Monday, December 17, 2012

Doing What It Does Best

Now that the evTD is essentially done (no project like this is ever truly "finished"), it's been a pleasure to get some productive use out of the car. It's my daily choice for those errands I cover alone; the bank, the post office, orchestra rehearsals and the like. The Leaf is still the vehicle of choice when the wife and mother-in-law are riding along - those hairdos cost too much to let them blow away in the hurricane force breeze generated in an open car with a flat vertical windscreen. That said, I have gotten the wife out for a joy ride or two if it's the day before her hair salon appointment!

The kids, too, have enjoyed a spin in the car. Here's son Fred III with the lovely Tiffany:

And daughter Becky with her then-fiance Erik. One thing led to another, and Erik called last week to ask if he could borrow the evTD to use as a get-away vehicle after their wedding reception last Saturday. How could I refuse?

We think Erik is a great guy for our precious daughter, and he clearly has excellent taste in women and motoring.

Photo courtesy Ever After Images

And they're off to their honeymoon!

Saturday, October 13, 2012


EVCCON is a four day event focused on Lithium battery powered Electric Vehicle conversions sponsored by Jack Rickard of EVTV. I attended last year with the eBugeye, and this year brought my newly minted evTD. What a thrill to meet and chat with the guys and gals who are making a difference and building their own alternative transportation, and also meeting the vendors who make it possible. It's an indescribably great weekend, but my friend Mike Brown did a great job of it on his blog, Scroll down a bit for the EVCCON coverage as life goes on and new posts are coming along. Also check out Andrew McClary's summary video here:

I will post some of the fun stuff we did during the course of the conference. The previous blog post showed a couple views of the evTD on the show floor at the Show Me Center. Of course there were presentations and instructional sessions throughout the three days of the conference. Dad says he learned things about electronics and motors he wished he'd known years ago.

The exhibit area was constantly busy. Dad has always had a way with the ladies, and here's one he picked up along the way:

She's Netgain President George Hamstra's grand-daughter, and her Mama said she took to Dad because he had silver hair like her Grandpa. A real doll!

Here's Dad posing with another beauty at the drag strip:

There was a weigh in area just before the entry to the drag strip. The evTD weighed in at just over 2000 pounds, about 200 more than the eBugeye, but still a very light car.
Photo Courtesy of Mike Brown
My first match was with the Sun Jag. Here we are in the staging area trying to psych each other out about how slow we'll be.
Photo courtesy of Stephen Lumpp
Moving into position:

Photo courtesy of Tim Catellier

Here's Mike Brown taking the helm:

The last day included a public car show in Capaha Park.

During the car show, we gathered all the father-son teams for a group photo with Jack Rickard:

Jack said he had pictured 37 year old fathers bonding with their 17 year old sons through projects like this, but he never imagined it would be the 60 year old guys bringing their 80 year old Dads. We just want to salute the "Greatest Generation".

The car show was followed by the Electric Vehicle Parade:

After the parade we all gathered for a group portrait:

The conference closed with a gala banquet featuring hand carved smoked prime rib and Jack's amazing wine selections and closing remarks. 

A huge thank you to Jack and his team for staging another fabulous conference. EVCCON recharges my personal battery pack and inspires the work we do.

Among the award winners was the evTD, which took home a trophy for "Best Paint"!

The first thing I did when I got home was present the trophy to Robert Juarez who actually did all the body work and paint. He deserves it for the fabulous job he did for me and for taking such a personal interest in my project.

The best prize of all was spending a week with the guy who gave me his name and staked his reputation on the notion I might turn out OK. The guy who let me "help" rebuild his 55 Chevy when I was 12 years old and who really helped me keep some pretty tattered old cars on the road in my younger days (rusty TR4 anyone?) Restored a real MG TD years ago and a handful of MGB's, uses the 56 Chevy he restored as his daily driver and is currently restoring a Model A Ford that was built the year he was born. 

Sharing this special time together was priceless.

Thanks, Dad!

On the Road Again

It's been over a month since I last updated this project, and what a month it's been! After receiving the car with mechanical, chassis, and body restoration complete, I had roughly three weeks to finish the conversion, wiring, interior, and trim. It was a full time effort to get it all done in time for EVCCON, so I confess that I failed to document what went on, and it was a lot. But I'm very pleased with the finished product!

Photo courtesy of Tim Catellier
My father flew in from North Carolina to attend the conference with me this year and I had every good intention of leaving Austin on Tuesday so we could have a relaxed trip up to Cape Girardeau. I discovered on Monday, though, that air cooling wouldn't do for the Soliton1 controller as it was installed directly in line with the motor's hot exhaust air stream, so Dad and I spent most of Tuesday installing a liquid cooling system. That meant a mad dash of 800 miles in one day on Wednesday. We loaded the evTD onto the U-Haul trailer and set out in the wee hours of the morning.

Barely an hour up the road, a tire blew out on the trailer! We pulled into a rest stop just south of Salado, TX and waited two hours for a service truck to bring a replacement tire up from Austin, but U-Haul came through and put us on the road again. The rest of the trip was uneventful and it was great having Dad share the driving load since I'd had precious little sleep the week before. I drove the last shift into Cape Girardeau and ran through a pounding thunderstorm. We arrived at Jack Rickard's EVTV shop at around 8:30 with a half inch of rainwater standing on the floor of the evTD. A bunch of guys pitched in to wheel it off the trailer...

 ... and find me a mop so I could swab the decks!

Happily, the conference was held at the Show Me Center, and that allowed room for the cars to be displayed inside. I parked next to another classic replica, the SunJag, and the room was filled with forty or so great looking conversions. 

