Kimini 2.2 - Build Diaries
2007, Sept-

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

The book now has its own page here.

20 October

Kimini is sold and on her way to her new home. While I knew this day was coming there's definitely mixed emotions, watching the car I spent 10 years building being loaded up, heading off to its new home - the picture pretty much sums it up. A lot has happened during that time: a gulf war, the tech bubble, 9/11, in-laws passing away, a son married, a granddaughter, and now this economic meltdown/correction.

Anyhow, the new owner seems like a good guy, one worthy to be her keeper, both from a personality and technical perspective. I expect I'll be getting a lot of questions over the next few months as he wonders how to service it. He bought a book so that should help... but I still expect a lot of questions, lol. Better that than no questions that's for sure. I don't plan any more updates on this site unless I hear back about Kimini. Until then, follow along on the next car's development, at midlana.com Unlike Kimini, Midlana will have plans, so you can build one, too!
14 June

Took Kimini to the weekly Cars and Coffee events (I try to go twice a month). None other than Chip Foose was there with his P38 car that he drove to the event. Of all the hot rod builders, I'm most impressed with him, some of his projects really are "outside the box." The poor guy never got more that 50 feet from his car though, being constantly hounded by people. I wanted a picture of him next to Kimini but didn't got the chance.

Had several semi-serious inquiries from potential buyers. The issue isn't whether they want the car, it's that the asking price is on the upper edge of affordability ($30K.) Fortunately I'm in the unusual position that I'm not desperate to sell (like I normally am.) It's amusing how many guys ask lots of questions about the car, then pull the "wife card" as why they can't buy it on the spot.
5 June

Midlana, my new project, now has its own top-level domain, www.midlana.com, so be sure to bookmark it. It's where nearly all new posts are going.
24 May

I got a bit annoyed by a note someone sent, saying that I really shouldn't be describing Kimini as a Mini and attempting to sell it as one. His suggestion that perhaps I'd have better luck on a Honda site, or a kit car site pushed my button. I sent back a snippy response that I'm the first to admit it doesn't fall in any particular category, but his comment that it's not a Mini is exactly the same as saying that it's not a Honda or a kitcar, either. So taken to an extreme, the implication is that it really isn't anything, so shouldn't be listed at all... that makes sense. I couldn't tell if he was simply trying to be helpful, or offended that I dared to list it as a Mini.
18 May

Well, that was humbling. This ebay experience was kind of strange, watching Kimini's price slowly ramp up - until the morning of the last day - then it just sat there. That's the first time I've ever seen an auction stall out with 15 hours to go and hundreds of potential bidders watching. Oh well, what happened was helpful, in a ego-deflating-disappointing sort of way. Next stop will be the Mini Meet West at the end of June. I'm also looking seriously into entering it into the annual Monterey, CA auction. A buddy who goes regularly says that there's a lot of money walking about there, just looking for something unique... hmmm.
13 May

I listed Kimini on Ebay last Saturday. It'll be very interesting what it gets bid up to, though to protect myself from lowballers I set the reserve appropriately. It it sells, great, and if not, I at least have a better idea what the perceived street worth is.
5 April

Took Kimini to the huge Good Guys hot rod show in Del Mar, CA, where everyone shows up in their pre-71 domestic iron - then there's me. I'm happy that they let me in, probably because they don't look too hard at the appliction form. Anyhow, once again Kimini got tons of attention. I think it's due in part to people becoming blurry-eyed over seeing hundreds of seemingly identical hot rods, all with big shiny V8s, then seeing something different. Most surprising was meeting two people who are seriously interested in buying Kimini! I did take her there to sell but didn't really hold out much hope, given the audience. Then, half way home I pulled up along side a hot rod also returning home. Turns out they'd been eyeing me in their mirror quite a bit and were interested enough to give me their number. So who knows... I'm feeling conflicted, wondering how I'm going to feel seeing her drive off, or seeing her in a future show. What are my feelings going to be? I really don't know.
14 February

Okay, here's the bombshell... I'm going to be selling Kimini
7 January

Sorry about the lack of updates. Updates will happen here when I do something noteworthy with Kimini, until then, watch for updates over on the Midlana diary.
16 Dec

The driving school at Buttonwillow Raceway was great fun.

Got there Friday afternoon and dropped off the car before heading to the motel. I felt better knowing that it was in a locked area rather than sitting overnight behind a seedy motel. Saturday morning was pretty cold, just under freezing but warmed up nicely. We alternated between classroom sessions and driving, with the first few laps with my instructor, John, doing the driving, who had fun getting into the driver's seat! After a few familiarization laps I took over with John as passenger. I let him know about my bad habit of fast in/slow out so we concentrated on that, with John often saying, "No, wait... wait... okay, now!" when we'd reach the proper turn-in point.

This was on the "east track", using about 1/3 the total course. After a few more laps with our instructors, we were let out to practice on our own, with only one passing zone. For this reason I didn't record anything, figuring I'd wait until I was running the full course by myself. Since this was a beginners driving school it was fairly slow traffic, which was somewhat frustrating, but I kept reminding myself I was there to learn proper cornering techniques, not to win any F1 race. In the last session before lunch I started smelling coolant, which I thought was pretty funny, some poor fool overheating their car in 60 degree weather. Next time I checked my gauges I was surprised to see my coolant, which was running at 180 deg all morning, was suddenly 210. Uh oh, that's not right, and looking in the mirror, I saw water droplets on my engine bulkhead window. Ah, I found out who the fool was.

