Someone call the C.O.P’s

As I dwelled deeper into making the ole Mazda plant run better I started taking a look at what I didn’t have and what might be nice to have for the future. With the ITB’s and BP5A intake cam she could breathe and after the wonderful initial tuning done by PFTuning the engine was running and fueling perfectly. My next huddle before making any more performance updates was the spark and coil situation. OEM Mazda coils are very good, but prone to failure. The system was never designed to handle racing performance duties and just give me the spark I wanted.

I had been looking for a system to eliminate the plug wires that would give a much better spark, maybe even multiple sparks to smooth the ignition a bit. A COPs (Coil-On-Plug) system is what I needed. Having the coil directly on the plug would increase the reliability and give a much better burn. There were two routes to go with this system. Follow the OEM configuration of “Wasted Spark” or go to a “Sequential” set-up that would be slightly more efficient but require modifications to the harness, which I decided I wanted to avoid for the time being. I placed a call to Fab9 Tuning for advice and then ordered their Plug-N-Play COP kit for my 99 engine.

The kit is very well made. The fact that it was Plug-N-Play was even better and sped up installation big time. I took me about 25 minutes to remove the old coils and wires and switch out the spark plugs. Within another 15 minutes I had the kit plugged in, coils on the plugs, and the ignition module mounted to the firewall.

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The best part about adding this kit was the removal of the OEM coils, coil bracket and wires. I now have a lot of room behind the valve cover to reach things and make adjustments.

When the Denso pencil coils are installed they give a satisfying “Click” when they grab onto the plug. The combination of the coils and the harness give a clean, race-craft look to the top of the engine. I bet I even shed a few ounces in the process, weight loss is always good. I gave the engine a quick test fire to make sure everything went well before cleaning up and tidying the wires. The idle was noticeably smoother as predicted and the “burble” a bit more pronounced. Due to rain I would not be able to do a test run unfortunately. Fun time would have to wait.

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It’s the little things…..

In addition to the COP’s I have been doing my best to get a lot of the little items off my list so the Catfish can be street driven. Over the past week two of those things finally got done. The first was the horn. I had a MOMO steering wheel installed and had the parts to make it work but had never had the time to trace the wiring and hook it up. This turned out to be a very easy thing to do when I dug into it. In my usually cloudy wisdom I had some how manages to leave the OEM horn circuit on my modified harness 100% intact. Wiring took about 15 minutes. About two weeks before I had contacted Revlimiter.net to make me a custom Catfish logo horn button. Their work is beautiful and gave the interior a really nice factory build look. I am contemplating having then make me a few other items including gauge faces. I also managed to find an old stainless roll bar ring and grommet laying around in an old box of parts. It turned into a very nice shift lever trim after a bit of rework.

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I also managed to trailer the Catfish down to Bayside Auto Body to have a nice 4-wheel computer alignment done.  More on that later…

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Wait, What?…….Really?

 

So a couple weeks ago I decided to get serious about getting the car on the road. As seen in my last blog post I was working on the alignment and getting the engine management straightened out.  I had one really big issue to address however regarding making the Catfish legal, the custom car registration for North Carolina. I had done some research online but could not find a solid explanation of the process or the reference to the places I would need to go for the special inspections or even the specific laws regarding windshields or exhaust etc.

It just so happens that on Sunday while driving through the town of Manteo I spotted the familiar front end of a Cobra replica at a small car show. I quickly got into a conversation with the owner who told me he had purchased the car already registered in NC but knew a guy at the show who knew exactly who to call regarding the process. His name is Rich, a very friendly guy and a wealth of knowledge. Within minutes I had the direct phone number of an officer at the NC DMV License & Theft Bureau. I was extremely grateful. On Monday I made the call just to get some information to see if I was on the right track to getting registered and titled. I explained I had receipts and paperwork for the frame and a barely readable number stamping on the engine that was left unpainted. “I’ll be over tomorrow morning”  the officer replied while I was still yammering about the details of my build. This concerned me as I did not expect them to come to me and that I was not 100% sure about any of this yet. I know that not having the correct paperwork can turn into a nightmare that so many before me have had to endure. The scramble was on collecting everything and making it nice and neat for inspection.

