05/11/2014 The first post on the new blog. It picks up where the design blog left off. With first customer deliveries of D2 taking place, the transition is from design to ongoing development and evolution. This will continue for a while as we are always learning and always looking for ways to improve. The basic design is now solid and proven with well over 30 cumulative track events on four separate chassis. Many of the little and not so little details are now worked out, a few still remain.
With numerous D2s in the shop in various stages of progress it really looks like a car factory - albeit a small, focused one.
It took an enormous effort to get here. I've been thinking lately about what it takes to make dreams real, which is really what we're doing here. And the main ingredient I think is a healthy dose of 'optimism' - others may call it naivite, arrogance or even stupidity, but that is what it takes. If we admitted to ourselves going in how hard it was going to be, I don't know if we would have done it. It's not that we weren't aware of what needed to be done but the endless stream of obstacles and challenges can be daunting, year after year, and few would directly sign up for it. It's like false summits in hiking up a mountain - you think the goal is just over the next crest, but when you get there all it gives you is a new perspective on just how far you still have to go. But you can also look back and see how far you've come and in this case, I feel a sense of accomplishment, on behalf of the whole team :)
Case in point, Friday we tested another D2 about to be delivered. This is the first of the sequential gearbox cars and it has a few other tweaks as well, including stickier tires and drysump. It was just M and I at ORP, with the rest of the crew working hard back at the shop. Yes, we did a car's first drive, on track at speed, without a support crew.
On the way to the track (and back) we drove through downpour but only had to deal with a couple sprinkles while there, thankfully. The windshield wiper works and we now have the setup down, circling the wagons against the wind and weather. In the pictures below the canopy gives some indication of the wind (car just shrugged it off, even at high speed over crests)..
The D2 may look like a big car in some pictures but it's actually not, being about the same size (and weight) as an Elise only wider and packing 430-550 hp depending on engine. This one is somewhre in between.
In the crazy push to get it done I forgot the GPS antenna so no datalogs for now. However my finely calibrated 'buttcelerometer' indicated about 2g though the halfpipe, based on comparison with logged 2.4g in the D4. The oil pressure stayed rock steady throughout (yes the car is relaxed and capable enough that I can look at the gauges pulling 2g). And the oil stayed in the tank, all 14 quarts of it.
On Hoosiers the mechanical grip is insane. I didn't push the car all that hard relatively speaking, never getting it to lose traction at either end, but it made my neck sore. M rode along for a dozen laps. She's not easily impressed - she's passengered on some very fast laps in various machinery and driven some too. Yet her only comment after the ride - "Holy ****! This car makes you feel like Superman!" pretty much sums it up. And that's just putting along. Doesn't look half bad either.
We're just getting started here :)
05/30/2014 As a designer of cars that go over 150 mph, I've wondered about this often - what happens when someone crashes it? This is a thought that's in my mind when I design the frame, suspension, interior... Now I have a real life answer. But before I get into that, let me put the past couple weeks in context. Sometimes life is just difficult. This is what I call 'high life-impedance' (geek for 'life is hard').
We got the latest batch of D2 glass. It's full of bubbles and basically unacceptable. Returning it to the vendor, the response is 'it was bad business for us to take the project'. OK, great. Now we have to push deliveries back, find a new vendor and battle the refund issue.
The steering wheel order we placed weeks ago can't be filled - MOMO is backordered until mid July. We try a number of vendors and sellers on Ebay and Amazon who claim to have more than 10 in stock, only to have them respond (after the order is placed) that they're backordered till mid July. Thanks. No wheels, no cars. Still scrambling to fix this one.
We did some filming with Alex's car at ORP. It was a lot of fun and I look forward to the results. There was a glitch where the CV boot came off but I caught it in time and miraculously there was both grease and a replacement clamp at the track that I could install and continue. The weather threw some rain at us but turns out the car is fun in the rain too.
The latest bodywork comes back from paint, it doesn't fit. There is an inexplicable buildup of bondo at a critical joint. In stark contrast to the first example, thankfully, the vendor picks it up, fixes it and delivers it the next day. Not all vendors are the same.
I make every effort to be in the 'good vendor' category when it comes to our customers. Joe's car which we delivered a couple weeks ago was having an issue with rear brakes randomly locking up. In all my time working with cars I've never seen this (nor did it surface when I track tested the car at ORP). I fly out to the Bay Area, spend a few hours and fortunately find and fix the issue. It's a weird combination of adjustments, none of which taken separately would have been a problem but together they sometimes (not always) cause a lockup that goes away when brakes cool down. Lesson learned, everyone at the shop informed, won't happen again.
