Sunday, February 28, 2010

Engine installed!

I found an engine on Craigslist this week. It was just a long block, but it was only $350. We figured we could put it in and rebuild our original B18 while still being able to drive the car around.

It took Mark and I most of the weekend to get it in, but she started right up!

Much of the time was spent switching manifolds and other bits. If we get the time, I'd love to go get a second set of those bits to make swapping motors something we can do quickly. We also should consider re-helicoiling the block. The helicoils at the mount are a bit messed up.

Here's what we'd need:
94 wiring harness
Driver's side motor mount
Exhaust manifold and downpipe
Intake manifold
Clutch and flywheel

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Due to the predictably crummy weather at Southern Discomfort we ended up with many fewer pit crew groupies coming to the race. The upshot is we got many extra t-shirts to offer to the crapcan racing public. The shirts are American Apparel. I have sizes M, L, and XL. $15 ea shipped. Contact me at if you're interested.

Residual Value = 0

I guess Jay just doesn't have any confidence that we can win:
Hey, Brian: Taking it all into consideration, given the cost of replacement parts and likelihood of an overall victory, with an adjustment for falling commodity costs and the increased value of competition provenance now associated with the car, how about we agree on a residual of...oh, I dollars? Lemme know if that's still too high. Best--JL
Now we just need to find an engine.

Friday, February 19, 2010

To Do List for May

  • Create checklists - We need some pre-race and pit stop checklists to make sure lug nuts are tight and that there is oil in the car. I'd also like to log driver time and fuel loads.

  • Rebuild/Replace Engine - The first step is to get the current engine out of the car and see what's broken. Then, fix it. We at minimum need a connecting rod and a rod bearing. The valve guides are probably shot as well.

  • More Wheels - The Miata daisy wheels we have are very light. I'd like to get another set and have a backup set of tires on them (more Azenis).

  • Gut It - Remove any excess weight. Cut out door interiors, remove stiffeners, and drill big holes in the wing spar.

  • Brakes - The brakes worked great. We just need to flush the fluid and check the pad thickness.

  • Steering - Check for clunking and look for a higher ratio rack.

  • Steering Wheel - A smaller wheel would make getting in/out easier.

  • Seat - A real race seat would be nice.

  • Door Bars - Once the interior is gutted we can put in Nascar style door bars to give us a bit more space.

  • Gas Cans - Our experiment in modifying our gas cans failed. We need to just pony up and buy decent cans.

  • Direct Downforce - Connect the rear wing spring to the sway bar to carry the load to the wheels.

  • Rudder - Use the sway bar ends to turn the 210 rudder.

What did we learn this time?

So this is our third race with Our Lady. Our second in it's current wing configuation. We were ecstatic with how the car performed. We weren't insanely fast, but we were better than average. For a short time on Saturday morning, when we seemed to be passing everyone in sight it seemed like we almost had a chance to win. Of course our dreams were shattered by the track drying out and bucket full of black flags. All that was before the engine went kaputnik.

So what did we learn?
  • Check the engine - We dropped all the oil out of the car last race and did nothing but cross our fingers for this race. We should have at least done a compression check to ensure that we hadn't fried something.
  • Buy the better gas cans - The cans we tried to modify were a total failure. The sealant was eaten by the gasoline and all we were left with is a fire hazard. Did I mention one of them leaked all over my new sleeping bag? It was so cold I slept in it in spite of being a spark away from becoming the human torch.
  • It's cold in February. - Being able to fully enclose the 20'x10' pop-up tent was a life-saver.
  • Keep better records - We still don't quite know what our fuel consumption is or exactly how long we can run on a tank (I think it's about 2.5 hrs).
  • Torque everything - I'm not sure what happened to the steering rack bolts, but double-checking the torques on critical components might have caught the problem before it was too late.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Southern Discomfort Day 2

We slept in.

Thinking the car was toast, the day ahead seemed like it would be a relaxed nirvana of drinking beer and watching cars go off in turn 1.

I had slept a bit better than my compatriots. During our last trip to civilization I purchased a second sleeping bag to double my insulation in the freezing weather. The previous night I talked to a couple of the Duff Beer guys who had agreed to check out the damage to the Civic if I tore off enough pieces for them to get a good look. I got started.

The damage was pretty apparent when I got the oil pan off. The bottom of the pan was a hearty stew of tar and metal shavings and the oil intake was stuffed with what looked like lathe turnings. The damage seemed to be contained to the #2 lower conrod bearing. It had been completely consumed and the rod was just rattling around on the crank.