8:30 a.m. rolled around faster than usual. I sat in the garage waiting for the officer to show up and going through the list of what I thought I should have ready so I can get the car titled. He was there right at 9:00. Chad turned out to be a very nice guy, but all business. “I need the MCO, engine number and the frame vin markings locations” he said “Um, …. Here is the MCO” which I handed to him. I pulled the hood and pointed to the bare spot on the top of the engine where the number was barely readable. “I can’t read the engine number” he said. The engine number was worn away and the lighting was horrible on top of that. “Wait, I have pictures from the engine build with the number magnified and easy to read”. This took about 10 minutes of going through hundreds of pictures over the last two years until Eureka! I found it. He recorded the number and moved on to the frame and body. ‘There are no stamped numbers on either” I said. ‘Well that’s a problem” Chad replied. “You have a vin on the MCO but cannot use it if there is nothing on either the frame or body”. Oh man, this is it I thought. I would have to go through a very long title process and it will take months. “Hey, wait, I have a VIN plate from Bauer! Still in the box” I remembered. “Will that work?”. “Yes, but I need to see you physically attach it” he replied. Out came the drill and stainless rivets. It was attached to the dash in a couple minutes. Chad left to go out to his car and to fill out some paperwork. He returned after what seemed like an eternity. He started running through the list if safety items, lights, windshield, reflectors etc. I was getting concerned that I was not going to get titled due to the fact I was lacking a few crucial things.

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“Here you go, you are all set.” Chad handed me the completed report. “The title information will go to Raleigh today”. “Wait, What,…. Really?” I was very relieved. He reminded me that even though the Catfish was now able to be registered it was still not 100%v  road legal and could not be driven until I fixed two items. I needed a proper windshield and working wipers and I would also need DOT approved front and rear reflectors. I am working on both items now and sorting out the approach I wish to take on the windshield.

Peter Florance and PFTuning.com

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While figuring out my title issues I was also trying to find someone who could give the Megasquirt a solid tune and give me an engine that would sound and drive the way it should. Peter Florance of PFTuning was that guy. I started my search  by location which soon lead to a few different car forums. There were a few mentions of “PFTuning” in the Virginia Beach area which I decided to research more at first because it was in reach at only a two hour drive from me. I was impressed with what I read. The word “Guru” came up more than once in reference to Peter so I decided to contact him. We passed information back and forth via email and text and finally set up a dyno session on the last Sunday of April. The night before I ran around checking everything, oil, coolant, tire pressure and getting together any tools to tune ITB’s or the like. I had the car out doing a few “test” runs on the local rural roads the day before also to make sure that it was at least able to start and run. Everything looked good, until “Wait, What, …Really?”

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As I looked under the Catfish I saw the unmistakable thick red drippings of Redline Shockproof gear lube. The clock was ticking and I needed to fix this fast, but its not as simple as pulling the driveshaft and replacing the seal. There was the matter of preload on the bearings and finding the cause for the failure. Emergency surgery started in earnest.

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First problem, new seal and where to get one. I am a bit of a worrier and over the years I have been known to buy at least one extra of anything I think might fail or get worn quickly. I was not sure of the odds of me having purchased an additional pinion seal but dug down into my big box of Miata parts. There it was, a new OEM Mazda part still in the wrapper. I began the tear down and removal of the belly pan and driveshaft. There was red oil everywhere which took a bit of time to clean up. I had the flange and seal out and on the bench within a few minutes.

