pulling into the driveway, there was smoke pouring out of the engine compartment - yikes! Turns out some brake fluid dripped on the header wrap.
18 Feb

Went around a circular on-ramp pretty fast today... steady-state understeer at the limit - good - far better then oversteer! This happened at light throttle. OTOH this was a downhill off-camber ramp so the jury's still out on handling judgments. My buddy who designed a Super-7 type car said I'd have terminal oversteer due to my 150/250lb springs front/rear - he feels that's way too stiff. I respect his opinion but for now don't agree. The real question is what'll happen when I get on the gas. The car is 40/60 to the rear which is right where I want it so I'll need to drive accordingly. My guess is the understeer will worsen getting on the gas delicately. I suspect coming in faster, pitching it sideways and getting on the gas, steering with the rear end, is the secret. Of course, that just ain't gonna happen on public streets... The understeer is to be expected with a rear weight bias, the question is, how far out in front of oversteer is it. Guess it's time to find out.

The plan is to go to the next practice autocross on March 18. A practice event means the car can be run for many laps, exactly what's needed. Four weeks gives plenty of time to get everything ready... and then it's Suspension Design Judgment Day. I'll be sure to take the camcorder.
16 Feb

Canton never called back about the Accusump. Huh, imagine that... what a bunch of sausages...

Found a very entertaining site about a guy who put together a twin-engine Scirocco. - he's as much a character as the car. The video of him changing the clutch is really funny, and also check out the snow video.

13 Feb

Here's how the phone conversation went with Canton, maker of the Accusump:

Canton: How can I help you?
Me: Yes, I have a two-quart Accusump with your electric valve. During installation I read my configuration is only good for pre-oiling the engine, not oil surge control when racing.
Canton: Yes that's correct.
Me: And your "E.P.C." valve fixes this, allowing faster charging and discharging?
Canton: Yes, that's what you need.
Me: The EPC is just a pressure switch that turns on and off the existing valve, correct?
Canton: Yes, it allows faster charging...
Me: Yeah I know, but it screws onto the valve I already have, right?
Canton: Yes.
Me: Is a new higher flow electric valve included as part of the EPC upgrade kit?
Canton: No, you continue to use the one you have.
Me: But if the oil is going through the original valve, how can the flow be sped up?
Canton: Well I don't know how, but it does.
Me: Is there someone I can talk to who can explain how this is possible?
Canton: Nope, it's pretty much me. We have many satisfied customers.
Me: I don't see how it can increase flow through the existing valve, because the valve is the restriction.
Canton: Do you want me to find out more and call you?
Wonder if I'll ever hear back. All their $62 pressure switch does is change when the existing valve is opened and closed. Their Marketing Department twists that around to say it increases flow through the valve. Well, in a twisted way, yes it does, because they keep the valve open less of the time. When the valve opens there is now a larger pressure differential, so, yes, the flow will be greater. This seems like saying if you stand on a garden hose, then remove your foot, the flow is "greater". Well, yeah, but the overall volume flow is less. I'm not calling their advertising blatantly wrong but it does seem misleading.

On another front, looking into on-line self-publishing sites turned up some interesting facts:
1. Average book length is 256 pages.
2. Average number of copies published - 150.
3. Average number of copies purchased directly by author - 65%.
4. Average amount spent by author - $1200.
Reality is harsh! #3 blew me away... of the 150 copies sold, the author bought ~100 of them! Worse, of the remaining 50 copies actually sold to customers, it means each book has to sell for $1200/50 = $24 just to cover the publishing cost, and the author doesn't make a cent. It opens my eyes about how hard it is to make any money writing a book.
12 Feb

Installing the Accusump took all day. After it was installed and watching how it worked, I think I fell for their marketing. That is, thinking the electric valve version was all I needed. Buried in the fine print it says this set up is actually only for "pre-oiling" the engine - except I bought it to protect the oil supply if the pump sucks air in a corner. I can almost hear the salesman, "Oh, then you need this extra part."

With the engine cover off everything else was inspected. I guess the initial honeymoon's over because it looks like there's going to be modifications. The rear tires are rubbing in two places, the brake line brackets, and the chassis brackets holding a Dzus fastener. Looking carefully you can see the rubber marks on both. The brake line brackets will be moved inboard of the chassis tube, that fixes that, but the Dzus bracket needs some thought. The last picture, taken below the rear of the car, shows some more antics. Here a strengthening rib (not visible) on the red a-arm just catches the edge of the engine tray - one or both must be trimmed.

Back when the corner weights were set up, ride height was set to 4.5", only now it's about 4.25". I know people will say that's just the suspension "settling", but I don't buy that. A coil spring doesn't "settle." The shocks maybe? When I was setting it up each each corner was bounced on to keep things from hanging up, but something got me anyway. This is partly why the tires are rubbing, but those interferences still have to be fixed. I guess if this is the worst thing wrong I'd doing well.

9 Feb

I realized I hadn't taken a picture with my bestest buddy Cooper. What better than posing next to the car he helped make possible. Cooper is the best dog I've every had and the little fellow been through a lot - he's a very good friend. I know what you're thinking, but a guy can talk about his dog like this - the wife's... different, somehow.

Thanks to everyone for all the publishing ideas, especially Matt... I'll keep them all in mind.

Sent off a letter to Guinness, letting them know half the cans I opened had a defective "thingy" that adds bubbles to their brew. They replied immediately they'd "make things right" then oddly never followed up. A second e-mail went unanswered. Okay.

