It’s Been a While

I haven’t updated this blog in forever – we’ve been too busy racing!

Since blowing up the first engine in the Capri we’ve re-themed it, won class C and class B, and are still on the second engine. Looking forward to making an assault on class A next. I don’t think anyone has won A, B, and C in the same car – should be quite a challenge.

We’ve also picked up judge’s choice, and helped Anton win his second driver of the year. Not a bad campaign at all.

– Head Hoopy Frood

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Bad Race, Awesome Finish

So the new car was something of a disappointment when it let all all the smoke out just three hours into the race. It wasn’t unexpected, being turbocharged and all, but still it would have been nice to get all the drivers in. Looks like a new engine is in the future.

But the good news is we managed to complete 92 laps. Because of this, we finished 42! I guess that’s a little silver lining. How improbable.

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Less Harmless

Time for an update. Things didn’t go so well at the last Houston race. After rebuilding the motor that ran with the gauges pegged, we managed to screw something up royally. What I meant to say was it ran great! But we couldn’t keep the oil in. We had major leaks from the valve covers / heads that we couldn’t fix, and ended up running a mere 37 laps for the weekend.

At some point the megasquirt failed and we lost advance on the ignition. One of the throttle shafts lost it completely so we went lean on one side, and we had to put on our spare carb on Saturday night. All in all, less time on track that we’ve grown accustom to.

So – in order to try and rectify that, and to address the concerns that the Karmann Ghia will never last a full 24 hours, we’ve decided to add a second car – less harmless – that we can flog around in Louisiana.

It’s the front wheel drive bastard child of Japan, Australia, and Italy. It’s convertible, turbocharged, and it actually started and ran (poorly) before we bought it. It only set us back $350 bucks, and it’s rare enough that the interior bits should put some dough back in the budget. And we have six weeks to turn it into a race car. What could possibly go wrong?

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Oil Spills and Effluence in Louisiana

Somewhere in southern Louisiana, great tides of oil are polluting the landscape. I’m not talking about the oil rig that went down in flames, but a disaster on a scale so much larger, the government is denying it’s existence completely. Word from the conspiracy underground is that the source has been traced to the paddock of the #42 Mostly Harmless Racing Karmann Ghia. Apparently a major failure in the infinite improbability dry sump system has created a rip in the space time continuum; And while the car was packed up and returned home a long time ago – the oil leak is still there, slowly filling the Louisiana swamps with Rotella that seemingly appears out of nowhere. I wish there was a word for it (read on for the greatest segue in the history of this blog).

effluence [ˈɛflʊəns], efflux [ˈɛflʌks]

1. the act or process of flowing out
2. something that flows out

Oh yes, we are full of it and have finally been recognized for it. Despite our best efforts to destroy the engine on Sunday, the little VW that could just kept going and going, sealing a 12th place finish, and the highest honor that could ever be bestowed upon a bunch of idiots that think endurance racing $500 cars is a good idea – The Index of Effluency. And the real winner is …

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2010 Gator-O-Rama Karmann Ghia Pictures

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2010 Gator-O-Rama Postmortem

So the deed has been done, and all the extra work we put into the car really paid off. After a few minor issues on Saturday, we kept the car on the track all day Sunday, and managed to finish in 45th position, completing almost 90 laps more than the last race! Obviously, we still have some things to iron out, but at this point, I would consider everything we’ve accomplished infinitely improbable.

The car handled incredibly well – just doesn’t have any speed on the straights. A little more horsepower and we would be chasing the nickels.

Also – we’ve been accepted for the May race at No Problem, so all you other truly craptastic cars beware. The IOE will be ours! Probably. Unless we explode, or randomly turn into a whale and a pot of petunias. Or decide to take a year off dead for tax purposes.

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From the fab files – kadron linkage

Fabrication files that is.

So we got a generous revalue for the car after the Yee-Haw It’s Texas race, and had enough left over after fixing the broken stuff that we decided we should probably make the car faster by adding power. At least it will increase the chances of a spectacular failure. Besides, this is racing, not grocery getting.

