Monday, July 30, 2012

It was time to build a race car. To do that, we needed...well, a car. Buying a used car is hard, because there are so many available and you have NO IDEA what you're buying. I use a few simple red-neck rules when shopping for cars:

1. Whatever the average cheap price is, there is some poor sucker nearby that will sell it for half that because he needs to pay his rent or his wife needs to pay her Walmart shopping bill. Never settle for buying a regular car at a regular price. I won't pay more than $350 for an MR2 any more.

2. Do some research. Almost every race team I know has bought a car and tried to make it work, instead of figuring out what will work then trying to buy it. For the MR2, we got lucky the first time around in most aspects but were basically clueless. For any MR2 guys looking for hints:

- 85-87.5 have lighter engine internals and in the case of the hard-top lighter chassis...
- 87.5-89 have stronger engine internals, better brakes, better suspension design (different from early cars - won't swap), and more valuable tail lights, interior and accessories (more to sell). The later car is almost always the better bet to buy and there is no price difference in the market as most people don't know these differences exist

3. Show up with a trailer and cash. Seriously. The prospect of getting the heap of car out of their lawn and seeing greens in their hand will go a long way toward convincing a seller they really do want to make this deal.

With this in mind we scoured craigslist for ages (ok, days). Andrew came upon not one but TWO MR2's for $400. 120 miles away in Eugene. With no pictures. What could go wrong?!?

The seller was an autocrosser, and had a very nice MR2 in his garage. These cars were a combination of his pipe-dream ill-advised $0 race car project and a source of parts to keep his hooptie nice MR2 going. The end result was parts missing off both cars in large quantity, and what was there was hacked horribly. And the cars were on logs. In mud.
There was no suspension on the white car. The blue car had 14" honda wheels that were binding on the brake calipers. But, it was a light and fairly clean 85 (white) and a full-of-goodies 87 (blue/silver) for $400, and the white one even had an engine and transmission. Both had interiors of some kind. Clearly there was more than $400 worth of stuff here, so on the trailer they went.
Ok, they didn't actually FIT on the trailer...but TWO cars for $400!!!!
The drive home was slow and cautious, and we only lost three major pieces off the trailer somewhere between Eugene and Salem. All in all, an adventure worthy of a $500 race car

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Those of you 'in the know' will recognize that our actual progress in real life is far ahead of where the blog is reporting. It has taken many months to get the new race car project under way, and I did not want to string posts out weeks or months apart, so I have delayed writing the blog until I had lots to say. Now I face the problem that I have too much to say, and not enough time or audience-attention-span to say it all.

My aim with the Free Range Racing blog is not just to document and share our chronological progress as we strive for greatness, as so many race-team blogs do. I believe this is a journey with many lessons learned, shortcuts discovered, and important ideas developed - and I intend to share them as best my story-telling ability allows. I want you, the reader, to be a better horrible car builder for having perused my blog. As such, I will be focusing on tech articles, how-to's, lessons learned and the like in addition to filling you in on our team's progress, instead of just prattling on like a twit about how awesome our build has gone. As you all know, I will be doing some of that, too.

I hope you both enjoy what I have to say, and learn something from it!

Here is what I have planned in the near future:

- The car buying experience
- Evaluating what you've got, what you don't
- Build decisions
- The first cut is the deepest
- Adding lightness

If you guys want to see or hear something else, please comment up!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A New Beginning

This is Erik Torgeson. I'm going to take over the Free Range Blog and begin posting regularly about my work on the Free Range Race car and team. I hope you'll follow along, enjoy what we have to say, and maybe learn something about MR2's, our team and team mates, and the sport of auto racing.
Every good story begins at an ending, and this is no different. Though what I have to say is sad, it is also a story of hope, resurrection, and a new level of hoon.

The Red and Black Free Range MR2 has been my friend, companion, and mechanical obsession for four years. I have spent time I did not have to spend doing silly and pointless things to that beat-to-death pile of metal. We have gone through seven motors of various power and reliability, countless tires, and (I think) about 20 races. We have had amazing themes including windmills, bubbles and crystals, a flying owl, and a real turbo with no engine management. Many people have taken their very first laps on a race track behind the wheel of the MR2, and the learning curves each experienced showed in the sheet metal. But like every abused, beaten and lovingly neglected car, it got progressively slower, handled worse, and had ever-compounding issues.
The last three races were complete failures. A new team member - Andrew Pierson - and I had foolishly and brilliantly taken on turbo charging the best base 4AGE we'd had since the original motor, because more is more. We worked very hard to build a manifold, figure out plumbing, get bigger injectors, the works. We planned to run it without any engine managment, just tune for stable A/F at WOT and let the rest work itself out.
It was brilliant, and it worked. The car was FAST. Except a few things....the turbo kept falling off the exhaust manifold. And when that happened, bad things happened. At the last race, and ORP Rat Race, the clutch slave cylinder cooked, leaving us with no clutch pedal. Then the gas started boiling in the tank. Then the clutch exploded.

I was done.

So was the car. It was time. It was bent, beat, nothing worked, and it wasn't worth saving. The cage was garbage. The motor was tweaked. It could never win, let alone be much fun. I brought out the sawzall and cut it to pieces, one of the hardest things I've ever done.
I kept the door, I simply couldn't part with all that history completely. I saved Matt the C-pillar with all the tracks we'd raced stenciled on it.
I love the MR2 platform, but the 4AGE simply isn't enough motor to have fun on reliably. With my new race trouble-maker Andrew encouraging me, and Matt laughing from afar, I have begun a new MR2 build. But that is not what this post is about. This post is about saying goodbye to a long-time friend and companion of so many racers.

Goodbye old friend, you are already missed...