Microsoft is deprecating Office Live Small Business (OLSB), the free web publishing service that has hosted this site since 2008. The replacement, Office 365 for small business, is a big step forward for those who are actually running a small business, but I'm just a car enthusiast with a vanity site, so it's time for me to move on. After a little research, I settled on Weebly.com. It took quite a few hours to transfer everything over and correct all the formatting issues (although I'm sure I've missed a few), but it seems like it will do the job. I'll give it a few weeks before I transfer over the domain name and make it the official home of Throttle Steer.
This placement meant that a slightly longer 12V+cable was needed, so I decided to roll custom battery cables equipped with
terminals appropriately sized for the small M6 terminal used on the EVO2. The good folks at Pegasus Auto Racing Supplies provided flexible 4 gauge cable, 1/4” ring terminals, and insulating boot, while an Amazon vendor sent a crimping tool capable of dealing with such heavy duty terminals.
The battery is definitely up to the task of starting the car in cold weather, so the big question now is how long will it last. My fingers and other appendages remain firmly crossed.
Yikes!This blog was last updated over 2 years ago!! Okay, so I’ve been a
bit delinquent, but given my website statistics, I think I’m the only person
who’s noticed. The past two years have been pretty uneventful car-wise, so I’ll just touch the highlights here in reverse chronological order.
Adding Even More Lightness
The Odyssey PC680 in the Westfield was beginning to die, and since Lithium batteries are coming down in price...I picked up a 16 cell Ballistic EVO2 battery through Amazon. Before going through the installation hassles though (I plan to relocate it, so will need to mess with the cables and build a new battery tray/hold down setup) I wanted to test it in cold weather to make sure it is up to the task of how I use the car. The other afternoon, with the temps in the mid 30's and falling, I rolled the Westfield out of the garage and let it sit on the driveway to acclimate to the colder outside temps. When checking back over 2-1/2 hours later, an infrared thermometer showed the battery had equalized with the current air temp at 31F and the block was a warmer, but still chilly, 37F. Next it was time for the big test, so I inserted the key and turned...the engine fired right up! I immediately switched it off and then repeated that process two more times, and the result was three back-to-back startups around the freezing mark with zero issues. Not too shabby for something that tipped my postal scale at
3lb 4.5oz! For comparison, the PC680 on the same scale came in at 14lb 10oz.
I've been toying with putting a decent stereo in the 993 since buying it 5 years ago. The cheap aftermarket head unit matched the interior, but wasn't a sonic masterpiece, while the factory speakers suffered from age related rot, so they...well, sucked. Since Christmas is always a good time to spend wastefully, I picked up a new head unit locally (Kenwood Excelon KDC-x995), and then went to Rod Birch of Rennlist fame for speakers (Focal 165 V30) and amp (Arc Audio KS125.2 Mini). The tweeters on these particular Focal's are small enough to fit in the factory tweeter housings with just a little persuasion from a Dremel, so other than the head unit, the system looks stock. The amp is a class-H item which is really, really small and light, and fits perfectly under the passenger seat. It was a pretty big project
that took almost an entire weekend, but the results are impressive.
The Miata came with a poorly installed, tacky-looking silver head unit that was *really* out of place in the otherwise nice interior. Given there’s now an innocuous-looking, black Clarion from the 993 sitting on the shelf, I made the swap. It’s not a sonic improvement over the outgoing Sony XPLOD (no really, that’s the name Sony’s branding brain trust came up with after countless focus groups and hundreds of hours of market analysis), at least it looks a lot better.
It's very well made, has full extension, ball bearing drawer slides, and features 73% more drawer area than my outgoing cabinet, so I now have space for everything.
Speaking of everything, the garage is also a little short on space for those
things, so I installed new, adjustable shelves over the tool cabinet. (that’s the new shop dog, an 11 month old Great Pyrenees who doesn't like
to pose for photographs).
Ever since I drove behind the Westfield on a very bright summer’s day, I’ve been unhappy with the effectiveness of the brake lights. When the back of the car is lit up by strong sunlight, the body panels glow bright red, nearly matching the intensity of the lit brake lights. I investigated LED replacements, but according to reviews most of them are pretty useless. Sure, they react far more quickly than incandescent bulbs, but they are not as bright as the stock 1157 bulb and their illumination falls sharply off axis. One of the exceptions is the Genesis 48 LED 1157 replacement from Custom Dynamics (also available as the creatively spelled Radiantz 1.85” Replacement Clusterz). The reviews indicate that they are much brighter than 1157 bulbs and their 120 degree LEDs maintain an advantage at pretty severe viewing angles. Unfortunately they are a bit bulky and won’t fit behind the my Land Rover brake light lens without extensive and irreversible modifications. Bummer.
