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28 April 2006, 4:30 p.m.
Lucas and I drove over to pick up the car from the upholstery shop this afternoon. The rear seat looks outstanding! Abbas did a fabulous job and we would like to thank him for giving us a deep discount and getting it done on such a tight time frame.

Time to address the radiator issue. Ben and I went to Lowe's to pick up some items, hoping to get some better cooling: aluminum tape and garden edging. We also picked up a tap light to stick to the interior roof for navigating. Garden edging? Well, we are getting desperate, and we need all the air we can to go through the radiator, not under the car, so we fashioned an air dam from garden edging and riveted it to the bottom of the front spoiler. It doesn't look nearly as bad as we thought it might, but we won't win any beauty contests either.

The next thing Ben did was tape all around the radiator to eliminate any gaps, so air going into the front of the car has to go through the radiator. Hopefully with our coolant additive and these fixes, we can make the four laps. Lucas and I did some little stuff like removing the remaining stickers, putting padding around the roll cage, install the tap light, etc. We are scheduled to race again next Tuesday; until then, we're crossing our fingers.
-Damen Hattori

26 April 2006, 3:30 p.m.
Another issue we have to get worked out before the trip is the rear seat: it certainly doesn't fit with our full roll cage. So Brad and I took the Alfa over to Abbas at Richmond Auto Glass and Upholstery to have the seat reshaped and reupholstered to match the black cloth of our racing seats. Abbas said that he could have in done for us before the weekend. Excellent. Now to address our cooling issue…
-Damen Hattori

25 April 2006, 1:30 p.m.
Ben and I went into Dr. Barron's lab today to try and flush some junk out of our radiator. We went through nearly a whole bottle of concentrated citric acid flush calcium out of it. Just another step in helping the car to last four laps.
-Damen Hattori

23 April 2006, 8:30 p.m.
Made a prototype pouch with the fabric Ben and I bought. The pouch will Velcro to the side of the dash and hold a phone and iPod while they charge. I also sewed the Velcro to the floor mats and wired up the second cigarette lighter.
-Damen Hattori

21 April 2006, 4:30 p.m.
Today Ben and I ran some errands to get some miscellaneous stuff done on the Alfa - namely secure the floor mats and install a second cigarette lighter. We stopped by a hobby store and a fabric store to pick up some Velcro and fabric for various uses. We then took the car over to Ryon Lab on campus to work on it.

We started by adding Velcro to the door skin and window pulls - the windows will now stay up without tying! Ben went to work on fashioning some stays for the rear windows - he essentially drilled and tapped aluminum dowels to screw to the bottom of the carrier to hold to window up against edges in the door skin. Brad showed up and got to work Velcroing the floor mats to the car. In the meantime, Dr. Barron called and told me to come get the paperwork for the insurance for the Alfa. No problem, so I headed over to pick that up.

When I got back, Ben had finished with the dowels. They work great, and Brad had finished with the Velcro. The Velcro didn't stick to the floor mats, so we'll have to go back and sew it on later. We finished up by installing the second cigarette light into the dash.
-Damen Hattori

18 April 2006, 1:30 p.m.
We arranged for some much needed test and tune time at the local road course, MSR Houston. Lucas, Ben, and I left campus at around 1:30 p.m. to head about 30 miles south to the track where we met Dr. Barron and Jamie from BrooksSpeed Garage. Our first session out was at 2:30, so I hopped in the car with Ben riding shotgun, and we took it out onto the track for its first go-round since October!

Right away, we could tell the car had more power, more grip, and was altogether much better sorted. After three laps, though, we encountered our first big snag: the engine was getting hot. Too hot. When it hit 215 degrees F, we brought it in to ponder our situation. We need it to last four laps during the One Lap trip: one recon lap and three timed laps. After putting in a call to Andrew Garcia, we decided that our only course of action at present was to let it cool, drive it until it got hot, and bring it back in to cool. Repeat. So unfortunately we lost a lot of precious track time waiting for the motor to cool, but we got in enough laps to tell that the car is set up just how we want it. At around 5 p.m., the track closed up and we headed back. We'll have to see what we can do about the overheating.
-Damen Hattori

18 April 2006, 8:30 a.m.
The next morning I arrived at the shop around 8:30 just before Andy arrived. He had also thought about the problem and came to the same conclusion as Damen and I did. Andy brought us a new (to us) AFM and had me install it. Using the test O2 sensor again, the meter read a much better ratio. Andy adjusted the AFM and then I got in and took a test drive with the test sensor in place and the digital readout in view while driving. Andy and Mike explained that I should be around 14-15 to 1 at idle and at full throttle the mixture should be richer – around 12-1. When I drove it, the dead zone in the RPMs was gone and the A/F ratio was just like it should be. I got back and told Mike and Andy the good news and waited for the car to cool some so I could put the original O2 sensor back on. After reinstalling it, I took the car around the block again to make sure everything was alright. It was, so I cleaned up, thanked Mike and Andy again and headed out. Luckily it got fixed because we're scheduled to race this afternoon at MSR Houston.
-Lucas Marr

17 April 2006, 6:30 p.m.
Damen left Monday afternoon for a review session after working all day on the Alfa doing last minute fixes. I stayed a bit later to try to finish fixing the air fuel ratio. I installed an O2 test sensor connected to a box with a digital read out of the air/fuel ratio. We were running very lean – around 22-1. Andy opened up the air fuel meter on the intake and played with the settings to try to fix the problem but it did not respond to anything he did. A little later, the shop was closing down and the problem was not solved, so I planned to come back the next morning. I reinstalled our O2 sensor and went home around 8:00 p.m. When I got home I called Damen and we discussed the problem and came to the decision that the AFM was broken, which was causing our problems.
-Lucas Marr

8 April 2006, 12:01 a.m.
And we're off! Phil started the first leg of our 1000 mile enduro fundraiser at 12:01 a.m. Our goal was 1000 miles around the Houston Interstate 610 loop in less than 24 hours. Having set up at Lucas's apartment as a base, we settled in for the long haul. A pretty simple concept, we all (me, Lucas, Ben, Phil, and Brad) alternated with shifts between 1-4 hours. We took a break sometime in the late afternoon to eat as we were way ahead of schedule, and we finished in 19 hours! The graphs below show the mileage vs. time and the average speeds for the drivers. We raised over $1,500 with this event and we would like to thank all who generously contributed to our program. The car ran pretty well, but it has a pretty wicked flat spot in the power curve and is burning a lot of oil. Our next task is to tune the motor!



-Damen Hattori

7 April 2006, 1:00 p.m.
This is it. We start the enduro at midnight. I arrived at Damen's mid-afternoon, as I had school-related stuff in the morning. He had gotten another switch to make the hazards work (and they do now). He had also picked up a windshield mounted rear-view mirror, which works like a champ. Also, he got a new headlight relay, which fixed our scary headlight issue. I worked on getting the turn signals reliable, using some contact cleaner on all the electrical connectors. With a good push, they seem to work reliably. But I'm not going to bet my life that they stay that way.

We ended up heading to Garcia Alfa Racing to use his rear wheels for the enduro, as the second-hand street wheels we were using were of slightly different rolling radius (as evidenced by the excessive pulling under acceleration, followed by a pull in the opposite direction under deceleration). Now, this would be fine, but the new limited slip diff we have sure doesn't want to have to slip when driving in a straight line, so we thought we'd be nice to it and give it wheels with much closer diameters.

While at Garcia's, I replaced the power steering hose that had been causing that lingering leak, so we'll see what else can drop ATF all over the floor. Seems that problem is just our quirky Alfa marking its territory. It's going to happen regardless of what we do. But we'll see.

Oddly enough, this is the first time Garcia didn't have too much negative to say. Reading between the lines, I think he likes the interior, and the car as a whole. We're heading to the grocery store now to pick up a brisket to cook throughout the enduro at Lucas's apartment, as it will be our home base. Looking forward to tonight at midnight!
-Ben Kosbab

6 April 2006, 10:00 a.m.
With the 1000-mile enduro fast approaching, we decided to take the day to get the Alfa more livable for 1000 miles. I (Ben) showed up at Damen's place in the morning, and he was already hard at work getting the behind-the-dash wiring finalized. We wired up the DC power outlet as well as the hazard switch that Damen had put together. Everything looked good to go, so we headed over to campus.

The goal for campus was to find a 7/8" drill bit to make a hole in the firewall big enough for the temperature gauge sensor to fit. Also, we wanted to fab something quick to cover the top of the dash so as to block the glare from our lit gauges. Finally, we wanted to find some hole saws to fit the DC outlet and hazard switch through the dash. After the firewall hole, we moved on to find a scrap aluminum sheet to make the gauge hood. We found the lab technician in Ryon Lab on campus, who gave us the go-ahead to use the aluminum, and hooked us up with the hole saws.

The holes for the switch and outlet worked great, and we even kept the dash intact this time! Surprisingly, the gauge hood came out real nice as well, and Damen gave it a coat of flat black as a finishing touch. Works great, but we later discovered that the overhang lip over the gauges isn't quite enough to cover the entire glare. While at Ryon, Lucas came by and started working on some aluminum door handles, but that ended up being put off as "a tomorrow thing." They show promise, however.

After getting kicked out of Ryon because it was closing, we headed back to Damen's. On the way, we stopped at AutoZone and picked up some floor mats, turn-signal bulbs (as we had one out), and some hose clamps to attach our rear-view mirror. I trimmed and attached the rear-view mirror, only to find out that the ball-joint was cracked, and it wouldn't hold its place. Sure seems that anything that could go wrong does concerning this project. Even the little things.

That echoes in the fact that, as Lucas was replacing the turn signal bulb, we realized a couple things. It wasn't the bulb that was bad. That, and the fact that with the hazard switch installed, the turn signal, regardless of direction, flashed both lights. Way to go buddy.

Lucas left, and Damen and I continued to diagnose issues that needed to be worked out for the next day, before the enduro. Turn signals, hazard switch, rear-view mirror, etc. Mostly electrical. We finished out day at Amy's ice cream, 20 min. before they close at midnight, only to discover another Alfa gremlin: the headlights randomly shut off, and sometimes right before a cop passes going the other direction. Great. Yet another electrical issue for tomorrow. Fourteen hours in all, but the interior is much more livable.
-Ben Kosbab

2 April 2006, 2:00 p.m.
Autometer replaced the speedometer that wasn't working with the Alfa and I tried hooking the new one up. It still didn't work. That meant there was something wrong with the signal, or that the speedometer just plain didn't like it. It didn't make any sense because we are putting exactly the type of signal it wants into the speedo. I contacted Autometer with this latest news and they informed me that they had no idea why it wasn't working and the next thing to do is buy a different sending unit from them. Not having the money or the desire to do that, and being an electrical engineering major, I should be able to make it work.

Knowing that we would somehow need to change the signal from the sender into something that the speedometer would recognize, I consulted my friend and brilliant electrical engineering peer David Carr to see if he knew of any existing integrated circuits that we could plug and play, rather than designing a circuit from scratch. He said that a 7404 hex inverter would do just what we needed: it has an internal threshold of around 2 volts, and anytime the signal going into it was below that threshold, it would put out 0 volts, and if the input signal was above, it would put out 5 volts. So essentially it would create its own 5 volt square wave at the same frequency of the input signal. Perfect. So we wired that up and tested it with the speedometer on the bench - it worked great with any kind of signal (square waves, sine waves, triangle waves…) so it should work in the car.

We hooked the signal up inside the car and gave it a try around the parking lot - it worked! Brilliant! We called it success and went to dinner to celebrate. Big thanks to David Carr for his help on this particularly obnoxious issue.

Steve Hattori at Salinas Valley Precision custom fabricated an adapter for our thermostat housing so we should be able to use our water temp gauge. Once all that is here, I will be able to finish installing everything in the dash (along with a hazard light switch). We have a short list of things we would like to accomplish before the enduro fundraising event next Saturday including installing some cupholders, wiring in some cigarette lighters, eliminating some rattles, etc. Stay tuned to see if we can make it 1,000 miles in 24 hours!
-Damen Hattori

24 March 2006, 1:00 p.m.
Ben and I arrived at Garcia Alfa Racing again this afternoon to try and get the Alfa running. Andy Garcia told us that when Chris opened up our starter, he found that the internal ground was broken and repaired it for us. Happy that we had a working starter, Ben and I installed it. With that done, we were ready to build oil pressure and try to fire it up. I cranked it over, the engine turned this time (!), and after about thirty seconds of cycled cranking we had good oil pressure. Ready to go, we hooked the fuel and ignition back up.

I turned it over…and it started! HA! But it sounded awful and didn't really respond to throttle. I wanted to ask Garcia about it, but the noise was deafening (still no exhaust, so we were hearing it through open headers). He had already gone to get his timing light, though, and after a turn of the distributor, the idle cleaned up and it revved quite nicely! Success! Andy finished fine tuning the timing and called it good. Ecstatic, Ben and I went out for some lunch while the welder across the street fixed our exhaust.

After lunch, Ben and I picked up our exhaust and installed the downpipes, all repaired. Lucas showed up to hear it run and helped put the rest of the exhaust on. We really wanted to drive the car, but didn't have a water temp gauge that fit. Our Autometer gauge didn't come with right adapter. In fact, nobody makes an adapter like we need, so Steve at Salinas Valley Precision in California is custom making us a piece. In the meantime, I pulled out the wiring diagrams for the car and spent some time running a few wires to use the stock thermostat in the old gauge cluster. Ghetto, but it would work for the time being. Excited to drive it, Ben and I decided that we would do the initial break-in that evening.

Thanking Mike and Andy for all their help, Ben and I shuffled cars and got some dinner before our break-in trip. To break it in, we had to run it to 3000 rpm and let the engine slow the car down to 2000 rpm. Rinse and repeat for 8-12 miles. Then do the same thing from 4000rpm to 2000rpm. Then 5000. Then 6000. It wasn't the most fun thing I've ever done, but the car ran solid the whole way. We stopped periodically to check the oil, but overall it was quite a success. The list of stuff to do on the car is now quite short, so we are well on the way to being finished. I think the next thing to do is make a final copy of the dash and get everything there permanently installed.
-Damen Hattori

21 March 2006, 1:00 p.m.
Ben was back in town so he met me at Garcia Alfa Racing at 1:00 to help get the Alfa started. We had really high hopes for the day. Ben and I worked on hooking up all the vacuum lines and then turned to installing the oil pressure gauge. Lucas and Brad showed up in the meantime and they worked on getting the new intake from Greg Gordon at installed. Ben and I were going to put the exhaust on, so we were prepping the downpipes with new gaskets when we noticed that the ball at the top of the driver's side pipe was cracked almost all the way around the radius. That was probably the cause of our massive exhaust leak. We took the exhaust across the street and they said they would have it fixed for us in a day or two. Next I ran down the street to get some gas as someone had siphoned all of ours off whilst it sat overnight. Well, we all succeeded in getting our respective jobs done at about 3 and were ready to turn it over to build oil pressure. With a video camera running and the whole crew watching, I turned the key over. Nothing.

