Alex Smith's Vortex
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Other Projects:
Vortex 3-wheel Vehicle
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Bradly GT II Kit Car
1966 Ford Fairlane GT
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Dan Lenox's Vortex Build Chronicle (recently renamed: Dummies Guide to Building a Vortex)

It's for Sale!

I have been doing a ton of work in the renewable energy area: wind turbines/solar array/monitoring logging software and need some working capital so that I can take this work to the next level...

So I am selling my Vortex! I am open to offers - be advised that more than $15k has gone into just the parts/components, and that is not including any of my time to actually build the vehicle!

This Vortex is approximately serial #4 in the world according to all the completed/finished/licensed vehicles, more information can be found here

At this time I would simply like to see the Vortex have a new home, and am open to offers.

This website has been created to chronicle the building of my Vortex 3-wheeled vehicle. It should be noted up front that I have modified the original purchased plans - namely increased head room, slight extension to front and used alternate materials. This website and the resulting vehicle does not exactly represent the original.

For those of you that are not familiar with the Vortex here is the: Vortex home page.

At the Vortex discussion group you will find many knowledgeable people that have an interest in the Vortex and similar vehicles. This has been a great source of information and without it the building and completion of my vehicle would have been far more difficult. It is *the* place to go when you need some assistance, or want to provide assistance to others.

Many times I have been advised to remove the full content and sell it on a CD/DVD, but I will not and want to keep this website available to those that have the interest to build a similar project but need a little assistance - my gift to you!

The animated .gif below shows progress literally from the first component till current updates:

Here are some pictures of what the finished vehicle looks like after 2-1/2 years of work, click on any of the thumb nails to see a gallery of pictures:

Welding/Machining Services Available
My metal shop includes a full sized knee mill, lathe, two plasma machines, 75ton Bully iron-worker along with, TIG and MIG welding equipment allows me to assist others with their builds - not to mention a full wood-working shop! If you need welding and/or machining services contact me and we can talk about your project, rates will be very reasonable!

Project name changed
I have 2-1/2 years in building my Vortex project, it has been a great learning experience. Along the way I have made numerous modifications and diverged from the original plan set, some of them necessary for personal comfort, some for ease of construction and some for styling.

I have decided that with these modifications a change in name is necessary it took quite a while to come up with a name that is catchy and meaningful to me, and have decided on:


This name is meaningful to me as the whole project has well been a genesis and transformation during the build period. As the basic project has been completed and has wound down it seems the perfect opportunity for yet another change.

I have put enough of me into it and while the vehicle has and always will be Vortex based, I now claim it as my own...

Dummies Guide to Building a Vortex
In some conversations I was kidding about the amount of detail that is contained in this website and laughingly referred to it as the "Dummies Guide to Building a Vortex" (which is a reference to me and not to anyone else), I think that it is fitting and renamed my site accordingly. Although there are lessons learned that can be applied to any similar type of project and not Vortex specific.

In the beginning...
Back in the 70's I had seen all of the Bricklins, Bradleys and other various kit cars but at the time my financial situation did not allow me the luxury. Then in the 80's there were numerous 'build it yourself' plans available for creating a 3-wheeled vehicle. The initial costs appeared to be low and you could spread construction costs across the duration of the build.

I drooled over them, dreaming of the day that I could make my own - but it did not happen. Now we move 20 years later and I finally have the space, capabilities, tools and knowledge to make one, but do you ever really have enough free time?? So I decided to finally just jump in and stop thinking about it and finally just DO IT!

Back to the present...
Ok some more research first... I had originally purchased the plans for building a TriMagnum in 1983, possibly they updated them during the last 20 years to include new components and techniques - so I re-purchased the plans again. Dissatisfied: received the 'updated' plans only to find out that only the format had changed (from 5 x 7 to 8-1/2 x 11) the content, pictures, components and techniques were *exactly* the same as 20 years ago.

More research... I perused the web to see what other 3-wheeled vehicles were available and ran across the Vortex. To me the Vortex offered a *lot* more than the TriMagnum, however it certainly was much more involved and complicated build. But I decided that I had lots of experience with wood-working (Spinning Wheels), metal working with mills and lathes, and welding. Not to mention a whole shop full of wood and metal working tools from years of projects (lucky me)...

As I pleasantly discovered the Vortex allows you to build the vehicle without either having or settled on a specific drive train (ie motorcycle/engine size), and was originally designed around a Kawasaki KZ750 which output 75 horsepower and according to Stephen Pombo was "plenty fast". Stephen states that the main concerns are transmission (due to the added weight) and cooling in stop and go traffic.

