Efab Update 2014


I thought it may be pertinent to give everyone an update on what I am doing with Efab currently. As many of you know, I am moving to California. I am not getting rid of the shop space in CT, however, until I have tried CA and (hopefully) liked it. The shop and apartment in CT may become available for rent, dependent on my experience in CA. My friend Alfredo Izzo, who has assisted me on several projects in the last year, is moving with me.

The reason I am not out there now is because of a mix-up with a shop space we found several months ago after an exhaustive search. We had reviewed the lease, visited the spot, and were assured by the realtor and owner that everything was a go. We returned to CT and packed up the shop, and then got a call from the realtor saying the current tenants were, in fact, not leaving for another year. If anyone in the LA area gets Mr. Tim Wetzel as a real estate agent, run the other way screaming! I cant say enough bad things about our experience with him.

We are flying out to LA this week to re-start our search for a new shop space. A huge thank you to Brooke Worrel, John Sender, and Allison Casson for helping us facilitate this move.

Project update

Despite all the changes to Efab, the next project is pushing ahead full steam! As a little recap, the project is based around a 1972 Dodge Charger, code-named the Vulture mk 1 and Vulture mk 2. The mk1 is simply the car, with a few drivability and durability upgrades in order to get it the 3000 miles from CT to CA under its own power. This drive will also serve to help me understand the shortcomings of the car, beyond the obvious (inefficiency).

The Mk 2 will be the kickoff project for the new shop in CA. The parameters for the new car: ultimate all around vehicle. A broad category for sure, but one that will challenge me and actually serve a useful purpose when finished. What does this entail? So far I have come up with these guidlines:

1. Durability. It must not be fragile

2. Efficient. Must get at least 22-25 miles per gallon

3. Stable and comfortable at high speeds. Must be comfortable cruising at 80-90 mph for long distances.

4. Cargo Capacity. It is a utility vehicle to serve Efab, so it must be able to carry an acceptable amount of cargo/load such as metal, motorcycle engines, building supplies, etc.

5. Aesthetically pleasing. Duh

The Mk 1 is finished, and will make the drive out as soon as we find a new shop. This will be the one, and only long trip the car should take, assuming something unforeseen doesn’t happen. To prepare for the Mk2, I have been educating myself on all types of wheeled vehicles. Keep in mind I have very limited experience building cars. In my life so far, I have owned a few pickup trucks, a 1970 Chevelle, a (new) Mini Cooper, and a 1929 ford hotrod.

The Chevelle and the 29 Ford were both assembled and highly modified by me, but not really built. I did not try to improve the cars, apart for the motors and aesthetics. Both of them handled poorly by modern standards (obviously), and despite both having plenty of power, neither was much use for anything other than the occasional joyride. They both had poor fuel economy (which limited range), excessive vibration and noise, and limited utility.

Two things  seem very obvious to me right off the bat. The engine and the chassis. Given the technology available, the only efficient engine with both the power and fuel economy to move a 3800 pound car is a turbo-diesel. Gasoline engines, when large enough to properly motivate a car this size, are simply too inefficient.

The second problem is handling. This is a Pandoras Box situation. “Handling” is a very broad term, one that is made up of many systems all working in harmony. The steering system, braking system, suspension design, chassis design, wheel and tire choices, and driver to car ergonomics all effect it.  Solving one problem presents another. One suspension design excels at one job, but is not ideal for another. It is the biggest engineering challenge I have ever taken on, but hopefully one that will be rewarding.

This transitional phase has left me with a lot of free time, which I have filled with reading and research. One major problem I have encountered, from an educational standpoint, is that there are very limited resources available to answer basic engineering questions. For example, you can get books on “how to build a nascar”, or “how to build an off road truck”, or “how to build a rat rod”, but not many on how to build a regular car. What this means is that I have to educate myself on every type of wheeled vehicle known to man, then pick and choose which technologies I can apply to my car. Oh well, in the words of Guy Martin, “If it were easy, every man and his dog would be at it.”

Stay tuned….

 


Matt Olsens Cannonball Contest


Posting this for Matt Olsen from Carls Cycle Supply. This is a contest he is having. I did about half of the cannonball with Matt a few years ago and it was a blast.

 


Happy Holidays


Random pics, enjoy

icarus good

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scotts bike #3

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Race Car Interiors


I have been brainstorming on possible interiors for the Charger project. 

interior 2

 

interior 3

 

interior 4

 

interior 5

 

interior 6

 

interior 7

 


Race Car Interiors


Since a complete overhaul of my 1972 charger is in order once I get set up in my new shop, I have been relentlessly researching chassis design. I have always wanted a car with a roll-cage, and this is a perfect opportunity. Do I need a roll-cage in a street driven car? not really, but I don’t really need much of anything- its all about want.

(If your already into cars, bear with me here). When you think about it, cars are attempting to attach four wheels to a hollow sheet-metal box, with maximum interior space to impress its occupants. Obviously the road surface isn’t flat, so the suspension system attempts to allow each wheel to follow its own path while keeping the rest of the car stable. However, there are limitations to how stiff car manufacturers can make the “cabin” portion without compromising the interior space that consumers deem so very important. The resulting compromise is that most cars have an inherent amount of flex that occurs throughout them. This flex robs the car of precision control.

To get rid of that flex, almost all racing vehicles have a roll cage built into them. This cage does take up some interior space, but effectively turns the car chassis into a box structure, making it resistant to flexing. By unitizing the chassis, the suspension is much more effective.