It didn’t take long to see what had happened. It was my fault for the leak and it was something I should have caught during assembly. I like my parts to be clean and painted. I had decided the flange needed a nice black paint job to match the differential housing back when I was rebuilding it. I had taped of the machined end of the flange where the seal rides when I painted it, but had not check it afterwards. The paint had made its way under part of the tape and created a ridge down the machined area at the top. When I removed the tape and was assembling the pinion I assumed all had gone well, removed the tape and placed the flange onto the pinion and through the seal. The seal now had a very tiny bump going round and round and letting oil out at a slow rate, but enough to make a big mess. I got to work carefully cleaning the flange and getting ready to reinstall the pinion seal. One thing left to do was the preload after everything was back together. This is a long careful process and it cannot be rushed. There are many methods I have read about but I decided to use the same one I used when I initially assembled the differential. I pulled the parking brake and carefully torqued down on the flange nut until I could no longer feel and movement between the flange and the pinion bearing. Now here’s the tricky part. What I am looking for is rotational torque on the rear as its spinning. I have heard that racers go loose at about 6in/lbs and OEM road cars use about 12 in/lbs, I like 10in/lbs. I release the parking brake and turn the flange nut with a torque wrench which in turn will turn the differential. I set the torque wrench to 10 in/lbs. if the differential moves without first reaching the torque I reset the parking brake and turn the nut a bit tighter by a 1/4 to 1/2 turn on the nut and try again. This process takes about 6-7 times to get a click on the wrench and a perfect preload. Its very important to get it right and not rush it as it will directly effect the life of your pinion bearings.

When I was done I buttoned up the under tray and scrambled to get the Catfish loaded on the trailer for it big date the next day!

Off to see the Wizard…….

Expectation is a crazy thing. I had never spoken to Peter at PFTuning directly. I was expecting a twenty something who might be a bit difficult to deal with or on older “wrencher” that knew his stuff but it was his secret and you would have to pay more to find out. Peter is neither of those two. I met him at the front of a large set of buildings in an industrial park. We would be using the dyno facilities at Abacus Racing. The first thing that struck me about Peter was he is very pleasant to talk to. He put me at ease making it comfortable  to ask my long line of obvious or amateur questions about the tune. He is a wealth of knowledge and was doing his best to explain each step of the tune and how it would affect the engine. I did my best to listen but I am sure I lost 90% of what he explained through out the day. None the less, as I sat and listen to the car I could hear how each change made it sound better and better. Each dyno run got progressively louder and the sound…..oh my, the sound became intoxicating. I videoed every run. Occasionally the car shot a nice flame out the exhaust ah-la race track tuned race car.  My favorite. As we talked it became clear that this was just the first of a few if not many dyno runs in the future with PFTuning. Peter explained were more power might be gained and I am actively looking at those changes. More on that at another time.

Dyno run:

Much more to come as the build continues….

It’s about time, Geesh.

Life, I tell ya. Seems to get in the way of the things we really would rather be doing. That being said, the Catfish is home in North Carolina …. finally! Its been a very long 6 months. The move its self ran into many issues and after that there was the matter of a hurricane which took its toll. Starting a new business and just generally being to tired keep me from really diving back in and driving back up to Connecticut to collect the car. There was also the problem of not wanting to leave 75 degree days to go back to the frozen north if even for just a day or two. I told myself that no matter what I needed to get the Catfish before May as the weather would be getting very nice and everything from track days at VIR and autocross events would be getting into full swing. It so happened that my parents would be down in the Outer Banks at exactly the time I wanted to head north with the trailer. I asked them to watch the kids and a few days later my wife and I drove the 11 hours back up to CT. This time my trailer was being hauled by my “New to Me” 2006 F350 dually. What a difference from the last truck. I was never into diesels before but I am sold now. Its like I was not even pulling a trailer.

Connecticut winter was as cold and gray as I remembered when we crossed the state line. The drive had been a bit of a mess. It rained continually since Delaware and was still raining when we reached Berlin. Traffic was a bit more than I expected too. I was happy though as we pulled into Lombardo Motorcars, the place where Catfish #15 had been sleeping all these months. It was good to see my friend Peter again and could not wait to catch up and maybe head out for a few laughs, but first I was dying to see my car.