Note the appeal for donations above. I've been reluctant to ask, but an enclosed trailer is out of reach so I thought I'd see if the collective generosity can help out. Be a part of the project!
8 Feb

Thanks to everyone who catch my persistant grammer goofs... Rest assured the book manuscript will be read and edited by smart people...

There's been a few inquiries about getting the book (when it's ready) without spending a fortune on shipping (to Australia for example). A possible solution is to make an e-book version available in addition to the bound version. Going even further, a coworker suggested giving it away for free, posting it on the website! The catch is, ask a Paypal contribution be made for whatever they feel it's worth. An interesting idea, except I think most people want a physical book, not a file requiring a PC to read it, or having to print 200+ pages (400 single-sided) to a printer. OTOH it's certainly easy. I post it up and we're off, not shipping issues. I'm just thinking this stuff through out loud... I'm not sure which way to go with it... let me know what do you think.
7 Feb

A coworker gently pointed out a poor grammar habit I have, misusing "then" and "than." Thanks to Craig for pointing out proper usage, in his example, "I would like to eat lunch then dinner, rather than only dinner." In his words, "then" refers to a time-related event, while "than" references an option. I'm glad to learn this now rather than later. Going back through the earlier diaries I see lots of goofs, but they're going to be left as-is rather than go back and change them all. Writing is very much a full-time profession, one I'm learning on the job.

In other news, I guess I've misled people about how I feel about the high rpm nature of the car, running around 4000rpm while cruising. Yes it's a little annoying, but not enough I'm going to do anything about it. There might be a lower numerical ratio final gear set out there, but since it means taking the engine out and all apart, plus a lot of labor, I'm not motivated to do it. Yes, reaching 60mph in a single gear would result in a 3.9sec run, but it just isn't a must-do thing. While it gives a theoretical higher top speed, the reality is all 200hp is used up in aero drag by 130mph anyway. Like I've said before, just how fast do I want to go in a brick-shaped car anyway? I'll probably run out of rpm at the end of the front straight at Willow Springs big track, but so what, that's what's supposed to happen anyway. For now it'll be left along, continuing instead to build mileage. If in the future a hot engine is built, then I'll look into finding a 10% lower ratio, but only then, rather than now...
5 Feb

Honda Preludes that are raced have problems with oil starvation in hard corners. Given the low CG and sticky tires it's certain Kimini will have the same problem, so something has to be done. Since dry-sump systems are too expensive, an Accusump. was chosen. The intent was to put it behind the passenger seat, but there wasn't room. Then it was moved ahead of the seat, but smart people said nope, the less hose the better. Moving it behind the engine showed there were very few suitable mounting positions. At the position shown, while it minimizes hose length, it becomes a potential crushable structure if the car is rear-ended. Of course it won't really get hit, seeing as how the average SUV bumper is several feet higher... Anyhow the dark blue oil filter, where the hose will lead, is visible at upper left. The large brass assembly on the left end of the Accusump is an electric valve, when the ignition is turned on it'll pre-oil the engine, and when it's shut off it'll keep the pressure the engine had when it was turned off.

The gas pedal is better, no more binding cable, but it's still not exactly right. It's a little too low to heel-and-toe, and the right side of my foot tends to catch the check-nut on the rod-end. Anyhow, that's why it's still in development...

And finally, instead of working on the car today, I got a glimpse of what working on the house will be like. In this case it meant replacing the kichen sink faucet, which has been dripping more, and more, and more, eventually driving us nuts. Unfortunately it was so corroded it couldn't be disassembled to replace just the valve washers, nope, the whole thing had to come out. The good news is I get spousal points...

Not being in the mood to work on the car, I'm pushing on with the book manuscript.
4 Feb

Cruised down Highway 101, through Carlsbad, Leucadia, Encinidas, Solana Beach, and Del Mar. On the way back had a brief encounter with a Nissan 350Z... I think. It was hard to tell if he was trying or not... we just left him ;) The vast majority of the time Kimini's driven very sedately - stealth mode - to keep out of trouble, but it's not easy. When the road opens up it's very intoxicating to blast through second and third. How sportbike riders keep themselves out of trouble I don't know. It takes restraint to drive responsibly and not be a lunatic, slicing through traffic like a slow moving chicane. I guess it's part of getting used to the beast. Oh, I pulled the trap speed out of the tach, recorded during the quarter-mile run last week: 12.8 @ 104mph.

The car has proven itself reliable (knock on wood) so the plan is to run at the next slolum. Three things need to be dealt with first though, the Accusump, inner fenders, and figuring where the tires are rubbing and solve it.

The inner fenders won't be much fun, but I'm not happy with what I have, the rubber sheet rubs against the tires and is wearing through. Yes, additional ribs could fix that, but it isn't the right way. The plan is to add fiberglass inner wells, then hang rubber curtains from them. That way when the nose or engine cover are removed, the inner wells come off with them, making access easier.

Solving where the tires are rubbing should be easy, just find the marks and trim back whatever it is...

Going through some old paperwork turned up the original owner of the Mini I used as "donor." I called and let Tony know about this site, figuring he deserves to see what his car, or at least the spirit of it, has become.
3 Feb

Drove to work and once again got stuck in grid-lock - the irony of building a sportscar. Gave coworker Ryan a ride since it was his last day. He's doing a complete career change, going from software engineer to... rice farmer. It's not as drastic as it seems since his father already is one. Rice farmers can make a very good income, and with all that room it's a good environment to raise a family, cheap enough to afford a home, and build the ship he's been dreaming about. Pretty cool - I wish he and his wife well on their new life.

