Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bad Hands

One of my favorite things about gymnastics is swinging around on the uneven bars. Unfortunately combining another one of my favorite things with the uneven bars does not make for the best situation. While weight lifting, working on cars and swinging on bars has built up tough calluses on my hands, swimming seems to keep a lot of moisture in the skin, like pockets of water under the calluses. That makes for a lot of bad rips. I file down the skin but it only slightly prolongs the period I can swing before a rip. I would absolutely love to be able to spend more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time playing on the bars. I can only do so many kips before missing a piece of skin from my hand the size of a quarter, much less attempt to do a toe-on shoot to the high bar or even a giant. Maybe I need to more finely sand the leather on my grips... they are pretty rough.

I attempted to get a picture of my palms. However, it is rather difficult to get the camera to focus and have two free hands to photograph. I settled for one hand, but the details are still fuzzy. The shadows of old healing rips can't been seen too well and my latest rip, underneath the middle finger, doesn't look like much. It is sufficiently deep though as a rather thick bit of skin came off. I know... so lovely right. Sometime I wonder if people notice when I shake their hands.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Chevrolet Cosworth Vega

Like many large corporations GM asks its new employees to become familiar with the company's history and product lineup. That means the GM web is vast full of interesting information, and I am actually supposed to kill time browsing through it all. However, of course I got myself off on a bit of a tangent focusing on the history of small projects I find fascinating. One such project is the Chevrolet Cosworth Twin Cam Vega. Not only do I like limited edition vehicles, but Cosworth USA happens to be located just around the corner from the GM facility at which I work. I also have a few friends that work over there. In fact this blog post is inspired by a recent post made by Cosworth employee, Eric Hsu, on his blog.

To me it is no surprise that the Cosworth Twin Cam Vega came to fruition during the tenure of GM General Manager John Delorean. Delorean had a hand in some of the greatest designs to come out of General Motors. He was always the type of engineer to not compromise his vision just because it did not mesh with what was considered publicly acceptable. That also led to his ultimate demise in the auto industry. Anyway I digress...

In 1969 GM had the plans for the 1971 Chevy Vega in their sights. The vehicle was intended to fight the small imports beginning to invade the United States. The engine was to feature a new block design. An all-aluminum, high silicon content, 4-cylinder engine block. Keith Duckworth of Cosworth fame was approached with the design to detect interest in a possible racing application, he was intrigued. By 1971 Cosworth began testing their first editions of the race engine. It wasn’t long before inherent weakness in the engine block lead Cosworth to develop a street version of the engine as opposed to an all out race application.

The Cosworth Twin Cam Vega engine featured a DOHC 16 valve head developed by Cosworth of course. It also had electronic fuel injection as opposed to the standard carburetor. It even featured a stainless steel exhaust header. Unfortunately the engine’s performance was significantly hindered by then new CAFÉ standards and EPA requirements. The power output was only 110 hp.

The car itself had unique features. It came in only black with gold striping and gold cast aluminum wheels. It had special interior trim such as instrument bezels, steering wheel, serial number plaque and limited fabric choices. The total production run was only 3,508 vehicles with a rather different marketing approach. The slogan for the Chevrolet Twin Cam Cosworth Vega was, “Cosworth, One Vega for the Price of Two.”

More information can be found at The pictures also belong to the GM Archives.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

New M3

The above image is a picture of a blue 2008 BMW M3. I spotted it tonight on the 405 freeway while heading to gymnastics after work. The first thing I noticed was the quad exhaust tips. That immediately clued me in because I knew it certainly wasn't your typical 3-series. Then I noticed the distributor plate. I tried to get a better picture, but a Civic got in the way so this is all I got. The driver was just cruising along at a moderate pace so I couldn't hear it at all over the growl of my own exhaust.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


A friend keeps text messaging me today with the current temperatures in Chicago. Apparently it has been as warm as three degrees Fahrenheit to as cold as negative three degrees Fahrenheit. That is also before any wind chill gets factored in. I replied to his wonderful messages with an image of my freezer because even inside there it is warmer than it is in Chicago. That is why Los Angeles doesn't suck.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

