Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Replacing the steering wheel and wiring the horn

Today's project was pulling the stock steering wheel off, and replacing it with the nice, new wheel I ordered with the kit. Here, I am trying to figure out the wiring of the horn circuit in the donor wheel. With the airbag removed, I was able to probe out the wiring harness and figure out what wire I needed to use.

There's a bunch of other wiring here I just won't be using at all - cruise control and airbag.

With the wheel pulled off by use of a homemade steering wheel puller (a piece of steel bar with three holes drilled in it and a few bolts), I was able to get to the clockspring assembly. This is what cancels the turn signals, and it also passes electrical connections through.

The issue here it the large connector block at lower left - it conflicts with the adapter that the new wheel bolts to. The yellow wiring is for the airbag, so I just cut that away entirely, and then I removed the plastic shroud around the four other pins - even though I only need two of them for the horn.

This is the wiring that goes from the clockspring to the cruise control switch and the horn. I only needed the two conductors, so I took them out of the plug, and cut them off the connector at the other end. I will add some spade terminals there to plug the horn button into.
I only need two of the four conductors here. I added some heatshrink and put the wires on the pins. I also took the time to test continuity all the way through the wiring harness for the steering wheel, to be sure I had not broken anything.
Then I just pulled the wire tails through the adapter and threaded the nut onto the steering column. I haven't torqued it down yet, as I'm reasonably certain I will need to get this off again before I go driving.
And here's the wheel all bolted up! The horn button is the black circle in the center - it will get a badge later on.

I'm going to keep a box of all the excess wiring I remove from the donor harnesses. This car is going so have so many fewer switches and buttons in it than the donor that I should be able to remove some real weight.  

Welding while lying on the floor is a literal pain

Here's the car as I left it last. The transmission subframe is about 2/3 welded in - the easy 2/3. I had planned to weld the underside while lying on the floor, welding overhead. This turned out to be harder and even less pleasant than I anticipated.

Welding overhead is always the hardest, because when you melt metal, it wants to run downhill, like any other liquid - so it becomes kind of a challenge to get your bead to stay where you put it. If you goof up, it wants to fall off - and being under that is a good way to get droplets of molten metal on you. Not fun.

So it was time to get a little... inventive, shall we say, with my setup. I dropped the nose of the car onto some rubber wheel chocks, and I used ratchet straps and my engine hoist to get the back end up in the air. This put the areas to be welded at a much more convenient height, and also gave me enough angle that I could weld uphill, using the bead behind to support the weld puddle.

This was mildly sketchy, but not too bad. I'd have loved a real rotisserie, but this worked pretty well.

Here's the old weld. Despite my previous practice sessions, this just looked like garbage, even by my standards. I ground all this away and rewelded it. It's still farmer-grade welding, but I am happier with it. 

And, let's face it, it's going to be only a few inches off the ground when all is said and done, so I doubt anyone will ever look at it again.

Here's one of the improved welds. Still not perfect, but way, way better.

And thus my goal is met to drop the tail end of the transmission by about three inches. This should mean a much longer life.
 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Actually installing the transmission subframe

Previously, I had gotten prepared to tack the drop tabs to the transmission subframe. Then I did actually tack them on, and the moment of truth was that I had not goofed it up and it would still fit between the frame rails.

It did fit, and here it is clamped back into the frame. This is when it really started to feel good.

Here's my rinky-dink welding setup - an old 110V wirefeed welder, a Harbor Freight welding table, and some LED work lights dangling from the boom of my engine crane.

Full props to those lights, though. Two of them were so good I went and bought some more. They make it a lot easier to see the weld as I work, even once I strike the arc and the helmet goes dark. Amusingly, with five of these pointed at the welding table, it was so bright that my helmet triggered before I even turned the welder on - I had to turn down the sensitivity so I could see before I pulled the trigger.

