I Started a Magazine

No, not a physical one, but one you can read online for Level X Motorsports. It’s a combination of fun videos of/about cars along with more mundane topics like how to choose the right rod end for you’re building, the benefits of individual throttle bodies or just parts lists for putting ITBs on a Miata engine.

Here is a screenshot of the magazine at mag.levelxms.com:Level X Motorsports Magazine

The car runs!

The engine fired for the first time yesterday… whoohoo!

Unfortunately, while it runs very well, it also is good at spitting coolant out the exhaust, which is less than good. Big sad face.

The likely issue is that the engine overheated in the car it came from and damaged the head gaskets which will cause coolant to leak into the cylinders. This unfortunately means pulling the engine and taking the heads off. On a GT3 motor, only the heads are cooled, so hopefully I don’t need to tare it apart further than that, but I plan to do any sensible maintenance that I can while the motor is apart.

Although this is a big setback, I’m still pretty happy that I was able to get it running. All the wiring and setup was very complex and time consuming, so I’m pretty proud to have been able to accomplish it with zero prior experience. Now it’s on to the next learning-by-doing: rebuilding a GT3 motor.

Anyone wanna learn how to rebuild a Porsche GT3/Turbo engine with me?


Coolant leak Coolant leak closeup

The Importance of Structured Data in eCommerce

What may be obvious to a human reader can sometimes be really hard for a computer to understand. You and I can go to a retailer’s website, look at a product and it’s completely obvious to us what the name of the product is, what it looks like, what it costs, read a description, etc. The content could be aligned in a completely weird way, pictures could be in a random location, but we would immediately understand what is what.

This is much harder for computers. In simplistic terms, computers are much more discrete in how they process a web page. For the most part, they look at the HTML code of a web page rather than the visual representation that we look at in a browser. Of course there are systems which try to comprehend the graphical representation like we do, but to do this and to “make sense” of a page is non-trivial for a computer.  Moreover, they may be programmed to understand one retailer’s format really well – maybe a handful of retailers – but the problem devolves when you try to generalize past that to all retailers. Right now, we do not have the algorithms available for a computer system to do mass-scale retrieval and digesting of web content in a visual way like humans do.

So then how do you tell a search engine like Google or Bing what’s actually on your site? Traditionally, things like keywords, meta tags, inbound links, etc. have been important to tell a search engine what’s on a site. Google still uses some meta tags. They’re still important, but many of the tags were easy to game, particularly the keywords tag, and so they’re not really used anymore. The net result was bad search results for users.  Continue reading

Introducing Level X Motorsports

Level X MotorsportsEver wanted a great buying experience AND vendor-direct pricing for you motorsports or aftermarket parts? Look no further than Level X Motorsports.

We pride ourselves in making that weird part with the left-handed, metric, coarse thread in beryllium with a carbon fiber finish easy to find. Ok, we may not quite have beryllium parts yet, but to see what I mean in terms of quickly finding the parts you’re looking for, just check out how easy it is to search for Poly Bushings or Rod Ends.

If you’re a maker of such parts and would like an easy way to sell them online, we can get you set up on the site, completely free of any upfront charges, monthly fees or anything else to list products. Check out these great hosted storefronts for companies like Enthuzacar, a maker of high-end Miata exhaust systems, and RAMLIFTpro, a provider of hydraulic axle lift kits to prevent bumpers and splitters from curb and speed bump damage. You can learn more about the marketplace here: http://www.levelxms.com/marketplace/.

Tail light install

Finished tail light installInstalling the tail lights at first feels a bit like “square peg in round hole”. Indeed, you do have to trim some stuff to make the light fit in the opening and then you have to figure out how to mount it. I thought about this a lot and looked at various other builders’ solutions. In the end, it’s an amalgamation of those or unique – the same thing in this case. So below is the step-by-step of what I did.





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Does a Porsche engine fit?

Yes it does! But it’s not easy. This question was just asked on the gt40s.com forum, so I thought I’d write a more long-form answer here.

