Category Archives: Department of DIY

Ooops! I got that price way wrong

Earlier post I wrote that the Ford 9″ axle was $1100, well it turns out that was just for the lightweight centersection with positraction and the fabricated housing was another $850 or so. So, $1100 for the lightweight centersection, and $850 for the housing kit plus the floating caliper bracket kit for $400 and the 9″ from the catalog looks a lot like the price of the Quick Change from the catalog, particularly if I need to buy an $1100 centersection for each ratio I need instead of a $70 (Edit $39.99 or $49.99 depending on material) set of spur gears for the Quick Change. Time to change ratios is about the same for each one with the nod going to the Quick Change by a few minutes over the Ford 9″ because you have to drop the driveshaft and do a bunch more nuts when you change the centersection compared to removing the back cover and swapping spur gears.

One thing I need to look at is the cost of a set of Helical cut street spur gears instead of the normal straight cut spur gears used for racing. I know the straight cut gears are listed at under $70, but I can’t find a price on the helical cut gears that mesh like the gears on a standard transmission and are quiet to Very Quiet depending on the ratio of the gears. Some sets have a very quiet mesh-unmesh like the gears in a transmission, some are just Not As Noisy as straight cut spur gears of the same ratio, and some of the Very Quiet gears are not swappable top for bottom and have to be installed in a specific orientation. (Edit, I found the Helical Cut Gears for the Quick Change and they are $60/set, but the Very Quiet gears that have to be installed only one way are $130)

Something not hot rod building is the continued winter weather system settling its icy butt on our weather. As I compose this the temperature for Casa de El Poeta reported by is +13°F drybulb and -4° index, both of which are way warmer than the +9°F drybulb and -14° index I saw right before bed. Also, we have snow and bright sun right now which is making the inside of the house very bright (and also very cold, as the heat pump doesn’t have much to work with in these temperatures). Now I’m going to retire to the living room which is much warmer than sitting next to the drafty window working at my desk.

Take cover, I’m thinking again

I’m thinking about the Sprint-T again, except I’m “thinking” with a bunch of catalogs and web pages open at various rear axle kits. I’m comparing prices and features for the Ford 9″ kits compared to the two quick change options. Now if budget was not a concern, like if I won the lottery, then my choice would be the 8″ ring gear quick change with the magnesium centersection polished in clear powdercoat, with magnesium bells and aluminum tubes, and the aluminum locker differential. This is the best balance of weight and performance. There are other options that are lighter, but at a cost to performance. There are options that have a slight potential for better performance, but at a major weight penalty.

And then there are the less expensive (can’t really call them “cheap”) options in the Ford 9″ housings. The main thing against these is because they are made from steel they weigh more, in some cases a lot more. But they are way less expensive, $1K±, compared to the $4K± of the “no budget” option in the first paragraph. This is a hybrid option, a race housing, hubs, and brakes with a “performance street” centersection, ring gear, and differential. Now for both of these the aluminum spool is lighter and cheaper than the differential, which means if I’m not seriously considering it there has to be a performance cost. Yes there is a loss in performance in the intended use with a spool, locking the rear wheels together makes the car understeer in tight turns that are part and parcel of autocross. And understeer is SLOW in autocross.

Now how much performance difference is there between the $4K rear axle, and the $1K rear axle? Maybe a few hundredths of a second, maybe nothing, depending on how smooth the track is. The rougher the track surface is, the better the $4K axle compares to the $1K one. And of course there’s the difference between a polished quickchange and a painted fabricated housing, the polished quickchange wins every time. But this isn’t a show car, it has a mission. Looks are important, but looks that don’t improve performance are expensive nonsense.

