Thursday, April 9, 2009

A quick update

Yeah, it's been awhile. You didn't really care anyway, and quite frankly, none of us has been very excited to get back to the 300ZX. It smells bad, it looks stupid, it sounds like shit, and it's riddled with oxidation. What could possibly go wrong in a 24 hour endurance race? Plus, winter weather isn't exactly complementary to automotive repair and modification, so we relegated the Z to a parking lot in Flint, MI all winter in order to test its LeMons-ness. The general idea: If it got stolen, it didn't belong in the 24 Hours of LeMons to begin with. And if it doesn't get stolen or shot at in Flint, it truly blends in with its surroundings - bleak, hopeless and nearly useless.

Thankfully, after 4 long and colt months, no one was dumb enough to steal it. Shockingly, no one even shot at it. We could have used some more speed holes for weight reduction. It could have something to do with the completely stripped interior, or the giant rusted out holes in the car which anybody below 200lbs could squeeze through...or our finest piece of anti-theft technology, a disconnected ground somewhere that's causing the battery to die within minutes if the car isn't running. Or the fact that it's just a terrible car.

The good news is that we'll be getting out the welder and putting on our thinking caps as we head down the stretch with a goal of getting at least most of the car together before the entry deadline in June. The bad news is that the car is still a rusty piece of crap, and will probably need 100lbs of steel gusseting to hold it together. The floorpan isn't exactly connected to the rest of the that important?

What kind of ideas do we have for our theme? Well, I don't want to give it away before the entry deadline, but I'll drop two hints - it's going to have a working afterburner with what I can only describe as a 'hell flame' (read: NOT one of those stupid $100 flame kits that shoots out very low temp yellow flame), and working variable swept wings which will change their angle depending on whether the car is going in a straight line (swept back) or in a turn/braking (unswept). You can probably guess what we're generally shooting for, but we're going to do it up better than anyone has before. We're going balls on for the coveted 'Dangerous Banned Technology' award, us being engineers and all. And, of course, we're going to wow the crowd, judges and competitors with our mix of stupidly-dangerous-but-cool-looking crap and ingenious ideas. Stay tuned --

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Finally, someone who knows what they're doing...

Ben: So Chris, we still don't have plans for the roll cage...
Chris: You're right, and we won't have a welder soon either cause I don't have one at home.
Ben: Me neither, what do you want to do?
Chris: Well, we should probably do something.
Ben: Order steel?
Chris: Yeah, how does six 8' sections sound?
Ben: Should do it...
Chris: Roger.

Then we find out the main hoop for the roll cage should be 104", definitely over 8'. Idiots...
Time to bring in a professional.

Enter: SCOTT! He'll also be one of our drivers and is very excited to see his name on the door.

Scott and Chris got the two front bars done last week that go from the floor, up the A-pillar and connect onto the main hoop. They were each bent 3 times.

A couple days later we went and got a 10' length of DOM steel (1.5" OD .12" WT) and all three of us got a main hoop bent and tacked in. It's starting to look like a race car. There's less funny stories when you have someone helping that knows that they're doing so you don't mess up so much.

The main hoop is less than 1/2" away from the roof of the car and is touching the rear outside corner of each t-top opening. We rigged it up so that the t-tops go in with about an 1/8" clearance (some shoving and banging required to get them on) and the locking handle opens while grazing the side bar.

We also tacked in both door side bars. The passenger side bar goes midway up the door, and the driver side bar skirts just below the seat bolster so entry isn't compromised.

We got the seat in and fitting a little better. But here's how it looks like at the end of our term and the end of 2008.

By the way, we got a 96 on our project. So that makes us feel a little better about everything. Here's a little video of the new exhaust and temporarily rigged up gauge cluster. It no longer stumbles at idle and isn't quite so raspy, but it's still pretty damn loud.

Cleveland, here we come. Merry Christmas.

Liquid metal, blind tapped holes, and luck.