Since it was the end of the session I didn't miss much, came in and parked and saw steam and water squirting out from somewhere in the engine compartment. After removing the engine cover it looked like the problem was the lower radiator hose. Sure enough, it had been abraded through by the header flange. Turns out my 1/2" clearance becomes zero when the engine rocks in its mounts - I'll have to fix that. John offered to help, even going so far as to drive me to a NAPA store for a new hose. This used up most of lunchtime, so we ate fast, then I installed the replacement hose. Fixed. The afternoon sessions used the full track, but again, we had the instructors drive us first, followed by having them as passenger. The full course is much faster, with Kimini getting up to 126 mph. Again, no passing was allowed, though a couple drivers seemed to think they were in the SCCA runoffs. On one lap with John aboard, I was a bit surprised when coming to the turn-in point to have a modified Evo bomb inside me. It wasn't a big deal, but they weren't following directions, so I couldn't help but express my feelings by tailing them closely, just to let them know that they could be passed if I wanted. However, after he (turns out it was a she) dove inside another car at the next corner, I backed off. On one lap when it was fairly open, I caught up to a Vette. Later, John said, "You realize that was a Z-06." No I didn't, but I'm sure the driver was a novice. The Z06 power-to-weight is better than Kimini, so there was no reason why it shouldn't have walked away from me on the straights - other than fear.

I asked for John's driving impressions, and he said it was fault free and cornered like crazy, but he did notice how the rear end felt when going over bumps at speed. I explained that was my too-smart-for-my-own-good dynamic rear toe, which toes inward slightly under bump or droop. On initial turn-in that's fine, but what I didn't think through was how, if it hits a bump and extends the suspension, it'll move the tires outward towards zero toe, but what also happens to be in the same direction as positive toe, hence the feeling that the rearend was "doing something." I guess I've gotten used to it as it's become hard to notice. He noted that Kimini's strong point is fast transitions; going through tight S-turns are her strong point. I agree, catching up to everyone through those areas ;)

After the session I needed gas and planned to head back out to record some laps. However, John mentioned that the skid-pad had opened for the afternoon - a big reason why I signed up for the class! So I headed over to the pad and waited in line, watching people make themselves dizzy (literally!), first understeering like crazy, then oversteering like crazy. Finally it was my turn, and a different instructor rode along. Turns out he's the "evasive maneuvers" instructor, and after looking the car over, said "this thing must be a real handful". Running on wet pavement on the Kumho 710s, it was very surprising how well they stuck. However, the big shock was how very (Very) difficult it was to induce oversteer. The instructor kept saying out loud, "this is amazing." He couldn't believe it didn't spin like a top. I had slight understeer the whole time, and had to try really hard, tossing the car and and stomping on the gas, to break the back end free. Once it came unstuck, it was very hard to keep it hung out, as it went right back to sticking. That's a good thing, but I was a little disappointed, I honestly wanted to be able to drift the car all the way around the skid pad.

Thinking it through later, I think it's because the skid-pad circle was fairly small, maybe 150 foot diameter. This put me in a bad rpm range, near the low end of second gear, so I couldn't spin the tires on demand, and therefore couldn't use the gas for steering. Also, I've found that cars in general understeer at low speed and oversteer at high speed. The instructor asked if I had a lot of understeer on the track, and no I don't, but I think it's because I'm going a lot faster. Anyhow, by this time it was near the end of the day. I could have gone out for a few laps but decided to end on a high-note. I'm real happy with how Kimini handles, and while I didn't have a chance to drive the course full-out, I'll be back. I like this course layout more than Willow Springs.

So anyway, there's why I don't have any video... sorry everyone.
4 December

Received the Tamiya Caterham model today, and boy is the box big!

And thanks to Ron for pointing me to the baddest lawnmower anyone could want, regardless if you have a lawn! While it's all computer generated, somebody could sell these things. The rendering is amazing, looking like it's a photo of the physical mower.
1 December

Today was dyno day for Kimini. On the one hand, I've always had a casual curiosity about what my engine put out, and on the other hand I knew that when I found out, it'll be kind of an, "eh" moment. It is what it is and I don't plan to change it. With a group including an Ariel Atom, Ferraries, and assorted other high-end cars, it was a pretty cool event. I parked Kimini next to the Atom to get a idea of the size difference; the Atom isn't as small as I thought.

The majority of the pictures are of Guy Heaven, a huge workshop behind the K&N factory where they work on various projects. Oh, the things I could build in a shop like that! Add a frig and a big screen, thereso reason to ever go home...

Waited my turn and, since they don't let owners do the run, it meant I was free to film it. This was the first time I'd heard my car from outside and it was louder than I expected. Not Nearly as loud as the Atom - that thing was crazy loud. Anyhow, after my run I got the print out. Total mods to the Honda H22A1 are the intake, header and exhaust, and no accessary drives other than the alternator - 189whp corrected. I'm pretty happy. The guy running the dyno said it has a great header, which made me feel good, considering that I made it! So I finally have "street 'cred", the picture of the all-so important dyno sheet to prove my worth. It's the last picture, but of course, Kimini's just as fast after the dyno run as before.

I put together a short video but didn't include every car for video size reasons (sorry guys.) Kimini Video.

I have to thank Bert, Katy, Jerry Mall, and everyone at K&N for hosting the Dyno Day - I had a great time. And seeing the 12hp difference changing only the air filter assembly on the Viper was very impressive - like free horsepower!!

Oh, and I finally broke down and bought a Tamiya Caterham Seven model. This is a very, very detailed model, and a big one at that, 1:12 scale. The've been discontinued for a while now so the prices are getting nuts. I spent too much, but it's really cool. You can find them on ebay.

