Friday, May 16, 2008

Keeping track of things

Being a nerd, I like to keep track of things. Excel and I are on a first-name basis. So it's natural that I'd want to accurately document my build.

Even though the Spartan won't be an absolutely low-cost locost, I still want to keep track. Some have suggested that this is a crazy idea, as it gives my wife real numbers to yell at me about. Fortunately for me my wife is really cool about this obsession of mine, so I feel comfortable keeping a budget spreadsheet with the actual figures for my build.

I'm going to count the full purchase cost of partial items. That means if I use 10% of a $4 tube of grease, it'll be $4. I don't want the pain of tracking how much welding filler wire I've used. The spreadsheet will also break out shipping and tool costs and list sources for each item. I figure that may help someone else understand how I got those figures.

While I've been waiting to start my build I've been reading like a banshee. I've also scoured the internet for anything I can learn about building a car. Along the way I've made lots of decisions about components and specs for my car. I've decided to keep a specification spreadsheet (xls) listing what I plan on incorporating into the Spartan.

Both documents are now on the sidebar, and they'll be constantly updated as I go along. You're free to copy and use them as you see fit.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

And so it begins...

My first ever component just arrived. Behold, the Spartan's steering rack!

I was alerted to a good deal on Ebay by an astute member of the LocostUSA forum. I'm not entirely sure it'll be what I need, but at the price I picked it up for it was too good to pass up.

Here are the details:
Appleton p/n: 7010410
18.25" width, tapered ends
2.5" travel per turn
4.5" total rack travel
17 lbs.*

The factory specs say that this unit weighs 17 lbs., but the shipping label says it's 14. I'll have to get a scale to make sure.

If you've been reading this blog, you'll remember that I'm not inclined to cut and weld a normal automotive rack. It's not that I think it's a bad practice, I would just rather spend a little more and know I've got a reliable unit. Losing steering control at speed doesn't sound like fun.

This rack isn't as nice of a unit as a Woodward rack, as you have to replace both the outer housing and the steering pinion to change the ratio. There also seems to be a bit of friction in the system, possibly due to the fact that the rack and pinion spacing are determined by the manufacturing tolerances of the housing, not some fine adjustment. I may be off base, but Staniforth claims that a good steering system will allow you to move the front wheels with one finger. Maybe he's a little used to high-buck purpose-built cars. I'll wait until I can inspect a stock Miata rack before I pass final judgment.

In any case I got such a good deal on it I figure I can still recoup most of my costs by selling it on Ebay if it doesn't work out. Besides, I've come to learn that a companion hobby to working on cars is collecting car parts.

Even if it's only one part, I'm still pretty excited about what this represents - my first tangible component of my car. It's all uphill from here!