Saturday, December 14, 2013

New Engine - Update 2

Spent several hours stripping down the old engine and accessorizing the new engine.  Swapped over:
upper and lower intake manifods
timing belt and tensioner
timing belt covers
exhaust manifolds
valve covers
clutch, pressure plate, flywheel

Jason the timing belt king

We took the old engine to the junkyard, and got a whopping $30 for it.  Wowzers, with the gas we burned getting there and back, we would've been better off chucking it in Eric's back yard and using it come summertime to sit our beers on.  It's time for Eric's neighbors to get an even better taste of this whole Z31 parts depot anyway.

Jason is kind of our engine guy, and since the engine went boom it's important that we give him a hard time.  He swore he would have the new engine ready to drop in within four hours.  Trust me, it took a LOT longer than that.
Many hours later... new engine is still going together
A few of us hit up the Christmas parties the night before.  Not much sleep was had.  A few adult beverages were consumed.  Made for a really long work day.  Here we see Eric yawning and sleeping on his feet.

Eric gets drowsy but is reinvigorated when he gets a whiff of gear oil

We bought a new radiator.  The old one had too much bad juju.  We had overheated the car in two different races, so even if it wasn't the radiators fault, out it goes.
Shiny new radiator beside old beat up one

Monday, December 9, 2013

Next Race - Road Atlanta

The next race we are planning on is Road Atlanta.  This is in 8 weeks, Feb 8-9 2014.

This would be our team's third race.  Both our previous races were on a speedway (Charlotte Motor Speedway).  Generally, ChumpCar converts the speedway by using part of the oval, part of the infield, or adding some brake/turn elements somewhere.

Road Atlanta is an actual road course.  It is 2.54 miles in length, with twelve turns and plenty of elevation changes.  It is a phenomenal track.  I've been to Road Atlanta many times to see the Petite Lemans races, but I honestly never thought I'd be there as a part of a race team.  The track was opened in 1970, and immediately served as a host for Can-Am races.  It was sold several times, sort of declined, and went bankrupt in the early 90's.  It was purchased by Panoz in the mid-90's and a bunch of improvements were made.  Panoz is also the one that put the kink at the end of the back straight to keep people from going airborne and becoming roadmeat.  A 1:06.2 is the current lap record, and something tells me we will not beat that in our Z machine.

Road Atlanta track map
This will be a learning experience for our team, and we are excited to get out there and get some more seat time.  We feel like we are slowly dialing our car in, and we're hoping it's more reliable this time out.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Engine Removal

We broke Eric's new engine lift in right by hooking it to a very damaged VG30 and yanking it right out.  Other than hanging the shifter up for a minute, we really didn't run into any problems.  The two of us probably spent 3.5 hours total pulling it out.  That was at a somewhat leisurely pace, taking time to label wires, fab some brackets to mount to the engine tabs, and stopping every 17 minutes to do 15 pullups.  Cause that's how we roll.

We haven't torn into the old engine yet, but the carnage is magnificent.  There is a gigantic hole the size of a baseball (maybe softball?) in the left hand side between the block and the oil pan.  It's conceivable the heads are salvageable, but we suspect they are warped.  If water got into the oil, anything that was supposed to be lubricated will have gotten a thrashing.  We will take a look later.

Blown VG30 - oil pan at bottom beat up with a few holes in it, block just above it with holes in it 
Close-up view, try not to cry:
Close up of engine carnage

Engine bay looking very empty
Whatever can be salvaged off the old engine will be.  We'll reuse the transmission of course.
Broken engine sitting on redneck engine stand

Thursday, December 5, 2013

New Engine - Update 1

A couple of us got the process started last night.  Pushed the car into the garage, got it up on jackstands.  Dropped the exhaust.  Unbolted the driveshaft.  Unplugged and labelled all electrical and fuel connections.  Pulled alternator off.  Removed nose piece, radiator.  We think we can finish pulling the old engine out over the course of a couple of hours this coming weekend.  Jason is scheduled to come up with the spare and we will install the weekend of 12/17.

