Kimini 2.2 - Build Diaries
2006, Nov - 2007 March


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 400GB! 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. Show your support and become part of the project!

If you want to be notified when the book is available, send an e-mail and I'll add you to the list. There's no obligation, just a note when it's out.

The plan is to publish it in three forms.
1. An e-book for those people who can't wait, or don't want to deal with postage.
2. A paper book with black-and-white pictures.
3. A paper book with color pictures.

29 March

If you are in the San Diego/Los Angeles area, there is a big hot rod show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds this Saturday and Sunday. I'll be there with Kimini; I wonder what the domestic heavy metal boys will think of her. Usually they laugh and point, until they see what's in the back seat. Here's the show details. Sorry for the late notice.

In other news, I have received and am reviewing the first draft copy of the book! This is the last entry in this diary - it's full - and a new one will start April 1.
25 March

Random thoughts from yesterday's event. Things I remember are them starting the ex-F1 car; first time I ever heard that in person. Unfortunately they never really reved it up; that would have been sweet to hear. The powerplant assembly in that thing was incredibly compact. I show a close up of a Ferrari wheel with the very same type of scratch I have on mine - due to a small stone getting stuck between the wheel and the caliper - now I don't feel so bad. NACA ducts on the bottom of a new BMW M6, that was a surprise. A flat-black Lotus Elise, and everyone was giving the owner a good-natured hard time. Something about his $5 Krylon paint job, and wondering out loud how he get such a hot girlfriend with a car like that. The owner replied it was because she's blind - not really. Seeing just how low a Dino 206 Ferrari really is; it came up to my hip bone - 38" tall! A number of crunched-in Lotus Elises in the "rehab center. They are becoming frequent track cars, with the inevitable happening. And their shop where they rebuild the cars was really cool, complete with English wheels - now we're talking!

The pictures below are not compressed for better resolution, which means they'll take a bit longer to load if you're on a slow connection.

24 March

Our internet service has been very spotty; an underground junction box is going bad and isn't scheduled to be fixed until Tuesday. Already not having cable TV service, and now not having internet service either is pretty strange. Suddenly I have all sorts of extra time on my hands; there's probably a lesson there. Calling our internet provider proves that corporations are as lame as ever. They said that they could see our cable modem from their end, and that it has reset itself 214 times over the last two days (implying that the problem is at this end.) Asking around the neighborhood, though, tells a different story; no one else has service either. If the IP was on the ball they would have said, "We are aware of the issue and are taking care of it." Nope, I got the usual corporate blank stare, no admission of guilt (read: taking responsibility), and they acted as if I'm the only one who has the problem (even though neighbors had already called in before me.)

Rant aside, today we went to the annual open house at Symbolic Motorcars; if the Internet Gods allow it, I'll upload lots of pictures soon.

About the book, I'll be ordering some copies to have at home, both to take to shows and for people who want a signed copy. Yeah I'm amazed that people want my signature, but enough people have asked so I'll do it. That means anyone wanting one through me will have to do the paypay/money order thing. As said before, color copies will be available soon after the initial black-and-white version, unfortunately at considerably higher cost. After that I'll probably offer an e-book version too.
22 March

One step closer. The publisher has shipped the review copies of Kimini: How To Design And Build A Sports Car - From Scratch. One bummer is, no surprise, having to supply tax information to the publisher. That's to make sure the government gets their 40% share of the profit. Funny, I don't remember them contributing in any way during the thousands of hours of research and typing.
20 March

A reader let me know that Kimini is in an British Mini magazine, and I assumed it was the article that just appeared in MiniWorld. No, he meant another article, this one in Mini Magazine. I was very surprised, considering that they never contacted me. It's no doubt a little embarrassing to both publications, each apparently thinking they had the scoop on the car. Then there's me in the middle, knowing of one article but not the other, so I'm as surprised as everyone else. I think I know what happened but am waiting for confirmation.
18 March

THE MANUSCRIPT IS DONE!!! After working on it for so long, it's an enormous relief to get it finished. It has been uploaded to the publisher, where they will print a test copy which I'll check for last-minute changes. I'm still working out pricing, but after that it's good to go. I'll have to admit to being greatly relieved. Writing a book is a much larger job than I imagined, something on the order of building a car, really. Anyway, I'll make the big announcement here when it's available. Thanks again for your patience. A manuscript can be polished forever; time for it to head out into the world.

In other news, a package showed up containing copies of MiniWorld magazine; I had to remember why they were here. Back in 2006, MiniWorld asked if they could publish an article about Kimini. Sure, I said, and supplied them with everything they asked for - then heard nothing. I assumed they had lost interest, but then the magazine arrived - cool! Back when they asked about a photo shoot, I told them I'd be happy to welcome them - to Southern California, and only then did they realize how far away I am. They settled for pictures taken by myself and Max Nealon, instead of spending several thousand dollars coming out here!
14 March

Got an earful from a designer/driver I respect a lot. He's told me before, and he told me again, that getting more track time will do far more to improve lap times than any increase in power. Yes, he's right, and yet, kind of like watching people drift their cars, it's not exactly a sensible thing to want stupid amounts of power, using it in not so logical ways. Part of having a car is enjoying driving it on, AND off the track, and I'm not impervious to the occasional straight-line pulls that are always refreshing. Those sort of antics respond very well to ridiculous horsepower levels, and since the car is used for many different things, we'll see where this all leads.
12 March

Once again I'm hesitating on the type of engine mods to make. I think this is a good indication that I should hold off until I've really made up my mind. The reason for my hesitating, again, is that people are coming out of the wood-work, pointing out that it's not that hard to reach 230whp. On the normally-aspirated front, it was pointed out to me that I can buy a Type-S H22 engine, add cams and exhaust, and pretty much have all the power I want... pretty much. I do understand it though, and there's something to be said for buying an engine that, right out of the box, already has the high-compression, ported head, and improved intake manifold - and that's dead stock. Well, I need a bit more convincing that I can reach my power goal, but I'm certainly listening. One unexpectedly large expense on the turbo build is the strong recommendation by several builders that I should use the AEM ECU... $1600.

In other news, I received the manuscript from the last reviewer/editor, and boy did he find errors - very humbling! I'm going though all the comments, insertions, deletions and changes, making sure they make sense. He's really good at copy editing, but not so good at "car stuff," so he warned me to check each change to make sure he didn't make me "say" something I didn't intend. Getting very close now to being done.
8 March

I have a possible line on a donor engine. It's been surprisingly hard to locate a completely stock, tired, *complete* H22A4 engine. Going NA (normally aspirated) means boring it out, increasing stroke, improving breathing, and spinning it faster. I think that last one is the killer, for H22 engines at least. It would take around $6k-7k for a NA 230whp setup, but I'm convinced that (doing my own work) I can create a dead-reliable 300whp turbo setup for less money. 300whp seems to be a fairly low-stress application, as these things go. I think the people with turbo H22 setups have more trouble that normally aspirated setups due to: not using the best parts, not tuning it correctly, or not knowing when to say "enough." That is, most people who turbo H22 engines don't stop at 300whp, they all go to 400-600hp; I neither want nor need that much.

The idea is to sleeve it, add low-compression pistons, good rods, and a small turbo. My own conclusion is that keeping the factory rpm rev-limit is the secret to a reliable engine. I know I said I wasn't going to do this for a while, but if I can get a cheap donor, it would be good to have on-hand. Then, as funds allow, start gathering up parts for a modest 300whp engine build. Also, having a second engine will give some peace-of-mind in case anything happens to mine. I rather spend the money on a tired donor rather than build up my one-and-only engine. Plus, I can continue driving the car until the new one's ready to go. Yes there'll be more work to do, exhaust, intercooler, etc. but I have that solved in my "in-head CAD system."

If this engine deal falls through, I am looking for a complete, stock, tired-out H22A4 VTEC engine. I do Not want or need a low-miles practically new engine. It'll cost a lot, and since it's all coming apart, it seems a waste. It just has to have run well when it came out of the car; nothing blown up or bent. This is going to be fun!
4 March

Here you can finally see just how huge the muffler is! I had some of the aluminized exhaust wrap left over from the muffler, so it was added to the exhaust, around the intake, wiring, and body-shell along the right-side. I still don't like it - too much heat in too small an area. I need to drive it more to bake the wrap, which is annoying too, due to the smoke generated, it gets too much attention. Maybe I have to do this at night? Eh, don't like that idea either. Then there's the smoking muffler hangers; still haven't figured out what to do about them. I may have to use plain steel strap, though they'll likely crack through.

The last couple of pictures show how open it is on the left-side of the engine. It's very tempting to someday make a header that comes up and over the top, running over the left-side of the head.

2 March

I sent out a letter to everyone on the book waiting list, then realized that everyone else deserves an update too.

The final read-through will be completed this weekend, and next week I will comb through the changes and implement all corrections. There are a couple of additional points I want to add, but it's very close now. I expect to do the final upload to the publisher in about two weeks. They then print one hard copy of the book, mail it to me, which gives me one last chance to change anything. The cover and back artwork are done, and I expect to find little to change in the test copy, so by the end of March, expect to see the announcement that the book is finally "going live."

