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Tuesday, September 26, 2006


A short update

Today I stopped by Rockdale Cycle and picked up a side cover for the CX500. Their price was on the high end of what I'd pay for one on eBay, but I had a chance to look it over in person and get it immediately. Still not sure if it was a good deal or not. But it's on there... and there is finally a CX500 badge somewhere on the bike. It's a CX500 Deluxe badge, not quite correct for my bike. But at least it's the right style of side cover (the Standard and Deluxe versions have one style, the Custom versions another).

And I got the ECU mods done to the Megasquirt that I need for an HEI ignition. Tested it on the Stimulator and it seems to be working all right. I had actually sort of wondered if the input circuit would still work with the Stim, since the HEI mods involve a fair amount of changes there. It turns out that it doesn't seem to make much difference as far as the Stim is concerned.

The freshly repaired LC-1 arrived today. Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to wire it in place and crank the Dart up!


Saturday, September 23, 2006


Installing an HEI ignition on the Dart

Back when I was trying to run a carb with a turbo, the system's biggest weakness was that whoever had initially prepped the carb didn't know what he was doing. But the second biggest issue was getting the timing right, something I would have had to tackle if I ever got the carb in tune. I had bought a used MSD BTM off eBay, but it turned out to be broken. So I didn't have any way of backing off the timing under boost.

With Megasquirt, I can put the spark under computer control. While the V3 board has built in spark features that let it act as an ignition module, I have a V2.2 board. So I decided my best bet was to use a Lean Burn distributor and a GM 7 pin HEI module. Well, actually, it was an HEI module made by Standard Motor Products, so I hope this won't be quite as offensive to Mopar purists as the Ford throttle body.

I completed the underhood wiring today, including swapping out distributors. I guess I've had a bit more experience working in cramped conditions than when I first started working on the Dart, because I remember the last time I had the distributor cap off, I couldn't get one of the clips on without removing the oil filter. It's one of the few things I don't like about the slant six, the way they crammed the distributor into such an awkward location. I also put on an Accel Super Stock coil.

Now all I have left to do with the ignition wiring is adding the mods to the Megasquirt itself.

Still waiting on the LC-1 to get back - I've got an email from Innovate that it's in the mail.



Is this the ancestor to the CX500?

Found some interesting speculation on Chopper Charles's Honda CX500 and GL500 Forum. Seems that there was a Japanese company called Marusho that built a line of V-twins in the late '50s and early '60s that have a very striking resemblance to the CX500. The styling is different, to be sure. But they've got a transverse V, shaft drive, pushrods, and even have the cylinder heads twisted a bit so the intake ports point inward and the exhaust points outward.

Speaking of the CX500, I had a bit of a problem with mine. Turns out when I tried to fix the stuck needle, I put the float in upside down. The result was a bike that either wouldn't run or only ran on one cylinder. I got that fixed today.


Monday, September 18, 2006


I hate it when I do that.

I was getting ready to ride my bike to work for the first time in quite a while, when I made a dumb mistake. I got it out of the garage, got off it to close the garage door, only to realize I'd forgotten the sidestand. It fell over, and when I got the bike back upright, it had gas pouring out of the carb overflow any time I opened up the petcock. Now, I don't particularly like tuning carbs, but I know a float problem when I see one.

Fearing the worst, I took the Nissan to work and tore into the Honda's carburetor when I got home. The float didn't show any signs of damage, and when I put it back together everything worked fine. Quite a relief that this didn't cost me anything besides a little time.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


The CX500 is back together.

Well, I got the CX500 back together and running. The turn signals took just a little troubleshooting - I hadn't realized that the black wire on motorcycle turn signals is also grounded. And I put the Emgo fairing on. I wasn't particularly impressed with the quality of this fairing - there was one spot where it looked like a worker had grabbed it before the plastic was cool enough to handle, some of the windshield mounting holes did not line up with its windshield, and the Emgo stamping was crooked.

Not that the brackets I'd jury rigged were much better, as the fairing doesn't quite look like it's on there straight (Note: Even if I did have standard Emgo brackets, I doubt they would have fit a standard CX500. The headlight mounting screws are in a really weird place.). Oh well... like I said earlier, it's a beat up old bike and I don't really have to care about it looking perfect. Here's a few pictures of how the CX500 looks now as a cafe racer. Well, sort of a cafe racer - for the complete look I'd want to switch seats and remove the luggage rack, but this bike is meant to be practical if nothing else.

