Pretty cage, Take Two

Back to business.

As my intrepid readers may recall, I had beautiful Pure Silver base+clear paint on the cage. Alas, such beautiful things do not last.

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I’m pretty sure the VHT self-etching primer, didn’t. Followed all the directions, and it was great for a little while, but eventually the paint came off in sheets.

So, time to pull the interior out AGAIN, and strip and repaint the cage.

Time to get out my trusty 90 degree die grinder, with 4″ brass brush.

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As luck would have it, only about half the paint was loose. The other half was pretty well adhered. But it all needed to come off… That took probably 6 hours spread over a week and a half. It SUCKED.

But, finally, was done.

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Then time to prep and paint. This time, I decided to try the POR (Paint Over Rust) system.

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All this is serious stuff. Use gloves, goggles and respirator for the cleaner/degreaser and the metal prep. Put down good heavy plastic drop cloths to catch the excess stuff. Remove anything you’re worried about getting it on, first. Sprayed on the degreaser (diluted about 2 parts water / 1 part solvent), then scrubbed and rinsed with water and wiped down with wet shop towels until towels came off clean.

Let it air dry, then used the Metal Prep. This stuff is phosphoric acid and zinc phosphate. It etches the steel, and leaves behind a zinc phosphate coating. You spray on the metal prep full strength, and need to keep the steel wet with it for 20-30 minutes. For something like a roll cage, that means you’re pretty much spraying it continuously; by the time you get the whole thing sprayed, you need to go back and start over again, to keep it wet. Then rinse with water (also from a spray bottle, in my case) and let it dry. When it dries, it leaves behind a dull gray zinc coating, almost looks galvanized. This step is critical; the POR will not adhere well to clean, unrusted steel unless it’s properly prepped.

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Let it dry overnight (until “bone dry” per the instructions) then apply the POR-15. This stuff is pretty awesome. The silver color is a nice bright metallic silver, and dries to a high gloss, almost looks like it has a clear coat on it, but doesn’t. When fully cured, it is VERY hard, almost like powder coat, but maybe harder. Unfortunately, it’s UV sensitive, and will dull if exposed to sunlight. So for anything that’s going to get much sun, you need to cover the POR-15 with the POR Top Coat, which is less pretty.

When applying the POR-15, follow some rules:

  • Always wear disposable gloves
  • Never wear nice clothing, watches, eyeglasses, or anything else you don’t want to get the stuff on, because it will NEVER come off, once dry.
  • Never get it on anything you don’t want it on. If you do, remove it immediately while wet, using a solvent to clean up. Because, once dry, it will NEVER COME OFF.

Stirred the POR-15 well, then brushed it on using a cheap synthetic bristle brush. Don’t bother trying to clean the brush. Just use ones you can throw away, and start each coat with a fresh brush. Applied two coats, about 2 hours apart. The stuff flows out very nicely, but it also tends to run and sag if you don’t use very thin coats. I put it on a bit heavy, and have some sags, but don’t really care. It’s a roll cage, and most of it will be covered with pads, harnesses, etc.

After about 4 hours, the second coat was dry to the touch, and pretty hard. Then applied first coat of Top Coat, waited about an hour, and applied a second coat. The Top Coat has more of a satin silver finish, which I like. Again, used a fresh bristle brush for each coat. With both paints, pour about 4-8 oz in a cup and use that to paint, don’t paint from the can, and don’t put unused paint back in the can. You need to clean the rim of the can thoroughly before putting the lid back on, or it will be cemented in place when dry.

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I’ll let it cure for a few days, then will refit the interior. Hopefully for the last time for a while.

