Monday, April 25, 2016

Worked on Another Car This Weekend

Dateline - 04/23 and 04/24 2016 - Occasionally in this blog I go a little off topic and talk about other things going on in my life.  This weekend I attempted real motor sport for the first time.  I was offered an opportunity to be a driver for a team in a series called Lucky Dog Racing (  The cars are only supposed to have originally cost $2,500 and run on street legal tires or you get penalty points.  Of course, after getting it race ready, it is significantly more!

The team I raced with was "Team Odin" who is championing a 1980 Rover P3500 SD1 ( with the aluminum block 3.5 liter V8.  This engine has a long and storied history which you can read if you so desire (  Team Odin has been racing this car since 2011 and, well it's not as fast as a lot of the other cars out there.  It's heavier than a lot of the cars, hasn't had huge amount of suspension or brake modes, and is a bit under powered.  Not the kind of car you would think would be a road course car.  But it is a race car all the same and a great test bed to learn how to drive competitively.  Here are pictures:

Car on Sunday Morning
Car on Sunday morning.  Owner Chris standing behind
Car on Sunday morning
Car on Sunday morning
The office
One of the mascots
You gotta have a horned helmet!
"Nice Ass!"
Well, the owner Chris was kind enough to invite me along on their team as a driver.  I bought  all the requisite safety gear (full race suit, helmet, shoes, gloves, etc.) and headed up to The Ridge ( in Shelton Friday night to be ready to race on Saturday morning.

Saturday morning was cold and wet and we were all talking about how the car handles in the wet.  Never having driven this car before and never seen the tack, I was a little concerned but confident.  A little too confident.  But more on that in a minute.  The first 40 minutes of the morning was going to be qualifying.  They wanted each of the drivers to take the car for three or four laps so they could get an average speed.  Chris the owner took the car the first four laps and it was fine although I found out later he did get it a bit loose on one of the corners.

Then it was my turn!  I got into the car and proceeded to do a pretty good first lap considering I was all over the course and had cars passing me!  But as I started my second lap I lost the back end and slid backward into the curve on turn 1.  The car started hard and I finally got it running and started up the climb on turn 2 and 3 and then the engine really started dogging,  I made it to turn 8b before it started belching blue smoke and the car died.

After many profane expletives (all caught on the Go-Pro!), I got a tow back to the paddock.  We took the hood off and there was oil everywhere.  Not a good sign.  We could figure out at first why until we discovered the hole in the side of the engine below the #2 cylinder.  Yup!  I put a rod through the block!  I SERIOUSLY BROKE THE CAR!
Hole in block partially hidden by motor mount
Motor mount removed, much better view of hole
"I don't think that rod is supposed to be there!
Now at this point I have to thank the magnanimity of the car owner and the rest of the team!  I was devastated!  Not only had I broke the car, but I ruined the chances of the team racing on Saturday and possibly the whole weekend!  We all spend a lot of money to get into this race, plus time, energy and expectation.  NEVER ONCE, and I mean this, did the team ever blame me for the engine!  In fact, they were more then generous with me in giving me their experiences with the car and incidents they have had with breakdowns.  And the statement, "This is racing" was said to me probably more then 100 times!  I still felt (and feel) horrible about taking out the car.  But that appears to be my burden to let go of!

So, what to do next.  Well, we had an extra engine in the support truck, so it was time to change it out.  At least I had a chance to redeem myself by putting all my efforts into this!  We proceeded to pull the old engine out, leaving the transmission in the car.  Of course, an engine pull is a lot of work and something nice to do in a shop with heat and a lift, not under a tent with rain and wind!  But we prevailed and got the old engine out, which made quite a conversation piece, and the new one in.  We were buttoned back up and ready to go around 8:00 pm.  Just in time have a few beers.

The other thing I have to say about the team is that they are VERY creative!  We had a few issues with the engine swap.  First, the engine that was in the car was an America version from the 1960's.  We were putting back the 1980 Rover version which had a few distinct differences.  It has a different oil pump interface so we could not use the Accel electric ignition/distributor from the old one, which means we lost the rev limiter.  The old engine used studs for the exhaust manifolds while the Rover used bolts (run to the hardware store!) Also, we forgot to bring the clutch spline alignment tool, which is pretty critical.  The good news was that the car now had a Ford T4 transmission, so we went to one of the Mustang teams racing that day and they had the correct alignment tool.

But the real creative solution for the day was the transmission shaft pilot bearing.  The one in the old engine was designed to fit the American crankshaft and the T4 transmission.  The one in the Rover engine was smaller in both outside and inside diameters.  We tried to drill out the bearing, but ended up breaking it.  No parts store in Shelton carried a bearing for a 1980 Rover, so we got creative.  We went to the local Ace Hardware and found a brass pipe fitting that had the correct inside dimensions with a small smooth area for the race, and larger outside area with threads.  We put the fitting into a drill bit wrapped with electrical tape, mounted the drill on a vice and using a flat file, filed the outside down until we were able to hammer it into the crank!  That was some real thinking on the fly!

