Tag Archives: technical stuff about building cars

The parts are here

A few hours after I posted yesterday the Big Brown Truck deposited a box of hot rod parts outside my front door. The axle and some support bits were sorta inside as the box was rapidly disintegrating from the stress of trying to contain the axle. The driver and I did an inventory and the only things missing were the complementary stickers.

The big heavy mo' fo' axle.

The axle brackets and bags of stuff that will be described later.

The bag on the left is hardware for the steering arms, the one on the right is kingpins and installation hardware.

These parts get me just that much closer to completing the Mid-Bucket. The axle brackets are a big help because now I know what size radius rods to order for the 4-bar. One thing I did notice was there is a lot of extra hardware in the steering arm kit. There are enough conical washers for 4 rod ends when there are only 3 places to put rod ends on the axle and two of those will not require that much articulation to need conical washers. There are also flat washers and spacers that are equally unlikely to get installed simply for lack of room. Seriously I put enough conical washers for one rod end on the driver’s side spindle and the rest of the spacers and washers barely fit on the passenger side, and that’s without the rod ends installed. So obviously some of the extra hardware is for the Pittman arm on the steering box. Or as options for fitting the tie rod around the leaf springs the kit would normally use if I was doing it like it was intended by the manufacturer . But I didn’t buy the full kit, just the axle and steering arms and steering hardware, because I’m building something unique. Most of this stuff would have also gone on the Sprint-T had I been given a different engine and transmission 😀

Sorry I didn’t post an unboxing video but because the box was falling apart when it got here the driver and I had to do a quick inventory to make sure nothing I paid for escaped. Everything was accounted for but it precluded doing an unboxing video.

Billed @€0.02, Opus the Unkillable

I had money so I bought some stuff

I had some money from my tax return so I bought some mid-Bucket parts for the front end. I went from known dimensions out back and how much the hubs added to the overall width of the front end and bought a front axle that spaces the wheel mounting surface just a tad further out than the rear.

Speaking of money, my first check from the secret shopper gig came this morning. The instructions were to cash the check, buy something up to $50 at the store (NDA on which store), keep $300 for myself and send $1300 to some dude in Houston. Supposedly there are some problems sending large amounts through Money Gram at this location. When I checked the delivery addy it did not exist, so I also checked the return addy on the envelope with the check and it didn’t exist either. The check looks real, at least the paper portion of the check is real, but I have no way to verify if the account is valid or not. The only thing I can do at this point is deposit the check and see if it clears.

Moving on to the other part of my day I repaired a cook stove for some people going camping next week. This was my first opportunity to fire up my flux core wire feed welder and give it a test at max thickness capacity. I had to do some finagling to get the part to stick together, but banging on it with a hammer did not dislodge the bits so I’m calling it done but not pretty.

This gig was good, solid practice for welding the frame and de Dion truss on the Mid-Bucket, and it gives me some hope on doing that project right.

And the guy that sets the alarm clocks to wake up chickens just left for work, so I should go to bed now.

So much done, so little accomplished

I was out of the house almost 7 hours today. I had a 20 minute procedure done in Lewisville and spent just over 6.5 hours getting to and from it. And I had to skip lunch because I was constantly running around to catch a bus or train with never enough time to stop to buy food. So, I had a lot of time to sit and think about things, and when I wasn’t thinking about things I was thinking about my second-favorite subject, the Mid-Bucket.

The big thing weighing on my mind about the bucket is getting rid of its inherent oversteer. There’s just way too much weight on the rear axle for 4 equal-size tires, and not enough tire selection in 15″ rims any more to be able to correct it with bigs and littles without giving up a ton of front grip. While I realize that excessive front grip is the problem, my philosophy is don’t give away what you have too much of in relation, get more of what you don’t have enough of. So, while I’m willing to find larger rear tires to get more rear grip, I’m completely unwilling to get smaller front tires to get less front grip. This is a race car, you always, always, ALWAYS want more, especially more grip. It may be a race car that I’m going to drive to the race and (hopefully) drive home, but it’s still intended to race and win.

