All Postings For '24 Hours of LeMons'
Progress on the E30

Despite the E30’s current engine problems (significantly down on power), Robby and I decided to press forward designing and fabricating the roll cage. One of the struggles of working in Robby’s shop is that he lives so far from supply shops that if you make a mistake, it can cost you a whole day of travel. Well, after traveling half a day to Lakewood and back, buying the the only piece of 1.5″ x 0.12″ DOM they had, our first hoop turned out too narrow because of an input error into the bend calculation software we were using.

The next day we drove all the way to Centralia to get another piece (this time 24′ in length, so there was enough extra for a whole hoop). This time things went much better, even though the bend calculator gave us the wrong cut length. Here’s a quick video of the bend preparation and the final product, which we’ll mount up on thick plates and a box.

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24 Hours of LeMons Recap

So, the race is over, our final result was 79th place (out of 106). The result isn’t very impressive, I know. But, at the very least, we finished the race. Which is especially good when you consider all the mechanical woes we had.

While our team captain, Richie, was completing the team’s 3rd lap, he spun on fairly mild corner. We all headed over to the penalty box to see what our punishment was, we all berated Richie and helped him with the punishment. Just as we finished writing “It’s too early in the morning for this shit” 100 times on the car, Rich noticed there was oil all over the front-passenger-side wheel. We pulled the car back into the pits and realized we didn’t have much of a choice other than replacing the main seals and the oil pan gasket. Almost 5 hours worth of work, luckily one of the local auto part stores had a main seal. After the work was done, we were then worried mostly about people getting seat time at all (in case the car didn’t make it), we rotated out drivers after 3 laps. After that, we did some longer rotations (still short) and then let Richie finish out the day.

Day 2 started with me putting the front air-damn back on after Richie broke it on Saturday when he lowered it onto the jack. That lip didn’t even make it through the first session as Rich spun the car coming down turn 5. This broke the air dam off again and tore the passenger-side-front tire off the wheel bead. We brought the car into the pits and did a fairly quick tire change (I was impressed considering how out of place everything was). Rich finished his hour stint, then it was John’s turn.

John’s hour went by without issue; then it was my turn. I went for just over 30 minutes before I tried a new line at turn 5 and spun it. I came in for my black flag and accepted the punishment having a steel cutout of 2 rabbits mating welded to our roof. Because the penalty took so long, I sent Richie out to finish my stint and run his.

Richie came in at the end of his stint; we thought because it was just time up, but that wasn’t the case. We lost the alternator belt. We called all the parts stores; they were all closed. At a last ditch effort, we ran around to other teams and asked, success! After a few minutes of getting the belt on, we were back out on the track.

It was Rich’s turn again. Rich started turning really fast times, managing one lap of a team best of 2:40. At the end of Rich’s session, he was black flagged again, this time for not negotiating turn 11 successfully and having to drive on the other side of the tire barriers. He convinced the judges his first spin was because the tire blew, so his penalty was to write “If I didn’t point out loopholes, I wouldn’t have to write this shit” 100 times. This took a long time because it’s a long ass sentence.

Then it was John’s turn again. John came back in with 15 minutes left for his turn because he apparently passed on yellow flag (which we find hard to believe because we couldn’t pass anyone). Because that was our 3rd counted penalty, we got a cone of shame stuck to the car (signifying we had 0 black flags left before being kicked off) and an hour penalty (which they only made us stay 40ish minutes of).

With about an hour left, we put 5 gallons in and I finished out the day, taking the checkered flag for the team. I was just running consistent, safe 2:44’s to try and get our lap count up. But hey, we finished! Overall, it was quite an adventure, having to rebuild basically the whole bottom end of the engine was quite a task. Luckily John and Richie knew what they were doing, because I sure didn’t.