Having expected only to see mass carnage, this was some great news. It meant we might actually be able to put in one of the bearings Nick and I had picked up at the Pull-A-Part and get the Civic back on the track. Craig and I set to work grinding the conrod bearing surface smooth and getting the bottom end back together while Mark and Nick removed the excess metal from the oil pan and pickup.

We got her back together, dumped in a gallon of oil and started her up. The horrendous racket we had heard earlier was gone. We sent Mark out to see how she did. He came back in after a few laps to check the oil. It seemed OK so we sent him back out. At this point it was already past 2pm. The plan was for each of us to take one of the three remaining hours in the race.

I gave Craig the next stint knowing that the car's odds of making it to my stint were low. I wanted to drive the car at the checker and I also knew that I wouldn't be able to resist winding it out a little bit more than the 5000 RPM we were trying to limit ourselves to. When Mark came in we could hear that the gnome's little brother had moved in and had started pounding the inside of the engine with his own little hammer.

Craig drove a short series of successively slower laps, barely making it into the pit before the engine quit.

We watched the remainder of the race, happy that we had gotten her back on the track even if it was for only a couple of hours.

Hanging out near the judging station we happened to be around when the awards were being decided, so we had a little advance knowledge that we were likely to get the Dangerous Homemade Tech award. I'm not sure that we had too much competition this race, but it still made our day.

Southern Discomfort Day 1

Discomfort is an understatement. Friday was nothing but rain, cold, and wind.

Since the track was still wet Saturday morning, we put on the T1R's that came from the Miata wheels. The better rain tires and big wing proved to be a big advantage and after a few ginger laps Craig was passing cars. One small problem became apparant during Craig's stint. The steering has a 60 degree dead zone. We'd be fine if we only had to make right turns, but the one sharp left on the track required some real planning to execute. After Craig had been out for 1.5 hours of racing I got in the car. I had a good run once I figured out the car's quirky steering. I almost went off track the first time through left-hander because I thought the front end was sliding. It turned out that I just hadn't turned the wheel far enough.

Mark took over once the gas ran out (I was in the car about 45 min). Mark drove fast but he picked up a black flag for passing on yellow. We were given the Bob Ross penalty. We probably spent a little too much time, but we got lots of compliments on our artistic skills.

I went back in the car after Mark's flag and turned some fast laps. The track was drying out and the other cars were getting faster relative to Our Lady. I got into some trouble trying to hang with the same cars I was passing during my first stint. I went 4-off after going wide and getting into the gravel and debris in the outside of the tight right-hander. Jay let me back out without a driver change, but his leniency was not rewarded. I ended up 4-off again just 8 laps later.

They contemplated a more severe punishment, even toying with making us teach Chantelle how to drive stick, but decided against it given our horrible, horrible steering. In the end we just sat out for 15 minutes. Craig went back in, and Nick and I went to the Pull-a-Part to try and get a replacement steering rack. They only had 4 Civics of our generation, but fortunately two of them had manual steering racks.

Just as we were about to leave I got a call from Craig. He had not only managed to get a black flag for contact, but there was a pretty horrible noise coming from the engine and they were going to start taking off the head to diagnose it. Nick and I checked out the two Integras that were on the lot, grabbed a couple of valves off an '87 whose head was already off, and then started trying to get the slightly better head off the '91. With 5 minutes until closing Craig called with some more news. The valve cover was off and the valves looked OK from the top, so a conrod bearing was the new suspect. With mere minutes before closing, Nick and I tore off the oil baffle on the '91 and were able to extract two conrod bearings.

Once we got back we took a break. We hung out with the Swede Sixteen guys that Craig had hit and ate some of thier shrimp. While we were hanging out the Duff Beer guys stopped by with thier wagon full of homebrew. The berry beer was excellent.

Back at the track we swapped in the new steering rack. It turns out that the two bolts holding the rack in had fallen out and the rack was shifting left-right on the rubber bushing. The only thing keeping the rack from shooting out the side was the splined shaft to which the steering wheel connects hitting the sides of the clearance hole in the body. As long as the steering inputs were light the rack wouldn't shift, but during racing the steering gets pushed hard enough to shift it back and forth. This is what made the left-hander and the following right-hander so interesting all day.

We drained the oil to find that there was less than a quart of tar where 5 quarts of engine oil had been that morning. We tried adding fresh oil and running the car for a few minutes, but it still sounded like an imprisoned gnome was trying to beat his way out of the engine block with a 3 lb hammer.

We tried a compression test to see if we could narrow down what was effected. We got 155, 60, 60, 160. Obviously we had at least two problems. Thinking the engine was a goner, we gave up on the car for the night and joined the Tuna Chuckers. The Chuckers had started drinking earlier in the day when their oil got dumped on the track and their engine ate itself.