Category Archives: Department of DIY

Finally got some sleep and meds

I finally got some sleep today after staring at the wall until ~0700. I went to bed about 0300 and tossed and turned trying to find a comfortable position to lie down. Then I had to get the brain to shut down and let me sleep. But good news Mrs. the Poet went out to do some things and got me my new scrip for anti-depressants filled. Now I just have to wait until I build up enough in my tissues to hop the blood/brain barrier and start anti-depressing me.

I never got too depressed to stop thinking about my engine in the TGS2. Like I posted a few days ago I did some research and reverse-engineering to determine I had 55cc combustion chambers on the head side. That means I probably won’t have to angle-mill the heads to get the combustion chamber in the head down to 44cc, but I probably will just to keep as much material on the deck surface as I can for stability. As much as I would like to believe it to be otherwise, aluminum heads are not rigid structures and flex under the loads of combustion, causing them to loosen over time and eventually blowing head gaskets. Leaving the deck surface as thick as possible helps reduce this flex, which is why I’m going to angle-mill instead of straight milling the head surface. Ideally I would fill in the combustion chamber to make it smaller and stiffer, but this requires access to materials and machining processes that I don’t have access to. The reason why I would do this over milling the heads is adding to the combustion chamber makes it stiffer, and I can move things around to improve intake and exhaust flow while reducing the chamber volume. But as I said I can’t get to the machines I would need to do this so I will angle-mill instead.

Something else I have been thinking about is moving the injectors to get more fuel cooling of the intake charge. E85 fuel has a very high latent heat of evaporation that can drastically reduce the temperature of the intake charge, but it has to have time to work for that to happen. What I was thinking about doing was moving the injectors from right next to the head surface of the manifold to the top of the intake plenum aimed straight down into the ports with the manifold changed to a more vertical plenum on top rather than the bent over runners and plenum on the side on the stock manifold. This would still keep the same mixture distribution as the stock injector position next to the head in the middle of the port, but gives the entire length of the port for the fuel to evaporate and cool the charge before it enters the cylinder. This would improve both power and economy as a cooler charge can work with either more compression or more spark lead, either of which makes more power at WOT and better economy at low throttle openings. The fact that working on combustion chamber design and mixture distribution improves WOT power at the same time it helps part-throttle economy is a big reason why we have 300 HP cars that deliver 40 MPG highway these days. It’s a combination of aero and engine efficiency reducing the amount of power required and getting more power out of the fuel used.

I’m from the days when knowing how to change jets and power valves was required to tune a modified engine, now you need to know how to alter a fuel table in a computer to do the same thing. I can understand why some of us fogeys are upset at the change negating hard-won knowledge, but TBH changing fuel tables in a computer is just better. For one it’s a lot cleaner than changing jets and power valves, besides being more precise. But there is still one old skill I’m going to need when I start working on the TGS2 engine after the conversion to E85: I can read spark plugs for heat range. And E85 at 14:1 compression requires a lower heat range than 87 Octane at 9.8:1, but nobody knows exactly how much lower. I’m going to start with stock and give them a read to see how much lower I need to go to save buying an extra set of plugs. Or I could buy 6 individual plugs at 6 different heat ranges and give them all a pull at the same time and go buy the full set of the one that reads closest to perfect. In fact I think that is the solution. A fast cheap solution to finding the best heat range for the E85 conversion.

And My Goodness I have been wordy today, 800 words to be semi-precise. Feeling better makes me write better and writing better makes me feel better. Yay!


Super tired right now

This was day 2 of fasting blood draws for the new trial I’m in with a 25 hour ambulatory blood pressure monitor between the draws. That means I went almost 20 hours with nothing but water and a torture device squeezing my arm every 15 minutes. And when I say torture device I mean that because of stress and pain from my back my BP was about 170/100, and the amount of pressure needed to get those readings was very painful. In fact I have a large bruise on my arm from the pressure, but interestingly it’s not where the measuring cuff was placed but right below the edge of the cuff on the inside of my elbow.

Something else interesting is I was looking at a bad cylinder head the other day when I got an image that showed a spark plug with 5 or 6 exposed threads sticking up in the combustion chamber and the tip extending past the surface of the head.

Good cylinder head

This one has the plug tip just slightly below the surface of the head and no exposed threads on the spark plug. I would need to angle mill a small amount from this head to get the combustion chamber CCs right but I should just be able to get a slightly cooler heat range for the plug to make it work on E85. I spent a lot of time thinking about that last night to distract myself from the blood pressure monitor squeezing the life out of my arm.