And finally, I added a link off the front page for the slowely-evolving new project.

30 November

This is about the most amazing post I've seen in a long time. It's so bad I wonder if it can be for real, but suspect it is. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

"Hey guys, I've got a turboed 95 A32 Maxima. I've had a k04 and chip for a while and wanted to get more performance. I was recommended to port and polish the intake and exhaust. We found out they used abrasive material to do it like gritty sand. So I got with my friend that tunes Hondas and we decided to try it ourselves. We got a bag of sandblasting sand and hooked up into the intake and started the car. We had to hold the gas so it would run. He wanted to let the engine suck in the sand through the intake so it would port it out and then push it out the ehxaust so it would port the exhaust manifold.

I was worried that it might cause problems but he figured it'd be OK as long as we didn't make boost and it get sucked in the turbo. After running the car and letting it suck in sand we got about half way through a 25 lb bag. The check engine light was on and the engine was bucking and kicking and sounding really weird. We stopped and hooked the car back up normal and took off the sand supply. We tried to start it again and it was really hard. Once started it couldn't idle and kept making weird noises. We took it out and drove it and it started to make scraping and knocking noises.

Help! Can anyone tell me what to do! My buddy only does Hondas so he doesn't know much about nissans."
29 November

I will be adding a couple new branches to this website to cover the new project. It will appear as a new submenu, accessed from the front page, as these diaries are now. It'll be rudimentary at first (and maybe even broken for a few days) but be patient, as it will grow as the project moves forward. This part of the site will continue to focus on the antics of Kimini.

I'll also be adding a "Parts Sources" page with links to where I buy my stuff. It's something that should have been done with Kimini, but so it goes. Oh, and I officially bought the first parts for the new project, and no, it's not the engine.
25 November

I want to give a really big thanks to Brett in Chicago for helping me with the Vista Java fiasco. Apparently it takes a IT professional to figure this stuff out sometimes. The good news is that I am now able to run my Alibre Design CAD and can start teaching myself how to use it for supporting Project X.
22 November

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Kimini will be run on a dyno for the first time next week, due to a mix of curiosity and because it's free ;). Not sure what I'll do with the information, since it is what it is. A dead-stock H22A1 puts out about 165whp (wheel horsepower.) Due to removing most of the accessory loads and freeing up the intake and exhaust I expect more, we'll see. Don't know if they'll be monitoring air/fuel ratio, as I noticed that my exhaust pipe is pretty black, though many modern cars seem to have the same issue. The dyno session isn't just me, there'll be some very high end cars there so I'll be sure to take the camcorder. Should hear some awesome sounds from V12s!

My brother called up, wondering if I'd finished welding up his gas tank. He now has his painted frame so I expected he'd be hard at work on it. Nope, he was calling from the Buttonwillow track, and then the next day he was at a street fair. I thought it ironic that he's goofing off while checking to see if I'm working on *his* car. Of course if his car ends up faster than mine, I can always say that, "of course it is, considering that I built it..."

Project X is moving along. My initial doubt about the three of us agreeing on anything was well-founded. We're just too independantly minded - and stubborn. Oh well, not unexpected, so I'll be going it alone again. Right now I'm working on getting some decent CAD software installed, which has been very, very frustrating. It's not the CAD software itself, but an issue caused by Microsoft and Sun Microsystems. Seems Microsoft doesn't install Java anymore with Vista so if you want it you're on your own. The trouble I'm having is that "msjavx86" won't install. It says it did but it's doesn't. Looking around in the folders I found a status.txt message, saying, "Install aborted. The exising VM is more recent than the incoming one. Unable to complete installation. Error 0x80004005 Exit code: AA000000." This is odd because it's claiming there's already one in place, yet running the CAD install program fails because it can't find the Java Virtual Machine. If anyone knows how I can resolve this I would be very thankful!
11 November

This marks the beginning of the next project, which will stay on paper until the entire design is ready, avoiding expenditures as much as possible. The project cycle will be quite different--far more structured. This has the advantage of keeping the majority of my time open for taking care of the house and yard, something I've ignored for the last, oh, 10 years... It also allows keeping the project under wraps for quite a while. As long as I'm not spending money and am working on the home, everyone's happy ;). I'll probably create a separate page for the new Project X.

In other news, I helped my brother take his Super Stalker frame to the powdercoater, so that's moving along. I also welded up his modified aluminum gas tank, adding a recess in the tank to clear the differential.
4 November

I'm currently in discussion with a coworker about a new project; he drove my car a few weeks ago and apparently wasn't disappointed, :). Sharing the project would make things go more than twice as quick, plus I've already made several design decisions that would make construction tons easier and faster. Oh, and another coworker just bought a full-blown CNC mill and lathe for his home shop! If the three of us can agree on a plan (a rare thing in the homebuilt car circle!) it could be pretty awesome. I haven't decided how much to show our cards at this stage. The funny thing is, because I've been all over the place on what the next project might be, it could be tough to guess, ;).

This pretty much answers the question as to whether I'll be modifying Kimini. No, it's going to be left along; researching the turbo option showed that while it's certainly doable, the time and expense isn't something I want to do. As great as the Honda H22A1 engine, it isn't an inexpensive turbo candidate. I feel that the money is better spent on a new project instead of redoing work I've already completed. I may make some small styling changes to Kimini, but nothing major.

