Kimini 2.2 - Build Diaries
2007, April-


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 (again) to 2500GB and 350GB storage! Very cool.

************* THE BOOK IS DONE! *************

The book now has its own page here.

Want to be famous and have your story read by millions?

Here's your chance! I'm starting a new book project which is titled, Shade-tree Mechanic Disasters.

I am collecting shade-tree mechanic disaster stories. Nothing morbid, no losing limbs, but simply stories that, in hindsight make us laugh at ourselves. I'll collect these until there's enough to make a fun car-guy coffee-table book and then publish it. What I need is a description of what happened and your name. The fact that you send it to me constitutes permission to publish the story. All I ask is that the stories be true, in good taste, and preferably be about yourself, though harmless tales about your buddy also work. I'm pretty sure each of us has a couple good stories to share... I know I do, and yes, my stories will be in there, too. If you don't want your name attached to the story, no problem leaving it out. And no, I won't post any of the stories here. You can e-mail the stories to me here

29 August

I'm back from the trip, which went very well. The complete write up is in the 2007 Sept diary - this one's full enough. If you don't see the new diary right away, it's because I'm still working on it - there's a lot of pictures.
19 August

This is the last update before the big car trip to Colorado, and since the camera arrived, there will be pictures.

There was a brief thought of driving Kimini to the event, quickly dispelled after considering the heat. We drove the Lotus around for a while yesterday so that I could get used to it. With desert temperatures peaking at around 112 deg F, we're bringing lots of water - the air conditioner seems to lower the temperature by about 20 degrees or so... The car's owner is fairly confident that it won't overheat... that's good... about his confidence I mean. I'm not so sure about us!

As far as driving Kimini any distance, I reminded my brother that one year from today is the next Montorey Historics. We plan to attend, me driving Kimini and my brother driving his Super Stalker. We'll head up Highway 1, along the coast, to avoid most of the heat. Yesterday I helped him modify his gas tank, oddly not included in the kit. There's something about not including critical one-off parts in a kit that bugs me, especially parts needing welding. I thought the point of paying lots of money for a kit was so that you didn't have to do any of the welding - oh, wait, he isn't doing any welding, I am! The rollbar isn't welded in, either, though he may have requested it that way.
9 August

My beloved Canon G2 camera, having documented practically the entire Kimini project, has decided that its job here is done, and has passed on. It still takes pictures, it just won't share them any longer; apparently the serial interface has gone south. Oh well, job well done. I've been very happy with this Canon camera so I ordered a new Canon SD850 IS. Half the price, half the size, twice the megapixels, auto-stabilized pictures, longer zoom, such is progress. I had to get a replacement camera pretty quick because of my upcoming trip.

A buddy and I are going to drive his Lotus Turbo Esprit to Colorado for a national Lotus meet. I'm going for a couple reasons: I've never been to Colorado, never seen quite a few Lotus models, and never had a good ride in a turbo car. There is another reason - okay, the real reason. That's to personally put a copy of my book into Peter Egan's hands, because he's going to be one of the speakers, along with Alain de Cadenet, Emerson Fittipaldi, Clive Chapman, and Peter A C Darley. Peter Egan holds a special place for me because he's one of the very few automotive writers that can put the feelings we have about cars - good and bad - into words. Anyhow, I want to give him a copy of my book to thank him for the enjoyment that I get from his writings. Okay, so there might be a bit of scheming going on, too. Peter has a monthly column in Road & Track magazine, and if he happens to mention my book, that would be really great. If not, no big deal, knowing he has it will be nearly as good.
5 August

Took Kimini to the "Coffee and Cars" weekly show in Irvine (South Los Angeles). On the way there, a Acura NSX came tearing down the freeway ramp, so, it being early with no traffic, I couldn't help but catch up to him - he didn't want to play. Later however, I rolled up to a light alongside an Audi S4. I know they have a V8 in them with 330-400hp, so I was "curious". Like I've said before, I never start anything, and pulled away from the light like normal... he on the otherhand, wanted to play. As wonderful as his engine sounded with the aftermarket exhaust it was no match for a light weight car. At the next light he asked, "Okay, so what's in it?" I told him, and he nodded, "Little car, big engine." Actually, it's "light car + horsepower", but whatever. Anyway, when the light went green, he took off again. This time I decided to just pace him, testing to see how much throttle was left over while keeping up. As we approached the next intersection, the light went yellow so I backed off. He decided to chance it, going through at 100mph+, not very smart for several reasons. I looked up the S4 specs later. Well no wonder it wasn't that fast - 3800lbs - that's just nuts.

About the show, it's every Saturday and is huge, with maybe 500 cars. While I took lots of pictures, my PC has forgotten how to download them! Anyhow, there was a very eclectic mix of cars: old Triumphs, American rat rods, Ford GTs, a Ferrari Enzo, old motorcycles, Corvettes of all years, a Lambo driven by a muscle-builder with blond spikey hair, Panteras, old Datsun roadsters, GTOs, Minis, well, you get the idea. It's the shear size of the gathering that's impressive. I got there at 6:20am and by 7am or so, the lot was full; by 9am, people were starting to leave. With it early in the morning it still leaves the rest of the day to do other things. Kimini got a steady stream of interest, which made it hard to walk around, but I'm not complaining. It's about a 100 mile round trip to the event, but I'll be going again!
2 August

Sorry for the lack of updates. I've been around, just busy doing other stuff.

The reunion. Ah yes, a very bittersweet meeting it was. First off, it was great to see people, but also very, very strange - almost surreal. It's like reading the first chapter of someone's life, then jumping straight to the middle of the book. It's eerie how you can look at a stranger's face, then, slowly, you start to see someone else, the child that you knew once upon a time, is still in there. I got to give my sweetie a hug that I first met in first grade. Of course, as said before, she didn't know she was my sweetie, but so it goes. A few people looked amazingly unchanged. And then, over in the corner of the room on a table all to itself, was a black book. I wondered what was in it - and opened it. A list of names... of kids I once knew who are now passed away - eight names. A very, very strange feeling to know that, someday, I, too, while be in it. And then, after the last one of us is gone, what will happen to the book? It'll probably be thrown away, returning to the same dust that we all come from.

