Tuesday, December 13, 2011

O Tannenbaum

This past weekend we got a tree. A fake tree. I swore for years I'd never do fake--I like the smell and look of a real tree, along with helping support local business folks. Every year I'd take the Jetta over to the local Jaycees lot and pick out a Fraser Fir (cats, dontcha know).

Then I got a car I actually liked (the MINI), and did not want to put a sappy tree into, so I began relying on the kindness of others for SUV's to bring the tree home. Because of my desire to limit friends' vehicles exposure to that same horrid sap, I started picking purveyors closer to home:  Lowe's. So much for helping local business. Even after getting a truck of my own, I found it just so much easier to go back to Lowe's and plop down another $30. And each year, I'd keep the tree up until just after the free tree-recycling collection, necessitating a trip to the dump. So ~$33 / year for 13 years,or roughly $429 BEFORE adding lights, which got replaced in their entirety at least 3 times.

So a real tree was starting to become actual work, and I wasn't accomplishing my goals of helping the community (or the environment), and it wasn't helping that my house has something like -25% humidity during the colder months, making it impossible to keep needles from ejecting like porcupine quills after just 1 week.

For K and li'l A, I wanted better this year. We decided to look at some tree options, but we were disheartened at the lack of pre-lit LED trees. Figuring we'd waited too long into the season, and refusing to support the incandescent market, we decided to go once more to Lowe's and get one last real tree. The money saved would help us through the season, anyway. We'd picked out a tree and gone into the store for one last look at lights when we found it: one lone 7.5' pre-lit warm-white LED tree. And it's beautiful.

Last night we decorated it as a family, selecting our favorite ornaments from our blended family's past and our new present. The tree is beautiful, in spite of the hot mess of empty boxes, and our home is finally becoming that: ours.

Happy holidays to all of you, and may this year find you embracing traditions new and old.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Miata #3 (Yes, it is a sickness)

The 2011 racing season ended for me on November 6, 2011.  I went out with a bang...or 2 or 3...finishing in first place both days, winning me 2 more tires to start the 2012 season.  However, the clutch died on the last lap of the last session of the last day, a session that also saw the end of the transmission's useful life.  I pulled the drain plug to find pieces of gear teeth.  Boo.

Thus began the hunt for a new transmission, and it would lead me to curious places.

I started my hunt like any enterprising person would:  craigslist.  I found a fellow looking to sell an engine & transmission together for $900, a reasonable deal that would allow me to swap trannies and begin to develop a new race motor for when the current one pukes, which it ultimately will.  So I went to look at it, and the guy offered to sell the whole car with it for $1500 total.  The catch is that the car won't start due to an unknown electrical short.

We verified the cylinders hold compression, the body was in reasonable order, and bought it.

I now own 3 Miatas.  Holy crap.  And no transmission for Bridget (the orange car).  HOLY CRAP.

So a plan was hatched to turn the new car, "Stacey", into a Chump Car racer, and if she survives, an aero-laden Time Trials & Performance Touring (D) beast.  And given what I've learned along the way from building the current car, I'm confident I can achieve both goals for less than 1/3 what I have in Bridget.

My shed is so full of spares that Bridget is half-built already.  Spare racing radiator, suspension components, differential, seat, harness, seat-back brace, etc.  Pretty much all I need to do is gut it and put a cage in it.  Oh:  and make it go.  Which is turning out to be quite an ordeal.

Stacey's former owner was an ASE certified mechanic.  Apparently they don't teach electrics.  Turning the key did nothing at first, so I pulled all the wiring under the dash and found hot wires to nowhere, grounds to everywhere non-structural, an alarm system, bisected ignition wires, and a hot mess of a radio harness.  I yanked all of it and tried again, and got a buzzing sound from the main fuse box.  Progress...?

A battery swap and a key-turn made the main fan run.  Um...wtf?  The fan is wired to ignition?  So I pulled the fuse for the fan, re-keyed, and the starter engaged!  Now that's progress.  But still the engine will not start.

I did a little more hunting around the car and found that, after running the starter for a bit, the exhaust pipe reeks of fuel, so I feel fairly confident it's not a fuel-delivery issue. Laying a spark-plug on the head produced no spark, in spite of the dude having just recently swapped coil packs.

So it seems something is wildly mis-wired.

Unfortunately I'm out of room in the trailer to continue diagnosing it, and I can't back it out because Bridget is up in the air behind it (with no motor).  And Bridget can't have her motor back until a new tranny is sourced.  But now there's a new car blocking me from getting the motor out of the trailer and...yeah...I've kind of screwed myself.  Sometimes I think it would be easier if I were just addicted to crack.