Category Archives: vehicular stuff

Locost, plans to-date

Continued from Locost, part 3.

The same highschool friend that clued me in to Locost USA shares a tidbit of news he got when he purchased a bike engine and transmission for his project: there are some pretty strict branding laws regarding crashed motorcycles in Ontario that mandate damaged motorcycle frames never see road use ever again. Digging around, I find a FAQ at the Ministry of Transportation Ontario regarding vehicle branding that has a pretty damning footnote:

Vehicles branded as “Irreparable” can never be driven on Ontario’s roads and can only be used for parts or scrap. Motorcycles are included under the “Irreparable” category where there is frame damage requiring replacement.

What does that mean to me? Well, that means that if I want to build a Shrike, or any other reverse trike, it means I’d have to do one of two things:

1) Buy a bike that has not been branded, which would mean either a working bike, or a damaged-but-repairable bike.
2) Buy a branded bike, remove everything I need, and build a full frame for the vehicle, replacing the damaged motorcycle frame.
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Locost, part 3

Continued from Locost, part 2.

In building a Locost, you pretty much have to build everything that you can’t use off of your donor vehicle. In general, the most complex area that falls into that category is the suspension, both front and rear. Even with a good how-to, or using someone else’s design, you still have to build it. Ditto with the frame – you need to build the skeleton on which you’ll re-assemble your donor vehicle. However, the idea of building off of a motorcycle gets around a lot of that, because you already have half of the frame, the entire drive train is already mounted, half of the suspension is already in place, and you’ve even got an entire working electrical system that you only need to tap in to. That leaves only designing the front suspension and the frame from where it mates to the motorcycle frame forward. For that much work, you get a vehicle that would be equally fun as a Locost, for roughly half the work. Do we have a winner? Yeah!!
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Locost, part 2

Continued from Locost, the introduction.

I had just joined the Locost USA forums and found not only a wealth of information about building a Locost, but also a bunch of information about building so-called “non-traditional” vehicles. Ooooh! Some of these were Locost-based vehicles, but used a FWD drive train from a donor vehicle placed behind the driver to make a mid-engined rear-wheel-drive vehicle (also known as an MR layout). The alluring logic of that is that, as I’ve noted previously, the number of available FR layout, manual transmission vehicles is extremely small as compared to when (and where) the Lotus Seven was first designed. Being able to chose a vehicle with front wheel drive (FF layout) provides one with infinitely more opportunities in terms of donor vehicles. What’s more, a FWD drive train combines the transmission, drive shaft, and axle into a transaxle, saving precious space and weight on your vehicle. Well, that sounds like a slam-dunk decision, doesn’t it?

It did – until I learned about BECs – Bike Engined Cars.
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Locost, the introduction

When it comes to me and cars, there have been two consistencies throughout my lifetime:

1) I’ve always admired the Lotus Seven, a.k.a. Caterham Super Seven.
2) I’ve always wanted to build a kit car.

More recently, say in the past 10 years or so, I’ve also wanted to build an electric car. When I recently realized that there are plans available – for free, no less – on how to build your own Lotus Seven (know as a Locost – combination of “Lotus” and “low-cost”), I thought, “Eureka! I can kill three birds with one stone! I can build an electric Lotus Seven!” And thus some voracious reading and searching began.
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back from the end of the Blogosphere

I have NOT fallen off the face of the earth. I have simply been busy. “Too busy to blog? Even just a little bit??” Yes, too busy to blog even just a little bit. However, things are moving such that the urge to blog cannot be ignored any longer, thus I will offer up an apologetic and nugget-filled update. (Note that I’m not going as far as promising more regular updates…)
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if you’re keen on something, let it go

It’s been strangely quiet on the AXP front, hasn’t it? Well, it’s not from lack of trying. Just about two weeks ago I did some number crunching, and determined what salary I’d need (approximately) to be able to justify moving out West to pursue my long-dormant ambitions of being an automotive designer (with the added icing of competing in a competition to design a significantly more sustainable vehicle to boot). Salary talk is pretty heavy stuff, but so is moving a young family halfway across a continent, so I figured I’d put it out there, and would either get a “No problem! How soon can you move?” or a “Oh, hey, that’s a bit rich. Thanks for your interest.”

Instead, I got a brief, encouraging e-mail, and then nothing.
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my AXP dream job, continued

The dream is still on, but it’s still just a dream thus far.

I did my “homework”, and decided to give my potential benefactor a call today. We had a great talk, all 45 minutes worth. Most of it was about the combination of design and strategy, but we did get around to discussing what it would take to get me out to work on the team.

There are two factors at play here: salary and timeline. As for the latter, there simply is no chance that we’ll physically relocate any sooner than mid-March 2008. With child #3 due mid-February and the fact that we are NOT moving before Christmas, it’s non-negotiable. That doesn’t preclude me working remotely before then with occasional trips out West, but at the same time there’s no guarantee that the team is ready to start work anytime soon.

The sticky wicket will be salary. According to one online relocation calculator I tried, the new location costs about the same as where I live now. I find that to be total horsecrap, based on what I found on recently. I did a search for homes in the $200-250k range, and frankly was scared at what I found. Starter homes? No way. How about JUNK? One listing – I kid you not – listed a house that was being sold for the land, and stipulated that the house should not be inhabited. Other listings were for sub-1000 sqft homes that… well, that looked like they were well on their way to being sold just for the land under them.

Decent homes? Not sure what they’re priced at. I checked in the $300-350k range, and found some liveable stuff. The $400k+ range certainly has more listings that would fall closer to the “oh, this is NICE” range, rather than just “yeah, this would be OK”. Inexplicably, there are NO townhouses listed. ANYWHERE. You’d think that a place experiencing rapid growth would be all over higher-density housing, especially if it provides more homes on the lower end of the cost spectrum. Weird.

Of course, housing costs will quickly become a large portion of my entire take-home salary. If I can’t find something equivalent to what I live in now for less than double its price, my salary needs are going to skyrocket. (Even at any appreciable fraction over what my home costs now will inflate my remunerational requirements.) So the question isn’t what my salary needs are, it’s how much they’re willing to pay to get me out there.

The way we left it, nothing’s been decided. Based on our discussions to date, it has become apparent that the AXP is not any lightweight competition to enter. You COULD enter a project done on a shoestring budget using equal amounts of fiscal responsibility and genius-level creativity, but you’re not going to win. Any entry in to this competition has to be well-funded with an up-front goal to win, otherwise all you’re going to do is toss money away on a really cool project. If you’re lucky you’ll come away with some intellectual property that could be commercialized, but that should be a side benefit, not a goal. What that essentially means is that the team has to decide whether to step up and really compete, or step back and say, “Hey, that’s a bit more than I can chew on right now.” Go big or go home, truly. If they go big, I might yet move. If not, I’ll probably stay put.

So – more waiting. More thinking and planning. Nothing’s decided, but nothing’s ruled out either. The dream is alive and kicking, but is still in a state of limbo. More updates as they come…