Eric unplugs and unbolts the VG30 alternator
We had a bit of an incident with the trailer when we were loading up to leave the last race.  The trailer ramp has a lift assist spring, and it broke free of the ramp and stuck straight up.  Not realizing this, we pushed the car up onto the trailer and got it stuck halfway when the spring dug into the underbody.  The car sits pretty low, so without jacking it up we couldn't see any damage.  When under the car removing the exhaust and driveshaft last night, we found the damage:

Crunched up muffler courtesy of a mean trailer - gutter downspout and trashcan exhaust holder courtesy Casa Eric
Looks like the spring dug into our muffler and gave it a real hard time.  Not only is it bashed in and wrinkled, it actually gouged a couple of holes in it.  We may replace it or... then again, this is ChumpCar.  We may cover the hole, rebend the hanger, and slap it back on.

We'll close out today's update with a shot of the Z31 RACECAR BEAST barreling down the front straight of Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The $500 Z31 duking it out with a $500 Crown Vic and a not-$500 Camaro

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Some New Zip

After the last race, we have to get ourselves some new Zip.  A couple of us plan on doing some prep work the week after Thanksgiving.  We will unhook the wiring, hoses, intake, remove the radiator, driveshaft, exhaust.  Then the weekend after, we hope to pull the old (ventilated) engine out.

We will spruce up the spare engine with a new timing belt and some gaskets, then swap it in.

If you are really lucky, we will post photos :)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Charlotte Chump Race - Take 2 Results

Saturday morning, race day!  Everybody was up bright and early and at the track well ahead of the driver's meeting.  Except Duncan, who had an alarm malfunction possibly related to user error.  The CTS-V made some sonic boom noises heading up I85, and he barely rolled into CMS at 6:31.

We were out of the driver's meeting, in the car, staged on pit row, and ready to rock.  But c'mon, Charlotte Motor Speedway Chump Racing ain't racing without some drama.  Mother nature did not cooperate.  It was so foggy, the guys in the control tower couldn't even see the cars on pit row.

Thick fog delayed the November CMS Chump race
A 15 min delay turned into a 30 min delay, then 60.  Finally, a few minutes after 8am, the fog had lifted enough for the green flag to fly.  There were 52 cars in the lineup, and after 65 minutes of frustration, there were some happy drivers out there.

Because two of our five teammates did not get a chance to drive at the last race, we inverted our driving order this time.  Jason was the first up.

The course was set up strictly on the oval.  The CMS Christmas light thing was set up in the infield.  To keep non-NASCAR drivers awake, with both hands on the wheel, Chump set up a chicane on both the front straight and the back straight.  The chicane at the front was fairly wide and not particularly tricky.  The chicane at the back was the opposite.  It really wasn't wide enough to go in two wide, and the exit of the chicane was a little tricky.  So this prompted a few spins at the front chicane, and a WHOLE LOT of screw ups on the back chicane.

The Charlotte race used the entire oval, with a chicane added in each straight as marked in yellow

Jason settled into the car well, with frequent interruptions for yellow flags.  He reported the temperature of the car would stay reasonable as long as he didn't run it too hard.  Short shifting at 4k or 5k rpm seemed to hold things together.  The car was handling well, and the brakes were phenomenal.  Top speed was around 105mph, a bit of an improvement from the last race.  Jason completed about 80 laps before roaring into pit row.

After a quick addition of five gallons of gas, Brad was up next.  With plenty of open track in front of him, Brad scooted around half a lap before doing a great job of exploring the tire wall in the back chicane.  After sliding to a stop about 2" from it (2:37 in the vid below), he waited for a chance to reverse and get back into the mix.

Another 30 minutes went by, with Zip6Racing showing as high as 13th or 14th place.  Then Brad put the finishing touches on a strong passing maneuver down the front stretch by managing a lurid slide and a complete 360 going into Turn 1.  No harm, no foul, no impact or crunched body panels, but good for a bit of a pucker.