It has been a very long journey, not just building the car, but also writing the book. A big learning experience on both counts! I just hope I haven't lost too much interest by potential customers, as long as this has taken. Anyway, things are happening, and the end really is in sight - really.
25 February

Finished the exhaust and took the car out for a drive, and it's much quieter; I can also tell there's more power due to less back-pressure. What I'm not happy with is the additional heat now being pumped into the engine compartment. During my drive, I started seeing smoke in the mirrors, much to the concern of other drivers! Both the exhaust pipe wrap and the large aluminized sheet on the muffler were "off gassing", for want of a better term, and will continue to do so until it's all fully baked. Unfortunately, some of the smoke was coming from the rubber muffler hangers. I was surprised they were smoking since, well, they are muffler hangers, of course they're going to get hot. Looking closer at the rubber in the hanger, it's just a piece of recycled automobile tire. I'll have to keep an eye on it, in case it simply melts through. If it's a problem, I may have to solid mount it.

The whole issue with the exhaust heat makes me wonder if building a header that runs the primaries up over the top of the engine to the muffler would have worked better. The total exhaust length would be much shorter, and the header wouldn't cook my control cables and hoses down near the floor. At this point though, I'm not very motivated to spend the time (and money) making a new header. If it works out the way it is, I'll probably leave it alone. However, I will note that if a turbo is added, the exhaust would run this way, up over the top of the engine and down to the muffler, a very short run.

I just got done reading, "Black Hawk Down," which, of course, is far more detailed than the movie. What a mess those guys were in, and it makes me better understand some of what our guys are going through over there now.
19 February

Pretty much finished the exhaust. While it needs an additional support where the tubing runs forward, I at least got to start it. It's much quieter, and now has a cool basso profundo note. The muffler needs a thermal blanket, otherwise the muffler will cook the composite to the rear, melt the window above, and heat up the intake manifold to the front. What's preventing adding it is one of my (thankfully) infrequent migraine headaches. I wouldn't wish these on anyone; they're nasty bastards. With the rain there can't be a test drive anyway. My wife decided that this was a good time for me to hose off my work shoes in the yard, with it pouring rain and with a migraine. Sometimes I wonder what goes on in women's heads.

The local Mini Owners Club has scheduled a drive to Borrego Springs, where my last car show was. Haven't decided whether to go.

I finally received all of the paintball goodies; tools, barrel, inserts, feeder, and tank. It's fun assembling the setup, and yes, I am a big kid, as if that's not obvious by now.

The last picture, taken through the window next to this computer, is of a hawk, coming out in a break in the rain to dry his feathers. He took off before I could get the telephoto lens. Birds-of-prey are awesome creatures - and loud!

11 February

Worked more on the exhaust. There will be a strong mounting bracket at each end of the muffler, necessary because of its size and weight. My buddy Cecil dropped by, and kept repeating, "That exhaust is huge!" He feels I could have used a smaller one and that it would have been plenty quiet. Maybe - or maybe not. I'm not driving 400 miles to Laguna Seca again, only to find I'm over their sound limit - again. He called it overkill; I call it insurance.

Cecil stopped by to help me figure out where the play in the rear wheel was coming from. We found it; the good news is that it's not the bearing. The bad news is - I messed up. The wheel studs I used had fairly long splines, which I trimmed back using the lathe, so they wouldn't pass through the brake rotor. Unfortunately, I didn't trim them back enough; there was about 0.050 of spline left sticking up through the hub. That meant that when the brake rotor was tightened down, sandwiched between the hub and wheel, it wasn't fully seating against the hub. Instead, it was being held off by the splines, so that, in essence, the studs were supporting the full load, and as the wheel rotated, the load reversals kept wriggling the studs back and forth. Sure enough, all the tack welds on the studs were cracked, and the studs were all slightly loose. It was solved by carefully chamfering the holes in the brake rotor, and rewelding the studs. The right way is to get a new rotor and start over, but it's such a pain to get out, and this fix is perfectly okay, so this will do for now. I need to check all the other wheels for the same issue, and between that and finishing the exhaust, I don't think I'll go to the March 2 event. It doesn't bother me, since, for some reason I can't really explain, I don't want to go.

I think my brother and I are alike in this regard. He, several times, has gone to the airport to fly his plane, only to arrive and find that there had been an accident. When this happens, for a similar unknown reason, he decides it's a bad time to tempt fate, turns around, and goes home. Call it superstition, but I'm the same way. If it doesn't feel right, don't go. It has something to do with the odd feeling that there's something in the area that's looking to collect a few souls. This upcoming event "doesn't feel right."
4 Feb

Worked on the exhaust, routing it out and around to the back. I'm not very happy with it; it's far from elegant, but it works. The problem was getting it through the suspension arms, so I chose to go around instead. The pipe will be fully wrapped, as heat so close to the wires and composite is bad news. The radiated muffler heat is a concern too, so a stainless shield, or ceramic cloth, will be used to form a jacket for it. Think the 3" diameter exhaust pipe will be imposing? In the last shot, Cooper checks out the proper place for the SuperTrapp muffler...

The paintball marker showed up, finally. I couldn't resist figuring out the average speed of delivery -- 2.2mph. The postman could have walked - maybe he did. I won't be able to test it until some other goodies arrive, air tank, barrel kit, etc. Fun stuff, which reminds me of a conversation I had with a coworker recently. He and I were talking about paintball, about how much fun it is to get the gear. I mentioned that, as a kid, I got very few toys from my parents. My coworker said that it was the same with him, and we realized both of us had very frugal parents. He mentioned that, when he did get a toy, it made him appreciate it that much more. Even now, he said, when he buys something cool, he really appreciates it, and so do I. We both commented that it isn't that way with many kids, who seem to get whatever they want, whenever they want it. That has to cause issues in later life, always feeling compelled to get bigger and bigger "stuff", in order to keep the "sugar high" of consumerism going. I just recently heard that the average savings rate of Americans is -1.0%. Yes, negative. The only other time this happened was during the Depression, and they had a good excuse then. Makes me wonder how many of us will be broke in old age, having spent it all on silly stuff when we were young. Of course, car parts and paintball gear fit in that category!

Oh, I may have discovered the cause of the odd noise I heard at the track. The right-rear wheel can be rocked in and out slightly, like the wheel bearing is loose. However, both the lug nuts and wheel bearing nut are secure. I'll look into it after the exhaust is done, but I suspect the wheels studs got messed up somehow; a TIG welder can fix that. It's a little odd that the left-side wheel is just fine. I hope it's not a big deal, because I'm planning the next trackday event, March 3 at ButtonWillow. As long as there's nothing wrong with the bearing cup in the upright, I should be able to fix it quickly.

A buddy is working his way through the manuscript, doing the final editing - notable since he's very skilled at English grammar. After he's done, I'll apply his changes... and then it's off to the publisher!

30 January

Making steady progress on finishing up the manuscript. After this read-through is complete, the manuscript will be uploaded to the publisher, where it is converted to PDF. This is the the final form of the document - the exact image that will be printed to paper. One test copy is printed and sent to the author, to give him one more chance to make corrections, before "going live." That said, by the very nature of POD publishing, it means that a manuscript can be uploaded at anytime. No longer is the author stuck with 100,000 books with a glaring mistake. Now, the moment the mistake is detected, it can be fixed on-the-fly. Pretty sweet.

The POD publisher has been chosen, and, as said before, the only downside is the the higher overhead, but greater convenience. I had a printing company offer to give me a printing quote, and then, as is depressingly common, they never called back - and they contacted me... whatever. Oh well, as it was when building the car, I refuse to be stopped by these roadblocks; I just downshift a few gears and push through them.

I'll keep you updated on the publishing progress, but it's getting very close.

Regarding the paintball marker I bought, the seller shipped it via USPS, even providing me with a tracking number. Our public mail system is really poor when compared to FedEx or UPS. Their so-called "tracking number" only shows that it was mailed, then seems to go dead, with no updates of where it is in their system... isn't that what a "tracking" number is supposed to do? I suspect it won't ever update, even after it's delivered. Also, the shipper said he sent another box by the same method, and it reached it's cross-country destination in two days. Meanwhile, the 350 mile trip that my packages is on, has taken, so far, six days...

Here's a cool clip "from the old days." This is a lap at Monte Carlo in the six-wheel Tyrrell P34. Cool camera angles, even compared to today. Gotta love that engine sound, and the power-on-oversteer. They removed the upper body shell to show the driver better.
23 January

Sorry for the late update. I'm convinced as I get older, time passes by faster. Or, maybe it's just old age and I'm moving slower.

Had a great paintball game; with 64 people, it was pretty nuts, and a lot of fun. The only problem were a few "wipers", kids who wipe paint off themselves after they've been hit, then keep playing - a bad thing to do. I didn't see it happen, but if I had, I would solve the situation by raining paint upon the cheater until they saw the error of their ways.

In other news, I've decided to hold off building a stronger engine for a while. I've come to terms with the fact that I need more track time, not more power, to learn to drive better. Learning to drive will cut my time more than adding expensive horsepower. Once I can't easily extract another 1/10 second out of the track, then it's time for more power. For now, I'm going to leave it as-is, upgrade the exhaust, get sticky tires, and concentrate on driving. This of course, means there are funds freed up for other things...

It's sad to say, but in paintball, much as with the car, there's always a desire for "more." In this case, it's the "need" to step up to an electronic marker (they're called markers, from when they were originally used to mark trees and cattle.) This allows higher paint delivery, so I don't spend so much time out in the open. Of course it also allows spending money at a much faster rate on paint, so it's a very sensible, logical thing to do - not. Talking to the resident paintball pro/coworker, I checked out several markers, all of them used. (A new marker is nearly as good an investment as buying new go-fast parts for the car.) I came across a 2005 Angel Speed for an excellent price, so the deal is done. Won't my wife be pleased... "But, honey, I got a great deal..."

