MidLana Build Diary
2016, Jan-

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28 June 2016

Okay, the clock is ticking. My webhost has been instructed to upgrade this site, so sometime soon it will disappear, hopefully to be replaced by the new site! I chose to hire them for a month to do the upgrade rather than me cussing and swearing along with high blood pressure - I can be in the garage peacefully working on the car. When the new site first appears the blogs will only contain the last two years, but will be back-filled over time. As said before, if it's down for more than a day, don't worry, I'll be all too aware of it!

Before I lose the map app that tracks reader stats I thought you'd like to see some of the totals: >400,000 visits, 171 countries(!) and the top ten were the US (69%), Canada (8%), UK (7%), Australia (7%), Netherlands (2.5%), Finland (1.4%), New Zealand (1.3%), Germany (1.2%), Sweden (1%), and Brazil (0.8%).
26 June 2016

Not much to report this week. The mounts for the intercooler are fabricated, with one welded on and the others ready to be.

The plan is to upgrade this site within the next few weeks, hopefully mid-week so that weekend/Monday morning visitors won't see any interruptions. There are still a number of half-baked pages but it's far enough along that it's time to go through with it. The trick will be getting the now-local content into the server. If the site goes down for more than maybe a day, don't worry, I'll be all too aware that I busted it.
19 June 2016

I lasted until 2 pm when the heat chased me out of the garage. Engine installation is nearly done, but still needs the intercooler mount and the tube connecting the intercooler outlet to the intake manifold. The intercooler is large enough that it blocks a fair bit of the engine, so it needs to be quick and easy to remove from its mount; slapping something together isn't going to cut it.
17 June 2016

Engine hook up continues. First start may or may not be this weekend but with the first heat wave of the season targeting this weekend I'm not sure how far I'll get. An aside: I discovered a really odd thing about modern Honda engines, which of course are all metric, only they aren't completely. Decades ago they apparently "borrowed" a number of engine ideas from other manufacturers. Fast forward to last week when I tried screwing a 1/8"-27 pipe thread oil adaptor into the block where the factory oil pressure sensor normally goes. It didn't fit and I remembered having to run a tap into the old block in order to get on with things. Remembering that, I wondered what was going on. Since this engine is new and already in the car, I wanted to avoid possibly getting aluminum chips into the oil system. The Interweb had the answer; of all the threads in the world Honda chose to make this ONE threaded port 1/8"-28, which is British pipe thread! It's doubly-odd since it's hardly used anywhere in the world any longer, and also because U.S. pipe thread, which is a lot more common, is just one thread different, 1/8"-27. Just bizarre. Got an adaptor from McMaster, which charged what worked out to be 62% of the adaptor's cost just for postage. That's nice. [Edit] It was pointed out to me that "... many so-called metric hydraulic components use BSPP (British Standard Parallel Pipe) threads for female threaded ports on components, basically in the same application that ORB (SAE J514) ports are used in North American components." So there you go!

Asked the engine builder how much of a break-in is needed before having the car officially tuned, since this engine is different from the first on a few points: compression is 9:1 (was 8:1), the cams are different, the exhaust manifold has been changed, and the turbocharger turbine housing is 1.06 A/R (was 0.82). He recommended staying away from high rpm and building at least 100 miles on it. I can do that, a couple local drives around here to check for leaks, then one drive into the back country can accrue that in an afternoon.

Some of us where I work got rattled this week. A coworker announced his plans to retire on Monday - and on Wednesday died of a heart attack. It was a reminder that I need to think more about my own retirement. The unknowable dilemma we all face though is not knowing how long we have versus how much money we think we'll need. Do we retire early assuming we'll meet some quick fate before running out of money? Or, will we be blessed/cursed to live to 103, bedridden, miserable, and broke for the last 10 years? It reminds me of that saying, "When I was young I was afraid I'd die in an accident, now I'm afraid that I won't." It's little twisted but I get where it's coming from. The saying I keep recalling is "Life is what happens while you plan the future." Do what you want to do now instead of during retirement, as no one knows whether we'll get there.
12 June 2016

It's getting there. I had forgotten just how much of the turbo, oil, and fuel system changed, so there's a fair bit of reworking the various hoses. The overhead shot shows the organized mayhem - there's a surprising number of hoses in a turbo car with a dry sump!

In other news, I don't think it was crows that got to the duck eggs. This morning there was a coyote in the backyard just looking around. What really surprised me was when he picked up a stick, threw it into the air, caught it, and starting running around the yard like a complete lunatic. Pretty sure it's a young one because it was having the time of his/her life, just amusing itself. About the time I wondered how it got it, it just walked toward a 6-ft fence and leaped over, no problem.

Lastly, car progress has slowed some due to making more visits to see mom. She's really slowing down and sadly we've been down this road before and know where it's headed. Like I told someone, "I accept it but don't have to like it."
5 June 2016

So I'm reconnecting everything to the engine, starting with the oil system. Cleaned out the oil lines and found more FOD from the old engine breakage. Was just about to reconnect the oil/coolant heat-exchanger when I had the following conversation with Voice In My Head (VIMH):

Me: "Time to connect the oil/coolant heat-exchanger."
VIMH: "Making good progress."
Me: "Thing is, I found enough junk in the hoses that I think I should check the heat-exchanger."
VIMH: "Nah, it'll be fine."
Me: "Yeah but the exchanger is directly downstream of the dry sump tank, which had crap in it."
VIMH: "If you worry about every little thing you'll never get it done."
Me: "The more I think about it the more it seems like there'll be junk in it."
VIMH: "It'll slow you down, just push forward and stop wasting time."
Me: "You know, how about you go sit in the corner and I disassemble it and find out."

Good thing I did. While it is upstream of the oil filters, them having to catch every bit of bad stuff from getting into a brand new engine is really poor form. Yeah, much of that grit is dirt from the outside surfaces, and while most of the metal is aluminum, not all of it is, so cleaning wasn't an option. That last picture is a single bit of hard aluminum that was wedged in one of the screened dry sump pan pick ups, which would have gone through both the scavenge and pressure sections of the pump - no thanks!

4 June 2016

The first heat wave of the season made it too unpleasant to work in the garage, so the air conditioner was set up, wired, and the lines vacuumed and back-purged. Opened the refrigerant valves and nothing horrible happened, so now part of our house can be pleasant during our annual heat. For me, getting a good night's sleep is the biggest reason to have A/C. With a SEER rating of 30.5, it's crazy-efficient, claiming to run an entire "season" (whatever that means) for $70 - that's pretty good.

My brother's running his car at Buttonwillow this weekend where it's 106 degrees ("it's a dry heat"). He said on Saturday three cars broke that he knew of, a Volvo wagon, an STi, and a stock car type vehicle that pretty much burned to the ground (driver's fine). It's just another reminder that even though it isn't real racing, there are still consequences of heading out on track. He also said there were three Vipers, two of which had race slicks and one a hardcore track-only beast, and he passed all on his street tires, including a Porsche GT3 - pretty sweet.

The duck nest didn't last long; momma duck didn't choose a secluded enough location and crows got at the eggs. She keeps showing up, her hormones telling her she's supposed to be sitting on the nest yet there's nothing there any more, poor little thing. Nature is very efficient.
30 May 2016

Engine arrived last week from Drag Cartel, on schedule again. Borrowed the engine hoist from my brother and out came the old one, with the damage clearly evident with it out of the car. While transferring the transaxle from the old engine to the new, turned out that the clutch housing was just barely contacting the transaxle housing; I wonder if Competition Clutch has heard of this. Ground the transaxle housing just enough that it shouldn't contact it then installed the clutch to the new engine and bolted the transaxle to the engine. Cleaned up the engine bay and welded in new mounts for the dry sump tank as well as an additional mount for the water/oil heat exchanger. After that, "engine V2.0" went into the car and then the weekend was done.