Alas, the vg30 was fading.  An oil pressure warning light, set to go off when oil pressure dropped below 10 psi, went from flickering occasionally under heavy braking and low rpm, to flickering frequently under hard cornering.  Engine temps would only stay down if the car was kept below 4k rpm.

Roughly 128 laps into the race, Brad accelerated out of a chicane and knew something was wrong.  The car seemed to lack power, and was reluctant to pull up to speed.  A few hundred yards later... BOOM!  She blew:

This twisted chunk is what's left of a connecting rod that went through the oil pan
A now well-ventilated VG block
We got a tow back to the garage, and mourned our dead engine.  Even if we had a spare with us, it's questionable whether we would've had time to swap it in and get back on the track before the end of the race.  We packed up and headed home.  We'll be back!  In the coming weeks, we'll decide which of the 2014 races we want to shoot for.

Charlotte Chump Race - Take 2

As some of you may have known, ChumpCar was nice enough to rebook us for another race at Charlotte Motor Speedway since the previous one ran less than smoothly.

Zip6Racing had a good bit of work to do in preparation for the event, but it was an order of magnitude less than for the previous event.  The car had a few issues at the last race, and we wanted to fix those as well as make a few improvements.  A portion of the list:

Flush engine/radiator
Diagnose charging system
Trace MAF issue
Remount bumper
Plug header hole
Fix melted wire loom
Put pins in window net bar
Fix hole/replace tire
Check front brakes
Check rear brakes
investigate low oil pressure
fix camera system
fabricate headlight covers
better temp gauge
Head lights
Mount side windows
Replace rear window
Adjust pass. side windshield wiper
fix cylinder head temp sensor
check compression

The intermittent miss seemed to go away once we soldered in a new connector for the mass air flow sensor along with putting a jumper in the cylinder head temp sensor harness.  With the engine running better, that left us with 2 main things to worry over.

1) We had a tire that somehow suffered a puncture at the very end of the last race (possibly when loading it on the trailer).  We patched and plugged it, and it seemed to hold air.  We would have preferred to replace it, but every retailer seemed to have this tire in our size on backorder.  So we were crossing our fingers we wouldn't have an issue with the plugged tire.

2) Our venerable vg30 engine, as tough as it is, had been through a lot.  When we changed the oil, it looked ok, but we noticed it was smoking at good bit at idle.  A compression test confirmed our suspicions:
Compression test - not so good
Nissan's min for this engine is 128 psi.  We barely made that on the #3 cylinder.  Nissan also specs a max differential between cylinders of 14 psi.  We were nowhere close to meeting that.  From our inspection of the engine last year, we had
cyl #1 200psi
cyl #2 165psi
cyl #3 187psi
cyl #4 170psi
cyl #5 200psi
cyl #6 185psi
so even then we were flunking the max differential requirement.  And as you can see, the numbers had fallen dramatically after Race #1.  The engine was not healthy.  Our spare engine was in Columbia SC, and we really didn't want to go through the trouble of retrieving and installing it.  So... engine health was a worry.

We actually installed plexiglass in the rear hatch frame twice.  The first time, it looked cloudy, and it was removed only to discover an additional layer of peel-off film stuck to it.  Oops.  We really wanted to try and make the car more aerodynamic, as our top speed in the last CMS event wasn't competitive.  The combination of
- running without a hood
- no headlight covers
- no quarter panel windows
- no rear hatch
was in theory really killing our top end.

On Friday, the day when we needed to get the car through tech/safety inspection, we were a few minutes later than planned in getting the car on the trailer and getting our gear loaded, but it was nothing like the exhausting, nerve-wracking thrash before the last race.

We had a bit of a hiccup once we got to the track and realized the race car's brake lights weren't working.  We had packed several totes and boxes of parts into the car for transport to the track, and our assumption was a wiring harness was damaged by doing that.  Sure enough, one of the guys found a ground that had ripped out, and we quickly patched it up.  We had ordered a new CHTS plug, and it was scheduled to land at the local Nissan dealership at 11am.  While one of the guys went to pick it up, a few of us worked on spacing the new headlight covers upward to fit closer to flush with the hood.

