Sunday, October 25, 2015

Suspension Of Disbelief.

Hey Friends --
[Largely irrelevant and long winded intro begins here. If you don't care about that, skip ahead to the next red section and start there.]

Welcome back to our sporadic and disorganized blog. Or maybe it's you who should welcome me back to interaction with the outside world. This is about where I'd start off with some bogus rationale a sensible explanation about being away for a while and not attending to the ol' blog and stuff -- but given that I've used that tired refrain a few too many times already, I'll have to come up with some other excuse for leaving you hanging. In anticipation. With bated breath. Because my narcissistic self and its inflated ego just knows you've nothing better to do that while away your time here with me.

... or maybe you just need a laugh, and my continual false starts provide exactly the comic relief your life is missing. Or maybe this fails to be either informative OR entertaining and I'm just chasing my tail and pretending this is interesting for people other than myself. Either way here we are. Thanks for that.

Since our last update, I've continued to drive the car all the time. Naturally, I neglected to make a note of the odometer when I got the thing back on the road, so I don't know how many miles we've logged. Whoops.

Last May, I was invited to display the car at the annual ipd Garage Sale and Show, and to my complete amazement, we came home with the 'Best in Show' award. About the same time, Part 1 of a series about the car that's to be published in the VSA (Volvo Sports America) quarterly magazine showed up in the mailbox. [For some reason unbeknownst to me, Part 2 didn't make it into the following issue. Maybe this Volvo isn't sporty enough.]

The other thing that's kept me away from here is that, for several months, I've been looking for a shop to lease so that I can take on more customer cars and have a place to continue to maintain our own old Volvos. I finally found a place, and am happy to announce that Swedish Relics is now a legitimate, insured, taxed and licensed 1800 square foot enterprise here in the Portland area. We even have the domain name - - although there's nothing on the website. I don't know how to do that website stuff.

We also have a telephone number, so if you need anything for your old European car, please do call. 503-703-4366. Thanks.

Things got super messy and crowded after this.
... anyway, it took almost a month to get through all the paperwork, get a business license and a Federal Tax ID thing and insurance and utilities and stuff, and then I had to put up cabinets, build a workbench, set up the stereo (duh!), move all my tools and parts into the place, which meant unloading a very full garage at home as well as a very crammed 10x20 storage unit plus two cars before I could do anything. About the time that the dust settled, we left town to visit my wife's family and we were gone for three weeks.
As soon as we returned, I got back to work. One good thing is that there are people in Portland who have old European cars in need of attention, so we've had a Jensen-Healey come through, a couple Volvo 1800s, an ES and a '58 Fiat Multipla.
The 444, though, is why I'm typing and you're reading and now I've gone completely off topic. Let's get back to it.
[Largely irrelevant and long winded intro ends here.]
One of the things (there are a few, but I'll only admit to them as they're addressed) that we did in a bit of a rush when putting the car together initially has to do with the front sway bar. We can't use the ipd PV series front bar, because the moment arms (those are the ends where the holes are) aren't the right distance apart to align with the endlink mounts (that's what those holes are for) in the lower A-arms on the 140 front suspension. So, as mentioned in an earlier post, we'd mounted up an ipd 140 series front swaybar. That's all well and good, but the bends in the new bar are closer together than in the old bar, which means that we can't use the original factory mounting holes for the saddle brackets that secure the center section of the swaybar to the chassis of the car. This is that scope creep thing that Phil told me about.
Did that make sense? Here's the short version: we had to change the sway bar mount locations.
The simple way to do this was to drill through the box section of the chassis and use really long bolts to hold the sway bar in place. But with the new steering box, these bolts had to come in at something other than a nice right angle, which looked sloppy while also making removal and replacement of the bar itself a complicated process involving someone with a wrench leaning over the engine compartment and holding the bolt head while someone else with a wrench was under the car loosening the nut. We need this to be serviceable by one person, we need it to be simple, and we need it to be solid. We also need to not have bolt heads on the top of the frame member next to the radiator, because there will be some structural reinforcement anchored there later on.
Here goes:
A piece of flat steel, cut to length. Drilling pilot holes.
Enlarging holes...