So it was coming down to crunch time. I don't think we mentioned but this LeMons car was also the subject for our senior design project. We hadn't shown much of any progress except for ripping the guts out of Betty. We'd been waiting on the 'Wonder Duo' do give us some drawings for the 'role' cage and strut tower braces. Nothing yet with 2 weeks to go so we decided to do it like we always do, feet first with no plan of attack. BONZAI!!!!!

There were two things that Chris and I could take care of: the seat and the exhaust. Betty sounded like a panzer. She had everything from the Y-pipe back removed and was just belching out hydrocarbons. First thing though is the seat, and SPARCO BE THY NAME.

We got a Speed 2 for a sweet price and had it shipped here. Getting the old seats out was easy. Getting the new seat in was not. Trying to fit the brackets from the passenger seat to the new Sparco seat sounded simple but things just don't work out like you want them to. I had to tap all the holes for the bolts to hold the brackets on, first time tapping ever. Didn't do too bad though. We got something in though and it works for now. We're going to have to take care of it before we put our lives on the line.

As for the exhaust. Once we started really looking at it, things became a lot more clear as to why she sounded like she did. There was about a 1/4" gap between the collector and the Y-pipe. The Y-pipe had to come off anyways so that we could weld an adaptor on for the resonator. So in true Murphy's fashion, we snapped a stud off the collector. Once we got the last nut off we come to find somone else had snapped the other two studs off too and then decided to weld a bolt to the collector. So in essence we had nothing holding the Y-pipe to the collector. She's looking more like a true lemon everyday. Well shit... drill and tap the collector? BRILLIANT! After about an hour and a half of drilling we finally had a hole deep enough to attempt to tap. Only problem was we didn't have a handle to hold the tapper, and even if we did we couldn't turn it with all the other stuff in the way. I... have... an... idea...
Ben: Alright, give me that cordless drill, I'm going to put the tap into the drill and do it that way.
AJ: That's not how it's supposed to work. You're gonna put too much torque on it and strip it or something.
Ben: I got mad drill skills, check this.
AJ: If you get that to work, I'll shit my pants.
Ben: HA! I hope you brought some spare boxers.

Once we got the Y-pipe off Chris wanted to take the heat shield off. He's so destructive. But it was actually a good thing. We found a Nickle size hole in one of the pipes. Weld sheet metal over it? NO! Buy $7 liquid metal junk from the store and hope it works. And work it did!

Well boys and girls, don't let anyone ever tell you that you can't tap with a cordless drill. Actually, once I got the first few threads in straight it went pretty smoothly. Works like a champ too. We should have done it for all three fasteners.
The collar on the one bolt is for clearance of all the weld splatter from welding the bolt. Thanks Penzoil Boy. She purrs like a kitten, no more panzer.

AJ still has yet to pay up.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Big Balla (and auto-x) Edition

Quick update before I leave for New York (not in the Z, thank God) for Thanksgiving -

1) Ebay Reselling

After a very polite Russian bought the mirrors off me for $95, we're a massive $14.70 over the $500 limit without selling the catalytic converter (guaranteed $30-50 at a recycling center). Our gross profit is $396.33, net is $235.30 - shipping and EGay fees are esspensive! I'm going to calm down on the EGay listings for now as I'd rather keep the remaining money makers on the car until this spring - headlights, taillights, various electric motors, weatherstripping, glass, etc. I'm guesstimating we'll gross another $300-500 by the time all is said and done. Hopefully this will be enough for some giant scissors to cut the springs with.

2) Car Progress

Interior is completely and utterly stripped. Lookee, no airbags! or carpet or plastic of any kind or a heater...

Dusty and barren, just how I like it

not Michigan winter friendly

Also, we're in the process of doing 3D modeling and FEA on custom strut tower bars and a roll cage, which will hopefully be fabricated within the next couple weeks.

