October 13, 2013
Okay, we're calling an audible. We are completely done building our Locost, but our goal for this phase of the operation has always been to get the car registered, and we're not going to quit until we're there. However, we have unfortunately been severely delayed in this objective, not by the government shutdown, which might've been understandable if not excusable, but by the state of California and the inability of the California Highway Patrol to inspect more than a handful of kit and homebuilt cars at a time.
We don't want to blame the CHP for this, because we want them to like us, but it's totally their fault. They were as nice as could be on the phone, but the earliest date they could promise to look at the Locost was November 10th. And that's not an appointment, which would've been at a later date, but rather a free-for-all, first-come-first-served kit and homebuilt car inspection marathon. It starts at 7:30 a.m., and just so you don't have to check your calendar, November 10th is a Sunday. We'll be there at 7:00.
The purpose of the inspection is to obtain a temporary Vehicle Identification Number. To do this we have to prove we built the car from parts acquired entirely through legal means. We don't consider it likely that they'll just take our word for it, so we put together a binder along with hundreds of receipts in clear plastic pockets, organized by vendor. We also included dozens of pictures from the build, because reading through a stack of receipts would be boring. It all looks very convincing, like something that only a legal owner would bother doing.
The CHP is mainly interested in three major components--the body, frame, and engine. Minor components like the wheels, seats, and gas tank are gray areas. You could be asked about any of them, or not, but the origin of the body, frame, and engine have to be well-documented. The engine is easy. You have a pink slip and a bill of sale. Of course neither of those have the engine number on it, but that could always be cross-checked with the factory, if the factory was still around, or if not then through Wikipedia. Possibly.
The body and frame are a little bit trickier. There isn't any bill of sale, or manufacturer's part number, or manufacturer. This is where receipts for steel tubes come in handy, along with build photos depicting the actual construction process. Not that all of that couldn't be faked, but in most cases it's just easier to build the frame yourself than to steal one and Photoshop a bunch of build pics. Similarly the body, which in our case doesn't look like something anyone would want to steal anyway.
During the inspection the CHP is not interested in determining whether or not your car meets state and federal safety and emissions standards. They'll wait until they pull you over to do that. In the meantime, we'll have been through two more inspections with the California Bureau of Automotive Repair, who will have certified our Locost as legal, and that certificate, along with proof of insurance, will hopefully convince the officer on the side of the road who clocked us at 2 mph over the limit not to have the car towed.
With the initial inspection so far away, we're now looking at doing some of the modifications we thought we might get to after the build was done. Which we've already established has totally happened. The list of mods is not long, but some are rather involved, and might take a weekend or two. If we work on them, and we're not promising we will, these tasks will not be part of the build. The build is totally done, as we already mentioned, and we can prove this by referring you to our old Build Plan page, which shows the project as 100% complete.
The modification that we want to do first is a cover or lid for what is euphemistically referred to as the trunk area. Right now this area is exposed to the open air, and while it looks pretty nice in there with the Jaz fuel cell and all of the Aeroquip lines, the engine bay looks nice too but we still have a cover for it. Mostly. The reason for covering all of the mechanical parts of the car is to avoid appearing to an uninformed public that the car is not done, even though it is. Totally. Check the Build Plan page.
However, building the trunklid seems like a lot of work, as compared for instance to building wind wings. We already had hinges for wind wings, we just needed the wing parts, so on the weekend we dropped by our local plastic store and picked up a 1' x 1' sheet of 6mm clear cast acrylic. The plastic people, who were almost as nice as driveshaft people, offered to cut the wind wings to shape from a cardboard template, but we didn't have a cardboard template, so we ended up cutting them out ourselves. Which was a challenge.
As it turns out, electric-powered cutting devices melt plastic. As you cut through the sheet, the melted plastic fuses solid behind the blade, which kind of defeats the purpose of cutting. Somehow the plastic people were able to do it, but I guess that's why they're plastic people and we're not. We ended up using a hacksaw. We cut two pieces into the approximate shape of wind wings, and then used the bench grinder to get them to the actual shape, followed by about 16 different grits of sandpaper to polish up the edges.
For some reason, you can drill holes in plastic without it melting, so attaching the hinges to the wings was relatively easy. Clamping the hinges to our freshly-painted windshield stanchions was also easy, if you could ignore the damage to the paint, which we were more than happy to do. The end result looks reasonably decent, although we're not too crazy about the shape of the wings, or the gap between the windshield and the wings, or the fact that they don't seem to reduce the buffeting in the cockpit very much. Other than that, we're okay with them.
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