(Aside about that last word, it took forever to come up with “nonsense” because for some reason my brain wouldn’t go there, I got “ostentatious”, and “frippery”, but not “nonsense” until I started browsing thesauri online. I even knew the word started with the letter “n”, but going from “n” to “nonsense”… too far until I found the right thesaurus)

Anywho, there is another thing the $4K axle does is allow adjusting the final drive ratio from race to race and also for highway cruising between events. I mentioned this in a previous post, but it bears repeating that with the quick change I’m not stuck with a 4 or 5 speed overdrive automatic, I can get a 2 or 3 speed that might be lighter or cheaper. In other words if I spend an extra $3K± on the axle I can save a couple hundred on the transmission, or what’s really important, I can save maybe 150 pounds in the weight of the transmission. In actuality the weight savings are more like 60-70 pounds as Powerglides are about that much lighter than 4l60es unless I really need the 4l80e in which case then we are looking at over 100 pounds weight savings. Now 100 pounds less weight is a big chunk out of a car that will weigh less than a ton with driver and race fuel load. If I got my sums right, we are talking about under 1800 pounds on the starting line with driver and race fuel load using an aluminum block engine and PG transmission.

Also the $4K axle is maybe 20 pounds of unsprung weight lighter than the $1K axle. Now 20 pounds in a car that weighs less than a ton is not insignificant, but 20 pounds unsprung weight? That’s a bunch, particularly in a car that has as bad a sprung/unsprung ratio as the Sprint-T. And one of the things that has a major effect on handling on rough pavement is having a high sprung/unsprung ratio, unsprung weight is bad for keeping tires firmly in contact with the ground.

Thinking about an epic level troll

This would be a bit of a slog, but if someone could pull it off it would be EPIC! It would require getting a lot of public domain wildlife footage, and some editing software, and a YouTube upload account. Then go through all the matchups of all 55 Super Bowls and get the ones that had one or more animals in the team names and use the wildlife footage to get some kind of conflict or reaction between the animals for the team(s). Years that didn’t have animals get footage of owls hunting. Put together 1-2 minute videos of the animal conflicts or owls hunting and title them “Best Moment Superb Owl Y” with Y being a Roman numeral that matches the conflict to the game. Then upload the videos 2 or 3 times a week during the football season. Because you have all the letters in the right order the algorithm for searching videos will “hit” on super bowl searches. I know because searching for “superb owl” got me super bowl videos.

Have fun!

Odd things bother me

One of the banes of my post-wreck existence is knowing I used to know something that I can’t remember. It’s seldom something earth-shattering, usually it’s media related like a song title, or lyric, or some bit of dialog from a TV show or movie. What is really frustrating is when the snippet isn’t searchable because it’s not something in the name of the song or show or whatever.

Like a search I recently completed, I remembered a guitar riff from a James Gang song, something not searchable because I don’t have a guitar, and can’t play one even if I had it. But eventually I found the song, by accident when I was looking for something else, and the song I was looking for came up in “related”. What I was looking for was “Funk #49” by the James Gang. The search I was using that the song was related to was “Living in the USA” by the Steve Miller band. Now I have no clue how the one was related to the other, but I’m glad it was. The lyric that got me to “Living in the USA” was a snippet “… and the Howard Cam Special takes it at the line!” And that got me to “Funk #49” as a related song. One thing that was a big help was remembering that guitar riff was from a James Gang song.

Oh, yeah, the reason why I was searching Steve Miller songs was one came up in my playlist on YTM, and I remembered they did a song that right at the end was a radio sports announcer calling a race that was won by the Howard Cam Special so I looked it up by lyrics. And just FYI the Howard Cam special was an oval track car that won a lot of races in the late 1950s and early ’60s so there was lots of recordings of the car winning races to sample. And in the related songs list to “Living in the USA” was that James Gang song I had been trying to find. Serendipity!

And speaking of the Howard Cam Special, that was a car that started out as a track roadster and evolved into a full sprint car and was a spiritual ancestor of the Sprint-T. If you want to see it… I looked it up and the oval track car I remember isn’t there, but there is a series of dragsters of the same name in the pictures I found, and no mention of the track roadster or sprint car. Do you suppose this is another example of the Mandela Effect, or did I conflate two different cars with similar sponsors but otherwise completely different? I lean to the idea that I had so much information floating around my brain that the sprint car and the dragster got commingled into the same car.

