Category Archives: Department of DIY

It’s really annoying sometimes

I did the shopping thing again today, and I had a significant handicap while I did it. Longtime readers remember when I was building bikes that I didn’t always have the right tools so I “made do”. Well one of the ways I “made do” was forming the thin sheetmetal with my fingers because I didn’t have any other way of forming it, and because I had some scary grip strength back then. Well it has come back to haunt me, in that the minor tendon damage I had from using brute force and grip strength instead of the right tools has flared up in painful fingers and the tendons in my palm swelling and causing weak grip and limited finger mobility. The palm pain can be traced to using my thumb to bend parts to final shape because it was more accurate than the selection of hammers and beating tools I had, most of which I built from cheap combination open/box end wrenches I had lying around after getting good wrenches. Seriously those were great for smoothing out contours and adjusting small radius bends in gussets and the like (and repairing dents in bicycle fenders). But about half the time at least some work ended up pushing thin metal into position with fingers and thumbs. And today I had to pay the price for abusing my hands like that.

Fortunately I’m not a touch typist, more of a high-speed hunt-and-peck typist who sorta knows where the keys are and can get a few without having to look where I’m poking the fingers. The technical term is look and peck, a hybrid of touch and the other. But while I can still type pretty quick, it still hurts a little. Sometimes not so little, but I will live over it.

And I’m done kvetching for the moment, time for bed.

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Weather is here, wish you were beautiful

It has turned cold and rainy today, after yesterday’s trek for nothing. I had originally planned on going downtown and depositing checks and Getting Stuff Done, but Bush41’s funeral caused all the offices to be closed, and apparently also the ATMs to not work, because it said I had money but then said I couldn’t have any. I got as much cash as they could give me at the register because I had to go buy stuff in the store where the ATM is located. Unfortunately I couldn’t get anywhere near the cash I needed to get because of the limits on how much cash they can give back. ☹️

And the Trump Tariffs are negatively affecting the Sprint-T build. Local steel prices are through the roof, and online prices that can deliver are only a tiny bit better. And I mean tiny, about 1% less. I thought the tariff was only 25% on steel, but it looks like more so maybe this was the one he slapped the 30% tariff on. And adding 30% to the cost of the raw stock does bad things to the build budget. I really try hard to keep politics out of the blog posts, but there are times when that’s just not feasible, like now. Tariffman has just totally screwed up two things I do/did, building bicycles and hot rods (and tumbrels, but those are just bicycle trailers with a handrail). So it’s not just the big car companies getting screwed, us individual hobbyists are feeling the pinch as well.

So, anyway, I have time to do the post because I walked over 2 miles yesterday and I’m getting pain on the scars from the surgery to put my hip together and then take the hardware out so I wouldn’t get strip searched every time I had to go through a security checkpoint and they didn’t believe the scars (only happened once, but once is one too many times). You would think that more than 15 years since the last operation would be enough to keep the scars from hurting, but you would be wrong, because when I woke up this morning I could barely move my leg for about an hour or so. I don’t know exactly how long because both phones were on the chargers and out of my reach and I can’t read the LCD digital clock from the bed. It felt like forever, but realistically it was less than an hour. Then I just didn’t want to get out from under the quilt because cozy, and things didn’t hurt as long as I stayed on the hot side of things. Staying too warm was pretty instrumental to alleviating a number of recent pains in my leg, hip and shoulder. Which is another roundabout way of saying I’m getting old but not in the good way. Which is another way of saying immortality without eternal youth is a curse, or that I wish I had access and the money to purchase the enhancements my character in Shadowrun has, replacing the damaged legs with ones that can be repaired or replaced, ditto the arm and bypassing the brain damage with cerebral enhancements, fixing my vision with “cateyes” that can see in almost no light without having to get recharged once a day… fixing everything that hurts or doesn’t work right. Then I can be immortal minus the pains of old age. Unlike my current situation of immortal with accelerated aging because healthcare in the US sucks unless you’re obscenely rich.

And that seems like a good place to stop for today.

Cable bill paid and beans cooked

Today was one of those days mostly spent waiting for a bus or for my turn in line while beans achieved Nirvana in a slow cooker. Once again my leg is complaining about how I abused it, and I’m fighting lack of sleep because I only got about 4 hours before waking at the butt-crack of dawn after taking hours to get to sleep yesterday. The problem is I got exhausted before I got finished thinking and my brain wouldn’t shut down, and I think that might happen again. I still can’t make my brain shut down until it is ready to shut down even after all these years.

