December 7, 2013
It's been over two weeks since we got the Locost registered, and we're a little concerned we haven't gotten our SPCNS certificate in the mail yet. Not that we expect the state of California to do everything perfectly and on time, but they never miss a beat when it comes to getting money out of you. The lack of a certificate isn't holding up our driving, but it is holding up our last two inspections, which is keeping us from wrapping up the final stage of this build. If the certificate doesn't arrive in the next day or two, we'll have to take our paperwork down to the DMV and demand to know what's going on. That should work.
We had occasion the other day to run a compression test on the engine. The good news is, all four cylinders were within 5 lbs. of each other. This reinforces our previous estimation that the engine was in pretty good nick when we got it. The other news is, this is an 18V engine from 1972, one of the early low-compression models designed for the impending lead-reduction laws, and the highest pressure we could get was just over 140 lbs. This is only partly bad news, because there's now room for improvement the next time we have to rebuild the thing.
In other bad news, our recalibrated cooling system appears to be working no better than the old one. We took the Locost out for a long drive on the weekend, and the temperature gauge hovered around halfway to the high mark the whole time, so maybe 210 degrees, which is too high on a 60-degree day. Or any day. So we're continuing to work the radiator angle, and also possibly the water pump angle, but at least when we got back the cooling system was still full of coolant, so we don't have to be as concerned anymore for the exhaust valves.
Our new concern is for the tires. They're still holding the car up off the ground like they're supposed to, and they also seem to stick reasonably well in the turns, but we recently read a bunch of posts on the MG Experience forum about catastrophic failures of old and outdated tires. Admittedly some of those failures were on really old tires, 20 years or more, and ours are only nine years old, but the term catastrophic failure doesn't have a good ring to it. Seven or eight years seems to be about the maximum safe age for tires.
The mode of failure for an old tire typically involves tread separation. This could send the car into a wild spin, which we could deal with, and the loose tread could also trash the bodywork and suspension components, which we couldn't. So we're looking into getting some new tires, probably General Altimax HP's in a 185/65-14. This isn't one of those new generation of super sticky ultimate extreme performance summer tires, but they're the right size, they're new, and we can get five for under $300. Plus shipping. Maybe we'll just get four.
Meanwhile, work continues on our hood scoop. Okay, not really, but we have made progress. Okay, not really. The hood scoop mold was full of imperfections, a.k.a. surface bubbles, which we're blaming on laying up the fiberglass in 40-degree weather, and so we've spent the past week patching it up with body putty. We've since painted the mold with sanding primer, and we'll follow that up with some kind of high-gloss finish, which we can then polish and wax enough to make an actual scoop that will have some small chance of being separated from the mold.
We're also working on a patch for the small hole in the hood where the old coolant filler stuck out. We made a patch out of aluminum, but it's clunky and heavy and full of rivets, so we're thinking of going with fiberglass. It'd be great if we could somehow bond the epoxy resin to the underside of the hood, but we have zero confidence anything like that would work, so we'll probably end up with more rivets. We'll try to have the coolant patch coincide with affixing the new hood scoop, so we'll only have to prep and paint the hood once.
The cold weather, along with old tires, early sunsets, and the lack of a decent cooling system, has dampened our enthusiasm slightly for jumping in the car and going out for long drives in the countryside. We'll soon replace the tires and fix the cooling system, but there's not a lot we can do about the weather or darkness, although we've found we actually enjoy driving the car at night, and so far all of the lights appear to work and our wiring harness hasn't yet burst into flames. Which is excellent.
We have one more mod to do before we shut down the fab works for the winter, and that's lowering the seats. After 200+ miles in the Locost, we're fairly certain we'd be better off sitting about an inch lower in the car. This would effectively raise the top of the windshield above the horizon, provide slightly more room under the giant steering wheel, and put a little more metal between us and the rest of the world. If we do it right, the whole job shouldn't take more than an afternoon, so we'll schedule a couple of days around the end of the month.
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