January 22, 2014
We discovered a slight defect in the design and construction of our Locost. It's not something we'd normally cover under warranty, but we'd like to fix it, although we're not sure how. The hood latches were bolted onto our hood and body sides without a lot of thought to the kind of stresses they would endure, or actually without any thought, and that now appears to have been a slight oversight. The latches are not in danger of coming loose or anything, but they are tugging at the aluminum bodywork and pulling it slightly outwards.
The upper screw for each of the four hood latches sits directly below the top frame rail, so these screws can't go anywhere when the hood tries to lift off the car at speed. The lower screws unfortunately don't have an equivalent reinforcement, but they can't move up, so instead they move out. The displacement of the bodywork is only about 1/8", which wouldn't even be an issue if it weren't for our glossy paint, which highlights the distortion at the worst possible times, like for example whenever you're looking at the car.
We can eliminate the distortion by pushing the latches back in place by hand, so there doesn't appear to be any permanent damage, so far. The trick now is coming up with a way to keep the body panels from pulling out at all. Of course this could've been easily addressed before we attached all of the body panels, but as we've proven time and time again, thinking ahead is not our strong suit, and we'll continue to point the blame at this being our first homebuilt car, and we're frankly amazed that it hasn't completely fallen apart yet.
Our current plan to fix the latches is a pair of reinforcing blocks made by welding short lengths of inch-wide 1/8" steel strips to shorter lengths of 1" square steel tube. The 1/8" strips will bolt to the upper frame rails, and the hood latches will bolt through the body and the steel tubes. Ideally we'd weld nuts inside the steel tubes, and we won't rule that out until we actually try it and find out that it's impossible. Of course the reinforcing blocks will have to be painted, so don't expect any of this to happen anytime soon.
Meanwhile, our hood scoop is all patched, although not completely sanded down. We wanted to rivet the scoop to the hood right away to see how it'd look, but logic dictates it'll be easier to sand the scoop nice and smooth while it's still off the car. Of course logic is normally meaningless to us when it gets in the way of doing something fun, but we have a coupe of places to go in the next few weeks, and a big opening in the hood with rivet holes all around it would raise questions and make our Locost look like it still isn't totally done. Which it totally is.
What we did do was cover the other hole in the hood, the one that we originally cut for the coolant filler. At one point we removed the filler altogether and started to make a patch for the hole, but we soon learned the error of our ways after multiple episodes of overheating and spilled coolant. So we re-installed the filler, and this time we angled the hoses down so it sits half an inch below the hood. You can see the patch, though, because for one thing the rivets are shiny and kind of obvious, but we'll be repainting the whole thing once the hood scoop is done, so it's only temporary.
Despite generally coolish weather, we've been driving the Locost almost daily. Now that we have everything on the car working perfectly, we can no longer consider these test drives, but we still manage to find one excuse or another to go somewhere on a regular basis. We haven't driven the car to work yet, mostly because the office is about 90 miles away and it's dark when we leave and dark when we get home. But as the Earth makes its way around the Sun later this year, we expect this situation to change, and we're looking forward that first commute.
The best part about all this driving is that we've finally learned how to get in and out of the car. We used to sit down first, then squeeze our legs under the steering wheel. This bruised our knees and looked really stupid. Now we step in, crouch down, and support ourselves with arms locked on the frame rail and the center console as we lower ourselves gracefully into the cockpit, sliding our legs under the wheel much the way we imagine it was done by the great Formula 1 drivers of years past. And possibly even the not-so-great Formula 1 drivers.
On a more recent note, we drove the car to the store with the semi-friendly foam people and ordered some thinner pieces of padding for our seats. Apparently producing foam in the exact size we want is a complex process, because it's been more than a week and the foam still isn't ready. The good news is, we had the seats out recently to repair our exhaust hanger, and it looks as if we'll be able to replace the foam and staple the seat covers back in place without destroying anything. So we're looking forward to that as well.
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