Our new Autocross Mazdaspeed3 project

I know it has been forever since I update the blog. This is not a catching up post. This is more of a project intro post. The wife wanted to have a fun car that gets better mileage than our Honda Pilot (13mpg around town). We have also found we have a need to tow heavier things. So we traded in her Honda in exchange for a slightly older Infinity QX56. This got us room for the kids and much increased tow capacity. This also freed up some money to get a fun car. The only requirements being that it is relatively competitive in an autocross class, and that it have 5 seat belts, and that is gets more than say 18mpg.

First we looked at some E36′s. Then an E46 M3. And we looked at some Audi’s and other cars that just didn’t quite fit the bill. She has wanted a MazdaSpeed3 for quite some time due to the fact I designed a bunch of stuff for it. But they always sold for crazy high dollar amounts given their age and condition. But we ended up finding a 2008 with a salvage title with just 56K miles for a lot less than others with 120K+ miles on them were going for. The salvage title can be iffy. But given the lower cost and the fact we are going to beat on it anyway, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Hopefully it pans out. So far, so good.

I did not get any pictures of it stock. We bought it on Saturday, autocrossed it in STX on Sunday. I was 4.2 seconds out of class lead. I didn’t feel that was too bad given it was a stock car on crap tires that we owned for about 12 hours prior. Also, I have not done any serious autocrossing in over a decade I think. Luckily for the wife, timing screwed up and they gave her my fastest time. So the official results show her as the fastest girl there. She was not happy about that, but I got a giggle out of it. Turns out I only beat one guy in an R32 in STX. But it was a small turn-out. Back when I used to autocross, over 100 competitors was the norm. Now, it seems 50 is huge. Not sure what caused it, but I have my theories.

New gold Enkei RPF1 +45 with Hankook R-S3 255/40-17 tires

New gold Enkei RPF1 +45 with Hankook R-S3 255/40-17 tires

This week I ordered a few of the autocross essentials for it. Tires, wheels, coilovers. This is not meant to be nationally competitive or expensive. Just a fun project for the wife to have her fun in and get even better at driving with, yet still truck the kids to school every day. Obviously coilovers are not here yet so it sits like a monster truck. And I just took these pictures during a test fit. We still have to roll the rear fenders before these wheels will fit. But hopefully, I will be updating my blog more regularly since I have a project to report on and keep a photo record of.

Another angle of the Enkei test fit

Another angle of the Enkei test fit

Wheel specs: Enkei RPF1 17×9 +45 gold. They weigh 15.7 lbs. The stock wheels are 18×7.5 +52.5 I believe and weigh about 25-26 lbs.

Tire specs: Hankook Ventus R-S3 255/40-17. Stock are 215′s so this is a huge increase in meat touching the ground.

With stock suspension on there, the wheels clear the front strut by less than my finger width. I folded up a piece of paper several time and ran it through the gap and it was fine. So it has probably 1/4-3/8 clearance. It clears the brakes by much less than that. I would say there is maybe 1/16″ clearance there. On the rear, there seemed to be plenty of clearance to the suspension and brakes. But man, I hope that camber curve is aggressive because even with a roll, I think clearing the fenders will be tight. Also, after crawling under the car to check clearance I see it has a red tubular rear anti-roll bar. I assume it is a Hotchkis. It was set to the soft setting. I got the tires and wheels from Tirerack. I could have saved about $80 by buying them separately from other sources. But then I would have had to pay for mount and balance which Tirerack includes for free. Also, I ordered them Sunday. They were at my house by 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday. Tough to beat that.

As you can see, my picture background has changed. That is one of the many things that has kept me busy since last posting to the blog. Sold the old house I had been in for 9 years and moved to a new one with a 4 car garage. All while having another batch of puppies. Also, going to have my kids living with me full-time starting next week. Life is good.

Gratuitous B&W. Because art.

Gratuitous B&W. Because art.

More Great Dane puppy pictures

Not going to say much. It is obvious how adorable they are. They began to open their eyes at 10 days for Boba Fett and 11 for Han Solo. And last night at day 13 they walked for the first time. This typically involved walking about 4 step then plopping their rear down. Han Solo could walk a little further since he doesn’t have quite the girth to carry around. They still are making cute puppy grunting noises and doing a lot of sleeping and eating.

Now onto the pictures, sorry about the quality. On-board flash is not so awesome, and they wiggle around too much to not use a flash:

Boba N Han-1Boba N Han-1-2 Boba N Han-1-3 Boba N Han-1-4 Boba N Han-1-5 Boba N Han-1-6 Boba N Han-1-7

Puppies!!!

