Setup Stands Part 3 – Setup Setup Setup

Now that the fabrication work is done on the setup pads, it’s time to set up the setup pads so that the setup pads can be use to set up the car.

Setup.

First thing’s first: Paint. It’s always paint.

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Step 2 is…more paint, oddly enough. I picked a fairly central location in the shop for the setup pads, then got them on the car so that they could be squared up, so that their locations can be marked. This is so that each pad goes in the same spot, in the same orientation each time, that way once they’re leveled, they remain consistent.

I made up a stencil to use for marking the floor, put the foot of each corner on the circle in the middle, then marked out the perimeter with tape.

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That done, the stands came out from under the car, the car was moved out of the shop, and each spot was marked:

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Next it was time to level the full set. I started off by setting the feet to their highest setting so that I could find the lowest corner, and then adjust the rest of the pads to meet that corner.

CUE THE LASERS!!!

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I used a couple of my big fabrication squares, made white backgrounds (to better see the laser) and then made a mark on each at the same level. Get the lines on the squares to meet the laser at both the front and rear of each pad, and you’ve got it level.

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With the setup of the setup pads done, it was time to…. do some setup on the scales. Specifically, I was sick of dealing with the rats nest each time I unspooled the cables, so I made left- and right-side “harnesses” to keep things tidy. They’ll run under the car down the middle so that they’re out of the way of jacks and what not.

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And with that, somehow, miraculously, despite taking what felt like most of my life, they’re complete and in service! They look great and will work great. Having now used them exactly once, they were already worth the effort. Being able to get and keep a consistent setup on the car (and help friends with their cars) can only be a good thing.

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Now to make 2 more sets…

 

Part 1
Part 2

Setup Stands Part 2 – Roll Out!

Roll off pads are very useful for setup, allowing a place to make alignment changes, to zero the scales, and to allow the tire to roll to undo any bind that setting changes may have introduced. They are also the thing that adds a TON of cost to the commercial setup stand options.

Since I’m fully committed at this point, might as well go big.

The pad itself will be a pieces of 1/8″ aluminum sheet, supported on both sides and in the middle.

The side supports are made of 3/16″ steel bar with 3 holes per side drilled and a nut welded to the back side on each to secure the plate. The bars are supported on 3 sides, sitting on the frame on the short sides and 1 long side. Those bars on top of the frame puts the floor just a shade lower than the scale pads, allowing space for some thin grease plates to do alignments.

The center support is a length of 1″ bar with 3 holes through it. 1/4″ on one side for the bolts, and just about 1″ on the bottom to allow a 10mm socket with an M6 nut to be inserted from the bottom.

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Once the 2 sides were done, the next challenge was fitting up the middle support tube such that it was dead level with the 2 sides so the floor is perfectly flat. To do that, I flipped the entire frame so that the side-supports were flat against the welding table, then placed the tube in to get tacked up so that the welding table top became the reference surface for the whole setup.

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With the frames completed, it was time to fab up the floor. After rough-cutting it, clamped it to the frame and drilled the 3 central holes as they can be accessed from underneath. The challenge, however, was to get the position of the 6 holes on the sides that were covered up by the angle iron.

This is where a DILYSI Dave hot tip came in incredibly handy. Long ago when I was building the new Seat Mounts, he suggested making some blind transfer punches out of some bolts. I made up a few more so I’d have a full set for this job. I threaded them into the holes, then bolted down the 3 central bolts so that the floor would be in the correct place, then gave each location a sharp whack with a rubber mallet to mark its location on the aluminum sheet for drilling.

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With the prototype nearly complete, I wanted to do some strength testing (ie: dropping the car on it vigorously a few times) to make sure there weren’t any glaring issues:

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And since I was painting the new Saw Stand, I figured I might as well hit this one with a coat of paint. This, it would turn out, would be a mistake.

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The keen eyed will notice 2 glaring omissions at this point (the point at which I thought I was done with this…). 1. There is no provision for the cable for the scales to pass through, and 2. There are no wheel stops. The commercial ones don’t usually have wheel stops, but they’re much shorter so were you to roll the car off of them, the likelyhood of them damaging the car is fairly low. These are very tall, and VERY strong. As such, should the car roll off of these, it would be ugly. Ā I’ll address these next.

