Thursday, April 29, 2010

I met an interesting character earlier tonight

I was looking for an alternator for the Miata as the one in it has bearings that are getting ready to go south. I found a private sale on line and the seller gave me the numbers on it, so I Googled it and the numbers matched the model of alternator that I wanted.

He was nearby, so I went to pick it up at well under half the going rate.

Seems the guy had purchased a building from an estate or something and it had been a rebuild shop and the building was full of stock and tools so he was selling the stuff off for a few extra bucks.

Anyway, in the shop I saw some kind of home made vehicle that looked like an oversized and very overpowered go cart with a free floating cage the passenger sits in and brake rotors on either side to control the pitch axis of the cage.

Now, I have a curiosity regarding garage projects and have seen quite a number of them over the years, but this one was a real doozy.

The guy explained to me that the car was designed to be able to hit a brick wall at 60 mph with the occupant being subjected to fewer than 10 Gs.

That’s when my curiosity got the best of me and I asked how it worked. Inside of less than a minute, I was overwhelmed by the amount of math and physics that he threw at me and I was sitting next to his computer looking at graphs and charts and listening to a dissertation of cycloids.

A cycloid is defined as the path of a point on the edge of a circular wheel as the wheel rolls along a straight line, or so I was told.

This guy seemed to be into some pretty high end physics and when I asked him where he went to school, he admitted he had only finished high school and was self taught.

I asked him where his blueprints were and he explained that he had built the thing completely by eye. He said sometimes he would ask his wife to sort of help him.

“Here, honey, sit here.” Is the way he explained it, as he showed me how he designed the seat in the cage.

He went on to describe the diameter of the rotors controlling the cage and the idea of weightlessness that an accident would create and that it would be somewhat like being thrown free without going anywhere.

He showed me crash pictures of one of the tests and, looking at the way things went even though something broke, it looked like it would probably work.
Now, I am not a physicist, but I do have a pretty good eye for things and it looked to me like the guy had something there.

He described it as being a lot like the amusement park ride called ‘the Zipper’.

If nothing else, it was pretty good talking to a guy with an idea that was so damned passionate about it.

I asked him what he thought about government regulations and he pointed out that government regulations had run him out of two businesses.

He had an EBay business which he had to shut down because the state demanded some sort of auctioneers license, and he got run out of a mini truck plan because the EPA stuck their noses into his business.

He had one of the mini trucks in the garage and to me it looked like a pretty damned good little delivery vehicle.

Easy to unload, it was a flat bed with fold up sides.

Auto parts and a lot of other things these days are delivered locally with small pickups, and this little vehicle looked like a cheap, economical way to make a series of small deliveries around town.

Maneuverable, small and economical, it looked perfect for local deliveries. He explained that even though the little thing got over 50 mpg, the Feds wouldn’t allow their importation for use on the road. I guess he's trying to sell a few for off-road use.

He also had some interesting ideas with his little cage car, too. He wanted to build it as a series of modules that would be assembled at the dealers and it would allow the buyer to actually build a custom vehicle at the dealers and the dealer would order the appropriate sub assemblies and modules and simply bolt them together.

It is supposed to be totally upgradeable. If you want to swap out power plants, all you have to do is unbolt one and bolt another one right in. I suppose interiors, etc, are the same way.

This guy had an idea, and he’s running with it and time will tell as to whether he’s going to make it big, or if he’s just spitting into the wind.

I assume the latter, but I sure loved his spirit.

“They can take out money and stuff their health care down our throats, but we’re Americans and we’ll reinvent it anyway! We’re in our garages and you won’t recognize things in a couple of years!” he ranted.

Alaska draws crackpots of all sorts and I met quite a number there. He’d fit right in.

One of the things I miss about Alaska is running into them on a regular basis. Meeting his was very refreshing.

I wish him well.


He just sent me an email. The subject line read: I am an American, hear me roar.

The email contained a couple of links to various scientific websites. Interesting.

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