Driving home, idle speed started creeping upward. About 20 minutes later it was up around 2000rpm and I'd had enough. Lifting the gas pedal with my toe fixed it - it wasn't fully retracting. Once home the pedal was examined, nothing wrong with the cable, but the cable attachment point was too high, forcing the push-pull cable shaft sideways at the limit of travel - idle - causing it to bind. The attachment point was lowered to better center the sideways motion of the cable shaft.

Before I get any flak on this sad rusty pedal, that's because it's a "Development Version." That means it gets adjusted until it's just right, then a pretty one will be made from stainless or aluminum. A car like this is never done...
1 Feb

Filled up the tank, parked in the driveway, went in and told the wife, "It's time." Helped her into the car and on with the belts - Kimini's very first passenger. We went out for a short drive, giving her the honor of first ride, after all, she's put up with this nonsense for 10 years. On return I asked her impressions:
"Very nice... smooth... noisy, yet confortable, very very stable. When it took off, oh my, the engine is strong. You have to respect that engine..."
31 Jan

Reader Jim correctly pointed out the suspension on the Porsche below was simi-trailing arm, not swing axle; I rewrote history and corrected it ;).

Received the belts and spent the next five hours installing them. After much swearing, pulling, pushing, bolting, unbolting, filing, and drilling, the passenger seat and belts are in. It was a very tight fit due partly to the thickness of the powdercoat, requiring the assistance of a big hammer. The belts were swapped so the driver's side has the new ones, to buy another year of use before they're deemed useless by the rule makers... grrrr.

The tool bag... and that's what it is, a manly Tool Bag, okay, not a purse! With it in the passenger footwell, there sure isn't much room for anything else; good thing my wife is petite... Guess if I was worried about storage space I should have thought of that 10 years ago... The last shot compares the knuckle-dragger lug nuts versus the new ones - amazing.

Also finally bought a helmet. To put this in perspective, I remember looking at helmets back in 2000, apparently getting it in my head the car was "practically done" so I'd be needing one soon... There was even a discussion regarding getting the latest type, with the Snell 2000 rating... what was I thinking? At the last second I decided to wait, a good thing too as it would have sat on the shelf collected dust for six years...

Signed up to enter the Knott's Berry Farm "Fun Under the Sun" kitcar/component car/specialty car/whatever show. Not sure why. I won't make any money out of it, it means driving little Kimini on big scary Los Angeles freeways, so why then? I honestly feel it's to show it can be done. That is, a regular guy who's never built a car before can do it. If it gives others confidence they too can build a car, it's been a success. Or is it that I just want attention? I don't think so, I hope not. When I took the car to the stadium I left it to go look at other cars, not hanging around, one elbow on the roof:

"Hey, how you doing (wink), like the car? Pretty hot huh. Yup, it's mine (hitches up pants), I did it all (snort), thank you very much, and you know I'm signing autographs, for a dollar, right?
Ewww, that's not me, quite the opposite, I find it amusing it gets the attention it does. I mean, I firmly believe anyone could, if they set their mind to it, built one too. It's like that scene from "Starwars", where Luke says to Yoda, "I don't believe it", and Yoda says, "That is why you failed."

29 Jan

Goofed off, driving to the autocross at San Diego Stadium but didn't run the car. Yup, I was a poseur, looking the part but being a big weenie. I just don't want to beat on it yet... hey, it's been nine years, let me enjoy driving it before beating it up. No, the drive was simply to rack up more mileage, and the car ran just fine. Time to start looking for a trailer.

The good news is I have another data point, but it wasn't official so didn't get recorded to video. Finding an empty flat street a couple 1/4 mile runs were tired, with the tach/speedo handling the timing... 12.8sec! Very happy with it because that time range was the target all along. In fact there's room for improvement, especially my shifting, and probably letting some air out of the tires for a better launch. The real run must wait until we get up to California Speedway.

On the way to the stadium there was a 270 degree circular on-ramp... which confirmed the car's capability is way up there, past the limit for any sort of street antics. The car corners harder then anything I've ridden in, and that counts cars on slicks. The capability is high to the point it's uncomfortable yet the car isn't even breaking a sweat - no where near its limits - and the street isn't the place to find them. The big unknown is how will it act as it runs out of traction, understeer? oversteer? Will it smoothly breakaway or will the back end snap around so fast I can't catch it. Sliding off an embankment backwards, or sliding into a curb, isn't anything to be proud of. This will require a track, or at least a skid-pad. The Streets of Willow will be perfect.

Ordered a couple yards of carbon fabric for the dash cover; it'll be nice to have the dash complete. Since it's not structural there's a new vendor I'm trying, Advanced Composite Traders. They have very low prices, we'll see if the carbon at least looks okay, their prices are low enough it makes me wonder where it comes from. In other news the seatbelts should show up this week and after wrestling with the belt and seat mounts Kimini will finally have both seat.
28 Jan

Drove to the Carlsbad car get-together again. Figures I forgot my camera, there were a lot of cool cars this time, so all picture credit goes to Max and PJ Photography. Amongst the cars were not one but two Ford GTs, many Porsches, Ferraris, Vipers, and even a turbo-rotary old-school Datsun 510. There was also a car that everyone was keen to get a close look at, appearing to be a 1997 Porsche 911 Evo, a bit over-the-top for street driving, but who am I to say. The crowd reaction was an interesting study in human nature. Initially everyone rushed forward to get a close look. As the owner lifted the engine cover it was clear it wasn't real, the Chevy V8 giving it away. Looking closer, bits of it were Porsche, but it was surprising to see semi-trailing arm suspension on something claiming road-racing roots. Also visible in the last shot is the extreme half-shaft angularity which seems like a bad idea, but he was forced to by the shell. It was also very surprising how small the axles are, the same if not smaller diameter then mine.

