Thursday, May 21, 2009

No turning back now!

Drum roll, please.

The wheels have been set in motion. Yesterday I mailed the big check to ElectroAuto for the AC conversion kit.

At the end there was surprisingly little dread on my part, all things considered. I'd been hemming and hawing for weeks, oscillating between being totally convinced that this is the right thing to do and thinking I'm a total idiot for even considering it. (Hence the lack of posts lately) But it's done now.

I went ahead and splurged a bit and upgraded to the AC24LS motor and bought the "power brake" option (electric vacuum pump and reservoir). So within a few weeks stuff should start appearing at my door. Gotta get to work!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Done with the removal?

Can't believe it's been almost a month since my last post. Where does the time go? Some progress has been made, but I still haven't made the big purchase. You know, there's something very final about actually ordering the expensive components that are going to make this car go and I'm having a hard time pulling the trigger. It hasn't helped that my current car is experiencing technical difficulties and I was worrying about whether it would pass inspection this year. If I'd had to pour money (or my time) into that car it'd mean less money (and time) available for the conversion. But it's all good - my current commuter passed, so I am free to continue with the project.

I haven't been totally lax, though, and a few things have happened with the conversion. I've removed the power steering rack (in preparation for replacing it with a manual one), degreased the transmission, and dropped the sub-frame. I've also done some initial scoping of space for battery boxes.

Before..... it's the oil-covered appendage hanging down from the engine in this view.
Even the inside of the bell housing (where the clutch/pressure plate/flywheel is located) was oily!What a mess! Thankfully, a friend of mine happens to have a parts washer in his garage. So, after an hour-long bath the transmission is nice and clean!
Not quite factory fresh, but close!

On these Saturns, there's a sub-frame located on the bottom of the engine compartment which bolts to the main frame of the car and supports, among other things, the front sway bar, steering rack, and radiator. I decided to take it out of the car for a couple of reasons: 1) they tend to rust out and I wanted to make sure it's sound (while in the car it was hard to tell because most of it was also covered with grungy oil), and 2) the front cross-beam where the radiator mounts sits just a little bit too high in the engine compartment to allow me to place batteries where the radiator used to reside. With my current plan of using 13 12-volt batteries, at least 3 of them need to fit in the engine compartment (if I could fit 5 or 6 it would be better for the weight distribution!); there's not room in there with the sub-frame in its current form.

Battery boxes:
My original idea was to put as many batteries as would fit in the engine compartment and put the balance in the back seat area. Other Saturn conversions have had as many as 5 batteries in the engine compartment, but none of them were actually enclosed in insulated boxes (a necessity if this car is going to be suitable for winter commuters) and were smaller format batteries. On paper (well, ok, my computer screen) it seems to me that I will be hard-pressed to be able to fit 3 batteries (they are monster size) along the front and still leave room for the motor controller, cabin heater, vacuum pump and accumulator, and the various contactors/relays/potbox/etc. And it looks like lowering the sub-frame cross-beam will help.

So, the current plan is to put 3-4 batteries in front, 6 where the back seat was, and the balance in the spare tire well. I'm not keen about having batteries behind the rear axle, but I don't see a way to fit them forward of the axle without major surgery on the underbody sheet metal.

Next steps: order the conversion kit and mock up battery boxes.