May 26, 2015
We passed the 10,000 mile mark in the Locost last week. We're not sure how far that is in real car miles. We're also not sure how fast a Locost should wear out. Our Locost began its life both brand new and partly old, so it's kind of like a new car except not really. Oddly enough, only the new parts are showing signs of wear. Or maybe not so oddly. All of the parts are showing signs of dirt, however. Not that we're doing anything about it, except of course where you can see it in photographs.
If we compare pictures of the car from a year ago, the signs of wear and tear are noticeable. Few things look brand new anymore. The chrome on the dashboard is a little tarnished, the carpets are slightly faded, the vinyl is scuffed in a few places, and the windshield is no longer crystal clear. Not that we mind. The car looks more vintage with each new blemish, and the new parts blend in better with the old. From ten feet away the car looks immaculate, and yes, we do have our own personal definition of immaculate, but it's close to the standard one.
As promised, we are attending as many events as we can this summer. We participated in the Bay Area Maker Faire again this year, and this time we had the only Locost. As always, we got a lot of visitors, about half asking us what kind of car it is, which is a little annoying when you have all kinds of signs and photos displayed around it, and the other half telling us what kind of car it is, which is actually slightly more annoying. The M.G. badges throw off a lot of people, many of whom insist that back in college they had an M.G. exactly like it, or maybe it was a Triumph.
Most embarrassing is the guy telling his wife or girlfriend exactly what kind of car it is, when it was built and where it was raced, sharing his vast automotive knowledge with the little lady in a condescending voice that grates on our ears, and probably hers. Nothing you can do at that point except let it go. Arguing would be futile, since the guy obviously knows more about your car than you do. So the guessing continues, even though we added chrome (a.k.a. plastic) letters to the back of the car spelling out LOCOST, although maybe everyone thinks it's a typo.
We haven't done much work on the Locost over the past few months, mostly because nothing broke. We replaced our spare tire with one that looks a little more vintage, and we did the 9000-mile oil change. We also hammered in a new steel intake manifold plug to replace the disintegrating rubber one. In an effort to keep the new plug from exploding out the back and punching a hole in our aluminum coolant expansion tank, we ran a bead of JB Weld around the plug, which doesn't look all that good and probably won't stick very well either, but maybe we'll get lucky.
By far our best repair in the past two months was finally getting rid of that annoying 3000-RPM rattle. On our very first test drive, way back in September of 2013, we detected a high-pitched buzz coming from the engine compartment between 3000 and 3500 RPMs. Because the car continued down the road under its own power without anything falling off, we pretty much ignored the buzz, and have pretty much ignored it ever since. But it was always there, and even though we've always known what caused it, we knew fixing it would be a major chore.
Our Locost pedal box design harkens back to the earliest days of our build, when we struggled to come up with a design that would incorporate MGB parts and still position the pedals and steering wheel in the center of the driver's compartment. We eventually figured it out, but we knew at the time that clearances would be tight. And yet when we built the thing, it all seemed to go together and everything seemed to fit, even the brake master cylinder, which could've easily been too big for the pedal box recess in the engine bay firewall.
As it turns out, the brake master cylinder is too big for the pedal box recess in the engine bay firewall. It fits, but the banjo for the rear hydraulic line is mashed up against the corner edge of the recess. We were actually aware of this when we installed the brake master two yeas ago, but we figured nothing would be damaged by the contact, and we wanted to get the car running. Not worrying about it turned out to be the way to go. The banjo and pedal box recess are both fine. What we didn't anticipate was that the pedal box might vibrate at certain engine RPMs.
You couldn't feel the vibration from the driver's seat. You couldn't even feel it in the pedals. But you could hear it. It's the kind of sound you might expect when two chunks of metal are mashed up against each other, and one of them starts to vibrate. We thought we might be able to reduce the noise by jamming a piece of rubber between the banjo and the recess, but they were really mashed together. We would've had to bend something, and while we wouldn't mind bending the pedal box recess, I'm not sure we had a choice about which part would bend first.
So we tried convincing ourselves that the noise wasn't all that bad, until a few weeks ago when our friend and local Locost builder Matt Rogers came up with a fix that wouldn't be a major chore. We originally thought we'd have to completely remove the pedal box, which would mean disconnecting brake lines and pedals and all of the attendant work that implies, but Matt suggested we could just loosen the bolts on the pedal box, and wiggle it around enough to slip some kind of file or grinding device between the banjo and the firewall.
So that's what we did, and even though we didn't generate a ton of clearance with the file, and kind of scratched up the firewall in the bargain, we were able to slip a short length of rubber hose around the banjo before retightening all the bolts. And so the noise is gone, although you don't really notice it because it's gone. Still, it's good not to be annoyed.
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