The owner explained he'd bought the shell from someone who'd taken molds off a real Porsche Evo and built his own chassis, engine, and suspension... starting to sound familiar? He had done exactly what I'd done, but the crowd reaction was much more, what, harsh? I then realized an unwritten rule in the high-end supercar world, take a modest car like the Mini and do unnatural things to it - that seems to be okay. But produce what looks like a rare, very expensive race car, one appearing to be the real deal, and, well, it had better be in this company. After the initial interest the poor car was ignored. Had he attended a car show where budgets were much more limited it would have been accepted, but here, with some people actually having enough money to purchase anything they want, showing up with a fake supercar was taboo.

I also realized coming to a car event like this is a great lesson in humility. You grow up, work hard, start your own business, sell it to Microsoft or whoever, and buy the top-of-the-line supercar you've always wanted. Then you take it to a car meet to show off. You pull in, only to be told, "oh, those cars are over there..." There's a lot of expensive hardware around Southern California and spending a bunch of money is no guarantee of uniqueness.

27 Jan

Drove Kimini to work for the first time, which meant getting on the freeway for the first time. I needn't have worried since the normally "light" Friday traffic was bumper to bumper, 17 miles in 40 minutes, which reminds me why I drive a truck with an automatic transmission. While looking up at SUV license plates could have been scary, reliability was still the main issue, just wondering if the car would make it to work. The worry was the millions of things, both real and imagined that could break, at best coasting to the side of the road, or stopping in a middle lane, or worse, having something break and causing an accident. The more the car is driven though, the more the confidence grows, and I start to relax. As reliability is established, it means it's nearing time to take Kimini out on track so I'll be looking into trailers soon. Anyhow, back on the freeway, the rule, "assume no one sees you" is a good idea, as one car moved over on me, which I guess I better get used to. It's fun though having the power (and brakes) to move instantly wherever desired. Want to go "there" right now? Just gas it a bit. Of course that also means showing up where other drivers don't expect. Driving little Kimini on the freeway is like dancing with elephants.

So, paranoia aside, the drive was uneventful, rolling into work and posting an e-mail that the car was finally there. A lot of coworkers checked it out, and it became clear not having a passenger seat was probably a good thing. I'm not comfortable with the car yet to risk anyone else's life, and I think there were a lot of coworkers all ready to ask for a ride. Regarding the seat, the belts were finally shipped and should be here next week. The passenger seat can't be installed until the belts are in, then the poor wife will be offered first ride... wonder what she'll think...

Driving home was interesting, driving along a 70+mph, around 4300rpm... Where's that 6th gear anyway?

The dash cover may be worked on soon, just to finally finish the interior - as finished as these things go. The moldless foam method will not be used here since the foam bits make a big mess. Haven't decided what to use yet, construction paper, plastic, aluminum, we'll see.

Updates here mave have slowed a bit, but for a good reason, as more time is being dumped into the book. I can either type here or type the manuscript, and the book is an important goal. Web traffic has taken off in the last couple days, thanks to being submitting to the automotive interest site, If only I could turn hits into money... but don't worry, I can't stand pop-up ads either...
22 Jan

Lug-nut taper isn't universal but is usually 60 degrees. I bought a set from a circle-track supplier who didn't mention taper so I assumed they were 60 deg. About a year ago, after discovering they were in fact 90 degrees, they were turned down on the lathe to fit. Fast forward to now, since the wheels are being removed often, the turned-down nuts and the seats appear to be galling, so a trip to the parts-store was in order to get the 60 degree part. It was pretty amazing comparing the nuts from the circle-track supplier and the local parts. The circle-track parts are huge in comparison, requiring a 1" socket, and are double the weight of the normal lug nut. Pretty crazy, but the car now weighs two pounds less!

Regarding the rubber curtain inner fenderwells, they're not working too well, with the rubber wearing through in a couple spots. What's needed is a better framework to support them, but the right way is to make composite inner fenders, extending inward and and turning downward, and hanging rubber sheet from them - another project on the list.

Odds and ends: Work on the book is proceeding slowly, though I keep thinking of more material to add. What else... oh, still waiting for the passenger-side seatbelts... I don't like companies who don't bother mentioning things are backordered. Oh, and spent HOURS getting a wireless access point working so the wife can use her laptop in the living room. Visited the graves of both parents-in-law; tradition is to place incense on their graves and the surrounding ones too. Nearby were two graves side by side; twin brothers, born the same day in 1977, died the same day in 1995 - 18-yrs old. I can't imagine losing a child, let along two on the same day, forever wondering what they might have become - very, very sad. I remember a saying, "A parent should never have to bury their own." Amen to that.
19 Jan

Been busy working on the book and the car. Received the shortened flex lines yesterday and couldn't resist putting them in - making the brackets for the transitions to the hard-lines - connecting them - bleeding the system - and before I knew it, it was midnight. So the big question is, is it better? Yes! Is the pedal now like a rock? No. However, instead of being able to push the pedal to the floor, it gets real hard about two inches higher up, a huge improvement.

