Saturday, February 28, 2009

Head work in progress

We're darn lucky Mike thought to bring a torque wrench.

Driver change

Driver change - Ramon Sr about to head out.

Yep, still working

Margarita neon WILL race, darmit!

Margarita resurrection attempt

Work is in progress to try to get 'rita back in action. Tetanus neon
is set for a batch of preparation for tomorrow-- new brake pads and
tire rotation.

Penalty box

So far we've been careful and haven't spent time here. I hope we can
continue that streak tomorrow.

Winding down

Mike should make it all the way to the end of day checkered flag now.
Up to 36th now.

Position so far

41st of 95. Above average!


Midday update

Flurry of activity to start the day... arrange pit, prep cars, set up
fueling area, suit up drivers, driver meeting and rule review...

Mary did the first stint in Lockjaw and her knee held up well. She
will return to the seat of power tomorrow.

Next Andy, who kept a good pace and now on to Ramon. Mike and I will
close the day.

Margarita Neon has had cooling problems so they're working on it. May
be a busy evening of repairs

About twenty more teams are out here this time so the track is
hopping. Lots of spectators too!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Necessities for LeMons Racing

Things I think you should have in abundance to attempt racing in the 24 Hours of LeMons:

  • Duck tape
  • Zip-ties (including some of the fancy metal kind if possible)
  • Welder in your speed-dial list
  • Lots of gearhead friends
  • Grease, oil, WD-40, and other sundry garage liquids
  • Heavy-duty hand soap
  • Decent tool assortment
  • Sense of humor
  • Sawz-all
  • Dremel rotary tool
  • More zip ties
  • Understanding spouse/significant other
Seriously, you will learn to love the zip tie if you don't already. There's no budget for replacing normal fasteners on the car, and anyway you'll be removing lots of the things normal fasteners would attach to so you might as well just zip the stuff down.

(Then duck tape it for good measure.)

Margarita Neon progress

Last Sunday was another day of work on the Margarita Neon. Mike (our friend who actually has skill as a welder) did an amazing job on the roll cage for it. We were able to get it into Juan's father's shop and put it on the lift, which made a lot of things go faster. Chuck commented that at times the crew looked like a swarm of ants with so much activity at all corners of the car.

I hope the handling turns out OK... Juan picked up a cheap set of struts for the back of the car, but the front suspension now involves repurposed Honda parts from a junkyard... totally in the spirit of LeMons but I doubt Chrysler Corp. engineers would approve.

The muffler (since some minimal measure of sound control is required) is also recycled from a Honda, but again I don't think the original designers would claim it.

Sure, OSHA wouldn't necessarily approve of Duy's working environment, but wiring must go on!

Wayback Machine 6: mid February

Ah, the weekend of Valentine's Day... when one is supposed to overspend on flowers, restaurants, and greeting cards... Nay, let us examine true love. True love is Mike's wife giving him leave to come over and get grimy on the race car for a few hours before their Valentine dinner.

True love is my beloved Dr. Wife deciding that the car needed to look a little racier, and resolving that issue by using the remainder of our $6 inventory of rattle cans to make a big ol' racing stripe down the side of the car. P.J. chipped in on that endeavor too by doing some nice tape work to preserve our "got vaccine?" tagline.

True love is Andy's wife dealing with all of us and all of the paint fumes to boot.

How do we follow up all that love on Sunday? By working on the Margarita Neon, of course. I captured Duy here rigging up some tequila bottles on the package shelf, just as an entertaining side project while relocating the car's battery.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wayback Machine 5: early February part III

February 8th was a big day of work on Margarita. We found a second Neon in large part because we'd thought parts commonality would make it easier to work on both cars and would reduce the spare-parts inventory we would need to bring out to the track.

In that respect, we only did OK... call it a B, maybe B+. The Margarita Neon is two model years newer than the Tetanus Neon and has the DOHC engine instead of SOHC, so they have different engine computers and coil packs. Four-wheel disc brakes vs. disc/drum setup lead to different brake pads. Four-lug vs. five-lug hubs means we can't even swap wheels and tires easily. In short, if you're ambitious enough to do multiple cars, do your homework and make sure they actually match!

Onward ho, no time for regrets. Next in our series of dirt-cheap engineering tips... welding pliers to a MacPherson strut shaft stuck nuts on top of your struts getting you down? Don't have the specialized tools to hold the shaft by its top while turning the retaining nut? Try Junior's solution: weld a set of pliers to the shaft. Only recommended if you have lots of pliers, obviously, and plan on replacing the strut.