In other news, looks like we're going to be parents of ducklings. In the second to last picture, see if you can spot momma duck, sitting right in the center of the frame; she's amazingly hard to spot. Did some reading up on them and a usual "clutch" is 12 eggs, so I don't know if she'd done laying. The most interesting thing is that the eggs remain inert until she lays the last one and start sitting. Only then do all the eggs start developing in parallel so they all hatch within 1-2 days. That way mom doesn't have to hang around for days or weeks waiting for each one to hatch in turn. After they're all hatched she'll march them to the nearest water, which will probably be our pond. Two months later, they should be ready fly and off they'll go. Should be pretty cool to watch.

22 May 2016

Made good progress on the new website; one of the sticking point was providing easy visibility into the old diaries and it's more or less squared away. There'll be four search methods: post by post, by year and month, a Midlana-centric Google search bar, and categories and tags. It all works but I need to format the categories and tags better, then start back-filling the old diaries. When I'm in the middle of something that's going well I tend to keep going even at the expense of other projects, but car progress was still made. By the way, one thing very noticeable is how much clearer and sharper the images are. Even though they're the same root images, the web software apparently handles them different and they look way better.

Sunday was spent deciding where the dry sump tank, Spintric air/oil-separator, the relocated ethanol sensor, and the new fuel filter will go. Both the Spintric and ethanol sensor are now mounted in their final positions. The dry sump tank's position is set; it just needs the mounts, and the fuel filter's position is loosely decided.

On the engine front, Drag Cartel is making fast progress now that they have all the machined and cleaned parts in-house. The intercooler mount will probably wait until the new engine's in place, unless I get everything else done first.

15 May 2016

A number of things have happened:

The forum is back online and the forum software updated; this should be the end of interruptions for a long time.

Intercooler placement was finalized (read: "make a decision and move on"), placing it on the centerline of the car. In a straight-on rear-end accident, if it gets pushed forward it'll hit the main roll hoop diagonal, and if it somehow gets past that, it should pass between the seats. With that out of the way, the end tanks were finished and welded on; in 15 years, this is only the third time the cooling fan has come on - welding thicker aluminum requires significant current. As to how much air can be fed through it, I'll be learning along with you guys. An F1-style scoop would certainly work but will block rear visibility. Another approach is having scoops protruding from each side feeding air in that way. All will become clear after some aero testing.

It's official, the cylinder head and various engine parts were delivered to the engine builder, Jeremy of Drag Cartel; we met midway at an import car show. I only took a few pictures because it irks me that so many people do the "I'm different - just like all my friends" thing, a lot of chrome, a lot of turbos, and not much independent thinking, including a surprising lack of air filter elements. Independent thought was noted, such as an old Honda 600 with a Honda bike engine (and gas tank) that fit like a glove. Jeremy's drag car was a work of art, very elegant; it was clear that someone knew what they were doing. That engine generates around 400 hp at 10,000 rpm. I noticed that the car used the same remote oil filter adaptor I am - the one where the nut backed off, leaving me stranded with oil everywhere. I let him know. I got there really early to hand off the parts to Jeremy before the crowds arrived, and arrive it did. I left about 10am and there were 100s of Hondas backed up out to the freeway heading toward the event. The police took notice as well, with several cars pulled over at any one time. Get a bunch of young roosters together and there's always one that has to show off, and presto, red lights. Need to learn to contain it, guys.

Lastly, work on the new website continues. Right now I'm trying to figure out how to use the blog page for this year's blog, but somehow have an archive directory to previous years.

9 May 2016

I am aware that the Midlana forum is down. The hosting service migrated my sites to new servers, which went fine, but at around the same time the forum died for some reason. I sent in a service request so we'll have to wait and see - just hope it's not corrupted.

Work continues on the new site. At some point it'll be switched on but I want to move over some of the old diaries first, then backfill them over time - that's a job in itself.
8 May 2016

Three steps forward, two steps back.

Until today, intercooler placement was pretty much decided, based upon tube routing and expected air flow. Today I realized something ugly; if Midlana gets rear-ended or backs off the road/track into something solid, the intercooler becomes a battering ram aimed straight at me. It's solidly built and would have no problem pushing past the small forward tube and panel. With the amount of aluminum in it (20 lbs) it would overpower the top of the seatback as well, folding it - and my head - forward. Ugh.

With end tanks, the intercooler is 31" wide, so where it's shown is about where it has to go if it stays laterally along the back edge. There, the problem is turbo heat since it's below it, so some air management would be needed. If it's moved forward it'll have to sit higher to clear the valve cover, which might be okay. So instead of doing a bunch of welding today (which I quite enjoy), I closed up shop and took Midi over to see mom for Mother's Day. Of course my brother continues to pitch the idea of an GM LS engine being the solution to everything. Hell, if something happens to the new engine, I may be in a foul enough mood to cut the chassis aft of the main hoop and incorporate said LS. Who knows :).
6 May 2016

On the home front, we're considering adding air conditioning, as several months each year it gets downright unpleasant, both hot and humid. Our home was originally built for central air; the hoses are hanging out the side of the house but we never installed it. The reason is that they're really inefficient and expensive to run; my brother says his electric bill increases as much as $300 a month, cooling off the entire home just to cool even one room. Always wanting to learn new things, I started looking into alternatives.

The first candidate was portable units, but the overwhelming volume of negative comments about them made me not even want to go there: very inefficient, noisy, and really lacking in cooling capacity.

The second candidate was window units. They're typically noisy, both themselves and allowing in outside noise, they're a security concern, don't look good (especially sticking out the front of the house) and in our case at least, a no-go because our windows are too narrow.

The third candidate was through-the-wall units. The concern again was noise, and cutting and framing a big hole in the wall.

Then I discovered a fourth type, widely used in Europe and Asia, "mini split" systems, where a small unit is attached high on an interior wall, containing only a very quiet fan and radiator. Refrigerant flows through two hoses through a small hole to an outside compressor. It's virtually silent, the compressor can be hidden from view, the wall unit is small and unobtrusive, and no big holes are needed. A system consists of: an external compressor (already charged with refrigerant), the wall-mount unit, a set of hoses, control cables, and a remote control. This is where things get interesting.

While promising, because the unit arrives as separate pieces, it's not as simple as mounting the boxes, screwing the hoses on and opening the valves. Humidity trapped inside the hoses freezes into hard pellets and destroys the compressor, so the air must be vacuumed out to boil off the humidity, so a pump is necessary. It's also good to purge the lines with nitrogen, so between the two, it's why nearly all mini split systems are installed by professionals. But because they aren't all that popular here yet, HVAC guys seem to be taking advantage of the situation and charging $1000-2000 just for installation. Always looking for a challenge, I could almost hear Jeremy Clarkson asking "How hard could it be?" Turns out there are a few issues:

First, doing it myself would require a vacuum pump, hoses, a good vacuum gauge, and a source of nitrogen, running around $300. Second, installing it myself means voiding the warrantee - virtually no manufacturer covers a unit not installed by a pro. Third, most air conditioners require 230VAC, of which there was none nearby.

Buying my own gear isn't that terrible, especially since the vacuum pump could also be used for, oh, vacuum-bagging composite parts. Also, for what the pros charge I could risk it, and if it ever broke, either fix it myself or just buy another unit - and still have spent less than having it professionally installed.

Regarding the power, air conditioners in general take a lot, at least they used to back when they were fairly inefficient. For that reason, running them on 115VAC was always a bit iffy, so manufacturers sell way more 230VAC units (read: like 10 times as many). The good thing is that they're more efficient than 115VAC units, and because of improvements over the years, they're getting seriously good at what they do, some cooling a bedroom for several months a year for only about $1 a day. The trick is running 230VAC to the unit, but our fuse panel was already full. Worse, even if there was space for another breaker, because it's an older panel, replacement breakers are ridiculously priced. Wondering if I was stuck using a 115V unit, I noticed the 230-V breaker on the panel labeled "dryer" - "Hey wait, we have a gas dryer, well isn't that convenient!" So the plan is to reroute that circuit over to where the remote compressor will go. That's the plan for now, and the goal is to get it online before the seasonal misery hits, which is typically around the first of September.
5 May 2016

Yup, the inner workings of websites and host management is just as much fun as I remember - nothing ever "just works." The suspicion was that building up the site locally (hosting it on my own PC) would be pretty straightforward - and it is. The suspicion was also that migrating it onto my host's server would be a pain - and it was. With 10's of millions of WordPress sites, it's amazing how the host's reaction was essentially a shrug, saying it's not their software. Nice try, since virtually none of the database management software they use was created by them. I pointed out that I had just installed WordPress - which they provide - onto their own server and once installed, nothing could be updated. Again, "we know nothing about those plug-ins, try contacting the creators." I pointed out that every single plug-in failed to work and in fact WordPress itself requested an update, which also failed. I suggested that - just maybe - the problem was at their end... not mentioning that my local installation worked just fine. Finally, "well we can try migrating you to a server which has a more recent version of xxx." Given no other choice, that sounded like a great idea... Waiting now to see if that fixes things.