Recently I became aware of two new version of the Genesis/Radiantz replacement light: hard wired and a pigtail terminated with an 1157 base. It appeared that the latter provided enough flexibility that they would work with my light housings, so I ordered a pair of red LEDs from Custom Dynamics. Before committing to the change, I decided to do a side-by-side comparison with the new LED cluster in the passenger side light and the 2357 bulb (a marginally brighter substitute for the 1157) in the driver’s side light. I walked back about 20’ and then signaled SWMBO to hit the middle pedal. Wow! The LEDs were much brighter than the incandescent bulb. I then moved up about 15’ and over to the right by several feet until I could just see both lights. Even that far off axis the LED still held an edge.
Because I am using the version with the remote base, I had to find a way to affix the LED cluster to the bottom section of the light housing. I decided to use double-sided foam tape to make replacement easy should I ever have an issue with a cluster. The LEDs don’t produce any appreciable heat, so the tape should last a while and also provide a little cushioning to the LEDs which are sensitive to vibration. Although not cheap at $25/cluster, the LEDs are well worth the money.
This weekend I attended a fantastic tech session at the local Lamborghini
dealer. They put the guts of an LP640 Roadster on display and explained the inner working of the E-gear transmission to a small group of enthusiasts. Tom, the car’s owner and the organizer of Exotics @ Redmond Town Center, had noticed a very minor oil leak coming from the back half of his car.Nothing serious, just a few drips per month, but enough to spur the dealer into action. They received the go ahead from the home office to pull the engine and transmission to find the cause before it developed into a bigger, more expensive problem. Fortunately Tom is one of those exotic car owners who likes to share with others, so he organized the tech session and spread the word on a couple of local forums.
The leak was ultimately traced to two unrelated issues: a very slight
weeping from the rear main seal, and a more serious leak in the hydraulic clutch release bearing. The latter is part of the E-gear transmission and is the component that controls the engagement/disengagement of the clutch. It looks like a slightly larger version of the concentric setup I run on the Westfield, but uses a reference sensor affixed to the back of the block to monitor how much the release bearing has moved. A computer controls the hydraulics and determines the engagement/release point and speed based on various parameters including estimated clutch thickness, which is calculated using a wear rate algorithm. The latter uses clutch temperature cycles (duration and actual temperature) and apparently is quite accurate. This also means you can determine clutch life by simply plugging into the computer. Very slick.
My friends and I have an inside joke regarding Porsche maintenance.
Rather than cite the dollars spent on a specific repair, we refer to the cost in
Porsche Units (PU), where 1 PU equals $1000.I suppose a psychologist would call this a coping mechanism for the high prices, but I prefer to think of it as simply living in denial – a highly underrated place to live. While speaking with the Lamborghini tech we quickly concluded that one Lamborghini Unit equals at least 5 PU. For example the clutch release bearing is…$3800. The E-gear ECU is also $3800, and the clutch pack is almost a bargain at $6500. Shop time to remove and replace the engine/trans is 25 hours…and no, I don’t know what they charge per hour.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for all of us was the Lambo’s build quality. The areas normally visible to the casual observer looked great, but with the engine out, it was a different story. The LP640 uses superleggera construction, which is a fancy Italian way of saying it shares the same type of square tubing framework for its suspension and engine mounting points as you find in a Westfield. The difference though was in the aesthetic
quality of the welds. I’m sure they are very strong, but my God were they ugly and inconsistent. They truly looked like they were done by someone in an introductory welding class. It was also kind of odd to look at the suspension arms and again see something similar to the Westfield. They are welded up from oval and tubular stock, which given the low production, makes sense, but it doesn’t look like something I would expect to see on a $400k car. Again, the bottom line is how the parts work and I have no doubt they work together very, very well, but it was quite different from what you see when tearing apart a Porsche.Or dare I say, even a Westfield.