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She was already rolled out and waiting by the garage door when I went in. “She fired right up” Pete said as I looked it over. I guess the Alien Motion battery was worth every penny I thought. We opened up the door and walked out into the rain and cold. I decided it might be a good idea to get the car loaded at the moment as fatigue had not yet set in from the drive. I climbed into the seat and turned on the master cut-off and turned the key to On. I listened for the fuel pump to stop and fired her up. Took a bit of throttle and there was a definitely more tuning that needed to happen, but I had a smile ear to ear. We had her loaded within a half hour and decided it would be a great idea to go out and have some dinner and drinks. I can’t thank Lombardo Motorcars enough for taking care of the Catfish.

It took another 11 hours to get home a couple days later. This time however it was nothing but light traffic, clear skies and sunshine.  After unloading the car in its new home I started formulating a plan. I wanted to make sure that by May I accomplished two things. The first was to get the ITB’s and the Megasquirt tuned properly. I had already balanced the throttles themselves but I noticed the idle was low now and was not as smooth as I wanted either. The second thing was to start getting the alignment worked out. I had a “Good enough” alignment already done with strings, but I needed to get it tighter for some street testing before sending it off to be done on a machine.

I decided the later would be easier on me to start with. I had purchased a Longacre Racing camber/caster gauge and toe plates which came back with me from CT. I figured if I could get the base alignment straight again using the string method then I could attempt to dial in some suggested specs obtained from Cord Bauer and a few others that were currently Autocrossing their cars. The first thing to do was get the ride height worked out. I started by pulling the rear sway bar as I know its not needed and Cord and others have removed theirs. This also it makes it easier to get to the coils and the alignment cams in the back.

“An aggressive Miata street setup would be -2.7 front, -2.3 rear, but the Catfish doesn’t seem to need as much negative camber.  We also don’t run rear sway bars at all, and have at least 4″ of ground clearance.  The goal is to have the bottoms of the lower rear a-arm about horizontal.  If you start there and then corner weight, the rear may come down a bit or the front will be raised.  Usually Miatas like the front to be lower than the rear by about 1/4″, but our cars are front-heavy so I think corner balancing is more important.”   -Cord

Heading Cords words I set out to get at least close as I could to his suggestions in my garage. Again, this attempt is only to get it “Close”.  I checked the floor for level and it appears dead center bubble at all four tires. This does not mean its 100% but we are going with what we have for now. I marked two points on the lower control arm mounts, left and right, on the frame with a grease pencil. These would be used later as  my reference points to measure the ride height.  My current height was crazy low, around 3 inches and the lower rear  arms were canted up. Originally I was going for looks I think and this set-up was just plain not going to work. I knew corner balancing was not going to happen this round so I set off adjusting the springs for height. At one point I had to start again after realizing I did not add 200lbs to the drivers seat to compensate for my…… mass, lol. After many attempts I was able to get the lower arms very close to level but needed to let them tilt up just a touch to arrive at a final ride height of 4.5 inches measured at the mounts. I did a few roll forwards and backs and jumped up and down in the cockpit on both sides every time I made a change. This made the height tuning a bit frustrating but in the end netted the absolute flat height I wanted. On to the front.

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The front was much more difficult. In order to adjust the coil it required removing the front tires, making the adjustment, putting the tires back on, lowering the car, rolling the car and then getting  the suspension to move. I did this about 6 or 7 times until I reached the magic 4.25 inches of clearance. at the lower front arm mounts. 1/4 inch lower than the rear. Now the next thing is the camber/caster settings. I realized that changing the ride height pretty much destroyed all my previous settings especially the toe. I quick;y set up a set of strings to see if the side to side alignment of the tires was same, which it was. Next I checked the negative camber which was -1.0 rear and 1.5 front, good enough. The toes was a mess. I had set it to 1/8 toe out front originally and it was now 1/2 inch in on the front. The rear was only off a bit at 3/8 inch in. I got out my trusty toe plates and set the rear to 1/8 inch toe in, rolling and settling in between of course. The front took a while longer but much easier to do. Thee final setting was 1/8 toe out, good enough to test drive and tune.