Comparing new 'base plate' to saddle bracket.
The idea here is to have threaded studs (well, bolts) welded to the chassis such that we can slide the saddle brackets into place and then secure them with nuts. This is simpler to perform than threading bolts into captive nuts that are welded inside the frame (which is what the original design included) because we won't have to probe around in the dark. As much. Plus welding nuts into the inside of a steel box is magic well beyond our scope.

Flat steel gets bolts.
Bolt heads welded to steel, and we've added a 3rd hole in the middle.
Crap on the floor. We do this exercise a lot.
This next photo (I hope) makes the idea more clear: the two threaded holes toward the side of the chassis member (toward the right in the pic) are the original swaybar saddle bracket mounting holes. The larger holes below and to the left of those are for the new swaybar. The welded bolt heads fit up into these holes, which allows the steel plate to sit flush against the chassis. That hole on the left of the pic was already there and doesn't play a role.

You're looking up from below here. As am I.
Test fit.
Second plate for the other side.
Lousy blurry photo. Lousy blurry welding.
I really enjoy welding, though I'm no expert. I can weld things together such that they're really strong, but they're never pretty. And every time I weld, I learn something new. With this project, I learned that lying on your back under a shower of welding sparks probably looks sexy and macho at first but those elements are likely offset by the horizontal thrash dance performed when the shower of sparks melts your polar fleece shirt into your delicate skin all over your torso. A thousand points of light have become a thousand little scorch marks. Which is probably pretty macho but I could really do without it.

And there we are. Now the swaybar is held in place with hardware larger and more robust than original and it's easily removed and installed by one person working alone.

[Largely irrelevant and long winded extensive deliberation related to the future of this build begins here. If you're not interested in my overthinking, ignore the following and just tune in next time.]

One of the absurdly frustrating recurrent themes with this whole endeavor has been "overthinking everything and worrying a lot about every last detail." A good example of this was the process of selecting front springs. It took a couple weeks of asking questions, screwing around Googling, using math [shudder] and finally making a best guess on what to put in the car. And as far as I can tell, that worked out well. Many other aspects of the project are dictated by the rules, which makes those decisions much simpler. Wheel size. Which transmission to use. Cage design. Stuff like that.

The thing that we (Jim Perry and I) are now struggling with is the engine. There are as many variables in an engine as there are in the whole rest of the car, and an engine for LCP isn't really suitable for typical racing, so we aren't really looking at something that can later be used in his race car. For example: we'll run on pump gas, so we can't run a high compression ratio nor a crazy cam profile. Of course, the engine has to be as reliable as we can make it and it has to be fast enough that we're competitive. And then there's cost. We're now thinking about how much custom rods and forged pistons cost and trying to balance that with how reliable we think an engine with stock rods and cast pistons would be.

A big consideration here is, of course, cost. We're not wealthy, so we're not able to simply toss several thousand dollars into something that's only useful for two weeks in the next year. And though it sounds fun to consider LCP as an annual event, that's not part of the plan either.

We know people who have spared no expense and didn't finish the race, and we know people who have run engines that are built with standard 'off the shelf' parts and run the event several times without a failure and without a rebuild. We've been told it's the most demanding race on Earth, and we've been told that it isn't really a race but more of a high speed tour.

The only thing everyone seems to agree on is that we need something that can run at redline for extended periods of time. I guess what we're trying to sort out is whether we can justify the cost of a full blown race engine that's tuned for this event and won't be of much use after that, or if it makes more sense to build something less exotic and to bring a spare or two. Three simple engines cost less than one super duper engine. And we have three simple engines on hand. Tough call.


  1. I'm glad you've finally found shop space! I hope to see it sometime soon...

  2. Awesome on all counts! I'd love to check out your new shop. I think it's near my office. (?)

  3. Nice stuff. I might go 3 simple engines. Seems more sensible. Also would love to check out the shop, maybe get the 122 in for new windshield and seal...

  4. Good stuff, Cam. We'll come up with a suitable engine one way or another!

  5. Aim up the middle. Drop the -duper and trooper, and build two 'slightly-'supers.
    (One spare is good planning. Two is paranoia.)