First up is a notch for the cable. Attempt number 1 was…. well… fugly. I tried doing it with and angle grinder and the results were bad.

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It was at this point that the true value of a welder came into play. That was ugly enough that I decided to un-cut steel.

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After a rethink and some consultation, I decided to use a hole saw instead. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, however at this point, with the frame fully assembled, it was a bit late in the game. This is by far the dumbest thing I’ve ever chucked up in the drill press, but damn if it didn’t work!

(I’ve no idea why this photo shows up sidewards. Click the picture for the right-side-up image)

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Thankfully the results were most excellent. After a little cleanup of the sharp edges and corners with a flap disk, I was very happy.

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On to the tire stops. After a bit of figuring and evolutionary engineering, I ended up with an easy to fabricate, dead simple solution that will 1) stop the car rolling off the ends, and 2) still allow the stands to stack together to minimize the space they take in the shop.

Part the first is a 2″ length of 1/2″ OD tube welded in the center of each end of the frame:

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Next is a 6″ length of 3/8″ steel rod, with a bend around the 2″ mark and a bullet nose ground in on each end. The bend is so that they won’t just fall through the tube, and it leaves a ~4″ step that would take an immense amount of force to get the tires over. If you figure out a way to do that, you do your alignments far more aggressively than I.

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The short side / long side has an added advantage that I wish I could take credit for but in reality was a complete, but happy, accident. Up front, that long post interferes with the splitter when rolling the car back and forth between the scale and the roll off pad.

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With it flipped upside down, there’s still plenty of a step to stop the car (plus the taller sides are still up at the rear), and the splitter clears easily. I love it when a plan, accidental or otherwise, comes together!

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Now to just do all that 3 more times.

To be continued!

 

Part 1
Part 3

Setup Stands Part 1 – The Frame Job

Many moons ago, a buddy posted a few pictures to Facebook of his car on some setup / alignment pads. My curiosity piqued, I reached out and got a bit more info from him, as something similar would be phenomenally useful. I’d looked at commercial options for these, but they are prohibitively expensive, and John’s homebuilt pads looked pretty close to what I wanted for a lot less money.

After a great deal of figuring and bouncing ideas off of engineer friends, it became clear that a set could be made that would also incorporate setup scales, for relatively little cash (and a great deal of time….so, so much time). Initial designs were drawn up and steel ordered.

What follows is going to be a boatload of photos of various stages of the build. It was a very very long process of evolutionary engineering and problem solving, but now that I know how to build them, additional sets will be made relatively (and it is very relative, because they’re a ton of work) easily.

First step: getting a bunch of steel home. I had various pieces cut more or less to length, as I didn’t know exactly how they would go together but had a general feel for at least what the long legs needed to be. The rest were cut to fit in the back of the truckster to get it home.

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Lots of measuring (way more than twice), cutting, coping and beveling later, and the first frame was roughed out.

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The scales will sit on the side with “floor” on all 4 edges, and the rolloff pads will go opposite them.

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Cutting 45 degree miter joints would have been far easier from a fab standpoint. However coping the joints has 2 very big advantages: it leaves nice, flat areas on each end of the “long” side of the frame for the legs to sit on, and with that, there is a lot less strain on the welds and puts everything in compression, with the welds mostly holding the pieces together, and not supporting the weight of the car.

It’s not that I don’t trust my welds, but with something that needs to hold the weight of a car from crushing me to death, I will take every bit of added strength I can get.

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A quick test fit was very encouraging. My measuring a dozen times lead to a fit that allows the scale pads to rock in and out easily, but not enough that they can move around too much.

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Mocking up the legs:

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Got the rest of the gussets and the horizontal supports done.

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A design requirement was to have feet at each corner that will allow the full set to be leveled. The first step of that are these that make the bottom of the legs, with the threaded nut inside the leg. So, weld the nut to the washer, then weld that assembly to the leg.

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The rest of the parts stackup.

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This once again goes into the strength of the thing. Once the jam nut is tightened up, all of the load is on the big washers at the bottom of the legs and the bolt, and virtually none of the operating load is on the tack welds securing the nut on the inside of the legs.

