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Old 01-25-2009, 05:55 PM   #1 (permalink)
EV test pilot
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Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Oconomowoc, WI, USA
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Electric Cycle - '81 Kawasaki KZ440
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10 years to build an electric car? - Blog article

I was doing some work on the electric car today.

It got me into a philosophical mood.... and got me in a mode for writing.

Here's the latest entry in my blog..

For years, my fuel economy has been going down.

The first car I ever owned was an '87 Geo Spectrum. You never heard of it? Neither has anyone else. It was a re-badged Isuzu I-mark, a no-frills compact with a 5-speed and a 1.5l engine.

It also got 47 miles per gallon.

Now I have never been a real lead-foot. I try to pay attention to where I am driving, and get there alive. Still, 47 MPG without trying was always pretty nice. The car had a ten gallon tank and gas was just under a dollar a gallon in those days. Sure was nice to go almost 500 miles on never more than $10 at the pump.

When that car finally died...Well it sort of never did die.

My friend Steve had the same car, only two years newer and with the Chevy name instead of the Geo.

This was right after Steve had finished college for computer engineering, and was now off to his corporate job. That also meant buying a "real" car.

On his way to the dealership to trade in the old Spectrum, the hood flew up, smashing the windshield. He pulled over, tied the hood down to the car with some networking cable, and drove right back home. The car was now worthless.

It sat in the parking lot of his apartment complex for a year or so, right up to the day my old car's engine quit.

When he heard of my car problems, (and typical lack of funds) he immediately offered to sell me his old car for nothing more than the cost of the new battery he put in not long before the hood and windshield became such close friends.

So now I had two cars. One with no engine, and one with no windshield or hood. It only made sense to move the hood and windshield from the older car to the newer one.

The hood was easy. Undo four bolts, move the hood, put those four bolts back in. Not bad. The brown hood on the white car looked pretty funny, but nothing a can of spray paint couldn't fix. I also moved a few interior panels form the old car into the new one. The brown plastic didn't match the gray plastic of the newer interior, but having rear speakers in this car felt pretty luxurious.

Moving a windshield would prove to be much more difficult than moving a hood. Difficult enough that I decided to call the pro's.
In one phone call, I had arranged for "the guys in the little red trucks" to come out and remove the shattered windshield from the '89, then pull the good windshield from the '87 and put it in the '89. We agreed to $100 for this service, and that the window repairer would bring with their least expensive windshield to fit the car in case the old one cracked during removal, as they couldn't guarentee that wouldn't happen.

That Saturday morning, two glass installers showed up, said hello, then got to work on the car. I was amazed at the array of specialized tools these guys had. Hooks and picks and wire saws. Things to pick away caulk. Suction cups on sticks.

It took these two skilled men FOUR hours to accomplish the transplant. In the last 3 hours, I could see them checking their watches and glaring at each other. It was obvious that they had not planned for it to take that long.

When they were finally finished, the senior installer printed an invoice on his portable truck computer printer, angrily crossed off the printed-out numbers with a magic marker, and wrote $100 in their place.

I handed the man my hard-earned $100 and bid him good day. Through the black marker ink, I could read that what the cost would have come to was close to the neighborhood of what I originally paid for my old car.

The old car was dragged off as a donation to the fire department, to be cut to pieces in practice of passenger extraction and "jaws of life" training. At least it still had some use in it.

But now I had the REincarnation of my first car. It was given a fresh body and VIN, but still had the same soul. In fact it had more character than ever, with it's patchwork of tinted and clear glass, gray and brown interior and brown and white skin.

That car moved sofas, attended drive-in movies, and logged tens of thousands of miles on the road. It got me to work, and drove me to meet my girlfriend.

The new "reformulated" 10% ethanol was mandated by law in my area. Fuel economy in my car dropped from 47 mpg to 30, although it did eventually go back up to 35. That's still better than anyone else I knew, with the exception of a friend or two with a Geo Metro.

Of course, it wasn't a new car, and Wisconsin's salted winter roads took its toll on the car's body.

The whole underside of the car started rusting out. The rocker panels were just about gone. So, it was time for me to try some body work. I made new rocker panels from some long strips of aluminum. I ground down rust and bondo'ed holes in the body. It wasn't pretty, but at least I did it my self. I was proud of my work, worts and all.

Still, it would be great if there was some way to camouflauge the poorly finished bodywork. By now I had bothered to paint the hood white to match the rest of the car. As images of army camouflage whirled in my head, I looked at the white car and realized there was only one thing to do.

Paint it like a cow....


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Last edited by bennelson; 01-25-2009 at 08:51 PM..
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