In other news, I signed up for a driving school in December at Buttonwillow racetrack. Part of the class involves getting our cars out on the skid pad, something I've been wanting to do for a long time. Years ago my brother took a BMW driving school, where you did figure-8s on the skid pad with the car sideways the entire time (back then the term drifting wasn't used). He said that exercise alone trimmed four seconds off his lap time at Willow Springs - that's a huge amount of time! I'm looking forward to it.
27 Oct

This article pretty much sums up this week: The fires.
25 Oct

We're still here and everything is fine. A bit too exciting, and downright sad for a lot of people. The air situation around here is okay though around work it's really bad - we all wear masks at work - in the office! Our company is right near where a lot of people lost their homes, which is also right where President Bush was - we watched his helicopter fly over. I don't agree with him on much but it was pretty cool to see.

Anyhow, I have a question to you all that's been driving me nuts, concerning Windows Vista. If I click on a video link on a website, Windows Media Player will not play it, complaining that: "Windows Media Player cannot find the file. If you are trying to play, burn, or sync an item that is in your library, the item might point to a file that has been moved, renamed, or deleted." However, if I right-click-save the file it plays just fine. I've been all over my settings and don't see any problem, even tried changing settings and it's still broken. Anyone run into this? Very annoying!
22 Oct

Right on schedule, Fall in SoCal means the Santa Ana winds kick up, hot dry air from the desert blowing in from the east. These are not little winds, but can peak out just short of hurricane force (~70mph). Like the big fire four years ago, once they get going, things can get really bad. With little to no rain over the last year, it's Hell waiting to happen... and it might just happen. When it's so windy, the tanker aircraft can't fly, and as the fires jump the various freeways, they are closed, making it almost impossible to evacuate. If you want a live look at what's going on, check out these entries from worried residents.

For now we're fine, but are packing, just in case. Kimini is staying here - when things get tough, decisions are made. Latest word is that none of the fires are even partly contained - zero. If the winds pick up this morning, which they usually do, this could redefine the word, "exciting." The picture at right isn't what anyone wants to see behind thier home...
21 Oct

Sorry for the lack of updates. Let's see. Discount Tire had the wheels fixed, which were dropped off last Monday and picked up Friday. They look great, which makes me wonder how the heck they fix them. I know they sent them out to a wheel repair place, but how do they fix them? I think I know how the dents in the rim are done, but how they fixed the dings is beyond me. Does anyone know? I mean, there was displaced metal, you can't just put it back. Do they fill the dings? What with, welding? Doubtful, since the wheels would need heat treating. They didn't just polish them out because it would have required removing too much material. I'm just curious.

As I've mentioned several times before, I'm on this on-again/off-again thing regarding turbocharging. I've done a lot of research and have concluded that that it's certainly doable and can be very drivable - but it's very expensive to do the right way. To me, the right way means that the engine is as reliable as stock. This is possible if enough money is thrown at it, and the boost kept to sane levels. I'm also aware that this is a silly thing to do. However, I've always wanted to own a turbocharged car, at least once. Yes, Dennis is correct that the money is far better spent learning to be a better driver: taking driving classes, getting a data recorder; he's correct about that and it would be much cheaper, too.

However, having a self-built car isn't only about squeezing the last couple seconds out of a track time. It's simply about having - fun. Regardless if it's for show, drag racing, road racing, drifting, cruising, it's all about having a good time. While I very much enjoy trackdays, that's not all what it's about. I also very much enjoy cruising down Pacific Coast Highway. Would that enjoyment be increased by having an additional 100hp under the right foot? Um, yes.

So I'm keeping my eyes open, watching for an opportunity to pick up a second engine. The engine that's in the car now is far too valuable to be modifying due to it having only 16K miles on it. No, any crazy engine build would be to a second engine. There's the question of whether to pick up a tired stock engine and build it up piece by piece. Then again, if a complete turbo engine could be found, it would cost far less than building one myself (engine mods are about the worst possible investment that can be made.) The problem is that the engine, by its very nature, has probably really been beat on. If I could find a built - but unused - engine, that would be cool.

Or maybe I'll go normally aspirated... or do nothing at all. See, still all over the place.

Why on earth do I "need" more power? Oh, Z06s, tweaked STis, Evos, and look what's coming out next spring. the 2009 Nissan GT-R. Can't have these causing mischief at track events. Speaking of that, I'm signing up for a driving school at Button Willow in December. I'll probably also sign up for Laguna Seca again.
10 Oct

There are a number of trackdays between now and the end of the year - I'm feeling a strong pull. There's little point wasting these nice soft-compund tires on the street.

This is hysterical. Never in a million years would a U.S. company do this - sucks for us! Video on how the Triumph Rocket III is manufactured. Leave it to the British to have a great sense of humor.
9 Oct

The Vintage Car races at Coronado was pretty cool. It's been going on for years but I've always been too busy building the car or working on the book. I entered Kimini in the car show, only because it was the same cost as parking in the regular parking lot. The pictures do much of the talking. I got a kick out of the BMW Isetta (hmm, an R1 engine would fit...), the various awesome classic race cars, and the Hudson Hornet. It was cool to hear a little boy get all excited, saying, "Hey, there's Doc!" (you have to see the movie "Cars" to know why.) I was Very impressed with the yellow Genetta G4 that simply blew away everyone else in its class. Of course, there were at least two other G4s in the same race that were much slower, so the level of preparation varied greatly.

