Sunday, May 31, 2020

Day Two

Last night, after I wrapped up for the day, my uncle texted me to ask if I had Clecos. As I did not, he said he would bring some by. I had been planning to put the aluminum panels onto the frame without using Clecos, but now that I have installed one, I am glad I waited.

The first step is to put the panel up on the frame using clamps, and mark it with a Sharpie where all the frame members are. Then the panel comes off, and all the hole locations get marked, at 3" spacing. Holes get drilled and deburred, and then the panel goes back on the frame with the clamps again.
 Then the holes in the panel are used to drill holes in the frame. Clecoes are temporary fasteners that get inserted into the drilled hole; they clamp the sheet to the frame and also keep the hole located, so the two parts can't drift. This way, even if you drill a hundred holes, you can be sure they will line up again later. At left, about every other hole has a Cleco in it.

Then I took the panel down once more, deburred the holes in the frame, and added a bead of sealant every place the two pieces of metal touch.
Then I just lined it all up, and installed rivets in all the holes. That panel is now permanently installed.

There's another piece of floor to install - you can just barely see an open area of the frame at lower right here. That's the floor that will eventually be under the seats. Once that's in, the frame gets put back upright and on stands, and I start working on the front firewall. That's eight pieces of aluminum that all have to attach to the frame and to each other.

Cutting up cars

I could have used a Thrasher XXL a few weeks ago.

Wallace the Brave, May 31, 2020

Saturday, May 30, 2020

The First Day

Yesterday, the kit arrived. I spent the rest of the day going through the 18 boxes of parts and inventorying everything. Today, I re-inventoried one of the boxes, because I had not checked off once piece - "80604 - Coolant Tube Cover, Left." I did find it, which is of course a good thing.

I also dismounted all the body panels and some aluminum bits which were temporarily installed for shipping. What you see at left is not quite the final state - I also had to take off the windscreen and its frame.

The first step in actually putting pieces onto the frame is to install two pieces of underbody aluminum. I am out of time and energy today, but I did manage to get the frame rolled onto its side for that operation. Tomorrow, I will dig out the two pieces I need, then mark, drill, and rivet them into place.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Man, am I wiped

 Well, the kit arrived today exactly as scheduled. It has to be said - Stewart Transport, the trucking company which delivers these kits (and many others) all over the country, does an amazing job. With the crane rig that is installed in the trailer itself, the driver was able to unload the kit and drop it in my garage in under an hour. We did have a little help, but the whole thing was very, very smooth.
 Here it is as delivered, in my garage. I am incredibly excited to get to building, but today I had other tasks. I drove down to the Valley to help with the delivery of my uncle's kit (also very smooth), and then I came home to inventory all the pieces.

And the inventory came out well! So far as I am able to prove right now, I got one extra shift cable which I don't need, and I am missing one piece of aluminum. I am going to recheck the box which held that aluminum piece, because it's more than likely that I missed it among the forty or so others.
Here's the reverse angle in the garage. Tomorrow, I will take the body panels and attached aluminum off the frame, and get ready to start building the car!

But, today, I am wiped.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The kit arrives tomorrow morning

It's official - the driver called a little bit ago, and told me that he's expecting to be here with the kit between 8 and 9 tomorrow. I am filled with squee!

But How a Kit Car?

Yesterday, I posted a little bit about why I decided to build a kit car. Today, I want to talk a little about how I got to today, waiting for the truck to come and drop off the kit.

I've wanted to build a kit car for years. About ten years ago, I made up my mind that I would build a Factory Five Type 65 Coupe. At that time, I figured it would cost about $35,000 to do the build. I actually got plugged into the local car community a little bit, and met a few people who had built and were building kit cars. There are a surprising number just in my area, and all of them very friendly and helpful.

But I never got the budget together to build that car, so that project never took off.

But 2020 was going to be the year that I retired and replaced one of two vehicles - either my current daily (an Acura RSX-S) or the beater pickup (Chevy C250 longbed). I couldn't find a good solution, so I eventually came back to the idea of building my own.

And I have to admit that I was helped along in that decision by my uncle. He finished building an airplane a few years ago, and he's been looking for the next project. For about the last year, we've been chatting idly about what he might like to build next, and he was pretty settled on the 818. I helped him replace an extremely decrepit garage door, and there was discussion then about driving an 818 into the garage at some point.

Then, at Thanksgiving, I realized I had decided to do it. I had asked my wife, "What if, instead of buying a car in 2020, I built one?" and the reaction had been cautiously positive. The 818 had the bonkers I was looking for, and there was already budget allocated for a car in 2020. So I suggested to my uncle that we both should build cars this year.

Here's a thing about my uncle. He will absolutely devour any and all info he can find about a topic, researching it to the end. But once he decides, he decides. Less than two weeks after Thanksgiving dinner, we were on a road trip to buy his donor, and less than a week after that, I had bought one, too (although it took a little while to get the delivery handled).

