Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Coop's Paint Blogging

If you haven't checked out Coop's site in a while, you should. Totally fascinating blow by blow of a painting coming together. It appears to be alot of work.

Navarro Auction

Recently, I went to an auction to shutdown the majority of Navarro Engineering. Barney Navarro is staying in the hot rod parts business for his flathead head and intakes, but the machine shop was sold and I couldn't miss it. If given the chance, I would have bought the entire shop and left it exactly as it was but these things can't stay as they are. With the exception of a single paperweight flathead that had been ported until there were big holes into the water jacket, there were not a lot of hard car parts. Save the Rambler 6. I bought the stack of wheels. All magnesium, most knock-off style. The set of yellow wheels were on Barney's Indy entry. One of those wheels is marked Ferrari. Who knows how Barney ended up with one Ferrari Grand Prix knock-off magnesium wheel, but there it is. So, I guess I have to build a race car.

Barney Navarro's creeper has done more, seen more and been under more race cars than I will ever dream about. People at the auction were surprised that I bid up to an astonishing $50 for this beat old creeper, but I figure it is the ultimate hot rod good luck charm.

The fellas at the auction were also surprised that I paid about $100 for this toolbox. They asked, 'What was inside?!'

True, a brand new Kennedy machinst box would cost less than I paid for this one, but this is a time capsule. This is a glimpse into the era of the dry lakes racing heros, to a time when an Indy car based on a stock, cast iron Rambler engine could be built in a 2000 sq ft Los Angeles garage. This tool box should be in the Smithsonian. Unless you come across Vic Edelbrock Sr.'s or Alex Xydias toolbox, I don't know that you could find a better box. I would have paid $100 for that 60 year old Victor torch and welding goggles that are sitting in the top. Though I could not buy the entire Navarro shop, I will never add or subtract anything from this toolbox.

What was inside? The history of hot rodding.

Embarassment of Riches

My neighbor's enthusiasm for my projects would best be described as thinly veiled disdain. They feel I have some sort of junkyard and damn right! My junkyard! A suburban junkyard of unlimited potential for the deep pocketed optimist! Perhaps it looks hastily thrown together, but this is the absolute height of organization. The Model A frame and the welding table sit just outside the garage door swingline and, since everything rolls, my work area is instantly reconfigurable for any circumstance. Even my tomato plant whiskey barrel is on wheels to take full advantage of the sun without restricting driveway access. These are times of great abundance - where every average joe can have a junkyard of their own.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Hooptyrides Store Coupons

Everybody's asking, when is the Hooptyrides store going to be open so that we show our dedication to the Hoopty cause with our open wallets?

Good question. I wonder, too. Naturally, I am outsourcing cause the internet beats me everytime and the hold up, invariably, is my lack of attention to getting it finished. Once again, I blame the sheer number of projects that I have going. Honest, if lackluster.

Frustratingly, I am piss poor at getting across the look that I am after. With each iteration, I would say, 'More tacky! Cheaper! Garish! Like Bozo's popcorn box under the circus bleachers!' and like any sensible designer - thinking I was intoxicated - they kept returning nicer and nicer work. So, I mocked up this terrific confection! Why I'd buy anything the fellow was selling! Lead me to your snake oil, kind sir!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

No User Serviceable Parts Inside

Everybody's asking, what with the pinball machine, Make welding article and giant ipod, where are the heavy metal, dirty fingernail, gritty car projects for which Hooptyrides became famous? Progress is the natural enemy of having 1000 active projects.

Consider the pictured combination fuel pump/fuel sender unit from a 2000 Chevrolet pickup truck. The gas gauge started acting perquacky and, considering I am a lazy person by nature, I asked the Chevrolet dealership what it would cost to replace. $800. And because I am cheaper than I am lazy, I decided to replace it myself. The part was $500-600 from Chevrolet and $259 from my local auto parts store. For the same exact Delco component. For those that have never had to remove a gas tank from a car, the fuel pump sits inside the tank to pump fuel to the engine while the fuel sender 'sends' a resistance value to the fuel gauge to record tank level.

Now, only the fuel sender unit was faulty. The fuel pump still worked like a champion. But you can't buy a fuel sender separate from the fuel pump. It is an integrated component. Looking at the fuel sender, it is clearly designed to be removed and replaced. And to prove my point, I did remove it. It took longer to get the pliers from the toolbox than it did to disassemble.

