First Half of 2002
2001 and Before...
January - Wow! I just went back and read through our 2001 chronicles, and I had forgotten just how much we had accomplished last year. You may wonder why we're not done, but this project is being accomplished entirely on weekends, almost exclusively on Saturdays only. One day I may get a garage at home, but for now...
You must also realize that this project began as a "get it running and let's go build some track time". It appears that "mission creep" got to the better of me, and we're ending up building a top-notch ITS car. I don't know if it will be competitive against the BMW 325is, Mazda RX-7, Datsun Z-Cars, and the Acura Integra GS-R, but we'll have given it the old college try!
Our status? As of January 7th the chassis is basically ready to go. The car is stripped and prepped, the suspension and brakes are all done, the racing seat, gauges, steering wheel, fire system, belts, kill switch, and all other safety equipment is done. All we're waiting for now is to finish the engine and install the drivetrain. With a little motivation it shouldn't be a problem to have the car running by the first Driver's School/Regional at Lime Rock in 2002.
There's not a lot left to do, but there's a lot left to buy. To make this a top-flight effort, we'll need to do at least the following:
Build a well-designed rollcage. This car's chassis is very soft, and the cage will make a better platform for the suspension
Buy 14"x7" wheels and good tires; Panasports are the wheel of choice. The stock wheels are 14"x6" and we don't have any good tires right now
Buy and Install a Quaife or Torsen differential. The car comes stock with a viscous LSD, but it tends to die under stress
Buy and install a Jim Wolf Technology engine control computer (ECU). This, and appropriate tuning, will get us well on the way to catching up with the horsepower we're down to those cars I listed.
It's gonna be a good year, I think we'll have a lot of fun. Look for us out there!
March - Yep, time for an update. Well, not a lot has happened in these two months. As you can imagine, I'm still waiting for the engine to be installed.
On a plus note, Matt has finished building the engine. All we're doing now is taking care of some easy-to-get-to-now engine compartment changes/fixes, and maybe he'll have the drivetrain dropped in the first week of April. Here it sits in all its glory, itching to get installed:
I've managed to take care of some long-outstanding small issues, like hood pins, final seat and harness mounting, final window net mounting, final fire bottle mounting, etc. Slowly but surely we're getting there.
Our "season" could start as soon as May, with a test session and Regional at Lime Rock Park. We'll see how it goes.
Third Week April - It runs! It doesn't drive yet, but it runs!
Take a peek at photo number 1, with a tach reading of over 2500 (we were breaking in the new camshafts). Proof positive that months later we have a running car! Also note the parts that we left out of the engine compartment...(that's Matt, checking, well, something...)
We are well on our way to making the first Regional race of the year at Lime Rock Park on May 10-11.
Details to follow!
Fourth Week of April - It's amazing how many little things there are to do. This weekend was spent taking care of a lot of them:
Installing the brakes and suspension on all four corners
Re-designing and installing the rear swaybar mount
Installing the driveshafts
Final-torquing all the motor mounts
Filling with fluids and verifying that, yes, the noise is normal
Bleeding the brakes
installing the wiring for the cutoff switch
Wiring up the AMB transponder
Installing the exhaust system (and Hotshot header)
Fixing oil leaks (some oil galley plugs were leaking
Arranging for a replacement windshield, and buying the supplies to install it (seals and clips)
Ordering Stoneguards for the headlamps
Ordering the required vinyl decals
Ordering wheels and tires (Borbet Type T and Kumho Victoracer)
Wiring up the loom for the communications radios (we're using some VHF radios with a made-by-GregA harness)
Finishing up the Stack wiring installation (including installing the pickup on the driveshaft)
Finding and fixing an idle problem (defective idle air regulator)
Looking over a potential NX2000 purchase with a blown engine (bought it)
and seemingly a jillion other little things...
It will be driving on its own this weekend, giving us less than a week to take care of all the remaining items on our checklist and re-check everything in preparation for the May 11th Regional at Lime Rock Park. We reserve the right to bug out and try again next time, but let's see what we can pull off...
Watch this space!
First Weekend, May - I dunno if I've said it before, but there's a lot of little things left to do...
There's an open test and tune session at Lime Rock this coming Tuesday. We'd love to go but we've got some scheduling conflicts. I'm expecting that we'll still be able to make the SCCA Regional the following Saturday.
We've run into a couple of new small issues: the alternator is putting out 18 volts and the gravel parking lot is so cratered that we can't figure out how to get the car out at the race ride height. Also, the brandy-new battery cutoff switch we bought last year doesn't work...did I tell you we had a lot of small things to take care of...?
Install new windshield and clips - DONE!
Design and install a better PCV system - DONE!
Install and secure new battery - DONE!
Second Week in May
As feared, we will be unable to make it to the Tuesday "LRP test and tune", but it appears possible to make the first Regional race. That kinda sucks, as it's a "School/Regional" weekend; the Regional will only be on the second day. One session of practice/qualifying, then the race. Not a whole lot of time to develop the car. Actually, none.
Regardless, I'm fortunate in that I'm not working this week, so I'm expecting to complete a lot of outstanding tasks.
The "parts car" I bought arrived Monday, and the first thing we did was snag the idle air valve and the alternator. The alternator was covered in oil (a victim of the ole "Jiffy Lube" screwed-up oil change; the engine is seized) so I removed the voltage regulator and dropped it into my alternator. 14.5 volts, works like a champ. The car's running strange, with an error code 13, so that's the next day's task...
Oh, and it drove under its own power for the first time today in over 5 years: we drove it out of the shop to move some cars around.
Install communication radio - DONE!
Torque, torque, torque - DONE!
That "running" problem I alluded to on Monday devoured our whole entire day. The problem was that the radiator fan was not turning off; it ran constantly. It's controlled by the ECU, so Matt is certain that there was "something wrong" with it. We fixed a potentially bad temp gauge wire (causing the Code 13), but no luck; it still doesn't run right. I even drove a two-hour round-trip to retrieve the ECU from the previous NX2000 parts car owner (he forgot to put it in the car); same result.
10 hours into the day we were at our wit's end, having completely gone through (and cussed) the factory service manual, made several phone calls, and spent hours on the Internet searching for answers. Nothing.
As an act of desperation, we were in the process of checking that same temp gauge sensor again, when I noticed a clicking noise as I re-installed the ECU (for the millionth time). It turns out that there was a bad ground for the relay that controls the power to the ECU; it was an intermittent circuit. When I held the wire in a certain way, the fan went off and the car started running fine. Alleluia! We'll attack that problem first thing tomorrow, and we'll hope to get to the rest of the list as well.
A very successful day. We resolved the running/wiring problem, and cleaned up the under dash. All safety issues (e.g., brake pads and lines, bleeding, fuel lines) and all dependability issues (e.g., exhaust fitment, suspension clearance) have been resolved. We're planning on spending the day Thursday doing final cleanup, application of the required decals, and initial suspension setup.
I have also been approved to attend the Friday Driver's School, which will give us a golden opportunity to begin our suspension tuning. We are "go" for launch!
Replace some cracked fuel lines - DONE!
Re-fit the exhaust - DONE!
Buy street tires - DONE!
Thursday (a.k.a. "Reality Bites")
Unfortunately, we're done for the weekend. Despite the heroic efforts of our dynamic duo, we've got a problem that we cannot resolve for the weekend.
At the very end of the day, after messing around with ride height and smaller issues, we took the car out onto the road for the first time. Matt had commented earlier in the day that the brake pedal didn't feel right, but it felt fine to me. On the road, however, it became clear that something was amiss: the brake pedal would travel halfway to the floor before the brakes "bit." We re-bled the brakes all around, and made sure the master cylinder was bled. No change.
I've always said that for this project we had specific standards, in this order:
3) Fun (i.e. "no thrashing")
We discovered this problem at 5PM and we still had to bring the car to be aligned (a shop was going to let us use their alignment rack). We hadn't even packed the race/parts boxes yet, let alone discussed how to get the car there (we don't have a truck and trailer). Matt, in his not-so-subtle way, reminded me I was about to break goals number 1, 2, and 3 in one hat trick, so we called it a night and scratched the Friday school. We suspect that it's a master cylinder, but since the local dealers stock absolutely ZERO NADA NOTHING for this car there's no conceivable way we could get a master cylinder in time to go to LRP on Saturday. Besides, for this event on Saturday there's only a single 20-minute practice/qualifying and a 15-lap race, so we can't do any development or troubleshooting.