My drivetrain is from a 2004 Porsche 911 GT3. It’s a 996 Porsche in Porsche-speak, a naturally aspirated engine which can be traced back to the LeMans-winning GT1 Porsche and beyond. The block is known as the “Mezger” engine and it’s proven so durable that it’s even being deployed in the new 991 GT3 coming out this year. It’s also used on the 996 and 997 Turbo or GT2 (also a turbo) models. For this project, you likely can’t do a turbo engine though, because the exhaust routing will be very hard without major chassis modifications. But I wanted a high-revving naturally aspirated engine anyway. Redline should safely be in the low 9k.

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Fan shroud design and installation

Pictured on the left is the front of the car, specifically the radiator as viewed from standing just behind the left front tire. The car comes with this custom radiator essentially installed, but the fans just come on their own without any brackets to mount them. That’s a where a fan shroud comes it. It serves as a mounting point for the fans and it also more or less forces air to go through the fans and not around them.

Enter a piece of aluminum, a jigsaw and some very precise measuring. In the end not a very difficult task, but you have to get a lot of measurements exactly right. Below are the simple steps after purchasing a piece of aluminum cut to the width of the radiator and high enough so that I could screw it into the top and bottom radiator cross-brace.


Step 1: Find the center of rectangle and the center of each fan. Also note that full circles on each fan would make the outside strip between the fans and the outer edges quite narrow, so I kept that a little straighter.
Step 2: Ghetto compass for drawing circles. I held the center in place with a screwdriver and had a hole big enough on the other end to fit a marker pen.


Step 3: Start cutting. I just used a jigsaw. Does the trip you can hide the slight scarring on the inside if you really care. (I did). Note the wider straight strip on the outside.


Step 4: Finish product, holes drilled to mount the fans from the inside.
Step 5: Mount the fans. I used stainless 1/4″ allen key button head screws with lock nuts.
Step 6: Drill the radiator. Aaaaah! Actually, it’s not that bad. There’s nothing but air behind that cross-brace. I had previously put mounting holes in the shroud, so I just aligned using those and then drill-tapped allen key button head screws in.
And the finished product… excuse the wiring mess. That’s since been cleaned up obviously.



Mounting the emergency brake caliper

Emergency brake (e-brake, parking brake) systems in most cars are a purely mechanical system using a cable. In the passenger compartment the hand brake lever pulls two wires which have a direct cable link to a caliper on each of the rear wheels. The brake clicks because it ratchets and you press the button to release. Some cars have a foot-operated brake that are the same concept.

Basically all vehicles codes all over the world require a mechanical secondary brake to the main brake on the car and in general, manufacturers use the cable-driven approach because it’s simple and has proven itself over time. That said, many high-end car manufacturers now have electrical systems for this, but that basically just means there’s a serve which pulls the caliper. You can also buy emergency brake kits which are hydraulic, but these are not allowed in many jurisdictions for constructed vehicles. (The may be allowed for OEM, but I’m not sure)

Anyway, cable-driven e-brake it is. Reliable, proven, easy to adjust and maintain. But not that easy to install in my case. Here’s what I had to do to mount the caliper – cables have not arrived yet, so I’m holding off on the handle install until then.

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My first welded part – a shifter mounting bracket

Let’s go weld!

In short: functional, not very pretty, but getting better at welding.

So now that I have my awesome new welder, I’ve been putting together little things here and there. They’re things which normally would have been a pain to have to find a way to screw together instead. I’m still working on getting the wire feed speed and voltage settings right for each task, but I can weld stuff together that doesn’t necessarily need to win a beauty contest (i.e. it won’t be visible). On the welder there’s a guide for the settings based on metal thickness, but it clearly states that it’s only a guide.

The first bigger part which I needed to do was to fabricate a mounting plate for the shifter. The shifter has a base that’s about 3″ wide and 8″ long. It somehow needs to be affixed to the top of the aluminum frame under the center console, which is 2″ wide and 4″ high. There are a few different approaches, but I went with one where the bracket is shaped like a “pi” symbol and mounts with through-bolts to the driver and passenger side of the frame (pics below will make more sense…). This of course starts with cutting metal into the three pieces I needed: Continue reading

That engine is so cool!

Bad pun, I know.

This weekend saw the culmination of the cooling system plumbing and thankfully not the start of my comedic career. The fan isn’t installed yet, but it’s a major step to have completed all of the coolant plumbing from radiator to engine to overflow tank – anything involving the liquid itself. It involved quite a bit of problem solving and also required completing various other parts of the build like the water pump housing replacement.

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