SOMA Wolverine

Working at Excel Sports had its advantages. One of them was the great people, and another is exposure to cool stuff. Well, I got pretty into some niche bike elements while working with some of the Japanese companies we dealt with regularly, so when I left Excel and started thinking about commuting to work I started thinking I may need to buy a new frame.

Gates makes bike parts as well. The Gates Carbon Drive is a belt drive system for bicycles and I figured it might be a good idea to get familiar. So I picked up a Soma Wolverine and started to pick up parts for it slowly. This bike kinda needed to be authentic. So, with the goal in mind to build it without any quick release elements (for theft) I started ordering parts. The Tange Prestige frame needed all Japanese parts, so Nitto Bars, stem and seatpost, Sugino crankset… Everything. Well, except for a few. Yes, I had to compromise on the front hub, I just couldn’t find the right bolt on front hub for disc brakes otherwise. The brakes are Avid and the saddle is Brooks. I’ll be honest, the saddle was pretty much a no question saddle. It was on another bike and I just love it… It also matches pretty darn well.

Building this bike posed a few challenges. First, I don’t work in the bike industry anymore and I have grown accustom to having all the parts I need when I discover I need them. This planning ahead thing is really difficult. The other thing that was challenging was learning the quirks of a belt drive system. Choosing the right parts to get the belt aligned properly was a little challenging and I did end up buying two BB’s while trying to sort it all out.

Finally, the bike came together, the belt alignment is still just a little off and I have some ideas to fix it. 1.7mm out of alignment but it seems to be riding well. I finally took the bike for a spin and put 8 miles on it. I learned I need to get a little longer stem and I learned that I have to get used to having so many gears! It rides very smooth and silent, the frame is stiff and fun to ride. I’m looking forward to some commuting here in the near future.

1968 Datsun 1600 Roadster

In 1969 my 23 year old Dad bought a new car, it was a Datsun 2000 Roadster. He wasn’t able to pick it up so my Grandmother drove it home after my Grandfather dropped her off at the dealership. The story goes that she got home and more than 20 minutes later my Grandfather got home asking what her rush was. She said she kept it at 40 the whole time.

She was right, she kept it at “40” but 40 in this case is 4000 RPM’s and in 5th gear, that was in the neighborhood of 80 mph. Those crazy little sports cars with their tach in the center threw her off!

This Datsun was his second roadster, his first was a 1600. He loved both of these cars, but had a real soft spot in his heart for the 2000 with its larger engine and 5th gear! If you talk cars with my Dad, he always comes back to the little Datsuns and he has a bunch of stories about his cars. Well, for a long time these stories rattled around in my head and around 2008 I stumbled upon a 2000 roadster in Alaska, in a shipping container… Untouched for around 30 years. I really thought I should buy it, but it was in Alaska and I was not, so the distance really added costs that I couldn’t justify. I figured one day I would get my hands on one though.

In 2014 I was in the midst of preparing my condo to sell and shopping for a house. I headed over to our local cars and coffee and there was a little Datsun 1600 Roadster for sale. Ugh, I don’t need this, and sheesh, this one has had some work done to it so who knows what is under all that extra paint… But it sure was tempting. The British roadster guy ended up with this little car “kinda by accident.” I chose the responsible route and passed on the little car.

In 2015 I was getting the itch again. Man, I really need to just pull the trigger if I am going to do this! Turns out my friend Rhett bought the car from Cars and Coffee and I asked him what he was doing with it. The price started coming down every time I talked to him and at some point, the car was in my shop…

Immediately I had to debate, do I tell my parents? Do I wait till I am done and then show them? Hmm.. I opted to tell my Mom and Sister and not tell my Dad. Lets surprise him.

I dug into the little car and yes, my suspicions were correct, it certainly had a lot of undesirable traits. Rust, more rust, some dents… and a little more rust.

I started working around the car replacing sheet metal and making new parts. This project was going to teach me how to make parts, not how to buy them. I bought an english wheel, a bead roller, a mallet and sandbag and some hammers and dolly’s. There’s a lot to learn.

Front Passenger footwell:

Rear Inner fender:

Trunk area:

Front Passenger Fender (in Process):

And there is much more. Over the last year I recieved a couple tools as gifts from my parents that were specifically intended to work on the car… though my Dad didn’t know. My mom even made a special trip out here to work on the car to surprise my Dad too!