The morning of October 21st, Heidi was acting a little lethargic. We figured puppies must be coming early. They did not come that day. So I figured she is due Thursday, so I better get a webcam setup as I had a seminar I couldn’t miss. So I downloaded icam. It is an app for smartphones that allows you to check in on your webcam and lets you stream it or have it motion activated and allows up to four cameras to run at the same time. So we set up 1 camera looking over Heidi and I went to my seminar. Crushing Circuit Operation and Maintenance. Yeah, I know you are jealous…

Anyway, shortly after 8:00 on October 22nd, Heidi had already bailed out of her whelping box. Camera showed nothing. But no sound was being picked up so I figured she just wanted a more comfortable spot to rest for the day. When I made the whelping box, I assumed 24″ tall sides would be enough to discourage her from hopping over the sides while about ready to pop. I was incorrect. Well, about 10:45 I started hearing something on the camera. Still no sign of Heidi. I sent a text to Cara to let her know Hedi was AWOL and that I was hearing noises. So she left work and came home to find 2 little puppies being washed off by Heidi on the loveseat. Gross! Oh well, luckily they are fake leather and clean easily.

4 hours old.

4 hours old.

This is Han Solo. He is skinnier than the other puppy, and such a looker. He will definitely be a lady killer. That brindle doesn’t show up well in photos as it is sort of dark inside and they move too much for slow shutter speed so I had to play with flash compensation to even get it this good. But in person, the brindle is more grey than it looks in pictures. And seems to get more grey toward his rear.

Puppy #2 at 4 hours old

Puppy #2 at 4 hours old

And here is Boba Fett. He is more adventurous, always heading out on his own, but then he gets all whiney and starts crying for mommy. He’s already more of an eater than Han Solo. And his coloring is crazy cool. Big Grey patches. So cute.

So after the 4 hours was up, Cara called the vet to see what they thought/recommended. They said it is unheard of for a Great Dane to have just 2 puppies. But they were closing soon so they couldn’t look at her and gave us the number for the 24 hour vet. Well, Heidi was acting fine, other than not wanting to eat or drink, but she seemed happy to have babies to take care of and would get up and go outside fine, provided we stole her babies. So we figured we would wait until morning to see if anymore came out and decide what to do with her.

Sleeping on mommy's paw

Sleeping on mommy’s paw

In the morning, Heidi was acting even better, so we just setup the webcam so I could monitor her from afar. Silly girl was supposed to wait until this 3 day seminar was over. Well, everything on camera was fine all day. When Cara came home she took Heidi and the puppies to the vet to get checked on and dew claws removed. Everything checked out. No more puppies. So yes, we have a Great Dane that had just 2 puppies. We were totally expecting 6-8, but no. And yes, I know we could have had an x-ray, but the cost and risk didn’t seem worth it. She was going to have what she had and an x-ray wasn’t going to change that.

Only having 2 puppies definitely throws out the plan for new flooring for the house. And we will barely break-even. So don’t care. They are adorable and Heidi is an amazing mom. It’s crazy how much that mothering instinct is programmed into animals. As soon as they were born, she was cleaning them off, directing them toward food, keeping them warm, and protecting them from us. Such a good mommy.

Mommy and babies sleeping

Mommy and babies sleeping

In the pictures from today, the puppies have little blood spots where their dewclaws were. And here are some more gratuitous puppy shots. Because PUPPIES!!!!

Han Solo laying on top of Boba Fett

Han Solo laying on top of Boba Fett

Han and Boba cheek to cheek

Han and Boba cheek to cheek

Using mommy's paw for a pillow again. Such tiny puppies.

Using mommy’s paw for a pillow again. Such tiny puppies.

Mommy checking on her babies

Mommy checking on her babies

Boba Fett sleeping like his daddy

Boba Fett sleeping like his daddy

Trying to push mommy away. She's a bit bigger though.

Trying to push mommy away. She’s a bit bigger though.

Heidi and Bob Fett cheek to cheek

Heidi and Bob Fett cheek to cheek

And of course, it goes without saying, click pics for bigger versions. I can’t wait to get outside pics with them. This indoor lighting is just horrible.

Building a Whelping box for our Great Dane

As I mentioned before, our little Heidi is having babies soon. Right now we are about 8 days from her giving birth. So a whelping box was required to keep Heidi and her babies happy and safe. And keep Odie out as much as possible. I sat down and spent 20 minutes or so throwing ideas down on Solidworks. Once I had the winner, I created a quick weldment so I could have a cut-sheet. I could have made it an assembly and put the hinges on and screws in and that sort of thing. But after considering it for about half a second I decided that was overkill. So, if you like my idea, feel free to rip it off. The more the merrier.

Whelping box plans

Whelping box plans, click for full size.