Curious and more than a little disappointed, we started to check what the problem was. The battery was fine, so the next place to look was the starter. Andy thought that we might have gotten the connections on the wrong studs. Unfortunately, the starter is disastrous to access: you have to remove the passenger side exhaust manifold, the heat shield beneath that, and even then it is hard to see the starter. Well, we got to it and measured the power and everything around it. Sure enough, there was plenty of power, but the starter just wouldn't turn over. Great. It is not easy to get out. Brad and Lucas had to leave, so Ben and I started the removal.

To get to the bolts that hold it onto the motor, we had to remove the rear motor mount and jack the rear of the engine to push it away from the firewall. This made the bolt removal a little easier, but it still took us about an hour to get it out. With it out of the car, we took it across the street the Ray's Auto Electric to see what the matter was. Chris (owner of Ray's…yeah) put it on his test bench and determined that the starter was indeed dead. It was nearly 6:30 at that point, so we called it a day. Very frustrating, but hopefully we can start it on Friday, the next time we'll be back…
-Damen Hattori

20 March 2006, 1:00 p.m.
More work today on hooking the engine up. Brad showed up to help and Lucas came later, but it was essentially all the same work. We got our wiring harness and plugged most of that in, as well as getting a good start on the intake, installing the intake plenum, putting in the radiator and all associated hoses, and putting the belts for the power steering and alternator back on. Not a whole lot to report, but tomorrow we should have everything installed and hopefully will give a shot to starting it up! Keep your fingers crossed…
-Damen Hattori

18 March 2006, 8:00 a.m.
Mike said that he would be at the shop for the morning, so I got up early and went in to get a few things done. I bolted a couple of supports and heat shields underneath the car, then spent nearly an hour getting the starter hooked up. With the rear of the motor (where the starter bolts up) so close to the firewall, it took the perfect angles and more than a little luck to it tightened down. But it's done now. I finished up at around 10:30 a.m. by installing the passenger side exhaust manifold and the heat shield around the starter. A couple less things we have to do next week.
-Damen Hattori

17 March 2006, 9:00 a.m.
Our oil pan gasket showed up on time this morning, so we put that on, buttoned up the bottom of the engine and filled it with oil. Just to make sure nothing was drastically wrong, we attempted to turn the engine over by hand, checking that we didn't crash any valves, etc. Thankfully ,it turned over well, so at least we know that our timing is okay and there aren't any foreign objects floating around in the bottom end. We all remember too well the incident we had last year when one of the club members (who has since graduated) dropped a screw down an intake port into the engine when we were adjusting the heads. The first time we went to start it, we destroyed a valve and had to emergency install a back-up set of heads.

Andrew Garcia brought up the issue that we needed to plug the hole in the block for the oil pressure warning light and figure out what we were doing for an oil pressure gauge. Unfortunately, I left the Autometer gauges for said purpose back at my house. Not having a choice, I drove home to pick them up while Phil and Lucas cleaned the engine bay to get ready for the install. They also bolted on the motor mounts.

When I returned, Phil left due to an arranged obligation (it was about 1:00 p.m.) and Lucas was working on tracking down bolts to secure the engine once it was in. I had the gauges and found a bolt that had the right threads to plug our hole, but it was way too long. Using the bench grinder, I shortened the bolt, cleaned up the end, and plugged the hole. Next, I pulled out our oil pressure gauge and put the fitting into the block with the capillary tubing ready to be run into the cabin. It will be very simple to hook up the oil pressure gauge now. The water temperature gauge is not as simple, as the fittings provided by Autometer don't fit in the hole in the thermostat housing. We will have to call them later to see if they have a part to make it work.

With all that finished, Lucas and I bolted the accessories onto the motor and dropped it into the car! The starter might prove to be an issue as you can't secure it down until it is in the engine bay (due to the cable) but the bolts are extremely hard to access. We'll see. Lucas and I bolted the motor down and finished the day by installing the driveshaft. Some good news: a member of the local Alfa Romeo club, Jim Tyson, will be selling us the ECU and wiring harness for the new motor at less than half the price we originally were quoted by other merchants, so a big thanks to him. We still have a ways to go (hook up everything in the engine bay, exhaust, and put the brake booster back). We should be able to work next Monday and Tuesday afternoons; hopefully we will be firing it up next week!
-Damen Hattori

16 March 2006, 9:00 a.m.
I was hoping to get the motor completely together by the end of the day and have it bolted in the car on the motor mounts, but it was not to be. We arrived in the morning and immediately started with the oil pump and water pump. They both transferred over no problem. Next was the oil sump pan. No problem, right? Well, it so happened that we would encounter our first of a couple tapping/helicoil experiences. The threads were stripped out of the block on one of the holes holding the oil pan on, so Phil and Lucas tapped it while I worked on installing the timing belt tensioner.

We're converting the engine to a fixed tensioner which is much better than the stock mechanical one. If we manage to turn the engine by leaving it in gear on a hill when we park it and it slides a little, the mechanical tensioner allows the timing belt to jump a tooth and destroy the engine. That is a pretty real issue especially considering that we don't have a parking brake. The switch involved drilling a larger hole in the block (for a plug) which was a little sketchy, but we made it happen. While I worked on the tensioner prep, Phil (with some help from Andy) installed the heads on the motor and torqued them down. It's coming together! With the heads on and all of our holes drilled, we all went to Chacho's for lunch.

Upon returning, we started with the tensioner and timing belt installation. We got the ternsioner and timing belt on and were doing a gross adjustment on the tensioner when we got it to the point of final tightening on the tensioner. Well, those threads were stripped out entirely, so I had to drill, tap, and put an insert in the hole to give the tensioner belt the proper bite. Again, we put on the timing belt and did a full tightening and adjustment. Good.

Next was the spark plugs and cam covers, so I drove down to pick up oil and spark plugs. Some 20W-50 and Bosch Platinums fit the bill. When I got back, Lucas was removing the bell housing from the 2.5L to remove the three big bolts holding the flywheel to the driveshaft housing. With some effort, Lucas got those loose, but the flywheel had to come off as the bolts entered from the engine side and couldn't be pulled out. I was able to get two of the flywheel bolts out, but the others would not budge. Andy borrowed a hardcore impact gun from across the street and was able to get 7/8 of them out, but the one would not come out. In fact, our short ½" extension sheared in half while trying to get it out! Richard from across the street came over, took his heavy duty impact gun back, oiled it, brought a 17mm impact socket and promptly zinged it right off. What? "Don't tell me my gun can't do it…" was all the man said. Well, with that off, Lucas put the 3 big bolts through our ridiculously light flywheel (see pictures) compared with stock and installed the flywheel and driveshaft housing. After cleaning up, we determined that the only things left to do are install the bottom oil pan cover (the gasket hadn't come in yet) and clean the engine bay before we drop it in! We'll keep our fingers crossed to get the engine in the car tomorrow!
-Damen Hattori

15 March 2006, 9:00 a.m.
Lucas had a doctor's appointment at 9, so I spent the first hour of the day replacing the cam seals and the distributor gear seal. Once I figured out how to do it, it was no problem, but it took longer than it should have for me to get it right. Big thanks to Mike for helping me out. Just as I finished the seals, Lucas showed up so we could start putting the rods and pistons into the block and torquing them onto the crank.

The tricky part is getting the pistons into the liners without breaking any of the rings. Using Mike's special tool for said purpose, Lucas and I started to put them in. Lucas was tapping from the top of the block, actually pushing the pistons in while I made sure the bottom of the connecting rod made it past the counterweights and around the crank. It was a bit of a nerveracking process, but we had all of them in and torqued down without issue by lunch time. Pleased with our pace, we had lunch at a cheap restaurant in Chinatown.

Coming back from lunch, we knew the next thing to do was put the injectors on the heads and put the oil pump in the block. Guess what - no oil pump. Not excited by the idea of the drastic disassembly required to extract the pump from our 2.5L, I drove home just to double check that we in fact didn't have one. Sure enough, we didn't have one. Lucas put the injectors on the heads while I was away, and as soon as we got back we started getting the oil pump out. It was a long, dirty, and drawn out process involving putting the 2.5L on the engine stand, removing all the accessories (starter, generator, etc…), and removing the sump. All said and done it took up the rest of the afternoon since Mike and Andy had to close the shop right at 5. It was a terrible waste of time (not having a pump with our 3.0L stuff), but it's done now and we can start in the morning with installing it and the water pump. Still no word on a wiring harness.
-Damen Hattori

14 March 2006, 9:00 a.m.
Phil, Lucas and I were back at it at 9 this morning to try and get as much of the engine assembled as possible. I had left the heads with oil in the overnight to check the valve seals. No leaksm so we were good to go. I continued working on the heads while Lucas and Phil started on the bottom end. They spent the majority of the morning removing the liners and cleaning everything (liners and block) really well. I did a final assembly on the heads including the valve stem seals and tappets. Towards the end of the morning, Phil took out all the piston rings and made sure the gaps were all within range. The compression rings looked great and the oil rings were a little on the big side, but all were acceptable.

After lunch, we worked on getting the valve lash set for all the valves. Using Garcia's sweet box of shims, it took a few mess-ups to get the right shims in for the valve lash that we wanted on the intake side. Unfortunately, each time we had to try new shims, we had to remove the cam, remove the tappets, replace the shims, replace the tappets, put the cam back in and torque it down to spin it a few times and see how it measured. Not a quick process. Phil had to leave mid-afternoon, but I finished that up while Lucas worked on prepping the liners to go back in the block. Thankfully the exhaust lash was much easier to set via a threaded piece on the rocker arms with a lock nut. The heads are done.

It was about 4 o'clock at that point so we decided to keep with the momentum and start assembling the bottom end. Lucas finished cleaning the liners really well and put all the lower seals on while I pounded them into the block. Next we put in the main bearings, crank, main caps, thrust washers, and tried to check our clearances by turning the crank. Thankfully, we could turn the crank by hand very nicely, so our clearances are great. Continuing with the missing parts saga, we had to remove the front plate and water pump from our old motor and got them ready to put on the front of the block. Lucas bolted those on while I tried to see if all the piston and rod assemblies were oriented correctly. Amazingly enough, they were all correct, so I started to put the rings on the pistons. I had no troubles with the first compression ring or the oil rings, but I could just not figure out a good way to get the 2-piece second compression ring into the groove correctly. Lucas finished with what he was working on and came over to give it a shot. Thankfully, he found a good way to do it and subsequently put all the second rings on all six pistons in the time I couldn't even do one. Nice. Anyhow, with all the rings on, we called it a day and had some all-you-can-eat pizza buffet at Cici's for $3.99. Nice.
-Damen Hattori

13 March 2006, 9:00 a.m.
Day one of the engine swap project went pretty well. I had hoped to get the 2.5 ready to pull and the heads put together, but it was not meant to be. Andrew Garcia, who will be guiding us novices through the engine building process, was gone most of the day searching for a larger shop for their operation, so we were pretty much on our own for the day.

Lucas and I got started right at 9; since we had the service manual (thanks to Andy Kress of Performatek) we decided to start the removal process on the 2.5L. There were diagrammed step-by-step directions in the manual that seemed pretty straightforward, so we dove in and started labeling and unplugging. Phil showed up around nine thirty and we had everything unhooked in the engine bay by lunch time. After lunch we put the car up on the lift and spent some time removing the driveshaft (not a small task) and were ready to pull the engine. Phil had to leave for a previous commitment, so Lucas and I carried on and after a couple of hang-ups were able to slide the motor out.

It was about 4:30 at that point. We had the motor out, so we could've called it a day, but we really are on a deadline and Garcia showed up around 3:30, so we decided to take a look at the heads. I wanted to see if I had lapped the valves in sufficiently, so Garcia helped me put in the valves and springs of one of the heads. We then put in the spark plugs, flipped the head over and filled the combustion chamber tops with oil. We let it sit for over an hour and there were no leaks - the valves have a good seal on that side at least. While that sat, Garcia and I took inventory of the parts for assembling and installing the heads and realized that we were quite a few parts short: apparently Precision Engine misplaced some of the parts, including the rocker arm shaft for the passenger side. So I spent about an hour disassembling the old 2.5L (now sitting on a dolly), removed the passenger side cylinder head, and harvested the parts we were missing. At around 8 p.m. I called it a day and have high hopes for (mostly) assembling the engine tomorrow. Long day.
-Damen Hattori

10 March 2006, 1:00 p.m.

USA Racing Engines was able to balance the bottom end for our 3.0L, so I drove down to pick the stuff up and headed to Garcia Alfa Racing to drop that off and maybe get a jumpstart on putting the heads together. When I got there, Andy and I looked at the heads and saw that we would need to hand lap the valves into the seats first, so I went down to O'Reilly Auto Parts and picked up the tools to do that. I spent the better part of the afternoon hand lapping the valves into the seats, something I have heard about but never done. This was the first time that I've been glad that we have the 12 valve V6 instead of the 24 valve. Anyhow, it looks like Lucas will be able to put in 40 hours with me next week and Phil should be able to do almost 30 hours (everyone else is out of town). We'll start at 9 a.m. on Monday and as long as we don't completely blow it and nothing goes amazingly wrong, we should be able to get this done in a week. Famous last words.
-Damen Hattori

8 March 2006, 9:00 a.m.

I stopped by Garcia's this morning to pick up the timing gear that the balance shop needed, but unfortunately Andy didn't have any at home, so I would need to take the one off our Alfa. He told me to cut the timing belt and it would slide right off. I'd heard that story before, but I cut the timing belt and tried to slide it off. I tried to pry it off. I drowned it with PB blaster and smashed it with a sledge hammer to get it off. Nothing. Running out of options, I got the map gas torch and got it burning red hot and then slammed it with the hammer. I thought it might have moved a little, so I grabbed a pair of needle nose pliers (it was still glowing orange) and yanked. It slid right off. So Garcia was right; he just left some of the details out. Anyhow, I took that over to Bruce at USA Racing Engines and he said they would have it done by Friday. Sweet.
-Damen Hattori

7 March 2006, 1:00 p.m.
A couple of the guys from the club, including myself, will be staying in town for spring break next week, so we will probably be building and installing the 3.0L motor during that time. In order to be able to do that, it is imperative that we get the bottom end balanced. Ben and I met up at Garcia's this afternoon to get the final piece needed for the balance job: the front pulley. Once we take the pulley off, the car will be sitting until the new motor goes in, so officially it was the start of the engine swap.

When we got there, Garcia told us it was easy to get the pulley off: remove the radiator, remove the accessory belts, take off the nut holding the pulley to the crank with an air ratchet, and slide it off. He always paints such an optimistic picture. The radiator was very easy to take out after draining the coolant. The accessory belts came off no problem. The nut zoomed off the front without trouble. So we went to slide off the front pulley…and it didn't budge. It was on there solid - some things feel like if you pull hard enough they will come off, but this didn't feel like that. It felt like a part of the crank. We got Andy Garcia (who told us to hit the weightroom, put on some gloves, and promptly failed to budge it as well) and he eventually came up with a puller to get it off.