I have been getting fairly close to finishing the metal work for the car. Depending on motivation that could be done in the next couple months. But there is still a lot to do. From interior restoration, engine tune up, replacing belts and hoses and more I have been making the list…

Now, if this is all such a big secret, why am I publishing it on my website? Well. Turns out this thing is taking longer than anticipated. I am having a tough time keeping my mouth shut when I call home and my parents are planning trips out here. So I thought to myself, maybe its surprise enough… and maybe I can recruit help. So I called up my Dad last night and told him all about the car. I would say that his reaction was “Speechless.” Then I asked if he wanted to have some part in the restoration? Maybe restore the seats? Maybe the radio and center console? He sounded pretty interested in his speechless state… so Center console is going in the mail for him to restore. I suspect that radio will work better than the day it was new!

Most of the paint and bondo and other fillers are off the car right now, I am looking forward to getting it on the road, but expect more updates as I continue to make progress.

If you want to follow along on the forum that I have been posting it all too take a look here:

Massive Shipping Tables

Heavy duty steel tables? Yeah, I can do that. The company I work for has had a lot of custom projects, these are fun for me. I like getting out of the office for a day or two and just making something. This time we were hoping to create very heavy duty steel tables that could be easily maneuvered. These are for our shipping department and, to be honest, they will never see the weight that they could take, but that is ok, because these tables will accept any torture you throw at them.

Now, the rest of the building we have used a lot of 2″ square tube and the little projects have always come out looking nice, but for this one, I really wanted to use 3″ square, the heavy duty look and feel just seemed necessary. Building two of these tables was mostly a challenge for one reason, symmetry. They had to be, exactly the same height and exactly the same depth so they lined up perfectly in the shop. This is fine, but to be honest, I just don’t have the best work space to try and get perfection when it comes to level and square.

I picked up some Casters from Affiliated Caster here in Denver. They just always have everything you could possibly want. Full locking swivel casters with a tacky rubber wheel makes these tables grip the floor and never slip. If you decide you want to wrench on something, these are not moving.

My welds are looking pretty decent, I would never say that I am an instagram welder, you’ll likely never see me walking the cup on any of my welds, but hey, I can be proud of these and I know they aren’t coming apart!

The next trick was getting these from the shop to my work. At 8’6″ long by 3′ deep, this wasn’t fitting on my personal trailer. So I rented a Uhaul to deliver these. They are completely raw, no clear coat. The patina should protect them in the future. Once delivered Jody Proctor cut some Melamine tops for them (please trust me, I wanted to do anything but Melamine) and we installed them in their new home.

TigerMonkey Food Cart

When a friend says they are starting a food cart business you know you’re in for something interesting. Susi Kim is my childhood neighbor who just happened to also move to Colorado. She decided to start a Korean BBQ business because, well… If you tasted her food, you’d understand. She bought a cart and was looking for some help to modify it to her needs, but when we looked at all of her needs, they didn’t line up with the size of the cart she bought! So we started over.

The team included myself and Dave Lehl, both photographers and both all round crafty guys. Susi gave us pretty free reign on the design and we started with a 4×8 harbor freight trailer that we cut down to a more appropriate size.

The requirements for her cart were, functioning grill, functioning hot water sink, a cooler and a chilled toppings rack on the top of the cart. We toyed with different ideas for designs and came up with a center mount grill, multi rack Cooler, Sink and storage.

The chassis was designed with 1″ square tubing and all the sides were skinned with plastic using aluminum angle to finish the corners. The plan is to wrap the cart eventually, initially however budget says no.

With the entire cart built out, skinned and ready Susi drove it over to a sheet metal guy to have the top fitted. One sheet of Stainless steel with proper cuts and folds to fit our design. This piece fit nearly perfectly with only a few odds and ends to final fit to the grill and cart.

We used proper insulation and heat reflective elements to keep temperatures from the grill in control and we ducted proper ventilation for the grill using a sheet metal skin.

Overall the cart took us about a month to build, we typically worked on it maybe one day a weekend however so the number of hours was minimal. Susi has been all over denver since cooking up a storm!