My buddy Ron entered his Lotus Esprit. He had a 30-minute talk with the head judge, trying to get an idea of how they apply the rules. As expected, they're vague and squishy. I wasn't around, but they happened to be standing next to my car, so Ron asked the judge why, for example, my car didn't win anything. Ron asked, "Does it make any difference if the owner builds the car himself, versus simply writing a check for one from a professional hot rod shop? No straight answer. "Does it matter if the owner builds all the parts himself, versus someone who just buys them?" No answer. "So why didn't this car win" Answer: so-so paint. Ron had a hard time not pointing out that the car that did win had really bad paint - and that the owner was a close personal friend of the judge. The judge told Ron, "Nobody said this was fair." Funny, I though it was his job to make sure that it was. Whatever. I've become rather indifferent to what happens in car shows.

Ron was very surprised to see a Mustang at the event that looked very familiar. Asking a few questions confirmed that he'd helped build it 35 years ago... it came in first in its class.

I called Discount Tire, to schedule dropping off the bent and dinged wheels - the manager's out until Thursday. (For some reason, part of me is reluctant to let my wheels out of my sight. I'd almost feel better if they just gave me the money and let me get them repaired myself. We'll see.)

5 Oct

It's that time of year to start thinking about buying my book as a Christmas gift. It takes about 10 days for a shipment to get to me and another week to get to most customers, so you may want to think about ordering soon. I have some for signing, but if there's a rush toward the holidays I may run out, so let me know.

Getting some interest from a new magazine, "0-60", though I don't know what they have in mind yet.

There's a Honda H22 shortblock for sale locally... already set up for a turbo... hmmm.
28 Sept

Great news, Discount Tire has agreed to repair the wheels - they have redeemed themselves. Once the regional manager got involved, things happened very quickly. It wasn't the original damage that pissed me off; it was the local manager not admitting anything, and who still thinks that they didn't do it. Well, he can feel that way if he wants... He has no way of knowing that before every car outing I polish the wheels. Running a cloth around the rim is a great way to feel any imperfections - and up until last week there were none. He's just going to have to realize that sometimes he's wrong.

I'll drop the wheels off after the Coronado (San Diego) Vintage Races next week. No, I'm not participating (what class would I be in, Freaks?) If you're interesting it's October 6-7. I'll be there on Sunday with Kimini, which will be parked in the Car Corral, or whatever they call it.

Oh, and tire pressure on the old tires was 18psi. I'm going to run these at 16.5-17psi in an effort to broaden the wear area.
25 Sept

No response from Discount Tire.

I tried out the new tires to see how they feel. I'll use the following analogy - since I don't have personal experience. These tires are like buying a date with a really expensive hooker. You know you'll have a great time, but also know it's going to be short-lived with expensive repercussions. They stick so well that I can't find the edge of the handling envelope on the street. In order to find where the traction disappears means that when they do go I'd be into the curb. This test will wait for an autocross or trackday. This only underscores the feeling that they won't last long, but hopefully since the car is so light, they may actually last a while.
22 Sept

The following has been sent to Discount Tire's corporate office --

Decided to have Discount Tire mount and balance the tires; here's the chronology:

Drop wheels and tires off in the morning.

Return the same afternoon to pick up the mounted tires.

Notice that one wheel has original balance weight removed, but with no replacement weight (leaving the old adhesive, of course).

Notice that other three wheels have original weights in original locations. I point this out - "Oh, we forgot to balance them."

Wheels are balanced while I wait.

When the first one is done I pick it up and notice a serious problem - the wheel has dents in the rim!

Examine other wheels and find a second bent wheel. In addition, the remaining two wheels have gouges where there were none before.

One wheel has four dents in it, the other has two dents. The dents are in an inward direction (toward the opposite rim), as if the wheel rim was hit hard with a rubber mallet to dislodge the bead. Or maybe they used a bar to tray to lever the old tires off - doesn't really matter now.

Employee asks if I want to talk to manager and I very reluctantly say yes, because I know exactly how this is going to go.

Manager comes out and examines wheels. He agrees they are dented, but points out that since their equipment is "plastic coated", it couldn't have been their machines. (Why not? Plastic-coated steel equipment is certainly capable of making dents.)

And then he said something that really got me mad, "These wheels are obviously old, so who knows what's happened to them."

"Who knows?" I said, "I do. There has been exactly two times these wheels have been touched. The first time was two years ago when, surprise, you guys here mounted them for me, and today. I know every single mile put on these wheels and know there's no way in hell that I caused inward dents." (A dent caused by hitting a pothole would be completely different.) What does the age of these two year old wheels have to do with dents appearing? If I put them out in the sun for two years, do dents magically appear? No.

After I'd given up expecting any sort of resolution, as I was carrying them out to my truck I noticed that on one wheel, a portion of the original wheel weight still had not been removed. They had to balance it - again.

On yet another wheel, they hadn't removed the tire label, which was now pinched between the tire and wheel, no doubt a source of a slow leak. I made them fix it. Geez, they couldn't even get that right.

21 Sept

Ordered and received a set of Kumho V710s, 215/50-13 (the only 13" size available). I have a strong feeling that these tires are going to be very very sticky - and very very short-lived. The BFG R1s worn out in 4663 miles and I suspect that I'll have to buy a second set of wheels for the track, but for now I'm being hardheaded. I'll have them mounted by Discount Tire, who has never done me wrong. (See above!)
16 Sept

So what have I been spending my time doing? My wife's been out of town, so instead of sitting around in underwear and black socks, smoking cigars, drinking beer, and watching stock car racing, I've been productive. Just because the car's done doesn't mean I'm not out in the garage.

