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December 17, 2004:
A bit of polishing tonight.
I put the Seven up on the lift and used it as a lathe. That works pretty well but it's hard to get right in to the corner by the spokes without your fingers going bonk bonk bonk. I don't have the perfect mirror finish yet - it's still more of a satin - but it's looking pretty nice. It's the shiniest thing on the car by far right now! I first hit the spinning wheel with the Scotch Brite bit on a Dremel to bring down the high points. I don't think I can dig it down to the point of removing all the marks but it looks much better. Maybe some coarse sandpaper? The bit was followed with a Scotch Brite pad and then polish, but this still left some "grain". I tried again with 2000 grit wet/dry sandpaper left over from when I finished the paint on the Cadillac then hit it with the Meguiars polish. Much better. I think I need one more intermediate step with something a little more aggressive than the Meguiars but even as it is it would look blinding in the sun.

I added a short short video clip of what it's like to pass on a country road. Pretty quick! The videos are now in a more Mac-friendly format, my apologies to those of you with OS X. This weekend is supposed to be nice, I'll head back out again with the camera.
entry 728

How do you polish wheel rims? With a 130 hp lathe of course!
entry 729
You can see the current finish on the rim along with the worst of the kerbing.
entry 730
Hey, Grassroots put a photo of their car in the magazine with tires that wouldn't clear the fenders.
So I'll go one bigger. Actually, several sizes bigger. That's a Goodyear 23x10 race slick. Nope, it's not even close. I'll need a spacer just to clear the spring.
entry 731

December 18, 2004:
There are so many things I should be doing instead of playing with my Seven.
But I'm not.

The wheels are polished. The solution to the nasty kerb scars was an 80 grit flapper wheel on a die grinder. Overkill perhaps, but it sure did the trick. This was followed with some 220 grit to clean things up, then some coarse and fine Scotch Brite wheels. A rub with a coarse Scotch Brite pad put a nice satin finish on things, then I wet-sanded with 600, 1000 and 2000 grit. Some rubbing compound (the missing link from yesterday), aluminum polish and a final shot with Nevr-Dull wadding and boom! A very shiny wheel. It turns out I started with the worst wheel of the lot. Two had no kerb marks at all and those cleaned up in about 30 minutes. I did all the work with the wheel spinning to avoid variations in the shape of the rim. With the polish, those would have been very obvious.

So after all the polishing, I cleaned everyhing up with brake cleaner, carefully masked the rims and started painting. Two coats of self-etching primer, two coats of the Dupli-Color and then a coat or two of clear. How will it look? Hard to say, I'm heading off to put the second coat of black on right now.

While waiting for paint to dry (how exciting!) I checked a few things on teh car. The connection between the upper control arm and the upright was backing out a bit, so I tightened that up after taking out a bit of camber. I also raised the ride height by about 1/2" to give me some more peace of mind. Just for fun I threw the car on the scales - the cross weights are 50.2/49.8 with me in the driver's seat. Not bad for an eyeball setting, really!
entry 732

The final polish result.
The wheel on the right hasn't been done yet, the wheel on the left is finished.
entry 733
A before and after.
Hmm, the "new" wheels look pretty good.
entry 734
The polished rim is masked off and the wheels are ready for paint.
entry 735
Warming the cans in hot water helps give a better quality coat.
As you can tell, I'm starting with some self-etching primer.
entry 736
Primed, ready for the black.
It's hard to tell what's fresh paint and what's primer!
entry 737

December 19, 2004:
I had to stop in to the garage this morning to see how the wheels look.
It took a fair bit of time last night to take off the masking tape (it wasn't easy to put on either!) and then give a final swipe at the wheels. But a couple of thin coats of clearcoat and now they're done! They look just like I expected which is almost a little disappointing. I expected some radical change but really, they're just black with polished rims. Okay, not a big surprise. I suspect that I would have been more impressed if I'd gone with graphite instead. I think this combination will look better on the Seven though. The finish looks good - I would have been a little upset if a new set of $300 SSR Competitions looked like this, but for a set of wheels that were all banged up and looked fairly crusty it's a major transformation. The biggest problem is the join between the paint and the polish. The line isn't quite razor sharp on about one spoke per wheel despite my care in masking. But I'm the only person who will ever know (well, I was...) because you have to be looking very closely. Overall it was time well spent and I think the car will really look good. It's one step further away from having a recongizable donor. Now all I have to do is order some tires.

One thing I noticed last night when flipping through an old issue of EVO - their R400 was orange with black front fenders and black wheels with polished lips. Sounds familiar although they did paint all the body. And that suspension lift last night seems to have made the car ride better although I'm not sure how much of that is psychological.
entry 738

A finished wheel out in the sun.
entry 739

December 22, 2004:
I'm heading out for the holidays.
I'm sure when I return in a couple of weeks that I'll be full of plans for the Seven. Maybe I'll even order some tires so I can put my "new" wheels on! It'll be quite different than my vacation last year - then I was all excited about the possibility of the frame arriving, now I'm all excited about upcoming track time. It's rather hard to believe.
entry 740

January 4, 2005:
Happy new year, everyone.
As a little present to the car, I ordered a set of Azenis tires for the Seven. As a little present to me, my parents bought me a helmet. No more loaners for me at the track!

