Two U-joints are better than four

I’m working on getting the human interfaces fabricated on Project Unfair and I just finished mocking up the column connection to the steering servo. Wilwood pedals are coming next, or possibly mounting the seat. The neat thing about this steering shaft is that my original design used 4 U-joints with the steering shaft under the motor mount, but Tim Christ at Coast Chassis Design (the gods of 10.5 racing over in Daytona Beach) convinced me to look into rotating the rack so the servo pointed above the motor mount.

So I did, and here’s the result. A very clean 2 U-joint steering mechanism. Good stuff. This photo is of the mockup with steel U-joints… we have ultra-cool aluminum versions from Borgeson on the way.

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Setting up for Humans

I’ve just finished a little project on Project Unfair that needed to be done to get to my next big project. In order to mount the seats, steering wheel, and Wilwood pedals, I had to move the sheet metal from behind the throttle pedal area away from the driver. Otherwise we’d be driving the car with our knees figuratively in our chests.

The driver’s side header needed some relief as well, so I extended a raised boss in the floor to the firewall, which gave the header plenty of room.

I cut out the offending sheetmetal in a single piece, using a combination of three tools. Two are my old standbys: pneumatic wheel cutter and a Bosch jigsaw, but the third tool is one of the coolest new tools in years, a cordless Ridgid Jobmax Multi-Tool. Using a Bosch bi-metal “blade” (the Ridgid can use a variety of other manufacturer’s accessories), I was able to cut straight and curved lines without the bother of air lines or power cords. The Ridgid uses the new-style Li-ion batteries, and they recharge in about 30 minutes.

I’ve also gotten a lot of use lately out of Bosch’s similar toolset. I use the little impact driver on everything. Lug nuts, suspension bolts, exhaust clamps. It can really speed up assembly and disassembly, which I do a lot when I’m figuring out fabrication sequences.

I’ve also gone from red to blue: I sold my Lincoln welders, and bought new Millers. I’ll write about them next.

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Exhausting work

I’ve been hard at work for the past several weeks building headers and exhaust for our Unfair Camaro Project. I worked with Rich Craig over at Cone Engineering to get all the materials except for the oval stainless tube. The oval tube came from Burns Stainless. This is the fifth set of headers I’ve built from scratch, and I learn something new every time. These are my best effort yet. It is such a pleasure working with high quality materials. Anyway the header fabrication will be a full-fledged Super Chevy in the Project Unfair series. Look for it soon on a newsstand near you.

The oval tube is another matter.

Unfair is so low, that the only way to get enough exhaust for 800-1400 hp (depending on mode) under the car is to use oval tube. It’s high quality stuff, but there is a lot of stress in the material from all the machine work done on it. When you cut into the middle of a mandrel-bent oval tube, the tube tries to become round again. It takes a *lot* of work to get it ovalized again to weld it. The end result looks good, but the squeezing, clamping, and tack-welding to weld it to another oval tube is a lot more effort than ordinary round tube.

After this, I’ll be making custom mufflers using one of Cone’s kits.

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If at first you don’t succeed…

I spent most of a day this past weekend making a cool, nice-looking transmission crossmember for our Unfair Camaro project. Unfortunately, it sucked. To be more specific, it flexed downward 3/16″ when the weight of the transmission was placed on it. I made it out of high-grade 4130 rectangular tube, with proper welding and great fitment. It looks really good. But, as I said, it sucked.

I was lamenting this state of affairs to my friend John (a materials/mechanical engineer with a military firm) when he asked me why I was stuck on using an OEM based design with the insulating material (rubber or polyurethane) in the original place. Why not, he asked, move that material to the body side of the crossmember and get it away from the transmission itself? I thought about that for awhile and then John called back with a comment from another engineer friend of ours, Glenn, who said that the span of my original crossmember was a big problem too. I needed to make the crossmember shorter, which will minimize deflection a lot. Making the crossmember shorter meant I had to move the body interface from the subframe frame rail to the floor.

A bit of luck was with me: the location of the subframe reinforcement rib was welded to the floor at just the right location. I could weld tabs directly to the floor and they would be incorporated in the same structure used to bolt the subframe to the car. Perfect. So I made another crossmember, this time using a pair of poly rod ends (from AME) I had originally bought for II Much but hadn’t used. Putting the insulating material outboard of the transmission itself makes the whole setup more compact, with a big bonus of giving me more floor space for the humongous exhaust to come.

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Here’s the new crossmember. It bolts directly to the transmission and save space and weight compared to the original design. I used spacers between the rod end and the body tabs to give us some fudge room when we put the real transmission in.