That said, I coincidentally got an e-mail today from someone who worked for Aeroquip, saying it's a fact expansion isn't the primary cause of the soft pedal. Yet other people who I respect said it was; what am I supposed to think? All I can do is ask people who are smarter then me, form a consensus, and make my own decision. Guaranteed I'm going to disappoint someone. Anyhow, I think the answer is flex-line is a contributor to the soft pedal, but it's really hard to tell how much. Yes it expands very little, yet with new, full depth brake pads, the brake pistons are pushed way back into the calipers so the volume of fluid back there is really small. That small volume, compared to the very small expansion, spread over the 18 feet of hose, is/was the real unknown. Or...

Is it only now that I got rid of the air, that the two types of lines are effectively the same stiffness. I don't know, but I did bleed both systems the same way, and I couldn't get the air out of the flex-line after running nearly a gallon of fluid through them! Yet, less then one quart was used to bleed the hard-line system and a firmer pedal resulted. So what gives? The remaining softness is either more air or caliper compliance. While the iron calipers are heavy, they are stiff. I'd have to go to some pretty big aftermarket aluminum ones to get more stiffness. That's a lot of money, and for now, I'm staying with what I have.

I guess in the end it doesn't matter what caused it as long as the brake system is now working well, that's all that matters.
15 Jan

Stating the obvious, running hard-line in a car already built isn't much fun. In any case, it's done and awaiting the shortened flex-lines. At the last minute the clutch line was also changed out. While it didn't really need to be hard-line, by its nature, stainless flex-line will abrade through anything, using vibration like a slow saw. The hold-down points were needed for the hard line though and if the hard-line was tie-wrapped to the stainless clutch line, it would have abraded through eventually. Yes, sleeving could have been placed over the braided line, about as much trouble as replacing it. Note the special "assembly lube" necessary for the job. By next weekend we'll know if it was worth all the work, time, and expense...

There is a track day Febuary 10 at Streets of Willow. Can Kimini be ready by then (whatever "ready" means)? Something to think about - this is exactly the type of event I need, a twisty track designed for handling rather then top speed, and lots of track time. There's tires and shocks that need optimizing, but that's pretty straightfoward. Hmmm.... sooner then expected, but if the brakes work out... huh... could be. Don't have a helmet, trailer, tow-hitch, or trailer wiring connector, but we'll see...
14 Jan

Confirmed Kimini cannot reach 60mph in second gear... oh well, that goal will be achieved with a future engine, maybe. Also tried the built-in 1/4 mile timer but haven't found a sufficiently flat, straight, deserted street around here. It's either that or drive 80 miles to the closest dragstrip :(. FWIW, 100mph was uneventful (nothing broke, flew off, or started flapping), but I ran out of level road. When that happened I lifted and coasted the rest of the way, yet Kimini still pulled a 13.3, so 12s are very likely ;)

Which reminds me... a certain coworker commented about "tearing around town." Fair enough, but it is in an area of town that is still under development, that blessed time after the streets are in but before being infested with 100s more identical, white-stucco-red-tile- roof-$800K-1/8 acre homes... but I digress. Anyway, I'm far from any homes, there is little to no traffic, no people around, and I am by myself. If I get a speeding ticket, fair enough, I deserved it, but at least I'm not endangering anyone.

The decision has been made, the brakes are being replumbed with hard-line. The brakes lock up the tires but it's just too near the floor, and the pedal can be pushed to the floor which is not a confidence builder. It might be reasoned as long as the brakes lock up before the pedal reaches the floor, what am I worried about? Well, it's the feeling of not having anything in reserve, like if the brakes get hot, can I push a bit harder in an emergency? As of now, doubtful. A very firm pedal is very reassuring which translates into faster lap times, not subconsciously worrying they're marginal. Probably the deciding factor came from my brother with the airplane. He said a number of builders used flex line for their braking system and ended up switching to hard line... yes, spongy brakes. And lastly I asked the guys who built the Nissan Factory GTP racecar... they used hard-line.

So... the flex lines running to the calipers were removed and dropped off, to be shortened and install inverted-flare ends. It was disappointing the shop didn't have the parts, and the thought "wasted weekend" came to mind. I needn't have worried since it took the rest of the day to install the front brake hard-lines. The tricky line runs down the center tunnel which will have to be snaked through from the front, but that's for tomorrow.
11 Jan

Received and installed the new brake master cylinders. A test drive showed the car stops much harder now and can lock up the tires. In fact it'll stop even harder after the brake proportioning is set right. Pedal effort is perfect - very light and easy to modulate. Unfortunately the pedal is still somewhat spongy. Not unusable, but the pedal firms up a little close to the floor for comfort. I'll do a few more tests, maybe bleed them again, but hard line still isn't ruled out. Another test is reinstalling the plugs in the brake line at the calipers to better separate where the problem is, the calipers or further upstream. Of course doing that requires bleeding the brakes again. If the trouble is the calipers... well, they'll be delt with then.

Regarding the 0-60 test, I checked the car simulation software "CarTest2000", used to estimate expected performance. Since 0-60 is an unimportant parameter I hadn't paid any attention to the number it produced - 4.6sec, the exact time it achieved in real-life! So... I fiddled with the numbers to see what it would do if 2nd was used all the way to 60... get this, 3.9 seconds. Wow...