And I have to clear out my inbox before I hit the bed, so this is more of a tweet than a post.

I have more data

I finally found out the weight of a couple of different Subaru transmissions for comparisons with other engines and their intended transmissions. Especially for the Subie, using a transmission designed to bolt to the engine saves a ton of work.

Anywho, what I found out was the 2002 5 speed weighed in about 135-140 pounds, the later model 6 speed was 155-160, and the automatics were about 200-210. Also removing the front drive differential and drive shaft and welding the center diff solid took about 35 pounds off when converting AWD to RWD. So for the normally aspirated 2 liter engine bolted to the 5 speed with the front diff removed we are looking at an all-up weight of about 300 pounds and about 200 HP, to 460 for the 2.5l turbo bolted to the late automatic with the front diff propelled by 300 HP. And those power numbers are factory ratings, tuning for higher octane can raise those numbers considerably especially for the turbocharged engines that can refuel with E85 and really crank the boost.

And thinking about this kept me awake most of the night and caused me to wake up way early, after only 4 hours of sleep. I need to go back to bed now. Except I need to clear my inbox before I sleep.

Flogging of the deceased equine continues

I’m running out of topics, but not running out of words. I was lying awake after going to bed last night and of course I’m thinking about the Sprint-T, as that seems to be the topic I can’t not think about. What I was thinking about was various engine and transmission combinations and relative performance advantages and disadvantages. Specifically, I was comparing the Pentastar V6 and the Subie turbo engines and their available transmissions.

Since I was trying to go to sleep I left my various calculation and information tools beyond arm’s reach so I wouldn’t spend the night punching buttons or tapping screens instead of shutting down and sleeping. That… didn’t work so well. Since I didn’t have a calculator handy I did everything in my head, which is the opposite of what I needed to do to get to sleep. When I’m trying to stay awake I do math in my head, a trick I learned from making cross-country trips as a solo driver back when I owned a business in Nashville but lived in Dallas. Anywho I didn’t reach any new conclusions, or even any conclusions at all. What I did reach was I need more information to reach a definitive conclusion. The question is will the reduced weight and higher potential peak power of the turbo Subie result in better autocross performance than the fatter low-end torque and perfect gearing of the Pentastar and ZF 8 speed transmission? Between the variable valve timing and increased displacement of the 3.6 liter Pentastar there is about twice as much torque on tap below 3000 RPM compared to the Subie 2 liter engine, but the Subie and transmission weighs about half the Pentastar and ZF combination, so it comes close to a wash and really depends on the course, with longer straights and more sweeping turns favoring the higher peak power and light weight of the Subie where lots of single pylon turns favor the Pentastar and its higher low-end torque and better transmission matching.

So I guess the answer is the best is whatever I get first. 🤑 So whatever is available when I have the money, that will be the best choice. And the post title is “beating a dead horse” with more expensive words.

Off to stuff my face, Happy Thanksgiving

And a pleasant Thursday to the rest of the world. I’m not going to bore you with a recitation of traditional Thanksgiving dishes I hope to consume, just assume if you know of one that is generic across the US I will probably consume some today, plus some Texas-specific dishes like Jalapeño corn casserole. This is kind of a group dinner with one person coordinating the menu and sides, someone else cooking the turkeys and other meats (smoked brisket is a popular Texas Thanksgiving entré) and the rest of us bringing the assigned sides.

We finished the Egyptian Run and brought back the Pyrite Cube of Great Power and up next is the barbecue and followed by Glorious Training! (trope stolen from dozens of anime and specifically Sparkling Generation Valkyrie Yuuki a goofy web comic that hasn’t updated in months but the creator assures me will update “soon”). I really need to upgrade my blades and pistols skills and also develop the Observe skill. I forgot to include that at character creation, so I will spend Karma points and nuyen to get it now. The group decided to go out for dinner and bought me some too, which was nice of them because I think I’m down to about $15 until the end of the month in my checking account, and while we have food at the house last night was the first calamari I’ve had in years. Of the group I had the cheapest dinner which gives you and idea of what kind of dinner they bought, everyone else had a pound of snow crab plus something else, and I got some of that too because who really eats that much crab in one sitting unless they have been starving all day. I should also mention for the sake of full disclosure that I had calamari since the last time I had crab of any type, so I was out of practice at extracting the meat from the shell.

