Thursday, May 14, 2015

One man in the corner, one man in the hall

I often get ahead of myself while working on a project. I'd like to think that it's just foresight and having a vision for my project, and that's partially true. The problem is, I've got at least 7 complete vehicle projects floating around inside my head on any given day. 

Lately I've been able to concentrate on Grace pretty well, but I've been thinking a lot about the instrument panel. Obviously at this point that's a very low priority, but when a kid makes a car out of a cardboard box, what are the first items he wants? A steering wheel and an instrument panel.

So here's my conundrum:  I don't feel the stock instrument panel will suffice. I have very little faith it will give me the information or the accuracy I want. 

The gauges I need are as follows
-fuel level
-oil pressure
-water temp
-boost gauge

Most guys in this situation will just make a new panel with holes in it for universal gauges. There's nothing wrong with that, but I really don't like the aesthetics of that method. I don't think the instrument panel shape lends itself well to having several round gauges in it. When you take that approach I feel it screams "parts catalog" and I'd like to avoid that. I'm going for a quasi-factory look. 

Common methods of adding gauges to the Falcon instrument panel

I want my instrument panel to look as if in an alternate universe, this could have been factory. This is my quick and dirty photoshop of what that could be.

I tried to find a way to integrate all these into my dash with a congruent design. I think I'll mount a small to medium sized tach on the steering column. At first I wasn't too keen on this idea, but I think it looks period correct to mount a tach on the column so long as the face matches the instrument panel decently well. 
The 100 mph speedo is not sufficient, and I think a 140 mph speedo would add functionality without overdoing it. I could have a new electronic speedometer unit embedded into the panel. The temp gauge on the right would be replaced by a prominent boost gauge. I will probably run about 20# boost, so I think a 30# gauge where the needle points straight up at 20# would be nice. On the left I want a tri gauge as seen on vintage Porsche dashes. This would contain fuel level, water temp and oil pressure. voltage would be monitored by an idiot light.

So the real question is how do I do this? I know that Classic Instruments will do custom panels, but are there any others? I don't know. If you, dear reader, have any ideas please chime in.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Someday you will die somehow and something's gonna steal your carbon!

The rumors are true, I've joined the big leagues. I've improved my fabrication facilities from third world to second world. 

A few months back my auto-darkening welding mask passed away. At that point I used my other welding mask, which was a fixed shade mask. After some hard use the headband on that mask also broke, so I took the opportunity to upgrade to a quality mask. Because I'm a Miller welding equipment loyalist, I bought a variable shade, auto-darkening mask. This offers the benefit of having the ability to use both hands to position the welding gun and parts with my mask down, as well as adjusting the darkness of the lens to compensate for varying arc brightness.

A young Darth Vader experiments with SnapChat
As some of you may know, for the past two years, my primary work bench haas been a wooden kitchen chair. It's served me well and brought me a great deal of mockery from my roommate. Not only did Vaughn talk bad about my workbench, he would belittle my garbage bin which began life as a home depot shopping cart. I guess I gave into peer pressure, because last week I finally broke down and built a real work bench. Using a circular saw with a dull blade and leftover lumber that Vaughn dragged home, I took about two hours and screwed together a 12 foot workbench.

My loyal workbench of two years

That's right, not only did I upgrade from a Namibia-grade workbench to Ukraine-grade, I went to China's finest, Harbor Freight, and bought a vise. I've moved up in the world. I'm not really sure what took me so long. I probably should have done it about two years ago, but as they say, better late than eaten by a bear!

I don't remember if I posted my last attempt at a fuels rail but long story short, it was a fantastic failure. When fitting the bungs to the rail, the gaps were large and several of the bung angles were not right. When I welded the bungs to the rail, the inside diameter bubbled so that the fuel injector o-rings would never seal. That's not a good situation for vehciles that you would like to not be on fire.

I ordered all the materials again and started over, because if it's worth doing, it's wort doing twice or something like that. 

Bungs, for optimum bung-holes. Heh. Bungholes.
Fuel rail stock

Most fuel rails are relatively easy to make, because most fuel injectors are positioned perpendicular to the axis of the engine. As you can see in the photos, my fuel injectors are not. In fact, no two of my injectors share a common angle, making this rail construction about as logical as a tax form translated into Japanese and then back to English using google translate. If you've never tried this type of translation, you haven't lived. But really, it's amazing and should be considered a mandatory experience for graduating the tenth grade. Stop what you are doing right now, and try it. Use it to write Christmas cards to your in-laws, or to write a sick note for your kid who is missing school because they barfed up last night's lasagna. Seriously, who knew that kid could contain that much vomit? She's thirty-eight pounds soaking wet, for crying out loud!

