An M.G. Locost Build

December 15, 2013

We're thinking about taking a trip to our local DMV to complain about not receiving our SPCNS certificate, which we bought and paid for almost a month ago. Even though we don't think the good folks at the DMV will be capable of effecting a satisfactory resolution, we'd like them to at least be sympathetic.

No doubt part of the problem is that we're too impatient these days. Years ago, you ordered something in the mail and waited for it to arrive. That was it. They always said 4 to 6 weeks. Wait 4 to 6 weeks for delivery. Back then we took that advice and we liked it. Nowadays we want to know within three seconds whether or not they received the order, and within a day whether or not it shipped. Then we immediately want a tracking number so we can see where it is every 15 minutes.

  Temporary operating permit starting to fade
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So we're spoiled, and when something akin to a government agency plays it old school, we're not happy. Still, they told us 7 to 10 business days and it's been more like 20. So it's overdue, even by their standards, and without a tracking number we can't tell if our SPCNS certificate is out for delivery by the end of the day, or still sitting at the bottom of a stack of unsigned documents in a clerk's cubicle in Sacramento. Maybe they ran out of certificates last month and had to order new ones. Hopefully by now they have a tracking number from the printer.

We're not too worried yet. We have a temporary operating permit which is good until at least March 1st, and possibly a few weeks after that at the good graces of the local constabulary. But we're getting a little tired of staring at that giant pink card taped to the windshield, and it's even starting to look a little faded and worn around the edges. Although a worn pink card taped to the windshield is still better than not driving the car at all. We've had a few warm and sunny days here recently, and we've been taking full advantage.

On the U.S. 101 northbound out of San Rafael  
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As the miles pile up on the car, we continue to gain more confidence in the integrity of the chassis. It seems that any structural deficiencies would've presented themselves by now, and all we really need to concern ourselves with going forward are the effects of creep, fatigue, and rust. We've heard two unusual noises emantating from the Locost under certain conditions. We eliminated the first by enlarging the hole in the side of the body for the exhaust. We're not sure about the second noise, but it only occurs at 5 mph or below in reverse.

It's really a lot of fun blasting along on the freeway, engine and suspension working perfectly, exhaust settling into a smooth hum, visibility excellent as we check out the undercarriages of trucks and SUVs that we skirt around. The speedometer needle continues to bounce all over the place most of the time, so we're not sure exactly how fast we're going, but we're no doubt under the speed limit, or at least we're pretty sure we are. They say ignorance of the law is no excuse, but that's not the case here. We know the law, we're just ignorant of how fast we're going.

  Tach and speedometer having a disagreement
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The rev counter is little help. It's sluggish at the higher RPMs, registering around 3000 RPMs when we hit the on-ramp, and staying there as we speed up to merge with traffic. We think we're pulling closer to about 4000 RPMs once we're up to speed, based on the known relationship between the gear box and the rear end ratio of 17.9 mph per 1000 RPMs, and our estimated speed of 70 mph in places where it's legal to do so, such as for example Interstate 5 between Sacramento and L.A. One of these days we'll have to get a new speedometer cable.

What we don't have any confidence in right now, besides the DMV, is the integrity of our cooling system. Some friends came over on the weekend and we took a few test drives, all of which ended up dumping hot coolant on our passengers. Fortunately our passengers were car people who understand the nature of sorting out homebuilt cars, and who also have a lot of sympathy for amateurs like us. Despite the leaks, they all seemed to enjoy the ride, and no doubt appreciated the fact that we always made it back to the house. Eventually.

Possibly too many overflow tanks  
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Right now our biggest problem is not that the car overheats, but that even with all of our tanks and hoses and caps and overflow bottles, we can't keep coolant from dumping onto the ground and into the passenger compartment. We think this wouldn't be an issue if we could just figure out a way to keep the coolant cooler. The car runs about 220 degrees. We tested the thermostat in a pot of water and it opened at 185 degrees Fahrenheit. So that's where we should be on a cool day in December. Or even a warm day in June.

Part of the problem this past weekend, and possibly earlier, was the cooling fan. It stopped working. We're not sure when it stopped working, but we didn't find out about it until the end of the day when we went to verify the fan was blowing in the right direction, and discovered it wasn't blowing in any direction. A few checks for power with the test lamp pointed to a loose connection at the ignition switch, the second loose connection we've had on that brand new piece of hardware that we paid a premium for last September.

We fixed the loose wiring in our usual manner, by crimping the connector with a pair of pliers. So the fan is working again, and right now I believe we're just days away from getting our brand new large core aluminum radiator, which we'll install right away, and then one of two things will happen. Either the car will start running cool, or else we'll eliminate the radiator as one of the variables contributing to the car not running cool. We're hoping for the former.


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