05/07/02 First couple of test runs. The speedo is now working after setting up a preliminary pulse count, will have to calibrate later. The front end geometry changes helped, but the car still seemed to steer itself a bit. So I decided to take out some rear toe-in and it helped a lot. I think it needs a little less still, but the car is starting to feel better. Also put springs on clutch and throttle pedals which helped the driveability somewhat. Shifting is really nice, no need for clutch - just lift a little, pull on the shifter and *click* it works. Had to tighten a few more hose clamps too. Still experiencing a slow oil leak somewhere (everywhere?) around the dry sump pan. Driving the beast is a rush though. The sound is incredible. I haven't really opened it up as I'm trying to work up to speed slowly. Even at part throttle, though, I know that it will spin tires in second! I'm liking it! :)
05/08/02 The longest test run yet, some 12 miles. Opened it up a bit more. Wow. My suspension geometry tweaks are paying off, although there is still a slight tendency to wonder, especially over uneven surfaces. But it's nowhere near as bad as it was at the beginning. In the middle of the run, I heard a loud pop and saw a puff of smoke from under the dash. Everything continued to function as it did before, so I don't quite know what happened. All the fuses are intact. Hmmm...
In the meantime, the engine bay is looking pretty tidy...
I looked at fixing the oil sender and that will take some fabrication. Will need to figure out what and how to do, because the threads are completely wrong for the new one and there is no room for it in the stock location with all the dry sump plumbing. But I did fix the water temp gauge - it seems the pipe segment that it screws into is not grounded. So I came up with a solution using a hose clamp and a convenient piece of wire I had laying around:
Another couple of items were the addition of an extra spring on the clutch and a 'dead pedal' to rest the left foot (there's no room for it beside the clutch, so I had to hold it just above the clutch the entire time - gets rather tiring quickly). Also I am very glad that I decided to put duct tape over the rear fenders. I suspected that the sticky tires are going to fling a lot of gravel, but this is ridiculous. I am basically driving in a shower of small rocks. I will need to come up with some mud flaps, as well as a better looking protection scheme for the rear fenders - but for now tape is better than nothing. This is what it looks like after just 15 miles on the road:
05/10/02 Yesterday I fabricated some mud flaps, changed geometry again, shortened the shift lever and added more spring to the clutch pedal. In regards to the geometry, it really pays to check one's assumptions. From Westfield drawings and descriptions I had inferred and assumed that the front and rear track is the same. WRONG. The front is about 4" narrower! (this means that my upcoming 'wide track' suspension will make front and rear about equal). I had been setting up my strings for suspension measurements based on equal track, and never bothered to check that the strings are parallel. DUH. All my settings from before were WAY off. Now that I did it more or less correctly, the car drives a whole lot better. The dartiness is pretty much gone, and it's very planted in the turns.
I took it to the BMW track day today, just to say hello to some friends (and show off the car a bit ;). The first actual track outing for the beast is Monday, weather permitting.
Just realized that I placed the order for the car exactly one year ago. It's been quite a project, and I'm sure will continue to be for some time...
05/12/02 Perfect weather today, what better reason for a 'sevens' outing. In the company of a Caterham my Beast really attracts attention!
Learned something about throttle cables today - the outer sleeve gets longer when hot. That means that if the cable wasn't set up with a little bit of slack when cold, it tends to stretch itself when hot. The result being a 6K rpm 'idle'. Challenging to say the least. And if without revving to stratosphere the car attracts attention... Anyway, made it home and made some adjustments (also fixed the same problem in the Elise - that might be my mystery idle issue that I've been trying to resolve for over a year!). Then out on some roads - and of course some video to capture the experience :)
05/13/02 I was invited to a private track day for today and was really looking forward to it, with only 8 other cars in the run group. Unfortunately rain was in the forecast... After an awesome day yesterday, I was hoping the rain would hold off till the afternoon. No such luck - the first raindrops hit as I was rolling up to pre-grid and it really opened up on the second lap. So I never got to even warm up the tires. The rain persisted with more promised for the next two days, and the organizers decided to cancel the event. They were nice enough to put up a canopy for me so I could wait for a break in the rain to dash home...