Definitely a farmer-grade weld, but it's going nowhere. I need a lot more practice before I can dash off those perfect, beautiful beads I have been seeing in online tutorials.
Once I had the subframe fully welded out, I picked the engine and transmission again and started dropping them into the frame. Here, the forward engine mounts are in their slots, and I am just about to start dropping the tail end of the assembly, I want to get the tail pretty low, so I can actually bolt up the subframe from underneath and then pull it back up into the frame.
... Just like this. The transmission is lower here that it needs to be, by a couple of inches, and I have the subframe bolted up to the transmission mount. All new engine and transmission mounts, by the way - much more rigid than the stock units, and also just not worn out.
Then I used the crane to lift the tail end of the transmission into place, so that all the tabs lined up with the tops of the frame rails, and I started tacking it in.

That bead on the left-hand side of the frame makes me very happy.

At this point, I have not yet fully welded out the drop tabs - just the beads on the top. I still need to get the vertical beads and the ones underneath. But, as you can see, it bears my weight easily, and feels very very solid.

Once I finish out the welding, I'll hit the welded areas with some seam sealer and then rattlecan all the places I had to sand off the powdercoat.

Between the drop tabs and the new transmission mount, I should get right at three inches of drop at the tail of the transmission. Maybe even a touch more. And that's exactly what I needed to keep from burning up the gears.
 

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Fixturing jig

I'm still wrestling with getting the rear subframe welded to the drop tabs. I spent a log time with magnets and clamps, trying to get a stable assembly of the subframe and the tabs that I could tack up in the frame, then remove to complete welding. I had no luck, and even cursing at it didn't help, so I decide to regroup and find another way to fixture the tabs.

I need them to be the right distance apart, both side to side and fore/aft, and I need the top edges to be in the same plane. I decided to try 3D printing these little jigs, which I will position and screw to a piece of plywood.

The idea is that I will clamp the plywood to the frame and use the frame and the transmission subframe to position the drop tabs, then screw the 3D printed jigs to the plywood. This should give me a repeatable position for the tabs, which I can remove from the car and move to my welding table.

This is effectively upside-down in the frame of the car, but orientation doesn't matter right now - just the dimensions I mentioned.

The plywood board is clamped to the frame of the car. The blue plastic jigs hold the tabs. I've used the transmission subframe to get everything in position, with some clamps and spacers to help align everything.


And here's the finished fixture, with the tabs in their slots. This can be repeatably placed in the frame, so the width is right if nothing else.

I will next finish prepping the subframe and the tabs and get it all aligned, then tack it together and test-fit it in the car. I think it should work; then I can finish weld it, bolt it back to the bottom of the transmission, and tack it into the frame.
 

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Prepping to weld up the dropped transmission mount

My main work on the car today was working on my welding. I've been having a nagging problem with my welder not feeding wire smoothly, so today I tinkered with that some. I replaced the contact tip, made sure the drive rollers were set up correctly and working well... and then noticed that the spool of wire was tangled somehow. I ended up chucking out maybe half a pound of wire and just putting a fresh spool on.

In addition to that, though, I've been getting ready to weld up the dropped transmission mount. This is from the rear of the frame, looking forward. The chunk of frame that I cut out is bolted to the transmission; you can see the three inch drop, which should go a very long way toward solving the oiling problem.

Here are the drop tabs all marked for shaping. I could easily use them without any addition trimming, but those extra bits would bug me. And I have grinders!
Now, with the engine and transmission pulled out again, here is a look at the right-rear drop tab, clamped up to the frame.

I am going to work on fitting up the subframe between the tabs - it needs a little strategic grinding to fit. Then, with the frame bolted to the transmission, and the engine in the car, I will tack the tabs to the subframe. After that, I will unbolt the subframe and fully weld that up on the bench.

The hard part then will be welding the whole thing up to the frame.
 

Monday, June 14, 2021

The engine is in!

The engine is in! .. for the first time. There's lots and lots to do before it will go in for the last time, but today, my uncle and I were able to get it into the engine bay.

