NextCar - Build Diaries
2005, August -


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20 August 2005

Instead of my usual disjointed note-taking, writing on scraps of paper here and there, and losing or forgetting material, I'm starting this branch to better record my thoughts during development of an as-yet-undefined future car project. Since it takes a while to decide exactly what it's supposed to be and do, it's just as well; looming large between now and then is a home remodel, something which promises to make Kimini look rediculously easy.

So to the point, what do I want it to look like, what engine should I use, and where should it mount?

Well the last one is easy - mid-engine - regardless of engine choice.


I'm all over the map; they range from a Yamaha R1 sportbike engine, through a Honda K20, to a bevy of V6 powerplants, Acura 3.2l, VW 3.2l, Ford Zetec, Mazda, and Nissan 3.5l.

An R1 sportbike engine has several important advantages: very light, 150lbs for the engine and tranny, a dry-sump is not required (unlike a Hayabusa), a sequential gearbox, and is very compact. The problems I see are (until convinced otherwise): low torque, lack of a reverse gear, dealing with a chain-driven center-section, and requiring use of custom axles. None if this is impossible; my concern is I end up with a 150hp, low torque powerplant for $5000 (end-to-end). Also remember hp is for top-speed, torque is for acceleration.

The Honda K20 may be the most logical choice for size, torque, and reliability. Cheap they are not (as of now) and I noticed that even with 200hp or so, Ariel felt the need for a supercharger. Adding the $5000 cost of the drivetrain to a $3200 supercharger becomes $8200, which is kind of dumb. I realize if the car is light enough a supercharger isn't necessary, plus over the coming years the K20 will become cheaper.

The V6 engines have a strong allure since they make plenty of power without even trying and sound nice; the big unknown is weight, which I've been researching. I know the VW VR6 engine/tranny/accessories is around 530lbs. I suspect though that even with an aluminum block, the other V6 drivetrains won't be much lighter, but I'd like to know for the sake of research. 530lbs is pretty sad next to 150lbs for the bike engine, but to be fair, though the V6 weighs 3.5x as much, they also put out three times the torque.

What will it look like?

Not sure... Here's some interesting cars of which I like the design philosophies: Ariel Atom, Sylva Mojo, and the Sylva Riot,

After what I learned on the Kimini, I do *not* want doors, roof, or much of a windscreen, and especially little to no composite. At this point I haven't even decided if it'll be street legal. If it is it'll be a two-seater, if not it may be a single-seater, suitable for autocross, timetrials, and roadracing, though I have no idea what class it would fit into and I'm not sure I care.

Yet another idea is a entry-level formula-type car, using older widely available Honda drivetrains, stock wheels, tires, and modified uprights. It could be a fairly cheap way to light your hair on fire at the local autocross or timetrial. No, it won't beat $50,000 composite-tub cars, and pretty it is not, but sticking even a 150hp Honda engine into a 1000lb chassis is like tripling your Honda's horsepower and torque. It would be a ton of fun as a weekend toy, plus keeps your street car safe and you don't get tickets or pay high insurance. It could be interesting what I could come up with using, say, a 1995 CRX as a doner.

On the other hand if gasoline keeps going up I may consider making a 3-wheel single-seat commuter vehicle... Like I said, I'm all over the place.