Wednesday, December 31, 2008

We're Number #101!!!!

Our brilliant strategy of visiting inlaws, celebrating a wife's birthday, leaving the country and driving people to the airport paid off!  Out of 114 entries we placed 101 and even finished ahead of 4 teams that made it to the race.  Sadly, after looking at the times and hours on the track, I think even if we had shown up we would've been lucky to place in the top 90.
Also, after reading this blog on cheating I realize that we could've pushed our cheating quite a bit more (and more creatively than the teams listed).

Friday, December 26, 2008

It's official - we haven't made it to the race!

It's about fun - pep talk

So, I spent last Sunday at my parents for a quick party/reunion.  And wound up talking way to much about cars.

First, I got my dad's side of my mom's pep talk story.  According to him, the first attempt at building a dune buggy failed.  They didn't finish in time and wound up racing their Landcruiser but we'll save that story for later.

So, I had a really good discussion with Dan who's garage I worked at very briefly in high school.  Basically, we concurred that the internet is brilliant and how could you work on a car without it.  This made me feel much better about taking something apart and then running to the computer to see if it looks right.

I talked with Doo Dah and his dad a bit about how off-road racing had become ridiculously expensive.  I wouldn't mind picking the LeMons brains on how to get a cheap off-road race together.   We also discussed 12a engines.  Although their experience was putting a turbo charged one in a dune buggy. 

Finally, I talked to one of my parents friends who was worried about my racing interest.  I explained to her that we were doing it for "fun" and that at our age you can't just invite friends over to your house to hang out in the garage.  You need something that's disguised as "work" inorder to have "fun" and that's what this race was about. 

So, we had "fun", lot's of it.  And we still would be having fun if it weren't for money,  a blown engine and Christmas running head long into us.  I have to say the damage of the holiday season was a bit more than I expected.  But it was fun and prepping for Reno will be even more fun.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Practice Lap

Just in case there's a Christmas Miracle I had a little practice run.  We bombed down to San Diego and back this weekend for a family reunion (good, uplifting stories I will tell soon).  The return trip involved pouring rain and poor visability and gave me a feel for driving 4 hours in horrible weather conditions.  You can argue that a Subaru wagon is way more comfy than a LeMons car...but I had two screaming kids in the back so I'm guessing it's about the same.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Stick a fork in us - we're done?

As Surly Captain I had the sad duty of pulling the plug on the RX7 today.  Our endeavors to get a $500 car in running order are failing miserably.  

On Sunday we broke down and decided to fudge the rules and send the car to Dennis' mechanic friend for a diagnosis.  Turns out the engine was blown but there was a glimmer of hope when we found out he had an engine he'd be willing to part with but he wanted to check it out first (it had been sitting awhile).   Well today we learned, it had been sitting where water could get in the intake and was shot.

With Christmas sucking up every second of our time we're realizing that finding another car, roll cage, tires probably won't happen.

On the plus side the team has taken the news rather well and is already plotting our assault on Reno

Saddest Captain

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I'm missing my friend Karen Reitzel's (Dennis' butter half) annual White Willow party tonight.  I'm lame, and today was a bit too frustrating to drive forty minutes and risk the inevitable DUI or exhaustion collapse (update, I went to sleep at 10:30)

Here's a video of the car.  It started right up!  Happy moment!  Smoked like crazy! Sad moment! Moved! Happy moment!  Blew the oil filler cap off! sad moment!
more later

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pep Talk

I talked to my mom today.  She's really not one to give pep talks but in a round about way she did.  She told me a bit about the car my dad (and friends) built for the 1972 Mexican 1000.

They decided to build, from scratch, an off road race car.  It was a corvair (yes, corvair) powered four wheel drive dune buggy type thing.  The team consisted of a judge, an engineer, a constuction  worker and many others, all with mechanical abilities but none were real mechanics.  They layed the car out in chalk on the garage floor.  It took a bit longer than they thought to build and in the end they only had one afternoon to test it before the race.  They entered the race and wound through the desert finally breaking down in Mulege 700 kilometers from the start.

So, all we have to do is get a 1979 Rx7 running and we'll always be less than a 2 miles from a pit stop.  We can do it!


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Paint Job

This week in the Car

I haven't tried to start the engine.  It seems like it's there but it smokes* so much I'd just love to get it in the driveway before we start it again.  I felt a bit ill after Sunday's smoke fest.

So, I've been working on the brakes.  The front rotors and calipers are replaced.  The bearings were in good shape so I repacked them.  The rear wheel cylinders have been replaced.  The rear drums and pads look really good.  Now I'm just waiting for brake lines and it'll be done.