Before I get back to the bigs and littles there are ways to keep the tire size “square” (same on all 4 corners) and reduce oversteer without completely killing the front grip. That can be done with restricting wheel travel on the front while getting absurd amounts of travel on rebound on the rear with long travel shocks and bump stops that only allow the same amount of compression as the front suspension, so that as the car rolls over on the outer tires the inside rear tire is still carrying a lot of weight because it still hasn’t extended the spring fully.

Another way is aero loading the rear more. That one is a little more tricky as rear grip will vary as the square of speed, so the car will still be loose at low speeds but potentially plowing tight as the car goes faster. This is not the way to go. Obviously I’m going to go for as much downforce as I can get, but balanced, and after I get the mechanical grip balanced, not before and definitely not “instead of”.

And I keep falling asleep on the keyboard so Nighty-Night…

I get lots of ideas on my walks

On today’s walk I ruminated in background on 2 problems: enough room for fuel tanks, and getting as much surface as possible for downforce including the windshield. Also I’m not a fan of the pinched cowl of the ’23-’25 model T, it offends my aesthetic and aerodynamic senses (which may be the same thing).

So, what to do? Well obviously blend the cowl into the windshield and the sides of the body, so that the widened firewall and hood sides flow the air smoothly down the sides of the body while the transition from the hood top to the windshield deflects the air up and forces the car down into the road, complementing this downforce generating nose .Downforce generating race nose

This is what I have to work with as shown with SAD (stick aided design). I literally duct-taped a thin stick to the side of the body to establish a smooth curve from the sides to the front axle past the firewall.
See how much gap there is at the firewall? Ugh!

Use your mind's eye to fill that space in and make it smooth.

Much easier to see how the front of the car would look from this angle.

This is how that nose looks on the kind of cars it was designed for.

My idea is in side profile to roll the hood over from the nose to just below the base of the windshield and make a smooth transition to the 30° angled windshield with the hood sides making an equally smooth transition to the side of the body like the stick taped to the side does, only all the way down to the frame, including the tuck-under at the bottom like the rest of the body. I’m still debating whether or not to put the little side fences on the hood to keep the air on it or to roll the top similar to the bottom or the top contour of the firewall.

This will look cool with the Monoposto seating in the center of the car. BTW that body mod will be 36″ wide at the original firewall and taper down to 29″ at the front axle, compared to the 27″ wide firewall it has now.

And it’s getting late again.

Billed @€0.02, Opus the fat but Unkillable

OK nobody will ride with me

I was getting used to the idea that Mrs. the Poet was not going to be riding in the Mid-Bucket, but I just found out that unless I took all of the bracing out of the halo my BFF would never be able to get in, and also that my grandson was not going to ride with me either (his mother remembers my driving her and friends in a 2-seat sports racer from before I quit driving back in the mid-’90s). So I’m going to go Monoposto with this car. That means I’m only putting in the one seat in the center of the car. This will make getting in and out much easier as the escape route will be unobstructed, there will be a place to sit on top of the cage and swing my legs over, and I can put my feet on either side of the seat instead of standing on the cushion.

Going Monoposto will make racing easier by letting me see both front wheels going past the cones, and make driving between events easier by putting the snacks and drinks in easy reach on each side of the seat. There will also be room for a day bag on either side of the seat down by the pedals with a cargo net to keep them from interfering with the pedals. It will also let me move the seat forward because I have the whole width of the firewall to use as a foot box all the way up to the firewall, about 26″ of inside width. Compared to the Sprint-T this is like having the whole state of TX to spread out in after living in RI.

This will also require some changes to the steering column and steering box mounting which then feeds back into changes in the gas tank. The steering box will have to go in the middle of the nose with an access trench through the top of the gas tank instead of down the side when the driver sits on the left. The trench is also needed to give the master cylinders a place to go on the firewall. The alternative to the trench is just restricting the height of the fuel tank to what clears the steering box and column.

And now it’s very late and I need to go to bed. I will think about the Mid-Bucket some more tomorrow when I go get a latte at my local Starbucks with the cards I have been generously donated and earn 150 bonus stars and a free drink.

Billed @€0.02 and a Starbucks card, Opus the Unkillable

Clean sheet of paper

How would I be doing the Mid-Bucket if I wasn’t trying to save sunk costs on parts already bought? What if I had a clean sheet of paper to go with the free engine and transmission? Those are the two most powerful words in engineering, What If…?

Well I would be doing pretty much the same thing I’m doing now behind the body, a de Dion truss and fabricated uprights with Metric e-brake calipers from that kit I linked to a while back. The main difference would be all the links would be straight aluminum tubes swedged to thread 5/8” heim joints, and the coilover would bolt to the upright, instead of to the top bar of the 4-link.
This is a sunk cost that I had to protect in the current design.

The middle would also be very similar to what I have on paper now, I see no need to make any changes just because I have that the way I want it. I really don’t need to change anything to make it work with any changes I make up front. Seriously it will work as it is with anything I put up front.

If it wasn’t for the weight I would use this spindle and brake kit . I’m thinking I might just buy another front bearing set for the donor vehicle and fabricate a light front upright for a lightweight IFS and maybe take a few pounds of unsprung weight. I would lose a bit of the camber control the tube axle would bring but counter with adjustability and limiting travel to keep everything lined up and pointed in the right direction. Also by using the driven hub I could go AWD in the future should that particular bug bite me. Right now I don’t see it as AWD would add about 200 pounds to the Mid-Bucket for only marginal gains in dry weather. That’s going from 1575 to about 1800. Now if that free engine and transmission came from an AWD Pacifica instead of a ’96 Town and Country… with the 305 HP tune from the Ram 1500… which might get me slightly ahead of what I have now. So, not worth the cost and time to install.

Anyway getting back to the RWD Mid-Bucket, I might be able to get down to 1550 pounds with the cast iron block 3.8 V6 by ditching the tube axle and redesigning the front clip for IFS. But that would be pushing the limits very hard, risking breakage on potholes and such. More realistically for a street car I could get down to 1560 from 1575 by changing from the tube front axle to an IFS and starting from a clean sheet of paper using the lightest components I could reasonably get. Subtract another 85 pounds from that for swapping in the Pentastar V6 so 1475 would be the lightest Mid-Bucket that could survive on the street.

And I’m ready to take my walk now, Opus the fat but still Unkillable

Spent a lot of time doing research and saving pictures

Well, after my walk and reading e-mails I spent a lot of time reading from this archive where a dude in the UK is swapping a 3.3 into a Neon. Where it works for me is externally the 3.3 and the 3.8 are identical. What makes this particular swap helpful for me is the dude was obsessive about documenting the build with photographs. So I have 4 really good views, one of each side of the engine/transmission assembly, that can be used to help plan the back half of the Mid-Bucket.

This is what they look like coming out of the donor vehicle.From the left side showing the transmission mount.

Back side showing the mount next to the block, hard to see.

right front 3/4 view, front mount at the bottom of the engine, right mount under the alternator.

The right side showing the snake pit of the FEAD.

Left rear 3/4 view showing the rear mount much better.

OK, it looks like the front and rear mounts are going to go on the tube from the center of the rear hoop to the watt’s link behind the engine, and the left and right mounts will be connected to the frame by tubes running from the rear suspension shock mounts and the outside lower corner of the rear roll hoop. I need to figure out one more way to brace those mounts as they look to be weak in the vertical direction on the frame side, engine side looks fine if a bit heavy. The front and rear mounts are fine vertically but will need bracing left to right and back and forth. I seriously don’t want the engine hitting me in the back if I hit something from the front, so the mounts will be very strong to prevent that from happening. The front mount will be very low on the frame and it looks like just making the mounting plates to the frame heavy enough will do that if I brace that mount against the rear hoop as well as the tube running down the center of the frame. I’m half tempted to just make the mounts from plate stock and leave the rubber bits out so I can get a massage while I’m driving. 😈 But I will probably use one of these at each mount (or two kits). I’m extremely tempted to mount the front cushion at 45° to help keep the engine off my back in a wreck.