Below is the extended length video of what we captured. I might put together a short highlight video later, but don’t hold your breath, there weren’t many highlights. 😉

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24 Hours of LeMons Travel and Tech Inspection Days

Travel day started off well. Everyone was in good spirits, well prepared for our 9-ish hour journey. Things went well until just after Canyonville, Oregon deep in the mountains. 5 of the 8 bolts securing the axel to the hub sheered off and 3 of them backed all the way out. This caused the engine to over-rev and exploded one of our radiator hoses.

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Pre-First-Inspection Festiva The 2nd day also started well and degraded with bad news. I personally was a bit of a dick and slept in a bit, but the rest of the team went to the track to get “a good spot”. We spent the first half of the day getting ready for tech.

We finally headed over to tech at 1pm, only to fail for a transmission leak that made itself evident when the car was jacked up on the passenger side and because our front wing (Pike’s Peak style) was “too sturdy”. We begrudgingly took off our lip, made a trip to the hardware store for a bolt, cut the bolt down to size, and riveted on some ABS plastic to make an air dam. Then with 30 minutes to spare, we took it over to tech and passed.

Catch Up

It’s been a while since I’ve posted because I’ve been extremely busy. So, here is a quick summary of what has been going on with my racing.

  • I got 2nd (out of 4) at the very wet/rainy 2010 Understeer event, which was good enough for a trophy.
  • I got 1st (out of 4) at the dry 2010 Oversteer event.
  • I got 4th (out of 10) at NWR-SCCA Event #2, which was good for my first ever NWR-SCCA event trophy! It was a pretty sweet trophy too.
  • Finally, my 2nd 24 Hours of LeMons team and I are heading down to Williows, CA tomorrow for the race this weekend. Technical inspection is Friday and the race is Sat/Sun. We’ll be driving the super-pimp Grouppe Festiva.

    Overdue Lemons Update

    Last month, we decided it was probably best to start getting the car ready to match our theme (Bottom Gear, our take on the diesel BMW endurance race episode of Top Gear).

    Nick Being Pro Nick and I drove down to Robby’s place we didn’t there until about 6pm if I recall because we got a super late start. However, before we left, we had to drive all around the Renton/Kent/Auburn area collecting paint and supplies to do the job. While we were doing that, Nick thought it would be important to smash our front lip into a parking curb. While only annoying at first, it turned out to be quite an incident later on while we were driving down the freeway and the lip started to come apart.

    Lemons Car Front Prepared We paint-prepared the car Saturday night. I use the term paint-prepared lightly as it is really hard to prep a car in that bad of shape for paint in 4-ish hours. Then we got up super early on Sunday to paint it. The results aren’t half bad and barring some paint sprayer malfunctions we did a good job.

    After Paint Front After Paint Rear
    After Paint Side

    Work Weekend 9: Hell in BMW Land

    Friday night I headed down to Ocean Shores in the BMW, broken wheel bearings singing the whole way. The goal for Saturday didn’t seem very ambitious but, in retrospect, turns out to be insane. We wanted to replace both rear wheel bearings (really important), replace the torn CV boot, change the transmission fluid, mount the fire extinguisher, and maybe have time for a few extra fun things. We got started around 11:15 and our pain became obvious quickly.

    We got the wheel, brake, and emergency brake off quickly. Then we had to take out the rear axle and CV joint assembly. There are 6 bolts that hold the assembly to the differential (black round bolts with a hex head key hole). 5 of them came off with no problem, however the 6th one decided it would round out the hex. It took about 10 minutes and attempts with several tools but eventually Robby used his hulk like strength and gigantic vice-grips to break it free. Good for now, but now we were short a bolt. With the axle assembly out, it was time to remove the axle-stub and then the wheel bearing, we would worry about the CV bolt later.

    Robby pounded on various parts with a BFH (big fucking hammer) and a brass punch for, I don’t know, a hour and we just could not get the axle-stub or wheel bearing to come out. Robby looked around and saw that behind the axle-stub, there was a C-shaped pressure spring/ring. We decided we needed to try and take that out before pounding anything else out. Robby’s tools for removing that pressure ring were meant to be used on something that wasn’t so obscured behind a part (e.g. straight on or at a slight angle).