And finally, the book is moving along steadily. My sister came up with a nice clean cover and back page layout, plus I'm testing out the on-line publisher's tools and features. One surprising thing is that they recommend indenting the first line of each paragraph. It's not surprising that they recommend doing so, but it is surprising how bad it made the layout look. What had been a clean layout looked cluttered and disorganized, enough so that I backed out the change. So much for following the rules.
18 January

System's back up and stable, running on the new hard drive - good! I used Acronis True Image, which worked great, to clone the C drive to the new one. I read many positive comments about Acronis, and bad things about Norton Ghost. I'm always a bit amused how when I go to get a new hard drive, how it holds twice as much as the last one I bought, and costs 2/3 as much. I'm old enough to remember the first hard drive I bought, a 500MB (yes MB, as in megabyte) was $500. Pretty amazing. I guess we're nearing the end of hard drives, what with 8GB flash drives now $120 or so. We're getting there, and I doubt anyone's going to miss hard drives either! They just aren't that reliable. Okay, back to the book.
17 January

So much for it "just working"; my PC is rather flakey. If you don't see any updates for a while, you'll know why. I need to find my Win XP install disk.
16 January

Received the exhaust parts, and the muffler's huge! Good thing I didn't bother fabricating a rear bumper - I'll have one soon.

Looks like I need to reinstall Windows XP, only I can't find my darn installation CD! :(
15 January

Averted a bullet, I think. My computer suddenly started saying "bad boot", requiring 3-4 retries before it would start. That's not good, so I bought a new Seagate 300MB drive (one of the smallest!) and ran their hard drive install utility. It actually worked, and the computer booted up on the new one - cool. For some reason though, e-mail is messed up and won't connect, saying some installation is failing... huh? Other than that, it all "just worked." And yes, I did backup the website and book before I installed the drive!
13 January

Every once in while, I find a company that really surprises me - in a good way.

Recall that the supercharger in my truck was going bad. When it was removed, I was surprised to find that the front pulley was loose. Not just "loose", like the bolt was not tight, but "loose", as in I could wriggle it around, like its mounting hole was too big. This was really odd, since I bought the supercharger brand new, it was dealer-installed, and the nut had never been touched (the torque paint was unbroken.) I suspect that the nut had never been properly torqued at the factory (grrrrr.) I decided to send it in, because certainly the shaft and/or keyway was damaged, it had 73K miles on it, and the oil had never been changed... I discussed the situation with the rebuilder, who assured me they deal with far worse. I agreed to ship it so they'd have it last Monday morning, and they promised one-day turn-around, so I'd have it by Friday, then it would be installed on Saturday.

Wednesday morning, I got a call from the rebuilder (uh oh.) He said while replacing the bearings, they found that the shaft was damaged pretty badly, but they had a spare, though it took longer to fix than they thought. What they didn't have was a replacement pulley, which was also damaged. He said that in order to keep their promise(!), they were shipping it two-day (at their cost) so I could at least install it, and they would drop-ship the pulley a couple of days later.

Huh, a company that do what they say, keeps promises, and proactively solves problems. The place is Supercharger Technologies, in Florida. I'm very impressed with their business ethics and wish them well. For that they get some free advertising ;)

After installing the supercharger, attention turned to dealing with Kimini's loud exhaust. I removed the SuperTrapp muffler, and the gasket between the collector and muffler was in several pieces, explaining why I thought I heard an exhaust leak. Curious about how they are made, I removed the end-cap and pulled everything apart. The fiberglass packing material looks slightly melted, and it has been suggested that it's because I placed the Supertrapp right at the header, getting blasted with really high heat - could be. The end cap was indeed bent, apparently due to such high back-pressure pushing on it. I finally got a look at the darn screws. Sure enough, they exit into the interior of the muffler, gettting hit by the hot exhaust. No wonder they bind up.

I found a good article comparing various mufflers; two of which are the Dynamax and SuperTrapp. They have nearly the same back-pressure, but the SuperTrapp was the loudest and the Dynomax was the quietest of them all - can I pick a bad muffler or what? Potential areas for the replacement muffler were then investigated. The quiet Dynamax mufflers all have a 20" long body, and there isn't room in the original position - so be it. There is room behind the engine, placing the muffler across the rear of the chassis. The exhaust pipe will have to snake under the tranny, then through the in-board ends of the suspension arms. Doing this will lower the heat that the muffler is exposed to, since it'll be further away. Dynamax does have small-body mufflers - their "Sport" model - though I suspect "sport" = "loud", so I'll stick to their "Street" mufflers. I don't want to tow the car 400 miles to Laguna, only to find that I'm over the limit again. No, this bastard is going to be so quiet that the sound measuring lady will give me a hug. Besides, I only want to do this exhaust upgrade once.

I ordered a Dynomax 17770, which has huge flow, and a bunch of stainless tubing bends and some flanges from Summit Racing; looks like I'll be doing some welding! That will be after the mother of all paintball games next week. We have an inter-company rivalry shaping up; with about 65 players, it's going to be nuts.

10 January

I'm continuing research of on-line publishers; I think I found the one I'm going with. One annoyance is how wildly different the manuscript requirements are between publishers. One cool thing is that my sister (a graphic designer) is designing the book cover, spine, and back!

I really kicked a beehive, regarding my comments regarding noise limits at race tracks. It was correctly pointed out that: I knew the rules, ran the car anyway, and cheated by lifting when I went past the sound meter. If I/we do that long enough, the track will be closed - end of story. While I don't like the rule, it's just how it is. I thought that the SuperTrapp would do its job - I was wrong. I selfishly didn't want to quit after one lap, and drive 400 miles back home, yet that's the only right thing to do. However, I'm not going peacefully without a counter-argument!

Let's say there are two identical cars, both emitting 93dB (1dB over the limit.) One car's muffler exits on the right side of the car, pointing at the sound meter. The other car's muffler exits on the left. The second car will pass under the 92dB sound limit because of exhaust routing - is that cheating? After all, it is putting out in excess of 92dB, right? However, the exhaust on this car was not modified to point away from the meter, so the driver isn't doing anything unethical. The first car is, frankly, screwed, because it's deemed wrong to redirect the exhaust. So in effect, it's a 50/50 chance that a car will get flagged, which isn't the point at all. This makes me wonder why they don't have a mic on both sides of the track. Perhaps the point is to cut noise only toward the south of the track, where the only homes visible from the track are located. If so, adding a bend to point the exhaust in the opposite direction is completely valid, "legal", and reasonable. It's actually helping to keep that area to be quieter. If so, lifting in that area is perfectly okay. What I never had answered was whether it mattered about the direction that the noise is emitted from the car. All the track cares about is the meter reading, but that doesn't really address my question; does pointing the exhaust the other way make it quieter in the neighborhoods that are unhappy with the noise? It doesn't really matter any longer; I'm going to fix it.
7 January

Spent the day adjusting the manuscript format. I'm also starting to look into potential printers and on-line publishers. Many of them charge for all sorts of services. It's pretty clear to me who's making the money off small-run writers, and it's not the authors!

I was watching some YouTube videos of Laguna Seca. It got me a little bugged to see that when us amateur racers use the track, we have a 92dB noise limit imposed on us. Yet when they have really fast cars there during the Historics, where's the sound limit? The Toyota F1 car that tried and beat the course record... huh, I didn't see any huge mufflers on it. The sound from that thing must have been heard for five miles. But that's okay, because it brings in lots of money, right? Another video showed a Mazda 4-rotor race car warming up. Everyone had their ears plugged - huh, I wonder why? Is it the money, or the reasoning that the really loud cars only show up once in a while. I'd like to see the Toyota F1 car try the record breaking run again - with the 92dB sound limit. I guess if the money's rolling in, residence somehow manage to tolerate the ear-bleeding noise, unlike when we run, when they can't hear us. Grrr.
6 January

I found this entertaining YouTube video; Jeremy Clarkson driving Laguna Seca in an Acura NSX; in a Play Station video game and in real life. He sets out to see if he can beat his 1:41 (of the video game) in the actual car. For comparison, my best timed lap was a 1:53, and later lap times were a couple seconds faster. (And he didn't have to lift going past the sound meter!) Jeremy Clarkson at Laguna Seca.

In other news, I'm changing the book format to a two-column layout - it's tons better. With the large 8.5 x 11" pages, the lines of text were too long to read easily. I'm now adding comments from the Laguna Seca event, and after that, it's on to formating the front and back covers.

I also just received the photos from the Laguna Seca trackday event, good stuff. (photos 2004-2007 Carlos Oliveros

4 January

Thanks to everyone for the corrections to last night's entry... it's fixed.

A couple people wrote, asking how I could want more power when I passed everyone; the catch is, I was in the Novice class. Presumably, the seriously fast cars (and drivers) are in the advanced group (the event was untimed and I didn't bother timing anyone.) For example, the 2007 Corvette Z06 has about 6.7lb/hp - a seriously fast car - Kimini is 9lb/hp. What's unknown is how good the Z06's handling is, though I expect, with its $2000/set tires, it's pretty fantastic. Assuming it corners as well as me (on decent tires...) it all comes down to power, which works out to me "needing" >270hp. Of course, that power is measured at the flywheel, so that translates to achieving >230hp at the wheels, which is doable without a turbo... just. It works out to about $6000 to build the engine right. For that same expense though, a turbo has virtually unlimited additional power potential, while the NA approach is about maxed out, so it's not clear which way to go... if either. OTOH, Dennis pointed out that investing in a GPS data logger would do more for faster laps than any power increase, so we'll see.