So to recap, Happy Thanksgiving to my US readers, happy Thursday to everyone else, and all you still hanging on from when this was a bicycle safety blog, this is a good day for a ride.🚴‍♂️ 👍🏼

I found another problem

I was doing a little SWAG on the Sprint-T and tires and I came up against another problem. I can only hook up so much HP no matter how big I get the tires, because of weight. Traction is a function of weight and tires, and there is a hard limit to traction with a car as light as the Sprint-T trying to use UTQG 200 treadwear tires. I can get a little more power to the ground with sticky race rubber, but depending on the weight of the car I’m looking at 300 to 500 HP without boiling the tread off the tire before getting the pedal to the metal. More than that and I’m never getting my foot to the floor.

What I’m looking at is with the Subie engine and the T5 transmission I can stop cranking up the boost around 300 WHP, with the Pentastar V6 and the 8 speed transmission I can stop trying for more than 375-400 WHP because that transmission just weighs that much, the LS3 and the 4l70 I can pretty much leave in stock tune, and the LS7 I will need to put a block of wood under the gas pedal to keep rear tires on the car unless I’m running the softer compound of the race slicks I have available. Street tires will require really feathering the gas to maintain traction with just the stock 505 HP tune.

Now these are just what they used to call “back of the envelope” calculations but they are the best I can do with the data I can get, and the low precision of the data. Seriously I’m looking at ±0.1 G precision on a 0.8G predicted grip for the 200 wear tires, or 0.7 to 0.9G and a huge difference in performance between those numbers, so lets say we are talking about the LS7/3 we are looking at maybe 400-430 WHP on the low end, just shy of 500 at the high end. And as far off as I was on the unsprung weight at the front end I’m not putting much faith on these numbers either. But if the data is correct and I used to correct formulas, If I’m running an LS7 then I don’t need to use the dyno for anything more than fine tuning for gas mileage and verifying the stock tune is working correctly. Pretty much the same for the LS3 except I have more room on the other side of the equation, I could get away with maybe the 480 HP tune, but not the 525 HP tune.

And I didn’t get much sleep last night, and I’m starting to get a headache, so bedtime.

The feckless anger that is poverty

Well, I have a good title that describes my current emotional state, but what can I build from that? I’m literally unable to do anything towards making the thing because I can’t get the stuff to make the thing, and unless the thing is some kind of food that’s true for almost every thing, notice there is a separation between every and thing. We blew all the raw stock budget buying food 😝 When your mind is essentially a fountain of ideas that won’t stop coming until you at least get started, the inability to get something started is nothing short of painful, physically so. And that is not a joke or other attempt at humor, not being able to build any of the things I have planned is physically painful for me, a literal interpretation of “beating your head against a wall”. No kidding, I get a pain like sinus pain when I plan something for too long and not even get a glimmer of how it will get finished. And there is not a damned thing I can do about it but suffer.

This project has been stewing in the old grey and white matters since 1987, when the inspiration struck at a club meeting for the Tennessee Region SCCA, where we were discussing making a consistently good autocross car. I came up with the idea of a tube frame hotrod with an SBC and a TH350 transmission for a literal “stab and steer” car that would keep the tires mostly correctly oriented to the track. This was when the modified category rules were not as stringent as they are now, and the possibility of running a T-bucket in the production modified classes was not that wild an idea. Even if some people at the meeting thought it was hilarious. Mostly they were amused at the idea of using the automatic transmission bringing up the Powerglide (which wouldn’t be a bad idea for a trailered car), “Slip and slide Powerglide,” was the chant. I was looking at a 350/350 combo which were common as dirt in junkyards, in a car that weight slightly less than a ton, and also knew that as long as I didn’t let the power to weight ratio get too crazy the main thing to worry about was grip and brakes. I knew from experience that power without grip was pretty useless, but as long as you had enough power to get and keep going grip was much more important, witness the VW powered special with a stock 50 HP engine and sticky race slicks that consistently stomped the high powered American iron. My idea was to get a bucket and sort out the handling and clean up. Thirty-one years later it is still a viable concept if the execution has shifted more to the lightest possible V6 and 4 cylinder engines and away from the now-ancient SBC and 350/350 combo.