I'm reworked our fishpond filter, using what I've learned over the last 12 years but unable to implement due of Kimini; with her finished it was time to get this taken care of. "The Beast", as I call it, is a scaled-up version of a foam fractionator, also called a skimmer. While they're fairly straighfoward for an aquarium, making one for a pond is a big deal - literally. Technically I could have used a 15" diameter PVC pipe but it's $50-$100 a foot at this size, and I couldn't find any scraps anywhere around here... soooo I decided to roll my own. Having never done this before, it was educational. I would have really liked to use a roller, which would have made short work of forming a cylinder out of the sheet stock, but I don't have one so I did it the hard way. Worse was welding on the end plates, made more difficult due to it being stainless. Since I couldn't easily purge all sides of the joint at one time, the welds are downright ugly, bad enough that I'm not going to show you any closeups! Oh, and I found that while I can weld 24 gauge stainless - I don't enjoy it. Very easy to burn the metal back or blow holes in it. This is the last major componenent of the filter system. If I remember I'll take some shots of the completed system.

Speaking of Kimini, when I was welding the tank I happened to look at the car and noticed something on the front-right tire. The wear is interesting. It's expected that the front right would be first to cord, as the tracks are run counterclockwise. However, since it's worn in the center that means I had too much air in them - 18lbs - and perhaps not enough camber. It's hard to tell though because while I've had the car at several track events, there's also been several thousand miles of street driving. Guess I need to buy a tire pyrometer.

So yes, the tires have finally expired, serving their life well as the basis for the entire design, they were the first thing I bought after the engine. It's both good and bad news; good that I can now get some seriously sticky tires, bad that it's time to spend some money on tires that can be hard to find - well, not hard to find, but hard to find street tires. I'll have a choice of hard street tires or soft track tires. At this time I don't want a second set of wheels, so I may just get track tires and live with the wear. Not an entirely bad thing, knowing that when I head into a circular onramp, that Kimini's at her best. ;)

Oh, and finally, if you haven't heard, the McLaren F1 team stands accused of having Ferrari documents. The fine? $100 million!!! Do a search, as there's tons of commentary going on about this. That's one serious fine, but from the facts, probably justified.

10 Sept

Took Kimini out for an evening drive after working all weekend on the fishpond filter. It's nice cruising down Highway 101 which runs along the coast. It's fun to slowly pass Corvettes and high-end Porsches, seeing the woman passenger checking out Kimini. Of course in other cars, people point and laugh, so there's only so much ego boosting to be had.

Realizing that many readers may not be familar with Southern California, here's a shot of the car at the beach with a local surfer, who called the car, "Rad". Haven't heard that phrase in years. Off to the left on the sand are two people making out; good to see that some things never change.
3 Sept

Okay, finally got the pictures shrunk down. These are more or less in chronological order of our Lotus trip to Colorado. Ron has a few additional pictures in his camera that I'll add later. Oh, and I forget a couple of our side trips. One was visiting Mesa Verde to see the cliff dwellings; a pretty neat place to have lived, I say. Later we drove up a narrow dirt road (no guard-rail, steep drop-off) to a marble quarry. Very cool! It's about 100 yrs old and it's amazing what they do with huge marble blocks they don't want - roll them down the hill, of course. On the way back down I spotted a huge excavator that had tumbled off the road and into the canyon. It looks like it hadn't been there long, and who knows if they'll try to recover it. Anyhow, enjoy the pictures!

2 Sept

After the Challenger disaster, NASA stuck cameras all over the shuttle to keep an eye on the thermal tiles. Here's an awesome video from a camera mounted to one of the solid rocket boosters - from launch to recovery. Since there's no air for sound to travel through in space, the microphone is attached to the frame of the rocket. The sounds made as it free-falls back to earth is really eerie, even ethereal. Reminds me a bit of the cold darkness that space is portrayed as in the movie, "2001". Be sure to turn up the sound. Video.

It's hotter today than yesterday, 93.5 degrees in the house; I hate giving up weekends when I could be working in the garage or outside :(
1 Sept

Man, it's hot, around 100 in our backyard, and humid, which figures, since I spent the last couple days reworking the Koi pond filter. I think that the reason it's hot is because I'm working in the backyard. I was at the local Home Depot and asked if their air conditioning was broken. They said no, they just have a big swamp cooler. It didn't seem to have much effect, because everyone was sweating.
29 August

Okay, back from our big car trip, which is written up more or less chronologically.

The trip up: Monday night we started the trip by driving Ron's 1984 Lotus Esprit Turbo up to Victorville, California, near where we have our test facility. That night we stopped by Eric and Raul's homes and I was in for a surprise. They each own some history, one has a 1937 Nash, and the other a 1938 Plymouth - and I got to drive both! Both were in nearly stock condition, stock engine, and nearly original interiors, too. We drove around the neighborhood, barely able to see our way with what seemed like 3-candlepower headlights. I felt very much like a gangster, or, what I imagine gangsters felt like. It was a blast driving it and those engines gave a sense that they could run forever.

Tuesday was spent working (yes, we spent a day at work as part of our vacation, since it was along the way.) After work we headed east on I-40, spending Tuesday night at Flagstaff, Arizona. Wednesday we continued east on I-40, passing the Barringer crater, something I'd only seen in books. Ron referred to it as simply, "a BFH" - that it is. This is a quote from the Barringer website:

"Scientists now believe that the crater was created approximately 50,000 years ago. The meteorite which made it was composed almost entirely of nickel-iron, suggesting that it may have originated in the interior of a small planet. It was 150 feet across, weighed roughly 300,000 tons, and was traveling at a speed of 28,600 miles per hour (12 kilometers per second) according to the most recent research. The explosion created by its impact was equal to 2.5 megatons of TNT, or about 150 times the force of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. The blast and thermal energy released by the impact would certainly have been lethal to living creatures within a wide area. All life within a radius of three to four kilometers would have been killed immediately. The impact produced a fireball hot enough to cause severe flash burns at a range of up to 10 km (7 miles). A shock wave moving out at 2,000 km/h (1,200 mph) leveled everything within a radius of 14-22 km (8.5-13.5 miles), dissipating to hurricane-force winds that persisted to a radius of 40 km (25 miles)."