Anyway fascinating event and the Lamborghini dealership really must be commended for their part. They were very friendly, and even held a raffle towards the end that ensured nearly everyone in attendance took something home. One of my friends nabbed a radio controlled Murcielago (which he later discovered has electrical problems..just like the real thing?), another took home a wool hat branded Lamborghini, and I on a Lamborghini T-shirt. My other friend who attended didn’t bother to enter the raffle, so they gave him a Lamborghini branded ID/key neck strap as a parting gift. Everyone, including the other Lamborghini owners, was so nice that now I really want to buy a Lamborghini of my own. Of course want and able are two different things. ;-)
I replaced the upper bushing in the Westfield’s steering column today.
Posts on WSCC indicate that you can simply drive the new bushing in from the top and displace the old one a little further down the column. After doing that and taking the car for a test drive, I discovered that the steering was much stiffer than before and it would no longer self center. Not good.
I then pulled out the column, thinking that I might have to remove the new bushing and mill it down a bit. After feeling around for a burr, and finding none, I decided to try reinstall the column and try it one more time before pulling the bushing. Much to my surprise the steering had freed up considerably. Weird. I reassembled everything and took the car for another drive, and all was back to normal…or so I thought. After getting the car back in the garage I discovered that the steering lock is acting up. It works fine if the key isn’t in the ignition, but it won’t lock if the key is in the ignition – even if the key is not turned. Not sure what is going on, but something ain’t right. My best guess is that I dislodged/broke something when I was pounding in the bushing. More research is required.
I finally got around to finishing the transmission tunnel cover. Rather than
stick to the original plan and upholster the sides of the tunnel down to the
floor, I opted to just do a simple cap. Although fully upholstering the tunnel
would have resulted in a more finished appearance, that isn’t really the look I am after, so I kept things (relatively) simple.
Overall I am pleased with the results, but there are a lot of wrinkles that will hopefully come out with a heat gun (looks worse in the photos). I was also a bit disappointed to discover that more subtle grain in the new vinyl means it is more revealing of flaws in stitch quality. Since I don’t know how to sew, that means the quality isn’t great. Oh well…
Finally took some photos of the transmission tunnel progress.These show the before and after, seperated by a shot of the pieces off the car. The
transformation doesn’t look that profound in the photos, but in the flesh the
radiused edges make a huge difference to the appearance.Hopefully that
improvement will remain once the upholstery is done. As you can see, the new pieces raise the top about 3/4” and there are large cutouts around the gear lever and handbrake that will allow the gaiters to sink below the surface. I added some 3/4” u-channel behind the handbrake (visible in the before photo) to shore up that area so I can continue to use it for a hand plant when sitting/exiting the seat. This weekend I break out the sewing
I recently upgraded my floor jack and stands.The 993 works better with flat
top stands, and I wanted something that would enable me to raise the cars a little higher than my old set up, so I went with the ESCO from Ultimate Garage. It is a copy of the NLA AC Hydraulic stands, and shares the beefy construction, useful 13”-21” range, and build quality with the original. They also share the price, but thanks to a group buy on Rennlist, I saved $13/corner. For a floor jack, I picked up a very nice piece from Griot’s Garage at their annual garage sale – only $85 rather than the normal $400 price tag.
Last weekend I used the setup for the first time and was blown away by the
difference in stability.I’ve never had a pair of ratchet type stands that lock
at exactly the same lift height. This doesn’t seem to make a difference in a
real car where the vehicle weight is sufficient that modest chassis flex keeps
all the jacking points in contact with the stands. With the Westfield, however, the car is so light, that it would only rest on three stands at any given time. With the ESCOs the Westfield was rock solid. Very comforting.
Unfortunately I discovered that my bargain floor jack is broken. After lifting
the car a few inches I noticed a puddle of hydraulic fluid forming under the
piston. Not good. A quick call to Griot’s and they told me to bring it by for
a look. If it is repairable then they’ll take care of it, otherwise they will
simply exchange the jack – even though it was bought at the garage sale which is an all-sales-final affair. They may not offer the lowest prices, but their customer service is outstanding.
I know that last time I promised pictures of the new transmission tunnel caps, but I unfortunately didn’t get around to it. The caps are installed and are completed except for minor trimming, so the next step is to cut out the pattern for the cover, pull out the sewing machine and relearn how to use it - and take pictures. Hopefully I'll complete everything this weekend.
Added a piece to the Westfield's Upgrades page about the car's custom
wind wings (aka wind deflectors).