Looking at the crank, I wondered if USA Racing Engines would need the timing belt crank pulley to balance everything, but Andy assured us that they wouldn't need it. Not very convinced, Ben and I loaded everything up and drove the stuff down to USA Racing Engines to get it balanced. Bruce (the gentlemen helping us out) looked at all the parts and test fit the pulley on the front of the crank. "Is there something else that goes on the front of this crank behind the pulley?" he asked. I told him yes, the timing belt sprocket did, but we were told it wasn't needed. He told me that without it, the front pulley would just slam up and down the front of the crank because the sprocket was a spacer that held it in place. Great.

I called Andy on the phone and relayed the news. "No problem," he said, "I have one at home I can give you tomorrow to use." So I told Bruce I would be back in the morning with the last piece. Ben and I called it a night and had dinner at a fried chicken buffet.
-Damen Hattori

3 March 2006, 1:30 p.m.
Having received all of our gauges and having a dash that I could use for fitment, I decided to go ahead and start running all the wires to make sure they worked and would fit as we wanted. Starting with the tachometer, I ran wires for +12V off the ignition (so the gauges come on when the key is turned), ground, a light signal (so the gauge lighting comes on with the headlights), and a tach signal wire from the negative terminal of the ignition coil. It took a little while, but the tach fired right up on the first attempt and works great. It also looks very good with the silver against the carbon fiber dash. Next I tried the speedometer. After some research, I learned that the sender (underneath the rear passenger side seat) is a three wire square wave type sender. Running all the appropriate wires, I plugged in the speedometer. Firing up the car, the speedometer had power, but wasn't recognizing the signal.

After talking to Autometer's technical support, they recommended I try calibrating the gauge first. Well, I tried it, but due to the fact that the gauge wasn't seeing any signal, I didn't expect a calibration to remedy the problem, and it didn't. My next step was to take the car and gauge to school to see a friend who has a very nice digital multimeter with a wave-form display so that I could see if the gauge was actually receiving what it was supposed to. Sure enough, the sender was putting out a perfect 11-volt square wave that wasn't being recognized by the speedo. The next thing to do was test to see if the speedometer was bad, so we took it into the electrical engineering lab on campus and hooked the gauge up to a power supply and function generator to exactly duplicate the signal in the car. Strangely, the gauge worked under these conditions. Confused, we took the gauge back out the car and plugged it back in. It still didn't work. We checked the power supply, the grounds, everything. Nothing. Thanking my friend for his help, I took the car back and called Autometer again.

I relayed this story to the tech support on the phone, and he didn't have an answer for me. It should work. Our only thing to do now is send the gauge back and get it repaired or replaced, hopefully the latter. Moving on, I decided to try the fuel level gauge, since that was going to be the most "custom" install of the gauges. The fuel sender in the car has a range that delivers 330 ohms of resistance when the tank is empty and 15 ohms when the tank is full. The closest gauge that Autometer has is a 240(empty)-33(full), so it needed a resistor in there to get the range closer. I couldn't get the range perfect, but with an 860 ohm resistor in parallel with the sender, the sender now has a range on 240(empty)-15(full). So the needle will be a little past full with a full tank, but empty will be right on. I wired that up and turned the car on, and it appears to have worked, I will be able to tell better right after a fill-up. The rest of the gauges are mechanical, so they will have to wait until we can install the 3.0L engine.
-Damen Hattori

24 February 2006, 1:00 p.m.
Brad and I drove out to Brooksspeed today to see about a dash. We initially thought that we would make an aluminum dash that went the full length of the car and was covered top and bottom. We would have the tachometer by itself seen through the steering wheel and then the rest of the gauges off to the right. When we told Jamie our plan, he simply asked, "Why all that?" I didn't really have a good answer for him other than the fact that it would look good. He asked me if the Alfa was going to be a show car or a race car. Well, I suppose it is a race car, so I listened to his idea- make a single plate secured to the roll bar by brackets that would hold the gauges. That's it. Seeing the merits of simplicity and low weight, Brad and I agreed it would be a good plan.

We made a template out of ridiculously thick cardboard, and then showed Jamie to see what he thought. He said it would be great, so we set about to look for some aluminum from which to fabricate it. Jamie showed us that he had some extra laminated carbon fiber lying around and that we were free to use it. Ok. So we traced our template onto a piece of said carbon fiber and cut around the edges to get the initial shape. Brad had to leave at that point, so I continued by sanding it down and laminating the edges with 5-minute epoxy. Once that was dry, I sanded it down and starting laying out the gauges on the back for placement. I figured out where we wanted the gauges (they would end up above the steering wheel, but below the windshield for optimum viewing), and marked where the holes needed to be.

Jamie came over to help me cut the holes with a fancy scribe tool that he had which went in the drill press. The first 3 holes were perfect, but on the fourth hole, the tool grabbed the dash out of Jamie's hands, whacked it against the drill press body and mangled the hole it was drilling along with destroying the solid part between two holes. Hosed. Jamie and I tried to figure out a way to fix it, but we came to the conclusion that we would just have to make another one. The second one should take less than the four hours of the first one since the design and placement of the gauges can just be copied over, but it was still very sad.

Wanting to "finish" up the project, Jamie welded the steel brackets to the roll bar and we screwed the dash as it was into the brackets. It looks good and, more importantly, weighs about an ounce. In the meantime we can wire up the gauges and the when it comes time, just swap a new face in. Next week we hope to start our engine swap. Cross your fingers…
-Damen Hattori

21 February 2006, 1:00 p.m.
I went and picked up the 3.0L engine from Precision Engine yesterday in order to take it to be balanced. Ken wasn't in when I picked up the engine, so today I gave him a call to get the name of a balance shop. He gave me the name of Caulk Racing and told me to speak with Craig. I gave Craig a call and he said to bring the crank, pistons, rods, flywheel, and harmonic balancer down to his shop and he would help us out.

Ben rode with me and we met Craig at his shop in South Houston. After chatting a bit about Alfa owners for whom he had done some work previously, Craig looked at the crank and told me that his shop wasn't set up to do work on that style of crank. Not wanting us to leave empty handed, Craig called another engine shop across town for us to see if they would be able to balance our engine internals. So Ben and I packed up and headed over to USA Racing Engines to speak with Bruce.

At USA Racing Engines, Bruce told us that he would be able to do the engine balancing for us on donation, but we needed to get the reciprocating mass percentage on the engine. After a couple of short calls, I was able to find that 50% was the number we needed. With that, Bruce came out to look at the crank and all the parts. Well, I thought I had the harmonic balancer (which is the front pulley with the balancer built in), but it turns out that I left it in my garage with the rest of the parts. Disappointed that I didn't have all of the stuff to get the job done, I told Bruce that I would head back home and retrieve the parts we needed, then come back later in the evening or tomorrow.

I dropped Ben off at school then drove home to get the front crank pulley. Guess what: we don't have one for the new motor. The guy from whom we bought the motor must not have included it in the box of parts he gave me, so instantly the whole program has been thrown off track. We can use the one off of the 2.5L engine that sits in our car currently, but that means disassembling the Alfa and we have stuff that needs to get done right now (dash and carbon fiber hood). Quite disappointed, I am trying to track down the guy from whom we purchased the motor in hopes that he has the front pulley assembly hiding in his garage. In the meantime, the engine project has ground to a halt. Anyhow, I'm going to have to try and get a timeline together, as February is drawing to a close and we have much to do.
-Damen Hattori

10 February 2006 4:00pm
Big shipment for the club today. We received 4/5 of our gauges (the water temp was on back order), our lightened flywheel (courtesy of Salinas Valley Precision in Salinas, CA), and a cold air intake system (courtesy of Greg Gordon and With our new stuff, Brad and I took the car and did our best to make a rough template of a dash design, trying to estimate gauge placement and how we're going to make the thing. After an hour, we had a decent design and a good idea of where everything is going to go, so once the last gauge comes in we should be able to dive in and do this.

Our motor should be finished at the machine shop this coming week, so we will take it over to be balanced and once that it done, we should be able to put it together! Things are moving along, and they need to be as the 2006 One Lap is looming close.
-Damen Hattori

3 February 2006 12:30pm
Ben gave me a ride over to Meineke so we could get the Alfa aligned, finally. We had a coupon from school, so that saved us some money. Meineke was able to do a four-wheel alignment on the car, so now it drives straight down the road. It seems that when we were lining the steering column up with the splines on the steering rack, we were off by a tooth or two because when the car is driving straight, the steering wheel is turned to the right a few degrees. Not a big deal, but something we're going to want to fix.

While we were there, we picked up the parts sent from Vick's for the engine rebuild. I will take those to Precision Engine on Monday so that we can get this motor in the car. We also need to get put our fundraiser together because we are flat out of money.
-Damen Hattori

31 January 2006 11:00 p.m.
I wanted to finish the couple of things left on our list to get the Milano ready. One of them (perpetually on the list, it seems) was to try and bleed the brakes properly. We've bled them manually twice and still have a very spongy pedal with loads of initial free travel - certainly not something that we'd want to take on a race track. I also wanted to see about securing the battery down properly in the trunk and take it to an alignment shop following all of our front suspension work.

Last night I stopped by Lowe's Home Improvement to pick up some clear tubing to fix Mike's power bleeder (it sprung a significant leak last time and doused the entire engine bay in brake fluid) and the first thing I did when I arrived at Garcia's was replace all of the tubing on the bleeder. Having finished that, I went to put the extra tubing in the trunk of the car and I saw the battery and box floating around in the trunk. Since I was there, I took the j-bolts out of the car to look and see what we could do to get them to fit into the bracket on top of the battery as opposed to into some L-brackets that went into the bracket on the battery. Every time you try to tighten the j-bolts down, even moderate torque would pull the L-brackets out and the battery would be free to move around. I decided to take the j-bolts to the vice and bench grinder. Violent, yes, but ultimately I was able to make them fit and tighten the battery down very well. It's not going anywhere. Now that the battery box was held in place, the lid needed some more "modification" via hack-saw to fit in the corner. It's finished, and we shouldn't have to deal with it anymore. Not like that means anything…

Anyhow, I continued on, filled the power bleeder up with fluid, screwed it onto the reservoir and started to pump it up to get some pressure. Almost immediately, fluid started streaming from one of the spots where the reservoir puts fluid into the master cylinder. Great. So I pulled everything back apart, drained the reservoir and pulled it out. There are rubber grommets that seal the junction between the reservoir and the master cylinder, and apparently they had some issues. Taking the problem to Garcia, he told me that the only way to get those grommets was to order another master cylinder, some $100+. No thanks, so our next option was some good old RTV silicone gasket maker. Coating both sides of the rubber grommets and reinstalling the reservoir, I let the RTV set up while I hit Taco Bell for some fine dining.

When I got back and refilled the reservoir, reattached the bleeder, and started pumping it, no leaks showed. Glad that our ghetto fix worked, I finished pressurizing the power bleeder and proceeded to go around all four corners, alternating bleeding and pumping (I was the only one there as everyone else had class). Once I was done, I cleaned up and dove under the car to address another issue we were having: driveshaft vibration. Whoever removed the bolts from the donut where the drive-haft mounted to the transaxle didn't mark which nuts (that were there for balancing) came off of which bolts, so it was a guessing game putting them back on. Of course we got it wrong, so I was going to try one of the half-nuts on one of the two bolts with space left on them. If that doesn't work, I'll put it on the other one. Anyhow, I crossed my fingers and jumped into the car hoping for a better brake pedal.

Sure enough, the pedal felt much better (not perfect) with most of the free travel gone. Before I took the car over to the alignment shop, though, I wanted to order all of the engine parts that we needed to finish our 3.0L rebuild. Andy Garcia phoned Robert Vick, owner of Vick Autosports in Fort Worthm to see if we could get any kind of deal on all the parts we needed. Robert agreed to sell us the parts at near cost and saved us nearly $300 over retail on piston rings, rod bearings, main bearings, thrust washers, and complete gasket set. We want to thank Robert and Vick Autosports for their enormous generosity.

Having marked that off the list, I jumped into the Alfa to test the brakes and go get an alignment. Right away I noticed that there was still too much free travel, but the pedal is better once you get there, so we'll drive it around for a week or two, and then try to bleed them again. Ben had found a coupon at school for nearly $30 off a front wheel alignment at the Meineke near Rice, so I drove over there to finally get the car rolling straight down the road.

Well, I showed up at around 4:50 p.m. (they closed at 6:00) and they told me that they had a car stuck on the rack, could I come back in the morning? No. I have class the rest of the week and the car is being stored across town. Racking his brain, the guy at the desk told me to take it to any Meineke and tell them to honor the coupon that afternoon because they were full. Great, so I got back in the car to drive to the Meineke right around the corner from Garcia's. Things were going fine, albeit slow going as it was 5:00 p.m. and traffic was a disaster. So I hit a red light at an intersection and noticed some steam coming out of the passenger side of the hood. Uh oh. I was in the middle lane with no hope of getting over until the light turned green. Nervous, I sat there and watched the steam get thicker and double in flow. I had to get over, so I started honking at people at the red light to let me off the road into the parking lot at the corner. By the time people inched around enough to let me through, I could hear the coolant boiling and it was starting to spew out of the reservoir cap, through the firewall and into the cabin! I rapidly pulled over into a parking lot and opened the hood - the cooling fan wasn't turning. So I shut off the car and called Garcia for a recommended course of action, as the engine would explode if I tried to make it back to his shop with traffic in its current state. He told me to check the fuse for the fan (it was fine), and then told me to try and jump the fan by bypassing the switch. I had nothing to wire the fan with, and by then the engine had heat-soaked completely and coolant was pouring out of the reservoir. So Garcia gave me a longer alternate route back to his shop that involved less traffic so we could get some air moving across the radiator. I had to stop at a couple of stoplights on the way there, and each time the coolant started boiling again. I was praying that the engine didn't get hurt as our new one isn't ready yet! I finally made it back to Garcia's, and he was right that the fan switch was dead. He fashioned a jumper so now the fan is on whenever the key is in the on position, which is fine. It was 6:15 p.m. by then, so I left the Alfa there and went home. It's always something. And the car still isn't aligned.
-Damen Hattori

30 January 2006, 1:00 p.m.
I spoke with Ken from Precision Engine today about the progress on our 3.0L motor, as the last thing I heard was that we would need custom pistons. The cylinder walls were coated in rust, and they figured by the time it was honed out properly and all the rust was gone that the cylinder wall to piston distance would be too great. We got some money for pistons, so I called him up this morning to figure out what size pistons I would need to order. It turns out that they were able to hone the cylinders so that we probably wouldn't need new pistons. Elated, I agreed to meet with him in the afternoon to check everything and develop a game plan to get the motor finished.

There are a few minor things to do to get the Alfa in solid shape, like getting the exhaust put back together, get it aligned, and get the brakes bled properly. I went over to Garcia's this afternoon to talk some shop with him about the motor and to knock a couple of things off that list before I met with Ken. Andy and Mike were able to give me some things to look for and ask Ken while we were going over the motor, and I then took the Alfa over to the muffler shop to get the exhaust mended for the time being.