Regarding power, it reminds me of something Dennis learned, that just because a car has a higher hp/wt, it doesn't guarantee anything once aerodynamics is factored in. The Z06 would leave me behind at >110mph or so, due to its slippery shape. Of course, on the tracks around here, it's not possible to spend much time above that speed so I'd have a better chance. It's fun to dream.
3 January

Laguna was great (hope you like reading!)

The drive up was uneventful. It's been 20 years since I'd last been to Laguna Seca, so I enjoyed driving up through the central valley again. There's a good reason it's referred to as the breadbasket of America - there's miles of fields. Cotton fields, empty, but still with a few cotton balls on the ground, like little clumps of snow. Almond orchards that went on for miles. Huge vegetables fields, and endless vineyards. Oil fields too.

Cutting over from I-5 to Paso Robles on Route 46, I remembered that a famous young actor met his end on this lonely road. James Dean died along here, driving his Porsche Spyder - on his way to race it at Laguna. I wasn't going to stop, but I was ready for a break. I have mixed feelings about the monument; not to put him down, but surely there are others in this world more deserving of such a tribute. On the other hand, the monument was paid for by a Japanese businessman, who had never even been to America. It was nice that he was allowed to express his feelings and to give Dean his tribute.

About here I got a call from my wife, asking, "Did you forget anything?" Yup, the electric blanket that we bought just for this trip, was still sitting in the living room. Being a cheapskate prevented me from buying another one.

Entering Salinas, I saw a truck with the bumper sticker, "Eat more spinach." This is where they grow it alright, and I guess the spinach scare really hit this area. Well, if you guys would wash your hands maybe we would be eating more! I didn't get any pictures, but for some reason the city of Salinas thought it would be cool to put up 20-ft tall cutouts of farmers or farm workers here and there in the fields. It looks a little odd the first time you see one, way out in a huge empty field, there's some giant guy standing there looking at you. My first thought was, "Looks like someone's been eating their vegetables!"

Got to the track and set up camp around 2pm. One thing I didn't think through was what I was going to do after dark. After about 5pm (dark), there isn't much for a camper to do. I was reluctant to leave the car and trailer and head into town, yet I didn't want to drag it around either. (Actually, I didn't want to drive the truck any more than necessary, read on.) Since I brought along my Christmas present, a biography about Jim Clark the race driver, I read that. As it got late, there were all kinds of animals making noises, some that I hadn't heard in years; quail, bluejays, coyotes, and five(!) owls decided that my camping spot would be their hangout that night. Owls make all kinds of noises besides hooting; they click, chirp, whistle, and this odd sound, almost like they were mumbling to themselves. That was really cool.

So - the event, it went great. The biggest improvement were the brakes. Now I could late brake much more confidently, and noticed I was braking much later than other cars. I thought Laguna Seca would be more intimidating than Streets of Willow, but it wasn't - or maybe it's just me. The car handled perfect and I was able to place it anywhere I wanted. Of course, that doesn't mean it was placed where it was supposed to be. There's still the problem of me not concentrating on getting the corners right. Every time around, many corners left me thinking, "I'm not doing that right", then later, I repeat the same mistake. I think that'll correct itself as I get more comfortable driving it. After watching the video, my brother said it looked like I had adapted the, "Fast in , slow out" approach to cornering; I need to get on the gas earlier. I'd have to agree with him. During the event, it finally sank it that I was finally driving a real sports car. Probably the biggest difference from other cars is how fast Kimini can change direction; it just loves fast transition turns. Its limits are above mine, but I'm learning. That seemed to be true of many drivers there, driving obviously fast cars, but being unable, or unwilling, to push things. The orange Lotus Exige should have blown my doors off - but didn't - and it was turbod or supercharged!

We all got an early lesson regarding just that - pushing it. It was the first run group of the day, and we in the pits heard a long skidding sound from the bottom of the corkscrew area, a small period of silence, then, "Whump!" I could hear a collective, "Oooo", from everyone. A poor guy had planted his Lotus Elise, hitting the wall twice. The driver was unhurt, though the car is probably totaled; the entire frame appeared to be bent. Normally I don't post stuff like this; it seems like providing entertainment at someone else's expense. No, I did it as a sobering reminder to us all that this isn't a game.

This event was run slightly different than other I'd been to. Here, if you have sufficient trackday experience, they'll let you pass anywhere you want. While I don't have the record to be given the choice, I was very reluctant to potentially expose my 10-yr project car to a crushed-in fender - or worse. However, after driving the track (you'll see it in the video) it got a little frustrating to always be stuck behind slower cars. In the novice class, passing is restricted to the straights only. If you can't make it by before the next braking zone, you have to wait. Almost everyone was very courteous about pointing cars by, but there were a couple cars that seemed to be following the you-only- need-to-pull-over-when-there's-five-or-more-cars-behind-you.

Kimini did great, though there's always something. There was a knocking in the back (which you can hear in the video) which I think is a CV joint, and it's way too early for one to fail. Looks like they're going to have to come apart to see what's going on. That's going to be a pain. And I had finally got them to stop leaking too :(

The other issue is the SuperTrapp muffler. Laguna Seca has a very strict noise limit - 92dB. I knew it could be an issue, but I wasn't worried since I could take out some baffles if it was a problem - it was a problem. First time I went blasting by the sound meter, which is on the same side as the muffler exit - 95dB. Crap, okay, take out half the baffles. Doing so really constricted the engine, essentially making it breath through a soda straw. I almost didn't have to worry about that though, because another muffler bolt got stuck. Only, this time, the nut on the inside became unstuck. This provided great entertainment in the form of turning the screw around and around, and realizing it was never going to come out. About all I could do was cut the head off - if I had a hacksaw. No one brings a hacksaw to the race track; I know because I asked everyone! Then someone suggested bending the screw back and forth until the head broke off - smart fellow. I think I'm about done with the SuperTrapp. It makes great promises, but breaks them. Even using antiseize isn't enough to keep the stainless screws from regularly freezing, and I'm not about to clip the safety wire, take the screws out, reapply antiseize, reinstall safety wire - what, every week? Nope, I'll look into more traditional mufflers, probably something like the Walker Dynomax - if I can find one that fits.

Anyway, here's the video. The fastest lap is only 1:54 (per the video) though later laps were faster (but untimed.) They're artificially slow due to having to lift, and shifting to a higher gear, whenever I passed the sound meter. This isn't a choice; the track gives you three chances before they kick you out, and I used up two chances, so I was pushing my luck. Between that, the old tires (which never seem to die), and my inexperience with the track, there's a lot of time still to be had. (The sound meter is just before the bridge with the blue signs, which is why I lift off in that area.) Laguna Seca trackday.

Since no one volunteered to take pictures, I bought some shots from the track photographer. As much as I hated to, the shot of the car coming down out of the corkscrew is a real keeper. Maybe for the book cover? We'll see. I'll receive them in 4-5 days and will post them then

In other news, my brother, Scott, successfully obtained registration for his Super Stalker. Each year in California, only 500 special permits are handed out, and he got #481 - at 8:10am, January 2, the first business day of 2007. If you aren't really on the ball, they're gone in just a couple hours.

On the way up I gradually became aware of a new noise in the truck. It's not really new, just louder. By the time I reached the track, my truck sounded like it had a diesel in it. I was fairly certain it's a bad bearing in the supercharger, and wondered how far off the cliff I'd walked - would it get me home? I've never gotten stuck this way, having the tow vehicle break down. How do you get a truck, trailer, and second car home? No local dealer could fix it because I had all the original parts at home.

Since I was at the track and there wasn't anything I could do about it, I decided to just enjoy the day - come what may. For that reason, and because I got pretty cold the first night, I headed home immediately after the event. Thankfully the truck made it, but it sounded really bad. I took it into the dealer, more for amusement than anything else. I wanted to know how they would fix it. Would they repair it, or just want to put on a new supercharger. Of course, it was the latter - $3300 installed. I don't think so. So then I asked, how much to put it all back to stock, removing the whole thing; that was $550. I know there are places that rebuild superchargers, so I called one. Long story short, it's $500 to fully rebuild it, plus they pay shipping both ways. Oh, and I never knew you have to change the oil in them... I feel like an idiot. Either the oil or wrong belt tension killed it, both of which should have been handled by the dealer (who installed the unit.) Anyhow, it took about an hour to remove today, so it's now on its way to getting a new lease on life, instead of thrown in the dumpster by the dealer.

29 December

I just said to my wife, "This book is about done!" I'll add a few comments to it after returning from Laguna Seca, but it's about finished. A book, much like engineering projects, brings to mind the saying: "There comes a time in the life of every project, when you have to shoot the engineers and put it into production." Yup. I can fiddle with this forever; it's getting towards time to let it go.

As an alternative to going the POD on-line publishing route, is the idea of printing it myself. That means there's a lot more up front expense, in the form of boxes of unsold books sitting (somewhere) in our little house. It also means that I have to handle order-taking, shipping, and dealing with damaged or returned books. However, it certainly minimizes overall expenses. Also, there's the reality that I'm not going to be selling 100,000 copies, so it wouldn't be too much work.