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I will add another post for my trials and tribulations with tuning shortly. I also learned that my Miata dash died at some point during the winter. It appears it has a short and causes the tach and other gauges to go crazy. Lucky me I had a back up.

See you next time.

Hey! Where ya been?

Fair question. Back in July I had been making plans for a winter move to the coast of North Carolina and by the end of August it was actually happening. It was a quick move and there were many complex and interesting problems as I needed to get my kids enrolled in a new school before it started and pack up our entire lives in only 2-3 weeks. To make matters even more difficult the move happened during Tropical Storm Hermine. 75 mile an hour winds and sideways rain, no power and darkness took its toll on the whole family.

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The Catfish was 80% done and I was closing in on the really fun parts of the build. It runs and it drives, the steering and brakes work as well, but none of it has been adjusted. Seats and harnesses were in too. I had done some additional cooling work and now had a puke tank and expansion tank as well as an oil breather. A new NACA duct and two new aluminum vents had been installed in the hood for both looks and much needed engine compartment venting. The engine idled well and was fairly smooth, far from tuned but able to take a nice rough and loud ride.

 

I purchased a new enclosed car trailer which I was using for the move first, but would be used as the vessel for my Catfish later when I returned to Connecticut. To this day I have not yet returned. In the mean time my project needed a temporary home. My Friend Peter of Lombardo Motorcars, Inc. came through for me in a big way. He gave the Catfish a great home next to the other amazing cars in his inventory, Italian vintage classics, modern racers and ultra rare cars. I love going to his shop, you never know what you will find there. I highly recommend stopping by if you ever find yourself in Berlin, CT. I am hoping to retrieve the Catfish and bring it to NC in the next few months or as soon as we get completely settled and I purchase a new tow vehicle.

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I still have a ton of tuning and adjustments to make and the car needs paint and a few missing items. I will be posting the work and updates hopefully in the next few months. I appreciate all of the comments and questions. I miss the work so I hope it does not take too long to get back to it!

Quest for Fire

I had been slowly sorting out the wiring and I had reached a point where I had a pretty good stripped down harness constructed from the remains of the OEM unit. Many calls to DIYAutotune, the place where I purchased my  MegaSquirtPNP G2 MM9900 engine management and Innovative LC-2 wideband O2, and hours of web searches now had me at the point where I could attempt a first fire up. I would still need to balance the throttles and calibrate the sensors first however.

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Balancing the throttles is a two part process. I needed to first set the opening of the throttle to at least get the air flow close to identical at idle and while the butterflies were opening. I came across a good .pdf file that really helped out in getting the basic settings built into the throttles before I attempted a start (Toyota ITB EFI) . I would need to balance them later at idle with a syncometer to make sure all the throttles pulled the same air.

The next step was to make sure I set the calibration for both the engine sensors and the Innovative wideband O2. The O2 was very straight forward, leave the O2 out of the pipe, disconnect it from the included harness, keyed power on, wait for red light to appear on the Innovative box, key off, connect the O2, key on, wait for solid green light then you are set to install the O2. You need to be careful with the O2 as it gets very hot during the calibration, just a warning. As for the MegaSquirtPNP, that was a little more complicated as the install and the calibration takes a bit of research. I was planning on using ITB Mode which comes with the MegaSquirtPNP and makes life a bit easier when starting out. I would still need future tuning but its a great place to start. Basically ITB mode blends Speed Density and Alpha-N to make driving ITB powered cars smoother. Its dependent on a few things but most importantly it needs a good working and properly wired TPS (Thottle Position Sensor), more on that in a bit.