We had to cut in one spot to complete the deDion bushing install and shift linkage kit rebuild before we could drive it around. I went across the street and had a band clamp put on for the time being (about a $5 fix) as we want to put a new cat-back exhaust on the car before the trip; we don't want to be pouring any money into the exhaust at this point. The next issue that I wanted to work out was the fitment of the rear seat - it doesn't fit at all with the roll cage in, so we need to have the frame and foam modified. We would also like to reupholster it in black to match the front seats. Andy is friends with an upholstery guy across town, so I took the Alfa and the seat over to have a look and get a price estimate.

I spoke with Abbas at Richmond Upholstery, the owner, and he told me that it would be a couple of days and about $300 to modify and reupholster the seat, $150 if we just wanted a reshape and reuse the existing seat cloth. Unfortunately, the club is really low on funds right now (we're working on some leads, though), so we simply can't afford that at this point, but when we get some money we'll get that done for sure. With that done, I dropped the Alfa back at Garcia's and headed over to Precision Engine.

I met Ken face-to-face for the first time which was nice; we'd talked on the phone about five times previously, and he walked me through what has been done and what we have left. He showed me the block (which they hot-tanked and honed) and the pistons (which had been baking-soda blasted to safely clean them - very cool) which looked great. Ken said that they looked brand new with very minor wear, and when we checked the fitment there was barely ".002 clearance piston to cylinder wall," which is good. They are also going to clean up the crank and micro polish it - sweet. The next issue I had to discuss was about the race cam we plan to install. The lobes are so huge on it that they won't turn more than 5 degrees inside the head without crashing into the walls, so the heads need to be fly-cut for clearance. No problem, he said. The valves were getting a 3-angle job as we were standing there and they are going to clean up the ports for us. The ball is in our court to get the cams (so they can machine the clearance space), rod and main bearings (for balancing) and a complete gasket set to finish the job. I am very impressed with Precision Engine and am glad that they are on board with the project. Tomorrow I will head back to Garcia's to order those parts, try and bleed the brakes with a power bleeder, and get a front-end alignment.
-Damen Hattori

27 January 2006, 1:30 p.m.
We headed back to Garcia's today to finish what we started: transaxle bump stop adjustment, deDion bushing, and shift linkage rebuild. The Alfa was still on the lift where we left it, so Brad, Phil, and I dove in to putting it all back together. Ten minutes into it, I remembered that I wanted to drain the gas tank so that I could get a reading off of the fuel sender with an empty tank. I have been trying for quite a while to find the resistance range of the fuel sender so that we could order the proper type of fuel level gauge as I didn't really want to drain the gas tank. Resigned to my fate, Phil helped as we disconnected (read: destroyed) the old fuel line and hose clamp that gravity fed the fuel pump. 20 minutes and 15 gallons later (we had just filled up the car…), we had the tank empty and replaced the fuel line while we were under there.

With that task done until the car came down off the lift, Brad and Phil adjusted the bump stop (lengthening, as the transaxle was hitting the body) and we started putting the rear suspension back together. It took a few hours, Phil left and Lucas came, but we finally got it all back together - and it wasn't even 5 o'clock yet! We finished a task while the sun was still out - amazing. Brad hopped into the car so we could try to get some more air out of the lines and Lucas and I got ready to turn bleed screws. We were feeling good for being ahead when Brad dropped the bomb - "hey guys, there is something seriously wrong with the shifter."

I knew it was too easy - I looked into the car and sure enough, the shift lever was turned around 180 degrees. Brilliant. Confirming that we had really screwed it up, I looked at a Milano in the parking lot. Yeah, backwards - somehow, Ben and I managed to turn the shift lever around from underneath the car when we were installing new pieces. We knew it couldn't have gone that smoothly, so we took the heat shielding and all the requisite pieces off to rectify the problem.

By the time we got that handled and the car all back together, it was dark. That's more like it. Still wanting to get the brakes bled, we did a quick job around the car and Brad took off. Lucas and I cleaned up our mess, I measured the fuel sender resistance (333 ohms empty) and the put the fuel back in the car. We drove the Alfa out of the shop and parked it for the night. On Monday we'll probably get the exhaust welded back together and take it for an alignment.
-Damen Hattori

24 January 2006, 1:00 p.m.
Before we take the Alfa racing to test it (whether it be autocross, road-racing, etc.), there has been one lingering problem that really needs fixing: the driveshaft bump-stop isn't properly positioned, so whenever there is a dramatic weight transfer front to back (e.g., shifting under heavy throttle), it sounds like a blender full of screws.

I sent out an e-mail to the entire club letting them know that we would be working on getting the grind fixed today at Garcia's - a job that involves dropping the transaxle. Unfortunately, a lot of people had class during the afternoon, so it was just me, Ben, and Brad (who had to leave early). We started by removing the exhaust from the catalytic converter back. While this should be an easy job, it appeared that the exhaust had been welded onto the cat, so we would have to cut the tubing before the bend to the muffler and unbolt it from the headers. To make a long story short, it took us almost an hour to get the exhaust removed, only to find that we (with the help of Garcia and Mike) had misdiagnosed the problem and that it was actually a slip fit at the cat and no cutting had really been required. Argh.

Anyhow, we continued with the job by lowering the nose of the transaxle via the removal of the shift linkage and some select bolts. And then (in true Garcia style) Andy Garcia told us that while we were in there with the transaxle down, we should replace the deDion bushing with the nice polyurethane piece and rebuild the shift linkage, both items received from Andy Kress from Performatek. So our 2 hour job turned into a 6 hour job, as usual. The thing is, though, once we get that done we will have installed all the parts we have physically acquired thus far - no small feat for sure.

Once we let the front of the transmission down, we removed the shift linkage from the housing and pressed the stock bushing from out of the deDion triangle nose. While we worked on putting the poly piece back in, Andy Garcia helped rebuild the shift linkage for us. Nearly two hours later, we could not figure out why we couldn't get the poly bushing back in place. We were able to get it 80% of the way in, but just could not get the last part through and the lip to come out the other side. Garcia kept telling us to "just do it," so we were beginning to think that we were inept. Finally coming over to lend us a hand, it ultimately took Andy over an hour to get the bushing to press in from the point that we had it, so we didn't feel as bad. While he helped us finish that up, Ben and I installed the shift lever pieces that came with the rebuild kit.

It was obvious that we weren't going to finish the project this evening, so with the car still in pieces, we called it a night at around 8:30 p.m. We will be back on Friday afternoon to finish installing the linkage, adjusting the bump-stop (which we never even got to today), and draining the fuel tank to measure the resistance range of the fuel sender.
-Damen Hattori

21 January 2006, 10:00 a.m.
A new day, a new project. Andy Garcia wasn't available to help us today, so we were on our own to install the limited slip differential. I looked up how to do it in the factory manual, and they called for removing the exhaust, the transmission, and a lot of other time-consuming things, so I wasn't sure how Ben and I were going to do it ourselves. A phone call with Garcia assuaged my fears - he claimed it was a one hour job that he's done at the track with the car on jack stands that definitely doesn't involve removing the exhaust or the transmission. Okay.

So Ben and I dove right in, removing the wheel, half-shaft, stub-shaft, brake rotor and caliper on the passenger side rear. We then drained the transmission fluid and popped the side cover off the differential housing. Sure enough, the differential just slid right out as Garcia claimed! We took the old, open diff over to the bench, moved the ring gear from the old to the new and slid the new LSD back in its place. We popped the cover back on, bolted it up, refilled the transmission with fluid and put the brakes and shafts back on - done! It was the smoothest install we've done yet on this car. It was nice that everything went just like it was supposed to for once.

Happy with our progress, we got some lunch and came back to address the brakes. Ben wasn't convinced that the unions between the new lines would work, but we consulted the factory manual's method for bleeding brakes and dove in. In a nutshell, it was bad.

  1. every single fitting we installed was leaking fluid whenever the pedal was pressed.
  2. no pressure was making it to the rear brakes

We had a problem. We tightened down the unions as best we could to try and stop the leaking, but it didn't work, and we didn't want to strip the fittings. It still leaked and there was still no pressure to the rear. Frustrated, Ben hit upon the great idea to use the AN3 male-to-male fittings that had come with the brake proportioning valve that we didn't use. Suddenly rejuvenated, we pulled the lousy unions apart. The problem revealed itself immediately: the brass ball-shaped things that sat in the unions were completely crushed, blocking the lines completely. Thankfully, only one of our flares got messed up, so we redid it and put in the new fittings.

We tightened them down and went to try bleeding again. After getting the tightened down enough, there were no leaks and pressure was getting to the rear!!! Pleased, Ben and I finished bleeding the brakes and took the car down from the lift to take it for a break-in and test drive. Ben took it out, and upon returning reported that the brakes didn't work for beans and our second alignment put the wheels the other way, so now the steering wheel was off to the left 20 degrees. Blast. Well, we closed up the shop and decided to take the Alfa when we went to dinner to try and bed in the pads and see if we could get the brakes working. Thankfully, by the time we got to dinner, the brakes were working well enough to lock the rears, although there is too much initial travel, we will re-bleed them later to try and get that out.

On the whole, it was a very successful day and we are really plowing through our list of things to get done. Very soon we will have to turn towards fundraising to try and raise money to get our engine put together and in the car. We also will be trying to find places to race and test the car.
-Damen Hattori

20 January 2006, 1:00 p.m.
Ben and I swung by Pro-Am on Wednesday to pick up the Momo steering wheel and hub that we'd ordered for the Alfa. Thanks again to Billy at Pro-Am for hooking us up with the parts.

The initial plan for today was that when we got to Garcia's, we would take the Alfa over for an alignment, but a call to the alignment shop said that it would be $70 for a front-wheel alignment. That's the cost of almost two gauges, so we're going to see if we can do a better job by ourselves. The friction discs for our limited slip differential had arrived from Britain, so Andy showed me how to rebuild and shim the differential. He said that our diff was in very good shape - the shims had plenty of thickness and that we should be able to get a good locking number from them. By the time he was done, we had a 55% locking factor. The LSD will dramatically improve the race characteristics of the Alfa - it could be the single biggest improvement for us thus far.

Since the car would be staying at Garcia's for the remainder of the day, I jumped in the installed the hub and steering wheel. Many people would say that the wheel we chose is too small (300mm), but with power steering and the fact that we are racing it, I think it was a good choice. It will certainly cut down on the flailing in the cockpit, and can still be turned easily with one hand in a parking lot. Also, we now have a horn button, something that hasn't been true since last September!

With that done, Ben and I decided to tackle the brake proportioning valve installation, now that we had all the fittings. Because the lift was occupied, we would spend the remainder of the night beneath the car as it was on jack-stands. The first thing we did was check the fitting of the new lines coming to and from the valve as it sat in the cockpit. Turned out that they needed significant adjustments in length, and therefore all new flares as well. No sweat, so Ben and I got that finished and proceeded to fit the new lines to the valve and bolt it to the transmission tunnel. This, however, wasn't quite as easy, as the bolts go through the transmission tunnel and needed to be nutted above the catalytic converter and the driveshaft. We got it done, though, so all that was left was to splice the new lines into the existing system.

In the meantime, Will and Lucas arrived, so we assigned them the task of rebuilding the front calipers with kits sent to us by Andy Kress at Performatek. They got it done and fitted the calipers back on with no problems - good job guys.

All the credit goes to Ben for the awful job of splicing the brake lines together. He spent nearly 3 hours on his back in the parking lot underneath the car cutting, flaring, and fitting the lines together with some sketchily designed unions from O'Reilly. While he worked on that, Lucas, Will, and I tried to fix the alignment on the car, given the knowledge that the wheels were pointed in the same direction, although about 20 degrees left. As we finished that, Ben completed the valve installation while claiming that he was pretty sure those unions wouldn't work. We were all pretty grumpy by that point (~9:30 p.m.), so we cleaned up and called it a night. Tomorrow we'll be back to hopefully install the limited slip differential and get the brakes working (bled, etc…).
-Damen Hattori

17 January 2006, noon
We all had class this morning, but I was back at Garcia's around noon to work on the power steering rack and to reinstall the hubs. The real tough part of installing the rack is getting the fluid hard lines back in their respective holes with the two washers while keeping the collar from the steering column over the splines and centering the rack over the mounting holes. It took a couple more hours, but I finally got everything done except putting the collar over the splines, which I needed help from a person in the cab to do. Ben showed up just in time to help put the collar on and the spindles back on the front - definitely a two person job. It took me with a pry bar and Ben's leg pressing the steering wheel, but we finally got the rack completely installed. Ben tightened down the final nuts to secure the collar while I soldered a new sensor onto the car to replace the one I broke yesterday. Once we put the wheels back on, we did our best to align the car with a tape measure, going by the distance from center-to-center at the front of the wheels vs. center-to-center at the rear of the front wheels.

With everything back together, it was time to start the car and fill the power steering system with fluid. A little apprehensive, we started the car and poured fluid into the reservoir, carefully watching for leaks. None appeared. We then slowly started to work the wheel back and forth - no leaks!! Excited, Ben and I took the car down off the lift to take it for a test drive. With the car driving straight, the steering wheel was pointed about 20 degrees to the right - apparently our alignment job wasn't so hot. Anyhow, the power steering worked great, and from what we could feel, the front has a much more solid feel with none of the former slop. So we declared victory and called it a night at about 8:00 p.m. Friday we will try to go get the car aligned and see if we have any time left over to do anything else. We're making progress!
-Damen Hattori

16 January 2006, 9:00 a.m.
I told Andy Garcia that we would be coming by at around 9:30 a.m. to try and install the power steering rack and since the Alfa wasn't starting so great (dead battery) I got up a little early to account for the time to jump it. So at 8:45 a.m. I pulled my car next to the Alfa and hooked up the battery like Ben and I had the other night. I tried starting it once and it just turned over and over and over with no hint of firing. I let it rest a minute or two just on the off chance that it really needed to get the battery going before it could start, and then tried again - same result, no starting. What could be the problem? Ben and I had driven it all around Houston no more than two nights ago without problems whatsoever. With no fuel gauge and no idea when the last time we put gas in the car, I thought that maybe it just was too low on fuel. Okay, so I drove down the street to get a container and a gallon of gas. After I put the fuel in, it turned over and gave one cough like it was going to start and then resumed turning over and over. Encouraged a little bit, I thought that maybe another gallon would help it along, so I drove down to the gas station again for some more. As it was nearing 9:30, I called Lucas and Ben and told them to meet at my house instead of Garcia's to help as they wouldn't be able to do anything at Garcia's anyhow. Once they arrived and there were two gallons in the car, it still wouldn't start. However it gave a couple coughs like it reeeeeally wanted to start, but then resumed turning over. So Lucas went to get another gallon of gas while I left my car running to hopefully get a good charge on the battery. Lucas came back with a gallon of gas and breakfast (nacho chips and a Dr. Pepper) and we crossed our fingers. Thankfully, it fired up. It was almost 10:30.