*smoke isn't a bad thing in this case.  On rotorary engines you can pour transmission fluid through the carb to loosen the apex seal and everything else.  BUT it smokes like crazy once you do and  needs about 20 minutes of running to burn it all off.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Smokey, Smokey, Smokey - it started

At this point I hate rotary engines and carberators but I do love this car.  AND with the help of a little transmission fluid and some coaxing it started!!!!
                              and spit out more smoke than I thought was possible.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Iron Butterfly - Me vs. Carburator

Dusty Springfield wasn't cutting it in this battle with the Beast!  I had to pull out  Iron Butterfly.  Light & Heavy; the best of Iron Butterfly to be precise.  Also, as a native of San Diego, I have to mention that The Iron Butterfly is from San Diego.
     Iron Butterfly was perfect for this "total carburator rebuild" chapter 3.  Since this is the third time, I know my way around and need something to rock me through it.  Iron Butterfly kept me moving  while adding glimmers of humor (amazing lyrics, jammin' organ solos and backup singers singing in the third person).  The keys is, you don't risk dropping anything while listening to the Iron Butterfly, it just doesn't rock that hard and isn't that funny.

the Shroud of Carburator
If there's anything that got me interested in mechanics, it was the little window on carburators.  
Well, the final diagnosis is - I'm glad I did it.  I found some lines that were totally gummed up and some things that should move freely that weren't moving at all.
lets hope it works

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


The Stubborn California Small Car Social Club needs your support!  Buy a shirt for $20 and support our attempt to have a running car in the 24 Hours of LeMons Arse-freeze-apalooza!  I haven't had a chance to figure out how to link this to Paypal ....yet.  For now just email me and I'll put your order through.
Sean Duffy
Surly Captain

The shirts feature the SCSCSC checkered flago logo on the front and the SCSCSC motto on the back.  They are available in standard unisex adult and child sizes. 
(Yes, we've corrected the dates on the back).
T-shirts are hand-crafted by expert child laborers in the T-shirt mines of Valencia within inches of the finest racing machine ever made.  You will treasure your shirt for ages....or until the next race.

Monday, December 1, 2008

argh -weekend update

this pretty much sums up how we spent the weekend.  At least now we know it's the carburator.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Glimmer of hope

It's been a long weekend and the car's been hinting at starting but.....ugh....I'll post about it later.  I'm going to watch Grand Prix.

Friday, November 21, 2008

TRAINING FILM - Le Mans -what the heck!?

I had this poster up in my room when I was a kid and that was probably the last time I saw the film.  So I netflixed it so I could do some video training.  All I can say is "Le Mans - what the heck?"
Le Mans VS Caillou - If you haven't watched PBS Kids you might find it a bit disturbing.  Mainly because there is virtually no conflict.  I remember watching Caillou with Jack and waiting for something horrible to happen and it never does.  Caillou lies...he corrects himself and apologizes, Caillou borrows a toy....he gives it back, Caillou makes his sister cry...she stops.  Anything tense that might happen get's resolved quickly and in the most peaceful manner.  
Just like Le Mans.  The other team's winning....they get a flat.  Steve McQueen's asked by a reporter what he thinks of his rival....McQueen says he's "one of the greatest drivers in the world."  McQueen replaces a driver who's just about to retire....the driver gives him some advice and wishes him luck.  The widow of the driver McQueen possibly killed winds up in his trailer....they drink tea and talk.
It is amazing how untense this movie is...
Le Mans VS On Any Sunday - Bruce Brown's "On Any Sunday" came out in 1971 and is possibly the greatest motorcycle racing documentary ever.  Le Man's came out in 1971 and is basically a documentary but doesn't quite go all the way.  The crowd footage from Lemans and On Any Sunday are almost interchangable - Kid's with their fingers in their ears, old people, wacky hippies, groovy girls, drivers brooding then occasionally smiling.  The big difference is LeMan's trie to have a plot and doesn't have a wacky narrator and goofy really could've used a wacky narrator and goofy music.

   - What I learned from Le Mans

1. Crashes only end two ways* - a) minor damage and a short stop in the pits b) massive fireball
      *that is, unless you're Steve McQueen - in that case your car is a gnarled mess but you're fine.