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Here was my initial set up and the results after a full day of messing around in TunerStudio. I calibrated my TPS, but noticed the range for the ADC count was short and seems to be very high in numbers. I calibrated the IAT (Intake Air Temperature, GM), which I also purchased from DIY. Then the Coolant temp sensor and a few others. I found this document helpful in getting started (Gant_Semester_Project). This is actually a very simplified explanation of what I did for the set-up. I spent many hours with a meter checking wires and resistance in preparation for the start-up and I believe in having everything worked out before an issue can occur. Even with this approach a gremlin slipped in.

I pushed the Catfish into the driveway and took out my fire extinguisher, just in case the first fire up was my last. Safety first. I turned the key to on and made sure that all of the appropriate lights on the Megasquirt and the Innovative O2 box lit up and looked at the gauge ion the fuel rail to make sure the fuel pump was primed. I stopped at this point to go over the fuel lines from from to back and looked for a leak or even the smell of raw fuel. So far so good. I moved back to the key and got ready to see what would happen. Fire on the first turn! It actually kind of scared me a bit. After a few revolutions it died so I tried again. This time the same issue presented itself so I manually opened the  throttles a bit and tried again. This time I was able to get a mildly rough idle but the engine still wanted to die. I noticed the coolant temperature climbing as I made adjustments in Tuner Studio and fiddled with the throttles. About the time I was able to balance out the air going into the throttles with a syncometer coolant temp hit 200 degrees. Things seems to settle out and sounded much smoother. The idle settled down to around 1100 rpm’s and everything seemed ok on the outside, I looked back at Tuner Studio and found the AFM was way out of wack and the engine was running very lean. I decided to give it some throttle and wanted to see if it would add more fuel and if the engine would rev evenly. This is where I discovered the issue with the TPS. The throttle response was erratic and I noticed that even though my O2 AFM gauge read lean the exhaust looked very rich, I also smelled fuel in the exhaust, not good. I checked the oil for fuel after shutting down and decided it might be smart to change it just in case, which I did the following morning.  After a few emails back and forth with DIY I pulled the TPS and rechecked the wires from the stock wiring harness and the resistance of the pins on the Toyota TPS. For anyone looking for the test here it is:

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The resistance between the VREF (IDL) and ground pins will remain constant.
The resistance between the ground and signal pins will be low with the throttle closed and high with the throttle wide open.
The resistance between the VREF and signal pins will be high with the throttle closed and low with the throttle wide open.

What I found was my issues were two fold. First during my initial wiring of the Miata OEM harness to the Toyota TPS I had switched the VTA and VREF wires, that was easy to remedy. The second issue was that the Toyota TPS (89452-22080), that came with my used throttles, was bad. The VTA signal would just erratically or sometimes show nothing at all. I went out and purchased a new TPS and prepared for my next attempt the following day. Before doing so I re-calibrated the O2 and reset the tune back to the base tune in Tuner Studio. I always like to reset at the base and start again.

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This time was much different. The engine fired quickly again and with a very little help it held idle and was fairly steady during warmup. I knew there was still weeks if not months of tuning to get the most from the engine, but I finally had a base tune for the ITB’s. The revs were steady and the engine sounded powerful and even. The idle was still a bit high at 1100 rpm again and I was seeing an AFM way to far to the lean side but most of the major items seem to have been sorted. I shut it down and decided to take a week long break before additional tuning and messing about.

Second ITB Set-up and Test Day

I will have more soon, I am now deep into tuning and getting ready to do the body work and modifications. See you next time.

Taking shape

The Catfish is finally looking like something that might actually be able to drive finally. Its been a busy few months again and I did not have time to post and very little time to work on the project. The things I did get done have moved the project very close to being able to drive and stop however.

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Back in May I managed to get the brakes bleed and working as well as some of the simpler items that had been plaguing me since the winter. The cooling system was finally finished up and I now had a high mounted fill tank made by Canton and an overflow puke tank as well. I now had three hurtles to get over before I could consider even attempting to get the engine fired up. First I would need a custom exhaust pipe built to connect the header to the side pipe, Second I would need to get the parking brake developed and working and third I would need to sort out the wiring harness and fuel management.

