An M.G. Locost Build

November 18, 2013

Never believe anything you read on the Internet. Except for this build log of course, because we'll usually tell you when we're making stuff up. Although not always. On the other hand, if someone on the Internet tells you in a forum post, way back in July, that the state of California has just about given out its last 2013 SPCNS Certificate of Sequence number under SB100, and that if you don't get one right now you'll miss out, don't believe it. Because that's exactly what we read back in July, and we believed it, and we just got back from the DMV and we now have a 2013 SPCNS Certificate of Sequence number.

To further define the full ramifications of this major milestone, we need to point out that not only did we get our SB100 smog exemption, or at least the number and a promise that the certificate was in the mail, but we also received a temporary registration and operating permit. Which means we can actually drive the car. Anywhere we want. Legally. In fact, if it weren't for the fact that it's both dark outside and a hundred below, we'd be driving the car right now. Incredible. We're still kind of bewildered by the whole thing.

The clerk at the DMV knew nothing about the SPCNS program. We had to walk her through the first part, where she calls Sacramento to find out that there aren't any SPCNS certificates left. Naturally she didn't believe us, so she went to talk to her supervisor. The supervisor knew enough to confirm what we said, so she disappeared into a back room somewhere presumably to make the call. We fully expected this to be a simple two-minute conversation just to get the news that all 500 certificates were gone. So we waited.

The clerk returned 10 minutes later, and like a jury returning with a verdict she didn't make eye contact. It was hard to read her face. But when she reached her desk she turned to us, smiled, and gave us the thumbs up. As we stood there dazed and confused, she sat at her terminal and started typing up forms, which she did brilliantly, asking us questions along the way, like whether the car had two doors or four. Finally she clicked a print button, then riffled through a drawer and pulled out a large pink card with a big number 2 on it.

  Licensed to drive. Until February.
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The pink card says "Temporary Operating Permit" at the top. The number 2 represents February of 2014, which is when the permit expires. The card also has our license plate number, and while we don't have actual plates, the number is printed there so any cops who pull us over will have something to write in the license plate box on the ticket. The pink card is supposed to be taped to the inside of the back window, which in our case is the windshield, where it probably won't be particularly visible until the officer actually approaches the car.

So we now have until the end of February to get our SB100 certificate filled out by a smog referee, pass a brake and light inspection at a Bureau of Automotive Repair station, and return all of the paperwork to the DMV for our permanent registration and license plates. Not that we'll need that much time. We're thinking maybe a week and a half, and most of that's going to be spent waiting for the certificate to arrive in the mail. On the other hand we have to make appointments, so you never know.

Now that we're legal, we're looking forward to extending our test loop. It's tempting to take the car on a trip to L.A., but I think we should first see how it does on a drive that lasts longer than ten minutes. We still have potential tire issues, and the temperature gauge still goes past the halfway mark when it's warm, which it did in the donor, although we never drove that car for much more than ten minutes at a time either. But we won't worry so much about what the gauge reads as long as it doesn't go all the way up to hot, and the car doesn't lose coolant.

Shift level now farther from switches  
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Meanwhile we're still making upgrades. We seem to be in the sorting phase right now. For a lot of builders, this phase is all about getting the suspension to work or the car to run with whatever mix of fuel and ignition management they're using. Our engine and suspension already work perfectly, or you know, good enough, so we're just sorting aesthetics. And ergonomics, which prompted us to buy a short shifter. It doesn't reduce throws, it's just shorter. About an inch and a half. It looks way better and we're missing a lot fewer shifts, so well worth the $40 price.

  Bolts now extend all the way through the nuts
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We also replaced the extra-long clamp bolts on our upper A-arms. Due to some kind of organizational mix-up early on in our build, the AN6-43 bolts we originally ordered were about 1/4" too short. Maybe less. You could tighten them up, but the threads didn't quite extend into the nylon region of the nylock nuts, which kind of defeats the purpose of nylock nuts. So last week we bought some new AN6-44 bolts from Aircraft Spruce and installed them on the car, and we now have threads sticking out of the nuts. Or at least one thread.

As we noted in our last report, we've started making a cover for the trunk area. After playing around with various ideas for wood, fiberboard, or aluminum panels, and not coming up with a respectable way to attach the panels to the chassis, we decided to go with a more traditional tarp-like cover that snaps on. We found some cotton-backed vinyl that didn't look too thick to sew on our trusty Singer, and drew some patterns in PowerPoint that we thought might work if we could just avoid the whole zipper scenario. We're thinking Velcro, or possibly one of its cheaper competitors.

Possible future Locost trunk cover  
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The vinyl material, being cotton backed, doesn't stretch like your more expensive polyester-backed interior vinyl from Moss Motors. So we should be able to make a taught and waterproof cover, as long as we can get all of the snaps in the right place. We'll only have one shot at this, because we have to drill holes in our freshly-painted aluminum bodywork for the snaps, and if there's one thing we learned in two years of building a car from scratch, you can't easily un-drill holes. At least not in aluminum. At least not easily.

  Hood scoop may eventually be this shape
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Our hood scoop is also coming along nicely. Okay not really. We finished the buck and varnished it a bunch of times, but it turns out varnish doesn't dry as fast in November as it does in July. So we have a couple of soft spots yet. I think we'll give it one more coat and another week or two or five to dry before we lay up the mold. Once the mold is cured, we'll wax it up really good and lay up the actual hood scoop, and if that turns out okay we'll let you know. In any case, the lack of a hood scoop isn't going to keep us from driving the car.


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