Pulled into a gas station behind a new Porsche Carrera S. The owner was a nice guy and really checked out my car, asking a lot of questions regarding horsepower, weight, and performance... wonder what he was thinking.

I've been reading a book on Digital Video production and learned a valuable lesson, probably not one the author intended. Good Lord, the guy overuses the word "I", up to four times in one sentence! The lesson for me is, an author comes across really egotistical by overusing "I", and this guy sure does. Whatever is being discussed is lost because of the "Me Monster." Why do I mention this? To be careful not to fall into the same trap and make the same mistake. Yes, my book is slowly coming along.
8 Jan

Had breakfast with the San Diego Mini Owners Club and it was great fun meeting everyone. My wife and I had not met most of them before but when we came in, a member recognized us, and when I said, "Well... it's here", the whole room cleaned out, everyone going out to look at the car. I'm not comfortable with attention, with everyone looking at me. I've always been a fly-on-the-wall, happy to stay at the back of the room, but with Kimini done, I guess I better get used to answering questions. The picture shows how small Kimini is even next to a new Mini.

After breakfast, took the car back home and piddled around, locating and drilling the passenger-side seatbelt hole I inadvertently covered up. Yes I ordered seatbelts so the passenger seat can be installed. I'll probably swap belts so the new ones will be on the driver's side, else the SCCA will void the ones I have there now next year. (The whole seatbelt-Earnhart-Simpson-2-year-life thing really grates me the wrong way - I don't like it one bit.)

I felt like driving the car instead of working on it so took some video of a couple 0-60mph times. Not bad! If I extend the red-line "just a bit" I could theoretically reach 60 in second gear, saving perhaps another 0.5sec, but then again, what's the point. 0-60 time is only good for bragging and I rather save the clutch, which doesn't like 2nd-gear launches. You'll have to watch the 0-60 Test Video to see what time I got ;) Watching the video later I see I shifted very slow, no doubt subconsciously wanting to preserve the transmission. I know I could speed-shift and gain another few tenths, but at what cost; no, I'm happy with my time. Oh and the last time I tried the tests, the back end was doing a bit of steering on its own, like I have a touch of toe-out. Checking it this morning showed that indeed it had, about 0.050" on each side. That was changed to the same amount of toe-in, which instantly cured the wandering. Of course I'll have to wait to see how it handles curves before claiming I'm any sort of suspension genius...

The last clip, going up the hill, was at about 70mph, the fastest I've gone around any sort of curve. Even the mild turn was enough to tell just how light the car is, and what little weight is on the front tires. The steering is razor-sharp, not a problem to get used to, but... it takes some getting used to. Sneezing at speed is enough for an instant lane change. I'm already very convinced designing a light car was the best thing I could have done. That one aspect made such a huge difference in so many different ways. Oh, and the brakes seem be bedding in, though the pedal is still spongy, but that's a separate issue.

Stopped by a buddy's house who insisted on a short ride, without seat or belts... He also heard that noise anytime I have the wheel turned off center. We found the front wheel bearings had loosened up quite a bit, a reminder I need to keep on top of all the various nuts and bolts thinking about doing me in... It's all these little noises that keep me nervous and on guard, never knowing if it's just a small pebble that's stuck in a brake rotor (which has happened several times already) or something more dire. For now I feel justified in taking it easy, slowly sneaking up on Kimini's potential, rather then having any unpleasant surprises.
7 Jan

On the local freeway I saw a 60's-type Cobra pulled over on the center-divide, a very bad place to be, with the hood open and the owner on his cell phone. It made me wince, knowing full well that could very easily be me.

Another short test drive. The new CV band seals much better thought there's still a tiny bit of grease - I'll keep an eye on it. Took the car to a local alignment shop to confirm my measurements, to make sure the tires aren't wearing fast due to too much toe. I want to have it measured it accurately to confirm whether or not they match my caster, camber, and toe settings, then either take it home to correct it or, if they'll let me, I'd make adjustments on their rack. My concern is, with law suits being what they are, I may not be allowed to adjust it there. Then again I don't want them messing with my car other then just measuring it as it sits. Turns out it didn't matter, Kimini wouldn't fit on their alignment rack! Guess I'll be looking for a shop specializing in Porsches and other low-slung cars. Unfortunately the shops around here aren't open on weekends, and I'm not about to, as one shop said, "Just drop it off for the day." I don't think so!

On the topic of measuring 0-60 time, I suck at it, or more accurately, I haven't figured out how to best launch the car. Not that it matters much because I have to shift to 3rd which will kill my time, which raises the question of whether to launch in 2nd. I tried it once and, well, now I know what the clutch smells like - manure... or maybe there really was manure nearby, but it isn't something I want to smell again. I know I can side-step the clutch and really beat on it, but am reluctant to do so, I don't want to break my nice new 12,000-mile drivetrain just yet! Launching in 1st gently and flooring it results in zero wheel spin, a really good thing since that means it has lots of traction, and while smokey burnouts are impressive what it really means is a car has no traction. Yeah, yeah, I know, "So where's the video?" Well that'll come when I can present a run that doesn't embarrass myself. All I will say is I know for a fact it'll be deep into the 4-second range if I really thrash it - which I don't want to do, so my time may be artificially slow. One reader asked, "When are you going to really give it the beans?" Yeah, well, he's not the one who'd have to fix it if it breaks, is he.