That's the dilemma of working on the car and maintaining the site; both need to be done but only one can be worked on at a time. It's frustrating when hours go by with nothing to show for it. On the car side of things, the 4"-diameter tubing arrived, the welding tanks are filled, so there should be some actual progress this weekend!
3 May 2016

I gave up on trying to bend 0.080" aluminum into a cylinder and couldn't access a slip roller. The pieces will just be too visible for something beaten by hand to pass inspection. For that reason, two 12"-lengths of 4"-diameter aluminum tubing were ordered through Mcmaster.com. As said before, they'll be cut lengthwise to sit on the ends of the tanks, and starting out as tubing means they'll look a lot better than whatever I'd have come up with.

Saturday morning, took the argon tanks over to be filled and surprise, I forgot that the welding shop had a new owner, who apparently decided to take Saturdays off. Fine. I didn't feel like doing anything in the garage so instead the day was spent working on the new website. I work with this stuff so rarely that every time it's like starting over, but the website building program WordPress certainly helps. Things are moving along, lumps and all, and I try to work on it a bit each evening.

My brother signed up for the Virginia City (Nevada) Hill Climb. It's not held until late August but even that far out, I'm not sure Midlana will be fully sorted by then, meaning engine received, installed, running, tuned, and intercooler ducting figured out. We'll see how it goes, but the closer the date comes the higher the entry fee gets, currently at $600. Ugh... the cost of our fun.
23 April 2016

For the intercooler end tanks, the plan was to use 4" OD tubing, cutting it lengthwise to fit the tank ends, but there was nothing available locally. The plan then changed to bending sheet aluminum into a cylindrical shape but due to the thick material, bending it went poorly. I'll see if I can borrow the use of a slip-roller to create the proper curves, instead of making something looking like someone beat them with a hammer.

With that set aside, attention turned to fabricating the exhaust (part of the ongoing plan to get as much done as possible while the cylinder head is still on hand positioning the turbo). Got the main tubing tacked together about the time one argon tank became empty, which is why it's good to have two - unless of course that one was empty as well. Oops.

Okay fine, on to Plan C. The dry sump tank was very dirty and suspected of containing FOD from the engine drama (the term seems to have two definitions, "Foreign Object Damage" and "Foreign Object Debris"). There was a fair amount of aluminum flakes in the tank; who knows what else was in there as well.

About then, home stuff intruded, playing IT tech on my wife's PC, along with replacing a leaking natural gas valve behind the kitchen stove!

In other news, about the time ads were added to the website, an odd issue started happening, where a connection couldnít be made to midlana.com, kimini.com, or the forum. Any other PC worked fine, and it could be accessed via phone, but only when WIFI was disabled. Spent an hour on the phone with the ISP, tracing the problem to the router. The ISP also mentioned in passing that I had an old router that it was throttling data and should be updated, though that wasn't the direct cause of my issue. Anyhow, I went ahead and replaced the router and presto, everything started working again, probably because Goggle ads contain something that the old router couldnít handle. Strange, especially since the forums donít have any ads...

Lastly, a new Midlana site is in the works. It'll contain all the same information as now with a much cleaner interface. It'll have additional information about the car by topic, delving into some of the particulars for people wondering whether Midlana is for them (of course it is!). I realize that navigating huge build blogs trying to find something in particular isn't easy. It'll take months to set up and get running, and I dread what itíll take to transfer over all the diary text and pictures, but so it goes. In the meantime, the current present site will stay up to date right up to the switch-over.

17 April 2016

The re-designed intercooler placement takes shape. New end tanks have to be made, both because there's not enough space for the previous ones, and as my buddy Alan reminded me, with around 20 psi boost pressure, that ends up being hundreds of pounds of force. Given a chance, that force would flex any flat-sided tank, work-harden the welds and causing them to crack; the new tanks will be cylindrical to avoid that. After taking these pictures, I changed the tube routing on the inlet side. As shown, the flow would have had to take a very tight 90-degree turn right out of the compressor, which is terrible for flow. The turbo outlet will be rotated to point downward and the flow will instead be fed through two large-radius 90-degree bends feeding into the center of the end tank from below. It's also cheaper because the U-bends are already on-hand.

What will be decided later is where to get the cooling air from. Which approach to take will be determined with some test drives, string on sticks to determine flow direction, and clear U-shaped water-filled tubes serving as manometers to determine relative pressure. Regardless where it comes from it sure is going to change the appearance of the car - so be it.

The new engine is slowly coming together; shown is a coated pistons and pin. This week, the pistons, pins, and rods will be sent to ERL where the block will be honed and the short assembly clearanced and balanced. After that it's back to the engine builder to add the inspected cylinder head and then we'll be back in business. Reminds me that I need to send the head and various parts to the engine builder pretty soon so that I'm not holding up anything.

In other news, as seen from above, the driver's right-hand shoulder belt bracket was found misaligned but wasn't loose - I didn't set it that way. Seems the spin at Willow may have been more forceful than I thought and with the car spinning to the right and catching the dirt bank, I apparently tried to keep going toward the left. It's crossed my mind a few times that the HANS may well have prevented some serious neck injury.

13 April 2016

Well nuts; I may be completely wrong about this and have to step back.

After discussing intercooler placement with people smarter than me, there was pretty much one answer (unlike asking why the engine broke, but I digress). The consensus is that the proposed intercooler location isn't going to work at all, with virtually no air flow through it. The discussion concluded with either scoops being added to the sides of the car, or better yet, an F1-style air intake snorkel. I've been resisting the latter for two reasons: it blocks rear visibility (which some people claim isn't a big deal - until they try it), and the air riding up and over the windscreen may get thrown high enough that it completely misses the intake. Unfortunately though I think they're right, and I feel bad that I caught myself just hoping that things would work out - that's not good engineering.

There's only a few places for such a large intercooler but one unexpected perk of having it where it's shown is that the snorkel ends up directly behind me, out of the path of the mirror. Yeah I know I can add side mirrors and maybe I will, but if it works out without them, all the better. If the core ends up as shown, it means an entirely new engine cover is needed, maybe composite, maybe not, depending what kind of air boxes are out there. Another perk of going with a snorkel is that it can also feed the air filter. Lastly, if the core ends up there, it effectively eliminates about 3 feet of intake tubing.

Right now different positions are being tried out so for now end tank fabrication has been set aside in the interest of - surprise - thinking the design problem through first!
10 April 2016

The turbo brace is finished; time will tell how well the (non-Teflon lined) rod end stands up to the turbo heat. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just support the weight of the header and turbo when the car hits bumps.

I found out why good intercoolers are so expensive. Cheap units have fins in only the cooling (air) passages, while high efficiency units such as Garrett have fins in both the cooling air path and the charge air path. While I'm all for cheap, it seems a bad idea to save some money up front but have higher intake air temperatures and possible knocking for the life of engine number 2.

Speaking of costs, you've by now see the ads. Long-term, I'm hoping that they'll recoup some expenses associated with track events (and blown engines!). Probably should have done this a long time ago but I'm no different than you; I really dislike ads but this arrangement will be unobtrusive and there won't be any pop-ups - promise. Plus, any advertisers that I have issues with will be "disappeared", so I'm not completely selling out.

