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.

IMG_6897

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!

Desert Dingos racing

Built by Bones - Cage take 2

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!

IMG_6794

IMG_7532

IMG_8555

IMG_8686

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!

IMG_8737

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.

IMG_8769

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!

Cruiser Rack

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

Cruiser Rack

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.

Cruiser Rack

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.

Cruiser Rack

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.

Cruiser Rack

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!

Cruiser Rack

Check back soon for the final product!

Schwinn

A while ago I was given an old Schwinn Collegiate. I loved the idea of building that thing up, but at the same time I had no real need for it. I live in a suburb and this kind of bike really needs to stretch its legs in a more urban area. So it has just sat in my basement for quite a while. Recently more and more bike paths have been going in, more access is available and I have found myself riding bikes around to the stores. If only I had something that would be made perfectly for around the town riding… WAIT! I do!

So I dusted off the Schwinn and clamped it up in my workstand. I acquired an internally geared rear hub, a front hub and decided to replace the original rims with 700c rims, so I can get tires for it easily. I did some looking around and came across Velocity Blunt rims. These are 29er rims, but more importantly they came in Teak. Yeah, you read that right. TEAK! They look like they are wood. What’s better than a nice classic bike with Wood rims? So I bought them… Unfortunately it wasn’t that easy since it took 3 months for them to arrive. I was pretty damn excited to get them in and finally they arrived. When they arrived I laced them during my lunch break and one of the wheel builders finished them all off after he was done for the day. That night the bike was finished. Yes, it didn’t take long.

schwinn collegiate

schwinn collegiate

schwinn collegiate

Now, “Done” is a relative term i guess because it does need a few things. Some resistance in the shifting is going to be solved with particular ferrules that I need to get my hands on, I need a half link to shorten up the chain just right and of course… this needs a rack!

Fortunately I have an idea for the rack. My friend John Grimberg tore down his old shed and found tons of High Explosives boxes. I am going to use those to build up a rear rack for this bike. Check back, I’ll post up some photos when that is all finished up.

Project Baja: Bringing home a race car

If you have ever dreamt of racing then you have probably dreamt of some of the epic races in this world. Isle of Man for those of you in the street bike world, Pikes peak for the epic competition against mother nature and probably the SCORE international Baja 1000 for the most incredible race that you can imagine. We have had that dream too and we are excited to announce that we will be racing the Baja 1000.

We have built cars, usually not knowing what we are getting into or what we are doing. but we have a lot of skill, a lot of people to fall back on and well, not really any cash. We’ll figure it out, but there is a lot to do in the mean time. In the past we have competed in the Red Bull Soapbox races, building from scratch vehicles that have blown the minds of competitors, friends and people all over the world who have followed our builds online. These cars come from our desire to race, to build and to simply make an awesome vehicle. We have built rally cars, worked on our own cars and built many other things from furniture to custom car parts.

IZ7Q7861

IMG_5141

Our team consists of Car guys, designers, machinists, welders, photographers, videographers, marketing professionals, mechanics and more. Our crew of jack of all trades guys have proven themselves time and time again in their ability to create amazing solutions to complicated problems.

There are a lot of people who come up with these types of plans but one of our biggest strengths is our ability to plan these things and follow through with them. Our guys are ready to go, we have been shopping for a car and we have waded through a lot of rusty cars, lots of junk really. We did come across something that we felt was worth while. So we went down, we checked the car over completely and we fired it up! This is a crazy step in and of itself! All of the vehicles we had looked at before did not run, move or even look like they had hope of moving. So we bought it… Yes we own a car that will become our Baja 1000 Race car.

Bringing it home

Bringing it home

Bringing it home

This is going to be a Class 11 car built to remain mostly stock with full fenders. We will have a lot of updates to come soon, but for now check out our “bringing it home” video

Oh and follow along with us on Facebook or on our website www.projectbaja.com

Next big thing?

Well, we are pretty good ad doing odd things that many people will talk about and few people will do. We are considering a new project. Something that we would love to do…

Yesterday the rule book arrived… well I should say, the outdated rule book. Magically the 2011 rule book is running about 4-6 months behind. Should be a close call on whether or not we’ll get it before the 2011 race! Anyway, we are considering running the Baja 1000. Yes, that sounds pretty intense… and it is. This will eclipse both of our soapbox vehicles in cost and time commitment. It will be a huge undertaking! Building a vehicle is just a small portion of the complete package here. The race will be more demanding that anything that we have attempted before. Physically the course is full of sand, dust, dirt, rocks etc. The heat is in excess and the potential for disaster is pretty incredible. Mentally the race is extremely demanding. 36+ hours of commitment in the car digging out from sand and silt, spectators are always all over the road and there are all types of dangers to keep an eye out for.

We are extremely excited about this one though. This is a historic race, this is a big deal and if we do make this happen we will be running class 11, the most demanding class. I’ll keep you up to date as we make decisions, but in the mean time, watch Dust to Glory. Check out the Class 11 Tecate bug and think to yourself… Why in the hell would they want to do that!

Buildin’ the Bimmer

I’ve been helping Dave Kern build his BMW rally car whenever I have free time. Unfortunately that isn’t that frequent! It has been teaching me a lot about cars and letting me do one of the things that I enjoy the most, figuring out solutions to problems!

Dave has about 16 months into this car, I have maybe a few weeks, so I can’t take a whole lot of credit, but I was down there the other night and we got some of the “you may actually drive this soon” parts put on. Brakes are bled, the engine is all ready, pedals are in, skid plate mounts are in. It is actually looking like we may run this and stretch its legs this Sunday!

A quick note about Dave. Man can that guy drive. It is pretty incredible really. You don’t really have a solid appreciation for what a good driver can do until you are riding along and seeing all the things they can do with a car. Last year he drove my car at Georgetown and I watched as my car did things that I didn’t know it was capable of. I am pretty sure that even Subaru may have been baffled. This year I rode in my car again with him at the wheel at BWDS and again, wow. How does it do that! However one of the most awesome experiences was in Mitch Williams rally car. Dave threw that thing around and at one point said “yeah, that is about as far as I would want to push someone elses car.” I was thinking “well that is about 45% more than I would want to push my own car! Allison, his wife and co-driver is brave enough to ride with him and incredibly skilled at keeping him on track. I suspect we will see her behind the wheel of the Bimmer soon! Check out their website in my links, you’ll be following along with their adventures soon enough.

When the pedals are in, the steering wheel was installed and we could sit in the drivers seat. Well your imagination puts a track in front of you. Your peripheral blocks out the shop walls and you create the sense of speed and suddenly you realize that you are making the engine sounds you imagine will emerge from the hood. Yes, we both did this, but Dave quickly remembered…. TURN THE KEY!