First we hooked it up to the hoist, and unbolted it from the stand. Then we put it onto a table, sitting on a skid to keep it supported level, and installed the clutch and pressure plate. After that, we mated up the transmission and picked up the whole assembly with the hoiust.

Here it is, going into the engine bay. Ed is guiding.
And here it is in place. It's sitting on the engine mounts, but there is nothing supporting the tail end of the transmission - it's just hanging from the hoist. The idea from here is that, once I get the angle how I want it, I will bolt the transmission support frame to it and start measuring and marking the drop tabs in preparation for welding that back in.

This isn't the final position just yet, but it's close. Next up is to order new engine and transmission mounts, which will let me get it  into its final spot

This is the tail of the transmission, hanging below the frame. This downslope will help the oiling issue I described earlier. The black X-shaped item on the floor is the support frame that I need to weld back in.

This feels like a really big milestone. It's going to come out and go back in several times, I am sure, but this makes it look and feel a whole lot more like a car.
 

Sunday, June 13, 2021

More welding practice

With a little help from my friends, I'm getting a bit better at welding. I added a magnifying lens (a "cheater") to my welding helmet, which helped me to see the joint. And I slowed way down, which helped me to actually put the weld bead where I wanted it.

I'm still not a good welder. These are completely serviceable welds, but I won't win any prizes for consistency or overall beauty. But I am getting better. And that feels pretty good.
 

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Modifying the transmission

Wow, I thought I had taken more pictures of this process. But it appears I didn't. But here's the conversion process for the donor transmission, to change it from all-wheel drive in the donor car to rear-wheel drive only in the kit.

In this pic, you can see a stub axle coming off the side of the transmission, at the left side of the frame. In the donor, that (and the one on the other side) sent power to the front wheels. The driveshaft at the tail of the transmission, to the right of the frame, powered a drive shaft for the rear wheels.

I don't need that second part. Because I am relocating the transmission from the front of the donor car to the rear of the kit, what used to feed the front wheels will feed the rear wheels instead - and the rear drive shaft just won't exist.

This locking collar will go where the center differential used to be, preventing the rear shaft from turning at all. This effectively redirects all the power to the formerly-front axles.

In order to get this in, I took off the last segment of the transmission case, pulled out two geared shafts (I swear I thought I had pics) and a differential, and then installed that collar to lock the rear of the transmission.

And this plate blocks off the tail end where the rear driveshaft used to go. The 25 mm bolts supplied with the kit ended up being too long, but I was able to source some 20mm bolts locally. A little RTV to seal it all up, and the transmission conversion is done!

This coming weekend, I am hoping to make progress of getting the engine and transmission mated, in prep for the first (of many, I am sure!) introductions to the frame.
 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Welding practice

Having cut out the transmission mount plate, the basic idea is that it will get welded back in with about a 3" drop at the back. Based on a bunch of calculations done by people who have done this before me, a 3" drop should tip the tail end of the transmission down about five or six degrees, which should go a long way to keeping the gears oiled.

Here's the drop tab I am planning to use at the aft end - it's a 4" square of 3/16" steel.

I want the welding to go well, so I need to practice. Here's another 4" plate, clamped to a short piece of tubing, as a stand in for the frame. I need to master (in increasing difficulty) the weld along the top, the two vertical edges, and the overhead weld underneath.
This 1" weld is probably my best weld of the day. I still have a lot of practicing to do, and I need to slow down and stop rushing.

But hey, it's still fun melting metal together.
 

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Let's talk about transmissions

I've been kind of stopped for a while, because I didn't really know what to do about the transmission for the kit. Here's the problem: the engine and transmission assembly installs here, in the back of the car - but the way the frame is designed, the tail end of the transmission ends up being tipped up.

The tail-high position of the transmission, of course, means all the gear oil flows to the front of the transmission - and this keeps the gears, particularly fifth gear, from getting properly oiled. This means the gears don't get properly lubricated, and overheat, and are destroyed.

The fix for this is to lower the tail end of the transmission. But there's a frame in the way.

