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…

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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!

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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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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!

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    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.

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    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.

    As the Days blur to Nights

    It has been an incredibly busy time in the life of Josh McGuckin. With two races coming up fast and two cars that seem like they will never be finished it has been a rush to try to make all the parts and assemble everything.

    With Project Baja we need to have a running car that is ready to race by, gulp, July 7th. Holy crap that is way too soon and we are having terrible luck with parts right now. Shipments are being sent to the wrong place, the wrong unit, sent back, or they are simply delayed. It is very stressful right now, but we are pushing forward to make that car happen.

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    We have been fairly fortunate to have some good folks stop through the shop. Emme Hall was one of our recent guests. She was ready with her work boots on and we showed her how to make sparks the PB&J way.

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    Because we can’t seem to get enough punishment, we were offered a slightly larger work space which we have accepted! This sounds great and really, it is great. It is just really bad for timing. Our new space is about 150 ft away from our current space and we have to move in this week. THIS WEEK! HOLY CRAP! Last night we were down there throwing a bit of epoxy on the floor to clean it up a bit and make it easier to clean in the future. Tonight that will finish up and tomorrow we are putting in Pallet racks to create better more usable storage. All that time we are also working on the car, so there will be a bit of a rotation of people doing many things at a high rate of speed…

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    Of course if you know me you know that I have been helping out the RaceKern team for a while as well. I can’t just abandon them and even though I have helped out a lot less than I have in years past I am still down there helping whenever I can. The Kerns are gearing up for Pikes Peak again. When is that again? Oh yes, that is July 4th-8th. Oh and when is testing again? FRIDAY! Holy CRAP. Seriously, how does all of this stuff get jammed together!?

    So the EVO (aka EVIL) is still in many parts, but it does run now. It has suspension, tires, wheels, engine, exhaust and more! What doesn’t it have? Basically, it has no body panels from the front quarters back. Yeah, that is a lot. However parts are popping off molds, fasteners are flying about this way and that and hopefully this thing will be bolted together by Thursday… Wow, that seems so close and wow there is so much left to do!

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    Late nights are pretty common these days and I am sure that sleep will become more and more rare as the month wears on.

    Checkpoint

    We’ll be back at it again tonight, Keep your eyes peeled for new posts soon and listen to this engine sing for a quick minute before you run away!

    Progress on the EVO

    Well when Dave Kern starts something he is most likely going to finish it. I mean seriously. His wife Allison recently recounted the time that the motor blew during a race, fire was shooting out of the hood, over the car in large balls of glowing heat and she had to tell him that it was over, they had to pull over. Well, this same determination goes for fabrication of the ultimate race car too.

    This years car features a complete composite body, about half of which is being fabricated by Dave with a bit of help from me. The other half are commercially available parts. The new car will feature larger, stickier tires, more elaborate aerodynamics and a full flat bottom to also aid in the aero. Wow, it is a ton of work and wow I wish I had more time to help him out because I feel bad that he is going at most of this alone!

    Check out some photos from the build so far.

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    My composites professor from Metro has decided to tackle the front aero. With a brand new splitter that should actually weigh about 1/3rd of the weight of the current splitter… well this thing should be mean

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    Check back for more and check in with RaceKern for even more details on the build.

    Kern Racing’s Evo build for 2012

    With a build of my own this year has been a bit hectic. Trying to manage my time while being committed to building and helping with the Kerns cars has been quite an undertaking. I am sure Dave would love more help, but this year sleep is a consideration…

    So last year on the mountain was quite an effort by Kern Racing. They have been pushing it to the limit and as they say, if you aren’t crashing you aren’t getting better. Well, they did crash last year, then they finished 4th. Yes, that is pretty impressive considering they sat on the guardrail for 35 second, then raced 6 miles on a missing tire and a busted shock! At the end of the race last year their car looked like this.

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    Race Kern PPIHC Tire

    So when they assessed the damage the realization was that the body work needed to be done and that means that there needs to be some thought into the future of the car. The race is all pavement in 2012, so the car will need to be wider, the tires will be bigger and it will need to be ready to accept them. So how about we modify the overall width of the car with a widebody kit? Well, if you are going to do that, then why not lighten the car by removing the rear doors? And if you are going to do that, why not make the entire body out of carbon fiber? Well that is what the plan boiled down too and they are in the midst of making that happen.

    Dave got started on the car by ordering up a stock widebody kit and we got crackin on getting that installed. You can check out all the details of the assembly on RaceKern.com

    With all the body work in progress I took a day or two to stop down and work out the details. It is a lot of work doing all the bondo work for a job like this but we got it to race car quality and we’re pretty happy.

    Once it was all finished up a good waxing went down we made a mold of one side of the car. This is a big panel and we are glad to get through it without any issues.

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    With the mold curing still and the polyester resin still stinking up the place we rolled the car on over to the lift and started cranking away on other projects. We switched out the rear suspension, the rear brakes and installed the new front fenders. Then we cranked on the new beefy rear sway bar and looked at the front brakes only to realize we didn’t have the right wheels nearby to fit over the rotors.

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    So we worked on a plan for the rear wing mounting, we worked on a plan for the new front splitter and we called it a day. Tomorrow we will meet with John Wanberg. John was my professor at Metro and he is getting a bit giddy to make really cool composite projects happen. Tomorrow we are talking aero elements and primarily the splitter. I am looking forward to see what he comes up with!

    Project Baja: The story

    I have been working hard on my current project, Project Baja. If I haven’t mentioned it too much on here it is because I spend most of my time writing about it on the Project Baja site. I started thinking about this project though: why do you do this stuff? That was the question that crossed my mind. Why? Well. These are the interesting things in life. The adventures that many look at and few do.