It is always the oil system

The above picture was taken after scattering an RB26DETT engine at Laguna Seca Raceway. An RB26 is an inline 6 engine. That means the oil pan and crank shaft are both fairly long. It also means that if you pull too many g's in a corner the oil has plenty of space to go to avoid the pickup. No mater what little tricks are done, like swinging oil pickups, there are situations when the car can pull too many g's for it to matter. The only solution then is to install a dry sump oiling system. Laguna Seca caused a giant hole in the RB26 engine block because it has a set of corners known as the corkscrew. The corkscrew combines steep elevation change along with tight cornering. That means the oil sloshes away from the pickup, thus drying up the bearings, causing at least one to seize and sending the piston and rod out the side of the motor.

When it comes to the lifespan of engines and turbochargers the oiling system is the most important thing. The majority of failures are due to some problem with oil. When you have many rotating parts lubrication is key. I have now learned that even with a shift to electric motors it does not change. Electric motors have losses, those losses come in the form of heat. Therefore the motor still needs to be cooled and it gets cooled with oil. Any issue with the oil system means, motor failure. Pressure must be monitored, or seals could blow. Temperature must be monitored or tolerances will expand beyond spec. Debris must be filtered or lines will clog and metallic flakes will get attracted by the motor's electric field.

Yesterday I started a new job. I am working at General Motors Advanced Technology Center in Torrance, CA. My titles is Mechanical Motor Design Engineer. There is a lot to learn, but it is all very interesting. I am spending a lot of time lately in the motor lab. That is about as detailed as I will get on anything though. I work on the future for the most part and the future is a secret.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Wally Parks NHRA Museum

After leaving the Pomona Swap Meet I stopped by the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. I had been to Pomona quite a few times for events, but had never paid a visit to the museum. Since the swap meet hours went from 5 am to 2pm, there was still plenty of time left in the afternoon.

Inside the museum I found the import drag Turbonetics Inc. sponsored Toyota Celica that was piloted by Matt Scranton (pictured above). While working for Turbonetics I learned a bit about the turbocharger setup that boosted the car to trap speeds exceeding 200 mph. I had forgotten the car was placed in the museum, but when I saw it sitting there I recalled the day it left and peeling decals off of it in the parking lot... This is also the vehicle that earned Turbonetics all the Wallys that got used around the building as doorstops. Well ok maybe just one was used as a doorstop. The others got to sit in a case or on a shelf.

On another note, yes there is a Prius displayed next to the Celica. It was a landspeed car built by Toyota. It holds the title of World's Fastest Hybrid. I'm not sure if anyone else has actually gone through the effort to run another hybrid at the salt flats however, so it can't be much of a record. Although once a class is established, other people always want to break the records. I doubt it will be the last hybrid to run at Bonneville.

Pomona Swap Meet

Today markes the first Pomona Swap Meet of 2008. The swap meet is specifically for "antique" vehicles. Although plenty of newer vehicles find their way in. People flood the gates of the Pomona Fair Grounds at 4 am to setup their vendor booths and show cars. There are rows and rows of classic American automobiles, mostly people with projects for sale. There is a section for VWs and Porsches as well all the typical American brands, but a much smaller area is devoted to them. A few other makes also popped up around the grounds, like some Datsuns and BMWs.

The vendors have loads of crap to pawn off. If you need something specific for an old car that is particularly hard to find, it is a good place to go looking. Not much going on in the name of spontaneous purchasing though, except maybe for some interesting used tools. No one seems to be trading or buying too much today. Mostly people browsing and hanging out.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Too Many Prius

Abbot Kinney Blvd. is an artsy fartsy street in Venice, CA. The residents of this area hold great animosity towards chain stores. They have fended off the likes of Starbucks, but were finally invaded by the trendy local yogurt chain Pinkberry.

