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

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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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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Intro to car construction methods and planning for side impact

One of the weak points of many kit cars is side impact protection. This is something that’s hard for kit cars to replicate like it exists in production cars due to the vastly different construction method. This requires a brief introduction into basic car construction methods.

Most modern cars are built as a unibody where large portions of the body are actual integral and stressed parts of the chassis. This is in contrast to body-on-frame construction, where as the name suggests, there’s a frame which holds the load and the body just rest on top, unstressed. Body-on-frame is still a common construction method for trucks and buses. To compare, here’s a picture of the body of a Lamborghini Aventador and the chassis of a Toyota Tundra:

Lamborghini Aventador chassis (unibody construction)
Toyota Tundra chassis (body-on-frame construction)

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Brake system updates

Time to update the blog. Sorry for the delays, folks. Going to do this one post at at time, so there should be a few flowing through in the next couple of days. First topic: brakes.

This isn’t a finished project yet because I haven’t mounted the pedals, but it’s done other than that. I’m holding off on the pedals until I can move the telescoping steering column (requires wiring & power), can mount the seat and can mount the pedals. All three work in unison to create a comfortable driving position, so they need to be fitted as one. Plus, I want to fit Stengelita-sized people all the way up to about 6’2″ drivers.

I’ve been able to get most of the rest of the brakes set up though. The brake lines came pre-bent, requiring just a small amount of work to achieve the proper fitment. The front brakes run through the aluminum monocoque which makes for a natural point to create the junction from hard lines to the braided lines between chassis and caliper. In the rear, things are more open, so I had to build some clips which would allow the hard brake lines to mount to the braided lines. Here’s a shot of one of those brackets (on the right):

Rear brake line clip

In the front, I created the connection between the fluid reservoirs for brakes and clutch to the master cylinders. The cylinders are mounted on the pedals inside of the monocoque, so the lines have to go through it. The lines are just a regular hose, so they’re simple to work with, but it did requireda huge drill bit and some very specific grommets to get through the monocoque, be sealed snugly and not rub under vibration. The grommets were the trickiest part in some ways. I spent an ungodly amount of time tracking down a part which costs $12 for a pack of 50. Ugh.

Brake and clutch lines through monocoque

I got the final pieces of the brake hardware, but in the rear the fitment of the braided line to the calipers wasn’t great with the parts I got. Instead, I ordered some new fittings which worked out really well. In the picture below, you can see the bracket I made on the very left, the braided line running to the right and then a shiny 90 degree fitting mounted to the caliper on the very right (the caliper is the dark thing). That piece in the kit came as a straight fitting, not 90 degrees, so the fitment was a bit wonky. 90 degrees worked out much better.

Final rear brake line mounts

In some ways this isn’t the most special thing the world, but what it did mean is that I now have a fully plumbed brake system short of the final mounting of the pedals. It’s only 15 minutes of actual work to drill and mount the pedals from here, but I want to be sure I get the fitment right before I do that.