    We headed to our local (kind of) auto parts store to replace the stripped boot screw, get right-angled spring clip removers, and possibly find a CV boot. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention we found out the CV boot kit that came in the mail was meant for the inside boot, not the outside; so we needed a CV Boot too. The local store didn’t have anything we needed. So, off to Aberdeen we went. We stopped at Schuck’s and got the tool we needed. Then we drove all the way to end entrance of Aberdeen (pretty much as far as you can go and not be in Central Park) to Ace Hardware only to discover that Ace didn’t have a bolt that matched up. There was something close, but it wouldn’t work because the bolt was too long and the blank part of the shaft was too long. Fortunately, I brought my tap and die set, so we bought 3 of them and prayed I could make it work. Back to the bat cave (no CV boots anywhere)!

    When we got back to the shop, we tried to get the clip out of the hole but, that’s right, there was a problem. The tool couldn’t open wide enough to get to both tools. I looked at the tool a bit and suggested to Robby that we grind out the center part of the tool so it could open further, he agreed, we did, and it worked. We got the spring clip out and then started pounding with the BFG and brass rod some more. It wouldn’t budge.

    We gave up on being nice and decided to get the assembly red-hot. However, even torching it, it wouldn’t come out. We went online and found a guide but the guide just made it seem like the half-shaft could be pulled out with ease and then you could simply take off the pressure ring (Robby had the tool for that) with the axle-stub out. However, there was no steps for removing the axle-stub, just simply “now take the half shaft out and set it on the ground” — very funny. In frustration, I took a rubber mallet and started smacking the axle stub from the bottom at the same time Robby would hit it from behind with the punch. It moved! So, we just timed our strikes right and I swung harder and it came off smoking hot in 10 hits or so, pulling the existing wheel bearing in half. The inner ring was positively stuck to the axle-stub.

    Stuck Wheel Bearing

    Then we had to get the rest of the wheel bearing out of the hole. Lots of heat, pounding, and blood (well, Robby’s blood) later, the wheel bearing came out. Then using the press we got the left over bearing off the axle-stub, cleaned it up and pressed the bearing on. Robby had the new bearing half way back into the car when I stopped him. We forgot to put the retainer spring back on before we pressed the wheel bearing onto the axle-stub. Some pressing, swearing, and whatnot later, we separated the axle-stub from the new wheel bearing and the new wheel bearing from itself — yeah, we thought we broke it, the seal got pretty bent. Well, we had to press on, so we got the other new wheel bearing out of the box, put the retainer spring on, then pressed the bearing on, and pounded the assembly into the car. Don’t worry, things didn’t go smoothly yet, we then realized we forgot to put the dust boot back onto the suspension arm. On some cars you can take these off with no problem, but BMW decided this would be a good place to hook the emergency brake spring to. Well, we didn’t have any more wheel bearings, so we cut the dust boot in half bolted it on and then we tack-welded it back together. Yay!

    Now, we had to take care of the CV boots. After a long time searching online to figure out how to get axle apart and only finding guides telling us to replace the whole unit (dumb and expensive) we found a guide showing that we could just take off the inside shaft caps. We came up with the idea to use the boot kit to replace the part that it was supposed to even though it was broken and then take the rubber boot and use it to fix outer boot (the broken one). Anyway, this story is getting too long, so let me summarize. We were able to create a properly sized bolt, get the boots fixed, and get the assembly back together.

    Fixed CV Boot

    While we put the emergency brake on, Robby realized he didn’t remember exactly how it went back together. No problem, I just took the other wheel and rotor off. Robby looked at it and got everything put back together properly. While I was trying to get the caliper open, I popped open the bleeder to release the pressure and make it easy to pull back. No fluid came out and we then we found the brakes didn’t work properly. To make a long story short, we found out that the rubber brake line was blocked and the caliper was completely blocked as well (like 25 psi of air wouldn’t go through it blocked). We fixed it with some brute force and air pressure. Then we bled the brakes and they work now, hooray.