Ben strapped into the Alfa with me and the three of us headed over to Garcia's to get started on the rack. He told us that while we were down there, we should replace the ball joints. While we had the suspension apart, we should install the upper control arm bushings. And then since we were pressing bushings, we should replace the caster arm bushings. So our reasonable goal for the day of getting the steering rack installed quickly became part of a complete front end overhaul…

We worked as hard and as fast as we could, but with just three of us there at any given time (Brad and Lucas swapped in and out throughout the day) and our relative level of inexperience with the front suspension meant that it wasn't quick work. The steering rack is notorious for being very difficult to replace, and it lived up to its reputation. Brad and I worked on it for nearly five hours and didn't even come close to getting the new one installed. The idea of it is relatively simple, but everything being so difficult to access makes the job exponentially more difficult and time consuming. We ran into a hiccup when Ben didn't realize his own strength and snapped the safety bolt right off the top of one the lower ball joints. Also, at some point in the day, when I was turning the engine over by hand to get all the old power steering fluid out of the system, I broke the water temp sensor off the front of the pump.

With me still battling with the power steering rack and the clock nearing 6:00 p.m., Ben and Lucas finished replacing all the bushings in the front, but we decided that we just weren't going to get it all back together that night and had to leave the car on the lift to finish on Tuesday. Slightly frustrated, but realizing that we had accomplished a lot, we called it a day. I'll be back Tuesday afternoon to try and get everything back together.
-Damen Hattori

13 January 2006, 2:00 p.m.
A new semester and big plans! Ben and I, excited to get started again, decided on getting the interior all back together and to get all the wiring into its final position. When we first got back to my house to check out the dried paint job on the interior, we noticed quite a few missed spots and inconsistencies. No problem, so we took a trip to Lowe's to pick up a couple of extra cans of enamel to spot in the bad areas.

Once we finished the paint, we called a dinner break to let it dry before we made a trip to O'Reilly Auto Parts to pick up black zip ties to secure the wiring and flex tubing in place. Ben got all the wiring and flex tubing finalized up near the dash (not an easy job) while I got the rest of the car taken care of and then moved on to reinstalling the brackets, seats, harnesses, and rear seat belts. We finished at about 1:15 a.m. and decided that after all the work, we were going to take it for a joy ride.

No problem, so we went to start up the car before we got harnessed in (just to make sure, as it had been sitting for a month). Nothing. No clicking, turning, anything. The battery was completely dead. No matter, we were determined to take it for a test drive, so I pulled my car up behind the Alfa to jump it. After giving it a minute, we were able to start it up for the drive. The key would be not to stall it, especially with our recently installed clutch stop!

We took it around town for a while and then decided that the interior looked so good that we had to show the other guys, despite the fact that it was nearly 2:00 a.m. We called Phil first, he didn't answer, so we called Lucas who was hanging out on campus- perfect! So we cruised over to campus and as we were driving along the road through the middle of campus, Ben spotted his roommate walking with a group of friends; so we called them over to check it out. All of our hard work paid off when the entire group was totally impressed with the Alfa and couldn't hear enough about it! Once they had all got a good look and we told them what the club was about, we cruised over to see Lucas at his dorm. He was duly impressed with how the interior turned out and was excited about the next step. Exhausted, we called it a night and went home. We don't have class on Monday (Martin Luther King day) so we will head over to Garcia's to try and check the next item off of our list - installing the new power steering rack.
-Damen Hattori

14 December 2005, 10:00 a.m.
With the cage installed and all of the insulating tar removed, we finally reached the point of painting. Earlier in the semester, we pondered having it sprayed professionally, but in the end decided that we would just rattle can it ourselves. It would be easier, cheaper, and if the finish gets messed up, we can just spot it in no problem. The paint would add a layer of protection (from rust) and just look better.

Lucas and Ben showed up in the morning and we got to work removing the seats, seatbelts, etc. from the interior and then cleaning and deglossing everything that we would be painting. A pretty boring, but very time consuming, day continued with a thick coat of gray primer, and then two coats of stainless steel spray enamel. It doesn't sound like much, but after three trips to Lowe's and a full coat on the interior, I finished spraying at about 10:00 p.m. It wasn't very well lit in the garage, so I have no idea if it turned out splotchy or uniform whatsoever, but we did the best we could.

That's it for the fall semester. While everything took about four times as long as we would have liked, it was about par for the course when it comes to car projects. We have a lot of work to next semester: installing all the bushings and rebuild kits sent by Andy Kress of Performatek, rebuild and install the limited slip differential, design, fabricate, and install a custom dash and a set of aftermarket gauges, raise money for entry fees and more parts, and get our engine situation moving along. Big thanks to all of the people and companies who were generous enough to help us this semester:

Jamie Brooks at BrooksSpeed Garage
Andy Garcia and Michael Keith at Garcia Alfa Racing
Andy Kress at Performatek
Steve Hattori at Salinas Valley Precision
Ken at Precision Engine
Dr. Andrew Barron
Greg Gordon
Ryan Falconer

See everyone next year!
-Damen Hattori

13 December 2005, 10:00 a.m.
Back at it this morning, we were determined to finish to cage and have the car interior ready for primer and paint tomorrow. The first thing I did was fabricate the last bar for the rear. A tricky piece, it took an inexperienced guy like me almost an hour to get the fitment perfect, but it got done. Ingress and egress to and from the rear seats have been somewhat inhibited, but it's reasonable.

After lunch, the last two pieces left were the bars where the race harnesses would be mounted. The longer one behind the driver's seat had to be curved at both ends to allow more adjustment of the seat, while the passenger side was straight across the diagonal. The tricky part of getting the driver's side bar to fit was the notch at the end, so it took some time, but ultimately came out very well. With that piece in, I moved on the do the passenger's side. The piece wasn't difficult to make, but it was a little time consuming to make sure that it sat perfectly even with the bar on the driver's side. Once that was fabricated and welded in, the cage was complete!! Almost three months in the making, but it came out brilliantly - make sure to check out the pictures. While I finished that, Ben sealed up all the holes and drain plugs with aluminum tape, readying the car for paint.

When Lucas showed up, the last things we wanted to do were mount the fuse box on the roll bar along the windshield, and to make a clutch stop to make the throw shorter (removing the free travel at the bottom of the pedal). Ben and Lucas mounted the box with some heavy duty zip ties and we drilled a hole in the firewall below the clutch pedal for the stop. Using a big nut and a bolt with a small bolt welded to the top of it, we threaded through our stop and adjusted so that the car could roll free just before the pedal hit the stop. We shortened the throw by almost three inches! It's a great modification, and will certainly help on the track. Declaring success, we thanked Jamie and finished the evening with a meal at the Hot Dog shop. Tomorrow will be paint!
-Damen Hattori

12 December 2005, 9:00 a.m.
Jamie was back from vacation today, so it was back over to Brooks Speed to keep working on the roll cage. We really needed to get it done by Wednesday so that we could paint the interior before we left for break. I got there at around 9:00 a.m. to get an early start, while Ben and Lucas had school related things to take care of. The rest of the club went home for break already, so it was up to the three of us to get it finished.

We only had a couple of bars left to do, but due to the angles and some curvature, they were going to be a little tricky. Before lunch, we were able to get the entire driver's side rear completed, although it took quite a bit of hand work with the grinder and notcher to get the tubes to fit perfectly.

Around lunch time, I put in a call to Pro-Am auto to see if our seats had arrived from Corbeau, as we needed to fit them to put the harness bars in the car. Sure enough, the seats were in: two black Corbeau Forza race seats weighing less than 19 lbs each. A vast improvement in both support and weight over the stock ~40lb mushy seats. So I went to go pick those up and made it back in time to meet Ben at the shop. Although the seats came with universal sliders, we needed to make our own brackets to install them in the car. With some initial instruction from Jamie, Ben and I fabricated brackets for both sides of the car and installed the seats. They look and fit great, and will no doubt be quite a boon on the track.

By the time we got that finished, it was past 7:00 p.m., so we called it a night and formulated a plan for finishing the cage on Tuesday. Big thanks to Billy at Pro-Am Auto of Houston for supplying us with the seats at cost!
-Damen Hattori

8 December 2005, 9:00 a.m.
Our one goal for the day was to get the brake proportioning valve in the car. We knew that it wouldn't be perfectly easy, but it was relatively straightforward. Ben showed up to help so there were two of us. The first thing we did was go to the parts store next door to Garcia Alfa Racing and get some brake line to use for re-routing into the cabin. I then ran across the street to borrow a flaring tool for the connections. Also, yesterday before I went home, I stopped by O'Reilly Auto Parts to buy some connectors to attach two flared ends where we would splice in the new line.

Once we had all the parts to do the job, we figured how exactly we would install the valve. We wanted to put it in a place that could be reached by the driver if it needed to be adjusted on the fly, but we didn't want it in a place where it might get knocked accidentally during a shift. It turns out that when we removed all the hardware for the emergency brake, it left a perfect sized space on the driveshaft tunnel to mount it, so we went ahead and drilled the holes for mounting and started to work the new brake line. With a tube bender, Ben bent the lines into the shape we needed to splice into the existing line underneath the car, lead into the cabin, and then back out to meet up with the line headed to the rear brakes. Now that the lines were in the right shape, we needed to flare the ends - Chris from across the street (who lent us the tool) told us to make sure to follow the instructions for the results we wanted.

No problem, so Ben and I followed the directions and whipped up some sweet flares for the ends of our brake lines. The next step was a test fit, so with the car on the lift, Ben got inside, I got underneath, and determined that our fit was great, so I went to find some hardware to mount it to the car. Anyhow, we got everything nearly mounted, so Ben went to tighten the lines to the valve, only to find that they wouldn't tighten down. Frustrated, we pulled the valve out of the car again to figure out what was going on.

I turns out that there are supposed to be special fittings included with the valve, but ours weren't there. So essentially we couldn't install the valve. It was very frustrating, and it will have to wait until after break. I think we're going to take the weekend to study for finals, but we should be back at it next week, trying to get the roll cage fixed at Brooks Speed.
-Damen Hattori

7 December 2005, 9:00 a.m.
Cold again today, even some rain. The goal of the day was to install a battery relocation kit from Summit Racing and move the battery into the trunk for great weight redistribution. Brad, Ben, and I were there nice and early to get started. The first thing to do was remove the exhaust manifold. That was our first snag- one of the nuts that held the down pipe to the manifold was completely rounded off, beyond stripped. Mike got under there to look and being very experienced with rust and stripped hardware, hammered a one-size down socket onto the nut and was able to get it off. Excellent. The whole reason for this was so that we could access the top of the starter to splice in the cable that would go to the trunk. Now that we could get there, we used a hack saw (!) to cut through the old + cable to splice in the new one. Once that was done, we stripped the cut ends of both of the cables and used a massive crimping tool to put the two together. We put some heat shrink tube around it, a layer of electrical tape, and replaced the insulation around it. Done.

Well, almost. The other thing that had to be done in the engine bay was the tie the alternator into the junction box at the firewall, as we had bypassed that with our new cable. It was a fairly simple job (putting ends on either end of a new 8 gauge wire, securing it to the posts), but had its problems, too. The main one was that the post by the fender to which we were screwing the cable wasn't long enough to hold all of the items. Ben got around the issue by using a thinner nut, and he was able to get everything on.

With everything attached (electrically), we decided to risk doing a test run by starting the car with the battery hooked up in the trunk. Miraculously, it fired up on the first try! Great, that was the hard part finished; now we just had to mount the box in the trunk and stick the battery in- no problem. Right.

So we reassembled everything in the engine bay, put the front of the car down, and went to start on the back. Now, we bought a kit from Summit Racing with everything included (even instructions), so keep in mind throughout the rest of this. The kit came with a template to show where to drill holes for the mounting J-bolts with respect to the placement of the battery box. Brad and I had decided on the location of the box earlier and drilled the holes the day before, so that was done. The way to kit works, there is a metal bracket that sits on the top of the battery and the J-bolts hold onto this bracket (via little L-brackets) and then go along the side of the box and through the floor of the trunk where they are fastened down. Anyway, with the location of the holes (from the template) and the J-bolts tightened, the clips for the lid were completely blocked by the bolts. Brilliant. So we had to drill another hole (spaced farther apart) in order for everything to fit. So then the lid could go into its clips, but with the new location, the lid could not be put on due to the corner hitting the rear of the trunk. Okay, so we got out the hand-saw and trimmed the corner, no problem. Well, now that the lid would fit in the space we had for it, it wouldn't fit over the J-bolts! So we had to saw slots in the lid to accommodate the included mounting hardware. Summit must have never had tested this kit, because it is just lousy. Now the lid fit and we put the battery in, but we had to stuff the box with cardboard so the battery wouldn't slide around in it. Whatever, so we went to tighten everything down really well for the final time. Well, it turns out, when you tighten down the J-bolts too much, it pulls on the L-brackets- so much that the L-brackets pop right out, the J-bolts fall off, and the battery and box are free to roam about the trunk. This kit must have been engineered by monkeys; there is no way that this design would ever work properly, so at some point we are going to have to do something else to hold the kit in place- we don't want the battery flying around the car on the track.

Anyhow, we put everything back in place and tightened the J-bolts as much as we thought we could without the L-brackets popping out, and the (plastic) box is all warped from the brackets pulling on it, etc, etc but it works. I sent an e-mail to Summit letting them know that their product is so poorly designed as I am used to much better stuff from them. Oh well, tomorrow is the brake proportioning valve, hopefully that goes better.
-Damen Hattori

6 December 2005, 9:00 a.m.
It is getting really cold. Ben and I were at Garcia Alfa Racing at 9:00 a.m. to start bleeding the brakes completely. Freezing, Ben and I worked outside, manually bleeding the system again, front and rear. Once again, we still had a ton of travel in the pedal before it actually did anything, so we decided that we needed to try something new. Mike "the Legend" Keith gave us his legendary power bleeder to try and get all of the air out of the system. Sounds good.

So we followed his instructions, filling the power bleeder with about a liter of fluid, and the pumping it up to about 12 psi. No problem. Just as Ben was sliding under the rear to turn the bleed screws, all hell broke loose. As I was standing there watching to make sure that the pressure was maintained, the fluid line from the bleeder to the master cylinder split! A pressurized stream of brake fluid blasted from the split, spraying off the inside of the hood all over the engine bay and the front of the car. I immediately started yelling to Ben while I unscrewed the top of the bleeder to let out the pressure. But the mess had already been made- nearly a third of a liter of fluid had doused our car. We rushed to get rags and brake cleaner, as nothing eats paint quite like brake fluid.

Moving on to plan B, we pulled the car into the shop (Brad had arrived in the meantime) to use Andy's vacuum bleeder that was powered by the air compressor. All the guys in the shop (Mike, Andy, etc) left to go to lunch, and we stayed to try and get the brakes proper. Time went by and we had no luck getting a decent pedal; even The Legend was perplexed.

We decided to take a break, and I called Ken at Precision Engine to see what we needed to do to get our 3.0L motor going. It turns out that the cylinder liners are rusted worse than we thought (imagine that), so they will need to bore out at least 20 thousandths to get the cylinders back into shape. That big of an overbore means new pistons. $$$$$ Yikes. So we had an impromptu meeting to discuss our options. After a solid hour of active discussion with the club and Mike and Andy, we came to the conclusion that the only way we could get the motor in the car and everything running reliably in time for One Lap would to stay normally aspirated. They have more experience tuning, and we just aren't at the point where we have the time or know-how to deal with a supercharger. Therefore, we are going to try to find a piston company, get some forged, high compression, 40 thousandths oversized pistons, and race cams for somewhere between 280-300 hp. Nice!

