Sunday, December 21, 2008

we call her Ling Ling

We're at six days to the race and counting. All the major mechanical work is done, we've shaken her down a couple of times (and we emphasize the "shake" - all the relevant parts have been duly zip-tied back on), leaving us with one final mission: pandafication paint job.

There was plenty to be done, so we planned to start bright and early at 9am Saturday morning. Around 10:30 we arrived to find the soon-to-be-panda car swathed in temporary plastic spraybooth, with taping fully in progress. (Taping? Why yes, we're very nearly professionals! We masked stuff and everything!) Laz and Matt covered the back, leaving me with the awesome responsbility of outlining the hood graphics. (I made matt do the cutting. Who wants to face that kind of pressure alone?)

From pandamonium

From pandamonium

We used only the best spray can paint from Sears (black appliance enamel), and chose Laz as the designated inhaler, because his head is the easiest to wipe clean. (He even wore eye protection this time, which is a measure of how seriously we take this.)

Laz did a pretty slick freehand spray can job, despite being encased in a solid bubble full of paint vapor. About forty minutes later, here we go:

From pandamonium

From pandamonium

From pandamonium

Matt and Laz admire their handiwork:

From pandamonium

Tiny panda mascot:

From pandamonium

After an action-packed morning of car painting, we moved on to foam-pouring. We have a diversity of driver sizes, from 6-something Laz, to 5-something Rob and Matt. With careful seat positioning and a large stack of Style magazines tucked into the base of the seat (stolen from Laz's wife) we reached a fairly workable compromise, in which Laz drives with his knees tucked into his armpits, and Rob can almost depress the clutch. To smooth out the differences, we planned to pack Rob in a custom-fitted cradle of spray foam.

Rather than spray cans, we used a 2-part chemical mix. (You can order anything on the internet.)

From the supplier website:
Everything must be disposable except for the car, the driver, and helpers.

So we covered Rob in a stylish garbage bag wrap, and got pouring.

The foam sets up much quicker than you expect, and once it bulks up, it pours like cottage cheese. The first batch came out too small, and lumpy as hell. The second time around, we decided we needed more. How much more?

"I think all of it," Rob suggested. So we figured, go big or go home, and went all in.

Just a note, if you should ever find yourself tempted to try this: it expands more than you think. We found ourselves battling a rising tide of violently sticky spray foam, filling the garbage bag casing, bulging out the sides, and threatening to rise up and swallow Rob.

After about thirty seconds of quality panic, in which we struggled to prevent the surging foam from pouring down the back of Rob's neck, the foam started to set (it's an exothermic reaction, getting very warm as it hardens). Unfortunately, in all the excitement, it set in exactly the form we molded into it - a pretty solid "driver hunched forward to escape giant invasive sticky blob".

Anyway, it was a good theory. We'll see if it makes it into practice on race day. We might just pack Rob in with some more Style magazines.

After the excitement of the spray foam incident, we called it a day (and a pretty solid three months), and retired to celebrate by deep-frying some turkeys. Nothing says "job well done" like a vat of boiling oil. (In actuality, it was the traditional christmas turkey deep-frying at Casa Laz, which just happened to have been scheduled for car-painting day. But as we gathered around the fryer, drinking beer and experimenting with deep-frying various food items, the warm glow was only partly from the boiling oil, and mostly from a vast sense of satisfaction in a job fairly well done.)

If the car should happen to get crushed in any sort of race-day incident, we are all going to cry like little girls. Just so you know.

Sunday night, we finished up the last few things: fire extinguisher, important sticker positioning design choices, welded a few loose nuts on nice and tight, and wired in the kill switch. (It worked well right away: stopped the car dead cold, and required a fair amount of poking before she could be restarted.) Laz points out that as the kill switch causes current to backfeed into the alternator, that it is strictly NOT to be used as a toy. (Disappointing, I know.)

And there you have her.

From pandamonium

From pandamonium

Yes, the back is a little lop-sided.


  1. Nice work! I certainly share your sentiment about being voted People's Curse, but don't drive like D-bag and you should be fine.

    And good point regarding the kill switch. I'll be sure to smack the hand of anyone who touches it.