    With the car all back together, after a quick test drive (revealing that we fixed the quieter of the two wheel bearings) we decided to do something fun. Being that it was already midnight, why not? Robby showed me some aluminum grain-stamped extremely thin aluminum siding. He then used his hemming tool to hem the aluminum on the top and bottom edges to make it a little bit stronger (though it was clear it wouldn’t be strong enough). We put the smooth side out, bolted it on, flared out the edges by the tires and painted it black. Interestingly enough, I got noticeably better gas mileage on the way home.

    New Air Dam

    It flexes at speeds above 40 MPH, but we kind of figured it would. It’s just kind of a proof of concept. I think when we make the real one we’ll flare the bottom out more and we’ll get it closer to the ground. Also, the final product will have a splitter.

    Oh, and for one last thing before I left, finally, we got the fire extinguisher mounted.

    Updates! Work Weekends 7 and 8

    After work weekend 6 the team hasn’t been very active. We’re waiting on the guys to order things and we are also waiting on making another trip down to Robby’s shop. We’ll need his press to put in wheel bearings I ordered. Additionally, we’ll be putting on a new CV Boot because our current one is cracked.

    During work weekend 7 we officially got our racing seat in. We got the cheapest seat possible from Speedware, which, while semi-intentional because we’re on a budget, worked out well because the seats that were slightly more expensive had really short race harness slots. Most of the driver’s on our time are taller than 6 foot tall and none of us are huge fans of spinal compression (especially me). The variance in height also required us to get sliders, which then also required us to get the Speedware seat bracket.

    This last weekend Nick and I worked on my STI on Saturday (thanks again Nick) and then the BMW on Sunday. We re-tapped the oil pan to use a much bigger bolt. Nick accidentally tapped it at slight angle so the seal isn’t perfect even with a plastic washer. I don’t blame him because we can’t afford a new oil pan gasket so he had to do it a crazy angle. In fact, I think he did pretty damn good considering the circumstances. Then we moved the BMW “check light console” from the ceiling area to where the CD player used to go. I didn’t bring my Dremel, so we went to town with a large file. It actually fits pretty pretty well and is a pretty tight interference fit. Oh, also Nick found and removed a 1 pound bracket left over from the A/C unit.

    Work Weekend 6: Mad Max Weekend

    This weekend started out on Satuday at 8am when I showed up to Nick’s house and woke his ass up because his cellphone is a piece of shit. We got the car loaded up and warmed up and then we drove 2.5 hours to Copalis Crossing to Robby’s house.

    Once there we started talking about the sun roof, so we just sort of spontaneously started taking it apart, right in his drive way. Once we got the sunroof out carefully without damaging it (so we can sell it) we pulled the car into Robby’s shop and busted out the cutting wheel and the acetolyne and oxygen torch.

    Robby Cutting Roof Buick Trunk to Become BMW Roof

    Now that we had a sizeable hole in the roof (and the car weighed 15lbs less) we needed something to cover it up. So, Robby took us out to an old Buick he has sitting on the back of his property and he litterally ripped the car trunk off the car with this bare hands. We then traced the sun roof onto the top of the trunk added an inch or so to the sides and cut it out. Some grinding, sanding, primer, paint later, we had a ghetto cover which Robby promptly bolted to the roof with self-tapping sheetmetal screws (with gaskets already in them) and then sealed it with some weather sealant caulking. The whole thing looks very Mad-max-esque.

    In the middle of all that, we checked to see where the oil leak in the engine was and Robby spotted it coming from the oil drain plug. We then drained the oil so we could see what was causing the slow leak. I turns out the previous owner decided it was a good idea to use an US measurement drain plug in our nice German metric aluminum oil pan drain plug hole. The whole was very stripped. We tried repairing it with some hokey thread repair epoxy shit, but that didn’t work.