And then there was the one girl I'd been thinking of frequently over the last 20 years. That's because, at the 10 year reunion, she got up to say that while we'd gone on to start out adult lives, she was waiting for an organ transplant, wondering whether she'd see the next few years, let along the next reunion. Over the years I wondered what happened to her. I figured there were two outcomes, either she passed away or got the transplant. What I didn't count on was a third outcome, that she never got the transplant and was just barely holding on. It was very tough seeing her, a shadow of herself in a wheelchair; I didn't know what to say. In a terrible irony, someone had mistakenly put her name in the black book, a very sad accident. I hope she didn't see it.

What kind of ticked me off was how it was only four hours long, and the DJ kept talking. In fact, he kept getting irritated that we didn't shut up. Um, buddy, this evening is about us, so the thought that he should just "STFU" came to mind... Here we were trying to catch up on what everyone has been doing for 30 years, and he's annoyed that we're talking. Wrong. Oh, and there was a flyer going around, containing short write ups from classmate who couldn't attend. One guy, who's name I didn't recognize, supplied only two things, a picture of a Mercedes, and the word "retired." I felt like putting "jerk" instead of "retired" but that wouldn't be grown up, would it.

In happier news, the fishpond book is progressing, currently at 72 pages. Much like with the car book, the information just keeps pouring out.

What else, oh, after I'd swore that I wouldn't modify Kimini, I saw "it", a used Jackson Racing Supercharger for sale. Dang, I didn't need to see that! "Fortunately", I got negative vibs from the way it was being sold, so I think I'll pass on it... this time.

I'm very tempted to take Kimini up to the big weekly car gathering that's each Saturday morning in Irvine (more info here.) This event has become huge, with (apparently) around 500 cars, including just about anything you can imagine. Check out the link.

I finally bit the bullet and bought Adobe Creative Suite. What's the phrase, "be careful what you wish for, you might get it." Indeed, looking at the applications, I feel completely lost. It's going to be a long learning curve.

And finally, Mom's doing much better. Just to make sure she's healing well, she's staying in a rehabilitation facility for a couple weeks. While I thought that was a bad thing, nothing could be further from the truth. Here's a woman who, nearly her whole life, cooked for others, washed for others, made up beds, and all the other mom stuff. So here she is, in a place where they cook for her, they make the bed, wash the clothes... she loves it. I never thought of it that way before. Of course, if Dad ever has to stay there, it'll be a different story! Back to the book. I've discovered that I like to write.
19 July

I wondered why book sales had picked up in the last day or two, then reader Bill said my book is noted in the latest issue of Autoweek - cool! I'd sent them a copy, even after being warned that they don't "do" how-to books, but figuring it was worth a shot. They gave it a 3/5 rating, but considering it's not their idea of a real "car book" (endless color pictures of car porn) I can't complain. Too bad the reviewer wasn't thinking of building a car from scratch!
18 July

Mom's doing much better, thanks for the support. Also, several, um, more "senior" people wrote to say that they very much encourage doing what you want to do Now, and not waiting. Along these lines I figure I've got maybe 1-2 more cars that I can build and drive before I'm too old to really push them! Anything after that will be more for cruising.

On another note, my brother flew up to a aircraft get-together in Washington state. It went great, and as he was taxiing out to take off and return home, he found himself behind a very pretty Yak-55. The Yak took off, followed by my brother, both heading toward their two different destinations. Neither realized just how different they were. My brother got home fine, while the Yak had engine trouble, crashed into a neighborhood and killed the pilot. Life is precious, live it like you won't see tomorrow, because eventually we'll be right! Alright, enough of the dark and morbid stuff.

I was looking at parts for Kimini's drivetrain. Okay, they weren't just "parts", they were go-fast parts. Anyhow, I realized I hit a milestone when I caught myself thinking, "I rather spend the money on parts for the next project",and there it was, the admission that, mentally, I'm moving on to the next project. I won't say I'm closing the book on Kimini, but as far as going from crazy-fast to stupid-fast power, that's something that isn't currently planned. Oh, if the engine gets toasted, who knows, but for now I'm comfortable with it just as it is.

The fishpond book is coming along. While it's completely different than the car, since I designed and built the pond system, there's the same pile of experience and knowledge trying to get out. I keep thinking it's going to be a thin book, but the words just keep right on flowing. I wish I could write like this in high school!

Speaking of high school, my 30th reunion is coming up, that's going to be interesting. The one person I'm looking forward to seeing is a woman/girl that I met in first grade (yes, first grade, as in, 6-yrs old). I remember moving my desk next to hers because I though she was pretty neat. She ended up becoming Homecoming Queen in high school - can I spot them or what. Of course being pretty meant that she was obligated to hang out with the football quarterback instead of the likes of me, but oh well, I admired her from afar; she had that rare combination of beauty and a complete lack of ego. How things might have been different had I possessed something called "confidence". However, I, like the kids in the movie "Breakfast Club", or, dare I say, "Napoleon Dynamite", didn't have such a quality as confidence.

Other than her, it's a pretty short list of people I really want to see. Since I was one of the geeky kids, and since geeky kids lack social skills, I don't think I'm going to see many of my good friends. However, as I was reminded, "If they were really your friends, you'd have kept in touch with them. You wouldn't need to go to the reunion to see them." Good point. Anyway, it'll be interesting to see what people have made of themselves, and of course how much weight everyone's put on, lol. Back when we were kids - and immortal - we all had big plans. Now, if we haven't made that billion dollars yet, odds are that we aren't going to. That's a strange feeling, slowly beginning to see the writing on the wall of our life's description. It's going to be really something as we all look at each other, all of us having aged 30 years in the blink of an eye. It's like watching a movie, which keeps going faster and faster, and, if we're humble and modest, can admit that we're in it along with everyone else.
11 July

I just got back from the hospital after visiting my Mom, who had her "replacement hip" replaced. If you've ever seen a hip replacement operation, you know it's not delicate. No, they hammer in this big spike into the big leg bone and glue it in. That's all great and everything, until the thing wears out - now what do you do? Instead of having just the ball and socket replaceable, like good engineers would do, it's all one piece. So how do you remove this big nasty spike from the leg bone that's epoxied in place? In my poor Mom's case, they had to take the bone with it. I'm not sure what they did to fix the situation but it gives me chills just thinking about it.