3) Autocross

I tried autocrossing this thing last weekend. Unfortunately for the metal death cage of a boat that the Z is, the course was filled with tight corners that did a spectacular job of making me look like the awful RWD driver that I am. It's somewhat telling that after 3 tries the best I could do in the Z was 50.5s, then I jumped in my 6-speed Accord and ran a 46.5. Of course the Accord has some yellow German struts on it, but it was also a hell of a lot easier to handle. We're going to have to try our best to find a track day (on a real track) to run the Z. It didn't help that my half assed rigged up interior heater core coolant hose started leaking and spraying coolant into the passenger footwell halfway through my second run, sending a girl running out of my car. Not the first time that's happened.

Everyone was scared to ride with me at this point. Seriously.

After much spinning and frustration in the Z, I handed it over to a tame racing driver that's done LeMons before in a Civic and runs a semi-race prepped BMW E30 on the weekends. Here's how he did:

It really sounds absolutely horrible. You'll notice that the engine seems to be cutting out intermittently before finally dying. Fortunately, it had just run it out of electricity - the negative battery cable had come off of the terminal. Whoops. Score one for 'tighten battery cables before endurance race'.

Monday, November 10, 2008

How to Eat an Elephant

So who here knows how to make a race car? Well here's my idea. Rip everything out, leave bare metal, and damn the creature comforts!

Gotta love that seat. The dash is unbolted but that pesky steering wheel is in the way. Psh... steering wheel.
So we had to pull that to off to get the dash out. Chris to the rescue!

She's sexy ain't she.

You can't get this kid to focus on anything.

Old Man Winter has showed up. No more outdoor work for us.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Our Second Date

Chris and I spent some quality time with the Z on Friday. While I was off selling dreams to the upper half, he spent the day stripping her innards. There was plenty of treasures to uncover.

Only $249.74 to get back under budget.
With the inside cleaned out it was time to get under her. Lucky for us, Kettering has a full chassis lift. I'm glad my tuition money went somewhere I could use.

When we bought the car, both of us noticed a severe "clunk" any time the clutch was let out quickly. The Penzoil guy (he worked there and made sure we knew it) we bought it from said he couldn't figure it out. And he took it to the shop and they couldn't find the problem either. Hmmm... that's a Tuffy. I hope we can take care of it.
Luckily, 4 years at Kettering has taught me plenty about cars, but as soon as I got underneath and looked at the u-joints it was obvious...


But seriously, the bolts on the u-joints were finger tight. We thought about leaving them like that to up the intensity when we when drive her, but we decided not dying would be cooler.

Now this blog isn't just going to be ramblings on what we're doing. We want to help you readers as well. Here Chris gives us a lesson on how to remove an exhaust system.

So after about 2 hours of work we got everything including the catalytic converter back off the car and tightened down the u-joint bolts. There's still a little click to it but it's a lot better than it was. A LOT better.

The next day one of the frats at school was had a dyno at their house. We decided to see what kind of numbers she'd put down. Unlucky for us, Penzoil guy had one of the lug nuts cross threaded and they couldn't get it back on. They wouldn't let us run with 3 lug nuts, safety issue... pft...

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Purchase: 1984 Nissan 300ZX

After deciding to enter LeMons Detroit 2009 (, we needed a car. After two weeks of fruitless car searching, we finally found our Lemon. On Tuesday I went with Ben Reichard and Chrissy Kaltenecker in Ben's '90 4DSC to pick up our LeMons car: a 1984 Nissan 300ZX GLL 2-seater.

The car was located in Holland MI, over 2 hours away. The only problem with the car: The slave cylinder doesn't work sometimes in the wet. Tonight's forecast: rain, and lots of it.

Seller was asking $1000 and we bought it for $750. We should have no problems selling at least $500 of stuff off of this car. I compiled a quick spreadsheet based off of Z31 parts sold in the past on EBay, and I'm at $1500 without even getting into some of the more obscure bits. The trip back took about 3 hours, but she ran like a champ, with the only stops being to change drivers and take breaks.

Some pictures of the car that night: