Friday, January 23, 2009

Phase 2 begins!

Now that Winky has been laid to rest, I think it's a good time to outline the next phase in the build. Here's what I'm thinking:

  1. Strip and sell donor
  2. Upgrade garage for construction
  3. Clean up parts
  4. Measure parts and model in CAD
  5. Design suspension
  6. Design frame
  7. Build full-size cockpit mockup
  8. Build! Build! Build!
Here's what I'm starting with. I'd always intended to fix the place up, but my donor fell into my hands much faster than I thought it would, so the only improvements I've made so far are the fluorescent lights hanging from the ceiling. I'm going to double the number of fixtures to 6, figuring if a lot of light is good, then too much should be just enough.

Once lighting is complete, construction is going to begin. I've purchased components to seriously upgrade the electrical system. Right now there are only two outlets in the whole garage. Seriously, who thought that would be enough?

I'm going to install 20 amp outlets all over the side wall to run compressors, welders and other tools. I'm also going to install switched 15 amp outlets up high to power the lights and a radio (which is critical).

I'm also going to need a real work space. Being the dork I am, I've already put together a preliminary layout of the garage in CAD. Note the "do not exceed" line marking my wife's side of the garage. Happy wife = finished locost.

There's a pretty good sized workbench in the corner, with shelving above. I'm going to saw the peg board in half and use it behind the bench. I've amassed quite a collection of old crappy bookshelves, which will function quite nicely as parts, material and tool storage.

I'm still working out the details of which tools go where, but I wanted to make sure I have plenty of space to store stuff in. I can't stand working in a messy environment. My layout is still missing a welder, compressor, compound miter saw and a bench grinder. It may get a little tight in there.

I may also go ahead and build the build table. That will certainly help with storage, and provide a nice, flat surface to measure parts on without cluttering up my work bench.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Winky (1993-2009)

After removing Winky's drivetrain, I found myself sizing up the remaining components to be removed. I realized that I was one good weekend away from being finished with the tear-down.

And so it was that I found myself working feverishly to take apart the front and rear suspensions and remove the differential and fuel tank. It took me the better part of a day, but here's the result:

That's a lot more work than it looks!

3 of the 4 lower control arms were stuck to the suspension uprights, their fasteners completely locked up. By the point of that discovery I was making a lot of progress, so I decided to wait until a later date to tackle the rusty bolt removal.

For some bizzare reason, it took me three months to purchase an air-powered impact gun. Up until this point I'd gotten by with just a breaker bar. I wish now that I'd have acquired one much earlier! The gun made removing the suspension a breeze (aside from the completely frozen bolts).

With the car apart and parts scattered all over my wife's side of the garage, I called a repeat parts buyer to pick up the shell. I traded him the body in exchange that he come pick it up. That's a better deal than it sounds, since many builders spend a weekend or two painfully chopping the shell to bits with a sawzall!

Here's the automotive corpse mid-load. I'd removed every conceivable bolt, bracket, and random part from the shell, so three of us managed to lift the shell into the truck without breaking out the hoist.

I remember when I first got the car, I had a panic attack at the huge disassembly task ahead of me. Three months later, I've got a nice dose of confidence and a strong motivation to get started on the build. I'm pretty proud to say that my once pristine pair of mechanic's gloves now looks like this:

It may sound silly, but I'm going to miss that car. I've spent dozens (hundreds?) of hours taking him apart, and now he's off to be cut up to provide new body panels for a smashed Miata. Of course, that's one of my original goals with the project - to resurrect a trashed classic and to help keep many more on the road. So long Winky!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Required picture

Somewhere in the laws governing the automotive world there's a rule that whenever an engine is pulled, a picture of someone sitting in the engine bay is required.

Hey, I don't make the rules...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Ripping Winky's guts out

Up to this point, I've been disassembling Winky all by myself. After several months in the garage I had come to the point where the engine had to come out. This time I called in reinforcements in the form of my LeMons teammates.

Here's my buddy Bob working on removing the coil packs so we could mount the lifting chains. I had spent the last two weeks carefully disconnecting every hose and wire attached to the engine. I abhor the "disconnect now, ask questions later" approach, so I took the time to label everything and to try and understand what exactly I was taking apart.

I have to say that the hoist (and load-leveler that came with it) worked like a dream. I think I probably could have removed the whole thing myself without too much trouble. I'm going to add the load-leveler to my list of favorite tools (along with my 1/2" breaker bar and my deep metric sockets). That gizmo made manuvering a 400+ lb. chunk of cast iron, aluminum and steel a piece of cake. Besides, pumping the hydraulics and turning the leveler handle made me feel like a 4 year old with a shiny new Tonka truck. Good stuff.

Speaking of which, here's me angling the assembly down to maneuver it out of the bay. Yep, it came out pretty easy. I was just starting to think I was the engine removal master, until I saw this under the car:

That would be the entire contents of my transmission spilled all over the floor. I had a catch pan ready to go, but in my excitement to use the hoist I neglected to put it under the tranny. Note to self - next time, drain the transmission oil first.

It took 20 lbs. of cheap cat litter to soak that mess up. Now my garage smells like an oil tanker hitting a herd of pooping cats. Not pleasant.

With the engine and transmission removed, it was on to separating my Siamese twins into two separate parts. The engine was destined for a stand that I'd just picked up from CraigsList, but I didn't have the necessary hardware to mount it so it'd have to sit on the floor for now.

This is the "catch of the day" shot. It felt pretty good to see the drivetrain swinging (gently) from the hoist. Craig (in the background) is doing his best to be supportive by drinking a cup of coffee.

After a few minutes of grunting, here's what we had:

I'm happy to say we managed to separate the tranny with only one stripped transmission bolt thread (doh!). Actually, I'm a little upset, but I'll get over it because:
  1. This is the first buggered thread since I started disassembling the car. One out of 3,238 ain't bad.
  2. It's on the oil pan, not the block, so it should be easy to replace (for $65 or so).
  3. It's an aluminum part, so what did I expect?
  4. I've always wondered how well heli-coils work.
  5. If this is the worst thing that happens during the build, I'll be a happy man.

I found a few other issues while I was giving the drivetrain a once over, but nothing that a few random parts won't fix.

At the end of the work day, I found this in the corner of my garage:

I can't say why that sight gives me so much joy, but now every time I see it I smile. Maybe because now it isn't a Miata's a Locost engine.

What lies ahead for my greasy new mill? First, mounting on a stand. Next is absolutely going to be a quick bath. After that, I may tear it apart a bit to see what I've got. I'm also mulling over doing a full tear-down and rebuild. It's a lot of work, but it'll need to be done anyway and it's a lot nicer to start the build with a good engine than know that as soon as I'm ready to drive it I'll have to pull it apart again.