Anywho, design work for the Sprint-T is ground to a halt because of not knowing what parts I’m going to use. Which is caused by not knowing if I’m going to buy the rear axle now or in a while. And also I don’t know which one I’m getting, candidates are the Ford 9″, the 8.8″, and two different models of quick change, one with a 10″ ring gear, and another with an 8″ ring gear but a different design that handles much more power for the same diameter ring gear so they made the ring gear smaller to reduce weight and rotating inertia. Naturally the lighter version costs a metric butt load more because lighter. Lighter always costs more unless it’s lighter because it’s weaker. It’s even a meme, “Light, Strong, or Cheap; choose two”. But there will be major differences in the rear suspension design and how it connects to the frame depending on which one I choose.

And at this point I don’t have anything more new to write about so it’s a good place to stop.

I made the Sprint-T heavier

It wasn’t by much, but the 31″ radiator is slightly heavier than the radiator that ships with the Speedway complete kit when empty. But when filled with coolant there is a large difference between the two, roughly 25-50 pounds (10-20 Kg). This means I have to raise the weight on the starting line to about 1950 pounds from 1900 with me and a half-filled race tank of gas. 

I have been keeping a running estimate of the weight on the starting line as the design progressed over the years from basically the Speedway kit with “square” tires (all 4 tires the same size), to the current race car that is barely mostly street-legal. Now the on-the-street weight has gone up a bunch as things like fenders and bumpers and aerodynamics have been added to the street part of the build. I’m currently looking at about 200 pounds of junk removed from the car at the track to get ready for racing, plus a much larger gas tank and of course, more gas at 6.5 pounds per gallon. The race tank holds as much as 3 gallons of E85, but the street tank has room for 22 gallons of pump gas. That’s an extra 350 pounds full of gas for the street version of the car or about 2300 leaving for a trip, compared to 1950 on the line.

The kit is listed as 1700 less driver with a half-tank or 8 gallons of gas with a small-block Chevy and a TH 350 transmission. While the LS is significantly lighter, the 4l60e transmission is about as much heavier, and there is a lot more metal in the exoskeleton roll cage/frame and full bellypan of the Sprint-T than the simple ladder-and-crossmembers of the kit, and there is exponentially more resistance to twist in the Sprint-T frame than there is in the kit, and not just because there is more metal but because of where that extra metal is. For an explanation look up Herb Adams’ excellent book on the subject. It graphically demonstrates the difference between a ladder frame and a full roll cage tied into a space frame. Anywho, that’s where a lot of the increase in weight comes from. Between the pontoon fenders for the street version and bumpers and the kit’s headlight brackets also being the front shock brackets the Sprint-T has a bunch more junk in street trim, and a bunch more frame and brackets either way. Not making excuses, just stating facts.

Look at regular buckets trying to autocross at Goodguys’ and you can see what I mean. They jack up the inside rear wheel during hard turns, and try to swap ends if they haven’t gotten completely straight before applying the power exiting a turn.

Parts have arrived

My stimulus check stimulated Speedway Motors and because they collect local taxes also the local economy. I’m continuing with this build even though it’s starting to look like I’ll never get to drive it even if I finish it. I was carrying one of the boxes of parts to the garage  when I lost my balance and had to drop the box to keep from falling, because I couldn’t stand up straight enough get my CG over my feet consistently so I didn’t fall. The only thing I could do was to not be carrying a heavy box ahead of my feet. It didn’t help that I had to leave my cane when I used both hands to pick up the box. Usually I can walk without the cane, but when I get tired I need it to keep my balance.