When I walked in, I had a flashback to when my mother-in-law passed away. My Mom was asleep when I arrived, her mouth open, looking very pale and hair whiter than I remembered. She looked... well... dead. It really shook me up, and made me realize that we all are getting older. Our family has been extremely fortunate, having never had any serious health issues. However, like an enormous iceberg slowly drifting towards our little boat, the inevitable future slowly moves towards us. As I helped my Mom eat her lunch, I realized I'd taken the next step in life. The step that always seemed so far off and remote that it wasn't even worth thinking about. And finally, here it was, me helping my mom eat, like taking care of a child. She's expected to make a full recovery (I think - Dad's not saying much) and she's only having trouble eating because of the drugs, but... still... it makes me look to the horizon and think about what's drifting around out there, and I don't want to think about it.

I think of life like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. You (your soul) waits in line for the next "boat" (your body). If you're lucky, you get a good looking healthy one; if you're not lucky, you get a defective one (kind of like having no choice on the rental boat you're handed). So you get in your ride and off you go on your big adventure, where you see many wonderful things, and meet many other people in their own boats. Interestingly, you can't see people as they really are, all you see is what their boat looks like from the outside. On the Disneyland ride you float along a river, seeing new things as you round every turn - you don't have to steer. However, in life you do; while you don't have a motor, you can indeed steer, choosing which side of the river you want to see. How well you steer says a lot about what you accomplish here; taking side roads for adventure, or leaving the cruise control on and not taking an active role in your route. Then, eventually, the ride loops its way back around, and you find yourself in the "return lane" to turn in your tired-out rental. Time to either take a break or go on the next ride.

I feel very old right now, and being the oldest child doesn't help. I don't mean this as a downer, but it does drive home the fact that life races past us so fast it's pretty incredible. Next time you see your Mom, give her a big hug.
8 July

I get up at 5am every day. A few days ago I was getting ready to go to work when the lights in the house blinked briefly. I thought to myself, "Uh oh, someone ran into a power pole." After I got to work, I heard that a plane had gone down in our area. Later in the day, I heard more of the story from some local pilots. A twin-turboprop aircraft had taken off from our local airport at 5:15am. It's light out by then but there was heavy patchy fog. The pilots I spoke to speculate that something happened to one (or both) of the engines and distracted the pilot. Normally a plane like this has plenty of "go-around power" on only one engine, but only if the pilot's really on the ball. It's just a reminder of how fragile life is. With a blink of the lights, it meant that the plane had failed to gain altitude and flew through some power lines at around 100ft, killing both on-board. The pilots I spoke to suspected they knew who was in the plane, and had been unable to contact them - pretty ominous. Life is short, and it can end when we least expect it! It was summed up by the pilots, "You know, when it's real foggy, I always ask myself, do I really have to be somewhere right now?"
4 July

Half the year's gone already, amazing. Hard to believe the car's been done for 18 months now.

Last Saturday I once again met up with other car nuts at our informal last-Saturday-of-the-month get together. I got to talk with the owner of a car that I was most impressed with, more so than practically any other car I've seen. In fact, it was very humbling to look his car over and realize that he'd done almost as much work and design as I had. Seeing a car like that is a good thing for keeping the ego in line! Anyhow, we discussed what I have in mind and bounced a few ideas around. The further I think it through, the more it's starting to take shape, though there are still several fundamental design issues to nail down, like where the engine goes and how many seats it'll have. I guess the real question I have to ask myself is just how extreme I'm prepared to go - this time. I'm not sure how long I'll keep up this guess-what-I'm-thinking thing before you figure it out, ha! I guess I'll spill the beans about the time I start cutting tubes, just to keep things interesting. I'm already mentally selecting parts.

Who knows when the house work will start... it's not like it's going to wait much longer. A 23-year old home is more than ready for flooring, interior paint, fixtures and new windows, it's just a matter of deciding, do we do only this, or turn it into a full-blown remodel? Then there was the offer my wife made about possibly building a real workshop alongside our existing garage... I don't think she quite realizes the implications of what she's offering. It's on the order of saying to a guy, "Sure, I don't mind if you have a mistress" Or, something along those lines - it's that big a deal. Actually, I'm trying to put a spin on it, and it goes something like this: "If we add a room, it's likely we won't be able to stay in the house while the work's being done. If we build a workshop first we could temporarily move into it while the house is being done, saving money by not moving into a hotel." What do you think of my sneaky logic? Seems pretty reasonable to me!
26 June

Imagine a bookstore nearly the size of Barnes & Noble, carrying nothing but automotive and aviation books. Autobooks-Aerobooks in Burbank, California, now carries my book. They're a HUGE automotive and aviation bookstore, one of the largest in the U.S. Be sure to stop by if you're in the Burbank area. I've spent a lot of time (and money) there - guy heaven. Oh, and Jay Leno drops in every week or so.

A number of people have asked what I might build next. Well, what I want to build has already been designed in my head; the problem's going to be getting the space. Since I built everything in one half of a two-car garage, unless I park Kimini outside or put her in storage, there's simply no room. You're probably wondering, "What's he have in mind this time?" I'll say that it will have four tires, and that it'll weigh less than Kimini - that's enough for now. I'm really not looking to sell Kimini any time soon - it would have to be a big number... In any case, there's the house to work on first, plenty of time to start refining the new car design.

In other news, I'm working on another book. No, not the one above, another book. The title will be similar to, How to design and build a backyard fishpond. It didn't sink in until I was done with the car and the Kimini book that I have more than 16 years experience with our pond. I checked out the book's competition and feel it has a good shot at being far more resourceful. One perk is that it'll have a much wider appeal than how to build a sports car from scratch! However, fear not, this site will remain focused upon car design and fabrication.
16 June

Just got back from FSAE West, after driving Kimini up and back. She did fine, though it was pretty warm weather, around 90 F. Boy, having Kimini at an FSAE event was exactly the best place to take her. Here were lots of people who really know suspension and race car fabrication. Thankfully for me I had stuck a FAQ sheet to the window. Kimini got more attention than any other event, and these people know what they're looking at.

Anyhow, like last year I worked the course, chasing cones. The excitement in the endurance race was the Oklahoma car throwing a rod, spewing oil everywhere, resulting in HUGE flames coming out the back half of the car. Needless to say the engine froze up and the car spun, but the driver got out safely. It was a real shame about the car, though. It was a very fast car driven by a very fast driver - a very tough combination to beat - if it doesn't break.