A printing company is working up a quote for a print run. There's still details to work out, like what type of paper, and the style of binding, but it'll be educational regardless.

About Laguna Seca, my wife's biggest concern is that I'll get cold at night (I'm camping in the campground.) I hope she's right about that being the biggest concern. She was there once before, and even walked the course with us, back when I drove my Datsun 1200. She didn't get a ride (the track didn't allow it at the time.) Just as well too because if she had, she might be a bit more concerned. While it's a awesome track, it's certainly more intimidating than Streets of Willow! However, that's the good thing about trackdays; there's no push to drive 10/10. No reason to drive with zero margin; I just have to keep repeating that. It's been 20 years since I was there last so it'll take a while to relearn the course, and I have all day to do that.
28 December

Working on finishing the book, and not much else. Over the next couple days I'll prepare the car for next week's trackday. The plan is to drive up Monday, race Tuesday, and drive back Wednesday.

How would it feel to be able to fly; not in a plane, just yourself, no airplane, no seats, no tail. Free to dive, bank, and climb at will - where you are the plane. To make it even more amazing, how about propelling yourself with four micro-jets, so you can fly around, oh, the Alps? Open the link and play the video on this site. It just about makes me cry to watch; I can't imagine anything better, it's almost... spiritual. Cool music too.
17 December

After a very long weekend I finished the brake upgrade. The brackets took most of the time, plus mocking them up and double-checking about a million times before tack-welding them. Final welding was uneventful, switching sides back and forth to make sure they didn't warp. After that, the uprights were reassembled with the new calipers and bolted in place. Dennis recommended a cool pressure bleeder so I bought one. It resembles a garden sprayer (maybe it is!) where fluid is poured in, a cap with hose screwed onto the master cylinder, then the container is pressurized with a built-in pump. Unfortunately, I don't have much room above the master cylinders, causing the hose to get bent over. Until I fix that, I just used it (empty) to pressurize the master cylinder with air. It worked like a charm; pump it up, walk over to the bleeder screws, put a hose to a bleed container on the caliper, and crack open the bleeder screws - presto - a bled brake system.

Got in the car and pressed the brake pedal for the first time since the upgrade. Despite what I was told, the now-hard pedal proved that caliper flex was indeed the problem - cool! I took the car out on a deserted road to bed in the new brake pads. Initially, they were just "eh", but as they bedded in, I was finally presented with what a brake system should be. I guess the best complement is that I made my self car-sick, because it kept stopping harder than I expected. On a side note, I finally got the brake bias bar working right (meaning I finally read the instructions.) Now the instrument panel brake adjuster knob works, so it's easy to adjust balance without having to remove the nose section. The brake issue is now officially closed. Too bad the "Wilwood" logo doesn't show through the wheel slots.

Now, of course, I hear more "noises." One of the front wheels is making its old creaking sound (the wheel-spacer); some anti-seize will fix that (again.) A bit more worrisome though is a sound from the back. I don't hear it under engine-braking or acceleration; it's only when the engine is doing neither. Something in the drivetrain is rattling, and that "something" is the CV joint on the intermediate shaft... I'll ask on Honda-Tech if it's a big deal. This reminds me of a damaged CV assembly I received with the engine. My guess is that the car the engine was from was T-boned in an accident, the one CV assembly was shattered. I wonder if it also messed up the intermediate shaft.

Almost forgot to mention; we have a new employee at work. Turns out he was (retired from the business) one of The top Honda racing engine builders. I believe he said it was his engine that powered the first Honda into the 7's. I plan to discuss my engine plans with him...
15 December

A number of people wrote about the lamp "flammage" issue (several having the same thing happen to them). There was no brand name on the bulb, though I seem to remember something like "Lights of America" on the package when I bought them at Home Depot. I'm going to throw them all out, replacing them with the same type, but this time a known brand name.

Finally received the brake pads, just in time for the weekend. The front brake conversion should be done by Sunday, though since rain's on way, a test drive is iffy. Even so, I'll know if it was a success just by stepping on the pedal, even sitting in the garage.
13 December

In our computer room we have a couple of desk lamps; both using the new compact flourescent bulbs. They're the coiled up glass tube type, with a plastic module at the bottom, near the screw-in thread. So I'm sitting here working on the book, and start to hear an odd noise. It hard to tell where it was coming from, kind of a low hum. Then I saw it, smoke coming up out of the lamp. I went over and looked at the bulb, and a little flame had just appeared where the glass tube comes out of the base. There aren't too many times I say, "Oh shit", but this was one of them! Considering what was around the lamp, this could have been very, very bad. It's not uncommon for the lamps to be left on without anyone in the room... It's broken because I dropped it after unscrewing it - the control module inside the plastic was really hot... Very, very bad - a close call. This little bastard could have burned the house down; the burning plastic dropping down onto papers on the desk... very bad.
10 December

It felt good to work on the car after a year's vacation. After a long day, one brake upgrade is nearly complete. I'm waiting for the brake pads, to make sure they align properly with the edge of the rotor, before welding the brackets. I plumbed one caliper, just to see how it made the pedal feel. I'm glad (an under-statement) to say that the pedal (with just one new caliper) is now more firm than it has ever been - this was the needed fix. The front flex lines will be replaced with longer hoses, due to where the inlet is for the new calipers. The old hoses bugged me anyway; they were always a bit short. Caliper mounting bolts were ordered, with drilled heads for safety wire. I had all four bolts on the old calipers loosen on me. I still don't know why; it's stock Nissan hardware, on a Nissan caliper, on a Nissan upright. Oh well, they're history now. With one side nearly done, the other side will go much faster.

Cooper was thinking about getting in the car, except he'd get dog hair everywhere. If you've ever owned a Terrier breed, you know their hair is wirey; it gets stuck in clothes and fabric, and is really hard to get out. It took seven years for the hairy kid to realize that sleeping on his back is comfortable.

6 December

Received the calipers, very pretty - and light. I'll have to modify the uprights; the existing caliper mounts interfere with where the Wilwoods will go. The old mounts will be cut off, and new mounts, fabricated from plate, welded on (so much for my pretty red powdercoated uprights. Wilwood also offers a cool radial-mount caliper, but the same interference would happen, and they're not as available.

One spec not covered by the Wilwood caliper data sheet, is how wide a path the brake pad sweeps across the brake rotor. My existing rotors have a 2" wide friction face, as do the stock pads. While I haven't received my new brake pads yet, I can see they're going to be narrower - around 1.75". That means there will be a 1/4" wide unused strip on the inside-edge of the rotor face. It doesn't hurt anything, much, but does give up some otherwise available braking surface.
5 December

Apparently, I was told wrong about the Wilwood calipers; they do use (now) square-section piston seals -- good! Also ordered Carbotech pads, because I'm happy with how the present pads are working. The only loose end to this upgrade is the mounting brackets. Those will wait until I have the calipers in hand, and they are fitted to the rotor for a clearance check. It's hard to get accurate measurements of the upright (with the old calipers in place.) Also made reservations at the Laguna Seca campground. Wondering if I should take Cooper with me to keep me company. I have a feeling though that he would bark at every noise in the campground, and I'd get no sleep. Have to think about it.
4 December

So much for my best layed plans. Outlaw calipers, for as good as they're supposed to be, are really hard to find. I did find them, but from only one vendor. I checked out Outlaw's list of distributors, and tried calling several of them, and checking some of the listed websites. Disconnected numbers, entirely different businesses answering the phone, and dead websites -- didn't give me a sense of solidity. Whether Outlaw's square piston seal design is superior or not, it doesn't really matter if I can't get them! Okay, so instead, I ordered two Wilwood forged billet Dynalite calipers. While the similar looking Powerlite caliper had better specs, it's even harder to find than the Outlaw part. I learned the hard way about buying parts that aren't well stocked. Sure, it may be better, but if it's hard to get parts for it, I don't want to use it. The car's supposed to be fun to drive and work on, not a pain whenever a part is needed. The Dynalite caliper is available everywhere, and that counts for something, even if it's not perfect. Tomorrow I'll order new front brake pads, in the same compound I'm using now. I hope they work out, since it's cutting 16lbs off the front unsprung weight. Hey, that means the dry weight of the car drops below 1600lbs, whoo-hoo!

Oh, and just because I'm putting in nice, shiny, light calipers, it doesn't guarantee success. I have to admit that there's still a small chance that there is still air in my calipers. However, at this point in the game, if I swap calipers, and the air is gone, I'm okay with that. Also, going to aluminum calipers, in itself, does not guarantee a stiffer caliper. In fact, steel calipers are stiffer, but only if they are properly designed. Also, in the back of my head, is knowing there are lots of perfectly happy drivers of cars with stock 280ZX calipers... and have really firm brakes. Oh well, whatever, if this fixes it, I'm happy.

Going from a single, large diameter piston, caliper, to a four piston caliper, means the hydraulic balance between the front and rear brakes will be thrown off. However, fate smiled this time, and the balance is being thrown in the right direction. If the caliper is stiff, the pedal pressure will be just right, and firm... as long as there's less caliper compliance...
3 December

The paintball game Saturday was great fun, with about 12 people per side. We found out there's a second group of players at our company, that our group didn't know about! We'll have to set up a big game. If you like paintball, check out the low-budget independant film, "Blackballed". It's really funny, as long as you don't mind the language.