I was listening to the Peter Gabriel channel on YTM and while some of those videos look ridiculous now some are still avant guard even in 2017. They aged incredibly well even in the face of enormous changes in the state of the art for video.

Well I really need to shower and get to bed, I’m not even making sense to myself right now.

Happy Labor Day!

The [deleted] Republicans can [deleted] their [deleted] and [physically impossible] their [deleted] today. This is the day we celebrate the little guy, the guy that does the actual work that makes the 1% rich.

Before I forget to censor myself let’s change the subject. I have been looking at pictures of the cylinder heads for the 3.8l V6 and I noticed I’m going to have a spark plug problem, on two fronts. First problem is the spark plugs protrude into the combustion chamber exposing threads which could cause pre-ignition when I shave the head for higher compression running E85. And speaking of shaving the head the other problem is the tip of the spark plug will get hit by the top of the piston after zero-decking the piston and shaving the head. Throw in the fact that I will need to run a different heat range of spark plug and that means everything about the plug has to change except the thread diameter and how it seals against the head. That means physically taking the head to the parts store and threading plugs in and out to make sure I don’t expose threads while using an extended tip to get the spark plug to get the spark as close as possible to the center of the combustion chamber without hitting the piston. Sounds like fun in a box!

And in spite of what you just read I’m not an engine guy, really. My specialty is suspension design. And being poor, I’m pretty much a master at being poor. But there isn’t much design work to do with beam axles on both ends with 4 bars. The main thing about this suspension design is the springs and shocks, and with the pull rods at the rear I don’t actually have to change anything except the links between the axle and the rocker arms to go from street cruising to full race set ups, meaning I only have to change the front shocks and springs and those links at the rear. And I only have to buy front shocks and springs to change from street to race, and those may not actually be any different except the spring height setting.

That’s part of the beauty of pull rod suspension, the spring rate and damping change how I want it to, and are always perfectly matched to each other once I get the spring and shock matched. All I have to do is change the ratio of the bellcrank arm connected to the load (the link connected to the axle) and the arm connected to the coilover. I have an infinite number of rates from too stiff to too soft by huge margins just by drilling 3 holes in a triangular piece of steel or carbon fiber sheet. And I can change ride height as easily as I can change the toe setting on the front wheels.

And since I want to get this posted while it’s still Labor Day…

Happy Birthday Alex

Yep, 11 years and one day after I was killed my grandson Alex was born, Happy Fifth Birthday!

And on the subject of getting killed in 2001, Mrs. the Poet suggested a different outlook on the subject. She suggested I celebrate my re-birthday rather than my deathday. Same thing, different perspective. Instead of celebrating getting killed, celebrate coming back. Which is mostly what I do anyway.

I have been looking at my pictures of the 3.3l bolted to the 41te transmission and trying to scale from that but I don’t have anything of a known dimension in any picture to scale from. So I have been searching for a dimensioned drawing of the engine or transmission, pretty much without results, or useful results anyway. The dimensions I get are not useful in scaling the pictures because the parts are either not in the picture, or not identifiable in the picture, or not fully visible. I mean it’s great to know the veeblefritz is x inches long when one end is hidden behind another part on the engine. It’s even better when the part name is a Mopar part name that is not in common use even in the hot rod community, so you aren’t even sure of what you’re looking for. It isn’t helping that I lost my notes on the measurements I took from the donor vehicle. I have the total length of the engine/trans assembly from one side of the car to the other written down, but I can’t find the notebook I wrote it.

I put a better marker on the body for the rear axle.
The upper black line is tape showing the rear axle position on the body.

I repositioned the lower tape to show how far the engine projects into the body but I haven’t taken a picture of that yet. Short form there isn’t much room left in the bucket after the engine is put with the rear axle on that upper line.

I’m sorry for cutting this short but I have a headache and need to have a lie-down.

Neo-Hephaestean statement of belief

Well I have been looking for some kind of statement of belief from the original worshippers of my patron deity and I have come up dry. So it looks like I have to make one for today’s followers, based on my biases. That’s part of the problem when the original religion was a secret society that passed knowledge as an oral tradition.

First is the only thing required to follow Hephaestus is the desire to make things. All the things from all the materials are sanctified provided they are made with the proper attitude. Even making meals is sanctified if for no other reason than continuing your existence.