So after months of scouring ebay and craigslist, we finally scored an awesome set of Kadrons for $95. And by awesome, I mean horrible. We’ll now be able to use twice as much gas to make 5 more horsepower (if we’re lucky). Unfortunately, the linkage that came with them was rather ancient and worn out, so we decided to fabricate our own.

A quick trip to the hardware store and $10 of ball joints from McMaster-Carr later. I present to you – the LeMons Kadron linkage:

IMG_5318 Notice the high quality machine work that went into clearancing – this is not your average shade tree mechanic work here. This is something much more special. And by special, I mean short bus.

Yes, the bell crank is the old seat belt mounting tab, a door hinge, and a piece of square tubing.

Amazingly enough – this contraption seems to work ok. Will it hold up to the rigors of endurance racing? Who knows. I suspect it will fail sometime between leaving our paddock spot and getting to tech inspection. But if not, it will unleash an improbable amount of power. Probably.

Stay Hoopy.


A little love – and one more race

Some good news to report. We’ve been shown a little more love on Jalopnik.

We’ve been accepted to the next race at MSRH in February, and are starting to work on getting the car running again. We’ve ditched the mechanical fuel pump for an electric – hopefully that will take care of our biggest reliability problem. We’ve got a little more work to do, but we’ll be ready to contend for IOE.

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Proper usage of an S2000 CR

It’s been a long day. I didn’t get off work until 9:45 and I got up at 7:30 to drive to Leander, TX. The guys got together to work on the Ghia for the first time since the race. We’ve all be mighty busy. I didn’t even clean up the garage like I said I would. I missed out though because I was on the way to pick up a type 4 motor. By the time I got back they were gone.

Maybe I’d better start at the beginning. During the last race, we were a little slower than the other cars. We did pass a few cars on Sunday when we had 4 cylinders (thanks to all you guys that broke down, you made our day 🙂 ). However we estimated (no speedo, we were worried it would scare the drivers) our top speed at 60-70 MPH and our buddies reported they were running 105-110 on the back straight. As you can imagine, a 40 MPH difference made us a bit nervous and we spent a lot of time looking in the mirror during the race. We only got tapped once so our “Mustang catcher” didn’t get tested.

At the end of the race we sent the email to judges and they told us “It’s a Karmann Ghia. How could it be worth more than $75 after a LeMons race?” So that means we have $425 budget to fix all the problems. So we made lists of what to fix. I won’t bore you with the whole list but the shocks that leaked sea water on race day were on the top. So adding power was down in the middle. We had seen the VW Fastback (the grey Armadillo) with the type 4 motor. They were actually keeping up with the rest of the cars. I didn’t see them much when I was driving because they got KO’ed in the rear right in front of the stands and it pushed the motor into the transmission and split the bell housing.

We have 3 guys on the team that are motor-heads. Doug and I just do what we’re told when we were rebuilding the old motor. So this whole process has been a real education for me. I knew that old VW Beetles have air-cooled motors and the first car I ever drove was a Chevy Corvair. But that was about the extent of my knowledge. So I took it upon myself to research all this motor stuff. It turns out that Beetles and Karmann Ghia have Type 1 motors which in the later versions were as large as 1600cc. VW Bus and the Porsche 914 had type 4 motors. I’m not sure what happened to 2 and 3. Type 4 motors were 1679cc or 1980cc, they have aluminum cases instead of magnesium and they are reportedly a lot sturdier, and have a lot more power. I still haven’t figured out how much, just more, and I do understand enough to know that we needed more. We need a working fuel pump and shocks more, but I knew we needed power.

So being the most ignorant has a certain advantage, it turns out. The other guys knew that we just needed to work on the current engine, like fix the pulley, actually tune it, and maybe find a way to upgrade the carburetor. But I decide to scan Craig’s list for the next 4 weeks. And lo and behold, I find a Porsche 914 being parted out. That’s all it says in the ad. So I call and it turns out this youngster is living with his grandmother north of Austin and was given the Porsche if he would get it out of the field. Some GI had gone overseas and not come back. It got towed to some field where it sat for several years (It had a 2000 license sticker). I’m not sure how he got it out of the field over to his grandmothers house, but it was settled down on the floor against the garage wall. Brandon said he was thinking he could build a sand rail out of it (whatever that is). So he removed the engine, transmission, and the whole rear suspension out , but then he discovered that building a vehicle would require money. So he and his friends decided that they should try that monster truck thing out. Unfortunately, the truck wasn’t quite tall enough to drive over the remains of the car, it just shoved it around. So now he had an engine in the driveway and needed to get rid of it.