And lastly is a rather odd-looking computer keyboard. It seems that a coworker is returning from paternity leave soon and some of his buddies felt that he should be welcomed back appropriately. While I'm not sure how the possible destruction of company property will go over, I have to give the culprits credit for being resourceful... yes, those are real sprouts.

3 April 2016

Odds and ends:

The new turbo manifold is done other than the support brace. Some people hang a 20-pound turbo on a manifold cantilevered off a vibrating block and wonder why the manifold cracks; hopefully the brace will eliminate that.

During disassembly, the knock sensor was found to be completely loose in its mount. Lovely...

The deburring wheel was replaced. These $60-100 wheels are expensive but are magic for what they do, one lasts about one car project :)

Instead of adapting the existing air filter box, a cylindrical air filter is mounted straight to the turbo inlet. Haven't decided where it'll get air from yet.

The water pump housing was removed since itís going on the new block. A new water pump was ordered as a precaution since the age of the old one was unknown. With the housing off the block and on the bench I fixed the alignment of the alternator mount that was causing the belt to wipe laterally across the water pump pulley, rubbing off the anodizing. I figured if that was happening it wasn't doing the belt any favors.

The rear engine mount doesn't look good - this may well be the source of the clunking I was hearing getting on or off the gas. It appears that the inner steel bushing wore through the urethane, though I don't understand how. The urethane will probably be replaced with Delrin; the stiffer material isn't too big a deal since it'll only see pressure (and transmit vibration) under acceleration.

The bottom third of the rear panel was cut out, not a huge loss since it was really beat up from the off at Willow Springs. The intercooler was mocked up more or less in position, where it'll be stared at for a while in order to figure out how the puzzle is going to fit together. The idea is get air from under the car to flow through the intercooler and into the low pressure area behind the car - I just have no idea if that's going to work. Theoretically there's a low pressure area behind the car that can be used to pull air through the intercooler. On the other hand, the fast moving air under the car is at a low pressure as well and might be lower than the pressure behind the car. Because I don't know which region has lower pressure, I can't even say for sure which way the air's going to want to flow through the core. Due to not knowing, space will be left for a radiator fan on the intercooler, sucking air in from under the car and blowing it out the back. A new lower panel or mesh will fill in around the intercooler.

Aluminum tubing U-bends will be ordered this week both for fabricating the intercooler end tanks and pointing the various hoses in the right directions.

Lastly, a good friend who's roughly my same age retired this week. Aside from losing a parent, having someone my own age retiring hits me again regarding my own situation: how long will I live, where do I want to live, what do I want to do, how much do we need in order to be able to do that, and on and on and on. Anyway, I'm going to miss our conversations, Joe!

27 March 2016

Faced the header flange; in this case a side cutter worked better than a fly cutter. The flange was warped really bad, nearly 0.125" which explains why some of the original profile was lost. After that, holes were drilled and threaded for the exhaust gas temperature (EGT) sensors. The holes look kind of goofy but it's where they had to go on the different primary tubes in order to end up with the sensor tips equidistance from the head. The Interweb has all sorts of conflicting information on how far from the head the sensors should be placed. The more reputable information seemed to suggest 1.25", so that's what was done. Also, the same sources noted that typically, the sensors are used only for tuning or calibration and not left in place. On the other hand my brother said EGT sensors are always left installed in aircraft, so I'm not sure about the context of the original information.

In the last two pictures, that giant lint ball with legs is my buddy Lee's cat, and there's Midi on his way to see Mom and her dog, and my brother's Boston Terriers. They have a great time chasing each other around the yard.

Some late news: Right now Lulu, the book printer, is running a 20%-off everything sale, discount code "BASKET20." It's only good through midnight Sunday (tonight) but if you miss it keep checking; I'm pretty sure they'll be running discounts over the next month or so due to it being tax (refund) season.

20 March 2016

I posted pictures of the failed parts on a forum. It's always hard to to know how knowledgeable the responses are, but surprise, the theories aren't much different than before, though the most popular suspicion is that a rod bolt broke.

In other news, the manifold is getting there but still needs ports for the EGT sensors, some touch-up welding, and having the flange fly-cut to eliminate heat distortion. Hopefully the way the single wastegate is adapted to the twin-scroll setup will work. I'm a little concerned because the wastegate tube joins at nearly right angles, which is a big no-no in gas flow. The exhaust flow not only doesn't like turning sharp corners, but the passing exhaust flow will actually try to pull air in from the wastegate. Don't believe me? Try blowing across the top of a straw in a cup of water and watch what the water does - it's how siphon-type paint sprayers work. Hopefully it'll work out because it's so much more compact than the last placement.

And lastly, my buddy Kane edited down Midlana's most recent Streets of Willow event, recorded from outside the car.

7 March 2016

Finally posting pictures that are a bit more light-hearted pictures from the last event. My buddy Kane brought out a pretty cool device called a Pixel Stick, which allows creating these neat images seemingly floating in space. We had a fun time other than the car nonsense. Sorry I didn't generate big clouds of tire smoke on the skid pad... I left the smoke later in the day and in fact if you look carefully at the last picture, there's a trace behind Midlana - very expensive smoke.

6 March 2016

Pulled piston/rods 1, 2, and 4. The rods, pins, bolts, skirts, rings, ring lands, and bearings look great - to me. Some have said the crowns show evidence of high heat but I really can't tell.

One thing several people have said is that running 11 degrees spark timing at 220 kpa and 6000 rpm (where it failed) is retarded - literally - meaning it's far too little spark advance. Alas - and again - Interweb searches show two very different groups, one saying that it should be around 20 degrees and the other saying it should about 10-12, right where it was. I don't know enough to know what's right, and it's very frustrating not finding more of a common answer, but it matters less and less since this engine isn't repairable and the tune for the new engine will be closely reviewed after it's back up and running.

Currently waiting for the rest of the exhaust parts so the header build can start. The idea is to do that first so that the head (currently serving as the exhaust manifold fixture) can be delivered to the engine builder for cleaning, inspection and reuse. Quoted lead time on the engine is 10-12 weeks, so there'll be plenty of time to rework both the exhaust and intercooler.
5 March 2016

I researched filtration for ethanol systems and am pretty sure the fuel filter isn't ethanol-capable - never dawned on me that it wouldn't be since it's a paper element. An Injector Dynamics article on filtration was pretty helpful and noted that "...6 and 12 micron microglass, ethanol-compatible fuel filters did well in our testing and are recommended", so a Fuelab 6-micron microglass unit will be added. Hard not to wonder if this was at the bottom of it all - don't want to think about it.

On a related note, the fuel pressure regulator is also suspect for the same reason. I bought it about 5-6 years ago used and who knows how old it was then. The concern is that E85-compatible aftermarket parts didn't really start hitting the market until maybe after this one was manufactured. As a precaution, a known-compliant regulator will be used.

In other news, during the collapsing intake fiasco an engineer deep within Garrett offered to help out. He noted that the engine would gain performance and lower boost (lessening the risk of detonation) by going with a larger 1.06 A/R turbine housing over the existing 0.83 housing. His recommendation was noted but put aside after the scoop failure was found. Now, with moving the turbo closer to the exhaust ports, a new exhaust manifold is needed. Because turbo merge collectors can be tricky to make with thick-wall pipe, I wanted to use a cast stainless collector. Turns out that it's hard to find divided ones for T3 housings housings but they're widely available in the larger T4 frame, so the switch was made. The idea is that the less-restrictive housing will offset the larger A/R (0.83 A/R isn't available), and that by keeping it divided, lag won't be increased.
4 March 2016

It's interesting the widely (wildly?) differing opinions from people who really know this stuff, the latest being comments that the plugs look good, with no sign of detonation. That was yesterday. Today the injectors and test results came back - note that I didn't tell them what had happened or which one was suspect. Looking at the results sheet, well son of a... (by chance, #2 on the sheet happens to be cylinder #2). I'm very surprised, given that a 10 micron filter is immediately upstream, though I don't know how large a particle the injector can pass without clogging, what if it's only, oh, 8 microns - I'll have to ask them. Additionally, I'm surprised they only flow 1400 cc wide open because they're advertised as "1650 cc" injectors at the same pressure. Not sure what to do with them - sell them and get... what in their place? How would different injectors prevent this from happening again?