Roll cages serve another purpose as well, to better protect the occupants inside. Lets face it, if you are strapped securely inside an indestructible steel cage, not a lot can hurt you right? I tend to agree. It begs the question: what is safer? A brand new car with front and side airbags, very minimal seat belt retention, crumple zones, sub-frames that precisely collapse on impact, etc. OR: I bombproof steel cage with you strapped very securely inside.

My opinion is the cage is safer. why? because all the technology in modern cars (in regards to passenger safety), revolves around average peoples unwillingness to strap themselves in. People hate seat belts- this is obvious. I dont know if it is a disdain for the law, a feeling of claustrophobia, or the misguided belief that being able to “escape” your car in an accident will save you, but people just don’t want to wear them.

With this in mind, car manufacturers have gone to the moon trying to come up with other ways to insulate occupants from reality, essentially turning the inside of the vehicle into a rubber room, and allowing the outside of the car to disintegrate on impact to absorb energy.

But what if you weren’t opposed to strapping yourself in? I’m not- I kinda like it! What about a better seat belt design, like a “4 point”, or “5 point” style that racers use? Now combine that with a cage that is not designed to fail. Lets look at some videos to demonstrate my point….

Typical car designed for people who hate seat belts:

Now a car with a roll cage and effective seat belts (skip to 40 seconds in):

The funny part is, the second crash occurred at far higher speeds, and ran directly into a guardrail, yet the driver is clearly fine.

One last video to demonstrate why roll-cages and good seat belts are better than crumple cars and shitty seat belts. Do you think these guys would have lived if this were a driving a new Toyota Camry?

(and yes they both walked away)

Lets review, roll-cages offer better vehicle control and increased safety, while sacrificing some interior space and taking an extra 3 seconds to strap into. I think I have my mind made up! stay tuned…

 

 

 

 

 


1972 Dodge Charger


Things are in a state of flux at Efab these days. I am relocating to Los Angeles CA, first seasonally, perhaps permanently. The fate of the Branford, CT shop is uncertain at this time. Without boring everyone with my reasons for moving, let me show you what I will be driving out there: my dream car!

Every once in a while I do a car project, and I have a very progressive plan for this one! Ever since I was a kid I looked at the Dodge Charger as the quintessential muscle car. Not based on any particular feature, just the overall design. In particular, the 1971-1974 years. Of course everyone wants the 1968-1970, due mostly to the fact that it has been made famous in so many great movies (bullet, fast and furious, blade, dukes of hazard, etc). I like to be different, and I like the fact that in the later years, the design got a little sleazier.

Of course, I am not going to simply buy a car and drive it stock, its just not me. Also, it doesn’t really make sense, environmentally or financially, to drive a car that gets 10 miles per gallon on a regular basis. How can I have my cake and eat it too?

What engine can I put in here that will solve all my problems? I need lots of horsepower and torque, ease of maintenance, decent fuel economy, and low emissions. How about a turbo-diesel?

Modern diesel engines are not what they used to be. They are smooth running, reliable, quiet, have the ability to run a wide variety of fuels (bio-diesels), and make freakish amounts of power.

I am in the process of educating myself on the wide world of diesels now. I have never owned a diesel, or even seen one taken apart. I have a lot to learn before I can make an educated decision on where to begin, but for now I have another task: prep the charger for its cross country drive.

Here she is the day I bought her, coming home from Long Island on the ferry.

charger on ferry

 

As soon as it got to the shop I dove in. Anyone who has ever tried to restore an old car knows the pain I am talking about. Is it safe? what parts are about to fail? Is it going to catch on fire? how is the motor and trans? So many questions, and only one way to find out- start exploring.

One thing that was immediately obvious- the suspension was not up to par. I knew it would have to be upgraded, not only for the trip out west, but also for the heavier engine that will eventually be installed. A phone call to Firmfeel Inc (a mopar suspension specialist) got me several new key components. New heavy duty leaf springs and torsion bars, heavy duty tie rods, rebuilt heavy duty steering box,  giant sway bars,  a full poly bushing kit, and new stiff shocks. Once these components were installed, it completely changed the way the car drove. Thanks Firmfeel!

Next was the engine, and luckily I have a good friend (Ralph at Kehl Tech), who builds race engines for a living, and is dam good at it. He said the motor sounded good (its a small block 360), but suggested we rebuild the carb, which was a good guess because there was a lot of old gas residue gumming it up, as well as many mismatched parts.

Accessory belts were badly misaligned, so some new brackets had to be made as well. The coil was mounted sideways, so that was relocated too.

charger engine without carb

Next step was the wiring. As you can imagine, a lot of morons had been inside this car since it left the factory, and it seemed as if every one of them added their own special touches to the electrical system! My god, butt connectors, wires that had melted, electrical tape, stereo components that didnt work, old fuses, new fuses, wires with no fuse at all, and breakers that randomly pop. With my trusty test light I went at it, and after a week I had removed about 40ft of wire that didnt do anything, repaired several melted wires, got 3 non-functioning gauges to work, installed brighter headlights, and got all the critical running lights working. Of course all of this will get redone again when the new motor transplant happens, but it should survive the trip out now.

I cant be seen driving an orange car, and it isnt the original paint anyway, so a quicky repaint was in order. Spay bomb time!

charger being painted

 

I ripped off the old rotten vinyl roof covering, and molded the pitted metal underneath. I never liked those vinyl roofs anyway. The chromed trim and bumpers were in decent shape, but a scotch brightening session gave them a nice matte finish, similar to stainless steel.

charger in shop

I am leaving next month, so I am driving the car daily to (hopefully) bring any other problems to light before the big push west. Stay tuned for more updates, and remember, not all choppers have 2 wheels!

 


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