September 28, 2013
The weather was fantastic today here in Northern California. If you had a light jacket, a little sunscreen, a pair of shades, and a fast sports car with no top, you were King of the World. We've had jackets, sunscreen, and shades for a while. Now we have the car.
Of course it wasn't like we just woke up and decided to go for a drive. We had to do a little work first. It was mostly fun work, though, installing our brand new GAZ adjustable shocks and coilover springs. This took a little longer than expected, however, being somewhat more than just a bolt-in job. Besides detaching the rear fenders and removing our long-suffering and now rusty fake shocks, we had to drill out all sixteen of the 3/8" shock mount holes to 12 mm, which oddly enough is the eyelet size of the GAZ shocks. I know, it surprised us, too.
We've drilled a lot of holes in our Locost over the past two years, so you wouldn't expect this job to be especially difficult. But it was different this time. In the past, every time we drilled a hole, we had a drill bit in a drawer somewhere that was the same size as the hole we were drilling. Not this time. We had to go to several different stores before we found one with a 12 mm drill bit. Which reminds us to add this final note to future Locost builders: the hardware section of your local CVS pharmacy does not carry metric drill bits. Try the hardware store down the street.
Then we needed to get bolts. Most of our suspension is stuck together with military-grade AN hardware. They don't make military-grade AN hardware in a 12 mm size, or if they do they're keeping it a secret, so we went instead with 10.9 grade bolts, which we're told is the equivalent to SAE grade 8, at least in strength. Definitely not in price. People who work in the metric system apparently pay a lot more for their automotive hardware. We thought about getting the more reasonably priced 8.8 grade bolts, but decided against cutting corners this late in the game.
So we got everything bolted on, replaced the rear fenders, and we were all set to go for a drive except we didn't have a windshield. We had to remove it a few days ago because our stanchions were starting to rust. We were under the impression they were made of stainless steel, but apparently not, so we had to paint them, and now we have to wait for the paint to dry. Which could've totally delayed our first drive, if we cared even the slightest bit about a little wind in our faces. We didn't. We had sunglasses.
So we hopped in the car and strapped on our seat belts. We fired up the engine and then let it warm up for as long as we could, which was about eight seconds. We let out the clutch and then cautiously tiptoed down the driveway and out into the street for the first time ever. The car responded easily to the controls, the suspension worked, and so we turned and headed off down the street. We tested the brakes before we got to the main intersection, which is a little trick we learned from our first drive in the donor. This time they worked fine.
Everything seemed okay, so we slowed for the intersection, turned right, and then stomped on the gas. The car shot off down the road like a rocket. Nothing broke. Nothing came loose. Or squeaked or clunked or rattled. In fact the whole car felt really solid, like it was brand new or something. A pleasant surprise considering how much welding experience we had when we started the frame. And almost a shock that the myriad clearance issues we faced over the course of the build didn't appear to be causing any problems. At least none that we could hear.
For some reason the exhaust was a little louder than usual. It could've just been a perception issue. This was the first exposure, for most of the nice folks in this quiet little northern Marin community, to the raucous clamor of a homebuilt car running at full throttle through their peaceful neighborhood. Over the past two years, many of our neighbors out on their daily stroll have seen the car sitting in our garage or driveway, and many even commented favorably, all the while no doubt thinking there's no way this thing will ever see asphalt.
But here we were, blasting up and down their quiet streets, foot to the floor, side pipes blaring and tires kicking up dust. A glance at passing houses along the way found an occasional window shade pushed aside. Passersby out on the sidewalks turned to look, faces registering either approval or disbelief, hard to tell. We smiled back in any case, if only to reassure them, and maybe ourselves as well, that we had everything under control. At the next intersection we spun the car around, then headed for home before someone called the cops.
Naturally we have a ton of driving impressions. All of them are the same, though. This thing is a blast. The car feels very light on its feet, which makes it easy to toss around but also makes it hard for the tires to gain much traction. Stickier tires are a definite priority. Straight line speed is there, but we haven't really opened it up, or for that matter gone much more than 40 mph. It's definitely faster than a Miata to 40, and it feels totally effortless, like the engine's hardly working. Like we're accelerating down a steep hill.
The brakes worked well, smooth and linear, and the wheel cylinder we refurbished last spring without actually replacing any parts seems to be holding its own. The steering is really stable, with no tendency to wander, and no bump-steer as far as I could tell. To be honest, I probably wasn't paying as much attention to the car as I should. I was mostly just incredulous that our Locost was out here on the street, driving around just like real cars do.
As soon as we got back home we put the car up on jack stands and inspected it thoroughly. We looked mostly for clearance issues, which would be evidenced by scuffing, scraped paint, or bent chassis tubes. We also checked all the welds we could see, and verified that our too-tall engine mounts were still standing. We didn't find anything wrong, and we actually didn't hear anything on our test drive that sounded wrong, but we're not claiming total success yet. We'll have to take it out for more test drives first. As many as we can.
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|posted September 30, 2013 at 15:55:21|
|I was fortunate enough to be in the passenger seat and take video of this epic first drive! It was a blast and I could not stop laughing at the thrill. The car is a rocket and takes you back to another, simple age- a true Roadster experience. I need to get goggles now! The video has wind noise covering the very loud, throaty exhaust, which no doubt will indeed enhance the disapproval of our already suspicious neighbors. One cool couple who are into cars did come by and send us off with smiles. I am thrilled and happy that Nick's genius and skill paid off- a man who built his dream and now gets to drive it!|
|posted September 30, 2013 at 18:50:23|
|This is amazing and I am very inspired by your hard work, Nick. You did a fantastic job and seeing this thing progress has been fun tracking week to week.†I look forward to future driving impressions and to eventually see it at an AutoX or track day(!?). Golden Gate Lotus Club is screaming your name.