The EMGO fairing on a CX500CX500 cafe racer?


Thursday, September 14, 2006


CX500 progress, and another announcement

Got a bit of work done on the old Honda CX500 today. I attempted to complete the re-wiring, getting the new turn signals connected and making up for the splices the previous owner did to install the Windjammer. I think I've got it right, but I will need to test it. Other things I still need to do include replace the choke cable (I picked up a new one today at the Honda dealer - the aftermarket doesn't have any, as it turns out.) and find a way to put the Emgo fairing on.

It would be nice to be able to ride it to work tomorrow, but it looks like that wasn't to be.

However, this time I have work to ride it to, for a change. I've just taken a job with DIY Autotune, and I'm starting tomorrow.



I wonder if Jay Leno might be interested in this...

Recently, I found a dealer's ad in one of those Auto Mart type magazines where every last picture was paired with the wrong caption. Things like a Mercury Sable being described as a Jeep, and so forth. As Jay Leno is known for showing such things on the air, I've decided to mail it to him. I wonder if he'll use it?


Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Vin Diesel makes an unlikely muse

It's time for the sixth round of the AWChain. In the last link, Andrea Allison of Southern Expressions writes about motivations for writing. She comments that if all one can think of when one wakes up is writing, then writing is what you should do. Well, I'm not sure if I could pass that test - what I wake up thinking usually depends on what I can expect the day to have in store. For example, I have an interview tomorrow - I'll probably have it weighing heavily on my mind when I wake up.

My inspiration - if it could be called that - for taking writing seriously is a rather amusing one. I'd written some books as a kid that never got past the first chapter. What got me to try taking writing a bit more seriously was, of all things, watching The Fast and the Furious when it came out. This movie did for technical accuracy what Ed Wood Jr. did for continuity editing. I laughed at quite a few scenes that were supposed to be serious.

The plot and characterization were equally bad. I know what you're thinking - what guy criticizes a car movie because of those? Traditionally, a car movie can get away with characters who have as much depth as a piece of sheet metal. But they still need to do things for believable reasons. It just wouldn't do, for example, to have Sheriff Buford T. Justice suddenly deliver the keynote address at an NAACP conference without a very compelling explanation as to how he'd changed his ways enough to get an invitation (Remember, "Who's the sheriff here, boy?"). The ending of The Fast and the Furious left me completely puzzled as to why Paul Walker took the actions he did - no real forshadowing, no explanation, no nothing. I left the theater thinking, "I could write a better car movie script than that!"

So I tried.

And wound up with something long and unfinished, and now most of its gags are hopelessly out of date. But once I'd opened that valve, I couldn't get it closed. I started writing some other things - first a book on car mods (now on its second draft) and now a fantasy novel, plus this blog and some articles I've pitched to various magazines. It's addictive.

Up next is Organized Chaos.

Here's a list of all participating blogs:

Just a Small Town Girl
A View From the Waterfront
Southern Expressions
Mad Scientist Matt
Organized Chaos
At Home, Writing
Writing From Within
Pass the Torch
Fireflies in the Cloud
Sounds of Serenity
Kappa no He
Infinite Vanity
Gillian Polack
Of Chapters and Reels
Curiouser and curiouser
The Road Less Traveled


Time out for some plain old mad science

You may have seen the Mentos and Diet Coke explosion videos going around the Internet. Whenever you drop Mentos into Diet Coke, it seems the Coke goes flat. Instantly. And all that carbon dioxide has to go somewhere - whether it's spraying the soda everywhere, or if you put the lid on, blowing the bottle to smithereens. Well, now someone's done a proper study of this.

The Disgruntled Chemist: Diet Coke and Mentos: An Experimental Study

Namely, they've tried to see how the brand of soda, the container size, and the brand of mints affects the reaction. While the soda brand didn't seem to matter, it seems you need as big a container as you can find, and Mentos work a lot better than anything else. The Disgruntled Chemist also included a link to a very crazy video that shows two British guys horsing around with thermite. At one point, they use it to destroy a derelict car.