We also discussed wheel and tire combinations. While we would love to get really meaty wheels and tires (think 17x9" with 255-45/17), we are just not going to have enough time to create a body kit to fit that kind of rubber on the car. We decided that our best bet is 15x7 rims with a 225-50/15 tire, the same size as we ran last year. The advantage will be that the 15 inch rims will weigh less than 15 pounds each.

The last thing we did for the day was to try and get the brakes functioning reasonably. Judging that the rear calipers were not the problem, Mike suggested that we check the rear of the master cylinder for leaks. Ben and I pulled the master cylinder to find no leaks and an overall healthy piece. What was not healthy, though, was the bias valve sending and regulating pressure to the rear. The valve was hosed, so we removed it and plumbed it so that we have 50/50 braking distribution. Not ideal, but maybe we could get our pedal back. This will be fixed when we install the brake proportioning valve. Bleeding the system manually yielded better, nearly streetable results, but the pedal still has too much play for any serious braking. Tomorrow we will move on to install the battery relocation kit (into the trunk).
-Damen Hattori

5 December 2005, 10:00 a.m.
Today marked the start of finals week for all of us, but what it really means is that we can spend a lot of time working on the Alfa. We have a ton of parts to install at Garcia Alfa Racing; hopefully we can get it all in this week so we can head back to Brooks Speed next week to finish the cage and paint the interior.

The first thing that we wanted to get done is install the stainless steel brake lines and rear freshly rebuilt calipers (courtesy of Andy Kress at Performatek). While we were back there, we decided to put on the prototype adjustable sway bar designed and provided by Andy Kress. Our attendance was decent with me, Ben, Lucas, Alex, Will, and Brad helping out. Alex, Will, and I worked on getting the stainless lines on both sides of the front, while Ben and Lucas got under the rear of the car to do the work there. We made good progress all day, especially considering a lot of us were doing this for the first time.

Fighting through some rust (imagine that) made the process in the front take about as twice as long as it should have. Once Alex and I got the rubber line disconnected from the hard line to the master cylinder, we had to remove the caliper from the car and take it into the shop, as the line nuts connecting the caliper and the rubber line were nearly one solid piece. Putting one of the nuts into the bench vise and slamming on the other one finally got it done. Installing the new lines was smooth and straightforward.

Ben and Lucas did most of the work on the rear, with Ben finishing it up (as Lucas had to take people home). The fitment of the new sway bar is cherry and the new calipers should work great for us. With the help of Mike (the Legend) Keith from Garcia Alfa Racing, we adjusted the new Carbotech carbon rear pads and bled the system to try and get some semblance of a brake pedal. Our initial bleed job got a lot of air out, but not enough. The car would stop, but it wasn't safe enough for me to drive back home, so it stayed the night at the shop. We will be back in the morning to properly bleed the system and get the brakes working properly.
-Damen Hattori

2 December 2005, 3:00 p.m.
With the Thanksgiving holiday and the end of classes, we weren't able to do any work on the Alfa, as everyone has been quite busy. However, everyone is in agreement that we need to get the roll cage installed and the interior painted before we leave (we don't want it to rust over Christmas break), so Brad and I headed out to Brooks Speed this afternoon to weld in the three pieces we had bent. To make the situation even more desperate, Jamie will be out of town starting this Saturday, so we really needed to get this done.

When Brad and I arrived at Brooks Speed, the Alfa was already pulled into the shop. I thought, "Alright, we're ready to go here." Little did we know, as soon as we got up to the car, we saw that Jamie had installed (read: bent more tubing, welded in what we had) nearly the whole cage!! Ecstatic and grateful are dramatic understatements to how we felt. An enormously huge thanks to Jamie for spending nearly two full days of his valuable time to help us out.

Over the course of the next couple hours, Brad worked on removing the last bits of tar that were hiding near the fuel pump, Jamie worked on plates and cage bars to the rear, and I worked on small angle bars to re-enable the front jacking points. After running into some issues trying to notch the small pieces at too great of an angle, Brad and I figured out an alternative way of solving our problem. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and were unable to make the final pieces, but it should be pretty straightforward the next time we are out there.

Jamie installed the plate and bar to the passenger side rear, and while possible, ingress and egress have been somewhat compromised by the positioning. We'll put some pictures up to show the idea. Anyhow, Jamie will be back in town on Saturday, December 10th, so the following week we will try to get everything concerning the cage wrapped up before we all leave on the 15th. Next week (finals week for us), we will take the Alfa out to Garcia Alfa Racing to install the plethora of parts donated to us by Andy Kress of Performatek out of Massachusetts.
-Damen Hattori

21 November 2005, 3:00 p.m.
Another day, another afternoon (/night) at Brooks Speed to work on the cage. Our big task for the day was to try and get the A-pillar pieces of the cage bent. Ben, Lucas, and I drove out at around 2:30 and Brad and a friend (Austin, from UVA) arrived a bit later. The tricky part about those pieces is that they had to be bent in three dimensions, as opposed to the two dimensions in the rest of the car. This happens because the tubes need to run along the top of the roof and then down and out towards the front corner of the car. Using Jamie's trick pipe-bending software, we made the measurements using a three dimensional grid in the car. After entering the coordinates of our start, bends, and ending points, the software gave us the length of the tubing, the angle and location of the bends, as well as the rotation that needed to happen for the pieces to get the down and out aspect.

Before we actually bent the pipe, Jamie recommended that we run a test piece through the bender to calibrate ourselves. This turned out to be a crucial step: when we bent a piece of test pipe to ninety degrees (or so the machine said), it turned out to be nearly seven degrees shy of a right angle. Knowing then that we would have to go at least six degrees extra on our bends, we avoided all the problems that we had encountered with the main roll hoop. In fact, we turned out two near perfect tubes; we were ecstatic.

So now the next thing to do is weld in what we have, and start tying everything together by getting the crossbar for the harnesses, a bar for the dash, and try to get it all painted. We will all have a lot of time during finals week, so hopefully we can get that done as well as work with Garcia Alfa racing to get some of our parts installed.
-Damen Hattori

18 November 2005, 8:00 p.m.
Ben and I weren't satisfied with how little had been done to the car, so we decided to take it back to my house and work on some of the things that were really hanging over our heads. The first and most obvious was the wiring; we knew that it was going to take a few hours to get it under control and organized in a reasonable fashion. Other things that were still bothering us were the decal residue on the exterior of the car, and the tar in the rest of the car.

While it sounds minor, Ben and I spent a total of over 12 hours Friday and Saturday doing exactly those things, stopping only for food and trips to O'Reilly. Now the wiring is nearly all sorted out (see the pictures) and all of the big pieces of tar are out of the car, so it was well worth the time. Monday we will head back out to Brooks Speed to get more work on the roll cage done.
-Damen Hattori

18 November 2005, 1:30 p.m.
It's been a while since the Milano has been to Garcia Alfa Racing, so we decided to pick the car up from Brooks Speed (Jamie was gone for the weekend) and take it over and see what Andy Garcia thought of the progress. Ben and I showed up about 1:30 p.m., and Lucas and Will came by about an hour later. We spent most of the time talking with Andy about various aspects of the project, but Lucas and Will were able to pick up a fishing leader to secure our new gas cap to the car. It worked great and now it will be nearly impossible to lose another gas cap. We also worked on getting some more tar out of the car as well as miscellaneous things such as removing the second fog light to make room for brake ducts.

Garcia says that once we have all the parts to put on at his shop we will be able to get everything installed in about two days. While it sounds a bit optimistic to us, we have learned not to question Andy, so we'll see if that is the case. We looked at a black Milano that was in the parking lot that had the battery moved into the trunk; Garcia told us that a battery relocation kit from Summit Racing was all we needed to do the same. We will order one.

While we would have liked to have installed some of our stuff, Garcia had to run to make it to a track even up north, so we called it a night and had dinner down the street at Chacho's.
-Damen Hattori

11 November 2005, 12:00 noon
I called a lunch meeting to discuss a few important things with the club. The first item on the list was the grant we received, and what we should do with the money. We agreed unanimously that we need to get a rebuilt steering rack to replace our leaky unit, so that is at the top of the list. Next on the list are a pair of race seats (which we are working on acquiring) and a set of gauges (tach, speedo, fuel, oil pressure, etc…). These aren't cheap items, but very necessary for the project.

The second discussion topic was that of a fundraiser for the club. Building off an idea of Dr. Barron's from last year, I proposed a 1000-mile Enduro around the 610 loop in Houston, asking people to pledge money per mile (a penny/mile, nickel/mile, etc…) and choose from a list of parts how they would their donations to be spent. I think the event would be sometime in March, when the car is farther along and we are closer to the date of the event. However, I thought we should send out the pledge forms in the next week or two, before the holidays, so that people can write-off donations for the tax year, and so that we can use the money to buy the respective parts and have them installed for the event. Dr. Barron thinks we could get media coverage from local news, and ConocoPhillips would sponsor the fuel for the event. It would be about 20 hours and we would have probably 4-5 people driving over the weekend. We are still working on the details, but I think the idea has potential.

In the meantime, work will continue on the roll cage next week (Jamie is busy this weekend), as we would really like to have it done before Christmas.
-Damen Hattori

10 November 2005, 2:30 p.m.
"The Student Activity Fund Committee met yesterday to discuss the request of the Society of Automotive Engineers for funding for the Cannonball One Lap of America. The committee agreed to fund $1000.00 toward your expenses."

I submitted some lengthy grant applications in October, and we got a response today from the Student Activities Group!! $1,000 will go a very long way in this project for us, I called a meeting for tomorrow to discuss what the money should go towards, as well as what needs to happen in the next few weeks, before we all leave for Christmas Break.
-Damen Hattori

10 November 2005, 8:00 a.m.
Phil was able to borrow a pickup truck to get the engine over to Precision Engine for our consultation with Ken. We met at Ryon Lab on campus at 8:00 a.m. to load the block and drove into downtown at 8:15 a.m. on the main interstate. Traffic was pretty brutal. It took us about 30 minutes to drive the 9 miles to the shop, but we arrived 15 minutes early, ready to go.

I went into the lobby to see if Ken was there, but he had some errands that he had come up, so a gentleman named Herb agreed to meet with us to get as much as we could squared away. We unpacked the engine, and while Herb said that the engine is in pretty good shape, we will need to get some standard rebuild parts (e.g. gaskets, rod bearings, etc..) to complete the job. After looking over the engine, Herb took Phil and me on a tour of the shop, explaining all of the different machines and processes in an engine rebuild; they run a great high-volume business, we are delighted that they are helping us out. A big thanks to Herb for treating us so well. I will talk to Ken over the phone sometime next week to discuss the details of what we will have done.
-Damen Hattori

9 November 2005, 3:00 p.m.
Roll cage. Yes, we're still working on it. Unfortunately, we all have pretty busy schedules, so it's difficult to get over to Brooks Speed for large amounts of time to get this done. We made some good progress today, though.

Ben, Phil, and I were in attendance, and Ben took it on himself to remedy our fuel pump issue. It needed to have the bracket modified/fixed to hold the pump securely to the bottom of the floor pan, and the metal line on the pressure side of the pump needed to be trimmed off and the rubber extended. So while Ben worked on getting the bracket fixed, I made a trip to O'Reilly to get some injector hose and clamps. Phil worked on getting more of the ubiquitous tar out of the car. When I returned, Ben had mounted the pump securely and within about 20 minutes he had the line on and declared the fuel pump issue closed. Excited, we tried to start the car and, after building some pressure in the lines, it fired right up. The pump no longer hangs 3 inches below the car nor leaks fuel. In the mean time, I soldered the ignition wires that we had dealt with when we removed the alarm system on Saturday, so they won't come apart.

As we finished all that, Jamie finished with a customer and we started measuring the interior of the car for a main hoop. Using Jamie's pipe bending software, we entered all the measurements for the program to calculate the bend locations and angles. Given all the specifications needed, we started fabricating the main hoop. We started with 25 foot bars of steel tubing (graciously donated by Salinas Valley Precision, a machine shop in California) and first cut a piece to the length we needed. With the manual pipe bender, an angle finder, and a level, we bent our first tube - a 4-bend main hoop. When we got it out of the pipe bender, we measured some of the critical dimensions. It wouldn't fit. For some reason, the angles were too shallow and the hoop wouldn't fit in the car, so we put it back in the bender to make the angles more acute. After some on-the-fly adjustments, we pulled the hoop back out of the bender and took it over to the car.

The hoop was lopsided. There was a slant along the top that just wasn't going to work. Apparently the pipe had slipped in the bender once force was applied and we'd failed to notice, so our angles we in the wrong places. We tried to figure out how we might be able to fix it, but after all of us putting our heads together, determined that we needed to try again. We will be able to use the bad part for some short, straight pieces, so it wasn't a total loss.

Our second try yielded a better piece, and we took it over to the car for fitment. It wasn't perfect, but it should do quite nicely. We called it a night at around 10:15 p.m., but we'd made progress. We planned on dinner at the Hot Dog Shop, but they closed at 10:00, so we were out of luck. Next time, we'll make sure to get in before closing. The progress is slow, but it's progress.
-Damen Hattori

8 November 2005, 10:00 a.m.
We really need to get the 3.0L engine to a machine shop before Christmas Break if we want to have a shot at getting it in for the 2006 One Lap, so I planned on making some calls to local engine machine shops to see if they would be interested in donating machine time to get our engine into shape.

The first place I called was Precision Engine Rebuilders downtown off of I-45. I talked to a gentleman named Ken, and he agreed to donate machine work to the project!! Very excited, I set up a meeting with Ken on Thursday at 9:00 a.m. to bring the engine over and discuss what we need done. This is huge for the club, and we are very excited to have a reputable local shop on board.

Separately, I contacted Alfa Parts Exchange in Modesto, California about a limited slip differential. I spoke with Larry, and he was able to track one down out of a 3.0L and offer it to us at an outstanding price, so I jumped at the deal. The club now has a limited slip on the way, which will help immensely, especially with the 3.0L engine now. I also had them throw in a gas cap, so we can replace our custom trash-bag/zip tie cap that is on the car now!
-Damen Hattori

7 November 2005, 12:00 noon
We plan on installing race seats and five-point harnesses in the car, so I decided to try and track down some harnesses first. Dr. Barron (our faculty sponsor) had the good suggestion to check the SCCA classifieds, as they are required to replace their belts at certain intervals, and most throw them away. The One Lap of America doesn't have a date requirement for belts, so he recommended that we let the community know that we would happily take belts that were out-of-date, but in decent shape. So, last week I put a post on the national SCCA forum stating just that.

We got a response from Don at Vick Racing in Fort Worth, TX that they had some unused out-of-date belts available if we were interested. Of course we were, so I emailed him back that we would love some. Today I received the harnesses, and they are great! Two sets of brand new condition 3" G-Force black five-point harnesses! Thanks to Don and Vick Racing for their awesome donation.
-Damen Hattori

5 November 2005, 1:00 p.m.
Ben and I have really been struggling with the wiring mess in the Alfa, so we decided to do something about it. It was Saturday, and Brooks Speed wasn't open, but Ben and I went out there anyway to try and sort out the wiring while the car was in the parking lot.