The line for tech inspection was fairly short, but it still seemed to take awhile.  With no real surprises or disagreements, we made it through tech and spent a few minutes checking the fit of a spare tire and looking over the car one last time.  With little left that we could do, we all headed home to get some sleep for a 6:30am driver's meeting and a 7:00am race start time.

Ready to race and lookin' better than ever!
To be continued...

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Here's a secret that a lot of people know about ChumpCar but few people will tell you.  Gather in close now, you may not hear this anywhere else...

ChumpCar will take years off your life.  It's not from high-speed accidents, although those do happen.  It's not from exposure to various chemicals and exhaust fumes from every possible type of (poorly running) internal combustion engine.  It's not from stress and excitement, or even from unintentional exercise running back to cold pit to get your gloves and oh yeah the voltmeter (and hey has anybody seen the fire extinguisher).

It's from sleep deprivation.

You will lose hours and maybe days prepping the car.  You will lose more hours actually racing.  Even if you are less adventurous, and prefer to see where you're going, so you sign up for a daytime event, the ol' switcheroo may take place and you'll find your race starting a 8pm instead of 8am.  And you'll got to bed at 3 or 4am.  And you'll want to do it again.

First thing's first, mucho thanks to our awesome sponsor Husqvarna.  They even loaned us their super-nice pickup and trailer, which were rock solid and fantastic.  Here's a picture of our paint scheme/theme.  It's Husqvarna blue with a white hood.  If you've seen the Husqvarna fast tractor sold at Lowe's - the one that Jimmie Johnson has been riding in all those cool TV commercials - that's the look.
The paint scheme for the Zip6Racing Husqvarna 300ZX
Due to the messed up schedule, the race really didn't get started until about 9pm.  A couple of guys spun out on the first green-flag lap right in front of Eric, and he narrowly missed piling into them.  He hadn't been out long before he radioed in the car was overheating.  We brought him in and pulled the bumper cover and the hood off hoping the extra airflow would help.  It didn't do much.

We also had a charging problem.  The voltage kept dropping, and it was apparent the alternator wasn't working.  Jason found a blown fuse, and replacing it seemed to help.  But this was a persistent issue.

We spent an hour or two in the pits flushing the radiator, which seemed to fix the overheating problem.  The VG engine Nissan made seems to be pretty tough.  We ran this one a few hard laps with the temp gauge maxed out, and it hung in there.

We also had an intermittent miss that kept popping up again and again.  This pretty much ruined Duncan's entire stint.  But Travis was able to get maybe 45 mins in where the car ran flawlessly.  But when he came in for the driver change and cut the motor off, it never ran right again.

We just weren't able to conquer the intermittent miss.  We finally threw in the towel around 1:45am.  I think we were able to run approximately 55 laps.  I hope to find an official lap count and placement in the next few days.  Also, I'm sure some more photos will surface and we'll post 'em up.

We went through some grief due to the shower of sparks from the front brakes.  With a night race, the sparks were very apparent, and the tower kept radioing the pit bosses who came and argued with us a bit.  They insisted this was indicative of metal on metal, and we were out of pad material.  But we had put on fresh Hawk DTC-60 or -70 pads before the race, and we were confident they were ok.  Driver's insisted the brakes felt awesome.  And in the hot pit, after borrowing Nic's iphone to use as a flashlight (oops, somebody forget the flashlight?) I could see what looked like plenty of pad material and abused but not scarred rotors.  We will investigate more and report back, but we are thinking the brakes are ok.