In order to get the fuel rail bung angles to match the manifold bung angles, I made some "dummy injectors" that would insert into the manifold injector bungs and protrude straight out from the manifold. This would allow me to fit the rail injector bungs to the rail and achieve a minimal gap for better welds.

Dummy injectors made of brass and electrical tape
Dummy injectors installed into manifold injector bungs
Rail injector bungs slid onto dummy injectors
Rail with standoffs bolted in place
Holding rail and standoffs in place for welding
Fitted and ready to weld
Tacked in place
This time around I decided to let someone who welds for a living weld up my fuel rail. I just tacked it in place and took it to my bearded friend Ben, who then delivered the rail to his coworker. After Ben's coworker made snide comments about my tack welds he welded the rail and I paid him far too much.

Welded fuel rail
Next I turned to the fuel system. Some time last year I made a sump for my fuel tank. After looking at it for nearly a year, I decided that the sump hung too low for comfort and that I would like to shorten it. Out came the DeWalt grinder and I got to work. 

Original sump depth

New sump floor and inlet and outlet bungs
Stitch welded in place
Lower profile sump
I had been putting off the sump modification for months because despite the fact that I seem to do every job twice, I don't actually like to. With that out of the way, I could get to work on fabricating fuel lines. I think the fuel system is one of those systems like the endocrine system that you forget about and fail to realize that it's not working until HEY I'M FRIKKIN SEVEN FEET TALL. Fuel systems often get overlooked when you are modifying a modern car, but when you are building a car essentially from scratch you realize just how involved (and ridiculously expensive) a fuel system is. 

I chose to use a Bosch 044 fuel pump since it has a flow rate of about 300 liters per hour and is relatively unaffected by high fuel pressures, which is an excellent attribute for heavily turbocharged engines.

Most of the parts for a fuel system
Bosch 044 fuel pump with mounting brackets
Fuel pump mounting reinforcements welded to the floorpan under the rear seat
Bosch 044 mounting location on the Falcon

Fabricating fuel lines turned out to be far more difficult than I had anticipated. My flex lines were made from Fragola 8000 series hoses and fittings. While the -8 assemblies I installed prior to the pump were fairly easy to assemble, the -6 assemblies were near impossible. Consider this to be the definitive Fragola push-lock 8000 series -6 assembly how-to. 

Fragola recommends that you heat the hoses with a heat gun or by boiling the hose, after which you lube the fitting and press it into the hose. This is a recommendation is like honey-boo-boo's entire family. It doesn't work. At all. Forget about doing it this way because Fragola has lied to you. There are some other brands of push-lock hose that may work this way, and as I mentioned earlier, the -8 hoses work this way, but don't even waste your time if it's a Fragola -6, you are going to have to make your own tools or buy them if you can find them, though I only know of a tool for installing straight fittings. If you have 90 or 180 degree fittings you are out of luck for buying tools. I'll show how I made mine below.

Instead of paying $72 for the Oetiker hose clamp crimpers I went to China's finest, Harbor Freight, for some $2.95 pliers and with a little masaging from the DeWalt, I was making satisfactory crimps.

I'd give ya tree-fitty for this crimper
Acceptable crimps
After spending half a Saturday attempting to force a -6 fitting into a -6 hose, it was time to quit fooling around and "get a bigger hammer". A quick trip to Home Depot (I generally make three of those on a good Saturday) yielded an assortment of metal jiblets and a C-clamp. Once again, the DeWalt angle grinder came out to play.

The problem child
Metal jiblets

In the pictured above you can see that I stacked two 5/8" nuts on top of each other, and then split them along the axis. I then cut the lower part of the C-clamp off and welded half of the nut assembly in its place, and welded a -6 male fitting to the foot of the clamp screw. The hose is then laid in the welded on nut portion of the clamp and the other half is placed on the other side of the hose. The nut halves are squeezed together in the vise and the fitting which is attached to the male fitting on the clamp screw can then be pressed into the hose by tightening the clamp screw.

For 90 and 180 degree fittings, the same tool is duplicated except in this case, a different attachment is welded to the foot of the clamp screw. This attachment applies force to a lip or shoulder on the fitting in order to insert the fitting into the hose.

With the proper tools, most of which I had to make on my own, I could plumb the remainder of the fuel system. Keeping my goal of easy serviceability in mind, I also built several fuel bulkhead fittings which were welded to the unibody structure to ensure easy installation and retention of fuel lines

Main fuel line bulkhead for feed and return
Main bulkhead istalled
Fuel pressure regulator and flex lines installed

At present the fuel system is finished with the exception of  cleaning and tightening the fuel lines and inserting a pipe plug into one end of the fuel rail. As soon as I wire the chassis and engine and complete a quarter million other small tasks, Grace will wake from her twenty four year slumber.

Bonus image for reaching the end of the post

Bonus image #2 for the faithful scrollers