2.  You win because the other team gets a flat or has a bad starter.

3.  This is an important one - When not driving just wander around.  Go to your trailer or a carnival or have a snack.  Just make sure that even though you're in the middle of a race and you're the most famous racer in the world, you're compleatly out of touch with your team and the race.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

London Calling - the week in working on the car

The Happiest Belt - In order to remove the smog pump I needed to replace the belt it used with a lawn mower belt.  To do this usually requires a lot of wedging, shoving and pinching.  Unless you're me this week.  Then you drape the belt over the pulleys and forget about it.  Later you work on the starter and the pulley catches the belt and you're done!
Custom Ignition - We have two electrical engineers on our team (this means you Paul and Eric).  So, who wires up the Who can complain about getting one.
Custom Block off Plates - So to remove the smog stuff I made some snazzy aluminum block of plates and used extra washers to hold them on.
Green Disclaimer - I've been removing all the smog equipment and was feeling a bit guilty. Until I realized what the 1979 equipment did.  It basically added air to the exhaust so it would come out cleaner.  Well, not really "cleaner", it has the same amount of pollutants,  just with a higher air to exhaust ratio.  Now I don't feel so bad.
Vacuum Hose Clean Up - It may not look like it but nine tenths of the vacuum tubes have been removed.  I owe a huge thanks to a site that gave a how two on this operation, but they're not getting it until this thing starts.

London Calling has wound up on the ipod more than I thought possible.  I can't quite explain it but it's definitely music for working on cars.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Owned By an Aircraft Mechanic- pt 4

We found this lovely Delta Airlines swizzle stick while tearing out the carpet.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Screwdriver Party!!!

When Jack was 3 he used to play "screwdriver party." It involved taking all the screwdrivers out of my rolling tool box and  puting them all over the garage and the house (if he was lucky).

I never throw away screwdrivers and because of that I have I wide assortment of broken, bent, rusty and glue covered models.  I don't throw them away because I know I'll use them at some point.  As in the case of the Mazda's carburator.
I needed to put the throttle back on.  Of all my screwdrivers there was only one that had a long enough shaft to reach the tiny philips screw but a short enough handle not to hit the fire wall.  Screwdriver party!

In other news the motor created exhaust today!!!! more on that soon....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dusty in Memphis

With the fires and everything I spent Saturday working on the car all by myself.  I decided to focus on putting the carburator back together.  The problem is, that in our fit to yank the engine out we didn't really pay attention to what went where.  And I hate carburators.  Luckily I put on Dusty in Memphis.
The advantage of working alone is you can listen to whatever you want.  And sure I could feel sad a discouraged by the carburator but I really couldn't feel as sad as Dusty.  Plus the album is slow and soothing enough that you really don't feel bad taking things apart and putting them back together three or four times.
Punker Solution - I couldn't find that teeny cotter pin, luckily I did find that rusty safety pin.
Another advantage of working can work wherever you want.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cars of the Harris Fire - Part 4 (other)

Car work has been slowed today by the closure of the 5 and 210 freeways.  The latest Sylmar fire has allowed the crew to stay home and enjoy their Saturday.  
    So, here's my last installment of the Cars of the Harris Fire.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A morning at the Pick-a-part

Dennis and I met up at 10am this morning at one of Sun Valley's beautiful pick-a-parts.  Niether of us had been for years and along with being stunned by the landfill mountain that had formed behind it, we were stunned by the prices!  $50 for a radiator? $20 for tires?  Who knew?

It wouldn't have been an issue if we hadn't found a 1978 RX7 that was in surprisingly good shape.  We got a muffler, water neck and a spare radiator.  I don't know if we'll use the radiator but this one seemed to be in great it's good to have as a back up.
Things I forgot about Sun Valley Pick-a-parts
1. Wear long pants
2. Wear a hat
3. It's smelly
4. Bring a rag
5. Bring a hammer
6. It's smelly
A tip - when removing an intake manifold make sure you remove all the bolts before trying to "pop it loose" with a crow bar.
The brakes were actually worse than the ones on our car and the only other RX7 in the lot had no brakes at all.

inspiration - Brown Rainbow pt 2

I'd love to go with a movie paint job.  Netflix just sent me LeMans, Grand Prix and Winning.   The I come across more these awesome brown rainbow paint schemes.   Actually these are more in the orange rainbow palete.  The first two are Mazdas and the last is a sweet Mustang II  that was decaying across from our Mazda at the storage lot (very surprisingly, it wasn't in the $500 range).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cars of the Harris Fire - Part 3 (not cars)

This is my Fuji Rabbit 90 that I had partially restored and then stored/dumped in my parents barn.
and, along with some other bike, is my first bicycle, a Schwin Sting Ray.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Track

So, I'm getting excited about the race.  I checked out the Thunderhill Raceway website and they have some nice video of the track.  I think all the drivers should watch it and memorize it.  Make sure to look for places to pull off the road when a wheel falls off.