 Several folks have commented that the build quality on this year's cars was up a notch from last year, and I was proud to count my evTD among them.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


The evTD came home today. Robert wanted to buff out a bit of the paint on the front fenders that he wasn't 100% happy with and wound up buffing out the whole car and waxing it for good measure before he delivered it to my garage. It's gorgeous!

Robert installed the hinges and latches for the hood and deck lids and the fit is perfect. It took no small amount of finesse and skill to turn what was clearly a home-built kit into a hand crafted custom.

The doors also are correctly aligned and close with a solid factory "thunk" instead of the somewhat askew, not quite right "clink-jingle" they did when I got the car.

The spare tire mounted to the rear deck is real and secure. It hides the air vent for the motor compartment.

The motor and controller look like they were meant to be here. There was a small amount of trimming required to clear the Impulse9 motor, but it's not visible when the deck lid is closed.

All of the batteries are installed and secured. All that remains is for me to finish the traction pack and 12 volt system wiring, then install the charger, DC/DC converter, aux battery, dashboard, lights, mirrors, windshield, convertible top, seats and interior. All in two weeks. And leave time to shake-down any issues with the driveline and get it inspected before we load it up for the trip to Cape Girardeau for EVCCON 2012. You may not see any more updates between now and then, but I will do a video walk-around once we are finished, so stay tuned ...

Friday, August 31, 2012

Controls and Boxes

The mechanical restoration is complete and it's time to move the chassis back over to Robert's shop so he can build the bodywork onto this platform.

Ready to load on the trailer for the short ride.

It will be much easier to complete the mechanical controls before the body goes on, so we spent the better part of two days shortening and adjusting the clutch cable ...
... and devising a mount point and cable routing for the accelerator to throttle pot connection. We also replaced the steering coupler disk and added a short throw EMPI trigger shifter. That required extensive rework of the shift rod, but it now shifts crisply without the slop of the worn original shifter. 

We're paying attention to the aesthetics and details to make this a professional looking conversion. Here is the final installation of the new pedal cluster and the brake line all tidied up and tied down. I have a fresh handle and boot for the parking brake that will dress it up as well.

While Robert reassembles all of those beautifully painted body parts on the chassis, I'm doing some prewiring for the traction pack.

Due to the space constraints, these components were scattered all over the eBugeye wherever I could find a few spare inches. Given the luxury of a second chance with a bit more space on the evTD, I decided to modularize the supporting circuitry wherever possible.

The positive box contains the emergency contactor, 10 amp 250 volt DC fuse and inductor to protect the charger and DC/DC converter, and positive run fuse. The positive wires from the DC/DC converter and charger will connect to the right side of the smaller fuse.

Credit goes to Steve Messerschmidt at Rebirth Auto for supplying the schematic and illustration for this which I freely plagiarised.

Similarly, the negative box holds the shunt for the JLD404 Intelligent Amp Gauge and the fuse for the negative side of the pack. The negative wires from the DC/DC converter and charger will connect to the far side of the shunt. Note that in both boxes I used a braided battery strap from the web store. The braided strap gives flexibility to deal with slightly differing heights and angles in the connections and should carry much more current than I'll ever need. I'm currently thinking these boxes will be installed under the seats to get them out of the way, but readily accessible.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Pace Quickens

It's been a long time since we've updated the project, but it's not for lack of progress. Getting the e-Bugeye ready to ship took some of my time, but Robert, Keith and Bob have been full steam ahead. Let's start with the body:

Robert has completed the painting and started a trial fit of all the body pieces in his shop with fender welt cut and in place. I couldn't be more pleased with the finish and look of the bodywork! Here are a few more views:

The color shifts somewhat depending on the brightness and background. The actual color is closest to what you see on the rear clip here out of the direct sun.

Robert has sprayed the inside of the hood area with bed liner and the bottom of the fenders with black undercoat for quieter ride and protection from the elements. The contrast is very effective and will provide a great base for the red accents of the interior and grill.

Final adjustments to the doors and fenders will have to wait until it's mated to the chassis and all the weight of the battery packs and motor/controller are in place.

Meanwhile, the chassis has been at Pro Automotive and Keith and Bob finished out the mechanical prep work so Robert could caulk and spray the chassis with bed liner on top and undercoat beneath.

The front end received new disk brakes, wheel bearings, master cylinder, shocks, and tie rods.

The rear also got new brakes, new half shafts with CV joints and boots, and new wheel bearings to go with the freshly rebuilt transaxle.

All of this prep work led up to the motor installation. It is such a pleasure to have the right tools available to make the job so much easier. 

The Netgain Impulse9 motor on the transmission jack made it a simple matter to install the clutch pack working at a comfortable height. With the clutch installed and a fresh release bearing in the bell housing, it was a breeze matching the height of the car on the lift to the motor on the transmission jack.

The motor just slid into place and locked in beautifully.

Now it's my turn to get to work. The Helwig H60 brushes came in a separate package. The H60 is about 2.5 times harder than the original brushes and features a split brush design, four leads instead of two for higher current ability, a mylar sheath on each lead to avoid case shorts, and a closed terminal connection for maximum seating area. The result is lower carbon dust, longer life, and better commutation.

The H60s are very easy to install, especially since the car was on the lift and adjusted to the optimal working height. The original brush is on the left and the new Helwig H60 is on the right.

The rest of the afternoon was spent installing new clutch and accelerator cables with the guide tubes that go with them. Tomorrow we'll install the new trigger shifter and the tricky little nylon bushing that goes with it.

The chassis will be ready to acccept the body and we'll have something that starts to look like a car!