Commutamatic II

development log, part six

in which the cold months send us indoors to improve the vehicle

last updated 6/17/00

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The story resumes now, after a total cost of $2140 and total time of 325 hours, ready to take the vehicle apart for improvements.

December 4, 1999. Capitalizing on this freakish weather... go parts hunting!

I'm after a variable transmission, like the one I had in my HMV Freeway. It was made by Comet, and had two variable-radius pulleys: one driven, attached to the rear wheel by chain; one driver, attached to the output shaft of the motor. These are, as it turns out, standard components in just about every snowmobile anywhere.

To keep a long story short: the snowmobile shop I visited had no junkers, but it was my good luck to happen across Brad's Automotive in Clinton, MA. He had a beautiful Yamaha carcass that he sold to me for a nice price. He even gave me a calendar and a tour of one of the latest two-stroke, multi-cylinder engines. Thanks, Brad.

Back home: took out the components I needed (and some I didn't: tie rod ends and links; you can't have enough of those) and took what was left (which wasn't much) off to the scrap yard.

Total cost so far: $2180. Total time so far: 327 hours.

March 10-12, 2000. Spring is around the corner, so I better get ready.

I have three phases upcoming:
- first, repair a broken weld, reconfigure the battery support and positioning, and change the pivot points of the rear suspension so I can commute once again
- second, install a proper tilt-lock so I can commute AND tilt
- third, work on building a body (lowest priority... especially as the air heats up)

I have been breaking the machine down to achieve item the first above, grinding apart some of the welds, clearing out the tangle of wiring, and picturing the positioning of new structural elements. My goal is really only to achive that first item, the point is to get back on the road!

Too bad today is wet and raw, and in my cluttered garage it's hard to get much done.

Total cost so far: $2180. Total time so far: 329 hours.

March 13 and 14, 2000. Back in the groove.

Last night I was feeling pretty bleak about the whole project. It just seemed like everything took too long, it was grey and cold in the driveway, the garage is a mess, my head was stuffed up and my nose was running, and why proceed, since I have a better design in mind later anyway, and blah blah blah. (Pity me yet?)

Today I went at it with a vengeance. Hammer and tongs! Seven hours with a couple of breaks. Ground out old welds, shortened the frame by 11" and got most of the battery support frames built. What a good day! And tomorrow is supposed to be warmer. Here's to more progress.

Here's the shortened back end and augmented battery box. (Click for an enlargement.)

I have been fussing with the automatic transmission I took out of the Yamaha snowmobile, and it's not looking good: I can't get the drive sheeve off the crankshaft of the siezed and fractional two-stroke engine. I may have to buy another... the good news is that they aren't that expensive, and spare parts are available. Grin. We'll see. Brad (the guy I brought it from) helped me to understand how it should come apart.

Ordered two more Trojan T-105 batteries from Electric Vehicles of America. With the six currently in the tractor (augmenting the snowthrowing capability for winter) I'll have eight matched batts, instead of the six T-105s and two DieHard deep-cycle 12v batts. That's another $140, plus tax, for a total of about $150.

Total cost so far: $2330. Total time so far: 338 hours.

March 15 through 26, 2000. Snatchin' at time.

Twelve more hours. Welded up modifications to the "top frame," the one which stays parallel to the pavement and connects the middle section to the two drive units. I also took a little time to prime it all. (I have, in the past, primed important little bits after welding.)

I also dropped the bottom frame (lives parallel to the top frame) in order to beef up some welds and brush and prime it.

I won't be using that Yamaha snowmobile tranny... I can't get it apart, and I won't spend any more time on it.

I don't know when I'll be able to get back to it... but here's hoping it won't be too long.

Total cost so far: $2330. Total time so far: 350 hours.

March 16 through April 16, 2000. Back to driving!

Another ten hours. I have primed more of the frame and redone much of the high-current wiring. I went out for the first spin of the year yesterday! It's not quite road-ready, as I have to put the brake lights and license plate back on the rear end. I think I may start a new chapter when that's done....

Meanwhile, I have spent another $45 in miscellaneous hardware, paint, and other little supples.

Total cost so far: $2375. Total time so far: 360 hours.

April 17 through June 14, 2000.

Another 10 hours, give or take. The tail lights are back on, the license plate, etc., and it's all wired up and working. I am pretty much ready to go get it inspected. No, wait! Oops! I have to swap tires on the right rear and front. The guys at Bikeworx in Maynard do good, fast work, and tend not to puncture the innertubes the way I do.

Another example of how the stingy man spends the most: I bought new tires through a catalog, saving a few dollars as compared to buying them at my local motorcycle shop. The motorcycle shop, though, gives you mounting and balancing for free. Hmmm. If you've ever taken tires of rims and put new ones on, you'll know that I stuck it to myself "saving" $7/tire.

Squarer, stronger, cleaner. The back end back together. But for tires, I am ready for inspection. (Oh, and one more thing: I have to put in diodes to keep the front directional lamps from coming on with the brake lights!)

Total cost so far: $2375. Total time so far: 370 hours.

It hit 85 degrees (F) here today. This chapter's heading about "cold months" compels me to open a new chapter... Maxion Log, Part Seven.

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