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    One day, many moons ago I watched the movie “Dust to Glory.” When the movie finished I thought to myself “I could do that.” I have watched that movie repeatedly since then and I always think the same thing. “I could do that.” The real question is why though. Why spend all the time, the money and the effort on something like this? For me I think it comes down to one word: Experience.

    In 2008 while sitting around with some friends we decided to make a soapbox car for the RedBull soapbox race. Cars for these events are often cardboard, taped together. Some of them are more complicated but none are taken to the level that we wanted to go. The purpose was not entirely winning. The reason for that is experience. If my team or I choose to do something we do it so we get something awesome of of it and what is more awesome than education? We learned a lot from that car. Little lessons like: “Wow, fiberglass sucks to sand!” or “Body work sure does live up to the ‘WORK’ part.” When we went to the race we had an amazing time, we met a ton of people we answered questions and we basically had an amazing experience.

    In 2009 we did it all over again. The Mach five wasn’t just another fiberglass car, it was a completely different molding technique. We decided we needed to learn how to do make a female mold on this one. It was a completely new experience and we were able to learn how and be successful making the project all in a very short period of time. When we took that car across country we had so many experiences along the way. Meeting new people, showing our vehicle and well, creating the story of the trip. We have friends that I am glad to say that we would not have developed otherwise.

    So when we circled around to the Baja Car I thought to myself. Imagine the places you will go, the people you will meet and not only that but the stories you will have from this project! We jumped in and yes! As usual we flailed a bit but we are going strong.

    Already I have met some amazing people. I traveled to California to go to Lisas Wedding and I was able to meet the Desert Dingos. Specifically I met Jim Graham. They showed me around the car as well. Jim has been an amazing resource and has quickly become a friend. It was a great experience walking through their outdoor shop nestled in the redwoods. It was fun to check out their car and learn as much as we could. I only wish I was able to go back! Now that we have made the progress that we have it would be great to see it all again. In addition we have met Yves Braun. Yves is in the desert racing community and just happens to have a shop that is just up the street from us. He has been one of the most generous people and has provided us with a tow when we need it and a free donor car too!

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    The more we learn about all of this the more the experiences are becoming apparent. I met Paul Massey through all of this as well and his friends at the Fire Guys Racing Team. Paul has told stories, showed pictures and just added fuel to the fire. The other night as we chatted he was telling me how excited he is to go to Mexico for 2012’s race and he also said “there is always a big part of me that is excited and a small part that is pretty nervous.” I think that about sums it up. Everyone that goes to this event knows that there are a lot of question marks. When you are in the middle of the desert with nobody around and you are relying on this vehicle to save the day… Well. It is plenty to make you nervous. Add to that the possibilities that simply exist in Mexico. Unpredictable law enforcement, unpredictable fans, the challenge of getting everything you need into Mexico and the additional challenge of getting everything you own out of Mexico. There is a lot to worry about! But every piece of that is just another chapter in the story that is the Baja 1000!

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    With all of these potential experiences laid out just imagine the stories that are going to come out of it. Now consider that we aren’t even there yet. We are working like crazy to find sponsors, money to join our team and help make this happen. We can figure out a lot of stuff, but we can’t just create money. So now we spend a lot of time trying to figure out exactly how we can get money. You know what? Well it turns out that we have been developing relationships, we have been able to be very creative with some marketing ideas, we have just learned a ton about dealing with potential sponsors and it just adds to our experiences. Our marketing plan is always evolving but our webisodes are something that we love to make and people love to see. It has been a lot of fun and a big learning experience figuring out all of this!

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    If you have a chance follow along on our build. Sign up for Rally. It will provide you email updates and if you choose to you can help support the build as well. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter or you can head on over to our Project Baja Website.

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    Making a Rack

    I built up a Schwinn a week or so ago and I just simply need something to carry my groceries on the back of it. There are lots of racks out there but… well I can’t leave well enough alone. So I had some extra steel at the shop and I also found a 1950’s High explosives box that John Grimberg gave me for this project as well.

    Today I headed down to the shop to get started on this one. I don’t have all the parts that I need just yet but it is a great start. I started off with some 3 inch rings that I bought for this project. I could have bent the material, but it was definitely cheaper to buy rings and make corners out of those than it was to buy an Oxy-Ace torch!

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    With the rings I just cut down some material and sanded it down to get a proper fit to my dimensions.

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    In an effort to make this thing as square as possible I took my time and welded up each side using a template that I made in order to make sure they all end up at the same dimension. There is nothing quite as frustrating as getting some arbitrary pieces that aren’t square or matched in size. So these are all matched up and ready to go.

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    With that done I measured out the dimensions on our welding table and tacked some ends down in order to make sure the dimensions stayed accurate then I cut the ends and tacked those in. I had the bike down there to keep an eye on things as well.

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    Once the first ring was finished I clamped the sides of the second ring directly onto the finished first ring then tacked up the ends on that as well, it left me with two matched rings that will form the bottom and top of the rack.

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    I called it a day after that. I need to get a 3 inch diameter tube soon in order to finish this project or I need to roll some sheet metal to a 3 inch diameter. Then I just need to weld up the top and bottom of the rack, set it up on the bike and fabricate the connections to the bike. I have some ideas for how that is going to work but I think I will cut a cardboard template in order to get it right the first time. Once all of that is done and welded I will then finish the steel and inset some wood on the sides. Hopefully it will finish up nicely and give some good character to the bike!

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    Check back soon for the final product!