Seam welding, mock up, and fabrication

Seam or stitch welds.
Seam welding, or stitch welding, is where you take and join the layers of metal at the seams on a chassis. Modern uni-body cars are made up of dozens of pieces of steel that they spot weld together. Spot welding is fine for a street car, but spot welds start to pop in a car that is bounced, jumped, bumped, twisted, and raced. As we want to build in some serious longevity into this car, we’re taking the time to weld all the metal panels together.

My friend Erik came over with his welder (Thanks Erik! :D) and we started with the interior. I had prepped a bunch of areas by grinding the paint away and we were able to get through it quickly. We still have the rear strut towers, trunk, and undercarriage to do.

Dashboard mock up
I’ve had parts of the dashboard in and out of the car a dozen times. I want to see what is going to work and what won’t, and the best way to do this is to mock it up using a couple of bolts just to hold it in place. All of the extraneous plastic and metal is out of the dashboard and the HVAC system and piping has been reduced to a minimum. I actually think I’ll duct the floor heat, making it better then it ever was. 🙂

steering modification
The heavy fabrication was done yesterday with a new steering wheel, extension, steering quickener, and floor mounted gas pedal. I had just about given up on the “tilt wheel” with the Howe 1.5:1 quickener, but I was able to make it work after an hour of critically examining the steering. I modified the cast piece that hinges the column up and down, and was able to slide the housing of the quickener into it. Now I just need a bracket from the upper part of the column to support the quickener. While I was at it I solved an issue where the aftermarket steering adapters don’t reset the blinker. Adding two small threaded posts with a plastic covering on them I was able to restore functionality. Check out the quick video of the steering blinker reset in action.

Taking my time during fabrication means I’ll have no-compromise steering, A gas pedal in a Neon that I can actually heel-toe with, and a car that is ready for whatever rally can throw at it.

2GN Progress Report

The interior and extra weight is out. I need to get a couple extra grinding discs and wire wheels to get the drivers side door metal out and the extra thick seam sealer in the hard to reach spots. The air-box for the heat and AC is dependent on the heater core and I’ll need to drain the coolant before pulling that out and re-engineering it.

Draining the coolant means that it’s just about a good time as any to pull the motor. The motor has to go if we’re going to seam weld, plate, and strengthen the front end. To keep it easy I’m going to cut the radiator support out and we’ll be changing that up anyway. I don’t know if I’m ready to put “tubular K frame” on the to-do list, but it’s being considered.

This weekend some friends and past crew members will be giving me a hand. Soon the 2GN will become more of a shell then a car. Rally prep at the garage is well under way!

The 2GN goes on a rally car diet.

2626 pounds is actually a good start for a compact sedan in the 21st century. Gone are the days of 1800lb Civics. Now cars are fat – 3100lb hatchback fat. Sat-nav, iPod, climate control, 50 airbags, ABS, side beams, crash bumpers, etc. Don’t get me wrong – these safety items will allow you to take an SUV in the door, but if we all drove 600 pound carbon fiber cars, we’d save a gajillion tons of fuel and accidents between cars would ‘usually always‘ be survivable.

Making up for the 200 pounds of roll cage, steel plates, and rally safety equipment going in should be easy enough with all of the interior trim and dashboard out. Getting a rally car lighter then the day it sat in the showroom takes an angle grinder. 😀

Lightened rear doorsI took the rear doors down to what I call a ‘safe minimum’. I’ll leave the glass in for now, but there is enough metal to support the window and keep thieves out. The inner metal only accounted for a pound, but it gave me better access with the grinder / sawzall. The door beam weighed in at 4 pounds. The window roller mechanism was a pound. I’m estimating 7-8 pounds off of one door with the plastic trim, all the bolts, and the metal cut out. 28-32 pounds saved on the car from all 4 doors.

Dry ice removal of sound deadening material.Next I had some fun with science. My local grocery store had dry ice available, so I picked up about 8 pounds of it. The clerk handled it much like a radioactive isotope and I was asked by a little old man in line “What do you need all that for?!” I responded quickly and with authority – “It’s a science experiment.” Then I grabbed the top of the bag with bare hands and made it out the door. “Be careful!” they shouted after me. :p Guys, it’s minus 80 cold, not minus 300 cold… Wear gloves, but it won’t instantly kill you if you touch it with bare hands. “You could get frostbite! OhNOES teh frostbite…” Broken up into chunks, the cold hardens and contracts the 1/4″ thick tar sound deadening. After a couple of sharp blows with a hammer and some scraper work, about 15 pounds of sound material hit the trash.

(Weight savings = faster car) Let’s look at the numbers: For this 2626 pound car making a completely stock 132HP we could (on paper) see an 1/4 mile time of 15.78. Now take a reasonable 200 pounds off and you have a 1/4 mile time of 15.37. Okay, only .41 faster, but consider that the stock motor would have to make 10 more HP to do the 1/4 mile in that time. How about 400 pounds lighter? Now you have a 14.94 second Dodge Neon that would be making the equivalent of 156 HP in stock weight to clock that time. Is 400lbs. realistic? *ehhh… Certainly possible, but you’re looking at fiberglass / carbon fiber hood, trunk, and fenders. Plexiglas windows, and you’re pulling unused copper wiring out of the harness. I don’t know if I’m THAT dedicated… My goal is to have the 2GN in rally-trim with a tank of gas sitting at 2600lbs.