Continuing east, we next passed through Petrified Forest National Park. While we didn't stop, it was really strange to see tree trunks along the side of the freeway, that were in fact, rock. That night was spent in Gallop, New Mexico, then Wednesday, we headed north on 491. There was a small town there called Shiprock, a odd name in the middle of the desert - until I saw the distant rock formation, which did look very much like a sailing ship. I can imagine it didn't take long to be named by settlers heading west in covered wagon. Since it's visible in the clean desert air more than 50 miles away, the settlers had lots of time to think about a name! After staying in Cortez, Colorado on Wednesday, we headed up to Solida, positioning us well for the trip over Independence Pass to Snowmass, location of the Lotus gathering.

About Solida, Ron had made all reservations for the trip, sensibly choosing cheap motels, and as we rolled into Solida we kept an eye out for the motel. When we spotted the sign, we both said out loud that he must have accidentally chosen a good place. They had a really nice sign... and then we turned into the place and saw the pink doors. Any thoughts of high class luxury quickly dissipated.

Friday morning we crossed over the Continental Divide at Independence Pass, at 12,095 feet. Interestingly, the carbureted Esprit car did just; I remember the old family station wagon had a Real Hard Time when we climbed this high. No doubt that both the turbocharger and cold air helped. Here we were in shorts, sandals, and tee-shirts, admiring the view in 40 deg windy conditions. It didn't take long to decide that being back in the car was a good idea.

The Car: So what it's like to drive a 1984 Lotus Esprit Turbo 2000 miles cross-country? My biggest concern was the desert heat, but fortunately the air conditioning worked well enough that the passenger compartment got no warmer than about 80 deg F. It was a little noisy, but Ron said that it was much quieter after he installed better weather stripping. Overall, the Esprit was a good match for the trip. I've been on plenty of cross-country road trip, but that was when I was a kid, in the back of a station wagon. Back then, it was a rule-of-thumb that with stops, we'd average 50mph - not so with the Lotus. Its comfort zone was around 90mph, with a couple runs up to 130. Our average mileage was between 20 and... 12.5mpg, depending on how much fun we were having. There was a brief competition to see who could get the worst gas mileage. This late in the season there was very little traffic, with hardly any motorhomes. In fact, I don't think we passed more than 10 of them in the entire trip.

Interestingly, neither of us were concerned much about the car's reliability. We ensured that nothing would happen by bringing along a ton of tools, which did make packing our clothes interesting. Being an engineer, Ron brought along a laptop and a really cool temperature data-logger. With it, we discovered that the rear luggage space heats up to 70 degrees C due to the proximity to the turbocharger. That explained why my clothes looked like they'd been ironed when I pulled their wrinkled bodies from my bag.

This was my first experience driving a turbo car and it was interesting getting used to what I called the "rubber block." That is, the car gives the impression of having a certain amount of power at a given rpm, but with more gas, the engine seems to become larger. The Esprit was made for this kind of trip. During the Lotus event, they setup a tight autocross. A couple people took out their Esprits, but there wasn't much point. Their forte is wide open roads, much more of a touring car than an autocrosser. That was fine with me because driving an Elan or Super 7 to the event would have been really unpleasant in the heat.

So did driving his car move me closer to turboing Kimini? A little, in that it got me acquainted with what it's like, but it hasn't convinced me it's something I "need" to do right now. In fact I'd say it would make it harder to autocross the car, with the "rubbery" throttle. Still, if a turbocharger opportunity presents itself, well, who knows. Kimini is about having fun, not getting the last second out of a lap time.

Aspen: Coming down the hill from Independence Pass, we entered Aspen, Colorado. While we have some expensive neighborhoods around San Diego, the Aspen area redefines the term. This was really brought home when we passed the local airport - row upon row of corporate jets, Gulfstreams mostly. Here, if your aircraft has propellers, you simply don't rate. Apparently the housekeepers have the turboprops. It was pretty apparent that if you are anyone at all, you don't drive to Aspen, unless it's in something exotic. Speaking of this, Ron's car got a lot of attention. One couple in a gas station jokingly offered to swap cars straight across. The joke would have been on them though, since while the Esprit looks really expensive, he has much less into it than what people think. On the freeway, Ron got a kick out of women mouthing the words, "Nice car" as we passed by. I wonder if they'd think the same thing if they realized Ron purchased the car for far, far less than what they were driving! It's really amazing how you get treated when people think you're rich.

The event: Just down the road from Aspen is Snowmass, location of the Lotus event. Once checked in and settled, we walked around to see the cars that were already there. It was pretty amazing how far some people drove, There was a Super 7 from Texas and an Elan from Massachusetts - Lotus owners are a different breed.

Friday evening was the first meeting, and it didn't take long to spot Alain de Cadenet - I knew what he looked like. Emerson Fittipaldi wasn't hard to spot either, not so much by appearance, but by the throng of photographers encircling him. Clive Chapman was supposed to attend but had a family emergency, and Peter Darley, the long-time Lotus photographer, was there pushing his new book.