Server Cabinet

For a long time I have looked at a row of server boxes, sitting on a table, in the kitchen of my work. They were exposed to people, they were exposed to potential accidents. When we were remodeling our kitchen one of the owners said: I want one of those sprayers so we can wash our dishes. So I made reference to where that sprayer might be pointed if for some reason something bad happened. he turned around and saw the row of servers. Now we had two projects on our hands. Finish the kitchen… and design a server rack!

Server racks are readily available, if you have rack mounted servers! Unfortunately we had all individual towers and this posed a challenge. We needed to be able to house at least 7 servers plus battery backups and some other odds and ends! All of this needed to stay cool but protected. So I spent a little time in Sketchup and was able to put together a plan. Once I acquired materials I set to work putting this thing together. Most of these projects take nearly as much time cutting as they do building. So after quite a bit of time on the band saw I was left with this pile of steel.

Assembly of the chassis of this server rack was pretty simple, keep everything square and get it all tacked up. Once I got all the welds on it I started assembling my secret ingredients. I used a sheet of perforated steel and used my bead roller to put some details in the sides. These details not only make the steel stiff, but they also just give it a little more of that quality custom look.

This thing is big. I mean really big, it is certainly able to fit in our building with no issues, but in order to accomodate these servers it is tall and heavy. With a sheet metal top to protect in case of a roof leak in the building, perforated steel sides and heavy duty casters it was no joke getting this into a uhaul to get it moved up to its final resting place.

Finally, once installed I picked up a piece of smoked acrylic sheet and fit it as a door for the front. This gives it some protection where the perforated steel sides, shelves and open back give it great cooling.

This thing is heavy duty and solidly protects all of our servers. Next step. Rewire the whole building.

10/15/2016 update: I finally got around to rewiring the server rack, all wires in and out of our DSL and Cable modem (redundant systems and backups) The word on the street is 15% increase in speed. I discovered a few pretty incredibly old wires as well which really made me think that we dodged a bullet. If one of those wires failed I am certain we would have had massive problems and who knows how long it would have taken to figure it out. The system is entirely on Cat6 cabling now which replaced all cat 5 cabling.

Picking a new powerplant

Well, after the disappointment of finding out that my motor had a crack in the head rather than simply a blown head gasket… I had to start shopping for an engine. I think i is pretty obvious that I am not going to spend money on another M42 (4 cylinder engine) if I wasn’t willing to simply have the head welded and machined so I had to do a bit of digging to find a new, slightly more fun, engine.

I began the search by digging around locally and on the web for an M50 motor. This is the same motor that came in a BMW 325 of the same era that my car is from. After digging for a bit I added the S50 engine to my search. I wasn’t really having a lot of luck. The M50 engines just seemed to be hard to come by and the S50 engines were just too expensive. I had been reaching out to Dave Kern for help as well as Rhett Snyder. Finally I thought to myself.. If Anyone had their finger on the pulse of the BMW world it would be Bill Caswell, so I touched base with him. He was very receptive and gave some great suggestions.

So after a week of talking to one of his contacts I think we are finally working out a deal. Today we should finalize the deal on a new S50 engine, transmission, rear diff and more. The little car is going to be fun! More details to come, but hopefully this thing will be running by my birthday…however unlikely that is…



The Next Phase

I suppose I didn’t grow up as a car person. I tinkered, but I was always so reliant on my car that I never really felt comfortable taking the big step of completely incapacitating it by tackling the large projects. In the last several years I have been really ramping it up, but still, the majority of my labor has had to do with fabrication projects not engine repair, not replacing clutches or any of these odds and ends. Recently I started noticing the clutch in my Subaru was beginning to show signs of wear. A few sounds when the weather is cold and I know that it has seen a bit of abuse. With that being said, I know that I have a bit of time so I have some options.

After a bit of research I decided I may try to use this opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Why not save some labor money and apply it to a new toy, then use that toy to get around while you are replacing the clutch on your main car? So I started looking for a BMW. Yes, a BMW. The idea? To have a fun car that I can get cheap and use for RallyX for a while as well. Since we build the Kerns BMW recently I am reasonably familiar with it as well so it give me a bit of a leg up I guess.

