Topic: Spirit of LeMons build update...
The final build video will not be released until we arrive at Carolina Motorsports Park on Friday morning, March 15th. We are going "media dark" as far as additional pics and videos between now and then, so any updates will be in written form only.
Well, partially because we want the final product to be revealed at the track. We've documented nearly the whole build in great detail, but a little mystery won't hurt. Also, most of what we are doing now would be much less interesting in video form. Nobody really wants to watch us weld small tabs and put small bolts from the fuselage to the chassis, or rivet plates to cover small floor-to-fuselage gaps, do they?
Here's what we've been up to:
The aluminum aircraft fuselage is now permanently located on the Toyota van chassis. The donor chassis itself has received a basic tune-up, consisting of plugs/wires/cap/rotor/fuel filter. Because it's an '87 with 176k miles that has been sitting for years, with rusty front brakes, and dried-out hoses, and we don't take chances with brake stuff on our cars, we installed new front brake pads/rotors/calipers/hoses. We still need to bleed them. We've finally heard the van run again for the first time since we cut it down to a minimal width and yanked out the dash harness, so there is hope yet. The tires we'll be racing on (a set of 185/60/14 all-seasons from a wrecked Miata, with about 30% tread remaining) are mounted and balanced, and now that we've cut the rear springs and loosened the front torsion bars, the whole contraption sits low and mean.
The cage is finished, save for the rear main hoop horizontal (shoulder harness) bar, which needs to wait until the driver's seat is mounted, in order for us to get the harness angle right. It's a 1.75x.120 DOM cage, and Jim Whitley of www.rollcagecomponents.com did a terrific job of bending it to the specs we had emailed him. It has a custom frontal crash protection structure that should protect drivers in even a worst-case scenario crash, designed by Evil Genius himself (it helps that he has already caged an identical Toyota van). The steering column and brake pedal/master/booster are mounted securely. My original plan was to use the twin Cessna steering yokes as dual control race steering wheels, to keep the magnificent Cessna instrument panel visually intact and untouched. However, for the sake of our own safety, and that of the other racers, we are keeping the Toyota column, and will have to eliminate a few of the stock Cessna radio controls in the lower portion of the panel.
Believe it or not, yanking the wings, hauling the plane home, gutting it, cutting out the floor, and cutting the donor van way down were the easy parts of this build! Now, we're into the really hard stuff. We have to polish the whole plane out, remount the first 20" of wing on each side with fabricated mounts, make finished-looking faces for the open wing ends, fashion rear fenders/dummy engine shrouds out of sheet aluminum and spun aluminum discs, and fabricate an entire tail section from scratch. It all has to really look the part, so it needs to be riveted together, polished out, and mounted securely enough to withstand the long tow on the open car trailer, and the stresses of racing CMP's fast full course. But, as a precaution for the other racers, we cannot reinforce the nose or tail sections whatsoever, so that the soft aluminum cones will become ample crush zones in the event of a serious collision.
Most of us have never done any sort of finished aluminum metalworking, so the next few weeks will be a steep learning curve. What we really need is a sheetmetal brake, an English wheel, and a planishing hammer, but those things are not in the budget. If there are any volunteers that have experience in this field, please show up Saturday! We also need to add the seat/harness/extinguisher/battery/cutoff switch, reattach the harness to the column, restore and reinstall the Cessna instrument panels, paint the interior floor with aluminum paint, replace the heater core hoses, add the fuel fill neck in a safe location, align the front wheels, and, oh, about a thousand other tasks. No worries, we four whole Saturdays left, right?
Future Fleet: 1957 Ford Prefect 1942 Buick 1959 Bugeye Project GLCOAT