Speaking of books, it took a while to find Peter Egan - I wasn't sure what he looked like - and after I saw him it was hard to approach him. While he's just a normal guy, I seem to have put him on a pedestal. Then something happened that I wouldn't have imagined in a million years. After dinner, Ron and I went in search of the local bar. We asked the hotel clerk where the bar was and as we were leaving, Peter and his wife walked in and asked the same question. They walked over with us, and soon after we sat down, Alain de Cadenet asked if he could join us... um, okay? With a Lotus dealer from the East Coast joining us, too, there I sat, enthralled with the stories I was hearing. Needless to say, it was much easier to approach Peter Egan the next day. He's a genuinely great guy, just like I imagined him to be. I was equally impressed by his wife, Barbara. There aren't too many wives as interested and supportive of odd foreign cars, motorcycles, hang gliding, camping, hiking, etc, etc., and it was amazing the things the two of them have done together. "Behind every successful man is a supportive wife", and it's certainly true here. Her Wisconsin accent made me laugh. It's not too often that I get to hear the real thing, unlike what's on the radio show, "A Prairie Home Companion". I couldn't help but ask Alain about his run-in with the World War II Spitfire. He was none too happy about it and I can't print what he said to the pilot! (That infamous video is on my Video page.)

The next night I gave Peter a copy of my book in appreciation of all the years that I've enjoyed his great writing. I had he, Emerson Fittipaldi, and Alain de Cadenet sign my personal copy.

Saturday was the car show, with around 150 cars of all models. After checking out the competition, Ron realized he might just have a shot at winning something. After walking around chatting with people, we came to the realization that most people don't work on their own Lotus. The worse case was the fellow who was lamenting that he'd have to drive to Denver to get his oil changed. Ron tried to explain that while his Lotus is rare, it's still just a car, using a regular oil filter and oil. It is changed no differently than any other car - there's nothing magic about it. However, half was through the conversation, I could see the guy's eye's glaze over. He just don't get it; seemingly thinking that a Lotus, for whatever reason, isn't a normal car. It reminds me of the scene from the movie "Spinal Tap", where the band member said that their amplifiers go to 11 instead of 10. The interviewer points out that they'd actually just labeled the "10" as "11", and that it wasn't any louder. The band member just gave a blank stare and finally said, "But, it goes to 11."

Ron and I discussed this later and came to the conclusion that it depends on your background. If you're mechanically inclined and have worked on cars before, it's no big deal. On the other hand, many of these owners seemed to have decided on a whim to buy a Lotus, because it looks nice, with no idea how to work on it. The result is that the car's expected expense expands to fulfill the stereotype of a finicky sports car. One guy's Europa, had been involved in an accident. The owner, knowing nothing about the Lotus, ended up paying nearly $40,000 to have his $15,000 car repaired... Owners seem to be afraid of the cars, apparently because they have no experience with cars at all. The fact that it's a Lotus somehow makes it okay for owners to spend far more money on them. Ron talked to one owner who said that, "While I was waiting for my F-150 truck to be fixed, I walked across the street to the Lotus dealership, liked the Elise, and bought one." Boy, have times changed. Back when we were kids, we'd read stories in Road & Track about the next Lotus coming out. We'd put up posters on our walls, dreaming someday that we might own one. We'd read everything we could get our hands on, knowing the car inside and out, whether or not we might ever have one. This owner's a good example of someone who'll never understand the car, never work on it, and spend a fortune on upkeep, because he doesn't have a mechanical background. We concluded that if you didn't work on cars when you were a teenager, you are doomed to pay a fortune to have your exotic maintained. In fact, that's the only reason that Ron is able to own a Lotus - he does all his own work. What happens though, is that when people see it, they assume that it's a $50,000 car, because it is - for people who don't work on them.

All that aside, I felt Ron had a good shot at an award, while Ron was unwilling to consider the possibility because he didn't wanting to jinx his chances. It didn't hurt that we'd washed the car before the show. Anyhow, at the dinner that night, they announced 3rd place, then 2nd, then first - Ron won. He still can't believe it.

Sunday was the autocross, Ron wisely keeping his car off-track since we had 1000 miles to drive back home. The autocross would have been a bad place for an Esprit anyway - Sevens and Elans ruled the course. The Esprit is much more of a touring car, very well suited for getting you from here to there very quickly on wide open roads. As another indication of just how rich the Aspen area is, apparently some residents decided they needed somewhere to play with their exotic cars, so they bought land and built their own private race track. It's a short track, 1.1 miles, but long enough for the cars to play. The Lotus group was allowed to use the track on Monday, and the highlight was seeing Emerson Fittipaldi driving his 72 Lotus with which he won the World Championship in.

I'll post pictures in the next several days, after I figure out how to shrink them all down (the new camera has different software.) For the time being, here's a composite image of the entire group of cars, courtesy of Ron. (Ignore how the thumbnail looks, it's due to the style page imposing a different format. Just click on it for the proper format.) Ron's Lotus is in the second row, sixth from the left. There's was another picture taken with all of us next to our cars. The way the 100-yr old panoramic camera works is that everyone has to remain motionless for 30 seconds - it was so quiet you could hear the oil dripping.

After we watch the race we headed home. Since the Esprit is most comfortable at, er, higher speeds, it brought up the question of just how far we should drive in one day. The further we went, the more we started entertaining the possibility of driving straight through, so we did. I drove during the first part but then started getting tired, so Ron pressed on. End result, 1000 miles in 11 hours, stops included. Very little traffic made it possible.