Karl is here for a week, to do some trackdays in the D2 demo. He only comes out once or twice a year so there's a lot of pressure for everything to go well. The car is Pete's former chassis which he traded in on a supercharged version that is being built. It has over 30 successful trackdays on it and a freshly redone gearbox. Tuesday we go out to the Ridge with the car after spending several hectic days updating the wiring and bodywork to the latest spec. M and I were at the shop till 3am, back at 6 and on the road by 8. Unloading and taking a lap around the parking lot there's a loud noise. By process of elimination (parking brakes, gearbox, etc) the culprit is identified - busted CV joint. So on 2 hours of sleep I get back on the road for a 3 hour drive to Portland.
These were the halfshafts that were replaced some 8 events ago when CV boots split. So we put a brand new pair in and get ready for PIR Thursday. In the morning I unload the car and Karl goes out for a warmup session. On return I do a routine check.... BOTH CV joint boots busted. REALLY?! Load the car back up, take it to the shop (fortunately just 15 minutes away), replace both shafts with new ones. Turns out the CV boots were supposed to have been updated based on earlier problems but weren't on the latest batch. We change clamps and add venting, clean the grease from everything, load the car and we're back at the track by 1 pm.
Karl goes out for next session. Goes by once, then black flag flies - all stop. I watch the cars come off the track, ours is not one of them. I take some comfort in seeing that the ambulance remains parked. Asking the corner workers what's up I get 'there's a Palatov in the wall at turn 4'. OK. So I wait for the flat tow to bring the car back in. Here's a video of what happened. On the plus side, the car performed as intended in the crash. Most importantly there are no injuries. Karl started to feel a sore neck by the end of the day but that was about it.
The crush structure took up the impact. The frame, most of suspension and the drivetrain remained intact. After unbolting a couple bent things I was able to drive the car onto the trailer. The suspension shear bolts were obviously stressed but held. In a harder impact they would have sheared off, as designed. We replace them with new ones. The steering arms on the uprights bent but they are easily replaced. Exhaust got bent but is successfully straightened. Of course rear bodywork is destroyed and rear fenders popped off the mounts. There were a couple frame brackets that bent which shouldn't have and I will be adding reinforcement (retrofittable to existing chassis) as a result.
At this point we have 3 more trackdays left, all at ORP. Friday is not going to happen of course and we spend all day assessing and repairing the damage. The car is almost ready to go, just waiting for me to finish machining the frame bracket reinforcements. I'm halfway done when the shop air compressor dies with a horrible sound that made us sprint for the emergency power switch. It had worked flawlessly for over 5 years and has gotten reasonable service. I can understand it failing but the fact that it chose to do so now is almost comical. The CNC requires air and will shut down when pressure gets too low. We can't fix this till Monday. Damn.
With all this and customer deliveries already delayed we all got together and decided to cancel our Pikes Peak run this year. It was a hard call to make for me but I know it was the right one. We need to focus on fully sorting and delivering cars to paying customers first. Racing is nice but it's a burden on resources and time, one we cannot justify right now. The build of the supercharged D2 will continue and hopefully we'll get to race it at other venues later this year.
So, not the easiest of weeks. But ultimately we're stronger and better for having come through the challenges that have thrown themselves at us. I know there are many more ahead - that's what it takes. We're up for it.
06/04/2014 After everything, we just had to take a full weekend off. Felt good. Now, back to it. Yesterday we prepped our demo D2 for testing, installed stiffening brackets, and this morning we went out to Pat's Acres kart track to test. The 420hp car feels a bit confined on the tight and bumpy track. Just driving it into the pits felt like threading a needle. But it did fit.
I was actually a bit apprehensive as to how well the car would deal with 20' radius turns but hey, it's a good test. Turns out everything works and with a best lap of 44.8 seconds (not pushing too hard) I was on pace with my 125 shifter kart lap times from way back when. Now granted I was never fast in the shifter (fast guys run 38 second laps here), as a same-driver comparison it's pretty encouraging. Especially since the D2 is on street tires. Here's a quick video. Both driving and watching the car run there's a bit of a 'wild animal safari' feel to this, a big ferocious beast pacing and snarling in a small enclosure :) One does have to take care with the throttle.
So that was morning. In the afternoon we took Adam's newly completed D2 to the DMV to get a VIN and a plate - it's now the first D2 registered for the road in Oregon.
The completions are moving right along, with more cars ready to leave the shop, more frames welded and powdercoated and more sets of bodywork completed and on the way. The next car will be 'Azzuro California' blue which I think will look really good on it.
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