I should have the opportunity to get some work done on the Seven this weekend. Plans are quite tentative at the moment as to exactly what will be happening, but I've been eyeing a set of individual throttle bodies that happen to be on the shelf at Flyin' Miata. Ooooh, the temptation. I should also really work on the wipers but the thought of drilling the holes in the scuttle makes me sad. I've also started researching trailers and trailer designs. Can I build a Seven trailer with electric brakes for a reasonable price? Let's see.

Oh, and a new project has arrived: a 1988 Mazda 323 GTX. It's a little AWD turbocharged hatchback that just happens to use the same 1.6 engine as my Miata and the Seven. I now have three very different cars in my garage that all run off the same powerplant. This will be fixed up to daily driver status.

A bit of Googling around the net has turned up a couple of interesting things. Apparently my build was being mentioned by the CMC folks a few months back - you can read about it in several Lotus club newsletters including page 4 of reMarque. I also found that rec.auto.makers.mazda.miata seems to have decided I did my best to build the ugliest car possible out of a Miata. A BMW rebody was viewed as a better choice. I think they got a misleading idea of the size of the car judging by their "expert" analysis. Ahh, nothing like the courage of anonymity. To each their own, I'll wave as I go by.
entry 741

January 11, 2005:
It's been busy at work and the little Seven has suffered.
I've also been working on the GTX to make it driveable. Someday I'll buy a car that I can just drive. Well, maybe.

Things are still happening, though. The tires - Falken Azenis RT215 in a 195/60-14 size - arrived today and were soon installed. Tonight I'll put the wheels on the car to see how it looks. I have noticed that Caterham has a habit of putting wheels with black centers and polished lips on their cars. Of course I was never influenced by that. Testing the tires will have to wait as it's raining and generally miserable here. I'm also considering pulling the head off the Seven while it sits for a while to get the valve seals fixed.

My new helmet has also arrived. I ordered it yesterday from Discovery Parts and it showed up today! Incredible, overnight from Georgia to Colorado. And I choose the free shipping instead of paying for expedited. Now I'm curious - how quickly would it have shown up in that case? Anyhow, it's a nice shiny new Bell M2. I'll spend the evening wearing it so I know it's the right size and comfy. It's already better than most of my borrowed helmets. It's also covered in "MOTORSPORTS ARE DANGEROUS" disclaimers. Well, yes. If I didn't know that, I wouldn't have ordered a helmet, would I?

A side project has been disassembling and "depowering" a steering rack for someone else's build. I didn't document this well when I did mine, so that problem has been rectified! I should have a short how-to available soon. The documentation will also come in handy for another project that's upcoming. More details on that when I have more news myself.
entry 742

My new tires (Falken Azenis, 195/60-14) have arrived and are mounted.
Now if only it would stop raining...
entry 743
Skid lid.
Should I paint it orange? Naaaaah.
entry 744
Taking a steering rack apart to "depower" it.
I'll do a full writeup on this process. It's not for me, though.
entry 745

January 12, 2005:
The wheels on the car.
I am very excited about how this looked - even better than I had expected.
entry 746

January 13, 2005:
The wheels are on the car.
I commented when the wheels were done that they looked, well, just as I expected. Now that they're on the car, they look a whole lot better than I had imagined. I'm very happy about it as I think the car looks fantastic. I'll try to get some photos with the car parked outside although the mud in the back lane is going to make that a fairly messy operation. The car will shortly be going into hibernation for a couple of weeks - the weather isn't good so I'll take advantage of this to pull the head and get it sorted out. Then I can start tuning the car for power without knowing that it's trying to burn oil as well as gasoline. I'm trying to find a good place to work on sorting out the handling. An old airfield would be best so I'm looking around.
entry 747

January 14, 2005:
Knowing the car is in the garage is killing me with our current sunny weather.
The only-barely-above-freezing temperatures do quell the urge to go for a drive when I walk outside. Maybe tomorrow before I pull the head.

I've been concerned for a while with the angles of my rod ends on the steering at full droop. So while talking to my favourite parts yard, I ordered a couple of front uprights from a 2002 Miata. For the 1999-05 cars, the mounting point for the tie rod was moved up 7mm from the earlier design. This might help me enough. They're also unmolested so I'll have the opportunity to use stock ball joints instead of the bolted rod ends I use now - that would completely eradicate the problem. I could also relocate the steering rack but I'd have to change the length. Coincidentally there's a broken steering rack on the way as well that might help me out with spare parts to do just that. It's not bump steer I'm chasing here, it's the stress that is put on the rod ends as the suspension reaches maximum droop. A bit of grinding might solve the problem - more investigation is needed. This way I'll have the parts on hand, and if I don't use them I'm sure another "locoster" would be interested.
entry 748

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