May 11, 2012
Wow, we're almost done. Well, not 'done' done of course, but all of the frame joints are fully welded and the diagonal bracing is in and the transmission tunnel is all fixed, so we're ready to start attaching stuff to the frame. I think we'll start with the seat belt brackets, since they're important, and also because we've already got them cut out. We'll then move on to brackets we haven't cut out yet. After we cut them out. Which shouldn't take long now that we have our cool new angle grinder with cut-off wheel.
Our welding has been steadily improving. We're continuing to grind away ugly welds so we can take another shot at them, and as a consequence the frame is starting to look really good from all angles, which is excellent because now we don't have to be nearly as picky when choosing photos for the website. We've been sort of critical lately when looking at other Locost websites, comparing their welds to ours. It's surprising how bad some of them look. No Locost frame is perfect, but come on, you don't have to post every photo. Show some pride.
We're looking forward to getting suspension parts attached, and with that goal in mind we've been trying to paint the A-arms. We've had plenty of painting experience, especially with spray cans, so this should be a no-brainer. But the Dupli-color etching primer we're using doesn't seem to be working. It's not etching. We've never actually used etching primer before and I'm not 100% sure what etching is, but I'd expect it has something to do with getting the paint to stick to the metal. It's not doing that. Regular Rustoleum primer sticks to metal just fine. Not this stuff.
It might've been too hot outside when we applied it. I have a theory that whatever etching is, the paint does it before it dries, and it takes a little while to do it. So if it's too hot and the paint flashes right away (in retrospect, painting in direct sunlight might've been overkill), the metal's left in an un-etched state. So when you wet-sand the part and try to dry it off with compressed air, the paint peels off in big sheets and flies away like a flat Peter Pan. At least that's my theory. I'll keep working on it. The paint, not the theory.
Minor setbacks aside, the Locost is now 30% complete, according to our build plan. It doesn't really look 30% complete, but at least it looks like something. When it was 25% complete it didn't look like anything. Maybe a Locost that had been blown up. There wasn't anything bigger than an odd tube or car part, and everything was scattered all over the garage and beyond. However, despite the apparent lack of progress at the time, we didn't get discouraged. We figured it'd take a miracle to finish the project anyway, so why worry about it.
Now we've put in over 700 hours, which is 200 more than a lot of estimates for a complete build. I think we were a little more realistic, giving ourselves well over 2000 hours, but maybe it'll take less. I find lately that, except for the actual welding, we're finishing things a little quicker than our original estimates. It wasn't always like that. In the beginning we had plenty of false starts and do-overs, and if a particular task offered several different fabrication possibilities, we always opted for the slowest one. Not by choice. Okay it was by choice, but at the time we didn't know any better. So even though we'd all agree that we have a few more major screw-ups to look forward to, things are moving faster, if for no other reason than we have better tools now.
As a result of this, our completion date, calculated regularly on the Build Plan page, keeps creeping back toward 2013. Up until now I'm not sure we ever really believed we'd get anything more out of this project than a replacement for the mock-up frame. Now that we've reached that point, the reality of having a new car is starting to sink in. The idea of attaching suspension components and having something we can roll in and out of the garage is almost unbelievable. And yet there it is. A car that just needs a little bit of assembly. And some paint. And bodywork.
Right now, though, it's back to one step at a time. We'll continue to enjoy the small milestones, but all those little metal bits and pieces aren't going to cut and grind themselves. We need to start taking the differential apart, too, now that we know it's going to fit, so we can clean it up and get the brackets welded onto that.
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