Sometimes components fail and you have no idea way, but in this case, the cause of failure was obvious. There were two little metal tangs that glided over the PCB resistor contacts and one of them had broken off. This is clearly a component designed for a short life. The metal tangs were very fragile looking and considering they were a) under pressure and b) moved whenever gas sloshed in the tank, it was only a matter of time. Seeing how fine the tangs were, I was surprised to it had not failed earlier. A quick Google search proved I was just lucky that it lasted as long as it had -- it is a very common problem.

So, what happened? I bet Chevrolet specified that the fuel sender unit would be removable. Perhaps they were planning to offer it as a separate SKU. And why would they want to sell it separately? And make less money?

Dale Dougherty wrote a great piece in the current Make considering what makes a product Maker friendly. This is something that I have been thinking about since building the World's Largest Ipod, as I was frustrated that the MacMini is sealed box. The Apple techs open it with some sort of special putty knife. Getting inside an Ipod is even worse. For all the props that Apple gets for their elegant industrial design, would it kill them to put four screws on the bottom? Would that harm the aesthetics so greatly?

With the rise of DIY, hardware hacking and the rise of basement tinkerers, perhaps this is the time to demand our rights to truly 0wn our equipment. It's like DRM. When I pay for things, I want to own them. I won't buy Itunes tracks, because I find it offensive that I need to learn and play by a set of arbitrary rules foisted upon me. Just as I am able to play 8 tracks and 78 RPM records, I know that I will always be able to play a CD, but I don't have that feeling when buying an Itunes track.

Similarly, I hate not being able to get inside my MacMini or Ipod. To not be able to get inside, to not have schematics and to not have the required special tools, is to give up a critical piece of ownership. To be Maker friendly or hacker friendly, also means that you have a servicable platform for repairs.

Mr Giant Ipod used a 1970s Sansui vintage amplifer. It was not by accident. I had originally purchased a garage sale Sony bookshelf system as it was compact, appeared to be in good condition and had all the original manuals. As garage sale risks go, it looked good but it turned out to not work. Naturally, there was no schematic in the manual, so I threw it away. By contrast, every Sansui amplifier I have bought has a manila envelope on the underside marked 'Schematic' and everytime it has had the schematic inside.

So, what does all this have to do with Chevrolet and the fuel sender unit? Obviously, I believe components should be available at a granular enough level to be able to make repairs at reasonable prices. Ideally, you would be able to buy those little metal tangs, but I would be satisfied to just be able to buy the sender unit. But, what really got me riled up? To remove the gas tank required SAE standard AND metric tools! This is not uncommon. I don't think any modern American car is held together with solely SAE standard fastners anymore but it is hard to see a reason for it other than laziness on the part of manufacturer. Don't think GM could specify only SAE or metric?

What would a 0wner's bill of rights look like?

- Metric or Standard, not both
- Fuses accessible from outside the case
- Schematics included
- Housings/cases should be user openable without special tools
- Meaningful parts lists with an order form - instead of just specifying bolt, note the size, thread, etc.
- Special tools should be available - I am not anti-progress or anti-engineering and I recognize smart engineering of new solutions may need new, proprietary tools. The Model T required special tools, but they were included with the car.
- Torx fasteners are ok but unless there is a good reason, tamperproof is not ok
- Replaceable batteries
- Replacement components available that are fix what fails, not more. I.e. fuel sender failure does not necessitate fuel pump replacement
- Helpful information on the circuit board - like commenting code
- Output voltages marked on power transformers
- Never a 'No User Servicable Parts' sticker

Have other ideas? Send em to me. I will blog a new list.

The days of the Color TV tube tester at the drugstore are gone, but why give up control of what we buy?

Confessions of a Lousy Solderer

Another photo of Captain Fantastic? Big deal, right?

Big deal indeed! Shooting down the playfield is the chrome pinball of progress! The trashcan Captain Fantastic pinball machine works! There are still a few minor issues, like four-player games are mandatory and the playfield needs to be cleaned then waxed, but the big game stopping issues are resolved and it plays great.

As soon as I fixed one problem, there were six others waiting for me. After working on the machine for about 12 hours and fighting previous repair attempts, I was about to throw my hands up in resignation, but I took the night off and asked a few questions on pinball usenet group. With some invaluable advice, I hit the machine the next day and got it working. A manual or schematic would have helped.