Second there are no races/ethnicities better than any other races/ethnicities. If you make things you can follow Hephaestus. All are brothers and sisters at the forge.

Third you must strive to make things that improve the human condition, at least part of the time. Weapons are allowed for defensive purposes and as an art form. Weapons training resembles dance in many ways. Making weapons one must be sure to make them only as deadly as required for the purpose, followers should never make WMD.

Fourth if you have a choice between making something and making something beautiful that serves the same purpose, make it beautiful, but if your choices are ugly but serviceable or nothing at all make something serviceable. Work on your skills until you can make the thing beautiful the next time you need to make it.

Fifth Hephaestus did not require sexual fidelity from his wife, so we should not bind our partners to us so that we deny them the company of others. Love is not a chain to bind us but a thread to guide us back together when we are ready. Love grows best when it doesn’t bind. Also celebrate your partner’s(s’) accomplishments, recognize what they do even when it’s not about you. They are separate individuals with separate needs and desires. Celebrate when you can be together but do not mourn if you are apart.

Sixth plagiarizes another religious statement, Love your brothers and sisters as you would yourself, everything else is just commentary.

Go in peace, and make something wonderful.

Lots of road course racing this weekend

There are two road courses today on the tube and one yesterday. And there was an Indycar race from a short (by Indycar standards) oval. And for those wondering we are way north (about 250 miles) of the hurricane down on the coast so all we have gotten was a few showers and some slightly damp kitties. I’m worried about my Houston friends as H is getting drowned with feet (not inches) of rain. Last report they are expecting 5 feet of rain total. I have some friends living less than ¼ mile from the Brazos river which is way out of its banks last report. I’m especially worried for them and their dogs.

I have been thinking about the Mini Sprint-T and the scale mockup for the TGS2 as they both need a body. What I have been thinking about is making a mold off of the AMT kit body then casting a plug from Bondo to use making a vacuformed body after making the desired body modifications to the plug. The plug would then be split in half to draw the body material over to a form with no undercuts so the body can be removed easily from the mold. The TGS2 mold would have the rear hatch molded separately so it can be hinged to work on the engine and I can test side versus top hinges for access to the rear suspension and engine.

Still thinking about making the little V6 run on E85 only. There is a hypereutectic piston I can use that is flat topped and can be zero-decked for the minimum clearance between the head and the piston, and then the heads will have to be angle-milled to shrink the combustion chamber in the head without taking too much material off the bottom of the head. And I realize that the preceding sentence read like technobabble to about 90% of my readers who were not brought up hard-core gearheads, but every word was a valid technical term or connecting word between. IOW it was all English, just not a common dialect of English. Translation: There is a cast piston made with a low expansion rate high-strength aluminum alloy that is flat across the top and can be fitted flush with the top of the cylinder. Then the heads will have to be milled on an angle with more taken off on the big side of the combustion chamber to get the chamber as small as required with the least amount of material removed. Hypereutectic pistons can support about 375 HP on gas for this engine, and I’m only hunting 225 to 250 HP with cooler-burning E85 so well within estimated stress limits, plus they are inexpensive especially compared to forged pistons. In this case that is especially true because forged pistons would have to be custom made, they aren’t available as regular production items.

The last sentence of the previous paragraph pretty much sums up my biggest frustration with this build, almost everything is $pecial order or cu$tom made, especially in the engine. Some of that is because there were no performance applications for this engine aside from the 1991 Shelby Can Am series which only made 150 engines putting out about 225 HP. The other reason is the last one left the production line in 2011, 6 years ago. Compare this to the ubiquitous SBC that was in production as a factory-installed engine from 1955-2001 and is still in production as a replacement engine for emission controlled vehicles of that era, and as a crate engine for new cars that are not required to meet emissions controls like the Sprint-T. There were literally tens of millions of SBC made in dozens of different sizes from 265 to 455 cubic inches when you include the hybrids made from mixing different blocks and cranks. One of those hybrids actually made production status as the Z28 302 in3, which was a hybrid of the 283 crank in a 327/350 block. One of the most popular hybrids is the 400 crank in a 350 block bored 4.030″ to produce 383 in3. How popular is it? There are now twice as many 400 cranks as there were 400 SBC engines made, the aftermarket is producing brand new cranks with the 3.750″ stroke of the 400 crank with the smaller main journals of the 350 block. It’s even easier to get parts for the LS/LT engine families than it is the 3.3/3.8l Mopar V6.