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With the basic design roughed out, we’ll work on the roll off pads in Part 2.

To be continued….

 

Part 2
Part 3

Differential NVH Damper Delete

The NVH vibration damper on the input flange of one of my diffs has started shaking loose (a semi-common problem). Given that they’re not a critical piece, that they can be a critical failure. that they would be a royal pain to fix in the field (assuming I have access to air tools, which I typically don’t), and that I’m in the process of having them both in and out of the car before and after the hill climb, it’s time for them to go.

The piece in question is the big steel (? might be cast iron) cross sitting between the input flange and the differential housing. It’s mounted on a rubber donut bonded to the input flange.

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A few minutes on the press (for the good one, the other nearly came off by asking it nicely) and it came right off. A little time on the wire wheel to knock off the excess rubber off of the flange and it’s ready to go back in.

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I didn’t expect it would add up to much, but it did end up being a worthy gain (or loss, depending on how you look at it), taking 1.75 lbs of rotating mass off of the drive line. Like removing a small flywheel off the front of the differential. Success!

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Saws and Welders and Stands, oh my!

Workshop update! I’ve made a few tooling changes and upgrades šŸ˜€

The biggie is a welder upgrade. The old, tired Harbor Freight 180 amp welder has now been replaced with a Millermatic 211. It’s a massive, “the last MIG welder I’ll ever need” levelĀ upgrade, but with the projects going on in the shop (including a few that will be getting sold), it really was time to get something better and more consistent.

Miller had a rebate going on, so everything sort of lined up for it. I’m still getting used to what it likes & setting it up right, and unlearning a bunch of bad habits, but man this thing is nice. The old HF box didn’t much care how your technique was, it was going to weld the same way (mediocrely) regardless. On this one, small things make big differences and you can really tune everything in.

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Next, I really needed something that could fairly easily & effectively notch heavy angle iron to build some frames for a project or three that I’m working on. An angle grinder will do the job, but it’s slow, hot, messy and not nearly as accurate as I wanted for this. A vertical band saw is the correct answer, but is also way out of the budget. Some poking around lead me to SWAG Offroad, which sells laser-cut and pre-bent kits for converting a portable band saw into a benchtop upright bandsaw, and there are enough glowing reviews out there that it seemed worth it to try. Turns out, they were correct!

I opted for the optional foot pedal as well (so that the machine can have the trigger locked on, but you can easily control its stop and start and keep your hands free), which I highly recommend if you do pick one up.

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I put a good metal-cutting blade in it (though from what I’ve read, that’s not necessary but will last longer), and man, this thing gets the job done. It’s not crazy fast, but it’s accurate, makes clean Ā cuts and doesn’t get the steel scalding hot in the process.

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Finally, I got sick of picking up my miter saw and having to find a place in / around the shop to run it, and of not having a good way to support the stock on it. I pulled together a few scrap bits and bobs and threw together a rolling stand for it that can be moved out of the way / out of the shop for the messy work (since race tires and steel chips don’t really get along). I wanted something that would work as a base for the metal cutting saw, and also serve as storage for assorted grinding & cutting wheels, and my 14″ chop saw that, until now, lived on the floor in a corner.

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Grinding wheel, flap disk, cutoff & wire wheel storage, to get them out from the bottom drawer of my toolbox:

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And with it at that height, it’s not only at a super comfortable height for me, but I can put 1 or 2 of those roller stands nearby and quickly have long stock support. And, as with all of these things, it should make life a lot easier.

That is, generally speaking, the whole point of tools.

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Event Report: Chasing the Dragon XI

Short version:Ā Rolled it off the trailer, slid around in the wet, when it dried off, set new Personal Bests and class records 3 different times, in the end by ~2.8 seconds from what it was prior, had a celebratory beer and rolled it back onto the trailer. AbsolutelyĀ epic weekend.

The REALLY long version:

It was a decent thrash to get it ready prior to the event. After last year, I knew I wanted to make some changes to the car before running, as opposed to running the 100% autocross setup I typically have. Due to time constraints I didn’t want to go too drastic, but there were a few relatively quick things I could do to make the car far better on the hill. Additionally, a few safety and maintenance items needed to be taken care of before arriving on the hill.