Putting it back together, with more wiring

Needed to complete wiring for my Zeitronix gauge/data logging system, and my Aquamist methanol injection. While I was at it, decided to give this a try…
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Because my heel-toe action SUCKS. The Auto-Blip connects to the brake and clutch switches, and the accelerator pedal circuit. It detects when you (1) have the brake depressed and then (2) press the clutch all the way in to shift. It assumes this means you’re downshifting. So it then waits from zero to .5 seconds from when the clutch hits bottom (settable), and blips the throttle an amount that you set. Takes a little trial and error to get the delay and duration of the blip just right, but once it’s setup, it’s supposed to be a good thing. We’ll see.
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I wired everything in the engine bay, pulled everything back through to the footwell, bundled stuff up out of the way, and cut everything I could to length. Crimped on dozens of connectors. The auto-blip was easy… the harness has spade connectors already on it, just need to snap taps on the right wires, and connect it up.

This is almost done… just doesn’t look like it.
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Got the wire bundles up behind the parcel shelf, with the controllers for the Zeitronix, Aquamist, and Auto-Blip in the shelf. Wired master on/off switches for the Auto-Blip and Aquamist, so I can shut those down when not needed.
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Installed seat heater in the passenger seat, to match my factory-installed driver’s seat heater.
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Removed the switches for the OEM seat heaters, drilled out the housing, and installed the aftermarket heater switches. Routed cables and wired into the OEM heater circuits, so they use the existing fused seat heater circuit.
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Click the image to open in full size.

Reinstalled the interior, almost all done. I didn’t like the way the first set of sill covers fit around the cage, so I fit another pair, much better. Also figured out how to fit the A-pillar covers and have one of those done so far. Routed the microphone for the Dension bluetooth kit to the factory location in the overhead panel. Test fit my new diamond plate floor mats for the track.
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A few more hours in the next couple of days to get the last A-pillar cover done, solder a broken wire on a speaker, install the driver’s interior door panel, pad the cage, reinstall some weather strips, finish plumbing the Aquamist, and finish up installing my new boost sensor under the hood. Then will be ready for track inspection and new windshield on Saturday

You know, just more cut-and-paste.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cct1 View Post
Didn’t take you long on the auto blip, lol….

Glad it was an easy install. I don’t think anyone has done it on a MINI yet. Setting duration and delay is going to have to be done at threshold braking, but you knew that already…

Have you tested the lights yet? Some people have had to switch wires around; they haven’t always correctly corresponded, although is should be straightforward, but then again you might be the first person who’s installed it on a MINI.

Yep, the guys at Tractive said this was the first MINI install they’re aware of.
Once I worked through the MINI wiring diagrams and figured out what to tap into, everything was easy.

There’s a “calibration” routine you do when you first fire it up, basically put it in calibration mode and then go through a sequence of button presses and pedal presses and releases, so it verifies the connections and learns what “pressed” looks like for each pedal, and learns what the range is on the accelerator.

I did that, and everything just worked. Once done, the brake and clutch lights come on as they should when those pedals are pressed.

I wired in a master on/off switch so I can normally leave it off. Otherwise the Auto-Blip comes on by default when the car is turned on. You have to manually switch it off if you don’t want it active.

Summer in February

Oh yeah, and I installed my summer wheels. Because it’s going to be 25 when I drive to the shop for inspection on Saturday.

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May need to lower the suspension a bit more with these on. I’ll set it for these 16’s, then I’ll have plenty of room when I put the 15’s on at the track, and it will be even closer to the ground.

Getting ready for tech inspection

Finished up fitting the A-pillar trim, wet sanded and polished the black windshield header panel, and reinstalled the weather strip.

Padded the roll cage, everywhere a helmet (or bare head) might hit it. The most likely contact spots use dual-durometer padding, so it’s softish if I hit it climbing in and out of the car (or in a fender bender on the street), but has a high density core so it does something in a crash with a helmet. Added a new GPR760 sticker.

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Finished wiring and plumbing the Aquamist HFS-3 and Howerton custom fuel cell. Ran through the startup / test procedure, no problems. Filled with meth and ready to run.

Swapped out my drivers side mirror housing for a spare (the old one was kinda floppy).

Wired the harness for my trailer lights.

