Daily Archives: June 23, 2013

I have all morning free today on Wreck-Free Sunday

Well my church has gone to Summer Mode as of this week with no morning service, just evening service. That means I have all morning to do whatever I want to do. That means I blog, naturally. I’m a writer, so I write even when “writing” means tapping on a laptop computer keyboard. I also read, lots. I just got 3 new books about building cars, tech manuals on building specific car kits that I have been thinking about building.

One kit I have eliminated after finding out the “trunk” is a 6″ space behind the seat back that has to be shared with the battery. Also there is only room for a 9 gallon gas tank to feed a V8 engine, the 4 cylinder version has a 10.8 gallon tank which gives about 1/3 more range compared to the V8 version. That still isn’t much, less than 300 miles on the highway where the V8 version gets just at 200. So this car is out for both lack of range and zero luggage space. The same body can be used on a different frame to get both a trunk and a bigger gas tank so the look is still available but in a more practical package. The only thing that you have to give up is the other frame has slightly less cornering grip than the frame with no trunk and the tiny gas tank.

The cornering difficulties with the other kit I can deal with, I have had years of experience with chassis tuning to get the most out of a car in a turn. Another advantage of the “other” kit is I can put much bigger brakes on it. I won’t say I have an obsession about brakes since most of my racing experience was in small engine race cars that required learning how to drive with as little braking as possible, but I do have an obsession about having good stopping power available at all times. The brakes I can put on the “other” kit were originally designed for a 4200 pound car, but they will be stopping a 1700 pound car. That means that if I install the brakes properly and do a little work at getting air to the center of the vented discs to keep them slightly cooler I will have no problems with brakes giving up from overuse on a long downhill run, for example (or if I take this car racing, like I plan to do). The front brakes will use the ’69-’77 GM mid size front caliper squeezing 11.75″ discs, while the rears will be the GM Metric rear caliper with emergency brake , which is basically the same pads and hydraulics as the Metric front caliper but with a mechanical actuator that allows it to be used as a parking brake, and another set of those 11.75″ discs. While this seems like the brakes are small by the current fashion, those brakes will be more than enough for the car I want. Like I put it earlier, these are brakes that were originally designed for a 4200 pound car installed on a 1700 pound car.

Now the cornering part will be tricky. The suspension is beam axles on both ends which eliminates one of the tuning adjustments I used to rely on, camber. That leaves toe and castor at the wheel, and shocks and springs with ride height adjustments at the point where the suspension connects to the frame. I can order the axles with a bit of negative camber installed at the factory to get a bit more mechanical grip at the expense of a bit more tire wear. I can adjust the toe to fix that and also improve the turn-in response, a happy bit of serendipity for handling for “spirited” driving, but it also has the effect of making the car a bit unstable in a straight line so there is a balance that has to be reached and maintained, or possibly I will adjust the toe as I get to a race for race conditions then return the adjustment to the best setting for the street after the race. Adjusting the toe on this car is about a 5 minute job and does not even require jacking the car up to get to the adjusters, just backing off the jam nuts on the tie rod and twisting the tie rod until the desired toe is reached and tightening up the jam nuts once the right setting is reached. Easy peasy. Other adjustments are a little more involved than toe, but still much easier than for a “regular” car. Basically jack it up and take off the tire, the support the frame and adjust the: ride height, caster, shocks and springs, or the square of the axle to the frame. To do those adjustments on 99% of production cars would require a trip to a frame shop or major modifications to the car. That is one of the reasons why I like this kit. I can drastically change the personality of the car for a few hundred dollars and at most a couple of hours work. I can completely change the car with those parts and a different set of wheels and tires.

Continuing on that theme, I can pack a small trailer with 4 tires and pre-set coil-over shock-spring units and go from a mild-mannered street car to a race car that can relocate eyeballs to the same side of the face from lateral Gs or put spots on your glasses from the grip under braking, all in about 1 hour each way. Try doing that with your unmodified production car. On second thought don’t, all you will do is make a mess and not get anything much actually done towards changing the car.

So with all the gigs I have been getting and the money I get from the trust my parents left me it looks like I might actually be driving again for the first time since 1995. I know, scary thought. One thing about this is all the time I spend riding my bike will make me a more cautious driver when I get back behind the wheel, because I pay more attention to what is around me and I know what a hazard I am to other road users just because I’m driving a WMD that can wipe out buildings as well as people.

Speaking of having gigs, I have an overnight gig coming up that will prevent my posting to the blog Monday and Tuesday, with a post on Wednesday, maybe a post on Thursday as I get ready to go on vacation. The widow woman is going to be upset as I won’t be available for her to cry on my shoulder because of this other gig. But money is money, and the widow woman gig is a free food gig while this other gig I can’t talk about is a money gig.

PSA, Opus