Picked up a replacement 280ZX front wheel hub from the local wrecking yard. One of the perks of living near Mexico, is having some huge wrecking yards! It's funny, but when disassembling a car, I can tell how it was cared for, by how hard it is to remove bolts. If they're all tightened equally, it means it was never serviced, or that it was repaired by someone who took the time to torque all the bolts evenly. Got home, pressed out the old wheel studs, drilled out the holes, and pressed in the larger 1/2" studs. When disassembling the old hub, sure enough, the inner wheel bearing seat was loose, though the bearing race and bearings looked okay. It's possible that the seat was spinning, which would have happened when cornering, which was when I heard "the noise"; hopefully "the noise" is now gone.

Stopped by the Ford dealership and picked up some PM-1 brake fluid, which is supposed to be really good stuff. Though it's rated as DOT-3, it has a >500 degree dry boiling point. Bled out the old synthetic fluid, replacing it with the new, non-synthetic fluid. Was it different? Was the pedal more firm? Eh, hard to say. It may have been slightly, but since I had increased the size of the master cylinders already, the pedal was already more firm - hard to tell.

Took the car out for some brake tests. It's a little embarrassing to admit, but I never set brake balance, other than making sure it was in the middle. With the master cylinders recently being replaced, it needed doing. This reminded me that during the trackday, I did an informal "hand temperature test", touching both the front and rear wheels -- the rears were hotter. That got added to the things-that-need-doing pile. Anyhow, during the brake test, the rears locked first, so I adjusted the proportioning bar several turns forward and tried again -- still locked the rears. Okay, fine, set it several more turns to the front -- still locked the rears. A bit annoyed, I set it most of the way forward, just to see if they could be locked. Here we go! First time I got on the brakes hard, I got to experience that initial car-sick feeling, due to it braking harder than I expected. However, the pedal is still soft. I'm going to give the existing brakes just one more chance. I have a pressure bleeder on the way, so in the unlikely chance there's still air in the system, this should take care of it; I'm betting there isn't any.

Assuming no air in the system, I'll get new front brake calipers (for starters). I had lunch with an ex-Brembo guy, and asked him a million questions. He thought it would be hard to tell if the pedal was firmer due to switching to non-synthetic, and he was right. Asked about which caliper brands to consider, he said Brembos are too expense for me, and I believe him. I did some research on other brands, and, well, I thought shocks were expensive! I had no idea there are $2000 10-piston brake calipers out there! Anyway, of the cheaper ones, he recommended steering clear of any that use round cross-section piston seals. The round seals pull the pistons back slightly, away from the pad, giving a small dead area on initial brake application. Researching this myself seemed to confirm it. Wilwoods use round seals, so based on his advice, I'm going with Outlaw calipers. Since they are a supplier to the circle-track community, they are reasonably priced.

On the engine front, I'm starting to lean back towards normally aspirated again. The problem with the Prelude engine is, it just isn't intended to be turboed. Oh, sure, it can be, but to do it right means sleeving the block and switching to forged pistons. What I'm keeping a close eye on is the overall expense. For less money than a turbo Prelude engine (done right) I could swap in a drivetrain that's already turbo, and just up the boost. I don't really want to do that right now though. However, I'm wishy-washy enough that I'm getting a book on turbocharging -- got to keep an open mind.

I signed up for the next track event. This is at the track where I've always wanted to run Kimini, at least once; the track I thought about, and which kept me going, during 10 years of design and construction - Laguna Seca. No matter what happens after that, I will have accomplished the dream of driving a car I built, at one of the nicest tracks anywhere. I need to call to see if I can camp in the campground.
29 November

Dennis pointed out the futility of trying to measure downforce the way I did. In hindsight, (of course) he's right. The amount of downforce (if any) is on the order of maybe, oh, 50lbs on the back axle. Split between the wheels, that's 25lbs each. With 300lb springs, that's 0.083" deflection. With all the bumps, my measuring device was moving around at least one inch, so there's zero chance of being able to see anything. What I need is a wind tunnel...

A buddy at work is turboing his car. Hearing what I'm thinking of doing, he launched into an endless sales pitch, to get me around to his way of thinking. He even solved the intercooler problem, saying to place it inside, up near the roof, at the back edge of the engine cover. A duct cut into the engine cover would lead right into it, and then out the back window, which already is a vent. He's an aerodynamicist in his day job, so his approach is probably a good one, but he's also a bastard for trying to lure me in! It's like hanging out with drug dealers; it's just not a good environment to be in.

Before any engine work is considered, however, there are more important things to take care of first: replace the front-right wheel hub, the brakes, the cooling system, then the engine. No point cramming 50% more power into something that can't handle the heat.

The brake issue (for new readers) has bugged me ever since the car was completed. The brakes work fine, but the pedal's just too soft - mushy. It goes half way to the floor before the car really starts to slow down, which does not instill confidence. In spite of the verbal lashing I received from my passenger at the last trackday, I know I can brake much later; I just don't trust the brakes. They have to be fixed.

They will be given one last chance. Steve Coe said using synthetic brake fluid (in a racing application) is a bad idea. There have been a couple posts elsewhere that seem to support that, so the system will be flushed with "normal" Castrol SRF or LMA. If the soft pedal isn't cured (read: any remaining air eliminated), that's it, time to fix it. I'm very sure the problem is the caliper; it was tested by plugging the brake lines, right at the calipers -- instant hard pedal. Either there is air still in them, or they're flexing. A coworker used to work for Brembo. When told of what I think I've found, he said, "Well of course they flex, stock slider calipers aren't that rigid." Funny how after I figure stuff out the hard way, experts come out of the wood work and say, "well, yeah."

Assuming they're flexing, the question is, what brand to replace them with? The list I'm aware of is: AP, StopTech, Brembo, and Wilwood. I like Wilwood's site, because they have all the technical specs of every caliper. Brembo has a surprisingly poor site, with virtually no engineering data. Yeah, I can call them, but data should be on the site. StopTech and AP stuff is too large for my weenie 10" disks, which leaves Wilwood. Looking through their calipers, the Powerlite four-piston caliper looks really nice; it fits under the 13" wheels and accepts a 10" disk. One consequence of going to a 4-piston caliper, from my single-piston unit, is the change in piston area. Running the numbers shows that a four-piston caliper, with 1.25" pistons, gives about 20% more piston area. Assuming they are indeed much stiffer, I can afford the change, because it improves the mechanical advantage of the pedal, while hopefully retaining a firm pedal.

The plan is to replace the front calipers and see what I end up with. If the pedal has firmed up enough, I'm set, otherwise the rears will have to be done too. Too bad I didn't know this stuff before I started out... more good material for the book!

And about the book. It's about 97% done, though I'm now adding more info in the brake section! I asked the publisher this week, "Well?", wondering whether he's seriously interested, or not. I'll understand if he isn't, no problem, but I think I deserve an answer. Assuming the months of silence continue, I'll push forward on the self-publishing solution.
26 November

Decided to do aero testing today, mostly because it's the last issue that's going into the book. Rigged up some scales on the front and rear suspension arms, to see if the car has high-speed lift, or downforce. The front one stuck up through the grill, so I could watch it while I drove. For the rear, I used the lipstick camera and pointed it at my high-tech scale, recording it with the camcorder. The wood shafts are attached to the A-arms, moving up and down with them, to give a gross indication of what's going on. The idea is that it doesn't matter what the scaling is, or even what the motion represents, but rather if it's moving up or down. I then did several slow speed-ups to 100mph, and the good news is that I think there's no lift, and maybe a bit of downforce. I say it that way because, with the bumps in the road, it was very hard to see a trend. Using public streets to do 100mph aero tests, where the speed needs to be maintained for a while, isn't very smart either, and I kept running out of room. The was only one run where I recorded what appeared to be a (very bouncy) slight increase in loading, but honestly, it was hard to tell. I can say though that there was no lift, which was the whole point of the undertray/diffuser. I'm pretty happy with the results.

I smelled something burning again; I think it's one of the cables or hoses running below the header, but it's hard to get in there to see. None of them feel melted, but my nose says otherwise. The day is coming when the engine undertray will have to be removed and ventilation holes added to the tray. I'm resisting because of what a PITA it is to remove (there's a lesson there for future projects.) Better insulation is needed to insulate the cables and hoses running below the header -- it's just too warm down there.

Oh, remember the bolt I found, how I commented, "How could someone continue without it"? That someone was me. It was the grounding bolt that screws into the cylinder head cover. Doh! Reinstalled it, this time with Locktite.

In other news, I'm looking into a second engine, a more beastly one... I put the blame on Max, who, after his ride, said the chassis and suspension did so well that it could use more power. Yup, it's all his fault I'm considering upgrading!

24 November

Swapped out the 0.7" diameter brake master cylinders for 0.813". The reason was two fold; pedal effort was almost too light, plus the pedal has always been a bit too soft ("squishy.") It's part of the reason I can't go into turns full-tilt, always wondering subconsciously how the brakes will do. I know this isn't the right way to fix it; the actual problem appears to be caliper deflection, as hard as that is to believe. The reason I say that is, I capped off the lines right at the calipers, and the pedal became rock solid. So either there's air in the calipers, or they're deflecting. The first picture is the master cylinders, before I removed them; note the sand and gravel below - it gets everywhere. The next two pictures explain why I smelled rubber burning. As expected, the front rubber "fender wells" were rubbing on the tires. Well, they did for a while... note the black rubber dust on the suspension pivot. The right way to solve this is to make composite inner wells. The last picture is yet another bolt I collected on-course. It's not off my car; this was found in the diffuser section of my chassis. Makes me wonder what it held on, and how someone could continue without it.

