One of my goals with this blog has been to promote the idea that do-it-yourself can mean much more than just turning your own wrenches. Chances are if you truly love this automotive hobby, then you have the ability to take part in the design and engineering process simply through sheer experience and/or enthusiasm. You don’t have to have an engineering degree or be a professional engineer to be effective. We live in exciting times because the world of rapid prototyping is within grasp of enthusiasts. Why is that such a game changer? The old way of doing business that we’ve inherited from the industrial revolution is that of mass production. Come up with an idea for a product and immediately throw a patent on it. Then, refine it so that it can be used by the most people (compromise) and then invest a substantial amount of money in tooling and molds so that you can make a zillion of them to sell to recoup your initial investment and turn a profit. Rapid prototyping uses digital information (CAD models) to power universally flexible machines like CNC mills, CNC routers tables and 3D printers to produce products in single batches. This technology completely diminishes the infrastructure that used to separate having an idea and turning it into a physical product and that’s a game changer. It also allows high levels of customization since production batches as small as one are now profitable. We are on the cusp of a huge paradigm shift in the way a lot of people conduct business. The information age has finally made its way into manufacturing and we are all going to benefit from it. Check out this TED talk to see how open source design and creative commons have changed the world of architecture:
I think the same concepts can be applied to engineering, specifically automotive tuning/modification/hot rodding. I’m working on putting together software, tools and processes where enthusiasts can gather and design their own aftermarket parts to make their cars better. It should be an exciting time for sure, so stay tuned. For now I recommend you check out this book: Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson.
Here’s another story of how amazing things can happen when you build things for yourself. This is Robohand of South Africa. They use Makerbot Replicator 2 3D printers to create prosthetic hands for children born without fingers. Engineering, tinkering and making give you the power to change the world for the better.
Hot Rod Magazine gathers up some of the kit cars available from Factory Five for some testing in Las Vegas. The lineup included a Cobra replica with Ford’s new 5.0 liter Coyote engine, a Cobra with a Summit Racing drivetrain kit, a Daytona Coupe and Ridetech’s ’33 Ford replica. Testing starts at the drag strip and then ends up at the Test Drives Unlimited road course to go up against Lamborghini’s two-wheel drive Gallardo. Can the garage project kit cars hold their own against a true exotic?
We’ve been excitedly following the saga of Russel Sutton’s 9 Cylinder Radial Engine on The Kneeslider motorcycle blog run by Paul Crowe. The project started in 2008 with Russel’s desire to build a radial engine for his air boat. He decided to use 9 removable cylinders from Kawasaki air cooled dirt bikes with Holden Commodore pistons with his custom machined crank case, crank and rods. The last time we checked in with Russel, he had posted a video of the engine starting up. He tried to run it a while with a propeller but was cut short when one of the cylinder liners failed. Luckily the damage wasn’t too bad and Russel set about fixing it.
Now Sutton has got the engine back together with different cylinder sleeves and a much more detailed and crazy test rig for the radial engine. This go around he installed an MSD ignition that would give him a rev limiter and I think he’s pumping external hot water through the engine to heat it up. The crank is now connected to a Toyota Hilux driveshaft which turns a brake rotor from a Ford Falcon. Russel clamps down the brake to provide load for the engine which allows a solid break-in of the piston rings. The radial engine makes so much torque that the brake rotor has to be sprayed with a constant stream of water for cooling. Ultimately the rig looks pretty crazy but it works and more importantly Russel had gotten the engine running reliably. Check it out:
Hot Rod Magazine’s Associate Editor, Jesse Kiser, purchased the magazine’s failed 1967 Chevrolet Impala convertible project car. It was about to get sold off after a bold gamble with the paint color backfired. The video documents the process of using a paint kit from Summit Racing to put a decent coat of paint on the car over the span of one day in a home garage. The end up spraying a coat of sealer, a red color coat and a satin clear coat. It turns out decent and more importantly it gives the car a new lease on life and the owner some DIY pride in the work he did on it.