Wayback Machine 4: early February part II

Springs! Woo-hoo!

That's right, we finally gave up on the Holy Grail of an ACR swaybar for Lockjaw. Instead we kept scouring websites for some stiffer springs, and Andy finally located a place that was within our budget for the "residual value" of the Tetanus Neon after the last race.

Therefore, before:

our dodge neon at stock ride height
And after:
our dodge neon at a lower ride height


Wayback Machine 3: early February part I

As we've mentioned before, Lockjaw spent years -- almost a decade-- sitting. During one of our mishaps in October, we saw the inside of one of the CV boots and were... um... disgusted. Grease isn't so pleasant to deal with once it's rusty brown, smelly, and not nearly as good at lubricating stuff.

Therefore, manual re-packing of a CV bootour cheap-ass solution: the leftovers from a tube of grease and manual labor. Doctawife got good & filthy on it with us so perhaps we can call this an educational event. We yanked both drive axles on the Tetanus Neon and popped off the retaining clips on the CV boots. Then some unpleasant grease-digging ensued, we squished as much leftover grease in there as possible, and sealed it all back up. We also hope a bit of duct tape over the entire boot may help keep the decade-old rubber of the boot intact.

I certainly wouldn't ever do this to my everyday car, but for a race car intended for the beater-est of beater events, it'll have to do. (Anyway, we don't have the budget to do otherwise.)

Wayback Machine 2: late January

If you're considering doing a LeMons team, be warned that people issues do happen. Just because the 24 Hours of LeMons cars are restricted to $500 or less doesn't mean that preparing for an endurance race for them is a minor endeavor, just cheaper. Endurance races require big teams and a lot of time. Two teams means at least eight people (more in our case), and re-prepping one car and building a new one means lots of time. Time + people = change.

Cleetus dropped out because he was supposed to
warning: ski slopes may be dangerous to hopeful race drivers. have to work on LeMons weekend. We recruited another driver. Mary (Dr. Wife) got herself all geared up and pitched in on wrench duties on both cars, then tore her anterior cruciate ligament during our late-January ski trip (pictured). After the entry deadline had passed, Cleetus' workplace changed their minds and he figured out that he could indeed have raced (doh!). We've moved Ramon from one team to the other. Andy was all set to be a driver on the Margarita car, then self-demoted to Tetanus Neon pit crew, then I convinced him to be a driver on Lockjaw after all. Mary's knee rehab was going poorly so she had to cancel doing a high-performance driver's education event and we found a replacement driver. Mike was able to fit in a HPDE, though he had to skip a car-work day to do so. Now Mary's knee is doing a little better so hopefully she'll be able to do some racing after all.

Anyway, we're still having fun, and still have fully staffed teams... but all I'm saying to future LeMons teams is be prepared for change. I think I'll just keep the October roster on a chalkboard until about a month before the race.

Wayback Machine 1: mid January

Late January was very busy, both for the cars and for the team members.

Lockjaw, the titular "Tetanus Neon," was still in good shape from the October race, but the handling needed some improvement as we've said. Despite many phone calls, a few junkyard dives, and much productivity lost to mining craigslist, we had no luck in finding a better anti-sway bar for the car. Therefore Andy spent a while working to track down a source for better springs.

Meanwhile, Juan and Junior really stepped things up on the new car, the Margarita Neon. They've hosted several all-hands car days and whittled away at race prep ever since getting the car. It was another $100 car rescued from probable junkyard disposal, and (unlike Lockjaw) was actually running when acquired (wow!). The downside of a running car was that the much higher mileage has meant fighting with corrosion more often.

The interior went away rapidly this time so the roll-cage prepwork could be done sooner than the 11th-hour job we did on Lockjaw. The 'rita neon was a slightly better starting point than the barebones SOHC sedan we started with last time-- it's a 2-door DOHC coupe, so it has higher horsepower and four-wheel disc brakes. The two-door layout should also make ingress and egress easier once the cage is in.

Fire Up the Wayback Machine

Sorry, I've been very remiss about posting here. Here we are less than a week away from Gator-O-Rama and I've been silent for five weeks. I suppose I'm just not that good at being a document-everything kind of blogger.

Therefore I will go through my email archive for the last two months and attempt a recap here in a few posts. Thanks for your patience, dear readers. No, really, thanks to both of you. :)