The experts have settled into two groups. One says the failure was "absolutely due to detonation, with signs of high heat." The other says "no signs of detonation, the rod big end or a rod bolt failed due to a manufacturing flaw." The picture of the piston bottom shows virtually no heat, unlike what the pro-heat camp suggests would be present as a dark or black area (the gray area is where the destroyed rod hit the piston). Then there's being told that running 11 degrees timing is nuts, that it should be more like 20 degrees or so. Mind you, I didn't pick the timing values, the tuner did, though I'm still ultimately responsible for keeping an eye on things.

At this point, examination of the evidence is pretty much done and I'm left with the dubious knowledge that about all I know for sure is that one injector had a very poor pattern. Time to move on with the new build, intercooler, and exhaust setup.

I just realized something - that my fuel filter and regulator may not be ethanol-compliant. Now wouldn't that be an expensive lesson if that's at the root of this?
28 Feb 2016

Removed the dry sump pump and injectors, both will be sent out for inspection and cleaning this week.

Edited and converted the video. For some reason it's uploading really slow but it should appear at Midlana at Streets of Willow 2/20/2016 when done. If it doesn't work try searching on the title and I'll figure it out tomorrow - time to sleep now. More still pictures coming soon.
27 Feb 2016

Moving the turbo over aft of the exhaust ports means fabricating a new exhaust manifold, either starting from scratch or seeing how much of the old one can be used. I doubted anyone could use my header since virtually all K-series engines are at the front of cars where it wouldn't fit anyone's engine bay, never mind being turbocharged. It was cut along the exhaust flange, then each primary knocked apart at the slip-joints, then the 2-1 junctions cut off. I may end up buying a new T3 twin-scroll merge collector since that's the trickiest part. That said, most available parts are setup for thick 304 stainless pipe, not tubing, so I may build that type for fun.

My brother stopped by and observed how, with the existing intercooler being removed from behind the driver's seat, the dry sump tank could move there - good idea! It moves weight forward, frees up more space for the new intercooler, and results in slightly shorter oil hoses. The last picture is what sank to the bottom of the dry sump pump. Dragging a magnet through it turned up some very small steel bits but hopefully nothing went through the dry sump pump. That and the injectors will be sent out next week for cleaning and inspection.
26 Feb 2016

Disassembled the engine in-place. The turbo is in perfect condition which means nothing went through it. The front cover was removed, then the head, then the #2 piston. The cylinder walls were in amazing condition - the hone crosshatching still clearly visible with no scuff marks in any cylinders, even in #2. The #2 piston showed some sign of impacting the valves though the valves don't appear bent. The head will be cleaned and fully checked out, then reused assuming it's not cracked.

I sent closeup pictures of the cylinder and piston to the engine builder and he suspects I had a fuel or ignition problem. The injectors will be sent out to be flow tested and cleaned. I don't really understand how a lack of ignition could cause high heat, but what do I know.

The reason the engine was disassembled in-place because since the turbo is being moved; the exhaust manifold flange's location must remain fixed until it's mocked up. Moving the turbo closer to the exhaust ports greatly reduces the surface area of the manifold and feeds more heat into the turbo instead of the engine compartment. The car's been running without a muffler for many months because of how well the turbo acts as a muffler, and it finally occured to men that not having a muffler frees up even more space for the new intercooler. (If I ever run the car at Laguna Seca with its 92 dB sound limit, an external muffler will be temporarily attached.
24 Feb 2016

A lot has been going on, mostly reading and talking to knowledgeable engine people. One engine guy says the plugs absolutely show signs of detonation, one said maybe, and one said no... nice. The pictures are the best I could do with my cellphone (my good camera doesn't have a macro lens yet) so sorry for the slightly blurry pictures. While I feel compelled to point out that the tuner set up the timing tables, it was my responsibility to keep a close eye on the plugs.

I've been wavering back and forth between building another turbo engine and "bowing out gracefully", resigning myself to a less-powerful normally aspirated (NA) engine, but one presumably more reliable - maybe. The "problem" is that I won't be happy with 200 hp, or even 300. While the Honda K-series engine can indeed produce 350 hp NA, it's not rocket science how it's done. A CNC-ported head, over-bored, sometimes with a stroker crank, and then spun like hell. I don't mean 8000 rpm, or 9000, it's often 10,000+ rpm. That seems bad to me for reliability, never mind being many $1000s more than a turbo engine. Such an engine is probably awesome for drag racing where it's run hard for 10 seconds then cools for many minutes. On the other hand, drive 20-30 minutes on a road course and I just can't see how it'll last long. Would it last longer at 10,000 rpm than a turbo engine would at 200 kpa and 7000 rpm? I think I'd bet - no. Many people will say that turbo cars are unreliable and a big pain in the neck at the track, and while they aren't wrong, I also feel many of those cars cut corners. I'm convinced it can be done and I'm willing to give it another try.

Things I plan to do differently:

1. Install a much larger intercooler across the rear of the car*
2. Have my ECU calibration and protection setup professionally reviewed
3. Run less boost at track events (though the intercooler may allow more)
4. Inspect plugs after every session
6. Work out a protection deal with God

*For some time I've been thinking of moving the turbo over to behind the engine near the exhaust ports - there's space. It would free up a lot of space around where it is now and no longer bake everything in the area. It would also place the compressor outlet close to the new intercooler, the air filter assembly would have to move as well, to "somewhere", and the intercooler-to-inlet distance would increase, but it's probably a net gain overall.

The fun pictures and video will come later, too much going on right now.
21 Feb 2016

Two years ago, Midlana's first Willow Springs track day was cut short due to the fuel filter being installed backwards - my fault. Last event I spun off in T8-9, damaging a couple of body panels and my pride, but nothing serious. This weekend, well, read on...

Saturday morning we ran two skid pad sessions in which I found drifting Midlana to be harder than expected. Due to the size of the circle, Midlana was either at the top of first gear or the bottom of second, neither being optimal. The top of first meant hanging around 6000-7000 for an extended period of time, which I didn't like doing. In second gear, the car pushes wider than the smallish circle we had to follow. Any time you see videos of cars drifting - on Top Gear for example - they don't have a set path to follow. The driver's left to reach the speed he wants, pitching the car sideways and using the throttle to steer the rear for the camera. I think every car has an optimum speed at which to drift and be able to easily control it. Or maybe it's just my lack of skill...

Anyway, after I'd finished my second skid pad session, a late model BMW M5 went out and threw a rod due to oil starvation; a very expensive weekend for the owner - I would become more understanding later...

They then had us run a short version of the Streets of Willow course and we were only allowed to pass on the one straight. I got stuck behind a BMW that wouldn't pull over and got annoyed, so I let the newish Porsche GT3 behind me by to beat on the BMW for a while. The Beemer eventually relented and let us both pass so I then got to see if I could keep up with the GT3 - he couldn't get away and boy was I having fun! Full disclosure: the event was a class; there was a good chance the owner was either new to the car or inexperienced. It didn't matter much to me as I was not only able to keep up but had to lift so I didn't run into him. He wouldn't let me by because he had the "faster car." And then...

Heading down the straight I had just shifted to 3rd when Midlana suddenly lost some power, like it was running on three cylinders. At first I thought I had blown the gearbox because after pushing in the clutch, it was still idling. I coasted to the side of the course, shut it off, and thought about my fate as I waited for a tow. I realized that things were bad, that one way or another I was going to have to pull the drivetrain, I just didn't know why. Through the helmet and earplugs I couldn't hear what the GoPro - mounted to the chassis - heard, the rattling of a connecting rod...