Swapped my Necksgen latches from my old SA2005 helmet, onto my new helmet.

Cleaned things up a bit. Ready to go for track inspection tomorrow. Might play with my front ride height in the morning before I go, if I have time. Safelite is supposed to come out tomorrow afternoon and install a new windshield. Car will be looking good after that…

Tech, glass and stuff

Got up this morning, lowered the front end about half to 3/4 of an inch, torqued the wheels, did a few odds and ends, dressed in 5 layers top and bottom, and drove in 25F weather to town to Tar Heel Sports Car Club tech day.

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Car got A LOT of attention at tech, everyone was coming over to check it out and ask questions. Passed! Saved the sticker, to put on new glass…

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Went for a drive on the way home, to test out the Auto-Blip. OMG, I love it. It’s not a street thing. I was simulating track braking and shifting, and for that it was AWESOME. Took a couple of minutes to get the delay and duration set properly, but then it JUST WORKED. Makes downshifts so dead simple, so I can concentrate on things like braking, steering, shifting…

And the car drives great with the summer wheels/tires on it (even in freezing weather) and with the new EBC Red pads front and rear.

YES I said EBC RED front and rear. It’s what I ran as daily pads on my old car, and I love them. I tried to go back to Carbotech 1521’s on the new car, but I just can’t stand how little bite they have, especially with sticky tires. Much happier now.

Then went home and played around with the rear interior a bit. Cut down my GP-ized cabrio rear interior panels, to fit around the cage, and threw the old carpet in to dress it up a little.
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I’m going to work on these some more, I’ll probably hack them down a good bit and mainly use the parts that cover the rear of the door jamb, and the area immediately around the speaker grilles. The rest eats too much space, I’ll probably just wrap everything else back there in gray carpet.

Then I pulled all the trim and wipers off, waiting for the windshield guy to arrive.
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I’ve had lots of windshields replaced, but have never stayed around to watch. Today I watched and helped.

I should just drive it like this. More aero.
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But, wasn’t meant to be.
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Nice to have new, unpitted glass in the GPness. Really like a new car now. Need to put the trim and wipers back on tomorrow.

Oh yeah, haz sticker.
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Tidying up a bit

This morning, got the windshield trim and wipers back on. Good to go.

One thing I noticed, is that something about the lines on this car make the windshield look more sloped (to me) than what I remember the old car looking like. I know it isn’t, just a visual thing.

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Spent the rest of the day organizing the garage, making space to move over stuff from the OTHER garage, so I can sort all that.

First, hung up my 12 wheel dollies. Because that’s how many it takes when you have three non-running MINIs to push around.

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While standing on the 8ft ladder, I happened to glance down and realized this was a pretty cool view. So I took a pic.

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While sorting things out, I decided to put my rubber mats and my GP mats in the car, on top of the diamond plate mats. Just to get them out of the way. First time I’ve had the GP mats in the car. Sexy.

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Found another treasure that Stephen at eMINIparts.com had included in a parts box, at some point.

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Finally, an open space…

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Of course, it had to go somewhere…
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But at least all the stuff in those boxes is sorted and ready to do something with, now.

This week, when I’m not working, I may play around with prototyping a tonneau cover for the rear… stay tuned…

More fiddling… and the tonneau prototype

Spent a few hours today fiddling with stuff.

Installed my helmet hook. Because, Racecar.
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I have a steering wheel hook also, but I’ll wait until I get the Momo QR wheel to figure out placement for that.

Then I installed the brackets that will ultimately hold the tie-downs for the rear of the bikini top.

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Then I figured, “hey, I may as well work on the top a bit”

So I spent some time fitting the old cabrio sunroof panel to use as the structure for the front of the new top.

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Sits on the cage at the perfect position and angle, like it was designed to do so. Because it was. 

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I bought some upholstery vinyl to prototype the tonneau cover. Figured I stretch that on, just to see what it looked like…

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I likey… more to come on that.