I've been talking to my uncle about this issue - he's the one who brought it to my attention. He ended up rebuilding the transmission mount at the aft end of his frame to lower the transmission a few inches at the back. He's done good work, of course, but I think there's a slightly simpler way to get the same result.

So I started with the angle grinder, making cuts in the frame, which is not something I expected to do when this project started.

Here's what I finished cutting out this morning. The broader plate in the lower half of the picture is where the transmission mount connects.

The idea here is that I will eventually weld this back in, with some added vertical steel plates to drop it down a bit. At this moment, the goal is to drop the back two and a half to three inches, whatever it takes to get it level. 

I'm going to do this by mounting this cut-out piece of frame onto the bottom of the transmission, then using an engine crane to hang the engine and transmission in the frame. I'll take the position of all of that to tack in the upright plates, then disassemble everything and weld it all up.

It's hard to explain - you'll see pictures as it goes.

Here's what it looks like right now. Lots to do in there still.

Next up - pressure washing the transmission, getting the engine off its stand, mounting the clutch, mating the transmission. Then it's time to hang the whole thing in the engine bay and see how it all lines up.

In other news, my uncle and I also found an issue with the emergency brake setup today. But we've also already designed a solution, and parts are on order to fix it. And I am printing some parts, too. If it works out, it's going to be epic.

 

Monday, April 5, 2021

Building the firewall

Okay, finally time to do the last assembly on the firewall. Here's a hole, prepared for the installation of a bucked rivet. That a 100 degree countersink. Aircraft guys have extra special tools.
Here's what the hole looks like with a rivet dropped into it, and another rivet beside it to show you what it looks like before it gets bucked.
And here are the tools - a pneumatic rivet gun and a block of steel to act as the "buck" - the anvil you hold on the back side. You can see the end of the rivet sticking up into the countersunk hole; the countersink actually acts as the form for this end of the rivet. You just hold the buck against the other side, and use the pneumatic hammer to smash this end until it's flush.
Like so. Yeah, it's not perfect, and there are some apprentice marks on it, but this is the back side. I did it that way on purpose.
This is why I am making the whole thing removable - so I can service the fuel tank down the road, so to speak.

Here's the firewall pulled out again for today's work - making those little notches at the corners, to clear some weld bead on the frame, and then to mark and drill for the row of screws which will go along the top edge to secure it to the frame.
 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Big post today!

Today, I continued working on the mounting "toes" for the firewall. First, I used my 3D printer to make some spacer blocks. This let me provide a consistent offset between the face of the fuel tank and the firewall.
Here they are on the floor of the car, just aft of where the driver's seat will go.
And here they are looking down between the firewall and the tank. This let me get the angle brackets I had made all drilled and riveted up, so the lower portion of the firewall is all ready to bolt into the car.
To get the upper part ready, however, I will need to change tactics. Here are two rivets - on the right is the "pop" type that I have been using for most of the panel attachments throughout the car. The disadvantage of this type of rivet is that it is not flush on either side of the joint; on one end, it leaves a small domed surface, and on the other end, it leaves a protrusion which is even larger.

On the left is a bucked style of rivet, which is set with a rivet squeezer; it actually deforms into countersunk a countersunk hole on the back of the work to provide a flush finish on both sides.

These are aircraft rivets, used in applications where drag reduction is paramount, so no protrusions can be allowed.

Here's my first experiment is using these bucked rivets. This is the back side of a joint I made in a couple of pieces of scrap. I took two pieces of 1/8" aluminum, drilled holes and made countersinks on both sides, and used a rivet gun to deform the "shop end" of the rivet to fill the countersink.

Safe to say these pieces are securely fastened. I did a few more just to do it, and they all worked very well. I'm convinced.

Last but not least, here's the upper section of the firewall. It's all Clecoed up to a piece of angle, ready for the rivets to go in. I haven't shown it, but the holes are already countersunk on both sides, and I just have to buck the rivets.

That's for next weekend, though.