Thoughts from the days events:

Drivers seemed much more skilled than last year, though a couple drivers didn't understand some of the rules. For example, slower cars are pointed into a passing lane so faster cars can safely go by. Unfortunately a couple drivers didn't understand the flag commands and in one case, a very slow car ended up with about four very pissed off drivers trailing him right on his butt. It wasn't until a course worker got in front of him and pointed him off that he got out of the way.

With "normal" suspension, the upper and lower A-arm projections converge on the opposite side of the car. There was a designer of a homebuilt car (not FSAE) who decided to think "outside the box", using diverging arms; this was the guy I got so upset with some months back. Anyhow, I really wish he'd be at FSAE West today, because a car there used that type of rear suspension. Just amazing to watch, and since I was working the course, I had a front row seat (but couldn't use my camera.) Anyhow, diverging A-arms do the following. When the car rolls in a turn, say, 2 degrees, the outside tire ends up with about +5 deg positive camber, like the car was trying to pole-vault over the tires - very scary. If I'd been a design judge, I'd have given them a tough time about it, asking if they'd read even one design book, and why felt their design would work. It didn't, was hard to control in the turns, wore the outside edges of the tires very quickly, and was very slow.

Speaking of design judges, I got to see the "infamous" Claude. He's a design judge who, I suspect, has a similar "tough love" personality with the kids as Carroll Smith did. I'd read posts about him on the FSAE forum, and some people seem a bit afraid of him - now I know why. I was checking out a car when a guy came up and starting quizzing the team about their rear wing. I didn't know who he was, but he had very pointy questions about a lot of things. It was hard to explain... kind of like a nun in Catholic school asking you questions, while holding a nasty ruler in her hand, all ready to smack you with it if you answer wrong. Just from that, I figured out who he must be, so I sneaked a look at his badge... yup. He may be a great guy, but I wouldn't ever want to try to put anything over on him. I'm not part of FSAE and even I found him intimidating. To the credit of the team, though, they came right back with very quick answers. I thought of showing him my car, but between the intimidation factor, me not being part of FSAE, and him being very busy, I left him along.

All the cars go through noise testing, which can be tough for a bike engine to pass. On track, one team's car was really loud, and I wondered out loud how the heck it could have ever passed the sound test... so someone explained it to me. Seems the sound test rules are known ahead of time. That is, they say, "Your car must be less than X dB at 12,000rpm." Okay, so guess what they did? They added a resonator that, right at 12,000 rpm, cancelled out the noise, but only at that one speed. Everywhere else it was really loud. I was impressed with their creativity and resourcefulness.

Another team was doing well and then their gear box started to go. Apparently the way bike gear boxes fail is they start losing teeth, making a sound like the chain's starting to slip. Since they had nothing to lose, the driver stayed out and kept his foot in it. That poor transmission... it sounded like someone had left a pair of pliers in the gearbox. It just got worse and worse, and I really felt sorry for the thing, it was like he was trying to destroy it, and eventually succeeded.

Okay, all that aside, I'm once again very impressed by the upbeat people at this event, their creativity and teamwork. Like I said last year, it gives me hope that mayby, just maybe, we're raising a good bunch of young engineers. Said another way, it gives me hope for the future, that these bright kids can help invent new things, or correct things previous generations have messed up!

Oh, and during the event, there was also a stock car driving class going on, on the main oval. I can't stand the stock car mentality, but you know, they sounded great. Apparently all the gears are straight-cut, making this really cool whine, like the car is turbine-powered. They reminded me of WWII Mustang fighter planes as they went by. I'm going to have to check out how much it is to drive one for a day...

13 June

I'm still here. Been busy researching parts to build a new pc, as the old one's getting tired and forgetful. I'm getting ready to take Kimini up to the FSAE West event at California Speedway. I had a great time last year as a volunteer and look forward to it again.

Please note the announcement above about my next book project. This is your chance at infamy and immortality, so who's first?
3 June

I seem to have struck a chord with the vanity "performance" products. As bad as I though the products below were, I was subjected to further good-natured taunting from reader Jeremy. If your kit car fails to impress people, and the engine pimp kit below doesn't quite do it, now there's another crutch for your tiny ego. The Vroom Box is your dream come true, enabling you to get equally shallow and superficial women into your Fiero kit car. Yes, with this product you can make engine noises just like you did when you were a kid - it just costs more.

I have a few thoughts about this fine product (of course.) It requires putting some serious speakers under the car to make it sound believable. But what kind of car has space to cut multiple 12" holes through the floor? (I guess it would be a Fiero...) Just imagine how long these speakers would last being pummeled by water and gravel. A much better idea would be to run the audio into the inside stereo system. This way the vain driver can feel good about himself, yet not get embarrassed in front of everyone else on Earth. If that's not enough, the device has special effects: squealing tires and turbo pop-off valve noises! Awesome. Of course this means you'd need some fake turbos to match up with the fake V12, but I'm sure that's in the works. For the squealing tires, you could spray water behind the wheels to give the appearance of fresh rubber on the road! It just goes on and on. Of course, how is this product any different than sticking playing cards in the spokes of your bike wheels? Well, we were 8-yrs old at the time, and it didn't cost anything. This device costs you (a grown up) $159, speakers and amps not included. I listened to a few of the effects and they sound just like engine sounds in video games. Why is this not surprising?

Back to the real world. I'm comfortable enough with Kimini that I'm considering driving it to the Historic races at Laguna Seca. Not this year though, as all the motel rooms are already gone. Probably next year, and hopefully my brother will have his Super Stalker done by then and we can drive both our cars up. That would be cool.
29 May

This is for those of you who thought I made up the story about the fake V12 engine cover to disguise that pathetic donor engine in your kit car. Says the magazine, "... provides an economical way to finally make that engine look so real that it would fool a real Lamborghini owner." Yeah, so does it also come with a CD with the sound of a real Lamborghini on it, so you can play it loud while trying to impress people? Ever wonder what the answer is to the question, "What price, vanity?" We now know - $595!

