Sunday, April 25, 2010

24 Hours of LeMons: American Irony

First, let me say that Eric already covered a lot of our trip to this race. Read his recaps. I'll wait.

Done? Let's continue.

The trip was great fun, and the race was excellent to watch. It's gotten me even more excited (and probably unbearable to live with) about competing in this race for crapcans.

This is one of the penalties that are handed out. I can't remember what the chicken is for, but there are a number of different things that the Arc Angel (for that is her name, and yes, she's a she) will weld to your car. This particular sample is a BMW E30 with a roof that is almost completely Bondo. You could smell that shit burning as the Angel welded this chicken on.

Another penalty is the humping bunnies (as seen on one of my favorite cars, the Woodstock Monte Carlo Grand Prix.). I don't know what it's for, but I'd much rather have that than the chicken.

Still another penalty, as seen on this Rabbit/GTI (with the Lebowski Neon in the background) is writing your folly over and over on your car, a la grade school. (finding that link resulted in some porn, FYI)

You get these penalties from doing this kind of thing:

Note the ridiculous lean on that Audi in the first shot.

If your car breaks down, things can get even more exciting. You can turn your Fiero from a raging 4-cylinder into a parts-spewing hunk of iron. Case in point, the Heroic Fix winners who, after a spun connecting rod bearing, pulled two pistons out.

They later pulled out another, turning it into a smoke-belching 625cc one-cylinder before it finally stopped altogether. For these kinds of accomplishments, you can win one of many awesome trophies.

Hand made with love. Welcome to America.

Friday, April 23, 2010

This book is terrible. (a book review)

I realize the motorsports publishing well might be a little dry of authors, so I can understand if some books by first-time writers aren't very good. Car "enthusiasts" (a polite word for "nerd") may not be the cleverest writers in the world.1 Take as evidence nearly every article in SportsCar Magazine (basically the SCCA's monthly newsletter, in magazine form), and that Car and Driver, when asking readers for stories to print in their 10Best issue, admitted they rarely received good content and pulled that part of the reader content feature.

But for every interview I've trudged through, every nationals event recap I've skimmed for the few interesting details, every thinly veiled sponsor plug I've dismissed as the cost of business, I never thought I'd get to something quite this awful.

Ross Bentley is a writer who either doesn't understand what "writing to an audience" means, or he thinks he's writing books for 4th grade dropouts who managed to get a driver's licence.

Reading his book, Speed Secrets: Winning Autocross Techniques, is an exercise in repetition. He'll start by telling you something obvious, in broad, almost completely useless terms. Then he'll repeat it, over and over for a page and a half before he says something that truly adds to his point. Then he'll hammer on that for a while. Don't rinse: just repeat.

An example: You're starting Chapter 9, and he just spent the previous chapter covering a few racing lines. This new chapter is titled Priorities, subsection: Prioritizing turns.

"... successful [drivers] know how to prioritize the various turns on a course. Good drivers know where to push hard and where to be patient.
Some corners are more important than others. Winning autocrosses comes from knowing where to go fast and where to go (relatively) slow. .. Concentrate on learning the most important turns first. ... In autocrossing, you will have to compromise one turn's speed for another. ... If you know which corners are most important, you know which ones can be compromised and which ones can't. In terms of your car's setup, there are times when you must compromise the setup to suit one corner more than another. ... It is best to set up the car for the most important corners."

These are lines lifted from 3 consecutive paragraphs. Between the second and third paragraph, in big, bold letters in the middle of the page is a SPEED SECRET. There's a number of these throughout the book, to highlight major points. It's his gimmick. The point of this section, in case you're really a numbskull, is Focus on getting the most important turns right first.

This book does have some good information. It's not completely useless. But it is unreadable, and it's not going to get anyone interested in the sport.

1 I dispute this idea. Car and Driver (recently, and some years ago), Top Gear (both TV and magazine), and Grassroots Motorsports are proof that there's plenty of good authors out there who are also car guys. Apparently these guys either don't work cheap, or don't write instructional books about racing.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

a few minor updates

My cheaptastic steering wheel wrap was starting to get pretty nasty, so I reapplied with what I had left of a roll. The old stuff peeled off fine and the new stuff looks much better. I was surprised at how quickly this thing got nasty. The part I took off actually looked worse. It was practically black.

Steering wheel athletic wrap: reapply every 6 months or twenty thousand miles. Darker colors may last longer.

In other news, my PCV valve split in half. The hose basically held the top part in place on top of the other half. Never seen that before. I replaced both hose and valve.

In still other news: you may have noticed a thin red line with a dot at the end appearing on the right side (or bottom, for vertical shots) on some of my photos. That's new; it makes me sad and angry, because I like my camera. It's fairly noticeable on the top photo in this post. Look for a red line running up from the bottom, about a quarter of the way from the right side. This is my camera's fault. I don't know what I should do to fix it, if anything, or just deal with it. I can't justify buying a new camera. It would probably cost nearly as much to fix this one, since I'm not skilled in the ways of digital camera voodoo. This will have to be copacetic. I'll pretend it's my watermark.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

One hundred and four blaglock

Not a time or measurement of time.

Sometime last summer, a box of cheap watches showed up at work. It wasn't addressed to anyone in particular. We spread the word trying to find the intended recipient. No one claimed them, so after two months we divvied up the collection among the engineering department. I took this guy.

Let me be clear: These are not expensive watches to begin with. These are what you'd see in the open display case sitting 6 feet away from the jewelry counter, or on the impulse buy rack at the auto store, marked at $3.99, next to the pinky-length tire pressure gauges and fist-sized Zippo-knockoff novelty lighters.

That said, I'd at least expect the watches to do one thing right. Not necessarily be the most accurate timepiece, but at least have an understanding of how telling time is done. And it's not like these are printed on, either, and somebody can just toss a few reams of sticky-backed vinyl prints. Somebody made this cast and popped out a bunch of them before (hopefully eventually) realizing there was a problem.

Haven't figured it out yet? Here's a hint: look at the ring with numbers at 10 minute intervals.

There you have it, folks. A perfect example of how details come back to bite you in the ass.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Running rich, part 972

My Miata has been running rich. I think it has, anyway. It'll backfire if you poke the throttle after letting it coast at middle-high RPM for a second or two. I can do this on command, anytime after it's warmed up. Often on upshifts, too.  Also, the plugs looked pretty sooty last time I checked (and replaced) them. And this soot ends up on the back bumper, too. This all leads me to believe it's running rich.

So I've been trying to figure out why. I've done a lot of things (plugs, plug wires, coolant temp sensor, O2 sensor, tested the coil, cleaned up electrical ground wires, dumped magic cleaner juice in the gas tank many times). This is the latest, and probably the last thing I'll do before sending my injectors out to get rebuilt.

I replaced the air filter installed by the previous owner. It's very obviously an eBay affair, you can find them all over there for around $10 (with another $30 to ship or something stupid). Anyway, it's a chintzy model, and I thought maybe this piece of shit was clogged up. The service manual says a clogged filter is the first thing to check, so I'm glad I did it right away. And by "right away" I mean... well, read the last line in the previous paragraph, my attention-span-challenged readers.

Anyway, I never liked that filter because I could do this:

Also, I could spin that rubber piece in the filter. This is hardly confidence-inspiring in terms of providing a seal against shit. Thankfully, area parts stores sell this kind of chintzy shit. And since a 3" flange is common, I found a direct fit without having to use adapters. It's the Spectre brand they sell at Autozone, in the same place you'll find the DIY intake kits.

It looks a bit better than the dirty blue thing, though very ricey. It also did nothing to help my running rich condition.