And that’s enough kvetching about the free engine I was given, at least stock replacement parts are cheap and easy to find because of the millions of them on the road. And some of those factory parts are suitable for use in a high-performance engine with a little preparation, like balancing or grinding off flash and light polishing to remove stress risers.

And I have to go now because my friends on the Gulf are finally starting to check in and I don’t want to miss any. Also my back is starting to hurt again. I did pretty well for several hours today but the pains are back.

Back from watching the eclipse

I was just outside Lebanon TN where we got 2:30 (+/-) of totality. It was really neat to watch the shadows dance from the light cast by the corona. And I could see Sirius and Venus during the eclipse. At least I assume that “star” in line with the sun was Sirius, might have been something else.

Also I got some kind of stomach bug on the bus trip to Nashvegas and got to make several trips to the toilet working up to the eclipse, or maybe something I’m allergic to messed me up. Anyway I had diarrhea (sp?) most of the time I was in TN. Fun times.

I had lots of time to think about the TGS2 while I was not stuck on the toilet. One of the things I was thinking about was that the transmission would probably stick out the left side of the body where it tucked under to meet the frame because it is closer to 40″ wide there and the frame is 34″ wide. I could do two things to “fix” that. Easiest would be just go ahead and cut the bottom of the body for clearance and live with the tranny sticking out the side of the body in front of the rear suspension. The other thing I could do is raise the body to clear the transmission and any part of the engine that might stick out. Then make a cover to hide all the bits not hidden inside the body. I have also been thinking about moving the bucket back forward and making an extended pickup bed to cover the engine and bits, and the fuel cell. That’s easier to make fit around the bits but looks funny. But does it look more strange than the cockpit in front of the body or less?

I also had time to look up tuning for running strictly on e85 ignoring the possibility of using premium unleaded gasoline. One thing I would need to do is raise the compression ratio to about 14:1 to take advantage of the high research octane number, and remove any sharp edges on the top of the piston or combustion chamber in the head and polish the combustion chamber to prevent pre-ignition. Doing this will get me part-throttle fuel economy similar to the stock engine on gas with about 40% more power at full throttle. That means highway mileage similar to the minivan I took the engine from and better in-town mileage (because the TGS2 is about 1300 +/- pounds compared to 3900 +/- for the minivan). So I’m looking at 25 +/- MPG highway and well over 16 around town. And a 32 gallon fuel cell to go with that for long stretches between e85 stations out west, over 800 miles if needed

I did some sketches of what the front fenders would look like with the headlights faired into them… Can I just say ugly with a capital UGH!? I’m debating if the reduced drag is worth the damage to the esthetics. Since the top speed is going to be limited by the gearing in the transmission anyway, and I wouldn’t be able to see the difference in fuel mileage fairing in the headlights is strictly a matter of appearances. Now if I could track down some headlight buckets for mounting the 5 3/4” headlights I had originally planned on using since they are OK here in TX when used as single (per side) headlights as long as I use the motorcycle versions. They have under the maximum high beam light output but well above the minimum, so everything is copacetic on that front. I will be able to see where I’m driving at night without blinding oncoming drivers. And the smaller headlights also look better when faired into the fenders.

And right now I need to have a lie down because my back is still having painful spasms and I’m sweating like pigs can’t because of it.

Slightly sad today

This afternoon I cashed my last gift card from that mobile app I used to play. I checked last month and there were no more gift cards I could buy with my points, meaning I could only collect $1 every 3 weeks entering sweeps once a day instead of the more than $100 I used to get in a year collecting big points and cashing them in for $5 and $10 gift cards. And then I deleted the app from my phone. That means I no longer have an excuse to take my evening walk to collect check-ins.

And next week I’m leaving for the eclipse watching party in TN and spending a week with old friends. With the problems I have been having with my old laptop I’m leaving it at home and just taking my phone for whatever electronic contact I get. And since that phone is also not reliable I’m biting the bullet and getting a newer phone that has all its buttons working. Having a reliable phone when I’m on the go is a must.

I have troubleshot the problems with the laptop and isolated it to a bad battery. Unfortunately there don’t appear to be any available locally so I’ll have to go on the Internet to get one after I get back from eclipse watching. They are not too expensive, just not in local stores. But that means I won’t be able to update the blog until I get back.