This is where I come in. Somehow I have become some kind of collector of old VW parts. Brandon has an offer for $250 already so it sounds like this isn’t going to pan out. The next day Brandon calls back and said the deal fell through and he still needs to get this engine out of the driveway. So we agree on $200 after he sends me a few photos as long as I can come get it the next day.

The  S2000 CR is not quite as easy as a regular S2000 to live with. It has very stiff springs, which are great on track, but not comfortable on long trips. And it is even louder. Since it is the only vehicle I have, I attached the tire trailer and head up towards Austin. So my S2000 CR was now serving duty as a utility vehicle.

Brandon and his friends helped me get it on the trailer. With use of the car jack of us got the whole mess into the tire trailer but it took an hour of struggling. With the engine, transmission, suspension, mufflers, heater tubes, brakes, and what not still attached it hung over on 3 edges. Thank goodness Brandon has some good friends. It turns out that the Type 1 spare motor that my brother and I picked up only weighs 215 pounds. So I didn’t think this would be that bad. It turns out that the Type 4 engine alone weighs 311 pounds. I was so tired, my hands were shaking so bad I had trouble writing the receipt.

Brandon’s grandmother pointed out that there was a box of parts on the shelf. They weren’t all from the car, but we found several prizes including a fuel pump. Thank goodness for grandmothers. The motor-heads had told me that we needed the fuel pump because the type 4 was fuel injected. So I paid some extra for various parts including the pump, some kind of fan that was in the engine compartment, some instruments that looked almost new, and various electronic things. Brandon and I cut the relay box and what should be the engine “computer”. (I suspect the computer is not really a computer but I’m guessing that it actually a discrete logic device. That will give you an idea how old these vehicles are). Don’t tell the other guys but I forgot to get the shift linkage. I looked and it might have been inside that tunnel, but they had cut into the tunnel, and I don’t remember seeing it. There were some other cables though, so if a 914 uses cables, maybe that was them. Oh well.

After I told the guys I had found this engine, we did some quick searches. The type 4 motor is apparently easier to install, and a more common engine swap than we realized. If I had found a Bus Type 4 motor, then apparently we would have something that looked more like our original setup, with the motor in the back and the transmission under the rear seats. But since I had stumbled across a 914 Type 4 motor, then we have a mid-engine setup with the transmission in the rear. It appears that Ghia’s have been converted to mid-engine or the motor alone can be bolted to the original transmission.

The team probably won’t have time to install this Type 4 into the Ghia in time for the Feburary race, but stay tuned.

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YeeHaw It’s LeMons Texas 2009

So we ran our first race this past weekend, and other than being slow (really slow on day one), we had a great time, and couldn’t have had a better outcome.

We had a little trouble with the engine on Saturday – apparently when one of the intake valves refuses to open, you’re a little down on power. On the bright side – the engine runs cooler. We also had a bit of trouble with the fuel pump. Or rather pumps. We went through three this weekend. The last one almost made it to the end of the race – quit with about 3 or 4 laps to go before the checkered flag.

Once we got the engine sorted out, we had a whole new set of problems; mostly in the brakes and suspension and steering – all those other things that become more and more important once you start going fast. But we (almost) finished the race, and kept the car on the track most of the weekend.

Ended up 72nd overall, 5th in class 3, and won a couple of awards. Not only did we outlast the other aircooled cars (Thanks to a wreck that took out the VW fastback – that thing had too much power with a type 4 engine), we also managed to impress the 24 hours of LeMons staff. So we took home the Best Aircooled VW award – and even better, the Organizer’s Choice. I guess it takes being a lunatic to recognize one!

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