So maybe you're wondering "what did the ECU datalogs show?" Good question and I wish I could tell you, because the effing ECU datalogger didn't record it! It did record the car warming up in the morning, it did record the two skid pad sessions, and it also recorded driving from the trailer to the hot pits before going out on-track, and that's the last recording - extremely frustrating to put it mildly. Posting questions on the manufacturer's forum has resulted in silence... hmm. Working with what I have for what happened is the GoPro video. It's not high enough resolution to be able to read the values, but I can see that oil pressure, oil temperature, and coolant temperature were in a green font, indicating that all was well with the engine. It wasn't until later when looking under the car, we found just how dire it was - a hole through the block and pan. Somewhat surprising, instead of being upset about the cost, the amount of work, or the downtime (all of which will be substantial) what keeps going around in my head is "why?" and "what should I do different to avoid this next time?" I'm completely mystified why the engine failed because:

1. It was built to withstand 9300 rpm - the rev limit was 7700 rpm.
2. The rods can handle 800 hp, I was running 400
3. The pistons are a conservative 9:1 compression ratio
4. The block is sleeved, typically only necessary when running more than 600 hp
5. Boost was 18 psi on ethanol, which is around 400 hp
6. The ECU protects the engine from oil and coolant over-temp, low oil pressure, MCT protection, and knock protect (though I set all of these up).

This evening I sent the picture of the plugs to a buddy who used to build 1000+ hp Honda drag engines. As soon as he saw the close-up picture he immediately said that in his opinion, I killed it due to detonation. A very bitter pill if true and I've forwarded the picture to the engine builder to get a second opinion. I'll post more pictures this week, along with the video of chasing the GT3, which almost made it worthwhile.
15 Feb 2016

Increased the left front camber 1/2 turn and the right rear camber a full turn, whatever that ends up being, to better balance the car.

I had the day off so did a test drive into the back country: up Palomar Mountain, down the east side, across Mesa Grande then back through Ramona and Highland Valley Road. Unfortunately it was ridiculously warm for February, around 90 degrees F, never mind getting stuck in an endless train of RVs and toy haulers returning from their weekend desert outings. Both my brother and I have a habit of driving up Palomar Mountain at about 30-40 mph - never using our brakes. It makes for a less-threatening-to-others approach to test drives; no spinning tires, no drifting, no hard acceleration, yet corners are nearly traction-limited. It's saved us several times coming around a bend and finding a cop sitting there. Anyway, around a few turns the car was really loaded up but felt much better than before, so that's promising. My brother said "so what you're saying is that I figured it all out for you." I said, "well what happens if it still spins off on-track?" His reply was, "well in that case it would mean that you obviously did something wrong then." I see...

I've started hearing something loose in the car, like a component not fully-restrained somewhere behind or near the driver's seat. It's noticeable during even slight acceleration and also when swerving back and forth. I got under the car and couldn't find anything obvious other than the coolant lines that go up and over the fuel tank being a little loose. I jammed a shop towel in there to see if that "fixes" it, since there's poor access and nothing to tie them to. The engine mounts are fine, the suspension arms are fine, and the oil-to-coolant heat exchanger is well-restrained - I thought sure that was the cause but nope.

When I pulled into the garage and shut off the engine, I was enveloped by a strong smell a lot like acetone. It was as if my wife had used fingernail-remover, but she'd never do that in the garage. I asked her if she'd been doing anything in there, nope. I hadn't done anything other than backing the car out. It turned out that a 15-year old can of spray paint had developed a hole in the side of the can, spewing very old and very stinky paint all over - made a sticky mess. It was a reminder to go through every bottle and can to decide what should be kept around and what should be discarded.

Using the spreadsheet from the original Midlana design, I tried moving the dry sump tank from where it is now (aft of the rear axle) to way up front, to see how much it moved the CG of the car... 1%. Bah, that's not very much for the amount of work and expense (two fairly long -12 and -16 AN hoses. Also is the thought that where would I want the tank to be in the event of an accident. Up front, it'll get squished and spray hot oil all over, probably on me. In the back, it's at least be contained in the engine compartment. Meh, right now I'm not feeling driven to move it, but I'll have to see how the car's handling is this weekend, whether moving the CG forward is that important.

The weather forecast for Streets of Willow is very promising so looks like it's a go. My buddy Kane should be joining me for at least part of the weekend; having someone there who's handling photography makes everything go much smoother. Hopefully he'll be bringing some gear that makes the upcoming track video extra special :).
13 Feb 2016

Took the car in to get the alignment checked to see how close it was to where I thought I set it. On the way there was a bit of excitement: two drivers on the freeway got into a serious case of road rage, stopping side-by-side on the freeway in the middle of heavy traffic, waving their arms and shouting at each other, then taking off, weaving in and out of traffic, then doing it all over again. During one of their "standoffs", everyone at first came to a stop behind them, not sure what to make of it, then we all got annoyed and went around. After they finished yelling they took off again, cutting through traffic which was now ahead of them. They came right by me and I could see the guy in front was thinking of cutting into my lane, but then turned the other way - maybe the funny-looking car threw him off. I'm just glad they didn't take out anyone and didn't see them again; I guess one cooled off or the other got away.

The alignment. The shop had been recommended by several websites as being race car friendly and being able able to accomodate low cars. It was surprising to see that instead of a high-end laser alignment rack, they used clamp-on devices and strings, not all that much different than what I do at home. At the front, camber was 1.875 degrees left and 2.1 right. Caster was 8.75 degree left and 8.5 right. Front toe was zero. At the rear, camber was 2 degrees left and 1 13/16 right. Left toe was zero and right toe was 1/32 degrees out. I had the shop change rear toe to 1/16" in on each side for a total of 1/8". It was very useful watching how he did the alignment, so I can do the same at home.
7 Feb 2016

Corner-weighed the car: 1718 lbs fully loaded, full tank but without me. Rear weight percentage is 65.4%, not as much as I thought but I want to run the numbers and see what moving the dry sump tank to the front of the car would do.

Anyhow, after that, went out for a long test drive in the back country. We're having strange weather, last week it was freezing cold with near hurricane-force winds and tons of hail. One week later it's 80 degrees. Anyway, right as I was about to turn into one of my favorite twisty roads, I caught sight of a Ferrari turning ahead of me. The first part of the road is straight and he took off like a shot, so naturally I had to see if I could catch up. I did, but he also let off to let me pass. Well that backfired - he knew as well as I did that when two cars are doing "spirited driving", the guy in front has all of the pressure. He's first to find out what's around the next corner: open road, dirt scattered through the turn, water, squirrels, bicyclists, or a cop (turned out to be a bit of each). The guy behind doesn't have to worry about that stuff and can concentrate on just keeping up. I refuse to get into "who's got the bigger pair" so drove at 8/10s. Several times the Ferrari would lag back then catch up in a hurry. Toward the end of this road is some pretty twisty bits, so when he lagged behind the last time, I decided, no, you're not catching up this time. At the end of the road I was pulled over, out of the car, putting on my sweatshirt because it was getting cold at altitude when the Ferrari caught up and pulled over.

I had a long enjoyable talk with the driver who turned out to be an automotive journalist. He was doing a road review of Ferrari's first turbocharged street car, the 488 GTB with 661 hp. I learned that the base model has a turn-your-head-and-cough price of $250,000, with this one having another $100,000 in options - yikes. He used to work for Road and Track and is now a freelance automotive journalist who knows a lot about everything automotive. He was interested in Midlana and asked a lot of questions, so I was happy to open the engine cover - that's why the cover's off - no I hadn't broken down :) The place we stopped was a very old section of road which is hardly used, that's why he's sitting in the middle of the road.

Anyway, back to Midlana's suspension, it's definitely working better. The back end can still be made to come around but no longer happens as suddenly and is much easier to control. We'll have to wait a few weeks to see how that translates at higher speed, but it seems promising.

31 Jan 2016

When the new springs were installed, the shocks were set full-soft to ease installation. For no particular reason, they were then set to 4-clicks as a starting point, even though they were at 8-clicks with the old springs. A quick test over speed bumps showed that the combination was too soft, giving a ride even softer than with the original springs. The shocks were increased to 6-clicks, which felt about right, firm but not harsh. It does make me wonder whether the shocks might have contributed to the problem; stiff shocks coupled with soft springs make the suspension act stiff during transitions, but not once stabilized. That is, in a long enough turn, the shocks could have had enough time to slowly compress until eventually the soft springs allowed the suspension to bottom - instant spin. It's just a theory, but it might explain in part why the car did what it did.