(Found via The Road Less Traveled.)

Monday, September 11, 2006


CX500 progress and setbacks

Owning a beat up old bike does have its advantages. For one thing, you don't have to make repairs pretty or "correct." You just have to make ones that work reasonably well. Allow me to present the turn signal mounts I came up with, made from aluminum extrusions and held together with sheet metal screws:

Fairing with signalsSignal mount detail

On the downside, I managed to break the one cable that I didn't replace, the choke cable. Looks like I need to order a new one of those too.


Saturday, September 09, 2006


Turbo slant sixes on YouTube

Found a couple of videos of Austrailian turbo slant six mayhem online. Start here if you want to see it. There's not any underhood shots or technical details, but they have some crazy burnout videos and drag racing footage.

Friday, September 08, 2006


I wonder if this has anything to do with Erin Brockovich?

Remember the movie about Erin Brockovich's lawsuit about hexavalent chromium? Although some people have argued she should have been the villain, there's no doubt that a lot of people took notice of that $333 million settlement. Perhaps that may explain this warning label I found today:

A possible carcinogen?

The warning label reads, "WARNING: This product, contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects (or other reproductive harm)." And that warning label is on a chrome plated socket wrench adapter. I'm completely puzzled as to how this is likely to be a threat unless somebody eats the adapter, and even then I'm not sure how much of it would be digestable. The only thing more puzzling about this warning label is why its writer thought there should be a comma between "product" and "contains."

So the Erin Brockovich theory may be a bit far fetched, but that is definitely one hard to explain warning label.



Junkyard finds

Today I went to Pull-A-Part. The two things I hoped most to find were connectors for the HEI module and an axle for the Nissan. While I found the former without too much trouble, they didn't have any new enough Pathfinders to have a suitable replacement axle.

While I was there, I scored a couple other interesting finds. I'd heard on the Grassroots Motorsports message board that one of the most popular cooling system upgrades out there is the fan from a Ford Taurus. It looks like the second generation models are the ones to get the fan from, as the fan these cars use is a pretty thin design, but powerful enough to cool a car that doesn't look like it gets that much airflow.

An unwritten rule of Pull-A-Part is that if you ever spot a front mounted intercooler, grab it. Even if you have to borrow a few tools (To the guy in the yellow shirt - thank you!) to remove it. This place charges less than $10 for an intercooler, so even if you don't need one, you can sell it on eBay. So when I found an MX-6 Turbo that still had its intercooler, I couldn't pass it up.

There were two other parts I had hoped to find but wasn't able to. One was a high output alternator with the right sort of pulley to fit the Dart's V-belt. While a lot of modern cars have high output alternators, most of them use serpentine belts, and I'm not sure what it takes to switch pulleys. The other was a lightweight starter. The Nippondenso starter used on later Mopar trucks will bolt right onto a slant six, weighs a lot less, and won't get so close to my turbo, either. But I couldn't find a suitable donor in the yard.


World's ugliest weld

This was supposed to be a turn signal mount for the CX500 that I was building out of aluminum C-channels. I tried to braze two pieces together using an oxygen / MAPP gas torch. Unfortunately I seem to have used too much heat and it looks like I just might have welded it instead of brazed it. This joint didn't hold up too well, so it's time for Plan B: come up with something I can hold together with sheet metal screws.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006


The Megasquirt mindset

I once saw a Linux fan with a T-shirt that read, "I'd rather spend half an hour going through source code than a whole hour waiting for tech support that isn't." Well, I've taken a class or two in programming, and found I have a marvelous talent for creating inexplicable errors. While there is no excuse for providing aweful tech support, the average owner isn't going to buy a computer with the goal of learning to be a programmer. Not anymore, at least - that may have been true back in the days when computer magazines distributed programs as source code typed out on the paper instead of on a CD-ROM.

Nor do most people buy cars with the goal of learning how to be mechanics.