    So, we put it all back together and put some nice Mobil-1 synthetic oil Robby had in his shop into the car (which is similar to what we’ll be running at the actual race). I think it’ll be good to keep doing oil changes to clean out the engine a bit. The oil was only 250 miles old and was already incredibly black and dirty (probably from the poor running condition it was in).

    We also tried to pull the dent out of the rear quater panel. Let’s just say that went really poorly and didn’t work. We have a bunch of little holes in the rear quarter panel. Not that it mattered, it already looked like shit.

    Failing at Dent Pulling

    After all was said and done, we headed back for Seattle/Renton. We did stop once so Nick could go to the bathroom and I put electrical tape on part of the new roof because it was letting air in and it was kind of loud.

    Sunday, some lady came over and bought our seats for $150 and lets us have her old seats (we need them till we get the race seat in). Nick and David swapped the seats in for the lady and collected the $150. That’ll go towards the budget. Nick and David were also nice enough to stop the lady’s leaky power steering fluid hoses and fill up the reservoir with ATF.

    Work Weekend 5 – IT’S ALIVE!

    Well, we started off Saturday with some tasty waffles and blueberries, but we quickly turned to figuring out why the car still wouldn’t idle properly. We checked the resistance in every conceivable sensor and double checked all our previous work. Then we just decided the hell with it, let’s pull off the intake mainfold.

    After a lot of unbolting, we pulled off the intake manifold. The first thing we noticed was that the gaskets on cylinders 1 & 2 were trashed and the area was full of carbon deposits. There was kind of a collective “OMG, that’s OUR problem”. So, we went to work.

    Broken Gasket with Carbon Deposits

    Chris, David, and Nick cleaned up the heads and the block (the part we exposed) and prepped the surface. I went to town smoothing out the intake runners with a Dremel. Then, I got the idea to put the intake gaskets on the manifold and heads and see if they matched up right. Sure enough, the intake runners were much smaller than the heads and the gaskets. Nick and I placed the gaskets on the intake manifold and scratched a grind-line into the aluminum. Then I proceeded to port the holes to match the new size, tapering back into the runners very carefully. Finally, I got a nice sanding attachment and smoothed out all my work and additionally smoothed out about 5 to 6 inches inside the runners.

    Cleaned Head Porting Manifold

    Unforunately without some dyno pulls (or at least some datalogging) we’ll never know how much the porting helped. I can’t imagine it would be all that much, but it would be interesting to see.

    Anyway, we get the car all back together and fire it up and fuel starts spraying in the air like a fountain! Weeeeeeeeee! While we were putting the engine back together, I didn’t seat the fuel pressure regulator right. Nick apparently had this problem before last weekend and he re-bent the FPR mounts and we fired the car up. It sounded good! Not great, but good. It definitely sounded like we were down a piston.

    We did some diagnostics to figure out which ones, but ultimately we ended disconnecting the injectors to pull them back out. We stopped, decided to put it back together for the night and figure it out later. After putting the injectors back together, we fired it up…. IT SOUNDED GREAT! Apparently one of the injector plugs was loose (that’s my guess). So we took it for a drive and it just drove great.

    So, there we are, our car runs. Now we’ll switch gears, get our car bits sold and see what kind of cash we have to work with under the limit.

    Work Weekend 3

    Well we got to working on the car again this Saturday. We got quite a bit done, but also we were kind of brought down by the fact that car is still running really rough. Here are some before and after shots of the car.

    Here is David and Chris working on the car. David is messing with the idle control unit (ICU) and Chris is doing something which I can only assume is important. He may have been removing the air conditioning radiator.
    Working On The Car

    Here are some more pictures of the car’s interior:
    Anyone Want Some Speakers? Rear Interior

    And here is the interior after removing pretty much everything from the car:
    Stripped Front Cabin Rear Stripped

    In other good news, we found a dollar and some change (I think it was a $1.48) in the car so we get to add that to the budget! w00t! Change We Found in the Car