Z06 Stereo install, part 2

In last week’s blog, I promised more about the stereo installation that William Fonseca and 1Off Rides did in my Z06. William and his crew did a fabulous job meeting my requirements, but he also worked very hard to make the whole install look like a factory installation. So there aren’t big bunches of wire connection barrels, or wire nuts. Instead, all the connections are done in-line with soldered connections and automotive grade OEM style wrapping. corvette pics 162.jpg

All the wiring is tidy: easy for maintenance and any enhancements.

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Here’s one view of the wiring behind the head unit. The nylon mesh along with shrink wrap tubing is a quality of keeping wire harnesses together.

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Here’s another view. You can see the original and the additional wiring.

Corvette Z06 Stereo install

Late last year, after buying a new-to-me 2007 C6 Z06, I took the car over to William Fonseca at 1Off Rides. William has done several installs for me, and wanted to show off his new brand of gear: Hertz. He took detailed photos of his whole install process, so I’ll show off some of his work across a few blog entries over the next couple of weeks.

I gave William two requirements:

  1. The system couldn’t cut any wires to install. I wanted to be able to return it completely to stock for resale.
  2. The sub and amp had to be removable for track use.

William did that, and added one of his own: when the sub and amp are removed, the system still plays! He put audiophile relays in all the speakers and connected both to the big Hertz amp and to the head unit: a Pioneer AVIC Z110BT. The sub and amp are removable with two mil-spec connectors and two nuts. They float in the back of the car: that is to say: they don’t touch the carpet. So when you remove them, there’s no matted down carpet.

All in all, William and his shop did a fantastic job with the install. Here’s a few pics for now:

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The Hertz speaker is mounted to an aluminum adapter.

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Here it is mounted to the door.

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The GM LAN interface module and main power relay, along with the splice harness.

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The mil-spec connector for the amp. It’s a simple pull to disconnect.

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Just a few of the relays needed to allow the dual mode system to work seamlessly.

Unfair “Stack”s the odds for a dash display

Project Unfair won’t be using standard gauges. Instead, we are going to use the integrated dash display from Stack Systems. The Stack display has several advantages over traditional gauges:

  • It allows the dash to be completely visible through the steering wheel. No more disco head-bob to see the gauges hidden behind the wheel.
  • It’s programmable so that limits for each supported sensor can have alarms defined. Things like low oil pressure and too hot water temperature can turn on a light and then show the value of the sensor. When you’re on the track, you don’t have time to scan all your gauges to look for problems.
  • It allows fine-tuning of your fuel tank sensor, so you’ll know within the gallon of how much fuel is left in the tank.
  • It integrates with a data recorder so that data can be played back and analyzed later, along with data directly recorded such as sensor data for ride height, steering angle, and brake line pressure.
  • The data recorder will be integrated with the Holley Dominator ECU allowing analysis of nearly all the available sensors in the car at the same time using the amazing DataPro Analysis system. No more coming in after a few hot laps with some sort of vague driver “It felt a little weird” or “the car was turning in slowly”. With DataPro, we’ll be able to tell exactly how the car responds to changes in tuning, be it suspension, braking, or engine.
  • The wiring is dead simple. A single 19 circuit mil-spec connector provides all the connection needed.

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Check out all the available real estate on the dash when it’s all integrated into a single display. The gauges on the lower right are boost and lambda gauges. We’ll integrate their sensors into the data recorder as well, though the dash display doesn’t have direct support for them. We’ll put A/C vents in the space to the left and right of the display, and the traditional headlight and wiper switches on the lower left.

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Here’s a closer look at the display, gauges, and recorder. The single harness is all that is needed for all the traditional dash gauges: oil pressure, water temp, tach, speedometer, odometer, fuel level, oil temp, fuel pressure, and voltage level. It also supports display of lap times (we will be installing a lap time sensor).

Unfair’s Interior Fabrication

We are using a very interesting new material for Unfair’s interior. It’s called Airex C70.

AIREX¬ģ C70 is a lightweight, closed cell foam for universal use in sandwich constructions. Its excellent stiffness and strength to weight ratio and high toughness make it suitable for a large variety of applications. The foam is ideally suited for statically and dynamically loaded structures and is compatible to all resin systems.

Our friend and collaborator Guillermo (William) Fonseca of 1Off Rides is working on the interior panels using this awesome material. It can be fabricated as though it were MDF (the standard material for speaker boxes). It cuts fine with woodworking tools, and can be glued or screwed together to make complex shapes. Once the shapes are glued/screwed together and all the panels sanded/finished to fit, you can use ordinary fiberglass mesh and resin to make the shapes permanent.

