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As of last weekend, the race car and most of my racing equipment has been moved into its new home–I’ll post some pictures once the garage is set up.  One of the lessons that I learned from my previous garage experience is the unexpected compromises that can appear when you’re trying to save money on a place to store and work on a race car.

The garage where I’ve kept the car for the last two years was more of a converted woodworking shop, but initially it seemed like it would be perfectly fine for a Formula Ford.  The floor was plywood, and age had taken its toll, but I thought that replacing the damaged parts would get it in good enough shape.  Not so…  It turned out that the shop had no ventilation whatsoever, and no vapor barrier between the dirt under the floor and the plywood.  I bought a humidity gauge, and discovered that it rarely dropped below 75% during the warm months, even if it hadn’t rained for over a week.  Anything that I put in the shop that could rust started to do so in a matter of days.

So, lesson learned.  For the last year, I kept most of the parts from the car (including the frame) in my basement, which is a constant 40% humidity thanks to a good dehumidifier.  To keep the shop at the same level, it would have taken 3 or 4 dehumidifiers and the electric bill that goes with them–too much for me.  I’m just glad to put these issues behind me and concentrate on the car again.

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For the past few months, the project of rebuilding my Swift DB-1 has ground to a halt.  Trying to get work done in my basement–because my garage is unheated and has a variety of other issues that have made it a challenging place to work on a race car–took me only so far.  And with spring coming, I really want to get back on track and start reassembling the car.  So…the project is moving to a new workspace:

A proper garage, with enough space for a Formula Ford and everything that goes along with it, plus a concrete floor in excellent condition.  All things that I didn’t have until now.

Not that I haven’t gotten anything accomplished in the last few months.  Most of the parts that needed to be rebuilt in some way or another are now done, and I’ll post some details soon about what I had done.  For now, though, I’m looking forward to moving the car to its new home in a couple of months.

According to the buzz on Apexspeed.com, Ford Motorsports showed a mock-up of a replacement block for Kent engines at the Performance Racing Industry show last month.  The first time I heard that Ford might be making replacement blocks was earlier last year, when the SCCA was condsidering the Honda Fit engine proposal.  It’s good to see that Ford is continuing with the idea even though the Fit proposal was approved and the class is now officially known as Formula F.

I haven’t been able to find any details about the block on the Ford Motorsports website, but it’s supposedly going to be available this summer.  If so, that might change my engine plans significantly.  My engine’s block and crankshaft have a lot of time on them, and I’m concerned that the block may be cracked.  Yes, a hairline crack can be repaired, but if new blocks were available, I’d start fresh with a new block and crankshaft, and re-use most of the rest of the parts that are in my current engine.

At the moment, in order to cut the cost of rebuilding my Swift, I’m thinking about rebuilding the engine myself–it’s not a completely crazy idea, I’ve rebuilt engines before and spent some time working for a professional racing engine builder.  But I haven’t opened up an engine in over a decade and I’d have to buy a lot of the gauges and other specialized tools that are necessary for the job.  For the moment, I’m not making any decisions, but I’ll be watching the news from Ford Motorsport over the next few months as the time to start the rebuild gets closer.

During the last month, and during the month to come, I’ll have shipped so many parts from my DB-1 off to various places to be rebuilt, it feels like I barely have a car anymore!  In addition to the brake calipers (which I just got back), the shocks are going to Stimola, I’m boxing up all of the suspension parts to be re-plated, and the shift linkage is at Stonebridge Sports & Classics.  The bellhousing/oil tank needs to be shipped out for repair, and of course the engine is going to be taking a cross-country trip to be freshened.  The rear uprights are on their way to Fast Forward, and I’m still deciding what to do about the front ones.  All in all, I’m spending way more on UPS charges than I ever thought I would in such a short time.