With Megasquirt, though, I think it's safe to say most people who buy it either are fuel injection gurus or want to become one. The official FAQ includes the comment, "MegaSquirt requires, and develops, a number skills that other aftermarket ECUs don't require. Some would see the as a bonus, others would see it as a detriment." However, you don't really need to be a guru when you start out - I hardly knew much about soldering when I ordered my kit, and couldn't tell a VR sensor from a Hall effect sensor. But between the Megamanual, the Megasquirt Forum, the Megasquirt 'N' Spark page, and the experience from building this kit, I managed to pick things up as I went along.

Now I've noticed there is something of a difference in the way Squirters tend to approach troubleshooting compared to people who have other brands of aftermarket EFI. I've been following along with a guy on Slantsix.org who is trying to troubleshoot an Accel DFI unit (not to mention having to deal with a dead LC-1 controller) and it's really quite different from Megasquirt troubleshooting. If an Accel ECU breaks, you can send it back to the factory for repairs. After a while, it'll come back in the mail, perhaps with some explanation of what broke, but not much in the way of specifics.

But if you break a Megasquirt, there is no warranty covering it. The usual thing to do is to take it apart, bench test it, look for anything burned out, and ask for help on the forum if you're stumped. You can pay to have someone fix the Megasquit, but only as a last resort. It certainly is a lot more work on your part.

While it may take more work, though, there are some real advantages. For one thing, there's no shipping, so if you are a good troubleshooter you may have the Megasquirt up and running again much sooner. But what may be the most important advantage is that it's often possible to know just what failed and why. With all the documentation open to see, you can figure out precisely what circuit blew and often make an educated guess as to why. Not only that, but you can change the Megasquirt itself if the problem was inside the unit. Whereas with the DFI system, Accel didn't even have a pinout of the connections on their website. I couldn't quite tell if the owner had wired his ignition correctly or accidentally fed 40 volts AC from the Mopar distributor into an input meant for 12 volts.

So, is Megasquirt better? The answer is, "It depends on what you want." Buy one expecting it to get instant results may lead to disappointment. But if your goal is to become a fuel injection guru, it's a good way to learn.


So the LC-1 is officially dead.

I just got off the phone with the tech support at Innovate Motorsports. They asked that I send my wideband oxygen sensor controller back to them so they can fix or replace it. Looks like I'll just have to pay for postage, even though I've had the LC-1 for over a year.

In the meantime, I've got the Honda's clutch cable installed. Still got to get the original style lights wired up before I can take it back on the road.


Monday, September 04, 2006


CX500 progress

Did a bit of wrenching on the CX500 this morning. I managed to get the throttle cables back on. Now I've started on both installing the clutch cable (the old one was partially melted on an exhaust pipe) and removing the Windjammer. So the bike's still apart. I'll have pictures once I get it back togther - which may be sometime tomorrow with a bit of luck.


Sunday, September 03, 2006


Throttle cables

The CX500 had been sitting a while, since the Dart's been getting a lot of my wrenching time. Well, a friend of mine called this afternoon and wondered if I could come along on a ride tomorrow. So I tried replacing the throttle cables. Turned out to be rather involved; I had to remove the seat and the gas tank. Right now I'm about halfway through. Doesn't look like I will be able to come along on that ride.

By the way, if you're ever changing throttle cables on a CX500, don't put the carbs back in place until after you have both of the cables hooked up at both the handlebar and the carb ends. You'll save yourself a lot of trouble, as I've found out the hard way.

Tomorrow I may just go ahead and try to remove the Windjammer too.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Not good...

Today I tried to connect the laptop to the wideband oxygen sensor controller. The controller wouldn't even talk to it. Looks like my LC-1 is completely dead. I guess I'll have to send it back to Innovate and see if they can repair it. I don't want to try tuning the Dart without it. Too bad they'll be closed until Wednesday.


Friday, September 01, 2006


More progress - it moves under its own power now.

Today I chased the threads out on the throttle body with a tap and put in a socket head screw in there to give me some idle adjustment. Cranked it up and got it to idle at a steady 800 RPM in Park and 500 when it's in Drive. So I backed it out of the garage under its own power.

Now, as this car has been sitting in my yard for quite some time, it was absolutely filthy. So I went and washed it. I'd been looking forward to doing that for a long time. Here's a few pictures.

Unfortunately, it's not quite ready to take on the road yet. My oxygen sensor doesn't seem to be working, and I will definitely want that to tune it.


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