Anyway, the stuff that came this time was sorta heavy, some of it. I got the largest radiator they sell that doesn’t cost multiple body parts, because I don’t want an engine that overheats showing it off at the cruise-in, and because lower coolant temperatures mean better power and lower octane requirements. I might be able to get away with 87 octane regular (85 at high altitude) for highway use by using the excess cooling capacity for lower temps on the road. Basically I bought the 31″ wide double-crossflow generic radiator. If I did the math right it should work to keep the coolant temp below 205°F when racing and 180°F when I’m not putting my foot to the floor repeatedly at low speeds for racing. Interstate highway cruising I’ll have to depend on the thermostat to not get coolant temps that are too low, because I will have both not a very hard load on the engine and an abundance of airflow through the radiator.

Now in the other boxes were a U-Weld-It exhaust manifold for LS engines that will fit everything in the LS family, header wrap to prevent people getting burned on the exposed manifold, and engine mount cushions to go between the engine and the frame with the mounts I will build to connect the two. The trick is I will need to have the engine and transmission in hand to build the frame side of the mounts, because at this point I don’t know where the mounts will fall, and I’ll need the frame to know how wide to make the engine side of the mounts for the same reason. There is a lot of taper between the rails and a difference of a few inches forward or backward will make a big difference in the geometry of the mounts. The dropped box was the exhaust manifold kit because it has a lot of steel in it and was heavy, probably heavier than the assembled kit on the engine because there is stuff in the kit to keep everything lined up to weld it together that won’t be needed when the assembled kit is on the engine. After I weld it together I’ll degrease it and spray it with the header paint I’ll buy locally to keep it from rusting, then I’ll install the wrap kit so the exhaust heat stays inside the exhaust until it goes out the exhaust. I’m hoping this will also keep the HDPE body panels from sagging from the heat, but I’m not expecting miracles if the panels are mounted too close to the exhaust.

And that’s basically everything I know so far. You have a good day.

I should get some writing practice in

And in case you didn’t realize it, I practice here in my blog because, why not?

I actually have several topics to write about, some car building related, some just on surviving physically and emotionally during the pandemic. And some are a little from column A and column B.

So, it has gotten more and more uncomfortable to walk with shoes on because I need to get my toes done, but I couldn’t get an appointment at the nail place I get my toes done at. And also, no I’m not Metrosexual, I can’t stay bent over long enough to do the toes on my left leg because I’m no longer flexible enough to cut my own toenails. I have been so long unable to reach my toes with clippers that I’m not even sure what year was the last time I did my own toes. I’m thinking maybe 2013 or 2014? Anywho it has been a while since I could cut my toenails the way I like them, which was shortly before unable to do them at all. But that’s neither here nor there, I went to the nail salon and had my toes just shortened a bit and now my shoes fit much better,

Speaking of shoes I have had fuzzy slippers on my gifting list for at least 3 years now, and the ones Mrs. the Poet ordered were on backorder again this year. So I went shopping online until I found the kind I want with lots of fuzzy lining on top and a warm felt type lining on the insole and open back heels so they’re easy to put on and get off but that don’t fall off. They should get here sometime around the inauguration of the sane-ish President.

I’m still thinking about that LS/Powerglide, 4 wheels and enough bits to keep everything pointed in the right direction A/MOD solo racer, and how to keep it close to the minimum weight of 900 pounds with my butt in the driver’s seat. I’m checking the weight of the tires I’ll need to stick all that power to the track. Even a mildly tuned LS has about 400 HP at the flywheel, stock, and some do even better with an LS7 making a guaranteed 505 flywheel HP before fiddling with the conservative factory emissions-legal tune. The LS376/525 uses a hot cam to get 525 flywheel HP with the factory tune, but can get more with some playing with the fuel and spark maps in the computer. The bad thing is there is a lot less power below 5000 RPM compared to even a stock LS7 and power below 5000 RPM is what gets you out of tight corners. Anywho, what I’m looking at for this build is roughly 1000 pounds without a driver, which is about 300 pounds overweight. The class minimum is 900 with driver, which is about 700 pounds without me. Since that’s only a smidge over the engine and transmission by themselves and less than the engine, transmission, and the lightest rear center section that will take the power of anything not originally from a truck or SUV in the LS engine family, I’m thinking that I won’t need to add ballast for this build.

