Thursday, December 20, 2012

Parts-Bin Aston Martins

Not only is the 1989-2000 Aston Martin Virage an ugly car, but apparently they also stole the steering wheel from my parents' 1992 Ford Aerostar. 

Aston Martin Virage interior

Standard Ford steering wheel from the '90s (Crown Vic pictured)

Notice the placement of the horn buttons, and the Aston logo in the exact location of the Ford logo. The Aston's interior wouldn't be so hideous were it not for that glaring black contrast of a steering wheel and its cheap, plastic turn signal stalk.

The Virage hit the market not long after Ford took a stake in the brand. This was the time when they started picking up premium brands like Land Rover, Volvo, and, as you can see, Aston Martin. I don't know their exact business strategy in doing that, but we can clearly see it involved some parts-bin cost reduction strategies. 

I can understand sharing components that are out of sight like, say, a steering rack, wheel hubs, differentials. But a steering wheel? That so clearly diminishes the driving experience, and its poor quality is apparent the moment the customer plops into the seat. Not what you want when you're considering shelling out 200 grand. Maybe that's why they didn't sell many of these. Hey, that makes them rare and valuable! 

Today, Ford doesn't own as much of the brand, and Virages are worth about $35,000. Which means you can still buy a nicer Ford Fusion—with a better steering wheel—for less money.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Off Topic: Repairing Champion juicers

My fiancee manages a health food store, and they have for a long time been using Champion brand juicers. These things are basically 1/3-horsepower electric motors with a proprietary attachment. Recently the store upgraded to a crazy twin-screw type (it reminds me of a supercharger) because their Champions were having problems. One would hum, but not spin up. The other vibrated like an unbalanced clothes dryer. I suspected that these residential-grade units couldn't stand up to the heavy use of the store's cafe (Champion does sell a commercial-grade model), and that they had worn bearings. So I took them apart in our kitchen. Electric motors are simple.

By removing the four screws on the back cover, the front cover also comes off. The bearings lightly press into the front and rear covers, so removing them means the rotor (the middle part that spins) easily slides out of the stator coils. Once out, I could test the bearings. They wiggled a little when I tested them, so I decided to replace them. Thankfully, bearing part numbers are universal. I punched it into McMaster-Carr. They're less than six bucks apiece. I ordered a handful of these #6203 bearings.

On the model that wouldn't spin up, the bearings were worn enough that the rotor was rubbing against the stator. You can see the contact marks here.

The bearings are pressed to the rotor shaft, though, which meant a trip to the nearby Harbor Freight store for a cheap set of gear pullers.

Once they're off, the new bearings can be hammered into place. The bearings bottom onto a clip on the shaft.

It's easy to reassemble, but you must remember the orientation of the front and rear covers. They're marked on the back side. Putting it all back together meant our kitchen was no longer a horrible disaster. Zoe is very patient with my silly projects, and this one, thankfully, ended with two like-new juicers.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Top Gear: 50 Shades of Green

If you are a real racer you will probably say that British Racing Green (BRG) brings you bad luck. (Because it really does, but that's for another post.) I personally wouldn't mind racing a BRG car even if it meant I would quite probably die a horrible fiery death, but do so while looking simply fa-bu-lous.

When I was a kid my dad gave me a BRG 1:18 McLaren F1 and I LOVED the damn thing. It was so beautiful, such a classy color that caught all the right lines and reflected light on all the right curves. My silly friends that knew nothing about what's good had silver, black, and orange little McLaren F1s, but those cars just didn't look as pretty. It was such a potent shade of green that it made the McLaren F1 into one of my favorite cars of all time. And as a result, BRG remains as my favorite color ever, for anything. Yes, even spoons.

See, if I could paint my house Brunswick Green outside and British Racing Green inside (with some white walls here and there to contrast) I would die a happy man. But very dead, because I am sure my fiancee would chop off my head as an offering to the gods of common sense. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Senna Series

Autobahn Country Club recently started a new competitive racing championship called Senna Series. The series just finished its first full year. What really attracts spectators and drivers to the growing lineups of rotary-powered formula racers is that drivers are required to race cars painted to resemble F1 machines from the 1980s and 1990s, like this "Lotus" painted to resemble the John Player Special, F1, followed on the grid by a Benneton B190 lookalike.

This one resembles a Williams FW-12.

Guess what this one is supposed to be?

The damn things seem to be a blast to drive, too! Enjoy a rather moist race in the cockpit of a McLaren MP4/4 quasi-replica.