21 November

A number of people wrote, expressing concern about my tire wear. As said previously, the tires are constructed with the outer rain grooves much shallower than the inner grooves. As the tire wears, the outer grooves wear down first, hence the appearance of the outer half being bald. In several of the pictures, you can see small divots in the bald areas. They are depth indicators, which show that the wear on the outer half of the tire is the same as on the inside area, so they're actually wearing evenly.

Speaking of tires, it looks like there's about one more trackday left in them, then it's time for new ones. What I'm finally confronting is the slim selection of 13" tires. If my car was a real race car, it wouldn't be an issue, since I could just run slicks or "DOT" tires. If it were only a road car, it would be tougher, but still possible. I'm trying to do both at once though, which puts me in a tough middle ground. Using super-sticky 13" tires on the street won't last very long, and using hard compound tires (if I can find them) won't do well at the track. So I may be forced to have two sets, which brings up the issue of size... do I stay with 13" for the street? I've found Toyo RA-1, Kuhmo V700 and V710, Yokohama A032R, Hoosier R6, Hankook, and Azenis. Most of these are very sticky street tires, but the 13" selection is thin to nonexistant (and sure to get worse.) So the question is, do I stick with the 13" tires while I can, or make the jump to 15" wheels and tires for the street. I'd keep the 13" wheels I have, for the track, and mount really stick tires/slicks. The lowest profile 15" street tires would cause the car to sit 3/4" higher, but since it's for the street, it's not a big deal. For right now I'm still considering my choices.

In other news, I've been invited to a "dyno day", where a bunch of people show up at a garage and put their cars on the dyno, "to see what's what." On the same day though, is a scheduled paintball match... decisions, decisions. One motivational point is, some of the cars going will be Ferraries and maybe a Lambo or two. Pretty tempting, for the sound if nothing else. As far as why I'd want to put my car on the dyno, I don't really know. I mean, the car won't be any faster afterwards, and it's likely I'll be more disappointed than impressed with the numbers. Still, I am a bit curious. We'll see.

I have a line on a replacement 280ZX front hub. The one on the right front appears to be defective, requiring constant tightening of the wheel bearing. Without even taking it apart, it's pretty sure that the bearing's falling apart due to a bad seat. Best to fix it before the next track event.

And finally, my brother, who owns an airplane, ran across this Air Worthiness Directive, concerning Evens NPG+ coolant. There was an in-flight fire (and fatal crash) of a small plane, and part of the findings was that the coolant caught fire! If you use non-water-based Evens coolant, you might want to look into this. Here's the link to the directive.
19 November

Here's some pictures from last Friday's trackday. I'm pretty happy about the tire wear; the missing grooves on the outer-half of the tires were about half as deep as the inner ones, which is why they're gone. It almost looks like the center is wearing very slightly more than the edges, so I may drop tire pressure by 1-2lbs. (And no I don't have a tire temperature gauge, yet.) The nice pictures of Kimini on-track were once again taken by Max, who was the first passenger I took out on-course. He was so excited when he came in, and said he'd write up his impressions once he regained his composure! If you're wondering where the full track report is, read Saturday's entry below.

18 November

The trackday went very well.

My buddy Craig met me at our house and we left about 7pm. I, with my loaded truck and trailer, and he, with his Miata. We had reserved a camping spot at the edge of the desert so we'd be close to the track, (to make the 7:30am drivers meeting) and to keep an eye on our stuff. At around 150 miles away, we figured we'd be there by 10pm. Towing the car was a non-event, and the brake controller is awesome. Once adjusted, it was as if there was no trailer back there under braking. Under acceleration though, was a different story, and I was never so happy to have the supercharger. With anything less, heading up the Cajon Pass would have been a long slow trip. As it turned out though, how fast I could tow the car became a moot point. That's because CalTrans, our state highway department, decided it was a good time to close three of four lanes of a busy freeway to do some work. So instead of getting to the camp ground at 10pm, it was midnight.

At that hour, all we wanted to do was sleep, which would have been easy, had we not picked a campground bordering railroad tracks. Oh well, I though, maybe they don't use this out-of-the-way line much. With the campground being quiet and out of the city, it's always very awe-inspiring, being out somewhere that it's really dark, to see so many stars; it's been a long time.

At about 2AM, I woke from a light sleep to the sound of Something Big coming up the canyon. Still several miles away, it was already clear it was a fully-loaded freight train; the sound seemingly resonating with everything around me. About 10 minutes later, the campground lit up like the Mother Ship was coming down; the headlight they have on those trains is a dang big one! Had I not been so sleepy, I normally love to watch trains go by; they're such an amazing human invention. As it was, I lay in my sleeping bag and mentally counting the different sounding cars as they went by, some with very squeaky wheels. Oh, and I have to mention that, throughout the entire performance, I could hear Craig snoring through it all... amazing. I guess that's one benefit of having seven kids -- you can sleep through anything.

Arriving at the track, several things have changed since my last visit, 20 years ago. The small town of Rosamond is expanding out toward the track, which will eventually be a bad thing. It's only a matter of time before people start complaining about the noise. Willow Springs Raceway, itself, has grown too, now with something like six tracks. The big track is how I remember it, but the Streets of Willow track has expanded into a larger track with more turns; perfect to test handling.

The group I signed up with, Redline Track Events, seemed to attract a different crowd than what I used to see. Last time I did this, we all had old cars we fixed up to do well on track. Nowadays, it seems like people just go out and spend $30,000 - $70,000 to buy their way into a track car. It's neither good nor bad, just different. I do think though, that a big advantage of building up a car is the knowledge of what it's doing. If one of these expensive cars breaks, the owner has no choice but to call for a tow

The other difference is, it seems like trackday events are now attended mostly by Asian guys, who, I might add, all seem to be about half my age! (Of course, the last time I was at one of these, I was half my age.) It was a little disappointing how few people came over and said hi. Back in "the old days", we were always going around and talking to everyone; we always helped each other out. At this event, at least, I felt the winds had changed a little. There were kids talking, but I think that's because they came to the track together. Other than that, there wasn't much socializing going on -- everyone just doing their own thing. To be fair, I didn't go around looking at anyone else's car either, so it's partly my fault.

Okay, so how did the car do? The biggest concern was high-speed oversteer, and it wasn't an issue. All summed up, I'm not going to change anything suspension-wise; it was that good. Even the 10-yr old tires did pretty well; try as I might, I couldn't wear them out. I suppose the nicely aged compound has something to do with their long life! Anyway, like Dennis said, it's going to be many track sessions before I learn this course. Sitting as low as I am, it takes some faith to go storming into some of those turns, since due to the banking, it's not possible to know where the edge of the track is on the exit. Nothing like driving, at the edge of adhesion, feathering a slight slide, out toward an edge you can't see.

Kimini was very easy to place; slight trail-braking on corner entry put the back end anywhere I wanted, and while going around the big turn at the end of the straight (part of their skid pad) I could cause understeer or oversteer, all depending what was done on corner entry and with the gas through the rest of the turn (geez... Cooper just farted as I write this... what's he been eating?) Anyway, I'm very, very, happy with the suspension, the last big unknown with the car. Which leaves the other stuff.

The laundry list of issues isn't too bad.

During my second session, air temperature was 80+deg. The coolant got warm, as always, but as I kept pushing, it kept getting warmer. At the end of the session, it was >225deg -- pretty warm. In the pits I could hear it bubbling into the catch can, which eventually overflowed, dumping out maybe a cup of coolant. I'm going to modify the radiator, as described earlier, changing it into a two-pass setup. I suspect that's the main problem, so that'll be the only change to the cooling system before more testing.

No oil issues -- yet. We'll see when I replace the old tires with sticky new ones.

The brakes. They got soft(er) as the day went along. I'm using Castrol synthetic, which is supposed to be good to about a billion degrees, but maybe not in my case. Dennis said when brake fluid boils, the bubbles don't disappear from the system, so, yes, the fluid is, in effect, spent. I'll probably first change the master cylinders to the bigger units first.

What else? The front right wheel bearing keeps "coming loose", only, it's isn't. What I mean is, I have to keep tightening it to remove all free play... something's wrong. The front left side has been no problem, so what's different? I think it goes back to when I was assembling the uprights. I remember that one of them had an odd looking bearing seat, like the car it was from had been in an accident. I remember the bearing seat went in too easily, so I used some very expensive LockTite bearing adhesive to try to save the upright. I'd rather not have to get a new one since it has to be modified and painted. Guess it'll decide for me once I get it all apart. So that's about it. Another milestone goal was to take the car to the track, drive as hard as I want, and never touch the car -- that happened. While most other cars had their hoods up, with people fussing with them, I could just relax. In fact, there was a really nice Nissan Skyline there, which I really wanted to see run. It wasn't to be, the owner having to mess with it all day, and it only went out for about two laps at low speed.

