So there I was, just zooming along, and this happened…

Well, back in August, things were going swimmingly well. I had done several track days in 2016, car was well sorted (I thought), I was getting more confident and faster. That’s how one always feels, I hear, right before the bottom drops out.

Happened about 5 laps into the first session of the first day of a two-day track weekend at VIR. Oof. Car was feeling a little squirrelly and I was trying to figure it out. I felt like I was driving well off my normal pace, but back end of the car came around when I turned in on a high speed sweeper… and before I could correct or even go “two feet in,” the car had assumed a new trajectory and I was just along for the ride, into the Armco on the inside of “Hog Pen.”

Sadly, I my video recording didn’t start properly that session, so I didn’t have much to analyze. I KNOW I had the car set up VERY loose… but I had the same settings for two days at CMP a month earlier, with no issues. Months later, when I was rebuilding the car, I found that one of my inner CV joints had failed… either in the crash, or before. I’m thinking before, and that was what I was feeling with the car, prior to the crash. And that would explain why my usual car control skills didn’t do what they usually do…

So, broke my car. And I bought VIR $1200 worth of new guard rail. But I was able to spot my newly painted guardrail on the TV the next weekend when the pros raced at VIR. So that was cool, I guess.

It’s OK. It’s what I built the car for… going fast, and crashing into things. And it’s fixable. Never was built to be a show car.

Anyway, I let the car sit for about 5 months, because I just couldn’t get in the right frame of mind to work on it. Then, I finally did.

Left engine/bumper frame rail was mushed. So I replaced it.

Gave me an opportunity to learn some new skills, and improve my welding technique.

Got things pretty well patched up. Straightened out the mushed bonnet to “good enough” and re-used my spare partially screwed up bumper cover. I decided to switch to an Aero grille instead of spending $$$ on buying and painting a new slatted grille and related trim. I like the way it looks. Kept a little Armco Green paint for street cred.

I’ve been driving, and rebuilding my confidence in myself and the car. I had been testing much stiffer springs. While it would actually work on the track (and did at CMP last summer), it’s too stiff for bumpy roads. Every bump is a car control event waiting to happen. So I’ve backed way off on the sway rate, and I’m backing off a bit on the spring rate. I think the new setup will be about perfect.

Really happy to have the car back on the road for the spring.

I hate the OEM hood latches…

The hood latches had been wonky since I helped my wife ripe the nose off the car a year ago… and remained wonky after the recent fix. I had them both latching (though with huge effort) for a couple of weeks. Then the passenger side latch wouldn’t line up properly no matter what I tried. Hours later, I punted and decided to do something I had been wanting for a year.

I replaced them with something better… Aerocatches. Kenn recently did these, and shared his pics and lessons learned. That helped A TON.

I ordered the “Extreme” version with the steel pins, I trust them more than the aluminum pins, and they accept adjustments with the hammer quite well.

It helps that I have about 1000 ways to drill and cut sheet metal in my shop.

A nibbler is the right tool for this job.

They work very well. I love them. The key to the install is to REALLY take your time. There’s only one spot that really seems to work well, with the pin 3/4″ forward of the plugged hole on the outer strut tower arm. Drill a hole there, insert a sharpie with the point up, and carefully lower the bonnet just until it touches. Use that as your starting mark, drill a small hole, cut 1.5″ off the threaded end of the hood pins, install the a┬ápin to approximately the right height, lower the bonnet and see where you are. Drill another small hole in the “real” correct spot now that you can see what you’re doing. Place the templates, mark, measure and check about a dozen times (you get one shot at this) and carefully cut.

I get spoiled after a while

I’m trying to figure out how to make the backend just a bit more stable at speed. The front sticks well with the RMW splitter. The rear got a bit better (I think) with the GP2 diffuser. But I want a little less lift back there… I really want the car to sit down at speed. Since my car has more in common aerodynamically with NASCAR trucks than other MINIs, I decided to try a variation of the NASCAR type spoiler.

Ordered some 3/16″ smoked Lexan, and mocked up a spoiler in cardboard to get the shape and profile right. Originally I was going to mount this with stainless hinges and turnbuckles, but then had a brainstorm on bending tabs in the Lexan and trying that. Turns out that worked well, so it simplified the whole project.

Marked and cut Lexan using the cardboard mock-up as a template.

Started off 5″ high, plus 2″ for the tabs.

Marked the size/shape of the tabs. Drilled holes for stress relief. Cut the tabs with the jigsaw.

Bent the tabs, using a simple jig, flat pliers, and heat gun. You have to get this stuff HOT to bend it, about 300F. Took a few tries and test fitting to get the tab angles close enough.

Then drilled holes for hardware, removed the film, and screwed it into place.

I love it. It seems plenty stiff, I can add turnbuckles later if needed. Need to sand the edge a bit to smooth it out, but it’s pretty much done.