I had completed the engine harness strip down in the beginning of May and it was a fairly easy process to get everything attached and reconnected. I had replaced all of the old sensors; cam, crank, knock and others, which made life much easier. I still had the much bigger task of sorting the OEM harness for the dash and interior. I was going to remove many of the unneeded circuits for things like the A/C etc. A task I found to be very daunting and one that got pushed to the back of the list within a few days. I was also unsure of if I wanted to go with a new fuse and relay box, one designed for an open air vehicle. I have a full body harness made by Bauer that would make a lot of the work easier but it would still need to be integrated into the other wiring. There was also the long main power cable back to the battery which I had decided to remove. A new very light weight battery was now in order after reading of Cord Bauer’s very light battery made by Alien Motion. Just under 4 pounds and very compact. Either way, wiring was going to be last.

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I turned my attention to the parking brake. The Catfish kit does come with a bracket for mounting the OEM Miata parking brake, but I am using a complete Wilwood brake kit. The parking brake for the Wilwoods takes a lot of pressure to hold the vehicle compared to the OEM rear brakes. The catfish bracket gets fiber-glassed into the tunnel and I was concerned with the pressure exerted on the fiberglass. I decided to build a floor mount parking brake using a universal hand brake. I found a great one with a steel mount for about $60.00 online and adapted it to the OEM Miata pull cable. After cutting a few holes to  reduce the weight of the mounting bracket I went to work trying to figure out an acceptable pull for the cables that could be mounted to the back interior wall. It would have to be adjustable and easy to work on so I set off designing a two part bracket for the mount. I also needed a solid mount for the brake handle bracket to the floor. There is a 1.5 inch gap between the floor foot panel and the bottom panel. This would need strengthening so I ordered a couple of 12″ aluminum square 1.5 x 1.5 tubes. When they arrived I added two sections across the floor under between the two  panels and riveted them into place. I now had a solid mount for the bracket. I spent the better parts of two days designing cutting and shaping the too other brackets. the rear bracket was fabricated using a cut down version of the aluminum cable pull bracket supplied with the Catfish kit.

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After everything was mounted and the cables secured I realized I had an 8 inch gap from the handle to the cable pull at the rear of the passenger side tunnel. I used tow left over clevis brackets I had from another project to construct a pull rod from 1/4 aluminum dowel. I threaded it at bot ends making the adjustment a breeze. After a test fit the floor bracket went out to powder coat and was back by the end of the week. the finished system works great and has a nice vintage race car look.

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I was still buried in thought about the wiring issue. It was a constant nagging issue as I hate wiring but it’s a must do. I decided to put it off yet again in order to get the exhaust done and to give me an excuse to ignore it for the time being.

I asked a friend of mine if he knew of any shops doing custom exhausts in stainless steel. I had already tried the local big box shops and either the price was ridiculous or they did not have anyone in house that could do stainless. My friend suggested a great shop in Berlin Connecticut called Raceworks. I made a call and discussed my project with the owner Ed. Ed, knows his stuff and walked me through a few different approaches and also pointed me to previous completed jobs that the shop had done. Very impressive. They would need the roller Catfish for a few days and would hand make and weld bends to complete a very smooth pipe to connect the header to the beautiful Catfish stainless side pipe.

I went over to another friends house and picked up a trailer donated to him and I by a good friend of ours who owns Lombardo Motorcars here in Connecticut. If you are ever in the area and looking for a unique car or exotic I highly recommend stopping by. I loaded up the Catfish……,it was actually not that easy as I was doing it myself,  and headed of to Raceworks.

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I spent at least an hour going over what I wanted and getting suggestions and insight from Ed. After we rolled the Catfish off the trailer and into the shop it occurred to me that this is the first time I would be without the project and had at least a week of idle time or just plain real work! It was a very slow few days. It was during this time I mapped out the electrical plan and ordered a new fuse and relay box from Concours Specialties to tie into the ignition, fuel injection, body harness and the ECU. This box along with the Megasquirt would take up little space and could be mounted neatly up behind the dash panel along with the Alien Motion battery. All the parts arrived a couple days later and are still waiting for install.