Regarding the brakes, while I was at the alignment shop I talked to them about how to do it correctly. When they asked if I'd "bench bled" the master cylinders, I said no, and they said that's where the problem is, air in the masters. I then asked, "If I bench bleed the master cylinders, I still have to disconnect the hose to connect it into the system, which will introduce air back into them, won't it?" They said no. Really? Guess I have to be quick.

I also received this from reader Jim:
To me, if a hose has the ability to bend it must also have some ability to flex outward as well. When a tube bends, the outside wall stretches and the inside wall compresses. If the walls have the compliance to allow bending and then return to the original shape, they must also have the compliance to allow expansion. Again, it's a matter of degree so the only way to completely eliminate it is to use hard line that has no compliance.
Intuitively, I completely agree with this, if a hose can flex, how can it not also expand under pressure? Anyhow, I'll try the new master cylinders, bleed them right, and if that doesn't fix it, hello hard line!

Lastly, here's an old story from my all-time favorite automotive writer, Peter Egan, of Road and Track Magazine (If someday I become half the writer he is, I'll be a happy boy.) The article is about he and his wife driving across America in a Lotus-11 kit car... a journey I'm vaguely considering for Kimini... though I doubt the wife would share my enthusiasm.
6 Jan

Reader Benn brought up a possible cause for a soft brake pedal, relaying his own experience:
Bleeding them drove me nuts for a while, a soft pedal just like you describe. Lots of travel and the brakes just didn't work "good". It was hard to bleed all the air out of the masters. My theory is that with the outlet from the master being centered on the end of the bore, it could trap a fair sized bubble above the outlet. Unless you could fully stroke the master cylinder (my linkage and bias system made this hard to do) you can trap the bubble as it squeezes down with pressure....
An excellent observation and very likely my problem. The masters were very hard to prime, let alone bleed, and since they were bled in place, they remained horizontal the whole time. Worse, because of how they're mounted, I can't quite push the pedal (and therefore the piston) all the way to the bottom. Indeed, I may very well have a bubble in each master cylinder. If this is the issue it will solve the soft pedal but not solve the inability to stop hard, which is caused by the wrong size master cylinders, an issue to be corrected next week when they arrive.
5 Jan

Called Carbotech, maker of the "Bobcat" brake pads I'm using, and spoke to Jerry who was very knowledgeable about all things brakes. I was surprised to learn these pads have a 0.4 Cf (coefficient of friction) compared to stock pads that are 0.3! So these are actually helping rather than hurting. He felt hard line would not measurably help, which is the same thing the Brembo and Earl's Supply rep said. Huh... so the group opinion seems to be pointing elsewhere, away from the pads or lines, so it looks like I'll hold off going to hard line and wait for the smaller master cylinders. As said before, 0.70" cylinders were ordered, though when I changed Cf in the brake spreadsheet from 0.30 to 0.40, it says a 0.80" master cylinder is best. Whatever... the 0.70" is already on the way so we'll give them a go. Oh, and everyone seems convinced I still have air in the system. Suggestions were to just let it gravity bleed, use the vacuum pump, or try pressure bleeder valves which seem pretty cool. We'll see. My concern is I'm covering old ground, and putting in small cylinders resulted in the pedal going nearly to the floor last time. The difference this time is I hope I can get all the air out of the system... which makes the assumption the problem was air all along - fingers crossed.

In other news, I forgot to mention when driving I feel warm air coming out around the shift boot. I'm curious if it's coming from the front or back of the car. If it's rushing foward from the engine compartment I'll add a partition in the center tunnel to stop it. If it's coming from the front though, that's good because it's keeping the coolant lines and hoses cool.
4 Jan

Normally I don't work on the car on "school nights", but knowing the brakes will be a lot of work I couldn't resist. The idea was to drain and remove all the lines and master cylinders, but I didn't get that far...

Having made the decision to redo the brakes I already started buying parts. Stopping by Earl's Supply where I bought all the Teflon brake line, I explained the situation and was surprised how adamant they were it couldn't possibly be their stainless-wrapped Teflon brake line. Looking at all their brake parts, I realized an easy test to find where the compliance is, would be to install screw-in plugs into the flex lines, right at each caliper. This would isolate the problem, the master cylinders and/or lines, or a flexing or incorrectly mounted caliper. Screwed them in, got in, and pushed on the pedal. Huh, a pretty hard pedal though it still moved about an inch before "hitting bottom." That at least seemed to argue in their favor, about the lines being really stiff. But where was that 1" of travel coming from, reconnecting each caliper in turn failed to show any problems, none causing a huge increase in travel. Figuring I introduced air into the system messing with the plugs, I pulled out my new vacuum pump brake bleeder and sucked out a bunch of fluid from the front and back circuits. Now the pedal was much better...

So I'm unsure now, I *may* have found air in the system but it doesn't fix the stiff pedal caused by the oversized master cylinders, currently 13/16" and 7/8". I got myself in this mess before, fiddling with different master cylinder sizes. Because we can trade pedal pressure for pedal travel, how much of each can be tolerated? I originally had small cylinders and it was scary how far I could push the pedal, nearly to the floor. I "solved" it by going to larger master cylinders, but my methodology was flawed... sitting in the garage pushing on the pedal gives no indication of braking ability while driving. Anyhow, I've already ordered two smaller 0.70" replacements, figuring one way or another, I have to solve the spongy pedal so the small cylinders can be used; there's really no choice. Even with what I found above, I just can't believe Teflon line is as resistant to expansion as steel - nope, I just don't buy it. Plus, people I respect tend to agree hard-line will give a harder pedal. So I may just bit the bullet and push forward with the conversion anyway.