If you think that's bad, how about the disc brake "conversion kit". Ugh! What I'm most impressed about isn't that someone made this, but that anyone would buy it. As the kids say, "Whatever." Actually, the word, "pathetic" hits the mark.
27 May

On Sunday I took Kimini to the Fallbrook classic car show, where she won the Competition class, and my buddy Dave Norton won the Motorcycle class with his Shrike. Lots of people asked about Kimini, including one guy who seemed especially interested. Part way through our conversation, I had pulled out my book to show him something "technical", then realized who I was talking to - Fred Puhn, author of How to make your car handle. Doh! I put my book away. His book was one of the first car books I bought, back in the early 1980s. So much for teaching him anything! He gave me an invitation to the vintage car races at Coronado, in San Diego. I've never gone before because I always seemed to be working on Kimini, but I'll try to go this year. I'm pretty sure Fred wasn't suggesting that I drive Kimini in the event, since there's no way it would be accepted in any class. This event is for perfectly authentic sports and race cars - not Minis with mid-engine Hondas!

About the pictures, the show was held on the football field of the high school - Kimini is in the foreground. The early sprint car was amazingly small. Note the engine used, a 60hp Evenrude 2-stroke. The hot rod in the second row of pictures will make it into the second edition of my book, as poster child about why hot rods aren't for cornering - look at the tiny front tires! While I understand that's not its purpose, it's still rather terrifying to think what it would do if the driver needed to avoid something on the road. The 1902 Oldsmobile was amazing, too, with its unrestored wooden frame - 105 years old! It's hard to see, but it has leaf springs not only side-to-side, but front-to-back as well. It also made me realize that this is where the term "floorboard" may have originated.

A day earlier, on Saturday, Kimini attended the Carlsbad car get-together and I got to meet a very talented designer/builder of an R1-powered 7; I was quite impressed by his design and engineering skills. There aren't too many people who really understand the suspension that they put under their home-built car, as most just follow directions to "cut a tube this long and weld it here". On this theme, I received the new book, Build your own sports car - on a budget, which does just that. It's okay, but blindly building a car always rubs me the wrong way. It's like someone saying, "Don't ask why, just do it." Sure, the builder ends up with a car, but he'll have no idea what it'll do or why. To me, saying, "I built it" carries great responsibility; the responsibility to know what to change in order to make the car handle as desired.

I can't help but get a little bugged (this seems to be turning into a rant) when I see blind instructions. It's like a student who's given all the answers to all the exams - by the teacher. Sure, they'll pass the tests, but what happens when they face real-world problems that require knowing the material? Everything will be fine as long as they don't need to know anything! The builder will need to read additional books in order to understand what the the car is doing and why, which I guess is to be expected. The book doesn't pretend to be a suspension design text. Building the car per the instructions will likely result in a car that handles reasonably well, and there are a couple pages devoted to suspension tuning. Still, solving suspension and handling issues can't really be handing in just a few pages, but oh well. It's like leading someone to the middle of the woods, then leaving them there with no compass to find their way out, with the parting comment, "Hey, you paid me to get you here, you're on your own now." I'd like to think that my book (you knew this was coming) gives the builder a compass, flashlight, and map. Okay, rant over.

21 May

This coming Sunday, the 27th, I will be at the Fallbrook car show, if anyone wants to stop by and see the car or get a book. More info is here

In other news, congratulations to the University of Wisconsin - Madison, for winning the FSAE (Formula SAE) event in Detroit. All these kids put in tons of time working on their cars, and every team deserves a note of congratulations. Also, my heart goes out to the University of Alabama, who's car, during testing last week, had a fuel flash during refueling. In a matter of moments, their pride and joy was reduced to ruins - I know how I'd feel. Chin up, guys, there's always next year. I'm scheduled to help out again at this years FSAE West event, held the end of June at California Speedway in Fontana. I hope it's not as hot as last year! Weather permitting, I'll drive Kimini up so the kids can check it out. You can check out the while FSAE scene here.

I finally received my copies of the all-color book and it looks really great. I have a few here available as signed copies, though they aren't cheap, $95 + shipping.
20 May

I finally got around to installing the new front brake pads, not that anything was wrong with the Carbotech pads - other than the ear-bleeding squeal when I came to a stop. Following Wilwood's recommendation, I installed BP-20 pads. It remains to be seen if these can work as a dual-use pad for both street and track. Dennis, of, found that it doesn't seem possible. While I will keep the Carbotech as spares, the Wilwood pads are about 1/4" narrower that the Carbotech parts. That's unfortunate, because it means I probably won't be able to swap the Carbotech pads back in for track events. The problem is that because the Wilwood pads are narrower, the area swept by the pads is narrower, leaving an area of about 1/4" wide at the inside of the rotor untouched. That means only the outer part of the disc will wear, so if I install the Carbotech pads, there'll be a 1/4" wide "step" that'll have to wear in before they have full contact. Not sure how much brake discs wear these pads will cause - I'll just have to wait and see.

After replacing the pads, I backed the car out of the garage, intent on bedding them in. Unfortunately, I forgot that I had pushed the pistons back into the calibers in order to get the old pads out. This provided some excitement the first time I pushed on the brake pedal, as in, the car didn't stop and the pedal went to the floor! No harm done, but it was a reminder of what I'm messing with. Anyhow, the Wilwood pads seem to have more bite than the Carbotech pads, such that the pedal feels even more firm for a given stopping force. I am very happy with the current brake setup.

In other news, I'm in the process of contacting the large car magazines, in an effort to get a book review into one or more of them (heck, maybe even a driving review.) I'd love to have it written up by Peter Egan, my favorite automotive writer. Publicity is one consequence of POD publishing that the author has to handle entirely on his own.

I'm eyeing another trackday event, this one at the "Big Track", Willow Springs. The only issue is when it's scheduled for, the end of June, which could be really hot by then. In that vein, I'm looking into converting my radiator into a two-pass. I understand that change alone improves cooling by 40%, probably just about right for dealing with Willow Springs in the summer (it's in the desert.) The only unknown is how much back pressure converting it over will add to the water pump. However, this is the correct sequence to change things. That's because adding an electric water pump is: expensive, heavy, adds complexity, and is a big reliability risk. If it ever quits, the only indication will be a pegged water pressure gauge. How many of us look at our water pressure gauge every 10 seconds? I don't.

Today after bedding in the brake pads, I just drove around for a few hours. What a blast. I still shake my head, amazed that the car was ever finished, and how well it turned out. I think back when I was a kid, that if someone told me someday I'd design and build my own car, I'd either not believe them, or say, "Cool!" My brother says that he feels the same way every time he flies his plane. He's finally getting back to work on his Super Stalker, BTW.

