Friday, February 18, 2011

Winter Blues

It's been a while since our last update so I will let the pictures describe the current state of things:

Due to a recent thaw, I've been able to get a closer look at our monster: That blob under icy snow and the green tarpaulin. We are currently working on other things, of an indoor nature!

Currently, I've finally managed to get a proper measurement of the secondary sheave splines. They are flat root type, 30 degrees. Many many thanks to Nick for his help on that.

Otherwise, on the purchasing front, we are now the proud new owners of this:

A used seat found on Craigslist in Halifax, initially off a BMW e30 race car. For those of you more geographically challenged, Halifax is about 1400Kms away, not exactly in close proximity to Metroneige HQ!

Luckily, Eric used some clever negociating and with the help of a few friends in Halifax, we managed to sneak the seat onto a plane as "sports equipment"... Not quite your average hockey bag or pair of skis, but the airline let this one go. Overall quite a good score for us! Even the belts don't expire until 2013!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Meet the Metroneige's grandfather

Last weekend me and Alex rushed down to my grandfather's farm in southern Ontario to pickup what has to be the best present I've ever received. You see I'm getting married in a few months and my grandfather decided that I should have his horseless carriage as an early wedding gift/inheritance. For me this buggy isn't just an amazing toy or another motorized vehicle it's a family heirloom that will be cherished for a long time so don't expect it to show up on a race track any time soon.

    At this point you must be asking yourself what any of this has to do with the Metroneige. Well it's very simple you see, we took this opportunity to take Greg's new trailer out for a good road trial to see how it copes with the open road. We're happy to report that it passes with flying colours, pulling like a dream on the busiest highway in Canada. I don't think the road trip could have gone any better despite the light plug issue we had to resolve on Friday before leaving.

The big surprise of the weekend however was realizing that the 1902 buggy with it's giant wood wheels has a few things in common with our Lemon racer. I can't say much since I've been sworn to secrecy on the inner workings of the drive system, but lets me just say that the Metroneige isn't the only vehicle to have a belt in the drive system.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Earlier in the year, the Metroneige team had a bit of a debate on how to deal with "depowering" the front axle on our car: refer to this blog post. It was meant to have driveshafts going to both front wheels, which is nowhere near useful to us. Avid readers will recall that our solution was to remove the driveshaft at the CV joint, and retain the outboard portion of the CV to keep the hub/bearing assembly bolted to the suspension upright.

Fast forward to recently: I have noticed something while looking at a Pontiac Solstice up on the lift. Looking at the suspension uprights I saw this:

Those are the front passenger side uprights. Notice what GM did in the center, I see splines, indicating a FWD origin. The brake caliper is towards the rear, so I'm guessing they are just flipped upside down. Also indicative of this is the fact that the steering rack is on the forward side of the pivot point, and "upside down" as opposed to conventional. Note that the camera is "looking back" from the front of the car.

This brings me to the rear end:

Those are the passenger side rear uprights, which also look identical to the front. The front of the car is towards the left side of those pictures. If you squint a bit, you can imagine this axle-upright combination the way it was designed to be used: FWD! I don't have the correct angle to show you guys but they even use the tie rods as part of the linkages.

Gotta love parts bin engineering.

Conclusion: GM did the same thing to the front suspension on the Kappa platform cars as we did to the Metroneige! So I guess the concept is valid.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Another brief work update, this time with pictures. I apologise if I ramble on a bit about details or if this is unclear. Eric and I have put in a few hours since our last update and progress is good. Welding is always fun and rewarding as the transition from planning a panel to finishing one is pretty quick.

We tied the bottom of the rear window frames to the blue part, which was fairly straightforward. I also added a few rectangles around where the hatch bottom is. That portion is done! You can also see where there are patches needed on the rusty portions of the shock towers.

Before/after pictures of welding the floor of the red car to the floor of the blue car. I fully remember why I dislike welding underneath anything. This portion is probably the ugliest of all, but it's solid and isn't going anywhere! On the rightmost edge of the second picture, you can see where the new floor panel is spot welded to the former rear subframe rails. From this portion, we need to make new panels to tie from there to the outside of the car, where the rockers are (or used to be) .

These are top view of where the blue car footwells used to be. These are now one piece with the "new" floor you saw in the pair of pictures showing underneath the car. This is also tied into the transmission tunnel. Everything is now fully tied into the floor of the Metro .

Don't tell Eric (it'll go to his head), but I think he's finally starting to get decent at MIG welding. Next on the to-do list is more patch panels on the rockers, fixing the rust damage on the blue shock towers and a general workspace cleanup. Another scrap metal run is surely in order, as well as deciding/preparing for winter!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Work update

Not much to say on this front other than having been rained out for 3 consecutive weeks! Our attempts to schedule 2-3 evenings/week have all been pouring rain! This is slightly frustrating and slowing our progress, but such is life!