And I’m out of words after spending too much time researching this.

Billed @€0.02, Opus the fat but Unkillable

Can’t stop thinking

Yes, I’m still thinking about the rear suspension on the Mid-Bucket, mainly how to make it lighter. And simpler if I can. One way I can do both is to eliminate the adjustability and just weld the adaptor plate directly to the truss. I hate to do that, both because of all the time and brain processing cycles that went into the adjustable adaptor, and because throwing a little negative camber for racing is a great way to increase total grip and reduce oversteer a tad. I would probably do that for street, too. But I can do that in the jig while welding the truss, probably holding to a half degree precision if the jig is stout enough. That is a mighty big IF.

Which brings me to the other reason for adjustability, correcting for floppy welding jigs for the de Dion truss. And for weld joints that move from thermal stress during construction. I don’t know about how floppy the welding jig is going to be, I mean it’s not like I’m building this to make production runs. I just want the ability to make crash repairs when and if necessary.

And while I was on my walk I was thinking about upgrading to the Pentastar and the 62TE after I get a bit more bucks up. Again I forgot to save the engine and transmission mount picture and now I can’t find it again so I can’t show you how similar the mounting points are between the two generations of minivan. But without having one of each side by side to compare I can’t say for sure it’s a drop-in swap. It’s pretty damn close.

Moment of levity, Amazon apparently thinks I eat enough fancy Italian Provolone cheese to justify buying it in $1K chunks at a time. I have no idea how they got that idea since I get that kind of cheese in the $5 shaker bottle at the deli counter mixed with parmesan. Not that I don’t know what to do with a good Provolone, I do have a Sicilian grandmother and Mrs. the Poet is adopted Sicilian, and I did spend a couple of years working for pizza places helping make the pies.

I got to use the high-precision scale when we were shopping today and I was sure not to rest against the rail on the back that is part of the machine but not part of the scale. Anywho I came in under 210 even after a big breakfast, so progress is being made on destroying the heart-clogging fat monster. I don’t know that I will ever reach 160 while still alive and also still be able to get around on my own, unlike last time, but dangit I’m trying.

Billed @€0.02, Opus the fat but still Unkillable

With new data I have a new weight estimate

One of the things I do when I’m not running around, or writing, or reading web comics or e-mail, is try to get better information about the weights of the stuff I’m putting in or taking out of the Mid-Bucket. The bad news is my transaxle weighs more than I originally estimated, and the parts of the axle I’m leaving out because the car is mid-engine don’t weigh as much as I originally estimated. What it breaks down to is the weight estimate went up by about 50 pounds to 1550 total. Almost all of that 50 came from the rear axle. Still absurdly light by most standards.

Where I might make up a few pounds is the de Dion truss replacing the heavy axle housing of the front engine car, but since those run only about 38 pounds it won’t be much. If my initial estimate on the truss is right, and I know it’s close, then the most I can save would be about 13 pounds. That is all unsprung weight loss which means better handling for the Mid-Bucket.

Something else I have been trying to solve is how to get the fiberglass bucket body and the engine/transmission installed inside the exoskeleton style frame. There is a lot of triangulation round the back area that blocks access to the engine which if I made removable would open up a hole wider than the body to let it go in after painting. Then drop in the engine and transmission and bolt the bracing back in. And once again I’m wanting to do a Copy/Paste from my brain so you can see what I see in my mind. Basically there will be two sections of bracing to bolt in, one from the rear hoop to the rear shock mounts and across the back, and another one bracing the rear hoop from side to side and top to bottom. I may break down and start sketching this out with pencil and paper again and taking pictures with my cell phone, like I did a few years ago when I first started documenting this process.

Graph paper aided design.

The tricky part is I still don’t have the donor vehicle to copy the engine and transmission mounts from. I do know that the roll hoop bracing is where about half of the mounts will go, the rest will go on the main frame assembly. I have seen pictures of the transmission mounts so that’s how I know how they will go.

And I apparently forgot to save that picture of the mounts and I can’t find it again in Google Images either. Silly me.