After everyone recovers, I'm sure we'll get the Z rehabilitated and ready for the Chump race in Nov.  Or possibly a track event or two before then?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Switch - Changes and Kills

First switch:

The Charlotte Motor Speedway track administrator accidentally double-booked the track.  After several hours of negotiations yesterday, the race series administration announced they were going to change our race around.  Instead of racing from 8a-6p, our race would be moved to 8pm-2am.  Since that's cutting our 10hr race down to 6hr, they've compensated us by giving us a partial refund, and arranged a 2nd race in November that's 10hr and will be free for those registered for this race.
Although I'm too old to be staying up until 2-3am, at least
a) it will be cooler
b) I'm about to drive a race car under the full lights at CMS

Second switch:

The stinkin' kill switch.  As it turns out, our beast of a Z31 is very hard to kill.  Getting our car's wiring straightened out has lagged behind some of our other efforts.  Chump rules require a kill switch be installed that acts as a master power cutoff for the vehicle.  Our team has worked on that a bit the last week, but progress has been painful.  A late night Thursday night didn't produce a working kill switch.  We need to cut both ignition and car power.  Just taking the battery out of the circuit won't kill the car since it continues to run off the alternator.

Friday morning, we showed the car off to Husqvarna's marketing department, and then around noon we went over to Eric's to try to finish off the items needed to pass tech.  Gates opened at 11am, and tech was to be open from 12-5p.  According to the rules, if the car didn't pass tech by 5pm, our team had to leave to go to the driver's meeting, and we would have to tech Sat morning, taking lap penalties while we waited.  So we were very "motivated" to get this stuff wrapped up.

12pm passed by.  1pm passed by.  2pm passed by.  3pm passed by.  We were kind of getting a little nervous.  Finally, Travis and Duncan and Eric applied their brilliant intellects and powers of deductive reasoning and came up with a crazy solution (that seems to work).  Jason, sensing a disturbance in the force, swung by Eric's house on his way up from Columbia and helped electrocute Duncan just before we finished.  So we got the car to the track by maybe 3:30 or so.

We tech'd our personal safety gear, then put the car in the (long) line for tech inspection.  It immediately sprang a leak from a hose, which we had to tweak.  You know you've done a heck of a job on the wiring, when the inspector asks you to open your hood and sees the craziness and says "What happened here?"

Other than the nasty (hilarious) comments, we passed tech without any issues.

Photos and more updates coming later.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Getting Closer

Okay, let's go through the list...

Wiring - Most of this is finished.  Temperature gauge and speedometer are now working.  Switch panel is installed, with switches (including fan) mounted.  Kill switch was installed but needs to be wired.

Harness brackets were installed.  Harnesses were installed, but seat isn't yet mounted.  Window net brackets are done.

Inside rear view mirror done.

Race pads were installed, and we finished bleeding with fresh high-temp fluid.

Tires were mounted and balanced.  Alignment was done.

Holes (I think all?) in firewall were sealed off.

Roll cage is finished.  Padding was installed, but we may still need to zip tie pads to tubes.

Fire extinguisher installed.

Coolsuit cooler and tubing installed.  Needs some wiring.

Camera wiring needs to be done.

T-top panels were installed.

Steering column was spaced down a bit, and hub installed for quick-release steering wheel.

Exhaust system was modified (again) to comply with rules.

Coolant was drained and replaced with water.

I think we still need some work on the communications system.

We drew names for driving order.  Should be:
1) Eric
2) Travis
3) Duncan
4) Jason
5) Brad

We have been really lucky to land three sponsors for this race.  Husqvarna, a company that makes premium outdoor power equipment, has been incredibly generous.  A local repair shop ASI-Auto Solutions was nice enough to let us use their equipment to align the car and mount and balance the tires.  And NCXGraphics did all our vinyl decals for us.  Having sponsors like this make things go much more smoothly.

So given that we have a major sponsor like Husqvarna, we will have a very special theme.  Don't want to let the cat out of the bag yet, but here's a teaser pic of the car

The Chump Z31 gets prettied up

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Progress Update

The roll cage is our current object of obsession affection.  You can see some photos below.  We bought a cage kit, but that just means the tubes are pre-bent.  Many still have to be cut to length, notched, and fitted.  It's a time consuming process.  There are 6 base plates.  Four and a half of them have been welded in.  I'd say about 75% of it is done.