Number 1 is simply pull the ballast. SPU doesn’t have minimum weights, so out came 100 lbs.

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Next was…this. Just, all of this. Oil change, seat back brace, covering a few holes for fire safety, and a rear end swap. Running the hill last year, the car was very over-geared. Lots of places could have used downshifts to 2nd but would have been at the very top of 2nd and I’d have to immediately shift back up. All of that lost time, so it was speed maintenance all the way. And that’s fine,Ā it IS a Miata, but a shorter gear would make any extra speed scrubbed less punishing, and let the car pull harder up the hill.

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And finally, since the rear end swap requires the exhaust to be removed, I figured it might as well SOUND like a hill climb car. I have a turn-down exhaust that slips onto the mid-pipe and replaces the muffler, so it went on instead of the big Borla muffler. In so doing, I drop a few more pounds.

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With the prep done, it was time to load up and hit the road. The forecast for Friday wasn’t great, but the rain held until we got everything unloaded, but when it came, it REALLY came. Since a few of the gang I was sharing a cabin with arrived, we covered the cars and took shelter under the canopies.

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Saturday morning started off wet. Really really wet.

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My 2nd run was the hairiest I’ve ever made up the hill. The Pucker Factor gets pretty high when the road suddenly just….disappears.

 

After 3rd runs, it was very quickly drying out on the lower half of the course and it was time for Deech, who’d come to crew, to do some crew stuff šŸ˜€

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Around then Jen and the boys showed up.

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To wrap up Saturday, with the last 1/3 of the road finally mostly dry, I put in my first real time and shaved about 4 tenths of a second off of the SPU record. Day 1 in the books and I’m 0.9 seconds faster than my best last year. It was REALLY cool coming back down and being able to wave to the family (who were at the Spectator area on the hill for the run) after havingĀ set a track / hill record for the first time in my life.

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Sunday started mercifully drier. A bit of dew had fallen, but that would quickly burn off.

After my 2nd run, the car didn’t feel quite “right”. At the top, I noticed that the 3 bolts holding the steering-wheel spacer to the quick release were loose. Like, “hold the steering wheel and shake it and watch the QR wiggle” loose. Oddly, I’d checked the QR specifically to make sure it wasn’t loose in the lead up to this event, but between the delrin motor mounts and the rough road, they had managed to vibrate loose.

Once back at the bottom I disassembled the parts-stack and tightened those back down. This was, thankfully, the only real ‘issue’ I encountered all weekend, save for the weather on Saturday.

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Run 3 on Sunday right before the lunch break was, in my mind, going to be my last really hard run up the hill. I pushed and knocked off another 1.8 seconds, getting down to 126.7 and my name on the leaderboard.

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I say “was going to be,” but after putting in a pair of easy, consistent 130 second runs, Lars was egging me on to take another real crack at the road. At the start line, I was still of a mind to make it an easy run. That lasted right until the launch, which ended up being the best I’d made all weekend. Immediately, Lars was in the back of my mind going “C’mon, you’ve gotta go for it!” After the 1st couple of corners went well, it was hammer time.

 

It wasn’t a perfect run by any means, but it did shave another 0.6 seconds off of my time, my Personal Best, and the SPU class record. It was definitely beer o’clock.

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With that, we packed up the truck, loaded the trailer, then said goodbye to The Dragon for another year and set a course for home.

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Splitter Leading Edge Reinforcement

So far I’ve been loving the new splitter, however because of the nature of the DiBond, the leading edge is a bit soft and has taken a few licks. I borrowed an idea from a couple people in other classes, and put a reinforcement / trim strip along the leading edge of the splitter.

Lowes sells aluminum channel to “trim” 1/4″ ply (which happens to be the same size as the dibond my & their splitters are made of)
This will make the leading edge much less of a wear surface. Bending and pie-cutting this stuff in a way that doesn’t cause stress fractures, and slotting it to clear the mounts is a royal pain, but it will add a ton of longevity.

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I reinforced both the front and rear edges. The front is to protect the leading edge of the Dibond. The spar across the rear is to add a little more rigidity along the ‘long’ side of the splitter.

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The fact that it looks a little Mad Max-ish doesn’t hurt either šŸ˜€