We are currently on the lookout for a trailer to borrow, as if we can move the car for the winter, we may have access to an indoor location which would extend our "season". I would rather not repeat the U-Haul rental, as it was pretty pricey!

Karting = Life Lessons (part 2)

Sunday, or race day as it's more properly known started early. I don't even get up that early on weekdays, nevermind Sundays. Schedule was:

Registration by 8:30am, "pit" setup soon thereafter.
Practise session at 8:40am
Driver's meeting at 9:30am
Race start 12:50
Race end 2:20

First hiccup was the cancellation of practise session. This negates any possible setup and the chance for Jim to get familiarised with the kart. The race start time also got changed to around 3:30. Now begins the long wait. There was a lot of this going on:

That is, fiddling. A lot of fiddling, taking the time to change the oil, doing maintenance, sprocket setup, fixing the million things that always break on the kart. I think the list of things we did went something like this:
  • Pull engine
  • Remove clutch
  • Clean and deglaze (score) clutch
  • Replace clutch
  • Change drive sprocket
  • Change axle sprocket
  • Modify chain length
  • Fuel pump rebuild
  • Replace fuel hoses
  • Change oil
  • Replace engine
  • Remove carburettor three times to repair throttle linkage
  • Re-adjust throttle cable and pedal stop
  • Clean kart
  • Nut and bolt tightness check
Of course, come race time we completely forgot the basics, like check tyre pressure and check our combined weight average! We got to watch some of the other classes race, including Juniors, who are completely nuts and are as aggressive as you would be playing Mario Kart.

Our driver order was Eric then Jim then Myself, with each of us doing 30 minute stints. This seemed like a lot to me, especially since I found 12 minutes to be long during practise. This did however optimise our driver change time, so I didn't argue too much as decided that I should suck it up!

3:40 race starts! Everything seems to be working, although Eric was visibly not happy about his setup.

Eric (#22) dicing it up!

Just as we are about to signal him for the driver change, he misses a turn and end up in the field adjacent to turn 1. Turns out that the left front kingpin bolt decided to shear, leaving him with no steering. (Conspiracy theorists suggest that the bolt may have actually broken during his excursion, but no proof of this is known to exist...). We are out of the running, Jim not even having had his chance!

The race was red flagged moments after our kart failed due to a pretty severe crash near the start line. One of the flagsmen got hit in a rather nasty set of circumstances and the race was cancelled. I am told he will be fine, but the experience was not pleasant for those involved and I'm sure the clubs and organisations involved will have many a debate on how to address the situation.

As far as I'm concerned, the day's events are part of the game, accident included! This certainly puts a lot things into perspective for our Lemons endeavour. It's good to know that our team can handle our fair share of mechanical failure, which is going to be likely! It's also good to know that we can work together, not only in the "shop" but also at the track. Our crisis management is decent and every member can keep a positive attitude when things go awry, which they inevitably always will!

I'll end this post with a few gratuitous shots of Greg's team doing awesome:
Lee(#41) passing on the outside!

Lee (#41) in a nice sandwich

Karting = Life Lessons (part 1)

As some of you may recall, Eric and Greg are the more competitive members of the Metroneige team, as far as motorsports are concerned. Both are active members of the National Capital Karting Club, competing in the Senior Honda class. As such, they have both decided that Jim and Myself suck at driving and need to learn before we get ourselves to an actual Lemons event.

Needless to say we had a few rental days during the year, in what is essentially a fully bumpered version of a box stock Honda kart with crappy tires. I've found these very instructive, have learned a lot and had tons of fun!

Rentals at the Quyon track

Then came the request from Eric: "Hey, why don't we form a team for the club's Enduro race". Simple format, 90 minute race, multiple drivers, one kart. What could go wrong?

In true team spirit, Greg decided to form his own team, because he actually had a chance at a decent showing. He promptly joined another competent driver (you know who you are!), made some good setup decisions and armed his team with sticky tyres of questionable lifespan... They "ended" up in 6th out of 25. More on the finish later.

Greg and his superstar co-driver

Here's the rub, Jim and Myself have never actually driven a proper kart before, nor have we even seen the track we're supposed to race on. Frankly, although Jim did decent on the rental karts, we didn't stand a chance! With an anticipated 25+ karts on a small track at the same time, we really had our work cut out. Compounding the problem was trying to get some practise before the Sunday race...

I ended up getting a few sessions on the Friday prior to the race, using Eric's kart. I say a few because the track opened late, we had several mechanical issues to resolve and generally my not having a clue. I think I faired alright, considering it was my first time, there was a giant puddle blocking half the track in turn 5 which scared the crap out of me and generally adjusting to the speed.

Jim on the other hand couldn't make it to the Friday practise, so went to the Saturday practise. Of course I forgot to mention that I wasn't there, nor was Eric. So he got to try out other karts, which, in hindsight, was MUCH better than nothing.