On the way to Brooks Speed, we stopped at O'Reilly Auto Parts to pick up some miscellaneous items: 3' of flex tubing (test to see how it worked for hiding wires), door molding (to cover the sharp window sills and carrier to protect our pull straps), coolant (we drained ours when removing HVAC), and power steering fluid (our steering rack leaks like a sieve, so we constantly fill it up to prevent the pump from burning out). We then headed to tackle the rat's nest (see the pictures).

The first thing that we wanted to do, especially Ben, was remove the aftermarket alarm system. Whoever installed it did a hack job and tangled all the wiring in the process. Now one of our goals was that the car ran and all the lights and wipers worked when we were finished, so after every disconnection and re-route, we tested the ignition, lights, signals, and wipers. It took nearly an hour, but sure enough, we removed the entire alarm system, along with all the wiring and the car ran and everything functioned. Sweet. With that tackled, we started thinking about where all the wires were going to end up permanently so that we could start organizing. The rest of our two hours were spent moving wires around and routing them though the steering column support and along the base of the windshield where they will eventually be secured to the roll cage. We also found a spot on the firewall to mount the fuse box, which is a huge obstacle. We tested the flex tubing on the huge snake of wires running from the fuse box in the driver's footwell to the rear of the car, and it looks really great. When I got home I ordered enough to do the entire car.

Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, but on Wednesday I will take some pictures. It was extremely productive and both Ben and I now feel much better about the whole situation. We will be back at Brooks Speed on Wednesday the 9th to work on the cage some more, so stay tuned.
-Damen Hattori

4 November 2005, 3:00 p.m.
Another Friday afternoon, and today we had a new member join us: Will Pryor, a freshman from New York. We are always glad to see new members getting involved, as it secures the future of the club.

Our intention was to continue with the cage, hopefully getting to designing and bending the pipes. Unfortunately, Jamie had something come up at the last minute, so our session was cut short. In the time we were there, we got a couple of things done. Ben took apart what was left of the fuel pump bracket to see what the extent of the damage was. It turns out that the rubber isolators rotted (there's something new…) and fell out of the bracket. Consequently, the pressure side of the fuel pump was hanging down and at some point, the metal fuel line exiting the pump hit the ground and attained some hairline fractures. Ben would wipe the line clean (while the car wasn't running), and after a second or two fuel would percolate through. This is the source of our fuel leak. The plan is to fix the bracket, source some new rubber, and mend the fuel line by cutting the cracked metal line above the damage and attaching the rubber part higher up.

In the meantime, Lucas got under the car to check out the situation with the shift mechanism. Nobody makes a short shift kit for the car, and while perhaps not critical, we would like to design and fabricate our own. Lucas's reconnaissance revealed that we might be able to do it, given we have enough time and our thinking is not askew; we will see how that develops.

Will and I worked on removing more tar from the interior, as it all has to come out. Once the cage is in, we will need to paint the whole interior to prevent rust, so it is critical that we get all the nasty junk out of the car. One exciting thing - we have been using hammers and chisels to chip the main layer of old tar off, but it leaves behind a lot of thick black residue that water won't take off. So I went around the shop in search of something that might affect it. After some suggestions from Jamie, I tried some parts cleaning solution, Varsol, and it worked like a miracle! We were all very excited as not only does it make the interior look much better (without all the black goo), but it is very easy to remove.

After some discussion about the design of the cage, we headed out and had dinner at the Hot Dog Shop.
-Damen Hattori

29 October 2005, 10:30 a.m.
We had high hopes for progress on the cage today, but were foiled again by Italian "charm." I'll explain towards the end.

Ben and I arrived at 10:15 a.m. at Brooks Speed, followed by Brad and Jamie at 10:30 and Lucas and Alex at 11:30. Our big plan was to get all of the plates welded to the floor and maybe even start bending tubing for the cage. We set to work right away: Brad resumed grinding to prep for the welding, Ben went to work on the driver's door to get the window pull in, Alex and Lucas decided to get the A/C compressor out of the engine bay, and Jamie and I discussed the design of the cage itself.

Working from some pictures online of another Alfa Romeo Milano with a full roll cage, Jamie and I formed a plan; we'll see how it turns out. Jamie started to weld the holes in the floor on the passenger side to eventually put a box in for the cage. I joined Ben in getting another window functional.

After a few hours of working, Ben and I finished our window pull on the driver's side, Brad had finished most of the grinding in the cabin, and Jamie had patched the holes in the floor and was readying to weld in the box. After a brief phone call to Andy Garcia (who couldn't make it out), Team Lucas had made good progress on the A/C compressor removal. We took a break and had some Jack in the Box for lunch.

After lunch, Lucas successfully removed the compressor, reducing the weight by almost 20 lbs! Ben and I had finished the window, so we decided to attack some more wiring. We removed the wiring out of all the doors, removed the power locks out of the doors, removed the window switches in the front of the car (which were just hanging obtrusively from the ceiling by duct tape) and removed the remainder of the HVAC wiring. In the midst of all this, I removed the cracked rubber boot from around the shift lever to see what we might be able to do about a short shifter. After drilling out the rivets and removing the boot, it is quite obvious that to see anything dealing with the shift linkage, it needs to be done from underneath the car. Oh well; we saved a few ounces by removing the boot. Feeling good about our progress, at about 3:00 we decided to fire the Alfa up to make sure that everything ran alright. We plugged the battery and the ECU back in and Ben turned the ignition. It turned over and over and over…without firing. Uh-oh. We were pretty sure that we hadn't removed any wiring that would deal with the engine at all, so we were perplexed to say the least. Jamie stopped what he was doing to help diagnose the problem. We pulled a plug and turned it over- there was spark, so that wasn't the problem. Must be a fuel problem. So we went over by the left rear wheel to where the fuel pump is located and listened while Ben turned the car over. Nothing. A voltage tester verified that the fuel pump wasn't getting any power. Cutting to the chase, it took nearly two hours of following wires through the rat's nest to find the fuel relays attached to the firewall in the engine bay. Our wiring issue is aggravated by the fact that somebody did a hack job of installing an alarm system. Once we found the relay, Jamie tried jumping the fuel pump, just to see if it worked alright. Sure enough, it works, but that revealed another issue. The rubber mounts that held the fuel pump to the floor of the car have rotted away, and the fuel pump is hanging all too low. It must have made contact with something at some point, as the fuel line exiting the pump leaks quite significantly. This is an issue to move to the top of the list. Anyhow, knowing that the pump was working and that there shouldn't be an issue with the relays, Jamie told us to try starting it again. I began to protest, as we hadn't done anything to fix the issue, but I kept my mouth shut and turned the key. Sure enough, it fired right up. What a waste of time. We spent nearly 3 hours trying to figure out why it wouldn't start, and it turns out that it just needed a little push by jumping the fuel pump for a second to get it going. Good grief. At least we know that our wiring removal is going fine, as the car runs fine, and all the turn signals, lights, and windshield wipers function.

While we were looking underneath the car at some point during the day, as Ben and I were trying to see if there was an easy way to remove the bumpers, we noticed the rear sway bar linkage. The bushings are entirely gone. There is nothing left around the bolt that holds the sway bar, so the rear sway bar is doing absolutely nothing. Apparently the rubber rotted and fell away. That helps explain some of the drastic understeer in the car.

Anyhow, we left Brooks Speed having not achieved nearly as much as we would have liked, thanks to the fuel pump/relay delay, but we are still moving forward. We will probably resume work on the car next Friday, November 4th.
-Damen Hattori

28 October 2005, 12:00 noon / 3:00 p.m.
Some good news! We received a $1,000 grant from the President's Programming Fund for the One Lap Project! We had a brief meeting over lunch to discuss what we are going to do with the money. The items at the top of the list are:

These items will go a long way in making the Alfa faster and easier to drive (and the gas cap is its own saga…). Lucas is very close to having the Alfa registered to the club, so we will be the official owners very soon. We closed the discussion with who would be working on the Alfa at Brooks Speed in the afternoon.

At around 3:30 p.m. Ben, Phil, and I arrived at Brooks Speed to continue working on the car. The top priority was the roll cage, but with that many of us present, we were able to work on other issues. Before the plates could be installed for the footing of the roll cage, we needed to fill the enormous rust holes in the floor. Jamie (the owner of Brooks Speed and a valuable asset to the club) did/will be doing all the welding on the cage, starting with fabricating some plates to fill the holes. He started on the driver's side, and spent most of the night filling the hole, designing the footing, and fabricating the end result.

In the meantime, we are still finding all the ways that we can to remove weight from the car, especially the front. Since we got the entire dash and HVAC system out of the cabin, there was vestigial machinery still attached in the engine bay: the A/C condenser and compressor. When he wasn't doing the grinding in the cabin to ready the floor for welding, he spent a good amount of time getting the condenser out of the car. It was a successful operation and removed about 20 lbs from the very nose of the car which is the best place to remove weight, and now the radiator will get more fresh air flowing to it.

Ben and I were determined to engineer a way to still have functional windows (read: roll up and down) in the car while removing the heavy power mechanisms. With the wiring situation, the rear windows were also stuck down, and we wanted to get those up anyhow. Ben started off by removing the power assemblies in all the doors except the drivers (where Jamie was working) and we went to work figuring out how to get it done. We ended up using the nice nylon straps from some tow harnesses that I bought, and removing the winch and hook. The first thing we did was thread the strap through the door by sliding it down between the outside door skin and the window. We then brought it up underneath the window carrier and, threading it between the window and the inside door skin, over the top of inside window sill. We then (after some trimming of the sill to make room for the rivet gun and drilling a hole in the outer sill) riveted the strap to the outer sill. Our window rolled up and down perfectly!! Happy with our success, we called it a night.

Jamie had almost finished a very nice box in the driver's footwell for the cage, and Brad (who arrived late) spent most of the evening removing stickers from last year so we don't get fade patterns in the paint. After dinner at the Hot Dog Shop, we agreed to meet at Brooks Speed at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday to continue working.
-Damen Hattori

21 October 2005, 3:30 p.m.
Lucas and Phil picked up the 3.0L motor from Garcia Alfa Racing at around noon today. Andy had been generously storing it for us until we could find a place for it. The motor is now in a lab on campus, so we quit taking up Garcia Alfa's floor space. Thanks again to them for helping us out with that.

We are still trying to get the roll cage into the Alfa, but there are a few things that need to happen first. Phil, Ben, and I went to Brooks Speed this afternoon to try and knock some of those things out, the first of which was to get the rest of the HVAC out of the interior. Ben unbolted the unit from the firewall, only to discover a few significant hoses that led to the engine bay. The hoses were for A/C and coolant routing for the heater. After some advice from Andy Garcia (over the phone) we discharged the A/C system and drained the coolant. We then unplugged the hoses from the HVAC and were able to remove it from the car. We pushed the hoses back through the firewall and re-connected the coolant lines in the engine bay. The dash is now completely removed.

The other thing that needed to happen was the removal of the tar sound deadening material on the floorpan so that we can weld anchor plates for the cage. With hammers and chisels were able to get most of it off, and definitely all away from the areas where we will need to weld. We discussed some plans with the car and called it a night, as Jamie was closing the shop.

Next weekend (Oct. 28/29) we will be doing the actual install (really). Jamie will be helping us and, with any luck, so will Andy Garcia. This will be a big weekend for the Alfa. Stay tuned.
-Damen Hattori

15 October 2005, 12:30 p.m.
Everyone else already had plans for the day, so I cruised over to Brooks Speed alone today, armed with some illegible wiring diagrams (whoever scanned them into their computer didn't have the resolution set high enough, so you can't read the labels) and determined to get the Alfa to start.

Right when I got there, Jamie offered to help me out and try to get it to fire. I pulled out some diagrams and was able to pinpoint the relay that sent power to the ignition key, and from there, Jamie checked the colors of the wires coming from the key and going into the fuse/relay box. They didn't match up, so he switched two plugs in the fuse box and we crossed our fingers. IT STARTED RIGHT AWAY!! I was ecstatic. Lesson learned- label everything, whether they're color-coded or you think you'll remember or not. Our swap fixed the headlight power switch effect, as expected. However, our brake-pedal mirror-adjuster lingers, so we obviously haven't sorted it all out yet.

All the important stuff (ignition, headlights, taillights, brake lights wipers, turn signals) are fully functional at this point. This is satisfactory as we will be removing the power windows, mirrors, locks, etc, so those need not function. The wiring is still a category 5 disaster, so I just started from the farthest point from the mess (the passenger side footwell) and will go through labeling and testing all major functions with it unplugged. If everything works with it unplugged, it stays that way. I am labeling everything and keeping track of the labels and where the plugs go in a table in a notebook. I was able to remove one full harness after about an hour and a half. Only 30 more to go…

I found some critical wires (fuel, ignition) and some not critical wires in the process and duly noted them all. I talked to Jamie about what needs to happen to get the cage in. It would be ideal to already have some racing seats (as we intend to get) to use for measurements around which to build a cage, but that's not an option for us right now. Other than that, we only need to remove the tar near the spots for the floor plates. We will probably be able to do that next Friday. At least the car runs.
-Damen Hattori

14 October, 4:00 p.m.
Alex, Ben, Brad, Lucas, Phil, and I all showed up at Brooks Speed garage at around 4:00 to start getting the Alfa ready for a full cage. After unbolting the seats, the main issue was to get the dash out of the car. Easier said than done. In fact, it was quite a nightmare to get the thing out of car in one piece. While a couple of people worked on the dash removal at a time, everyone else had a hammer and chisel, removing the tar sound deadening material from the floor of the car.

Once the dash is unbolted from all the attachments to the car, it becomes a project and a half to disconnect the rat's nest of wiring behind it. In fact (for better of for worse) we had to unplug nearly the whole relay and fusebox to get everything threaded through to remove the dash from the car. Well, we thought we were labeling everything that we needed to, as many of the plugs were color-coded and/or could only go in one receptacle. We thought.

We were able to get the dash out of the car in one glorious piece, minimizing the carnage. Everything was going just fine. Before we forgot which plugs went where, we plugged everything back in according to our labels/memories. Just for kicks, we decided to make sure that the car would start after our wiring job. Guess what. Nothing. There was no action when we turned the key. No turn-over, no stuttering, no power to the consoles, nothing. Great. So we tried to see if anything worked, and discovered that we had managed to rewire the car so that:

If we hadn't been so upset, we probably would have laughed hysterically, as it is funny. But the car doesn't start and we were very upset. Especially since it was nearing 7 p.m. and four of us had ridden over in it. Thankfully, Brad had brought his car, and while we messed with the wiring some more, he drove Lucas back to his apartment complex to pick up his car so that we could all get home. By the time Brad and Lucas had arrived with transportation for all, we still could not get the car to start. Jamie (the owner of Brooks Speed) was generous enough to let us keep the car there until the cage is installed, so we pushed it outside to a parking space. At least we didn't have to worry about anyone hot wiring it.