Oh and just to throw another variable into the mix, a coworker who used to work for Brembo said there's a fair chance the car doesn't stop easily due to "high performance" (read: hard) pads. Like it or not, Kimini will spend most of her time on the street and good old fashioned stock brake pads work best there. Sigh... too many unknowns.
3 Jan

I've decided to redo the brake system, replacing all the flex-line with as much hard line as possible. This is due to the bad combination of a spongy brake pedal, yet one that requires way too much force to slow down. It's not reassuring to stomp on the brakes, really hard, have it go half way to the floor, and still not be slowing down as well as it could. So it's a combination of compliance in the system and having the wrong master cylinder diameters. It's a bitter pill in terms of cost, lost time, and admitting I screwed up, but there's too much at stake to be egotistical about it. Oh sure it stops "okay" but I can't lock up the tires. Obviously that's not how a car is normally braked, but it does demonstrate the braking system can apply that much stopping force, which I do not have now. That's downright ridiculous in a car with sticky tires, very light weight, and a rear weight bias. I'd really hate to rear-end an SUV not having fixed this - now.

Different topic, the CV boot, just how much grease should be in the boot itself? I think it's little to none, any grease in the boot is useless to the CV since it's tucked inside its own housing. I think the boot is there solely to keep out dust and contain what little grease flies out of the CV housing. Anyhow, I hope the new lock-band solves the problem.

I forgot to mention I had that engine miss return, but this time just for a couple seconds. Thinking it through today I have an idea what's causing it, a defective fuel injector connector. A couple years ago the injectors were sent out for cleaning and balancing. After they'd been reinstalled the car was running on only three cylinders. Just touching injector #3's connector caused it to start running fine again and I was unable to reproduce the problem. It was filed away as another random problem, but now I suspect it wasn't, so all the connectors need to be cleaned and inspected. Good news if that's all it is.

Here's a few quotes from my fine coworkers upon hearing of the car's completion. Thanks to Ron, Sumant, and Jeremiah.

"It seems to me that "completion" of a project like this is sort of like completing college to get a diploma: Everything is stacked against you. There are so many other things that come up on a day to day basis that are easier (and sometimes even more fun). It is so easy to get side tracked and never complete the goal. In the long run the only thing that sees you through is your own personal vision and intestinal fortitude."

"Looks like you'll have no problem winning the cutest atomic pitbull contest..."

"So let me get this straight, you have only one seat, right? So, instead of endangering the passenger, you're only endangering yourself and everyone else on the road..."

2 Jan

Backed off the left rear CV boot, cleaned up the mess and replaced the band-clamp, even though the old one looked fine. Due to rain and heading back to work tomorrow, the next drives will be this weekend. Since driving was out today, the left side rock deflector was fabricated. Pretty straightforward but nothing glamorous; the other side will be done next weekend. Overall a very productive holiday.

Early results show the gearing is really short, thanks to the 13" wheels, first gear is practically useless. Starting in second is almost natural, with not only the small wheels helping but the light weight. To you Honda guys, imagine putting a 400hp, 320ft-lb, engine in your Prelude. That torque figure is nuts... the equivalent of what's in Kimini since it weighs half that of the Prelude. The downside of the gearing is that cruising at 60mph = 3500rpm in fifth gear! The numbers were worked out years ago so it's not a surprise, but a little amusing nonetheless. I wonder which will be faster for 0-60mph time, starting in first or second; guess we'll both find out. Through video I'll take you guys along as we try out the 0-60 timer in the tach/speedo for the first time.
1 Jan, 2006

Dug into the noisy fuel pump issue. It's no fun trying to get at them... who built this thing? It's hard to see in the first picture but they were unmounted from the sides of the center tunnel, which made them a lot quieter. Since the pumps are so light, and the short fuel hoses so stiff, they stay self-supported no problem. I'll keep an eye on them to make sure vibration doesn't cause trouble. I suppose I could hang them from something, but it wouldn't help the vibration issue... I need to think about it more.

Took it out for a short drive, and, check out the photos... there's a serious problem with the left rear CV boot. It's leaking due to being overfilled and/or the bands aren't tight enough. I suppose the boot could also have a hole in it but I hope not. I'll try replacing the retaining band and hope for the best.

Fourth shot shows what it takes to get the passenger-side door to close halfway decent. The weather strip alignment with the door is pretty odd, considering the mold was taking from a real Mini, it's a real Mini door, and real Mini weather strip. It was getting pinched between the forward flange and the door rather then being compressed straight on as it should. Whatever... Last shot, top row, I smell coolant anytime I really step on the gas, which made me realize something about my coolant system. I have an header/expansion tank at the rear with a 16lb radiator cap. At the front is the radiator, which probably shouldn't even have a cap in my setup, but since it came with one I left it in. That cap is also 16lbs. Apparently when I really get on the gas, the water pump pushes the water a lot harder toward the radiator, raising the pressure, and causing the front cap to vent, onto the road in my case since there's no recovery tank at the front. I'll try replacing the front cap with a higher pressure part. It's either that or blank off the cap completely, something I rather not do since it's an easy way to rid the system of air pockets.

Ah, the next 15 pictures. I mentioned last month that Max, of Max and PJ Photography sent me some low res first cuts of his work. Ignore the goofy format of some of the thumbnails, the full size pictures are fine. The last one he worked some of his editing magic on... pretty awesome I think! Better than I could have every hoped for.