Due to the incorporation of what is referred to as a 'jack-shaft' which allows you the flexibility to swap in or out various engines pretty much at any time. So you can begin with one engine and later put in something completely different - as long as the engine is not over 22" wide. The jack-shaft is essentially an intermediate shaft that utilizes either a chain or belt drive to power the rear wheel, while the engine drives the intermediate shaft (typically with a chain). Side benefits include the ability to change your gearing to have the engine operate in it's better power/torque zone.

Get your hands on as many plansets as you can and study them...
I have also purchase plansets for the Doran, Trimuter, XR3 and Tri-magnum. In the end purchasing planset(s) is one of the cheapest aspects of building a vehicle like the Vortex. In addition it allows you to see comparable projects, various design and construction techniques, they expand your mindset and I *highly* recommend it! The more plansets that you study - the more capable you are of successfully completing your project.

Moving into the future, by remembering the past...
I started the project on December 17th, 2004 and my initial goal was to be driving it by the end of summer 2005 - hindsight being what it is proved that this completion goas was pretty optimistic but it is my *initial* plan. At some point you gotta draw a line in the sand, set some target dates and jump it! Just don't be too upset if you miss a couple milestones... Any project as involved as this one - needs a plan, but expect it to change as time goes on, and go with the flow - be flexible!

Please read the forward page if you have not, and want to start a similar project.
The 'Other Stuff' page contains some important stuff that you might want to look at.

The Devil is in the Details...
This website contains details, *lots* of details! For those of you that are not familiar with the Vortex you may find that there is *too* much detail you might want to stick to the primary pages (links at top of pages) as these pages will provide summary information. However for those of you that are either building a Vortex or contemplating building one then these details will (hopefully) assist you, and the monthly logs will show you my thought process, pricing, build progress and yes - my mistakes as well. I figure that you can learn almost as much from my mistakes as my accomplishments. After all if you build a similar project you will make mistakes along the way, hopefully none of them will be stoppers...

If you are married or in a serious relationship I forewarn you that you will be putting in a *lot* of time on this project, with any luck you will have an understanding wife (such as I have). Obsession is another side effect, initially you can easily be obsessed with all of the details and decisions that have to be made, you will wake up in the middle of the night on occasion and not be able to get back to sleep... This type of project is certainly is a labor of love.

Click one of the links at the top of the pages to see the section(s) interested in. The Log page sections were updated daily/weekly showing costs, progress, insights as well as mistakes that I have made along the way. The intent is for this to be a learning experience for me and hopefully you as well can benefit from it when it comes time for your build, even if it is not a Vortex. I have split up the links at the top of each pages to incorporate major sections of the build that are/will be undertaken. Additional information may be in the individual monthly log sections, but the major sections will certainly contain relevant information - just no to the detail as the monthly logs.

Peruse the site, find any section(s) that interest you and check back for updates as I take you through building my Vortex from scratch and feel free to leave any comments, corrections and/or suggestions!

This website will take you through all phases of construction, from ground zero up through to the completed vehicle. I have purposly attempt to put in as much information associated with each picture so that if you are building (or contemplating building) one then hopefully it will assist you.

There are a number of goals that I wanted to accomplish with this website and hopefully I have succeeded, they were:

  • how much does it cost
  • how long does it take
  • what tools/skills are needed
  • insights and thought process
  • mistakes made

Too many people get stuck in the planning/dreaming phase and never even get started building - numerous projects get started but never get completed and it is unfortunately very few that get anywhere close to being finished. Any project that takes a multi-year timeframe to complete will test you - in many ways and this project was no exception.

Many people are rather reluctant to start on a project of this magnitude, this is due to numerous reasons but one that I hear quite often is that they doubt that they lack the skills to construct - and finish - such a vehicle.

While I have previously acquired a lot of the skills (and tools) to build a lot of this vehicle on my own, I certainly did not have all the skills necessary. You can learn these skills as you go, seek out others that can either do the task (beg or pay them), or better yet take some evening courses at the local community college, or have someone teach you.

If you wait till you believe that you finally have all the skills, then the project most likely will NEVER get started. My advice is to start small, be committed, and learn as you go. I try to put enough informational content in this website so to give you some guidance.

The items that I found absolutely essential are: 1) commitment, 2) time and 3) space.

I am not a structural nor design engineer, the methods, tools, diagrams used/ shown/discussed within this website are what I used building my own Vortex, and as such warranty nothing. Use your own common sense when building your vehicle and if in doubt see a professional.

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