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Unfair Rear suspension and Spohn’s Del-Spheres

When Art Morrison first approached us with the idea of the transforming / combination 3 and 4 link rear suspension, we loved the idea. And after I thought about it a bit longer, I called Matt Jones (their suspension engineer) at Morrison and told him to be sure and design the brackets of the new suspension to use Del-Spheres. Matt took some measurements and they were able to accommodate us.

As a result, Steve Spohn’s Del-Spheres are all over the rear suspension on Project Unfair, and for good reason. I first used Del-Spheres on my previous project (II Much) when the original rod ends started to wear (after a few hundred miles) and started to transmit NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) into the car. I swapped the rod-ends to Del-Spheres and it greatly reduced the NVH, with no loss of accuracy or articulation.

Strictly speaking, the Del-Spheres don’t have quite as much misalignment capability as a rod-end, but for rear suspension linkage arms like Unfair’s combination 3 / 4 link, it offers plenty with no loss of strength. The main body of the Del-Sphere is forged steel, with a forged ball. The body and ball are separated by Delrin rings, and the body incorporates a rebuildable and grease-able design that allows for the quiet of rubber and the accuracy of steel.

We’re confident the car will have excellent handling and ride characteristics, as well as handle the 1200 hp the engine will put when we put the hammer down!

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Here’s the whole rear suspension in what Frank and I call “5-link” mode. ūüôā Note how the Del-Spheres are used on all the control arms except the Watts link.

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This is the road racing setup with a 3 link. For drag racing, the upper control arm in the middle is removed and replaced with two control arms on the side. The Del-Spheres provide the misalignment we need for turning the car on the 3 link setup, and the strength for 1200 hp launches on the 4 link setup.

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Here’s a closeup of the Del-Sphere, screwed into one of Unfair’s 4 link upper control arms.

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Taking off the pre-load adjuster shows the Delrin inserts and how they isolate the ball from housing.

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Here’s a complete disassembly. The forging line in the housing is visible.

Vintage Air a/c install in II Much

I’ve been working on installing air conditioning in my car (named II Much, see more at www.iimuchfabrication.com) since late summer. ¬†I figure by the time the weather is really cold, I’ll have working A/C. ¬†ūüôā ¬†

Warning: I’ll be giving lots of kudos to the folks at Vintage Air. ¬†They are not a sponsor on the car, just so you know. ¬†Rick Love has answered all my pestering questions, and has been awesome with his support, suggestions, and information.

Anyway, I’ve just about finished the install, which was a big deal on a finished car. ¬†I had to remove the passenger fender and inner fenderwell, and tear out the entire dash. ¬†Every single part on the install was a custom fit. ¬†

I used Vintage Air’s new LS Front Runner (in anodized black, naturally). ¬†Awesome engineering. ¬†Installation was a snap, once I worked out how to fit my power steering pump in place: I had to use a remote reservoir, which meant I had to drill and tap the pump for the correct 10AN fitting. ¬†I used a Tony Woodward reservoir and NIC fittings. ¬†

The compressor requires a custom manifold to clear the inner fender.  The awesome folks at Vintage Air are building me a custom version based on my prototype.  It had to come out the back of the compressor, then up and over.  They are adding service ports to it as well.  

Installing the evaporator was even more difficult. ¬†My roll cage meant that ¬†I had to remove a lot of sheet metal in the interior (in the passenger side kick panel area).¬†I had to move my FAST ECU and eDIST over and out of the way, and pull my stereo completely out of the car. ¬†I’ll send the car back to 1OffRides (www.1Offrides.com) to have the stereo reinstalled behind the rear seat. ¬†With all that out of the way, I was able to mount the evaporator under the dash to my roll cage tubes with the fan housing sticking inside the lower cowl to the point of almost touching the outer sheet metal. ¬†I had to fab custom hardlines for the heater, and custom A/C bulkhead hose for the refrigerant. ¬†I also had to use hardline for the drain to an AN bulkhead fitting in the lower firewall.

After that, I made my own bulkhead plate to angle the hoses out of the car at a reasonable angle. ¬†From there, custom hardline heater hoses, drilled and tapped water pump, and custom refrigerant hoses. ¬†(next blog): Aeroquip’s new EZClip hose and ends. ¬†Good stuff!

I’m still wiring and working the final details (condenser will be here tomorrow) hopefully it’s a straightforward install.