Meanwhile, I just finished a crude dimensional drawing of the belly pan for the car so that I can get quotes on a replacement from local metal supply companies.  In case it’s helpful, a copy of the file is available here.  I took these measurements from the frame with a tape measure, so don’t expect engineering-perfect tolerances.  I’ll post more details once the finished part arrives.

I just got the LD-19 calipers back from Porter Racing, they did a great job.  The calipers were disassembled, cleaned, re-plated, and then reassembled with new seals.  A couple of the pistons had to be replaced too.  Here is the “after” picture of three of them:

Since I’m usually working on the car by myself both at home and at the track, I’m going to replace the standard bleeder screws with speed bleeders.  Other than new brake line fittings, these are ready to go, one more item crossed off the list!

Identifying brakes

One of the interesting challenges that I’ve discovered while disassembling my Formula Ford has been identifying the parts when I need to replace or rebuild them.  The brake calipers, which I’m about to send to Neil Porter at Porter Racing to have rebuilt and re-plated, are a perfect example.

It seems like Swift DB-1 chassis all initially had Lockheed/AP LD-19 calipers in the front and rear.  These are standard issue on many Formula Fords, though some newer cars use the larger LD-20 calipers or the LD-20 replacements made by ICP.  In some cases, though, DB-1 owners have upgraded to LD-20 or ICP calipers for their increased braking force.

Figuring out that my DB-1 still had LD-19 calipers all around was fairly straightforward, since the pads they use are significantly smaller than those on the LD-20–they’re essentially square.  But when I laid the calipers next to each other once they were all off the car, I noticed how much variation there is within LD-19 calipers:

LD-19 calipers

The two on the bottom seem to be the same type, just with the bleeder screw and plug on the opposite sides (for use on the left or right side of the car).  The ones on the top look like they were cast for use on only one side of the car, and the one at the top right was then “converted” for the other side by tapping a hole for the bleeder screw and plugging the existing bleeder port.  Believe me, it looks less confidence-inspiring in person.  I think the top two are going to end up as spares, and I’ll replace them with new ones that Pegasus sells.

I assume that these variations evolved over time, and though I don’t know the history of Lockheed and AP manufacturing them, that probably plays a role as well.  Not surprising, though, that on a 25-year-old race car, some mixing & matching of parts has taken place over time.

On Sunday night, I watched the season finale of the IndyCar series from Homestead Miami Speedway.  It was a great race, and the championship went down to the wire.  Last night, I watched the Grand-Am series finale, also from Homestead.  Even though it finished under caution, the race was just as good, and that championship wasn’t decided until the last laps either.  (Congrats to Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty, and Bob Stallings Racing by the way–I’m a huge fan, and was on the edge of my seat for the whole race!)  And later this week, I’ll watch the American Le Mans Season-ender on DVR as well.

Three of the four racing series that I watch regularly are done for the season.  The fourth, Formula One, only has two races left.  For me, especially in a year where I personally sat out of racing, the offseason is something I don’t look forward to.  It’s more than three months until the 24 Hours of Daytona, and not only is there no good racing fix to be had in the mean time, I have to stay motivated for the very long to-do list on my Formula Ford.

Last year, I buried myself in work to get through the offseason, and as a result got very little done on the race car.  This year, I’m going to try something different.  Since my goal is to have my car ready for the first New Hampshire SCCA regional next spring, and there are dozens of things I need to do on the car before reassembly can start, this weekend I’m buying a dry-erase board to put in the garage.  It’s going to have to fit every task that needs to be done between now and the first shakedown laps on the car, so this will be a LARGE dry-erase board.  But I figure the best way to keep myself motivated is to never forget how much work there is to do.

There’s one other aspect of staying motivated: when the weather gets cold, I find it harder to go to the gym regularly.  (Isn’t it easier to just put on a layer of food-based insulation and hibernate?)  Other than having to fit into the same firesuit next year, I’m still working on the strategy for not letting my fitness slip.  If I figure something out, I’ll be sure to share it…