Now this box is for a Great Dane. So it needed to be slightly larger than a usual whelping box. However, when checking out youtube and doing research, I decided all of them I found were either made too small out of convenience and made at 4′ x 4′, or they were way too big to keep that puppy den feeling for the pups. So I decided to make this one 4′ x 5′. And yes, I think that extra foot of length is both significant and necessary. Also, Most of the whelping boxes I found were screwed together permanently. Sure, you can unscrew them, but re-screwing wood screws into the same hole will become ineffective in short order. So I made this one come apart for storage and shipping if we have to move the puppies and mommy elsewhere. I think it turned out well. I used 3/8″ bolts which are way bigger than necessary, but make it so both metric and standard tools can be easily used. Another complaint I had of others I saw is that some weighed over 100 lbs. In fact one I saw installed a pulley system crane in their ceiling just to lift it up to clean it. No thanks…

We went down to Lowes and bought about $70 worth of wood and screws and hinges and such. I happened to already have some of the hinges and locks from a previous planned project I never made back in 2006. Luckily the girlfriend came across those in the garage just at the right time. Lowes will cut sheets 3 times for free. Which was perfect. I had them cut both sheets into (4) 2′ widths while we were there. Now my plans call for 1/2″ plywood sheet. Don’t do it. It’s a trick. I ended up doing 3/8″ because it was $15 a sheet rather than $50. And I needed 2 sheets. $50 a sheet would have destroyed my budget. Also, for 2×4′s I spent the extra $1 per length to get better quality ones. I highly suggest doing this. It doesn’t add much cost, but the boards are a lot more straight. As soon as I got home I started cutting the wood. Turns out I ended up buying an extra 2×4 I didn’t need. Oh well, I was in a hurry and not thinking math. Should have done my weldment a bit different and let Solidworks calculate that for me.

Pile of wood once cut

Pile of wood once cut

I let the wood sit overnight and acclimate. No, just kidding. I was tired of wood and wanted to wait. We will say it was acclimation though rather than laziness. By the way, I am terrible at woodworking. I can weld alright, machine steel or aluminum ok. But wood can suck it. It hates me ad I very much dislike it in return. So lengths were not super precise. And I ended up screwing a piece upside-down and another one backwards. But anyway, step one was to start screwing. I took what would be the back wall and used a c-clamp (get those quick clamp things, you will thank me) to hold the 2×4 onto the end of the sheet close to flush at the bottom. I screwed in some 2.5″ long screws, and did the same to the 2×4 on the opposite end of the sheet. At this point I put that assembly on the floor to add the pig rail. I was feeling rather proud of myself as the pig rail fit tight, but not too tight. Did I actually cut and screw more than one piece of wood properly??? I applied 2 screws to each end through the 2×4′s.

The back side

The back side

Well, that is the piece I screwed backwards. The ugly side of the sheet was to the outside. Oh well, still feeling it was a success. Flipped it over and put screws down the sheet to hold it to the pig rail. Next I took the other full length 2′ x 4′ sheet and drew the lines for the door on it. I drilled the bottom corners with a 3/8″ hole so I could have a start/stop point for the jigsaw. Then I proceeded to cut the least straight line you have ever seen a jigsaw make. Oh well, a little sanding will keep clearances large enough for door functionality…

Front side prior to cutting the door.

Front side prior to cutting the door.

Next step is for the 4 side pieces. They all ended up being a variant of this:

a couple variants make all 4

a couple variants make all 4

Once I made the first one I figured it was a good idea to number it and mark the drawing accordingly to keep track of which pieces I had made so I don’t end up having a pig rail across the top. BTW, I put the pig rail 5″ up from the bottom to the bottom of the pig rail. Smaller dogs will want this lower, bigger dogs (haha funny) may want it even higher.

I laid it out to make sure I had all sides correct and to make sure I thought the size was good.

Check construction

Check construction

I whipped out the c-clamp again, and the drill, and a couple hours after starting the project, I had this:

Bolted together for first time

Bolted together for first time

I then sanded it a bit and took it apart and stored it until tonight. After moving Heidi’s kennel into the garage we brought in her new whelping box for her to check out for the first time. The ramp door it turns out freaks her out a bit so she hops over it. But at least it’s easier than hopping over the 2′ sides :)

Heidi chilling in her new whelping box

Heidi chilling in her new whelping box

I think she likes it. And I think the size is just right.

I think she likes it. And I think the size is just right.

New shots of our expecting girl

Our sweet little Great Dane puppies will be here in two weeks and a day or so. And while Heidi’s milk bags are growing, as is her appetite, she is still looking great.

Still playful

Still playful

For some reason, this afternoon she was in a mood to roll around in the grass. She’s so sweet. Gave me a good shot of those crazy milk bags though :)

 

Rolling around in the grass

Rolling around in the grass

And here is just a shot of her smiling at me. She rarely shows off her tongue. I guess it is really a normal size. I always assumed it was tiny since she never uses it, unlike Odie.

Heidi smiling up at me

Heidi smiling up at me