So, what were the results of our labor?  We got a full day of racing in on Sunday.  We had to come in twice because a rubber water plug broke, twice!  Easy fix and no damage to the engine.

Here are some pictures of me racing:
Fueling before my time
Strapped in and putting in steering wheel
Just exiting turn 13 into 14
Heading into 14
Heading into 14
Hitting apex at 14
At apex on 14
Exiting 14

My experience?  Racing is really hard!  You are trying to learn a track, how a car handles and deal with a bunch of much faster cars passing all the time.  To be honest, after 30 minutes I was exhausted and noticed that I was loosing concentration so I came in.  I didn't want to break the car again and felt that caution was better suited for the day.  I did get a chance to run again one last time and felt much more comfortable even though the car was pretty rough running.  I still babied it, and felt good that I made it through the race.

Will I race again?  Yes.  I don't think I'm a natural race driver, but I want to get some more experience doing this.  I think I can like it if I can get past the, "don't break the car" feeling.  But even if I don't race again, I'm glad I got the chance to try it at least once!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Dash! You Would Think I'd Be Done By Now!

Dateline - 04/16/2016 - Okay, another day working on the dash.  This weekend was spend getting the drivers side fascia to fit correctly.  This has been a real pain and has required a lot of refitting to make things work.  First, I needed to mount the dash dimmer rheostat and control box.  I knew I wanted to have this between the switches and steering column, but there is a lot of foam there that holds the dash.  So I used a piece of brass tubing to act as an extension and mounted the rheostat using an aluminum bracket.  The control box is mounted using double sided foam tape.  I'm going to print out a knob on my 3D printer to finish this off.

Brass tubing used for dash light rheostat
Rheostat and control box mounted on fascia
Next I mounted the right and center dash panels uses 3M industrial strength re lockable fasteners.  I was thinking of using Velcro, but I thought I would give this a try first.

Next I worked on fitting the left hand dash.  I connected all the wires to the speedo, tach and center control console and tried to get the fascia to fit, but it would not fit well around the ignition lock.  I didn't like the fit and know if I left it, it would bother me, so I peeled back the vinyl and did quite a bit of sanding.  After everything fit, I glued the vinyl back.

Then I had to figure a way to mount the fascia.  I opted for a bolt going through the door jam into the left side of the fascia and a bold going through the center console into the right side.  Seems strong enough.  I epoxied steel tubing into the fascia and center console to add strength.  We will see how long it will go.  I may be revisiting this design choice in the future.

I did figure out how I am going to do the hazard light switch.  I nice piece of brass rod epoxied into the switch and running out to the lower right of steering wheel cover.

Finally, I put the seats back in the car!  Hopefully I will not need to take those buggers out again.  They are a pain.

So, as it stands now, I need to finish the center console face so that I can put that it.  Once that is done, and I re-upholster the steering wheel cover, everything will be in the car!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Still Working On The Dash!

Dateline - 04/10/2016 - Continued to work on the dash this weekend.  I've pretty much buttoned up the wiring and cleaned up the loose ends.  Almost everything is ready to go except the dash light dimmer control and the hazard warning light switch.  I know what I'm going to do with the dimmer control.  I'm going to mount it between the two switches and the steering column on the driver's side fascia.   I need to get some tubing from the hardware store to do that.

What I don't know is the hazard switch, which is part of the turn signal controls.  I'm going to need to do some head scratching to get that to work, but I will!

I also spent some time with the steering column cover (here is a link to when I create it  It's a bit too big and the steering column tightening knob rubs against it.  So I had to peel off the vinyl and sand it down quite a bit.  That's okay though since had some aesthetic issues with that anyway and will make a better one this time.

Finally, I mounted the right had dash.  It has bolts that go into brackets I made in the back and then pushes up into position.  It is held in place with a five inch piece of steel tubing that is pushed through the center console side into the front of the fascia.  You can't see it, but it feel very solid and I think this will hold well.  I also mounted the bottom glove box door.

I had to cut my work effort a bit short on Saturday because I needed to wash and was the XK-8.  First wax of the season and it needed it.  The paint was feeling really dry.  It can use a couple more coats to bring back the silky feel that I like.

I also washed the Van, which needed it badly!  That was a full day by the time I was done.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Still Working on Dash

Dateline - 04/02/2016 - Was only able to work on the car for half a day on Saturday because I had a bunch of yard work that needed to get done.  I get the connectors I had ordered from Amazon and was able to wire the center gauge cluster, although it is not installed yet.  I also worked on the wiring for the Tach and Speedo and cleaned up a little of the wiring behind the driver side dash.  Still have more to do, but pretty close to getting all that bundled up.

I still have a bit more work to do on the center indicator panel.  I need to print out the warning light symbols on decal paper and them on some clear plastic.  I also have to paint the blue plastic to silver.  Lots of odds and ends stuff to take care of.  It all takes time!

Once I get the dash installed, I can work on the center console.  I still need to finish the carbon fiber panel.  After that, it should be matter of installing everything.  most everything is already made up connection wise in the center console, so that may go much quicker.

I may go ahead and put the seats back in the car before I do the center console.  It's a bit of a pain to sit in the car without seats!