Lock the welder

Efab Update 2014

I thought it may be pertinent to give everyone an update on what I am doing with Efab currently. As many of you know, I am moving to California. I am not getting rid of the shop space in CT, however, until I have tried CA and (hopefully) liked it. The shop and apartment in CT may become available for rent, dependent on my experience in CA. My friend Alfredo Izzo, who has assisted me on several projects in the last year, is moving with me. The reason I am not out there now is because of a mix-up with a shop space we found several months ago after an exhaustive search. We had reviewed the lease, visited the spot, and were assured by the realtor and owner that everything was a go. We returned to CT and packed up the shop, and then got a call from the realtor saying the current tenants were, in fact, not leaving for another year. If anyone in the LA area gets Mr. Tim Wetzel as a real estate agent, run the other way screaming! I cant say enough bad things about our experience with him.

We are flying out to LA this week to re-start our search for a new shop space. A huge thank you to Brooke Worrel, John Sender, and Allison Casson for helping us facilitate this move.

Project update

Despite all the changes to Efab, the next project is pushing ahead full steam! As a little recap, the project is based around a 1972 Dodge Charger, code-named the Vulture mk 1 and Vulture mk 2. The mk1 is simply the car, with a few drivability and durability upgrades in order to get it the 3000 miles from CT to CA under its own power. This drive will also serve to help me understand the shortcomings of the car, beyond the obvious (inefficiency).

The Mk 2 will be the kickoff project for the new shop in CA. The parameters for the new car: ultimate all around vehicle. A broad category for sure, but one that will challenge me and actually serve a useful purpose when finished. What does this entail? So far I have come up with these guidlines:

1. Durability. It must not be fragile

2. Efficient. Must get at least 22-25 miles per gallon

3. Stable and comfortable at high speeds. Must be comfortable cruising at 80-90 mph for long distances.

4. Cargo Capacity. It is a utility vehicle to serve Efab, so it must be able to carry an acceptable amount of cargo/load such as metal, motorcycle engines, building supplies, etc.

5. Aesthetically pleasing. Duh

The Mk 1 is finished, and will make the drive out as soon as we find a new shop. This will be the one, and only long trip the car should take, assuming something unforeseen doesn't happen. To prepare for the Mk2, I have been educating myself on all types of wheeled vehicles. Keep in mind I have very limited experience building cars. In my life so far, I have owned a few pickup trucks, a 1970 Chevelle, a (new) Mini Cooper, and a 1929 ford hotrod.

The Chevelle and the 29 Ford were both assembled and highly modified by me, but not really built. I did not try to improve the cars, apart for the motors and aesthetics. Both of them handled poorly by modern standards (obviously), and despite both having plenty of power, neither was much use for anything other than the occasional joyride. They both had poor fuel economy (which limited range), excessive vibration and noise, and limited utility.

Two things  seem very obvious to me right off the bat. The engine and the chassis. Given the technology available, the only efficient engine with both the power and fuel economy to move a 3800 pound car is a turbo-diesel. Gasoline engines, when large enough to properly motivate a car this size, are simply too inefficient.

The second problem is handling. This is a Pandoras Box situation. "Handling" is a very broad term, one that is made up of many systems all working in harmony. The steering system, braking system, suspension design, chassis design, wheel and tire choices, and driver to car ergonomics all effect it.  Solving one problem presents another. One suspension design excels at one job, but is not ideal for another. It is the biggest engineering challenge I have ever taken on, but hopefully one that will be rewarding.

This transitional phase has left me with a lot of free time, which I have filled with reading and research. One major problem I have encountered, from an educational standpoint, is that there are very limited resources available to answer basic engineering questions. For example, you can get books on "how to build a nascar", or "how to build an off road truck", or "how to build a rat rod", but not many on how to build a regular car. What this means is that I have to educate myself on every type of wheeled vehicle known to man, then pick and choose which technologies I can apply to my car. Oh well, in the words of Guy Martin, "If it were easy, every man and his dog would be at it."

Stay tuned....