I got the call I had been waiting for, the exhaust was done! I hooked up the trailer that had graced my backyard for  a week. It was a great obstacle to mow around and had been both killing some grass and letting other grass grow out of control. Didn’t matter to me though, it was time to get the Catfish back home. I could not believe the quality of the work when Ed first showed me the pipe. It was excellent and beyond what I expected! The entire engine bay now looked like it was developed in a high tech skunk-works garage by a large corporation. I paid the man and made sure I told him I would be back for more work in the future.

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Well, that is where I am at today. The electrical is being held off once again by business but I am making attempts at clearing the schedule.  Thanks for reading.

Fill’er Up!

So over the past few weeks I have been thinking about how I wanted to approach the fuel filler for the Catfish. Remember I am going for a cross between modern sports car and nostalgic old Italian racer. I had ordered a flip-top fuel filler a while back and was going to simply bolt it to the center rear deck lid or build up the underside of the deck lid and pass it through the hole. That way I can screw it down from underneath and you would not see the screws. It hit me about a week ago that bolting the filler directly on to the deck lid from the top or the bottom would probably not work out the way I envisioned and also added the issue of having to remove the filler hose if I needed to remove the deck lid at the track for repairs or the like. I knew that some of the 50’s and 60’s race cars had bodywork that had a cut out for a filler that was bolted to the frame or fuel cell and this allowed the panels to be removed without issue. The picture below is what I found and wanted to engineer.
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The first thing I would need is to figure out how the filler was to be supported and where I could accomplish this. After a lot of measuring and checking the fit of the rear deck lid I decided to use the roll bar cross member above the rear of the fuel tank for the job. I knew I would need a solid piece of aluminum to make the mount and it would have to be braced at the sides to handle lateral movement during hard cornering. I also realized that the filler would need to be able to catch spillage and bleed off rain water that would enter through the pass though for the filler cap. I happened, by chance, to find the perfect piece of aluminum sitting in my basement. It was part of an old water treatment system bracket and just happened to be almost 100% to the shape and size I needed to build the mount. It took a good three hours of more measuring, drilling and tapping before I had it in place with the filler hanging through the hole in the top. Next I would need the hole to allow the filler to pass through the body work. From underneath the Catfish I drilled a very small 1/8 inch exploratory hole up through the mount hole into the bottom of the rear deck lid to mark the spot I would have to use the hole saw to cut the main hole for the flip-top.Again, more measuring and making sure the hole would be exactly in the middle of the rear deck lid and directly over my new filler mount. A few minutes with a hole saw and cuts with a Dremel tool and the basic work was complete.

At this point I still had some energy left and started searching around the house for anything I could use as a splash pan for under the filler. My wife started to look at me funny as I pulled out the old stainless and aluminum cake pans from the cup-boards. I couldn’t find anything close to what I needed. I went back in the garage and just as I passed my work bench I spotted my old stainless magnetic bowl I bought from Craftsmen 20 years ago. The magnet was no longer attached to the bowl, but everything was in good shape. It was a perfect fit! It was the exact height and shape I needed. Some more quick work with a hole saw and a drill and it was in. It was at this point I decided that while I was on a roll I would keep pressing on. I grabbed one of my old stainless fuel pipes I had lying around and in an hour I had two very strong side supports for each side of the filler mounting. I was very happy with the result. I still need to fuel and water proof the bowl area and will probably just use some type of sealer. I will also order some bulb type rubber molding for the edges of the bowl to seal it to the underside of the deck lid. I am still looking into the fueler hose which will have to make a few turns to get to the tank and a vent line which I will need to make provision for in the filler pipe under the flip-top. All in all a good way to spend a Saturday.

It turned out fantastic and now has that nostalgic look I wanted. Sure its a pain to fuel, but its all worth it!

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More parts coming this week and I will be starting the interior very soon!