I decided to casually look for one, if I found a cheap one that was in good shape then I would consider it. After a few weeks of looking in Colorado, Arizona and Utah I came up with one, the first that I found that was Manual and also priced within my zone. With a straight body and the promise that it was a runner I started the process of looking at buying it. My friend Rhett, who crewed at Pikes Peak with Valentin and I, is absolutely the best person to take with you to look at a car. Not only does he know every detail of every car (no, seriously) but he also has the technical skill to be able to identify issues as they crop up.

This is where I tell you, yes, I brought the car home. It needs some work and it will be a good project to get started on, but with new tires, a tune up and a few other odds and ends it will be reliable and ready for anything I can throw at it. Fortunately with the 318’s that are currently being buit as rally cars there are a lot of free parts floating around so this project is coming along. Finally, this has gotten me really motivated to sell my Kart too, so that is nearly gone!

Anyhow, without any more delay, here is a photo of the new car. It’ll look a bit better soon!

BMW 318ti


Check back, I’ll post up some more photos of the car and of the projects that are coming up. Here is the list.

  • Replace a few gaskets
  • Replace all fluids
  • New tires
  • Get the drivers side window back on the track
  • Replace the struts (with struts taken off one of the rally cars)
  • Replace a few trim pieces
  • Remove a bunch of wires that have been tangled throughout the car for various lights and stereo components
  • Tune up
  • Remove door cards and replace them with home made plastic panels. (the door cards are all torn up)
  • Fabricate and add a skid plate
  • Finally and this is purely for recreation

  • Go junk yard diving for a 4.10 LSD to add some pep!
  • Make some mud flaps
  • This is going to be a fun and very educational project for me. Do I know how to do all this? No. But I am itchin’ to learn and I have some good friends to help out.

    Making my bike Unique

    You may have seen that I started a project a year or so ago and I built myself a 1970 Schwinn Collegiate. Nearly immediately I started working on a rack for the back of it. However with the bug build going strong I have had too much going on to really commit much time to this one so I put the parts up on the top shelf at our shop and haven’t really had much time to pull it back down again. Today I was down at the shop and figured I would start doing a bit of tinkering again on the rack

    I started by… cutting it all apart. Yeah, I decided to start over and I cut it down to size and started building it back up. I had a bit of a different idea in mind at this point and gave it a bit more style than it had. First, I cut the risers out and then chopped the back off both the top and bottom ring that I made originally. I had some extra tubing and made two half circles that I welded on the back end if the rack. With that work done I started fitting some wood panels on the sides. You may remember that I had an old explosives box to work with for the sides. I cut that and fit the panels.


    Since the boxes were a bit splintered I had to do a bit of extra work on the one side in order to fill out the length of the rack. I ended up fitting some wood joints in order to make one piece a bit longer.


    With the wood fitted and the rack taking shape I started looking at one of the ends that I had cut off and looking at the lines of the rack. I couldn’t help but tack it on to see how it looked, then I found myself welding it on and now it is part of the rack It gives the front a bit of style that the rack was needing.




    Next up, I need to make a mold to make a bent ply base to the rack. I have the first template made and I need to locate some materials for this as well. Hopefully I can get my hands on this stuff in the next couple weeks. I’d love to get this on the bike ASAP.

    Thanks for following along, I’ll have some more updates soon as I make the base, the mounting hardware and paint the rack as well.

    Pikes Peak 2012, it’s almost time

    If you have read back in my posts you know Pikes Peak has been a constant passion for me. I have followed the race, spectated the race, reported on the race and more. I really enjoy the mystique of the race. It just has this spirit that you don’t find other places. The mountain seems to have a personality and moods and each year you can’t quite tell the mood the mountain will be in until race day.

    I have never been in the race, I have had a real desire to bring this race out to the world. More specifically I have had a strong desire to bring the underdogs of this race out to the world. There are many competitors on Pikes Peak and there are some who hold records, who break records, who are on the podium regularly and whos names are never mentioned. I enjoy bringing light to their efforts and showing the world what these people are made of and what it takes to get there. Some of the drivers I have highlighted are Dave and Allison Kern, Spencer Steele, Jimmy Olson, Savannah Rickli and her codriver Rebecca Greek. Others have been featured in my videos and photos as well and as much as I enjoy the big name drivers that come to this race I am proud of the exposure I have given to these smaller name drivers so people can see what it takes to make your own way to the race. The endless hours of fabrication, the endless hours of counting pennies to get all the parts that you need to make the big day and the final push to make it onto the mountain.