And in February, we ordered kits. There has been a delay in production due to the current contagion, but it now looks like tomorrow is the day it all arrives. I've used the intervening time to tear down the donor - I'll post about that later.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Why do I have two cheap torque wrenches?

Two cheap torque wrenchesThis is my first automotive project of any real size. I've tinkered over the years, and I think I know my way around an engine bay, but this is the first time I am doing anything serious. I've changed my oil. I've installed a new alternator in the parking lot after work. I've added optical timing to a points car. I've never built a car.

So of course, with any jump in the scale of a project, you have to buy new tools. And I've been doing a fair bit of that. Probably the best thing I've bought so far is a cordless impact gun (and impact sockets to go with) - that thing has just been endlessly useful  in tearing down the donor car (more about the donor later).

But that's kind of a brute-force tool. That's great for loosening nuts and bolts, but tightening them needs a bit more finesse. Lots of things have to be tightened just the right amount, and no tighter.

So the torque wrench comes into play. I've known for years that I have had a couple of cheap ones lurking in the bottom drawer of my tool cabinet, but they've just been in there, lurking. I honestly can't remember why I have them.

I do recall being given one of them. A friend had made an online purchase from the place that sells these things, and they goofed up his order. They sent two, or they sent the wrong one, or something. He told them about it, and they told him just to keep the old/wrong one - so he gave it to me.

So that explains how I got one of them. I think it's the one in the black case. But the other one? No idea. I don't know how or why I got it. I don't recall buying it, and I don't recall the project I bought it for. I don't recall having it out of its case anytime in the last few years. I don't recall ever turning a fastener with it. It's just strange. Maybe the monster in the dryer eats socks and excretes torque wrenches.

But I'm not using those for the build. Good torque wrenches are not ruinously expensive if you don't buy them off the tool truck, so I have one now. I'm looking forward to using it. But I have no idea what I will do with the two pictured above.

So why a kit car?

This blog is to document the build of a my kit car. I have a Factory Five 818S on its way to me, and this should give me an easy way to keep people informed of my progress as I go to building it. Maybe I will learn something along the way, or maybe someone else will, by reading about my mistakes and frustrations. Or maybe I'll get frustrated and pack up the blog here before the car is done. If my past performance is any indication, that's the more probably outcome. So hey, welcome, for as long as it lasts.

But why a kit car in the first place? There are all kinds of good cars out there, and these days, they are more powerful, more reliable, and safer than they have ever been before. I mean, it just blows my freaking mind that anyone with a decent credit score or piles of illicit cash can just walk onto a dealer lot and drive away with 400, 500, even 700 horsepower. And that's not even the exotic marques. Freaking Dodge will sell you a 700HP car, with a factory warranty, just for having a pulse and knowing how to sign your name. That's just nuts.

So clearly, there's something out there for everyone. Or you would think so, anyway. But I looked high and low, and test drove a few things, too. I looked at trucks, Corvettes (C5s and C6s are dead cheap), muscle cars, old cars, JDM cars, quirky cars, mainstream cars... Probably my favorite of all of them was the current MX-5 Miata, though; it's just the distillation of perfect to drive. Not a ton of power, but you just don't care because it's so good.

But I slowly came to realize that I wanted something a little unusual in some way. Fast would be nice, but there are lots of other dimensions of "unusual" I thought about. One of the cars I looked into was a Chevy SS. That's a Holden Commodore, imported from Australia, and with the lion badges swapped for bowties. It's a completely bland-looking midsize family sedan, which they happen to have put a 6.2L V-8 in. And they made it with a manual gearbox, too. But they are rare in the US, and they are priced to reflect that.

I wanted something which maximized the fun of actually driving. I don't have kids, so I really only need two seats at the most. My commute, when I started this whole process and actually had one, was only eight miles, so I don't need a high degree of creature comforts, and fuel economy doesn't mean much. If I need big things, I already have a pickup truck. If I need four seats, my wife's car works fine. And I am keeping my current daily, an Acura RSX-S, as a standby.

So despite a boatload of good choice, I just couldn't find anything that really sang to me. Nothing gave me the gotta-have-its. Nothing was the right kind of bonkers. And the Miata was a little too practical.

So, I ended up choosing the 818. Factory Five calls it the 818 because that was the design weight - 818 kilograms, or about 1800 pounds. It uses a 2002-2007 Subaru WRX as a donor. As a donor, it makes 227HP and weighs about 3200 pounds. And despite the tight emissions laws here in California, I expect to be able to turn it up to 275HP or so, depending on a variety of things. And it ought to corner quite nicely. Some people have reported that their 818s corner in the vicinity of 1.4g of lateral acceleration - but that was the race variant. I'm still expecting well over 1g.

It's definitely bonkers. And it's definitely not practical. It's going to be amazing.