Yes there is a video, which is one reason why this is being posted late; it takes a long time to edit footage. Also, the video very nearly didn't happen at all. I'm using a no-name digicam battery, which my Sony digicam isn't too sure of. That is, it sometimes can't decide if it want's to run on it or not, saying it's not the right type. After turning it on and off a dozen times though, the camera seems to give up and just accept it. So here you go, probably the most important video of Kimini's development, the first track day. It has been quite a journey.

I'll add some pictures tomorrow.
14 November

Short story: The trailer is now registered and licensed.

Long story: For readers outside the U.S., the government office that handles all vehicle licensing is called the Department of Motor Vehicles, or DMV. It's also called Car Hell by citizens who have the misfortune of having to visit. Hoping to avoid Dante's Inferno, I made an appointment. Showing up on-time with the trailer, I parked in the Inspection Area, and waited. Very quickly a guy came out, and after I explained why I was there, he immediately applied a VIN tag to the trailer, saying to go inside to finish the paperwork. Huh, no inspection, no checking of the lights, no measuring of minimum ride-heights, nothing... well, okay. With the "inspection" taking about one minute, I got in line to finish the paperwork, figuring it wouldn't be so bad this time. Hah! After waiting 30 minutes, my number was called, and for the next 60 minutes, waited patiently for the paperwork to be completed. There was some question if the state was going to tax the shipping charges for my parts. While that didn't sound right, I knew better than to make waves. Best to suck it up and say, "Thank you sir, may I have another", unless you want to risk hearing, "No soup for you!"

So now that the trailer's done, am I glad I built it? Yes. Would I do it again... probably not. I didn't mind the work, but it took far longer than expected to complete. The total expense was about what a nice condition used one would have been, which would probably have weighed twice as much, but then again I'd have it right away. Still had to wire the truck and add the receiver hitch though. Anyhow, towing it empty to the DMV was a chance to see how the brake controller worked. Very well actually, the inertial controller worked so well that I couldn't tell the trailer was back there while braking. We'll see how well it works fully loaded.

With the trailer done, and registration out of the way, things are looking good for Friday. Clear weather in the high 70's, should provide for a nice event. Last I checked, there are 34 people signed up - it'll be a good time!
12 November

Spent the weekend getting the trailer ready; tie-down points chosen, the electric brakes wired up on the trailer, and the truck wired for the electric brake controller. The trailer goes in for registration on Tuesday. I'm taking Thursday and Friday off, so it's likely the brake controller won't be tested until we're on the way to the track... The brake controller display indicates everything's working fine, but I don't look forward to testing it in Los Angeles traffic. In fact that's the only part of the trip I dread, pulling a trailer through heavy traffic. I'll test it on some back streets around here to calibrate the system first. It's inertia-operated, which means it senses when the truck's slowing down, and applies proportional braking to the trailer. Do I really need a brake controller? Probably not, but I've smelled enough hot brakes from cars pulling trailers, and seen too many trailers fish-tailing to consider running without. Considering the tie-down points, that's wasn't easy, due to me having a smooth underbody. There's no place to hook onto. Finally I settled on hooking onto the front lower A-arms, and onto the wheels at the back.

I said "we" above because a coworker is going with me. Craig's not really into sports cars, but since he's my office-mate, he got stuck being a good neutral party to do a manuscript review of the book. So after reading it, he knew the crowning achievement was to take the car to the track; in fact there's an unwritten chapter waiting for the event. When he heard I was finally taking the car, he asked if I was going alone. "Yes", I said, "Just like how I do everything else car-related." He then volunteered to crew for me - cool! Having him there helps solve the issue of how to get external film footage of Kimini. After he volunteered, I mentioned, "You know... you do own a Miata..." So, for the first time, he's going to take his car to the track. I'm pretty excited for him and know he'll have a good time. Max Nealon will also be there with his professional camera gear, along with "SOBill", who so generously loaned me his corner scales. Dave Norton is also showing up with his three-wheeler. He asked the organizer if he could run his "car" and they said they'd have to check with their insurance first. Well now that it's down the wire; they own him an answer one way or the other. I told them that he is going to show up, so someone's going to have to give him an answer eventually. Anyhow, it's going to be a fun event, and it looks like there'll be clear weather!

Ran out of time to change the brake master cylinders on Kimini but it's not a big deal. It might even be better this way, leaving them alone until after the event so the car won't feel different. Oh, I did uncork the exhaust. Yup, this'll be the first time I run Kimini with open exhaust. It'll be interesting to see if there's any additional performance, but I think it'll be hard to tell. That's because whatever extra power I get will probably be lost due to the track being at about 2500ft elevation (we live near sea-level.) Oh well, at least it'll sound like a real race car!
10 November

Loaded three new videos on the Video page. One's a (large) video of that cool VW van discussed below. Another's an old video of a Audi rally car, driving down dirt roads tightly lined with people. The last is a fast lap around Sebring in a Porsche GT3R. That guy has some amazingly fast shifting skills.

In other news, this weekend will be finalizing the trailer and car preparation.
8 November

Dennis over at has sprung the big surprise on everyone. He's going to put a Hayabusa-based V8 into not only his DP1 racer, but also his Ariel Atom that's nearly done. At around 380hp @ 10,000rpm (normally aspirated), and only 200lbs for the engine, it's going to be quite the ride. I'd sure like to see the cars someday.

Internet buddy Chris sent a link to this amusing video. I won't give it away, and it's in German, but imagine blasting around a track in your $100,000 Porsche GT3, and getting passed by something really old and boxy. Never mind it might have a twin-turbo Porsche 993 engine with racing suspension hiding inside. It's pretty funny watching "it" pass, showing up at about 1:03 in the video. It's great fun driving something old and slow looking, just waiting for something expensive to come by... Sort of like driving a "Q-ship." I'd like to find more information on that car.
6 November

Sorry the update's a bit late; I was tired out last night. Saturday was spent painting the wood decking and axle. I tried out POR-15 on the axle tube, a four-step process involving degreasing, metal-prep, the POR-15 rust encapsulation, and a top coat. It went on with no drama, though the final coat went on, by brush, and ended up looking, well, like it went on with a brush. I suppose spraying it on would look much nicer but it wasn't worth the bother. Having now tried both POR-15 and its competitor, Rust-Bullet, I'll say Rust Bullet, being a single step process, is certainly easier and faster to apply. However, only time will tell how well POR-15 holds up. For as much as POR-15 and its supporting chemicals cost to do the entire trailer though - plus the time - I'm glad I had it powdercoated. For about $100 more, they pick it up, media-blast it, coat it, bake it, and deliver.

That was Saturday. Sunday morning the top-coat was applied, looking suitably so-so, but big deal, it'll be hidden under the trailer. While that was drying, attention turned to checking the car's corner weights. About six months ago, the springs were changed and the spring seats eye-balled. No point going to the first track event with the corner weights wrong though. It was also a chance to see what the car really weighs. The last time it was weighed was without the shell, doors, Accusump, and probably a bunch of odds-and-ends I'm forgetting. I've been telling people it's 1500lbs dry...

After stumbling through doing corner weights the first time, it's now easy - almost. It went something like this: Jack car up, slide scales under, let car down, settle shocks by bouncing on them. Get in car and check initial settings. Remove front and rear shell sections to access shocks. Turn diagonally opposite spring seats to adjust cross weight %. Bounce on shocks again. Reinstall front and rear covers, get back in car, check settings. Do this 3-4 times to dial it in. Right when I was done I noticed the "Zero" button..., a button I didn't push before starting. Oh well, I thought, how far off could they be? Since I was all done I jacked up the car and removed the scales. With the job done, I checked the zero settings on the scales... crap. One was off by 47lbs!, and the others off by 34lbs, zero, and 10lbs. So, I got to do the entire job a second time.

Sad to say, the car has gotten fat. It's 1814lbs with me in it and a full tank of gas, which works out to about 1600lbs empty - pretty disappointing. I can't complain too much though, 1600lbs is half what most cars weigh and a serious advantage. It is a stern lesson though about always watching to trim weight. My hat's off to builders who succeed in making sub-1000lbs cars. Heck, what's more amazing is that the Lotus Elise (a "real car") is only 1850lbs; that's an awesome achievement. Oh, and note the cross weight isn't exactly 50%. That's because I had leaned out the driver's door to take a picture of the scale display that was sitting on the floor; it really is 50.0% ;) Oh and while I show the hard numbers, I know many builders are something less than truthful. Not dishonest necessarily, but call it, "subscribed to wishful thinking", where they never weigh their car - just deciding instead what miracle weight they want to tell people. Without a picture of the corner weight display, it's just talk.

Checked wheel bearings, oil, coolant, brake fluid levels; getting ready for the big event. Ordered a replacement front radiator cap, which keeps leaking. Also ordered a slightly larger diameter brake master cylinder. Yup, going to go back up in size (from 0.7" to 0.813") to firm up the pedal and reduce travel. Hopefully both items will be here by the weekend. Oh the trailer lights were installed and tested so the trailer now needs to visit the DMV for registration.
3 November

The trailer is back from the powdercoater. It was going to be black but I got talked into the same gray as the chassis - looks like that was the right choice. With limited daylight and long work hours it's impossible to get anything done during the week. Tomorrow the trailer axle will be painted with POR-15. Interestingly, virtually everyone using the stuff doesn't overcoat it, yet the factory says to since UV really beats up on it, so it'll have a black overcoat. Hopefully the weather will cooporate Saturday - today it was real foggy until mid-morning. In the picture the trailer looks bent because the driveway slopes in two directions.