So, we're toast; it always seems there SOMETHING else to do... Next event appears to be mid-June; we'll try to hit some track lapping events in the interim.
The day's goals:
Set ride height and corner weights (partially done)
Friday (a.k.a. "it's the master cylinder, stupid.")
Yes, that's what it was: the master cylinder. We took the used MC off the parts car today and installed it on the race car. Worked like a charm. We had that done by 2 PM or so.
We looked around at the disarray in the shop, looked at the continuously-growing list of "to-do" items (it never goes to "zero", does it?) and we looked at Saturday's race schedule. We knew at that point that we could align the car, pack the race boxes, and probably make it to tomorrow's Regional race. However, Matt's girlfriend's birthday was today, and he wanted to go out, and we were both just flat burned out. Tomorrow would have been a thrash, considering that it consisted of only one practice/qualifying session and the 15-lap race, and we still don't know if we'd pass the SCCA Technical inspection (another at-track thrash item. We need to do basic setup on the chassis, and it would be nice to get in some more road miles to fix the little things.
So, we're bagging the Regional race. We're treating ourselves to a day off, and we'll show up there in our street cars, Bermuda shorts, and cameras, and enjoy a sunny day at the races. We spent the rest of Friday afternoon cleaning up, and I drove the car on the street for about an hour (the car's got a little snot, it does!) Of course, it rides rough and noisy compared to my Audi, and the Momo seat is too low and uncomfortable, but dammit it's a race car!
Future potential races include a Double Regional at LRP June 14-15, a Car Control Clinic and a 3-hr Enduro at LRP June 22, and a Regional/Enduro at LRP July 26/27. We're giving thought to driving in the OMP Challenge Memorial Day weekend, but I hear it's a crash-fest; I'd hate to bang up the car just to try and be a hero in front of a crowd.
Third Week in May - Dare I say it? We're pretty much there.
Last Saturday, Matt and I (and our Significant Others) attended the LRP Regional Race as spectators. It was a nice, lazy, sunny day, and we enjoyed being there. Of course, we spent the entire day looking, learning, and wishing we were there as competitors. At the end of the day, we decided to "do it" and enter the OMP Challenge for Memorial Day weekend.
Well, that pretty much re-ignited a mini-firestorm, and we've spent the first four days of this week working hard towards our goal. The list we created seemed to be even longer than before (would you believe it: lots of little stuff!) but we've hit them one-by-one and that list is now down to a very reasonable level. In fact, last night we sat back and realized that, yes, we "could" go to the track today without breaking any of our "standards" (see above.)
The big items we got done this week included:
Set street ride height - DONE!
Initial street alignment - DONE!
Compound out the paint - DONE!
Those took the lion's share of the week. We were going to do the emissions test on Wednesday, but unfortunately we broke the Stack speedo pickup while adjusting it (expensive little bugger, too). I got a replacement overnight and was able to pass the test on Thursday. I'll have the registration and plates today (Friday.)
The New England Region Chief Scrutineer, Brian Jones, agreed to meet us near his home to do the SCCA Annual Tech Inspection. We got signed off along with some excellent suggestions for improving the safety and dependability of the car.
State emissions testing and registration - DONE!
SCCA annual technical inspection - DONE!
State licensing and registration - DONE!
As we stand right now, our big-ticket item left is to setup the suspension. We need to choose an initial ride height and alignment specs, and we're arranging to borrow a set of race scales to corner weight and adjust the car. Once we have that info we can decide how much (if any) ballast to add. Tuesday is the LRP Test and Tune session, and Friday we'll be at our first Practice session for the OMP Challenge. While winning the event would be the best, we're looking for a good finish and to learn as much as we can about this car for the future.
Here we go!
Second Half of 2002...