And lastly, I'll close with one of my rants. I contacted a kit car manufacturer, curious if their shell was available separately, never mind why ;) So I finally got a reply, saying that shipping made it prohibitive. I wrote back saying, no, I'm right near them, (not that they even asked were I lived.) I ventured a guess that they wouldn't sell it because they're afraid I'd take a mold off it. Fine, whatever, but I left them with some remarks about their sorry-ass website, one that hasn't be undated in seven years and with no video. Instead of taking it as a constructive remark, I got:

The car is what it has always been and there is no reason to change anything. I am fortunate to be independently wealthy and do [not?] rely on selling these kits. It does not bother me that only a few select individuals own these cars.

I let it go at that, but felt like saying, "Dude, that's no way to sell cars. I've never ever seen one on the street, so to be proud of the fact that there aren't any around is kind of strange. Also, how is being wealthy a reason for a lame website? And what's this about your customers being 'select'? What, do you think you're selling Ferrari Enzos? Those customers are 'select'!"

Ugh! If you've read my book, you know my thoughts about the kit car industry, and I think I just met the poster child for the industry. Lots of attitude and no business smarts - yup, nothing's changed. I think I have a phrase for his business, "We don't care if we have customers - our cars are that good!"
16 May

A brief update. Last weekend was my buddy Lee's wedding. He's the one who made the original molds for Kimini, and the only body produced is on my car. Anyhow, we took him out for go-karting and pizza - now that's a real bachelor's party. The next day at the wedding I got to talk to someone that I haven't mentioned on here before.

About nine years ago, during initial design, I got the chance to have dinner with none other than Martin Waide, a race car designer who worked with Colin Chapman at Lotus, designing several of the early 1970's formula cars. I asked him many suspension questions, and of course, he was a treasure trove of information. He even told me a couple very entertaining stories about Chapman himself. So last Sunday I got to see him again at the wedding, and when I told him I'd finished the car, in that wonderful British accent, he said, "Good show!" I hope to see him again soon, and I'll be sure to get him to autograph my book. I'll have to ask if he'd like a copy; it would be very interesting to see what he thinks of it!
9 May

Is your job boring? Looking for something that keeps your attention? Here's a job for you! Just amazing. I'm not sure I could ever get comfortable doing that!

In other news, The Pitstop Bookstore, a large automotive bookstore in Australia, will soon stock my book, whoo hoo! I'll add a link to them on the book info page. This will help those of you who are reluctant to pay the shipping fee to send it from the US to AU.
8 May

As new grandparents, we visited the kids and saw our granddaughter for the first time, and if you didn't know by now, yes, I married into an Asian family. She's a beautiful girl, but then again, what grandparent would think otherwise? The second picture cracks me up, two weeks old and already giving people, "The Look." What amazes me is how quickly different emotions cross her face, morphing ever few seconds.

In other news, for you Australian readers, if you're put off by the high shipping cost of the book, I'm in discussion with an Australian bookstore to carry it. Hmmm, now I need to find a automobile specialty bookstore in the UK. Any ideas who I should approach? I'd prefer a large independent store, not a chain.

And finally, last Saturday morning I got to hang out with some pretty lofty company. We all met up at a small coffee shop, me with Kimini, Dave and his Shrike, along with some pretty cool hardware. One was the most perfect Dino Ferrari I've ever seen. Usually when looking at a car, you can find something wrong. A track of wax in a panel seam, a tiny ding somewhere, slighlty imperfect paint. This one - nope. The very humble owner said he'd been to his share of car shows and had nothing to prove. He intends to drive the car and enjoy it, rather than hide it in a garage most of its life. I believe it was a 1973 model - with only 27K original miles on it - amazing.

There was also a Lamborguini Murcielago there, with an aftermarket exhaust that caused grown men to go weak in the knees. What an awesome sound a high-rpm V12 makes. Anyhow, the driver was checking out Kimini and asked if he could sit in it. Sure, I said, and helped him get in. Then, I got to say something I've been saving for a long time. Right when he got comfortable, I said, "Okay, let's get something straight right now, don't even think of offering to trade straight across!" He asked if I had a full tank of gas, and when I said I did, he replied, "Oh, huh, so do I." So would I really not trade him? What do you think. Next time I'll ask if he wants a ride. It was a good thing that I didn't give him a ride then, because there was a cop with a radar gun right down the street ;)
3 May

Received the first all-color version of the book for review - it looks great, with very high quality photographs. It goes live tonight, through the same book link above. Those of you waiting for signed color copies will have to wait a bit longer since I need to order them myself first. Thanks for everyone's patience!
2 May

The owner of the Honda 600, below, contacted me! Turns out he follows this site, Dennis Palatov's DP1, and the FSAE site for inspiration.

During the event, he said he tried to answer everyone's questions, but he was pretty busy trying to do the initial checkout of his car. I can certainly understand the stress of that! So another lunatic car joins the frey - cool! Someday I hope to meet him and his car. I didn't try talking him into buying a book ;)
30 April

Here's a very interesting car, vaguely resembling a Honda 600, but with a sportbike motor in the passenger seat. I'd like to know more about it, and there has been a ton of posts about this car today. Looks very much like an oversized FSAE car with a Hayabusa engine. Thanks to Michael D. Savin for pictures 6-9, and Ted Hedman for pictures 1-5, and 10, counting CW from upper-left. These pictures were taken last Saturday at El Toro, CA.

In other news, here's a very cool video on the behind-the-scenes business issues at Caterham cars. It's a big video (600MB) and runs an hour, but I found it very interesting.

29 April

My buddy, Cecil, and I took Kimini to the Knott's Berry Farm Kit Car Show. It's been a long time since I was at this show, and the phrase "Impersonator's Convention" came to mind, but what was I expecting? You'll notice I didn't take any pictures of Cobras other than the shiny one. Cobras were the vast majority, but the utter sameness of them made looking at them not very interesting. It was good to at least see some new stuff showing up. Probably the most impressive, to me, was the new GTM from Factory Five. With a Z06 engine mounted mid-engine and a sequential transaxle from Mendiola, that would be quite the car - though not cheap! There were exceptions: me with Kimini, which I guess could be argued was impersonating a Mini, Dave Norton with his Shrike, and Steve Graber's neat La Bala. We one-off builders were in the minority though, surrounded by many kits trying hard to be something else.

