two steps forward…

November 11th, 2007

When you perform this amount of disassembly on a ten-year-old car you’re bound to come across peripheral problems which, if not addressed now, will require attention somewhere down the road. Though it makes sense to take care of them while the car is apart, it always throws a wrench into your carefully-planned scheduling.

Case in point: when testing the motor this week it proved essential to know the car was in neutral, but when I attempted to shift the shifter fell through the bottom of the car. After 2-3 hours of dissection I discovered all that was holding the shifter in place was friction and a bit of glue (yes, glue). So another hour or so was devoted to putting the shifter back together, but in the process I did come across a forum online for Aspire owners. The comments were fairly evenly split between admirers and detractors (”It aspires to be a car” wrote one poster), and in the mix was a poor soul who couldn’t figure out why his shifter had fallen through the floor.

Back to the motor testing. We hooked up the car’s original 12V battery to the motor and darnitanyway if with a few good sparks that sucker didn’t start spinning like a top. Somewhat reassuring as I have had it now for six months and it is getting less accessible by the day. Also accomplished this weekend: cutting the side panels from HDPE for the rear battery box; mounting the controller on its bed of heat-transfer grease; ordering the electrical connectors for recharging the car; ordering a cake pan to act as a water shield for the brush end of the motor.

Front battery racks installed

November 4th, 2007

In the past two weeks:

  • Front battery racks installed
  • Engine compartment cleaned out
  • Accessory battery installed
  • About halfway done with component board clips (hold component boards to rack)
  • Cracked steering linkage boot replaced
  • Cracked left turn signal lens replaced
  • Clutch pedal/cable removed

Visiting the Santa Monica Alt Transportation expo kinda lit the fire again. We’re discovering the wonders of self-drilling screws - just load them into a nut-driver of an electric drill, push it up against some sheet metal and voila! Instant gratification.

Plastic Welding

October 14th, 2007

This week, we got the powder-coated battery box racks´┐Ż back. They were the wrong shade of grey, but I don’t think it matters too much. We also started practicing some plastic welding for making the polyethylene battery boxes, which turned out to be fairly simple. You only have to feed a polyethylene rod through a heated tube and PRESTO! You have plastic welding.

Long time off the blog

October 1st, 2007

My work schedule has been frantic so the blog has been suffering, but progress continues.

This weekend we mounted the controller on the control board. Because the controller can generate up to 450W of power it gets hot very fast, and Curtis controllers have failed from overheating on a fairly regular basis. So the recommended procedure is to mount it on a raised aluminum plate with a fan underneath.


Below are the main components laid out in their approximate positions: the primary and secondary contactors, DC/DC converter, ammeter shunt, controller, vacuum pump for brakes, vacuum pump switch, and 2 of 4 front batteries. Next up: getting all the welded pieces powdercoated and assembling the polyethylene interior battery box.


Dummy batteries arrive

July 23rd, 2007

The two dummy batteries (outer casing and terminals with no lead/acid) I ordered from Trojan arrived today, and just in time. All my cumulative adding of 1/8″ here and there has made for too much space, to the point where they almost fall out the bottom of the frames. Need to do a little trimming, but still much better than the other way around (not enough space).


Drilling steel

July 22nd, 2007

It’s back to school to try to figure out how to drill the holes in the steel frame of the car which will be necessary to hold the battery frames in place. After trying to drill holes in the soft low carbon angle iron with my hand drill, and getting the drill bits jammed into out-of-round holes, I figured out the the drill itself is slightly out-of-round. This tends to make the bit “wander”–and oval-shaped holes.

Not sure how to proceed. Even if I buy a drill press (about $120) I won’t be able to use it on the frame of the car, so possibly better off just buying a higher-quality hand drill.

Like a glove

July 17th, 2007

The new mount fits perfectly over the holes drilled into the end of the motor, and now the motor is fully supported at both ends. Again, the welder did a fantastic job. It’s a temporary installation — I need to find a 10″ cake pan which I will put over the end of the motor to use as a splash guard, and the mount will need to be powdercoated before it’s permanently installed. In the photos, the mount is the flat piece of metal sticking up. It is welded to the existing engine mount at the top:



Lately everything eerily seems to be going as planned…

Iron in the fire

July 15th, 2007

Getting the motor mount back from the welder’s tomorrow, front/rear battery racks to be welded this week. Did most of the cutting and shaping of angle iron for the front today, after redesigning the far front rack because of concerns the batteries would not have adequate support. As it is there will be 110 lbs of battery just behind the front bumper — I’m hoping cornering will not be too stodgy. This is one of my pseudo-batteries on the top front battery rack:


Today Nick and I hunted for the ever-elusive “rivnut” in local hardware stores to no avail (a rivnut is a small aluminum tube with threads on the inside which allows you to fasten things to sheet metal when you don’t have access to the other side, and is recommended in Convert It! for wiring). No one had ever heard of a rivnut, so when all else fails I turn to Google (I should have started there) and found them instantly — apparently very popular with homebuilt aircraft enthusiasts, who often need to attach things to tubing.

So I ordered a bunch of them and the tool needed to install them. Hopefully all the expensive electronics will arrive this week. Making good progress.

Front battery mounts

July 8th, 2007

Motor mount is at the welder’s getting finished, front battery mounts are taking shape (see below — angle iron to left and right will each hold two batteries). They will need to be welded at the corners once bent to the proper shape, then powder coated. Gearshift linkage and speedometer have been reconnected. Largest of remaining necessities will be ordered tomorrow: controller, potbox, contactors,DC-DC converter, charger, metering (high voltmeter, low voltmeter for 12V system, ammeter) and other assorted parts.


Rear battery box

July 1st, 2007

has come back from the welder and he did a great job on it. Actually, it’s only the front half of the rear battery box–I’ll be taking it back for him to add the frame for the second row of batteries (see drawing on previous post). He also is working on the motor mount and is great with coming up with better ways to do things than mine.

Here is the half-box dropped into the floor — fits like a glove: