January 28, 2014
This morning we met with a State of California smog referee up in Santa Rosa. The primary job of smog referees is to grant extensions or exemptions to hard luck cases who own cars that for one reason or another failed to meet the state's hardcore emissions standards. So we think of smog referees as no-nonsense guys with lots of power who have heard every excuse in the book and won't take yes for an answer. If they lived in almost any other country in the world, or in Illinois, they could easily be making ten times their salaries in bribes.
But our referee was a surprisingly friendly guy, who seemed shocked that we built our car from scratch. Apparently most of the specialty vehicles he sees are kits, and by "most" we mean all, because he'd never seen a totally scratch-built car before. He'd seen cars where the frame, the engine, and body were purchased separately, but he had a hard time dealing with the fact that we didn't have a single receipt for the frame, but rather dozens of receipts for metal tubes. And he didn't even want to know how we'd built a body out of flat sheets of aluminum.
As it turns out, California smog referees no longer have the power to grant smog exemptions to specialty vehicles. This must be a recent change, because the Internet says they do. In any case, referees now make copies of your receipts, donor pink slip, and your SPCNS certificate, then take a few snapshots of the car, and send it all to Sacramento, where some offical who is apparently above bribery makes the final decision. And they can turn you down, even though you have a SPCNS certificate, although our referee assured us that we'd probably be okay.
So we wait, and meanwhile get some work done on the car, like for example the major task of lowering the seats half an inch. We were originally planning to lower them a full inch, but chickened out at the last minute. Half an inch is still a major improvement, so our seat height is obviously something we initially got totally wrong. In our defense, in case we need one, we've never seen a seat cushion this thin, especially one with a hard wooden base. Fortunately the new seats are every bit as comfortable as the old ones. Or almost every bit. We may be a few bits short.
Getting the old seats out was a struggle. Another thing we apparently got wrong is the width of the seat bases. We thought half an inch narrower than the width of the floor would be slim enough, but that didn't take into account things like seat belts and vinyl covers. So while the seats were apart we took the opportunity to shave another half an inch off the bases, which could've required us to repaint and revarnish them, if we worried any more that our seat bases might rot, and we had the time to wait for the paint and varnish to dry.
Which we don't, because that would have sidelined the car for days or weeks, and we can't have that. Narrowing the seat bases didn't require us to modify the vinyl covers or even the foam, both of which turned out to be surprisingly flexible. Or maybe not that surprisingly. The seats now slide easily in and out of the floor mounts, should further adjustments or repairs ever be needed, which seems unlikely. Someday we'd like to make better-looking vinyl seat covers, but right now we have bigger fish to fry, like for example our hood scoop.
After multiple patching sessions, we couldn't get our fiberglass scoop sanded perfectly smooth, so we painted on an additional coat of epoxy. This came out nice and shiny, but also wavy, and not to mention a little heavy, so we dug out a sanding block and scraped away enough of the epoxy to leave a nice flat surface. We then painted the scoop with primer on top and rubberized undercoating on the bottom, just like the fenders, and when all of that dries we can finally rivet the scoop onto the hood, and just like you we'll believe it when we see it.
We should get our smog exemption next week, and that'll finish up step three in the four-part Locost registration process. The final step, brake and light inspection, should be easy since our brakes and lights work, and from what we understand they don't have to work all that well. So it won't be long now, and I know we've been promising for a while that we'd wrap up this needlessly wordy build log soon, but I think if you'll just stick it out for a couple of more posts, we'll be bolting license plates to the Locost and then we can all move on.
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