Anyway, one of the things I did in the past to stop this feeling was to buy something “not-very-expensive” (aka “cheap”) that would move the build forward in a tangible way, and also be something I could physically grab hold of and hold and say “This is part of my car”. The problem is I’m running out of things I can do that with. There are very few parts left that will work on any of the variants I’m “working” (thinking) on, that are still something I can afford by saving up or sneaking money out of the money I get from the trust for presents. I’m running out of options for not losing my mind and dropping into a giant pit of despair and depression. I’m not depressed (much) now, but I have played this game enough to know what’s coming if I can’t work my way out of this trap. And it ain’t pretty for me.

And now that I have horribly depressed you, a cat picture.
Clint taking a siesta

And the tag is another description of my physical status after literally spending almost every penny I had getting bandaids.

Not making much progress

I have been thinking and researching and thinking some more, but I still don’t have much in the way of progress to report. Also the injured finger has been breaking open and bleeding all over things, which can get a little messy as well as not safe because of spreading a growth medium for germs, so I took a walk to the CVS and bought a fresh box of bandages using the last bit of money left in the gift card this one gig I work uses to pay me. But seriously, I really had to buy a box of bandaids yesterday. When I take the old bandaid off the clean the finger I’m constantly snagging the flap of skin still attached to the finger and pulling it up and causing the injury to bleed like mad, but the flap is still alive so I need to keep it attached to the finger so it will heal. The situation is unless I can keep that flap alive I will have yet another nasty scar on my finger…

The issues with the finger also affect the Mini Sprint-T. My dexterity is reduced and my grip is hindered and that means making the kind of precision cuts needed to build the frame is a no-go until the finger is healed enough to work without the bandage. A slip of 0.01″ translates to a part that is a scale 0.25″ too big or too small, and wasted raw stock if I make it too small. So I have to wait until I can handle my tools safely before I can get to work on the Mini Sprint-T. If there is one thing I have learned in my 60 years, it’s patience. I will have to wait.

Another thing I have had to worry about is the weight of the front axle assembly with all the bits and pieces attached compared to the sprung weight of that end. There is nothing I can do about the excess weight except turn the heavy bits into “drillium”, also known as “swiss cheesing” the parts. The process involves a drill press, a lot of time, and usually several worn-out drill bits as holes are drilled in areas that don’t get a lot of stress in use and shouldn’t suffer fatigue failure. This only goes so far, and the parts that have the highest weight can’t be drilled out, like the spindles and wheels and especially the tires. Drilled tires would be useless. 🙂

And my finger is starting to hurt from typing, so this is pretty much it for the day.

Clear the deck I’m thinking again

That’s old sailor talk for “Take Cover!” I’m thinking about another potential powerplant for the Sprint-T that might actually fit and leave room for a clutch pedal, and not cost a pair of limbs in the process. There is a 300+ HP I4 DOHC turbo engine from Ford that gets pretty good gas mileage, is pretty narrow near the bellhousing, but is tuned for 93 octane and setting it up for a diet of 87 or E85 depending on if it’s freeway or race might be a little tricky. Just a bit tricky! And it’s about 20% heavier than the Subie. But on the positive side it’s the base engine for the last few years of Mustang production, I.E. the “chick car” version, and it also comes as a crate engine. The fact that it comes in the base Mustang means I might be able to snag one backed by an automatic transmission in case there isn’t enough space to install a clutch pedal with the right side against the inside of the body.

And for some reason that jogged my memory about the Pentastar V6 from FCA that comes in everything from minivans to muscle cars and trucks, and has similar weight and peak power to the Ford EcoBoost 4 cylinder, and also has a better torque curve for autocross, but FCA haven’t seen fit to sell it as a crate engine, and Mrs. the Poet has put a hard veto on donor vehicles unless I move the build to another location. If I get the Pentastar it will have to be from a junkyard and cleaned up before bringing it home. Well if I get any used engine and transmission, I’ll have to get it cleaned up before I can bring it home. Manufacturer doesn’t matter, not bringing dirty parts home is what matters.

And my head hurts again, so I need to get to bed now.