Although the electro-mechanical pins are extremely complex machines, they can be deciphered with patience. Without the benefit of digital electronics, the old pinball machines are able to keep track of score by player, number of balls per player, very complicated scoring rules and all sorts of special game conditions - like, score 300 points if your ball rolls down this alley, unless that gate is open, then it is only 100 points and the gate only opens if you hit those five targets. And it does all of this 'visibly', as you can see the playfield switch trigger cause a blue spark at the relay, which advances a solenoid that moves the selector to the next position. Once you learn how each components works, you can follow problems backward to the source. Sounds easy.

I am a lousy welder, a terrible solderer, a barely passable shadetree mechanic, perhaps the worst body and fender man ever, an awful electronics technician, a notoriously bad wood worker, a crummy seamtress, a brown thumb, a kitchen hack and my VCR blinks 12:00. While working on Captian Fantastic, I was shocked once, burned the hell out of my finger with a soldering iron and disassembled the 1-4 Player Selector four times before I got it working correctly.

Despite all that, today when I installed the correct fuses and played a game, I was the incredible edible egg! King Tubby! I was Prince Albert IN THE CAN! Perfecto Garcia!

Of all the excellent internet pinball advice, ignore this tip.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Bookmobile on Ebay! Jalopy Decimal System!

Rather than Ferraris and Porsches, I would fill my dream garage with ice cream trucks, carnival rides, Helms bakery trucks, funeral flower cars, Mercedes Benz ambulances conversions by Binz, Unimogs, doodlebugs, flathead four powered log splitters, Cadillac El Caminos, passenger buses from India, Airstreams, Model T fruit trucks, farm equipment, hit and miss engines, Spartans, aluminum bodied mail trucks, dragsters, utility trucks with cherry picker baskets, Aeroflots, diamond plate F-350s with welders on the back, tear drop trailers, well diggers and, most favorably, bookmobiles. I would collect houses and skyscrapers but that would take up too much space.

The bookmobile is really quite practical. Think of it as the mobile solution to adding a room to your house. Rather than build a stucco disaster, keep adding vehicles like a mobile Winchester Mystery House. This bookmobile is the finest example that I have seen in years of looking. The skylights, the acoustic tile ceiling, the multiple work surfaces, the slanted shelves for spirited performance driving and that darling banquet in the back for taking in the daily newspaper.
Naturally, I would make a few upgrades to create a more homey environment for long rainy days re-ordering the Dewey Decimal system. A taxidermied two headed calf, a 1/4 scale model of a1918 Curtis OX-5 engine, a small aquarium of piranaha, a display dedicated to the evolution of the slide rule, some pencils, a bound run of Harper's Bazaar, a Franklin stove, a kettle, an oil painting depicting the 1860 steamboat race between the Natchez IV and the Robert E. Lee, a wax model of the head of Martin Luther King Jr., a representative collection of early netsuke, a Winchester '73, a magic lantern to show Victorian glass slides, a live scorpian, a microscope and a small humidor. Just a few things to make it comfortable. Aesthetically, the exterior needs nothing but the interior would benefit from a few William Morris rugs and gas lighting fixtures.

Also, astute viewers will note a new logo for Hooptyrides. Luckily, Coop has been digging into his collection of old photographs and has been designing new Hooptyrides logos. Lucky, indeed!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Tin Lizzie Auto Parts for Sale!

Hemmings Motor News is the absolute cornerstone of automobile passion. Printed on newsprint, packed to the gills with teeny advertisements, hyperbole abounds and thick as a phone book making the September Vogue look like a mere pamphlet. I like to imagine that there is a more obsessive person in the world than myself. Some sort of cigar chomper that reads it front to back, every word, every Bantam, Autolette and Packard ad examined and absorbed.

I maintain that change is generally for the worse. My own prejudice, sure, but generally the new hip thing is worse than the old, shop worn, tried and true, venerable item that it replaces. And Hemmings has changed over the years as the endlessly mess with the indexing. And the line drawing cover has given way to fire engine red photos. I can't blame them for trying to better their situation, but they must realize that Hemming's readers, perhaps more than any other defined group, oppose change. Still, Hemmings is indispensable.

I read the same sections every month: Pre-1916, Racing and High Performance, Street Rod and Custom, Trucks and Commercial, Bugatti, Duesenburg, 1964 Chevelle, Ford 1903-1931, Oldsmobile, Hudson, Mercedes, Automobilia, Employment and Business Opportunities and Not Auto Related. Generally, though I am extremely passionate about automobiles, Not Auto Related is my favorite section. Airstreams, Aeroflots, Spartans, mechanical musical instruments, wood Chris Crafts, diners, kiddie rides, slot machines and, most importantly, real estate ads for giant garages with modest homes attached.