Then decided to play with the tonneau a bit.

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Oh, what the hell, let’s play some more. I plan to have the final one made from the same black multilayer material that the OEM convertible top uses. But I’ll build a proper prototype in vinyl first, and may run it for a while for testing.

The OEM convertible top attached to the rear structural bow. The bow has a slot near the top of the outer face. The top had a plastic or nylon spline sewn into a pocket. That slid into the slot to hold it in place. My tonneau design uses the same attachment method.

Just happened to have some nylon tubing exactly the right diameter, left over from my methanol kit. Marked the material in the shape of the bow, then cut it and loosely stitched in the spline.

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Then slid it into place. Not easy, because it’s designed to be both snug in the slot and taut on the frame, but it worked.

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Installed the box back onto the car…
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Flips open, like the OEM top.
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The OEM beltline trim, weatherstrip and 3rd brake light install just like with the OEM top. Weatherstrip provides a seal against the tonneau, like it was made to work that way…
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Decided how I wanted to slit the tonneau around the cage, and cut away! Stretched it into position, and just taped it together and to the cage, temporarily, to mock it up. Later I’ll add proper flaps over the slits, and straps to cinch it tight to the cage.

Me likey….
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Click the image to open in full size.

It’s exactly the way I had envisioned it…

After confirming that I could get our sewing machine to actually sew this stuff, I pulled it back off the car, and practiced my mad sewing skillz.

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Hemmed the edges, sewed a pocket at the front edge to hold a tube to stiffen and stretch it, made some flaps to cover the three slits, sewed them into place, and added some velcro to hold them shut. Didn’t worry too much about making it pretty, just shooting for functional right now… it’s a prototype.

Done!

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Back on the car…
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Still need to figure out how to stretch or hold down the “wings” on the sides, but otherwise it’s just about perfect.

Yesterday, it was 25 degrees and sleeting. Today, 60 and sunny. So, time to test it. Worked! And didn’t come off at speed. Significantly less buffeting and wind noise. And looks good.

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Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.

Really nice day. The car drives sooooooo much better with summer wheels and tires, and with more brake pad bite. I’m starting to finally get a feel for it… but am being pretty careful, still.

Just can’t stop doing stuff… so I reinstalled my rear fog brake light mod after I got home.

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Also figured out an approach for fastening the sides. I’ll see how that holds up tomorrow.

And, from the ashes…

So the first attempt at building the GP Roadster, I named Locutus. Because my cabrio was being assimilated by GPness, or something.

I kept Locutus Mk2 as the working name of the new car, because I liked it.

But one of my friends just suggested something more fitting, I think, now that it’s fully baked…

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Thoughts? I’m not afraid of it being a harbinger for a fiery death. The car has already risen from the ashes, at least metaphorically, of three lost MINIs….

Zeitronix data logging

Fiddled with data logging for a couple of hours today.

Since folks will ask, here’s what I have:
Zeitronix ZT-2 Wideband system
plus sensors for EGT, boost, oil pressure, oil temp (not connected yet), and connections for RPM and throttle position
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ZR-2 multi-gauge
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Black Box Data Logger
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I also have the LCD Display, but I don’t know if I’m going to really use it. It’s not as flexible as I expected, so I can’t really display all the data on it I had hoped. I may end up disconnecting the oil pressure and temp sensors from the ZT-2 and installing dedicated gauges for those.

The ZT-2 comes with software and a serial interface cable to allow data logging with a Windows PC. Modern PCs with no serial interface will need a 3rd party USB/serial adapter cable. The Black Box Logger enables you to capture data logs directly to microSD card, without a computer connected, then load and analyze the logs on the PC when you’re back home. Dead simple to log, one button to press to start and stop, and a status LED to let you know it’s working.

I thought I captured logs when I was driving yesterday, but there was nothing on the SD card. Finally managed to download the recommended formatting utility and format the card properly. Tested logging in the garage and had files! But was getting no RPM signal. Hunted around under the dash and determined that the RPM signal wire had come unplugged from the tap at the OBD port. Found that wire and plugged it back in.

