Thursday, December 23, 2010

Now that's more like it!

Wow. Suddenly it's all coming together.

Yesterday I adjusted the clutch (remembered to take a torch so I could see what I was doing this time). Big improvement in driveability - clutch pedal doesn't take up so much space, and the takeup in the throw is much less. Could probably go another few mm, but will leave it for the moment.

I also spent ages fiddling about trying to measure the wheel alignment. Camber was no problem - improvised straight edge plus tiltometer on my old iPhone. Castor was hard - couldn't get sufficient access to do it by distance measurements, so in the end I balanced the iPhone on top of the uprights and checked the readings. I couldn't get consistent numbers, but the trend seemed to suggest that there is a fair amount of castor, and that just possibly there's more castor on the right than the left. Toe I needed an assistant for, but to the naked eye it looks like there's some toe out at the front. Need a proper alignment to check all these things.

The real improvement came, however, from checking the tyre pressures. What a doofus - when I put the tyres on three weeks ago, I mislaid my gauge, and therefore relied on a service station gauge to set the pressures. Finally found my gauge yesterday, and it turns out they were all about 5 psi under what I thought they were. Set them all to 32 psi and the car was transformed.

Last night I took another run up to Kinglake, although this time we went the other way - up via Hurstbridge and St Andrews, back through Whittlesea. With the increased tyre pressures the steering came to life - I could feel everything the car was doing, and it turned in beautifully. The suspension is really working well now. You can feel small bumps, but they don't unsettle the car. Even big ones aren't too bad now that the car doesn't bottom out.

With a passenger in the car it became obvious how much quieter it is with the new diff - we could have a conversation at 100kph, which previously was almost impossible. Hugh found a piece of spider gear in the sump of the old unit, so it was definitely time for a change!

Going up the Diamond Creek road was interesting - we were being harried by a group of big bikes that would have liked to get past. I tried to let them by before the really twisty section, but only half of them made it. After that there was nothing for it but to push on.

The road is very narrow (with marker posts right at the edge of the bitumen), and not a good road for driving fast on if you don't know it, so I left some margin, but the car was really good and very smooth through the corners. A lot of the bends are "point and squirt" because the posts stop you from clipping the apex, and the car was fantastic braking hard for those and then punching out again in second or third. On the tighter ones the bikes couldn't stay with us because they couldn't get enough lean, but they were much quicker through the fast corners.

There was one occasion when I realised the corner was tighter than I'd thought, and stayed a fraction later on the brake to scrub speed. There was the slightest of chirps from the inside rear as we turned in, and the car went round as though on rails.

Once we got past Kinglake, the car was awesome on the fast sweepers. It felt very sure footed, and again was telling me what it was doing through the wheel and the seat. A wonderful feeling.

There are still things to do. There are some slight clunks from the front when the suspension goes into droop at slow speed - lower wishbone bushes would be my guess; the car is still slightly inconsistent right to left; the back still doesn't feel as planted as it could - trunnion bushes maybe?; and I'm going to replace the thermostat today and see if the temperature becomes more consistent.

However the Ricciardi is now approaching what it should be, and it can be used with confidence as a fast road car.

Big, big "thank you" and shout out to Hugh and the guys at Monza Motors - they've done a sterling job sorting the car over the last few weeks, and putting up with innumerable calls from the owner with questions and requests. It's been a great effort, and it's reflected in just how good the car now is (now, about that speedo cable...).

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