Oh well, can't be having TOO much fun I guess :(
05/18/02 Had the Beast's suspension set up today, including corner weights on the scales. Overall the car weighs 1,060 lbs with 6 gallons of fuel in it. Considering that I've got the windshield and heater which aren't part of the quoted Megabusa weight of 900lbs, I would say the factory figure is believable. Maybe more like 950. With me in it the car is 1,250 lbs. As expected, left side is heavier due to motor, with the left wheel carrying 30 lbs more than the right at the front, and 25 lbs more at the rear (with me in the driver's seat). Out of curiosity, I switched sides and that brought the rear to within 6 lbs, while the front was essentially unchanged. So RHD is a somewhat better balanced setup for this machine, but not significantly so. Front-rear weight distribution is almost even, with the rear axle carrying 50 lbs more than the front with me onboard (all of which is fuel, basically). So a nicely set up car overall. We tweaked some settings and recorded the rest, so that I have a baseline. I'll just tweak it from here. The current settings are: Front ride height 95mm, toe out 3mm total, camber -1.5 degree. Rear ride height 114mm, toe in 6mm total, camber -1.8 degrees.
5/24/02 Finally the Beast's first track outing. An excellent track day put on by the local Lotus club. As always a lot of neat cars showed up.
Weather was finally perfect, and in only the second session in the Westfield I equaled my best-ever Elise time of 1:30. The third session was run with a passenger (a 15% weight penalty) and in a lot of traffic, so the times jumped to 1:35 range. Then a fuel pump fuse gave up the ghost. After pulling off and figuring out the problem, I realized that a lot of other things are in need of maintenace and decided to take the Westfield home and bring out the Elise for the afternoon. I did get some video, but unfortunately the sound was not working right - so I put together only a short clip. I had a LOT of people commenting on how good the car sounds :)
5/31/02 The Beast needs a lot of maintenance. Having a lift in the garage is a big help.
First, I took out the heater (it's heavy and doesn't really do much). When I get around to covering the seats I'll put heater pads in them - much more effective and lighter. Then I added some thread lock compound and a nyloc nut to the brake balance bar to stop it from coming out (it kept leaving me with no rear brakes!). There were a number of lubrication-related problems. First, the dry sump pan is leaking oil all around its perimeter. It's a slow leak that I guess is due to bad gaskets. I'll just live with it until the first oil change, when i'll replace the gaskets and maybe add some sealer.
Next is the fact that the reversing box spits oil when hot. It doesn't leak just sitting there.
After a number of conversations with Westfield by e-mail I've found out that the top plug in the box is supposed to have a vent hole in it. It doesn't. So while I had the cowling apart for heater removal, I also opened the access panel, removed and drilled the plug, and installed a vent tube to make it harder for dirt to get in and/or block the hole. Hopefully this will fix it.
And finally there was a LOT of grease coming out the rear hubs. One suggestion that was made is that the CV joints were overpacked and were spitting out the excess. Hopefully that's all it is. I cleaned up the mess and will keep an eye on it.
6/25/02 After getting some items on the Elise taken care of, it's time for messing with the Beast again. I was hoping to get a new rollbar fabricated before the track day on the 29th, but the guy who was going to do it is too busy. So now I have to go get the original that I left with him and put it back on. The stock rollbar does not have any fore-aft bracing and is not the most secure - but it's better than nothing (and required for track days).
Started to replace the front suspension arms with the new wide-track ones, only to find that the busings from the original pieces that I was going to re-use cannot be extracted without destroying them. So now I'm waiting for new bushings from England... At least the new quicker steering rack went in without issues. I need to tweak the rear geometry and do some grease cleanup in the back, then a test drive to see what effect the change has had.
A ticking noise from the engine bay turned out to be broken throttle cable fitting banging against the engine. It seems I overtigntened the retaining nuts and broke the fitting which appears to be made of really weak metal. Had to do some creative adjustment but it seems that I've fixed it. Time will tell.
Finally, my insurance agent seems to have found coverage for this car. Fairly reasonable, at about $400 per year. I'm waiting for the paperwork now...
In moving the cars around, I predictably couldn't resist taking a couple of pictures. The Beast is quite a bit smaller than the M Coupe (here made even more so by the camera lens)....
6/28/02 Doing more work on the Westfield. Applied protective film to the fenders and nose cone, hopefully it will keep the rock chips from getting TOO bad. Looks much cleaner than my previous duct tape, of course. With a coat of wax the whole car looks rather sharp. Unfortunately it's raining so no pictures today. The rain is even more unfortunate in light of thetrack day tomorrow for which I pre-paid... May actually have to take the M Coupe! Don't know if I'd want to run either of the track cars in the wet.
Also tweaked rear geometry (less toe in). In looking around and cleaning the splattered grease off the rear brakes, I realized that BOTH the outboard CV joint boots have split. This is a major bummer, as they are a real pain to replace. E-mailed Westfield, waiting for reply...