Main hoop under construction, supported by Eric's only workbench (seriously)

An issue with the alternator and wiring was fixed, so the charging system is now operational.

The radiator fan has been mounted and wired.  It still needs to be wired to a switch and mounted inside.

Brake pads were ordered and arrived.  New, better caliper spacers were fabricated.  All this should be installed sometime this week.

Tow loops were installed.

Lights were ordered.

Fuel jugs were ordered.

Steering column lock was disabled.

Differential and tranny fluids were upgraded to synthetic.

OEM aribox was reinstalled, but needed a custom bracket (long story).

A 3rd brake light was installed.  But fell off...(?)

Fire extinguisher bracket was ordered, I just gotta find it.

Looking forward through the hatch - x-bar welded in

A close-up of our mad welding talent

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Just When You Had Forgotten About Us

Okay, we're back!  A lot has happened since our last update.  Actually, considering the last update happened in September of last year, and that was more than 8 months ago, you might be surprised at just how little has happened.

One very important item, Zip6Racing has developed an official logo.  Really, if you think about it, it's impossible to be professional race car drivers unless you have a gnarly and - if possible - somewhat pompous logo.

BAM!  A logo like this virtually guarantees speed

I have good news, and bad news:
Good news--> we have signed up for the June 22 (2013) Chump race at Charlotte Motor Speedway
Bad news --> lawksamercy we have a bunch 'o work to do

Charlotte Motor Speedway's banked oval awaits the Zip6 Team

We ended up losing a few members from the team.  Strike Sam, Grayson, and Nic.  Jason, Travis, Duncan, Eric, and Brad are left.  Luckily, we are the good-looking and talented ones, so whew! breathe a sigh of relief there.

Here's a picture Eric used to document just how chock full of awesomeness this vehicle is:
Ready to race (um... sort of)

Actually, it's only because he is an extremely talented photographer and digital photo manipulator that the photo does not convey how much of a mess the car's in right now.

Now, I'm gonna' list a bunch of the stuff we have to do.  It's just a copy/paste from a spreadsheet.  You may or may not know I am a geek and I have a spreadsheet addiction.  There, I said it.  My therapist keeps telling me it will help if I admit it to people on a daily basis.  DO NOT WORRY.  I say again - DO NOT BE CONCERNED.  The list looks really long, pretty much impossibly long.  Actually, it looks like so much work that our remaining team members with the assistance of an entire flock of Nascar pit crews would need another year to get it finished.  But that's not the case.  Because we can basically bend and reshape and even discard reality.  When you step into our garage, it's almost like you're in the Matrix.  It's like that when we drive too.  Just wait and see.

A rare, behind-the-scenes view in the Zip6Racing garage

THE List:
finish wiring
install seat
wire radiator fan
order and install brake pads
tires mounted and balanced
tow hooks installed
order lighting (no install)
seal firewall
buy fuel jugs
fab catch tray
roll cage installed
fire extinguisher installed
t-top cover attached
paint & decals complete
steering wheel hub installed
steering column lock disabled
exhaust tweaks
kill switch installed
harness, window net installed
communication system
roll cage padding installed
camera installed
cool suit installed
transponder mount

We are thinking because the Charlotte race is a daytime only race, we won't have to install lights.  This will save us a few hours worth of work.  Just to be safe, we're going to go ahead and buy lights and take them with us.  We have a spare engine, and hopefully Jason, who is our resident VG 3.0L Whisperer, can work some magic on it so we can drop it in if an emergency occurs.  A couple of us are going to try and make a little progress this weekend.

We did order a "roll cage" kit from S&W Race Cars.
In theory, we will not have to bend any tubing, we are hoping we can get away with just tweaking a few parts here and there and get that baby welded in.

According to my calculations, we have 45 days between now and the race.  It's kind of like when you're in school and you're preparing for a big test.  Hours and hours, days and days of studying, and the test itself only takes a few hours.  Well, in this case, it's a 10 hour "test", but you know what I mean.  Tune in for more fascinating and witty updates in the future.