|Alex Smith's Vortex|
|Vortex Discussion Group|
Vortex 3-wheel Vehicle
17' Wind Turbine
Bradly GT II Kit Car
1966 Ford Fairlane GT
Xantrex XW Monitoring/Logging Software
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Have the right tools
I highly recommend that if you don't have a small pancake air compressor and brad nail gun that you seriously consider purchasing one for this project, otherwise you will need lots of clamps and work in smaller stages until clamps become free!!! In the end it saved me an enormous amount of time and greatly speeded up the assembly of the chassis...
Part of the right tools is the use of respirators, eye protection, and tyvek cover alls!
The Vortex plans outline the basic tools that are needed, be sure that you are more than competent in using every one of them (and probably more), if not comfortable using it then plan to out-source that portion. You will probably need to purchase some tools unless you have a fully outfitted shop.
You need a proper work space
This project needs approximately 2x the size of an average car, you can do it with less but will be constantly tripping over parts, tools, whatever. If you attempt to do this in your living room and are married then you probably will not be for long (married that is). Wood working will stir up saw dust, fiberglass work causes real bad fumes, grinding fiberglass makes a mess, and welding causes sparks!
Before you start welding be sure that you have a good flat table to work off from. I have a metal table that was left at the house when I bought it, it is not very flat so what I did is to lay on top of it a large piece of 1/2" thick aluminum plate. It makes a good flat surface to work off from, you can also use this technique with a wood workbench, just make sure that it is stable. You can clamp your parts directly onto the plate to help hold them as you are welding, use a carpenters square to setup the parts and don't count on the cuts being real accurate, this way you can also ensure that when you are done it is flat and square.
How long will it take/cost
Two areas are easily overlooked:
Talk to someone that has built a house or done major renovation or built a similar project. It will *always* take longer and cost more than originally thought/planned, hopefully not much more, but probably... One good thing about building your own vehicle is that the total cost is spread across the span of the project so lots of money is typically not needed up front.
If you are either married or in a serious relationship - one side factor is the amount of time required may impact your relationship. You will have to decide what percentage of your available free time will be suitable for commiting to the project and how much to the relationship, allowing some give and take. With any luck you will have as understanding wife as I have!
Know when to out-source work
Another note that I would like to say before you go on; 95% of these types of projects are started and never completed by the original builder. A lot of this is due to the fact that the person can easily get overwhelmed by work. It is very important to know what your strengths and weaknesses are *prior* to starting a project of this magnitude, for those areas that you need help - GET HELP! It can make the difference between floundering in a project for 5 years or getting it completed. There are 2 areas of this type of project that can quickly either make it or break it; welding and fiberglass work. I highly recommend that unless you have the necessary skills that you outsource it to a competent welding shop and/or fiberglass shop. Obviously any out-sourcing will drive up the cost of the project, but it can be the difference between completing it and not!
Know when to farm work out! After all how many of us have a fully equipped machine shop at our disposal?
Join various discussion groups, have a buddy/relative that can help? Talk to any one and every one that might give helpful information.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Be sure that you can read blueprints, understand all aspects of the project, and plan for contingencies. What features or creature comforts do you want to have? Do you have any special needs that might require plan modifications? If so how will it effect the safety/reliability of the vehicle not to mention styling as well as the trickle-down effect on other aspects/dimensions? How can you build a safe vehicle and reduce maintenance down the road?
Lots of people start out this project accumulating parts before committing to the build phase. I decided upon the major components up front (chassis mods, front suspension, steering and engine) dove into the project and purchased the components just prior to my needing to incorporate them into the build. There is no right way to start out but I believe that at some point in time you have to draw a line in the sand and just dive in, in the end it's really up to you how to proceed.
Set some target dates/milestones
Right up front set some target dates to use as milestones. Initially you will have *no* idea of how long it takes to get you to a certain point. But after you get started and comfortable with your skill level go back and readdress these dates to bring them into more realistic expectations. Life gets in the way sometimes and perhaps you were a bit optimistic, but keep reviewing where you are in the project and try to keep it on track.
You ARE going to make some mistakesNo one is perfect - you're human (maybe you better check!), don't kick yourself too bad. Pick up the pieces, learn from the mistake, evaluate where it went wrong and maybe take a different approach. Sometimes the obvious really isn't after all...
Have funAfter all isn't it one of the reasons that we start projects like this? If it begins to not be fun - then there is little likely hood that you will complete it! There is very few sections (chassis being one of them) that you can always change or add after words, start with a minimal set of requirements and later on expand on them later, the sooner that you get into the vehicle the more that you will want to change/add things. If you use a little bit of fore-sight you can make those later modifications easier to implement!
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