The yoga studio that I regularly patronize happens to be located on Abbot Kinney Blvd. The business fits in with the vibe as it is a different type of yoga. The studio is YAS (standing for yoga and spinning). Its yoga style is known as Yoga for Athletes. It is a fast paced more intense flow of yoga poses that nixes the meditation, Sanskrit lingo and life lessons stuffed down your throat by most yoga masters. I will go more into it in the future.

Today when I arrived at yoga I couldn't help but notice the street lined with Toyota Prius (Priuses... Priui?). I caught three in a row lined up in front of the studio alone, see the picture below. Pretty much around the rest of the area there was about one Prius parked for every two of anything else. I just looove that an area which supposedly prides itself on being nonconformist is packed with vehicles from the most conformist and corporate of all automotive manufacturers. Toyota has publicized their desire to be the world's top selling automaker. The way you achieve that is through appealing to the masses. Congratulations Abbot Kinney, you're fully of hypocritical consumers who try too hard to be different, but fail miserably.

People just need to like what they like. So what if it is trendy, mainstream or mass produced. A mix of all areas/types makes for a much more interesting style than one that is forced by phony rules.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Modded Ferrari F430

Tonight I came home from the pool to find a Ferrari F430 parked in the space next to mine. Lately a Mercedes SL55 AMG had generally occupied the spot, but tonight the Italian stallion paid a visit. I couldn't help but notice the 483 hp 4.3L V8 powered sports car had a little body work. It was outfitted with some accessories from Ferrari tuner Novitec Rosso.

One of the Novitec Rosso sideskirts can be seen above. The wing and rear diffuser are also Novitec Rosso parts.

I chatted with the owner for a minute when he came down to head out. He said he had a lot more toys where this one came from. I then slowly walked away to the elevator just to get a earful of the beast trapped in the walls of the parking garage. It was music to my ears to hear the V8's tone reverberating from every direction.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Orlando International Airport

It takes a little while to get to the airport from the coastal islands of Florida... Since arriving at the airport about 15 minutes too late to check baggage I am now hunkered down at the Hyatt attached to MCO. The airline had no problem taking me from a very crowded 7 pm fight to a rather empty 7 am flight anyway. The Hyatt is an interesting hotel. The convenience of being apart of the airport lobby is nice. There are also random birds in cages on the 6th floor of this place. They weren't very entertaining however.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Windsor Vero Beach, Florida

Today I took a few pictures during the daily morning dog walk. It is my last full day in Florida before returning to Los Angeles so I wanted to capture some details. I took a picture of an interesting flower, then there happened to be a small plane flying overhead, so I got some shots of it as well. The main purpose of my picture taking was to get shots of the pelican gathering that usually occurred at one of the golf course ponds. Across the pond happened to be a Hugh Newell Jacobson designed house so I captured it as well.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Golfing with Dad

Lately we have been dodging rain so I haven't had much of a chance to get in some golf time. My father and I hit a few balls, then hit the course for a few holes to make our way back home. We both had bogies for each of the three holes we played. I have never been that close to my dad's score before. I said that we should just multiply our scores by 6 and leave it at that. I am happy that I can continually improve my golf game without actually practicing very often.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Construction Wandering

I posted this picture from my phone earlier in the day. It received a comment before I could even get around to editing the text of the post. I am currently in Florida at my parent's house here. There is construction going on in the development. The pastime on the weekend is to browse through the new places going up. I have wandered through quite a few of the houses around at some point in time. Everyone around knows that everyone does it. There are only a few architects approved for construction here so people like going and checking out the different floor plans, particularly for places going up designed by the same architect as their own. There are three four Hugh Newell Jacobson houses, but I have yet to see inside any of them. I do like their exteriors though and I particularly like others of Jacobson's houses that I have seen.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

South of the Border, South Carolina

This is what greats you when you cross from North Carolina to South Carolina. It is called South of the Border. They are all about billboard advertising. You see the ads for over 100 miles before you reach the border. Apparently Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke even worked there while growing up in South Carolina.