April 24, 2013
We haven't gotten a lot done on the Locost this week, other than starting it a few times just to make sure we didn't imagine it. The motor still fires up easily enough, but each time we do it we get more and more frustrated that the car won't go anywhere. It just sits there and idles. We really want to do something about that, so for starters we ordered a fuel tank. It's not here yet so for now we have to find other stuff to do.
Our new throttle cable finally arrived. To get the Locost running last week we cut off a two-foot section from our old choke cable, and pressed it into service as a makeshift throttle cable. We knew it wasn't going to be a permanent solution, because for one thing duct tape was involved, but we hoped a new universal throttle cable from Jegs would fit easily into the Locost. It doesn't. It's a really nice cable, with aluminum fittings and lots of adjustability, but using it in the Locost will require some fabrication. Maybe even some welding.
Also needing some welding is the glove box. We have a door for the glove box, but no box. We saved all the glove box parts from the donor, and we can use the latch mechanism, but to do that we need some kind of flange around the glove box opening. We thought about using pieces of aluminum angle, but the glove box door doesn't open at a 90-degree angle to the box, because the dashboard isn't vertical. So we have to fabricate something. We started by cutting, bending, and welding some 18 gauge steel in the shape of a glove box.
We'll weld a flange around the perimiter of this piece and bolt it to the dash with a bunch of #6 flat-head screws. Of course we didn't want to make the entire glove box out of steel, because no one else does, except maybe the military, so we only made it big enough for the hinges and the latch, which means we still have to find some kind of lightweight material to make the rest of the box. We hear cardboard is popular. We hope this doesn't turn into a major project. We may have mentioned this before, but very few Locosts have glove boxes.
So that's what's happening, we're back to making parts for the car again, although it's a little different this time. For most of this build, no matter how much work we did, or how many parts we made, it always felt like there was still a ton of stuff to do, and the car wasn't going to be done for a long time. Now it seems like we're pretty close to getting this show on the road. A lot of that probably has to do with getting the engine running, but I think some of it has to do with how we approached the last part of that particular phase of the project.
Throughout most of the build we had a pretty fuzzy idea of all the things we needed to do. We'd look ahead at a task like building the dashboard for instance, and we'd have a few thoughts about how to do it, but we weren't sure what would work and what wouldn't. We didn't know how to proceed, or what to buy, what to make, or how to make it. This happened a lot, and we got used to working that way, figuring out stuff as we went along. Because of that, we were never sure how close we were to being done.
That changed about two months ago. When it came to getting the car running, it occurred to us that we knew exactly how to proceed. We knew what to buy, what to make, and how to make it. In a lot of cases what we needed was already made, and we just had to bolt it on. So we made a list of all the remaining tasks, about 50 in all, and we worked through them one by one, right up to the last task which was to turn the key and hit the throttle. Because we knew the details, we were pretty much able to predict that we'd be done on April 20th. We finished on the 19th.
There's an unwritten rule in the car-building world, and probably other worlds as well, that says the last 10% of a project will take 90% of your time. The rule was no doubt started by someone who didn't do a lot of planning, and thought after the frame was all welded up that it wouldn't be long now until the car was ready to drive. Apparently that's not too uncommon. Getting the frame welded up is a major project in itself, taking several months at least, and when you're done you feel like you have something substantial, and something that looks a lot like a car.
We don't buy the 90/10 rule. We think we're about 75% done, and we also think that the last 25% will take us not coincidentally about 25% of our time, or around 500 to 600 hours. We even think we know where that 25% will go. In fact, we're pretty confident we could come up with a list of every single task needed to finish the car and get it on the road. It wouldn't be fifty tasks, probably closer to 150, but it would be a complete list. More or less.
We started to write down that list, but making lists is boring so we only got through the next phase, which we're calling Coachwork but includes the body and all of the interior fittings. Also the shocks, fuel tank, and driveshaft, which definitely aren't coachwork but there wasn't any other place to put them. So we ended up with 61 tasks, estimated at 273 hours. As usual we expect to beat some of those estimates, and miss others entirely, but on balance that means another 14 weeks, if we can maintain our 20 hours-per-week average.
Fourteen weeks is a little far off to predict an actual completion date, but we didn't get where we are today with that kind of counter-productive thinking, so we're calling the coachwork done on July 26th. We don't expect to have any trouble meeting that date if for no other reason than we get to define what "done" means. The list includes stuff like fenders, carpets, seats, and interior panels, but as usual we won't be taking up valuable space in this build log by publishing the list, so you'll have to trust us when we tell you we're done.
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