LeMons Arse-Freeze: Year Two


This year’s Arse Freeze-A-Palooza is still many months off, it’s true. But in the members of Project Fate’s collective busyness and brokeness, we decided it would be wise to shoot for one LeMons race a year for now- so Arse-Freeze ’09 is the goal. Last year we scrambled to get our racecar ready for Arse-Freeze ’08, with the rollcage, brakes and mad zip-tie work, this year we know where we stand a bit better and want to prepare in advance. So, where are we?

Last year’s racecar, the “Fatemobile Z” ’86 300zx is in Jonathan’s garage in Davis. After finishing the race last year, we trucked it home, dropped it off and left it for a couple months. When we fired it up the again in January or February it became quickly clear that there was no oil getting into the head- along with deathly sounding ticks coming from the top of the engine, you could see through the filler that there was no oil inside. We replaced the oil with a “suicide mix” of synthetic blend, ATF, seafoam, and magic engine oil treatment that was in the clearance bin- to no avail. We did not replace the filter, though.

Fast forward another month or two- yesterday Jonathan and I spent some more time trying to get the ol’ girl flowing. Right off the bat, we replaced the filter and put one of our spare wheels on so that we could take the passenger side of the car off jack stands… just trying to eliminate possible points of failure. Running the engine gave clear indications of different behavior, the oil pressure gauge made it up to the “30” line, although was not responsive to revving, and oil was observed through the filler, seemingly flowing well. We popped the non-filler side valve cover off to check that things looked wet under there too… and they did. It’s nice to know that the valves are getting oil- unfortunately the engine still sounds like crap. It clatters and ticks, and runs really unevenly- sporadically the RPMs at idle will bog, or if you hold the throttle partly open and hold the engine at a constant RPM it will hold for a little while then seem to bog again and sound really terrible. I’m not experienced enough with diagnosing engine trouble to say for sure, but it could very well be misfiring.

And by the way- it’s a good thing we didn’t have a flat during the race- we never really tested our spare wheels… the tires rub against the struts, and with the spacers we bought the lug nuts aren’t long enough to really trust… in my quick assesment. The spare wheels are 16’s from a Infiniti Q45. Nice wheels, different offset. We had no idea how rare 16″ 300ZX wheels were until we found a set, bought them, bought tires for them then tried to find two more.

Jonathan and I checked the spark plugs next, one was significantly loose, one had something funny going on with the threads but more interestingly, one showed no evidence of “burn”- that sort of coating of matte gray soot. The plug wire is well attached on both ends and it definitely has fired in the past, the engine used to run nice and smooth- so— ignition? fuel? compression?
We didn’t get to test for all those things. There are definitely some shady things about that car and it’s wiring, I hope we can get a clear answer next time we work on it.

And what if we find no compression? When I talked to them a bit ago Jay and Nick strongly suggested that we stick with the Nissan- we know what handling problems we need to address with it, it’s generally been quite reliable, and it has the potential to make a really quite good racecar. Plus, building that rollcage really was stressful and an amazing pain in the ass- heavy tough DOM steel + hydraulic bender + notcher + TIG welder operator at work all day and no way to tack weld in her absence + frozen fingers + rain… even 6 months later we can’t forget how big a drag that was. So, a junkyard engine, and an engine swap? Oh gawd do I not want to go there!

For now, let’s go with the other possibility- the engine will fix itself, or just require minor work. Then, we just give the car a nice new paint job, install the $50 Eibach springs Christian found on craigslist, fix the CV joints, replace the fuel hoses, and put together all the lights and sound effects and body mods we never even got a chance to consider last year. Plus, we’ve got a trailer that is pretty close to ready to tow a car on, so we can take it to the autocross over the summer and get an idea of how to drive it cleanly… and faster for the next race. Or, of course, work tirelessly on the engine swap for that shitty car in the Davis 110 degree summer heat. Right.

It may not seem it… but you’ve just got to believe it’s worth it.

And maybe a perfect different new racecar will just appear for us, something that it’s worth starting from scratch… I think I’m going to go up and spectate the Reno race May 23, 24- My dad wants to see what these LeMons races look like.

Posted on April 20, 2009 at 5:24 pm by Henry · Permalink
In: LeMons

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