Dejected, we called it a day at about 8 p.m. and went to the Hot Dog Shop down the street for dinner. Jamie said that he will be at the shop for a while tomorrow, so I will go home, print out some wiring diagrams, and try to round up some guys to get the Alfa running tomorrow. You win some, you lose some. We lost today. Oh well.
-Damen Hattori

14 October 2005, 12:00 noon
Our second meeting of the year yielded a better turn-out today, and we were able to talk about what we are going to be trying to do with the car over the next few weeks, and where the first of our money is going. As far as what is going to be done to the car in the immediate future, the roll cage is first on the list. We have the steel (donated by Salinas Valley Precision in California) and really need to get that in for both safety and chassis rigidity.

The next few things we decided we will need in the near future are a new steering rack, a limited slip differential, and the parts that Andy K. of Performatek is sending. Priorities fell off dramatically after these items as we are not quite sure what kind of funding we will receive over the next few months.

Lucas contacted a fabrication company called RaceFab in Rusk, Texas that showed some interest in helping us with any fabrication (think dash, door panels, and lexan windows), so we discussed what we might like for them to do for us.

A couple of miscellaneous items were discussed, one of which was whether or not we want to keep the HVAC system in the car. This is one of the things I discussed with Andy Garcia and Mike on Monday, and they were of the opinion that we should remove it. Their reasons were that the system is not very good to start with, and since we are stripping out the interior, it will be even less effective. Also, with our plans for a new dash, removing the system would reduce the complexity of this project considerably. Lastly, the removal of all that junk saves a significant amount of weight. Downsides to removing the system are comfort, and possibly the defroster for the front window. We know that we actually don't need the system, as it was non-functional for the One Lap event last year. After explaining this to the club in the meeting, it was nearly unanimous that we remove the HVAC system.

We closed the meeting by discussing our trip to Brooks Speed in the afternoon to start on prep for the roll cage.
-Damen Hattori

13 October 2005, 12:00 noon
Andy Kress from Performatek in New Hampshire returned my call today! Performatek is an Alfa Romeo specialist and supplies numerous desirable items for the Milano. Andy K. met us at Loudon Raceway (in New Hampshire) during the One Lap event last year and helped us isolate a problem we were having with the car. We knew that it was running very rough, and that it was down on power, but Brad and I could not figure out what was wrong. Andy K. drove the car around the parking lot once and told us that we were down a cylinder! Mortified, we went to work right away to try and rectify the problem. After about 15 minutes of looking through the engine bay, Andy K. found that the number 5 cylinder's injector electrical plug was undone. He plugged it in for us and voila! Instant 25 horsepower! Brad and I were very thankful, as well as embarrassed, but without his help, we probably would have run the remainder of the event on five cylinders. While he was there, Andy K. also provided shirts and mechanics gloves for the whole team! We were very happy to meet him.

Anyhow, I had placed a call in to Andy K., informing him of all the things that I had discussed with Andy Garcia on Monday. He responded immediately that he would donate whatever we needed that he had on his shelf!! We had a great talk (as he is very knowledgeable about Alfas as well) and I was able to get another opinion on our tentative plans. He straightened some issues out, many of which will save us a great deal of money (e.g. we don't need the all-out race suspension, along with some other trivial upgrades) and made some very constructive suggestions. When all was said and done, Andy K. committed to donating some $600 worth of performance upgrades for the Alfa, including rebuilt rear brake calipers!! Andy K. is a tremendous asset to the club, and we are very pleased to have Performatek on board.
-Damen Hattori

10 October 2005, 2:00 p.m.
We have had quite a few questions concerning our progress with the Alfa over the next two semesters, and how we are going to reach our goals this year, so we decided to consult the local Alfa experts at Garcia Alfa Racing: Andy Garcia and Mike Keith. They generously offered to take me to lunch while we discussed the issues that I had isolated.

The first issue was the engine. While we have a 3.0L that we own sitting in the shop, I had a few doubts about being able to supercharge it as we had initially hoped, given our time and budget constraints. Both Andy and Mike were of the same opinion, and we decided that the blower will probably have to wait until next year, as there are many more issues with the car that can be addressed for a small fraction of the price, and provide great benefit. However, Andy said that getting the 3.0L rebuilt in its current trim is well worth the effort and will probably net us some 40-50 horsepower - nothing to sneeze at - so we discussed what will need to be done to get the motor into shape: block honed, full head job, maybe a new set of piston rings. We will see once we are able to really take a good look at the motor and set some realistic expectations for it this year.

The second bullet item on my list was a limited slip differential. After last year's One Lap event, and last weekend's autocross, we are losing multiple seconds and copious amounts of tire to inside wheel spin, especially on corner exit. We will start scouring the internet classifieds as the only options for a limited slip are factory applications from the Verde and Platinum Trim Milanos. No company (i.e. Quaife) ever produced aftermarket differentials for the Milano, so it will have to be with a bit of luck that we are able to track one down. It needs to happen, though, so it will get done.

We discussed the steering situation with the Alfa: the car leaks power steering fluid like a sieve (bad rack), the ratio is too slow for technical courses (i.e. autocross), and the wheel is large and unwieldy. Due to the amount of time this car will spend in city and parking lot driving, we are going to keep the power steering, so a manual setup is not an option. Andy said that he could get us a rebuilt rack at a great price, so that will be handled. Steve from Salinas Valley Precision suggested we look into a "steering quickener" to help with the slow ratio. I had never heard of that, so I looked them up. Apparently, it is just a set of planetary gears and a sun gear that go inline with the steering column, effectively cutting the ratio down 2:1 (or 1.5:1, 3:0:1 depending on the model you order), so instead of 3.3 turns lock-lock, we would have 1.6-ish turns lock-lock! Installation of these is not simple, and the car could become twitchy, so we have to look into that a little more before committing one way or the other. As far as the steering wheel, we will try to get a nice Momo wheel to increase comfort and control.

Among the other things we discussed were brakes (we need new rear calipers and a proportioning valve), manual window raising and lowering to save weight (we will probably use the tried and true strap method), exhaust (we will try to find a muffler shop to do a side exit exhaust to get heat away from the rear brakes and to increase ground clearance), and various suspension issues (new bushings, joints, etc).

It was a very productive meeting, and will give us much to talk about in the next meeting, which will be a week from Friday.
-Damen Hattori

8 October 2005, 11:00 a.m.
Today I drove the Alfa over to the Houston Farm and Ranch Club off of Highway 6 to participate in the Italian Festival of Houston car show. I was among a throng of Alfas, Fiats, Panteras, Maseratis, and Cadillac Allantés (they were constructed in Italy!). We entered the show to try to generate some community in the club and our One Lap project, as well as showcase what we have done with the car.

We hoped to generate some funding for the club through this opportunity, and although there were many interested people to whom I explained what we were doing, we didn't really net any money. However, it was a great event, and there were numerous people who offered their best wishes and showed genuine interest in what we were doing, so it was well worth the afternoon that I spent there! Andy Garcia came by towards the end of the event and we had a brief chat. I set up a meeting for Monday the 10th, when we will discuss more about the project, and hopefully get a realistic set of goals for the car. Congratulations and thank you to Michelle Belco, who did a fabulous job organizing the car show and did as much as she could to increase our exposure.
-Damen Hattori

1 October 2005, 7:00 a.m.
The single largest improvement that the Alfa needs is the drivers, so Lucas, Brad, Phil, and I took the car to an SCCA autocross in La Marque, at Gulf Greyhound Park. It was a very early start: we were on the road by 7 a.m.… that's dedication. Post-weight-removal, the car is significantly louder (mainly tire noise) when driving on the concrete freeways through Houston, but on asphalt it is much more tolerable. Before we went to the track, we stopped at a Mobil station for a quart of oil and a bottle of ATF for the power steering. On arrival at GGP, we signed all four of ourselves up to drive, running double drivers in both of the morning heats. We were informed that each "heat" would consist of four laps per driver, with a break in between each lap.

We took the car over to tech, and passed without too much issue, although they did raise an eyebrow over the rust holes in the floor and the paper-towel/trash-bag/zip-tie gas cap. Before the drivers' meeting, we were required to take the novice track walk with one of the organizers of the event. Our "tour guide," Peggy, emphasized the difficulty of some of the course elements (e.g. slaloms, decreasing radius turns, and a "Chicago box"), and guessed that there wouldn't be many scorching-fast times on the day. Once that and the drivers meeting were over, Phil and Lucas headed out to their corners for their work assignments, and Brad and I rode with an experienced driver for one lap before attempting the course ourselves.

Once all of our novice obligations were fulfilled, Brad got into the Alfa with an instructor (who would ride along to make sure we knew what was going on) and took his first lap: seconds. He noted that the Alfa really pushes through tight, slow stuff (essentially the whole autocross course). I rode shotgun for the rest of his 3 laps, and by the end, he turned a very clean lap of 69.630 seconds.

There was a short break and Brad and I switched, but first I was required to drive a lap with an instructor. My first lap: painful, and seconds. The instructor hopped out and Brad got in. Over the next three laps, I was able to shave some time, and finished with a best lap of 69.660 seconds. Worth noting is the fact that we have been battling a mild overheating issue with the Alfa: given the heat and high loads, the temperature has a tendency to creep up. We never threw a warning light, but it was getting close; we will have to pursue the issue. As far as the race was concerned, Brad and I determined that I was faster through the first part of the course, and he was faster through the second half, but overall, Brad would have the fast time of the day in the Alfa.

Our heat was done, and Brad and I headed out to our corner to work for the second heat, while Phil and Lucas prepped to drive. Neither Lucas nor Phil had driven the Alfa much at all (whereas Brad and I raced on One Lap last year) and they ran times in the mid 70 second range. By the end of the second heat, we were overheated and very hungry so we packed up and headed to Whataburger.

Over lunch, we were able to discuss some different issues, including our fundraising, the upcoming Italian Car Show, and a budget for the Alfa. The next couple weeks will be about getting sponsorships, the Italian car show on the 8th, and working on getting the roll cage installed.
-Damen Hattori

30 September 2005, 6:30 p.m.
Not much was able to be done over the last week and a half or so, as we were all dealing with Hurricane Rita and our first round of mid-terms. However, we decided it was time to get the ball rolling again and start stripping out the Alfa. Since we corner weighed it, we know that the car could really stand to shed some pounds, so Brad, Lucas and I convened to start on that project. Over the course of a few hours, we were able to remove the following:

Our carpet removal revealed some pretty major rust holes, one through which you could fit a tennis ball! The next items to remove are the dash and the solidified-tar sound deadening on the floor of the car. It's hard to say how much weight we removed, but once we are back at Brooks Speed we will be able to get an accurate reading. Once everything is removed, we will start getting the roll cage designed and installed.

Tomorrow we will be running the Alfa through its paces at an SCCA regional autocross in La Marque, about 25 miles south.
-Damen Hattori

16 September 2005, 4:30pm
Before we start stripping the Alfa to save weight, we wanted to weigh the car to figure out where we need to concentrate. A big thanks to Jamie at Brooks Speed Garage in northwest Houston who let us use the shop's corner weighing system.

With the car empty (without the spare), full trim, and ¾ of a tank of gas, the weights came out as follows:

LF: 806 lbs.RF: 808 lbs.
LR: 653 lbs.RR: 638 lbs.

Total: 2,905 lbs

As with most FR cars, the front is heavier (55% / 45% front to rear), although the split is not bad. Within the next week we will start stripping out the interior, hopefully to the bare shell, and getting ready to install a full roll cage. We are still trying to locate a permanent spot to store and work on the Alfa, and actively pursuing sponsorship.
-Damen Hattori

7 September 2005, 12:00 noon
Today was the first meeting for the 2005-2006 Rice SAE club. We briefly talked about last year's One Lap of America event, but quickly shifted to what the club is hoping to achieve this year. It seemed to be the consensus that we will be running the 2006 One Lap of America, but the Alfa Romeo needs much improvement to be more competitive. Also, our friend Andy Kress put it best when he said, "To be successful in racing, you first must tighten the nut behind the wheel"; we will be attending every autocross and track event that we can to improve our driving.

We spent nearly all of last year getting the car from heavily rusted and barely running into durable race-shape. This was absolutely necessary and was the first step in the progression of this car. In this vein, we would like to send out a huge thank you to Andy and Mike at Garcia Alfa Racing in Houston. As cliché as it sounds, there is no way that we would have completed the 5,000+ mile trip without their countless hours of labor, immense expertise, and generous parts donations.

This year, we are more focused on performance improvements. We have grand plans that call for a larger V6 motor (which we have already acquired), possibly a supercharger (!), and many suspension, brake, chassis, and body upgrades. The limiting factor will be how much money we can raise through donations and sponsorships. That said, we are constantly on the lookout for potential sponsors.

Benefits to sponsors include high visibility (we have been covered in Car & Driver magazine, local Houston news, Houston racing correspondences, and numerous shows which we will be attending) as anywhere we take the car, people are always coming to ask questions and learn about what we are doing. We are very good at plugging our sponsors (wearing gear, mentioning in conversations, placing decals on the car). Also, any donations made to the club can be a tax write-off, as the University has a charity status for donations. Please contact me ( or any of the club members if you or your company is interested - we will be happy to send you an official sponsorship packet.

The meeting wrapped up with what we hope to achieve in the next month:


Alfa Romeo

-Damen Hattori

26 August 2005, 1:00 p.m.
Rice had its annual Clubs Fair, offering students the opportunity to see and sign up for clubs on campus. We had a booth set up with a display of our sponsors, pictures of last year's One Lap event, and magazines in which we appeared. Lucas Marr, Ben Kosbab, and I were there during the event, and we had a number of new students sign up to be members of the 2005-2006 Rice Society of Automotive Engineers club. The next thing to do will be to hold a meeting to get ourselves organized for the year and figure out exactly where we are headed.
-Damen Hattori

20 August 2005, 9:00 a.m.
Lucas Marr and I attended the Houston Alfa Romeo club meeting at Garcia Alfa Racing. During the meeting, we were able to present our club and project to those in attendance, informing the Alfa owners of our progress last year with our own Milano and briefly describing the 2005 One Lap of America event. We closed the presentation by informing everyone that the club is in great need of sponsorships and donations this year to continue developing the Milano. Alfa club president Jim Tyson told us about a car show on the second Saturday in October where we should display the Alfa. This would increase the visibility of the club and perhaps yield some sponsorship offers, so I will look into signing us up to attend!

Part of the meeting included a demonstration of a complete stand-alone engine management system for Alfa Romeos that allows the user to tune the engine through a laptop interface. This is definitely something we will need if we are going to develop a supercharger kit for the 3.0L V6!! (We purchased a 3.0L V6 for the club from an Alfa owner in Santa Cruz, CA in late May.) After the meeting we went to lunch and Lucas and I discussed our One Lap project; we came to the conclusion that the first thing that needs to happen is that we need to find a shop to work on the car. Until we have a place to disassemble and store the Alfa, it will be difficult to get anything done. Dr. Barron had mentioned he knew of some possibilities, so we'll start by pursuing his leads.
-Damen Hattori

16 July 2005, 1:57 p.m.
Welcome to the new Rice SAE web site! We'll begin writing about our progress in this blog once the fall semester starts, so be sure to check back then!
-Alex Stoll