May 31, 2016
The M.G. Locost survived another Maker Faire, with almost no mishaps. These days just driving to the event takes its toll, churning along the Interstate at a meager 3500 RPMS, giant tractor-trailer rigs rumbling past trying to get around us, the driver no doubt yelling at us to get that stupid (or other, more colorful invective) contraption off the freeway. We could go faster, but as noted in an earlier missive, the engine reacts unfavorably to higher RPMs, and our self-imposed redline of 3500 works out a mere 63 mph in fourth gear. On a good day.
The junior Locost was a big hit at the Faire, particularly with the kids. At one point we had to set it on a table to discourage people from trying to climb in, a strategy that worked out for the most part, but there were complaints. To appease the masses we promised everyone we'd have a steel version of the car next year, but two things: 1) Nobody cared about next year. It's a year away, for Christ's sake, and 2) We might not actually have a steel frame ready next year. We'll try. We should've promised to try to have a steel version next year.
If we think about it, a steel version wouldn't be all that hard. This year all we had was a rolling chassis—a frame and a few suspension bits. We could weld up a steel frame in a few weeks, six months tops, and the rest is just suspension and steering. And paint. Not much of an effort. We might even be able to do more. A dashboard, for instance, or brakes. If we came across a useable transaxle, we could even have something you could drive. That would be a big hit. Or not. But we're probably getting ahead of ourselves. One bad promise at a time.
There was still some interest in the Big Locost, and once again we weren't allowed to give anyone test drives, so we just stood around and answered questions that were already answered on our colorful display board. This year we had the only non-electric vehicle in attendance, which we thought was pretty cool but not everyone did. One lady, clearly unimpressed, asked us what was so special about the car, if it wasn't electric. We didn't try to explain. Obviously there's nothing special about the car, only about the people who can appreciate the car.
Among the electron-powered cars on display were an electric Miata with a 40-mile range, an electric VW bug with a 20-mile range, and a dune buggy encased in solar panels that presumably had an unlimited range, so long as the sun is shining and you don't need to go very fast. We liked the bug the best, even though it had to be trailered to the Faire from its home in Berkeley, because the People's Republic is about 35 miles from San Mateo and the car's batteries need 10 hours to fully charge. But it was a nice-looking bug and the young owner seemed enthusiastic about upgrading the car's batteries in the coming months.
Overall we had a good time at the Maker Faire, and we hope we inspired a few of the attendees to think about making something. We received a great number of compliments on the car, and ignored the few naysayers, such as the one rather large gentleman who was particularly upset with our display, and could not understand why we'd bothered to build a Locost from scratch, when we could've just bought a Caterham. Once again we couldn't explain, and instead sent him over to the owner of the WV bug to ask that young man why he didn't just buy a Tesla.
Other than preparing for the Faire, we haven't done anything on the car for a while, but we recently fixed something we didn't know was broken. Our $14 reproduction MGA rear view mirror that we bought from Moss Motors three years ago has been remarkably inefficient, displaying precious little behind the car when it wasn't moving around, and less when it was, which was most of the time. The mirror has been screwed tight to the dash from the beginning, but the construction of the flimsy two-piece device rivals the finest British workmanship of the originals, and flopped around like a beached sea bass at every bump in the road.
We considered replacing the mirror, or at least beefing it up with pieces of metal and bits of rubber, but we didn't think it was worth the effort. Our driver's side Yamaha mirror has served us more than adequately over the years, giving us a clear picture of all the action behind us, while the tiny mirror on the dash has shown us mostly flashing images of cars, trees, houses, clouds, and open sky. Nothing of real value. So we let it flop around, and when we weren't moving the mirror looked all classic and stylish, and so we never really considered it broken.
But one day last week we were cleaning the inside of the windscreen and bumping the mirror back and forth, and we wondered what might happen if we squeezed a drop of superglue into the gap between the mirror stem and the mounting plate. We were pretty sure it wouldn't do any good, and might end up permanently cementing the mirror to the scuttle, but on the other hand it wouldn't take but a minute and wouldn't require any tools. So we gave it a shot, and lo and behold it worked. No matter how much you bounce down the road now, the mirror is rock steady.
So even though we never thought of the mirror as broken, it's apparently fixed now, which is a pleasant surprise. We're amazed by how much you can see in such a tiny mirror when it's focused on a single object and not trying to show you everything at once. Because of this we find ourselves using the mirror more and more, which is kind of a safety improvement. Like most of our repairs, we never know how long it's going to last, although we've always liked the idea that a repair will either break in a few days or last forever, and it's already been a few days.
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