    As with other years I have helped the RaceKern team in preparation for the year. Unlike last year however I have had my own car to work on and therefore I haven’t been able to spend as much time as I have in the past. With the accident last year the car had a definite need for body work. Lots of dents and dings and some more serious stuff as well. The decision was made to simply cut all of the body work out and make carbon fiber panels to replace it. We were taking a 4 door EVO and making it a lighter weight coupe. After all the work and all the effort the final result is pretty incredible. It looks like a factory body, but when you touch it you start realizing it really isn’t. each panel on the side of the car is 4.5 lbs. So both panels together weigh about 1/3rd of one of the two doors we removed. After you factor in the other steel that was removed this was a pretty significant weight savings and in addition there is a mold so more panels can be pulled at any time.

    When the race date for Pikes Peak came around fires were ravaging Colorado Springs. 350 homes were lost and many were displaced in the aftermath. The race was canceled, there is no way that they could have a race with such uncontrolled chaos going on nearby. Soon afterward I received a phone call from Valentin Ivanitski. Val’s codriver couldn’t make the new date and he hoped I would be interested in giving it a try.

    My gut reaction to his request was “YES.” But I decided I needed to be more responsible than that. Check the schedule. Check the vacation time. Sort out work needs as well. In the end the answer was Yes! This of course put me in a tizzy. I have things to get, my helmet isn’t the proper certification, I don’t own a hans. I needed to get the right shoes since mine were torn. Socks, yes you need fireproof socks too and finally a physical for the race. Things keep delaying the completion of these tasks and of course are just stressing me out. But I think I have this all under control now and I am psyched to get on the road, tomorrow, to go race.

    This past Saturday Val and I took a trip down to the peak. We did Recce runs, or basically, we took the pace notes we have and we made sure they worked for us. It was a good thing we did all this because we found a few quirks and those quirks we had extra time to go through and correct. I am feeling very confident in the notes now. It is interesting how the notes turn from a bunch of left and rights to actual turns you recognize when you get on the mountain. It is interesting as well how turns you have never really noticed before become the turns that seem most critical when you start seeing the road at race pace. You can feel the pucker factor and if anyone says that they don’t have nerves going into a race then are lying. But as this quote says “beyond fear there is freedom.”

    I am really excited for the week and I am looking forward reaching the summit and posting a good time. Keep your eyes on the site and I will make sure to keep you updated this week on the mountain.

    The Big Move

    Well, the big move means two things. First, we moved! Our workshop for the last 2 and a half years has now moved! We got a new space and it is just a bit larger. Our old shop was 800 sq ft and the new space is 900 sq ft. However, the move really let us focus on reorganizing. Our previous shop served us well. When we got the shop we really felt like we were taking a bit of a chance. Questions like “will we use it enough to justify it?” were rolling around in our brains as we signed the lease. But as we got situated we really started to find it incredibly useful. As we grew in the space we started to really spread out in there. We added shelves, tables, benches and more and each time we added something we took up a little more space. Our nice shop was becoming a bit cluttered.


    When our landlord called and offered us a new space we talked about it and decided it was a great plan. After an extreme move consisting of 108* temps outside and 96* temps inside we finally got everything moved in and more important organized. Our plan to include pallet racks this time helped us make use of the height of the building and really provides us with a lot more floor space. So with only 100 sq ft more space we now have a lot more space!


    The big move also means, a date, the date for Pikes Peak has MOVED! It has been a crazy summer with wildfires ravaging the landscape and in Colorado Springs the race has been canceled with the new date expected to be announced in a week. What does that mean? Well, I suspect that there will be some problems for many of the international competitors, it will also cause a problem for many of the spectators. However for the Kerns it means a bit more time to test and tune. The car finally came together the other day and now it is time to get a few miles on that thing in order to make sure Dave is comfortable with the new setup.



    The new build has a full carbon body. We build the rear sections of the body and I believe the total savings is nearly 200 lbs on the vehicle. I am looking forward to seeing the new splitter on there as well! We will look for the new dates for the race soon and be ready when it comes up later this summer.