But this month's best ad was from the business opportunities section. Tin Lizzie Auto Parts in Des Plaines, Illinois! In business since 1965 and it looks like much longer. Up to the eyeballs in old Ford parts, but it is the building and interior that is so compelling. A 1904 walnut interior, stained glass transom, tin ceiling, rolling library ladders, an 1884 Wooten desk, a Columbia rear end, NOS fenders, a barber chair and, almost as an aside, 1600 Chicago street paving bricks.

This is the sort of place that I could bring my dogs everyday and just be grouchy. Refuse to sell anything and assume every customer was a criminal. With an interior this rich, you really would never have to leave and could refine your anti-social skills to a razor's edge. From that rolltop desk, you could become the person that reads Hemmings cover to cover. With the Complete New Yorker coming out on DVD, why would you ever leave?
You could drink 100 cups of coffee a day at a desk like this.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Free is Cheaper than Cheap!

Use to be a time when a fellow could ship some hogs to Portland, get a Buick dealership, order six cars, print up some giant embossed aluminum business cards and open the finest garage in the West. We always thought Hooptyrides was the finest garage in the West but after seeing this operation, I am not so sure. Note the Buick, Dodge Brothers or Peerless automobile going in the west side of the building and a similar vehicle exiting on the east side.

From the Twin Falls Local Newspaper Index, Twin Falls Library, 1909:

Twin Falls, shipping hogs to Portland. 1/22/09-5 Visited Buhl. 1/22/09-8 1/29/09-11 Has agency to sell Buick cars. 2/19/09-8 Buick article. 3/19/09-7 Six Buicks arrive; purchased Alcazar rink building for garage. Will also open hardware store in Boyd building. 3/26/09-5 Record run home from Salmon River; 36 miles in 1-1/4 hours. 4/09/09-1 Constructing garage for car repair. 4/23/09-5 Planning new store. 6/4/09-5 Stock arriving. 7/16/09-5 New hardware store opened. 7/30/09-5 In Buhl. 12/24/09-4
That clip reads like a damn novel! March 19 six Buicks arrive, a week later Carl sets a record drive from Salmon River and he begins constructing a car repair garage two weeks later. What did you do this month?

Now, I didn't pay a penny, a nickel or a dime for that embossed aluminum plate. It was being trampled under a bunch of old papers in the garage and the owners were surprised that I had found it. They turned up their nose when I showed it to them. They acted like I was trying to hand them a turd. I paid $1 for the Redington Counting Machine and the Lind Automobile advert was thrown in. And, yes, the Redington works swell.

Used to be a time you could have a pretty good counting machine concern in Chicago, Illinois. Or could be in the hog and Buick business. Visit Buhl in January and open a hardware store there before the end of the year.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

MegaGiant Ipod - Before Picture

The big ipod turned out to be more popular than anything previously Hooptyrides. Integration of high tech hardware into an old radio cabinet more interesting than junk cars? Hard to imagine.

Yesterday, I was interviewed by the jokesters at yourmaclife.com and gave away the MegaGiant Ipod secrets. Check it out here!

Holy King of Neptune Exhaust With an Oil Cooler Front Porch Spoiler!

Whenever I am feeling down, I just open this link. So sidesplittingly funny, so heartfelt, so aesthetically preposterous, so obsessively obsessive, it is impossible to not feel immediately better about your own bleak situation. A couple weeks ago, Coop sent me the link and I can't stop looking at it.

There is more space behind those fenders than the average Tokyo apartment! You could raise chickens back there! Clearly, I need to immediately cut some vinyl stars for the Hoopty fleet taillights.

Perhaps the finest automotive archive ever, this extremely generous fellow covers the Japan autoscene for almost 20 years. The main page is here, the gallery here. His profile is just more question marks for westerners, so I will call him tanetane92, based on the URL. I got sucked in by the 2005 Tokyo Auto Salon photos that feature ridiculous vehicles like this ivory turd, but the true gold is not in the arena, but outside in the parking lot.
I hadn't blogged it earlier, because where do you even start? And why isn't there an adirondack chair on that front porch?
Is that a skateboard ramp? Imagine the down force. It's a good thing that car never drives over 45 MPH as that rear spoiler would certainly flip it on it's ass.
At first, it is all rib tickler giggles. Then, it all starts to make sense. The oil cooler hoses through the red high beam headlight bucket right above a highly polished spoiler - that is cool as hell! I would be lying if I didn't admit that I started searching for a Honeybee.

The first sensible aftermarket exhaust tip I have seen.
Awwwww! Let's get asphixiated, baby!