Well it is getting late and I still have to clear the garbage out of my e-mail inbox. And I guess I should mention I had to miss playing Shadowrun today because my allergies gave me digestive issues, as in “don’t get too far from a toilet” issues followed by the worse gas pains I have ever had. And when I was at the lab rat keeper’s office this week I asked to hear what my body fat percentage was and promptly swore off eating for the next several months when they told me more than 30%. That works out to just over 70 pounds (32 Kg) of fat I’m carting around, which means I need to lose about 45 pounds (20 Kg) of it to get to a healthy body fat percentage. That will pull me down to about 165 to 170. That won’t happen overnight because losing that much weight that quick without weight training to maintain muscle mass will result in my going back to my eating disorder days when I got to 170 and so weak I couldn’t get out of bed. I know what I need to do and that is to work out at a “fat burning” pace for about 8 hours a day, and do some light weights 3 days a week. I did this when I was training for the Hotter’n’Hell Hundred a few years ago and I can do it again. I got down under 200 for that in about 4 months. I need to build something that I can work at the fat burning pace when I’m working at the computer and watching TV, a recumbent exercise cycle with a desk so I don’t hurt my butt.

Billed @€0.02, Opus the fat but Unkillable

Things are looking good today

Things have been good this weekend around Casa de El Poeta. The lady my wife is helping unpack and downsize had an extra wheelchair seat cushion that I’m now parking my butt on in my office chair, and it’s super comfy. Now I don’t know if there was an extra cushion because she’s no longer using a wheelchair, or if she somehow had more than one cushion. Doesn’t matter, I have a comfy place to park my butt for writing and reading stuff on my computer.

Mrs. the Poet woke up with a sore leg today so we are skipping church. There is about 0.8 mile (1.3 Km) walk from the transit station to the church with no bus service on Sunday so that bus stop in front of the church is of no use to actually get to church on Sunday. Mrs. the Poet feels her leg will not make that walk without either a lot of pain or the leg actually quitting. I’m familiar with a leg that fails to function, the nerve damage I got in the wreck does that to me sometimes even this far out from the wreck. The difference between Mrs. the Poet’s situation and mine is we have opposite legs failing on us, and she has a back injury causing her issues.

On the hot rod front it looks like I will need to install a front anti-roll bar to get as much oversteer out of the car as possible. That’s from running the numbers through the equations in the Herb Adams Chassis Engineering book on weight distribution and cornering weight transfer. I can’t calculate the exact size bar I will need to install from that book, but I can determine that I will need to use one. The other thing I will need to do is lower the rear roll center to tighten the rear grip geometrically. Since I have already determined that I’m going to mount the lateral locating device as low as possible on the rear this is not news to me. The current plan is to make the street setting about 7″ below axle center and move it up as required for autocross racing at Goodguys or SCCA. The limit is when the front end is transferring all the weight from the inside to the outside tire and the inside front tire lifts off the ground. At that point if the car is still oversteering there ain’t nothing that can be done by making adjustments to weight transfer. The only thing to do would be going to bigs and littles on the tires with the bigs holding up the back end because more tire = more grip. Bigs and littles is a traditional combination for T Buckets because the traditional geometry has the rear roll center anywhere from 5 to 7 inches above the axle centerline where I’m building a much lower rear roll center to keep the tires as equal as possible.

On other things I need to get my toes done tomorrow. I said this before but the nerve damage in my left leg keeps me from being able to trim the pinky toe and the next toe over by myself because I run out of hands. Those two toes curl under when I’m doubled up to reach my toes and it takes two hands to pull the toes out and hold the foot down leaving me one hand short to trim the nails. I would prefer to not spend the $$ and trim my own nails but conditions dictate otherwise. While I’m in the area I will pop over to the pharmacy in the same complex and renew my antidepressant prescription, and get a few things we missed yesterday rushing through the store.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race at Atlanta is just ending and Kevin Harvick lost the lead on a speeding penalty, leaving Keselowski free to take the win.

And I need to get ready for the many things I need to do tomorrow.

Billed @€0.02, Opus the Unkillable