I guess I've become snobbish, going to shows where when you see a Ferrari, you know it's a Ferrari. There were a number of Lamborghini kits there, some of them very well executed. One in particular, well, I still don't know if it was real. The engine was a V12, it had all the correct parts on it, though I admit I don't know my Lamborghinis well enough to know for sure. Others, ugh, I don't know what to say. Cecil and I discussed the issue of just how far do you go, and how much money do you spend, to make your Fiero (or whatever) look like something else? The "best" example was a engine dress-up kit, where you hide your real engine underneath this tray that contains fake V12 cylinder head valve covers, fake intake manifolds, and fake spark plug wires. I wondered if it also comes with a hot-looking blow-up blond doll for the passanger seat, because that's about how smart she'd have to be to be impressed by the utter fakeness of it all, but there I go again.

I guess I just don't get it - who are you trying to fool? Is the idea to have all the benefits of a $250,000 Lamborghini without the cost? Well, you don't get the sound, speed, or women. There was one kit there built around the BMW V12. I give them credit for at least having the correct number of (real) cylinders. Does having one of these pretend cars improve your chances of - what - getting women? I see this turned into a rant.

Anyway, I've always had a soft spot for the shape of the Porsche Speedsters, and the six-cylinder Porsche-powered one would be a sweet ride. The Cheetah would be a refreshing change from the endless Cobra copies, and probably be faster. Anyhow, we had a good time and met some nice people, and that's about all anyone could ask for.

But you know? Screw what I think. Each person there with their kit car was having a good time. Everyone was friendly and helpful, and unlike "real" car shows, there was a complete lack of snobbish attitudes... except for me!

26 April

The all-color book is finally on a roll so I ordered a test copy. One difference is that thicker paper is used to prevent color bleed-through, increasing the thickness of the book and making the spine wider. Due to an apparent bug in the publisher's cover-viewing software (on-screen) the spine appears to wrap onto the cover. The last few weeks have been an endless exchange of e-mails, me saying there's nothing wrong with my cover art, them saying they agree, me asking why it looks wrong, and them saying they don't know. The secret, I found, is to bully your way through the Tier-1 contact people and talk to the Tier-2 people - they know what's going on. Anyhow, they admitted they seem to have a bug and convinced me it'll look fine when printed. We'll see. For those of you patiently waiting for your color version, it should be good to go in a week or so.

About half way through writing this, the doorbell rang. It was a guy pushing flyers for a house painting company. Very pushy, he was. I was polite, but as he kept pushing, it became easier to deal with him. I finally stone-walled him by saying I wasn't going to do anything to the house, even after he gave me an incredulous look of disapproval as he looked around. Funny how comfortable he was discussing what to do with my money. If he wants to replace our siding and paint the house for free, then we can talk. He actually left muttering to himself - awesome.

As said before, I will have Kimini at the Knott's Berry Farm kit car show, this Saturday.
22 April

Granddaughter Lana was born Saturday, 6:30pm, 7lb 6oz. Everyone is doing fine.

Had breakfast with Dave Norton and his wife, Elli; Dave drove his Shrike as always. On my return trip, right before I reached home I started smelling something. Something plastic-like, like something was hot, like wire insulation, then smoke! I figured it had to be the radiator cooling fan I'd just switched on so it was turned off in a hurry. After I safely got home I turned the fan on again and, risking a burn, started feeling around the fuse box and wire harness. The 30 amp in-line fuse holder for the fan was getting really hot. Wriggling the fuse caused the fan speed to vary - the culprit had been found. Not sure why the fuse and/or holder failed since both are rated at 30amps and the fuse had not blown.

On the squealing brake issue, I removed the front pads and applied goo to them, also chamfering the edges of the pads. It was a little surprising to hear the very same squeal during the test drive. Could it have come from the back instead? It was so hard to tell inside the car, maybe I "fixed" the wrong end! So I did the same modifications to the rear brakes and took it out again... exact same problem!!! Aaaaa! I asked a neighbor to be outside when I stopped and he confirmed it is the front brakes. Great, I'm not sure what to "fix" next. It's that last 10 feet during stopping that's really bad. Not sure what to try next. Any ideas?

The pictures. Melted fuse and holder. The alternator belt shows an unexpected collection of small rocks pressed into the rubber; I'll have to keep an eye on that. Cooper asleep at my feet. As I'm sure other breeds do, Cooper always want to be right next to me. Even when he's asleep, he makes sure that some part of himself is touching me. The last shot is of a WWII bomber on approach to our local airport. They visit every year, selling very expensive, and short, rides. On the other hand, it seems like a pretty fair price to ride in something that our fathers or grandfathers flew in when they were young men - a much simpler time.

20 April

A year ago I was suffering from post-build depression; now it's post-writing depression. However, sometime this weekend we'll become grandparents, so that kind of puts everything in perspective. Someday I'll show the grand-daughter the book that was born about the same time as she was.

Oh, and I was sent this very cool Ferrari ad. Be sure to turn it up good and loud.
17 April

I added some more information to the book page. I suck at doing pretty Web pages but you already know that! If you are waiting for your copy you may want to check it out. I added the Preface and complete Table of Contents to give a better idea of what's what. I realized that people visiting the book page for the first time (and not being regular readers) will have absolutely no idea what the book's about! I'm considering adding a few more pages, but don't want to give away all my secrets!
16 April

The good news is that people are starting to receive the book! OTOH, I got a lecture about having a poor book information page. That's my fault, being too cheap to pay someone to make it pretty. As ego-deflating as it is, yes, it can stand to have more information, so I'll add more as I get time.

Received a note from Doug Milliken, co-author of Race Car Vehicle Dynamics, who said he checked out Kimini's site! It was nice of him to let me know. Pretty cool to get noticed by the author of probably the most authoritative race car design book out today. I'm hoping to meet him at FSAE West this year, and to get my copy of his book signed.

And finally, my own shipment of books is finally on its way - good. I'll have some with me when I'm at the Knott's Berry Farm kit car show at the end of the month.