Fought with drivers for my USB-to-Serial interface cable for about an hour, finally got that fixed, so I could run the Zeitronix software and do live logging on the laptop. Very cool.

Went for a drive and logged a few pulls to redline, to send to Jan to verify my tune and tweak if necessary. Came back home, loaded them up and looked at them. Very very cool.

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The graphs show: Air/Fuel ratio, RPM, boost, exhaust gas temp, pedal position (91 is wide open), voltage from the oil pressure sensor, and voltage from the (not yet connected) oil temperature sensor. When capturing live on the PC, the oil pressure or temp can be scaled to show actual values. Basically this shows a pull from about 3200 to 7700 RPM (redline with my current setup), you can tell when I started and ended the pull by the throttle pedal position curve.

Sent this to Jan, and he confirmed that the current tune is right on the money. So we’ll stick with this, until the TVS is on.

Also pulled the stereo face back off, and checked wiring of my bluetooth interface, which wasn’t working. Unplugging and plugging it back in fixed it. All good.

My mod to secure the side flaps on the tonneau seems to be effective, they stayed put for an hour of driving today.

Looking at what it’s going to take to install my RMW splitter tonight. Might need to fab up some more brackets, as the original brackets have never materialized. No big deal.

Safe and RMW Splitter

Yesterday was beautiful, so I took the car out and ran errands all afternoon, like it was a real car, or something. It was blissful.

One downside of having the dual front parcel shelves and no real trunk… the car has ZERO secure, lockable storage now. Occasionally I might need to stash a radar detector, or firearm, or drug money, or something. So I fixed that.

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Screwed down to the floor. I’ll pull it back out and put the carpeted floor panel under it, split so I can access the battery when needed.

Today, worked on installing my new-to-me RMW splitter. The brackets for mounting it never materialized, so I fabbed up a new set. Because it’s always more fun to make something, than to just “get” something. 

The splitter uses two-part aluminum brackets, connected with aluminum bolts mounted in shear. So if you hit something hard enough, the bolts shear off and the splitter drops before breaking something important.

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The brackets mount to the crush tube bolts on the subframe, and the lowest bumper mount studs. This provides a VERY solid connection to the car. Nothing is connected to the bumper cover. You can shove the splitter with your foot, and the entire car moves. It’s insanely stiff and solid, like a real splitter should be.

Done!

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It’s VERY low. And this is on my 16″ wheels. It will be even lower on my 15″ track wheels.

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I can’t wait to get it to the track next weekend. The aero on this car was already sooooo much better than my old car, with the GP underbody panels and the tonneau. Plus the vastly superior suspension, the car is gonna be a monster at the track, I predict. I just need to raise my game considerably, to be able to take advantage of it.

Adjusted brackets, moved the splitter up about 3/8″. Fabbed a filler panel to seal the gap in the bumper. Put some weather stripping on the top of the splitter to seal in the area in front of the wheels.
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I think I got my money’s worth out of this wheel…
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Changed oil, wired oil temp sensor. Used the plug adapter for now, I’ll drill and tap the pan later. Pulled an oil sample to take to the lab.
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Then took it out and drove the everlovin snot outta it.
OMG, it’s crazy how much difference the splitter makes above 70mph. The faster you go (over 70), the more planted the front end gets. I took some nice sweepers and esses at <speed redacted>, and had WAY more margin available. It will be beastly at VIR next week. The car is much, much better than the driver, right now.

I have the Aquamist system setup like I want, for now. Spraying just a little at high load, my IATs never went over 120F today, and recover almost instantly. But have only burned about half a gallon of meth in three hours of hammering on it, and it doesn’t materially impact my AFR.

Even RaceCars go shopping, sometimes.
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Back home. Beast mode complete.
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Gotta do one more test fit of the 15’s tomorrow, and get the track trailer packed.