Monday, November 17, 2008

I'm going to name my next cat Guibo

This coming weekend, we're headed to Thunderhill for a shakedown trackday (with the nice people at TEAM racing) . The question on everyone's mind coming into last weekend was:

Uh, it's really just running that badly because it's full of 4-year-old gas, right?

Coming in to last weekend, we had:
- no hood, fender, seats, steering wheel, or headlights, and a nest of loose wires where the dash used to be.
- far too much sunroof
- ancient tires full of what might kindly be termed "character" (or alternatively, "cracks")
- a tank full of nothing but 4-year-old-gas and ancient despair
- suspension so bad that when you pushed down on one corner, the whole car rocked gently like a boat on a calm ocean.
- several intact sway bar bolts
- fancy plans, and pants to match.

As of 8pm sunday evening, we had:
- one bad-ass race car, with no hood, fender, sunroof, headlights or roll cage, with the remains of the dash lovingly tie-wrapped into place
- one stock driver's seat and a steering wheel mounted suspiciously sideways
- even less sunroof than before
- suspension so GOOD that when you push down on one corner, the car performs a polite dip and returns to original position (as if to say "Hey there! I will probably not kill you if you drive me!")
- nearly-new tires, brake pads and rotors
- one less transmission leak
- two snapped front-right sway bar bolts
- a replacement salvage guibo (a term which I am convinced that Laz invented to trick people into being like, "Oh yeah, the guibo, I totally have one of those!" while other racers laugh behind their backs. He, however, claims that this is the name of the rubber donut piece that connects the back of the transmission to the drive shaft.)
- lots of exciting new sharp edges!

One of the major plans for the weekend was the ongoing project to replace the seals in those locations scientifically determined to be the hardest possible spots to access. In this case it was the transmission shaft seal, where the shifter goes into the transmission. You have to pry out the old seal with a screwdriver (without scoring the aluminium inside the shaft), but during extraction the rubber of the seal dissolved, and the metal ring was corroded into place. After two hours, several screwdrivers machined into ad-hoc seal removal tools, one dry run on an old transmission Laz keeps out back, and several chunks of Laz's fingers - victory!

(Which is good, because the spare transmission is missing third gear, and also now missing the same seal.)

We also swapped out the motor mounts, which are a known point of failure for E30s. Yeah, no kidding:
From pandamonium

The other major plan was suspension replacement. On Saturday I drove up to Richmond to meet with a guy who had kyb springs and vogtland shocks as takeoffs from a wrecked spec-e30 ($225 for both). Contrary to all expectation, I was NOT mugged, raped or murdered in the dangerous outlands of Richmond while meeting random dudes from internet forums (I think the only person in any danger was the seller, who had driven down from sacramento with an unhappy-looking carful of wife and children), and returned victorious with springs, struts, and In-n-Out.

It was all in the original boxes, and even came with instructions. For example, never do this:
From pandamonium

From pandamonium

If one thing has been a constant with the Panda car, it would be incontinence in the matter of fluids. Sure enough, when we pulled the old shocks out, oil poured out of the housings. Lovely.

After the replacements were in? Oh yeah... rock it. Uh, stop rocking. Laz hates the shocks; he thinks they're too squishy, and plans to address this in typically German fashion by swapping in ridiculously stiff springs. It'll all come to justice this weekend, when we see how it handles.

Also, jdh rocked the grinder to strip the remains of the sunroof, generating picturesque sparks:
From pandamonium

Sunday evening, in an attempt to actually get the thing pieced back together, we forwent swapping the open diff for a salvage welded diff, reassembled the drive train, zip-tied the interior back together, and bolted in a driver's seat.

From pandamonium

In celebration of this tremendous leap in race car preparedness, Laz and Rob took it for a celebratory shakedown cruise to Rotten Robbie, where they added 8 more gallons of 91 octane, a lot of injector cleaner, and a whole tankful of hope.

This produced an immediate improvement in the panda car's performance, bringing it to the point where it could:
a) Idle on its own
b) Rev above 2000 rpm


(We are neither prepared to confirm nor deny rumors that the panda car, while parked at the gas station missing various body pieces, with a hosepipe "tail" inserted to stop the trunk from rattling, no headlights or passenger seat to speak of, and Rob leaning out the sunroof, successfully evaded the attentions of a passing local law enforcement vehicle.)

And one last thing: clipping the blade-like edges of bare metal bracket in the vicinity of the former dash which were, as belatedly noted during the shakedown cruise, pointed directly at the passenger's throat. And then we covered the remaining sharp edges with red racer's tape.

Safety first.

Next week on Pandamonium: the shakedown track day, in which we discover (probably quite quickly) whether the car runs like a champ or dies like a dog.

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