Oh, and one last tidbit regarding Burt Munro and Nolan White. I remembered reading that Munro had "stopped in Del Mar, California to meet a friend." It sure makes sense that it would have been White, since they would certainly have met at Bonneville. Nuts, I came >this< close to meeting Burt, darn it!
14 April

I drove Kimini over to an old friend's house. My brother used to work at his shop and we both thought he'd like to see Kimini. At 86 years old, he still remembered me and my brother. Since I hadn't seen him in over 15 years, we talked for about an hour in the driveway. During the conversation I got the chance to clear up something I'd been wondering for years. I asked him about his next-door neighbor, a guy that I had heard used to run at Bonneville. Sure enough he had, and it wasn't until I got home and looked up the neighbor's name - Nolan White - did some pieces fall into place. Turns out White was the first to drive over 400mph in a piston-powered wheel-driven car. Only today did I learn he'd died in 2002 when his car broke up after all three parachutes failed. Pretty amazing, too, to learn he was 71 at the time. Talking a bit more, my friend said that Nolan's son, Rick, operates a business in San Diego manufacturing roll-cages for cars. In a flash, I knew he was talking about Autopower, the shop where I got Kimini's roll-cage tubing bent. I remembered when I picked up the tubing, seeing a very long tubular "car" parked along the back wall of the shop. There was also a picture of the car at the salt flats - pretty cool. I wonder if Nolan White knew Burt Munro (World's Fastest Indian) - probably. It's funny how connected we are to people - in more ways than we know.

Kimini continues to run well though her brakes have started squealing, and not just a little bit - it nearly makes my ears bleed. I need to check that the calipers are properly tightened because it was never this bad before. If they're tight I may put anti-squeal goo on the back of the pads. It really is bad - makes my teeth hurt!
14 April

The book now has its own page so the diaries can stay focused on the car. The book link is above.
11 April

Wow, lots of e-mail! Enough people have inquired about a color version, so I will produce one. In theory it's a no-brainer: I convert all 292 pictures back to color, upload it to the publisher, and I'm done. However, a test copy will be printed for review first, because I want to confirm that the colors look okay. The reason is that the paper they use appears to be ordinary printer paper, not high-gloss paper like your porn magazines ;). I want to make sure people aren't disappointed by the picture quality, though that's subjective. (I have no choice on paper quality, BTW.)

The color version is more expensive than the black-and-white because the publisher runs the entire manuscript through a color printer, regardless if there's one picture or 500. Then there's them being a POD publisher, where if you want one book - they print one book. Because of this, the price will be $89.95. I guess I should neither pick on them nor defend them - I picked the publisher, after all!

Regarding signed books (yes, people really are asking for them), I have some on the way. It all depends where you live as to how easy it will be. That is, I've been warned that sending a book out of the country is/can be a real pain in the neck due to the paperwork. I want to keep everyone happy, at least as long as it doesn't become a pain. If people want a signed color copy, I will need time to get them shipped to me, signed, and send out. Since the color copies are expensive, I can't afford to have a big box of them sitting around, never mind not having the room for them.

Since few have inquired about the e-book, that's getting pushed back until after the color version is taken care of. I've been reading up on what's involved and it's pretty easy - sort of. That is, the document is converted with Adobe Acrobat into a secure PDF. It cannot be copied in any way: not highlighted and copied from the screen, not copied outright, can't be printed, and it cannot be viewed on more than one computer. Pretty strict, yes, but necessary DRM to keep control over the content. I'd hate to hear about it showing up on some file trading site.

Regarding the e-book, there's a concern about getting it to "fit" the typical computer screen. The issue is that my 8.5" x 11" pages cannot be viewed at 100% without scrolling. If I have to reformat the entire book, that is a royal pain in the butt, due to my using MS Word to write it. This gets me into one of my rants about Microsoft. Never, never, ever use MS Word to write a large document. It gets more and more flaky as the document size increases. And don't get me started about how it handles pictures in a large document - Holy Cow. I wasted hours fighting it, saying out loud, "Bill [Gates], what were you thinking?!" The pictures seemed to have a mind of their own. Several times they would move off their page - but only when I would scroll to a different page, then come back. Ugh! All sorts of strange things happened that never occurred with small documents (including Word switching into different modes - all without me touching a key!) I think Microsoft should not allow a document size greater than, oh, 10 pages or so - that would "fix" it. The worst insult was when my sister, a graphics designer, said, "Nobody uses Word to create a book!" and laughed at me. Brat. She said I should have used Adobe Pagemaker/InDesign, or Quark. Guess that's what I get for being a cheapskate.

Anyhow, stay tuned, and I'll announce when the color version will be available.
10 April

Okay, the book is done and I am tired! See the note in the header above.
7 April

Some of you have written, wondering what's going on. The short story is - the book! I've been doing nothing else except finishing it up. However, first things first.

Last weekend was the Del Mar hot rod show. It went very well - surprisingly well. I thought that anyone paying $24 to look at old American cars with big shiny V8s wouldn't be very interested in my car. What actually happened was, after looking at hundreds of similar-looking hot rods, people were more likely to notice something different. What would happen is people would first laugh and point. Yeah well, it does look like a kid's car. Then the wife would say it's... cute. Then the husband would notice the engine in the back (made easier after I put a sign on the windshield, "Engine in the back." Only then did they get a better idea of what they were looking at.

About the pictures below, The first one is nuts; look where the driver's knees are. I can't image him having much control of that thing. When we drove in, we followed the yellow Nash Metropolitan. That thing was downright scary to watch. The back tires are so wide that there's barely enough space between them for the differential. As he was leaving, he got on it just a little, but enough to show that, yeah, he can lift the front tires - and this was on a street car! The primer gray Cadillac, I'm sorry my camera didn't get a picture of the engine... the twin-turbo engine. The "VW" Baja bug was pretty cool with its big V8, though I see they have falling-rate front suspension - not good. One worrisome thing, while watching him drive in, was the apparent loose rear wheel bearings - the wheels were wobbling when he got on the gas. Again, a street car. The light blue VW fastback has a Olds Toronado engine and transaxle in the back - very clean. And finally, I really liked the rat rods. I suspect these cars are far more representative of what kids actually drove back in the late 1950s and early 60s. It proves that it doesn't take a lot of money to have a good time, as evidenced by how much attention they got compared to stuff costing ten times as much. As from the last car meet, the large pictures below are uncompressed so will take longer on a slow connection.

So, about the book. It's nearly done and this time I mean it - somewhere between Monday and Wednesday. Yes, really. I'm very happy it's almost done, though the word, "relief" better describes my feelings. I hope to get some copies in time to take to the Knott's Berry Farm kit car show at the end of this month. I'll be the first to admit that it's never really done. Each time through I catch mistakes, but that can go on forever. Like I told my buddy, the copyeditor, "If you catch 80% of the errors each time through, how long will it take to catch all of them - forever."