Speed bumps aren't really a valid test of whether the spring rate is now enough to prevent bottoming, but it's a start. The bump stops were pushed down to serve as travel indicators and over the next few weeks they'll be monitored. Still, it won't be until the car's back out on-track that total travel can be measured and quantified. No testing could happen today due to rain.
26 Jan 2016

The springs arrived.

A buddy wants me to make a bolt-on undertray for track events. Basically a huge venturi, the theory is that it would provide some good downforce without much drag. The unknown is how to deal with air flowing in from the sides; I don't care to mess with sliding skirts. Anyway, that's on the back burner for now; I rather make incremental changes because the results are easier to quantify. I'll start with the springs, then new tires, and go from there. That said, if the undertray is bolt-on, it would be easy enough to do some back-to-back track tests. One thing at a time.
24 Jan 2016

In preparation for replacing the springs the shocks were removed and disassembled. Being an engineer, I wanted to calculate the forces on the rear suspension, but realized doing so was pointless - I already know the suspension was bottoming. The new springs should be here Tuesday or Wednesday and it'll be back together by the weekend. A test drive will show whether it's tolerable - though the answer will have to be "it'll do."

Sized up the proposed mods for the rear lower panel, probably cutting it back to right below the license plate and replacing it with stainless mesh the same as the existing mesh above. Also, I'm seriously considering making a true diffuser for the bottom back edge of the car. It would be the full width of the chassis and trail behind by 46-61 cm (18-24"). Haven't decided what to do about the dented and scratched side panel; some have suggested proudly leaving it like a scar from a bar fight. We'll see.
23 Jan 2016

I forgot that the installation ratio of the rear springs is 0.75, not 1.0. This is especially significant because that value is squared when calculating wheel rate, so the current 400 lb/in springs give roughly 200 lb/in at the wheel - same as the front suspension. Due to the rear of the car carrying twice the weight of the front however, when the car hits a dip, the rear suspension will compress twice as much. As the pictures show, the rear tire was moving as much as 4", which corresponds to 3" at the shock. While the upper-most marks may have been caused by the off, there were marks there before and nearly as high. Chalk it up to being distracted by the engine nonsense for why I didn't pay more attention to this.

The question becomes: how much should rear spring rate be increased? I don't know how much the rear suspension was trying to compress; it stopped only because it hit the bump stop, so how far would it have gone if there was no bump stop? Since the rear of the car has 4" of ground clearance, that's the lowest it'll ever go, but it still doesn't answer the question for the same reason. I'm going to guess that worst case it might have compressed 5" (3.75" at the shock), so that needs to be reduced to no greater than 3" (when it hits the bump rubber). That works out to changing the existing springs from 400 lbs to roughly 650 lbs.

In a related matter, Midlana only exhibits understeer (push) at very low speed (slower than 30 mph). Because it never exhibited this on-track, it means the front spring rate needs to be increased as well, more than the rear. This gets into the consequences of picking springs that might be best for the track, but result in an intolerable ride on the street. That wouldn't be any fun, yet neither is spinning off the road due to the rear suspension bottoming out!

I know some people will say just increase shock stiffness. That's only a solution in transient conditions; the situation in which my off occurred was in a long right-hand turn, after the shocks came to equilibrium, so they don't play a part in this. Other people may suggest stiffening the anti-roll bars. Well... I don't have any - for now. I'll start with increasing the spring rates and go from there. For what it's worth, I had heavy duty front and rear bars on my Datsun 1200 that was used for both autocross and track day events. For autocross, the rear bar was absolutely necessary in order to get the car to rotate. Conversely, that same rear bar at high-speed track events caused the car to be a real (slow) handful, the rear of the car always wanting to come around. I ended up disconnecting the rear bar for track events, so if a bar ends up necessary for Midlana, it'll be at the front only.
21 Jan 2016

Picture time!

Arrived Friday afternoon and set up immediately. After dinner, started the heater and played around with the new camera a bit. The dark picture of the track was taken with a 30-second exposure in total darkness other than the lights on the building - I couldn't see the mountain at all. The shot of Orion was 20-seconds. Saturday morning was cold but fine with the good sleeping bag and heater. The pretty red cars are an Alfa 4C and an older Alfa GTV. I've always thought the old Alfa engines were works of art. Scott went out first in his very fast appliance and you can see how his tires wore well. In comparison, mine look like they aren't being worked and/or never came up to temperature. My brakes look fine though, front and back working about the same. And then there's the spin/off damage. I wasn't kidding when I say I picked about 10 pounds of dirt out of the car - plus some stones jammed between the tires and wheels. I'm currently considering what to do about the damage, whether to leave some as-is or rework those areas with changes that were already on the back burner.

Regarding why I spun off, my brother came up with a very compelling theory - that the rear suspension may be bottoming due to being overly soft. Early on he had a devil of a time getting his Stalker to corner before realizing that his was bottoming and causing an instant spin. He raised his car 1/2" and the rest is history. I'll take some measurements and run some numbers, but the car's handling matches that theory, that it handles great - until it doesn't, then the rear instantly goes around and can't be caught. Its behavior does seem to fit the evidence, but we'll see.

20 Jan 2016

Editing the video down and fighting GoPro's editor (they make a big deal about their awesome "Flux" feature, which locks up their application every time) so that took all evening, but it's up!: Midlana at Willow Springs 1/16/2016. Pictures soon.
19 Jan 2016

Friday my brother Scott and I took very different routes to Willow Springs raceway yet arrived within 10 minutes of each other, even though I took I-15, the route that everyone uses on Fridays to head to Vegas or skiing, plugging up the freeway. We both arrived about 4 pm which allowed time to set up everything, as night falls quickly this time of year. At the same time, temperatures drop fast in the desert, so I brought along a propane heater intended for construction sites - it worked great, with the 20-lb bottle lasting two nights and two mornings. In addition, some years back I bought a highly-rated sleeping bag, wondering if was worth it. It worked awesome even on the morning with ice. It's amazing how well a 2-lb sleeping bag can work.

Saturday morning we were up at dawn, eating scrambled eggs, sausage, apples, and hot chocolate - no coffee on race days. Driver's meeting at 7:30, then Scott headed out in his group which allowed passing anywhere in the straights and with point-bys in the turns. Not wanting to get myself in trouble I signed up for the other group, which allows passing only in the straights with a point-by, but no passing in the corners. I say "not getting in trouble" because even though Midlana has been done for several years, I've never had a safe environment where it could be pushed to find out what it would do at high speed.

Next it was my turn and everything went fine, I did a lot of passing and no one passed me. When pointed by, well, it was as if they put their brakes on. I should have run in Scott's group because a few people either didn't see me or just decided they weren't going to move over - I'm not sure which is worse. Whatever issues Midlana might have, sufficient power isn't one of them. I even caught up to a really nice Acura NSX, a car which I've always liked; I guess short of owning one, catching one on the track gets pretty close. Over the day I gradually built up speed, getting down to 1:38, aware though that Willow is famous for its soft dirt, rocks, ruts, and embankments off the paved course.

The datalogs showed that speed down the back straight was about 130 and 135-140 down the front straight. One thing really cool about the AIM dash was how seamlessly it timed laps after the track map was loaded into it. It was one of those rare moments where a complicated product "just worked", so I have to take back some of my negative points it gets due to its poor CAN bus interface.

Anyhow, the excitement came after lunch when I entered the high-speed decreasing radius right Turn 8-9 combination that is famous for eating cars, and unfortunately it was my turn. Part way through Turn 8, the back end stepped out slightly, I corrected by steering slightly left, let it settle - I thought - and turned back to the right, but the slide had apparently never stopped and kept getting worse. Once it was clear I was no longer in control, I put both feet in and just held on. As you'll see in the video, I ended up back on-course, having done a full 360 spin. Once I realized where I was I quickly got going for fear that someone might not see me. Even though there's good visibility, the thought of a 100 mph car coming through was a little scary.

