April 30, 2017
Our application to the Bay Area Maker Faire was accepted again this year, in part because we claimed our website will draw visitors from all across the state to see the M.G. Locost in person. We don't actually know any of the Maker Faire people who approve applications, but possibly one or more of them saw our exhibit last year and weren't completely turned off by it. We think it helps that we're one of the easier exhibits to accommodate. No requirements for power, water, Wi-Fi, or even a roof. Just stick us out in the parking lot with a couple of folding chairs and we're good.
We also don't make any noise, although we would if they'd let us, and we do draw a fair crowd (no pun intended), although we think that's mostly due to our placement directly between the entrance gates and the food court. Still, as long as we're going to be part of the show, we'd like the car to look nice, or at least better than the cars parked next to it. To this end we've been reviewing our upgrade options with respect to three specific areas of the car: wheels, bonnet, and mirrors. Some of these are doable, probably not all. But we've made some progress.
Over the years we have been relatively happy with our Yamaha side mirrors, mostly because they were large enough to see what was behind us when the dash-mounted mirror was flipping around in the wind and showing us a meandering collage of trees, sky, road signs, and the occasional car. Even when we discovered that superglue could be used to keep the rear view mirror steady, it still showed us mostly spare tire. But all that changed last fall when we lowered the spare tire during the great cracked spare tire mount debacle.
Once we could see what was behind us out of the dash-mounted mirror, the Yamaha mirrors were suddenly way too big. The side mirrors we'd originally wanted for the Locost were the period-correct Raydot replicas. Much lighter than the Yamaha mirrors, the aerodynamic Raydots look like they would've come standard on a Lotus 7, or been installed on one by a 60s-era racer. Unfortunately, as with just about everything else we've ever wanted for the Locost, Raydots have a downside, their cost, an additional $38 over the price of a Yamaha mirror.
So we waited for one of our Yamaha mirrors to break down, crack or something, but no, they continued to perform flawlessly. They did vibrate slightly, which considering their thin mounting tubes isn't surprising, but it was nonetheless unlikely we'd ever lose one on the freeway. So it seemed we were stuck with them, until it occurred to us that if one of the Yamaha mirrors were ever to vibrate loose and break, we wouldn't have a spare. We'd be stranded, unable to drive the car until we could secure a replacement. And who knows how long that might take?
So it seemed only prudent to buy spare mirrors right away, and probably Raydots because they'd be easier to replace, and probably two because different mirrors on either side of the car would look stupid. So we ordered the Raydots, then decided the Yamaha mirrors would work as spares every bit as well as the Raydots, and the Raydots improved aerodynamics would begin saving us money on fuel right away. So when the Raydots arrived, we bent up some aluminum straps for mounts and bolted them to the car, then stashed the Yamaha mirrors someplace where we might be able to find them someday.
Installation of the Raydots proved to be fairly easy. We removed the Yamaha mirrors with little damage to the scuttle paint, and were able to reuse the original Yamaha mounting holes. As expected, the new mirrors look excellent, like they came with the car. Raydots have 1960 written all over them. The 1/8" thick 6061-T6 aluminum mounting straps turned out to be at least as sturdy as the Yamaha mirror stems, and the Raydots are so light that 90% of the vibration is gone. Despite a slightly smaller and rounder surface area, the view to the rear is actually improved.
With the mirrors done, we have to do something about the bonnet, something that will probably involve paint. The vinyl currently wrapped around the bonnet has served us well, but unfortunately it's not the correct shade of green. We haven't heard any complaints so far, at least not out loud, but at the Maker Faire the car will be subjected to close inspection by thousands of visitors, who will spot the difference immediately and raise a ruckus. So we have to do something, and as always we're not looking forward to waiting for paint to dry, so we'll keep our options open.
Meanwhile, we've gotten the junior Locost on its wheels. It steers and everything, although you have to push it to get it moving. The steering wheel may look nice someday if we ever get around to attaching wood to it, but the steering gear already looks impressive with its chain drive and quick-disconnect sprockets for fast steering ratio changes. Adjustable pedal mounts bolted to the steering column support slide back and forth to accomodate drivers of different lengths, which is also cool. Yes, it was a lot more work than we expcted, and no, it wasn't worth it.
As we might've mentioned earlier, building a half-scale electric Locost has turned out to be only slightly less work than building a full-scale electric Locost, 'less' referring to components being somewhat easier to pick up and move around. The little Locost has almost as many tubes as the big one, and we had to make a lot of things for junior that we just unbolted from the donor or purchased from Moss Motors for its big brother. We're hoping the interior and bodywork will be easier, but we're not counting on it. We'll know more after we try to build a scaled-down fiberglass nose.
The fact that we're still willing to work on the junior Locost despite the level of effort involved has us thinking of building a full-scale electric Locost, or 'Electricost' as we'll probably never call it. The Electricost (maybe just this once) would still be MGB-based, since we have all the jigs and we really like the way the M.G. Locost handles. We might go with an RX-7 rear axle to save weight, and move the steering wheel half an inch to the right, but that's it. Of course a project like this wouldn't start for at least another year, and we could easily change our minds before then.
Our build plan for the junior Locost only required us to have a rolling chassis for this year's Maker Faire, but our progress to date has us considering a foray into next year's plan, like for instance the drivetrain, which involves only batteries, switches, and some wiring. Plus maybe a few other things. Our test motor is already bolted to our rear axle housing, and we've found a speed controller online that has everything we need to get it running, including connectors for the battery, motor, throttle, lockout switch, brakes, and even a low-voltage indicator light.
But we're not promising anything, because for one thing batteries and controllers don't grow on trees, and for another we're not sure what all of those connectors are supposed to plug into. We don't know right now what the throttle is going to look like, or the brakes, and we don't have a dashboard, so obviously we can't have a lockout switch or a low-voltage indicator light or any of those other things. Which means we have a lot to figure out if we want the junior Locost roaming around the Maker Faire this year, so no promises.
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