Anyway, things have been Not Too Bad so far, aside from taking care of my kidneys making frequent trips to the bathroom to pee part of my normal. Between coffee and diet colas and straight water I’m doing about 2 liters of water a day, and while this is good for keeping stones out of my kidneys it’s Hell on my bladder. I’m right on the cusp of having more pain from the strain on my bladder than I would get from the kidney stones. What scares me is I might still get the stones even with the highly stressed bladder, but that is an extremely low probability as long as I watch my calcium intake.

I think this is a good place to call a halt to the post.

My laptop is terrible for photo editing

It’s crap, but it’s all I have at the moment. I managed to edit the routing for the belt on the Sprint-T.

The squiggly blue line is what drawing with a crappy touch pad looks like with the editing program that comes with Windows 10. But it does manage to show where the belt will go on the Sprint-T. You can see that unsupported run from the idler to the alternator that is bothering me, plus the reduced wrap around the drive and driven pulleys that also bothers me. It might work, might not, won’t know until I try it.

As the saying goes Eureka!

I was wondering about doing the waterpump/alternator only belt routing without adding tons of idlers to the front of the Vortech junkyard engine so when I woke up in the dark this morning I looked up where the pulleys are on the engine as it sits in the truck. Run a straightedge from the idler at about 2 o’clock from the waterpump to the AC pulley and everything clears.

I’m not enraptured by the long unsupported run from the idler to the alternator mounted where the AC compressor is on the diagram, and I’m sure there might be some slippage when things get hot, but this is doable! As in things won’t get in the way of the belt and there is some wrap on the waterpump.

I looked this up on my phone and used the “optical straightedge” of holding my phone up to sight where the belt would run from the tensioner sitting above and to the right of the waterpump in this diagram. From how I looked there was clear space from the AC compressor pulley to the idler. I was so excited I got out of bed at 0600 and started downloading the image and composing this post. I then verified with a straightedge made from a folded piece of paper held against the image on my computer that there was clearance (but I’m still unhappy about that long unsupported belt run to my alternator placement). The good thing is I can move the alternator up and tight to the block to reduce the amount of unsupported run and still use the alternator as a tensioner in the system, or use the tensioner that’s already on the engine in the truck to do the same thing. I’m also not thrilled with using the tensioner from the idler, because that puts the most belt wrap on the idler and tensioner and the least on the drive and driven pulleys on the crank, waterpump, and alternator.

I’m still thinking about it, but at this point the routing is crank, waterpump, idler, and alternator doubling as the tensioner in the system. If I find something else out when I get an engine I’ll have something else to write a post about. Also, doing it like this also allows just using the alternator on its own tensioning a 2 pulley system, crank and alternator, should I get the fundage to install an electric waterpump.

I’ve been a good hubby this week

I made dinner twice this week, and paid for it twice more. I grant that when I made dinner it was not a severe test of my culinary abilities, as Monday was lentil stew made in the crock pot with carrots and onions and a potato, Tuesday was microwave scrambled eggs and sausage, which is literally using a fork to mix whole eggs together with milk until the yolks are broken and frothy, and microwaving them in a big coffee cup until all the liquid cooks off. Tonight’s dinner was Taco Bell, and Thanksgiving is from Spring Creek Barbeque, and Friday is probably going to be leftovers.

So that’s almost an entire week that Mrs. the Poet doesn’t have to do anything more strenuous than pour the drinks for dinner and I even dished up the ice cream and Oreos for dessert, twice. And I’m also the guy that loads and runs the dishwasher. I tell you, I’m a catch, and I’m already caught.