It was a good thing that I came straight in after the off. In three wheels, small rocks had become lodged between the tire and wheel, allowing the tires to rapidly lose air. Within about 15 minutes, three were flat, so a trip to the track tire shop was worth the expense, otherwise it meant removing all four tires and heading into town to find a tire shop.

Thinking about what happened, plus asking around, I came up with the following:
1. I may have contributed to the spin by doing the classic ďPorsche 911 reverse parking maneuverĒ, where when the back of a mid-engine car steps out, the driver lifts off the gas. You can usually get away with doing so in a front-engine car, but in a tail-heavy car it can make the situation worse. However, knowing what to do is one thing, doing it is another; itís very counter intuitive to keep your foot down when things start to go wrong.
2. It was suggested that I may have helped the slide develop by first making a small correction and then turning in again, which may have caused the back to break loose because the small correction increased lateral motion and momentum, then abruptly halting it at the front with steering. Iíve watched the clip a dozen times and Iím still not sure.
3. My tires are literally about half as sticky as my brotherís (they're supposedly the same compound) and our cars weigh about the same. Turns out that my tires were manufactured six years ago(!), so maybe a big part of this is that theyíre old and the compound has hardened.
4. Aero lift may have caused the rear of the car to become light, making an oversteer condition more likely and being less able to control it. This seems unlikely since there was no wind.
5. A previous car may have dropped oil or coolant, or kicked sand onto the track. Also seems unlikely.
6. Everyone complained about the bumps in the track in that area, so that didn't help.
7. Not enough rear camber, probably, which is currently at -1.0 degree
8. Not enough rear tire pressure, maybe, which is currently 16 psi cold (though tire wear was even).
9. Possibly need a front anti-roll bar Ė but I consider it the last thing to do; bars lower traction at the end thatís working better.
10. Some combination of #1-9.

Other interesting tidbits:
- The days were cool, around 18 C
- Oil temp peaked at 90 C (194 F)
- Coolant stayed at 80-85 C (about 185 F)
- Midlana used roughly 5 gallons of ethanol per 20-minute session; my brother used about the same amount of gas.
- The ECU datalogs showed that Midlana was rarely at full throttle. There are only three areas where itís foot-to-the-floor; the rest of the time was spent partial-throttle managing anything that wasnít a straightaway.

The entire track was run using only 4th and 5th. In hindsight, I gave up time by not downshifting to 3rd for the upper loop of the track. That area of the track has a lower risk of damage since itís the slowest section, but I was lazy, thinking that it wasnít worth the bother - I might be wrong.

On Sunday, four more sessions were scheduled, but due to the time needed to pack up, the 3.5-hour drive home, and returning the trailer to U-Haul before they closed, we ran just the first session and called it a day. Not surprisingly I went slower than on Saturday due to being spooked by my off; the session was instead spent practicing proper lines through the turns and staying behind slower cars to study their lines. (I thought it was funny that just loafing around the track during the cool-off lap produced a 2:01, which was faster than some cars get when trying hard.

Lastly, my brother and I were extremely impressed by a class of cars referred to as ďSuper Miata.Ē Itís a bit pretentious since the mods are very slight, consisting of engine intake, exhaust, and ECU, which results in maybe 140 hp. Tires are limited to 200 wear index. I ran a 1:38, my brother ran a 1:29, and the fastest of those Miatas turns a 1:34 - very humbling. They claimed to corner at 1.7-1.8 G, which seems almost impossible (videos online seem to support 1.2-1.4G) That's about the only way they can get such a fast lap time in a 140 hp car Ė you just never brake. No, I donít plan to sell Midlana and buy a Miata.

The GoPro was once again a disappointment; I recorded four sessions yet it contained six when it was downloaded. It just decides on its own when to start and stop recording. Fortunately it was running when I had my off and interestingly it recorded the impact and spin just fine, no interrupted recording, which it seems to save for other random times. Sometimes I'd go to turn it on and it was an absolute brick - dead as a door nail, and had to fuss with it for about 10 minutes, then it would suddenly start working like nothing was ever wrong. Another thing it's done several times is forget that it's been configured for "one-button recording." Digging down into the configuration menus showed that indeed, it had just forgotten how it was set up... that's nice. I'm currently looking at alternatives.

The next event is at the Streets of Willow, a smaller tighter track next to Willow Springs. Whatís really timely is that they have a large skidpad, perfect for assessing handling. I want to know what happens when the back starts coming out, can I catch it, can I control it, can I drift it controllably? When the back starts coming around, what happens if I take my foot off the gas; what happens when I keep my foot down or even increase throttle?

Years ago my brother took a BMW driving school and found what helped him the most was driving a figure-8 while trying to keep the car sideways the entire time. The purpose was to understand how a car feels while sliding in a safe environment and how to be comfortable controlling it. I want to do the same and am working with the organizers to set aside time for that, as the skidpad is normally ignored and is part of the active track. Since my tires are already half-worn and are likely in poor condition, if they end up bald at the end the weekend, thatís okay since theyíll be replaced anyway. Best of all, the whole thing will provide website visitors with something they keep pestering me for: shameless videos of "cocking about."

Alright, enough typing. I'll add pictures and video soon...
17 Jan 2016

This weekend my brother and I attended a track day event at Willow Springs. I have a lot of pictures as well as video but it'll take time to compose everything, so check back over the next week for updates. I had a big off at Turn 8-9, an area famous for eating cars. I'm fine but Midlana now proudly sports some battle damage. More soon.

7 January 2016

The start of a new year and a new diary - like always, the old diary has been moved to the Old Diaries page, use the above link.

Finally got time to tick some things off the to-do list, fortunately which didn't require driving the car, what with all the rain we've been (finally) getting.

First was checking and setting rear camber and toe. When the rear rod ends were upgraded, the new ones were screwed in the same number of turns as the old ones, so I figured they'd be plenty close and didn't bother checking alignment. During later drives though, the car definitely felt less stable - not a good feeling when your hands involuntarily tighten on the steering wheel. Another related issue is that the car had always required a constant bit of left-steer which seems a little odd. Regardless how the front toe is set, the steering wheel should be able to be turned to balance out any differences left-to-right, so there shouldn't be any consistent pull in the steering (caster was fine). This is brought up because if the rear toe isn't identical left and right, it applies a constant steering input that has to get countered by the steering wheel.

The first thing was to measure rear camber; the right rear was about -0.7 degrees which is about right, but the left rear camber was slightly positive... Not sure how it could have migrated so far. The lower A-arm was adjusted outward about 0.25", which by chance resulted in the same camber as the right side.

Next was checking and setting toe, which is deceivingly simple. How hard can it be: measure the distance between two similar grooves on the tire, both on the forward and rear side of the tire. Turns out that it's not that simple at the rear of the car. Depending the sequence of steps, rear toe may end up exactly "correct", yet be totally wrong. How? Unlike at the front of the car where steering balances left and right toe, the rear is fixed. This means there are actually three dimensions that have to be set: total toe AND left and right toe off centerline. Unless toe from centerline is correct, the rear suspension will forever apply a steering vector which has to be corrected by steering. What a pain; due to the nature of suspension in general, I came this close to taking the car to an alignment shop. Not because the actual adjustments were difficult, but because the results were so squirrel. Setting total toe took hours because it would be adjusted, yet didn't appear to change, so it was adjusted a bit more, then it changed too much. I'm fully aware of stiction and play, but the rod ends are all new and have no discernibly play, plus the car was rocked and the suspension resettled after each adjustment, but it was still elusive. Anyhow, at the end of an annoying day, rear total toe is 0.125" and equal left and right.

Next was mounting the fire extinguisher. While I always intended to have one onboard, where to put it was a problem; every place was either deemed too accessible for seedy people, or it fowled my feet, or it was too inaccessible to be of any immediate use. I finally settled on attaching it to under the glove box. Haven't decided whether to leave it there all the time or only for track events. Have to see how much it interferes with passengers' legs.


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