On the TGS2 front I have been working on the new frame design and trying to find places to put everything. Moving the engine inside the body tidies things up but it also makes things cramped for things like batteries and gas tanks, mostly because I took 12″ out of the wheelbase when I moved the engine forward. If I put that back in I have tons of room for a gas tank and a battery. Heck 5″ would solve the packaging problems without making the car all that long. It would still be shorter than a Fiat 500 with less weight and more HP from a relatively slow-revving engine. I know a Fiat 500 is a low performance bar to top, especially when I’m looking at Caterhams and Corvettes as benchmarks, but with a stock 3.8l V6 pushrod engine producing 168 HP @4200 RPM I can’t get my hopes too high. But with the ongoing redesign I’m getting the polar moment (resistance to changing direction) even lower than my benchmarks, so given equal grip from the big tires on the flyweight car I should do pretty well at Goodguys autocross. And that is the goal for this car, winning Goodguys autocrosses, while being competitive at SCCA solo racing. And also capable of picking up groceries, and driving thousands of miles to and from the races without destroying the driver in the process.

Now I have to get to bed because I have to go grocery shopping tomorrow.

I got the parts, and I got hot

Well I got the replacement stones for the hone today, walking 3.2 miles in a little over 1:30 including waiting in line at the parts store. Even with the cloud cover today it feels like 102°F because of the humidity, but the dry bulb temperature is only 93°. Not surprisingly the Go Run app says try again later.

Aside from the heat and humidity today was rough on me for other reasons. I had an idea grab hold of me and it wouldn’t let me sleep until I got it mostly fleshed out. I was an idea for another A-Mod class SCCA Solo Racing car exploiting the low minimum weight and the minimum size rules by using a V-Twin motorcycle engine beside the driver for extremely low polar moment and a roomy driver compartment, and the rear axle from a Lightning Sprint car, which is a class of motorcycle engine powered dirt track racer. Anyway this idea wouldn’t let me shut the brain down until I had fleshed it out enough to see if it was feasible. Unfortunately that was about 0800. I tried to stay awake long enough to get the storage unit paid for but I fell asleep watching the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup qualifying and didn’t wake up until 1630. I never felt right walking to get the part or walking home. And that car is feasible as a A-Mod racer BTW.

And I’m still falling asleep at the wheel (keyboard) so I’m going to shut this down before I break my foot or my face.

Grocery shopping done

Well I won’t starve for another week. I managed to buy a week’s worth of food and drink for <$16. Of course part of the reason I could do that is I bought more than a week's worth of some items last week when they were on sale, and because there was like almost $20 in free stuff in my online coupons that I wouldn't normally buy, like Pasta Bow-Ties chips. That one was kind of sneaky, because only one flavor was free and the rest were way over-priced but with the tag for the free variety on the shelf… There was also a meal-replacement shake for free that I wouldn't normally buy, that will be breakfast for 4 days. Basically more than half of my total came off in coupons and free stuff.

Clint and Clyde are getting on each other's nerves and mine, probably because Mrs. the Poet has been gone over a month. Basically they either can’t stand to be in the same room together or they’re all over each other grooming and kissing or the cat equivalent of hugging and kissing. They are doing something similar with me, either leaving the room when I come in or not leaving me alone so I can type.

I’m looking to eliminate as much drag as possible from the TGS2, so I have been looking into integrating the headlights into the fenders. By using headlight frenching buckets to mount headlights into the front of the front fenders I can smooth the flow over the fenders and get the lights out of the wind. Of course this means the fender will have to be stretched in front of the axle so the tire doesn’t hit the back of the light inside the fender either turning or in bump. This will make an already strange T-bucket even stranger looking, but function over form and if I make the function work good enough the form will be fine. Yeah I’m back to the 7″ headlight so there will be a bit of the cartoon eyes thing with the lights being too big for the overall size of the car (and at this point the TGS2 is almost a foot shorter than the Fiat 500 (Panda for you UK readers) so the big headlights are going to look even bigger).

I’m still having problems cutting a straight line on the line, I just have to get my aim better at the start of the cut. So I don’t have the new floor to show you like I wanted to and tomorrow I’ll be out paying storage unit fees and picking up replacement stones for the hone so I can finish installing the spindles to the axle. BTW I looked up the kit I got and those bushings are brass and the current stones are not taking off much material. That is a pretty good indication the stones are worn out.