Clearance Light Fetishists

Think you have seen it all? Not impressed by giant fiberglass spoilers and exhaust tips that reach for the stars? Well, you are truly good and dead if you are able to resist the art trucks section of tanetane92's archive of Japan transportation.
While in Japan, I saw more sedate versions of these Main Street Electrical Parade mega-trucks and thought they would make the ultimate mobile bar. Broadcast a pirate FM radio station message with the back alley location, arrive with the lights off and flip the switch as you open the rear doors to reveal a clearance light encrusted semi-truck trailer secret bat cave bar!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Pinball Update (of sorts)

The greatest thing about the internet is it lets obsessives be obsessive with the camaraderie of other obsessives. Well, I still haven't done so much to the Captain Fantastic, but I've received lots of advice and pointers.

As Jeremy pointed out, in reference to my using Lubriplate on the solenoids:

Note that pinball machines are generally "dry lube" devices - any solenoid
in it shouldn't be lubricated.
So, that was a mistake. But you know, I always like to bum rush the show and just, you know, jump in, get electrocuted, what have you. When I disassembled the scoring wheels, I was able to free them up so they are operating again. The Captain still doesn't 'know' the wheels are reset and a pair of relays still oscillate wildly behind the backglass as the scoring motor runs and runs. I need to stop waiting to find a schematic in the trash.

Then, there was the email from Chris - the grand master of the zip tie and wire loom - and after looking at his photo album of expertly tamed wires, I didn't particularly feel like getting started anymore. I felt more like a nap. It was no accident I didn't show the interior of the World's Largest Ipod.

Finally, I sent an email to Clay of pinrepair.com to compliment him on his fantastic site. He was complimentary about my find and after reading my cavalier exploits with contact cleaner, he sent this sobering tale of not-ordinary fires:

do NOT use contact cleaner on EM games! it is a formula for diaster. i have seen several games BURN all the under playfield wiring due to contact cleaner. i also know a guy that burnt his ball hair because he was working on an EM in his boxers, sprayed contact cleaner on the score motor, put down the playfield, turned it on, and BOMB! coin door burst open with flame burning his nard hair.
What's next? Nude welding? I'll be keeping my contact cleaner in the cabinet and my pants on.

My First (Smaller) Ipod Case Hack

Everybody's asking, didn't you case mod an Ipod previously? Yes. And I blogged it. But, since I am a cheap and easy hustler, I will again. Worth an update as I have a better camera now and it is topical as it was just in Wired magazine. Not with a credit or anything, but it is there.

It's a German police flashlight that I bought at a garage sale. The insides were drenched in leaky battery acid, so it's days of flashlight use were over. When I was stripping out the guts, I realized it was damn near Ipod size. After a quick test fit to confirm it was indeed the correct size, I lined the interior with the playboard from an old 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea boardgame. Because A) I garage sale a lot, B) have flat files and C) am insane, I have amassed stacks of old boardgame boards. Nice dense cardboard.

I had to dremel out the top to allow for the Ipod remote doohickey. The two knobs (to the sides of the porthole) control red and green porthole filters. Who knows why, but they do.

Monday, August 01, 2005

MegaGiant Wood Ipod Eliminates Mugging Threat!

Everybody's asking, why are you so lazy? Why isn't any progress being made on Captian Fantastic, much less your fleet? Are you drunk under a park bench? Why no updates?

It all started when I wanted to hear Dinah Washington's version of Drinking Again. And I hate buying iTunes songs as I know the DRM will eventually bite me in the ass. De-authorizing. Phooey. And why spend $13 on a CD when you could build a wildly complicated mega machine to digitize records? This is what passes for logic at Hooptyrides.

Inside that $15 Farnsworth radio cabinet is a Sansui tuner, a replacement Panasonic turntable, a Griffin RADIO!Shark (not AirShark), an 8 port USB hub, a cheap-o LCD panel, a Griffin iMic, a Griffin Powermate, a Logitech wireless keyboard transmitter, a power strip, a Griffin AirClick, a Sony bookshelf speaker, a Mac Mini and enough patch cables to encircle the world 7 times.

Why build it? Well, everybody needs a garage computer and although it is an ergonomic nightmare, it is a relatively compact workstation. Especially when you consider the lateral real estate that would be required to hook up all those gadgets.

The coolest feature is the legacy Farnsworth radio preset buttons have been converted to operate the Ipod. That is integration! Want to build your own? All the details in a future issue of Make Magazine!