Why I Blog About My Corvette…

People sometimes wonder why I blog about my car. “Do you love your car that much?”

And if you asked I would tell you “No. In fact, sometimes I don’t like my car at all.” Most of the time though the car and I have an excellent relationship. But my feelings toward my Vette – whether positive or negative – have little to do with the reason why I blog about it. When you get right down to it I blog about the car because it helps me feel like I have control in my life. And control is all anyone really wants. Let me explain.

So much in our lives is outside the scope of our ability to control (warning: actual feelings ahead). Each day on the news, when talking with others and firsthand I see instances of injustice and abuse resulting in discomfort, despair and in some cases despondency. I see a world that, in some ways, is spiraling out of control. When a friend’s son dies of cancer at the age of 10, when I read about the senseless mistreatment of children, when I hear about instances of absolute disregard for life, laws or decency, when my children make choices I know will lead to heartache… it is during these times that I sometimes lose patience. I sometimes lose hope.

It is during these moments of weakness that I need distraction. Some turn to religion, some turn to television, others to alcohol. I turn to my car. When I simply need time to think I go for a drive. I drive for hours to clear my mind. My car is a mobile refuge that can outrun entropy and chaos. In the isolation of my vehicle I solve problems, think through feelings and rediscover optimism. But once in awhile a drive to think things over is simply not enough. I have to do something.

Maybe it’s repairing some damage, cleaning and polishing, adding a radiator, reinstalling pillar gauges or simply making some cosmetic changes. This is control. No matter what is going on in the world around me I can control how my car looks, how it runs and how fast it goes and where it travels. Sometimes my projects go horribly wrong, and in the very act of piling on frustration I find balance. My car is a thing. And things can be fixed because we control them. In the end, if I’m careful, if I’m patient, if I persevere my car will be fine. Better than it was before, in fact. There is solution to every problem. And this window into life is exhilarating.

When I conquer a problem I memorialize it here in my blog. So maybe installing a radiator and some red silicone hoses is actually my way to cope with a problem at work. Perhaps the time I spend waxing my car is actually an attempt to deal with a personal issue. I read back over my blog often and remember. Where you see a modification to my car I see my ability to overcome difficult situations and regain control in my life.

But as thoughtful as all that may be, sometimes I really do just love my car that much.

Posted by Cam Hughes, Feb 27, 2012

DC Power 300 Amp High Output Alternator

Do you have enough power coming out of your alternator? I sure didn’t. But it took me a long time to realize that. When you have extra demands on your electrical system sometimes the stock alternator just can’t handle the load, especially at idle.

I finally figured out that I had a problem when I replaced my battery. Everything was working great for the first few days and then little issues that I’d seen before started popping up. When your alternator can’t put out enough power for your car’s electrical requirements then the battery has to act as a buffer. The end result is that your battery is perpetually depleted and your car’s performance can suffer.

I’ve got quite a few things that draw extra power: 1000 watt stereo, dual fuel pumps, upgraded ignition system, gauge cluster (w/ a wideband), etc. Sometimes people think that the battery powers the car’s electrical components and the alternator charges the battery. But in a properly functioning environment the alternator should provide the electricity a car needs (they battery is really only for starting the car and running things if the car is off). In situations where you use more power than you have there’s really only one choice- upgrade the alternator.

I went with a 300 amp SPX alternator from DC Power. The quality on this alternator is first rate. The SPX is a little bit larger than the stock alternator but fits perfectly and looks amazing. So far no issues- it runs like a champ and my car has never seemed happier.

Info from DCPower’s Website:

The Large Case DC Power300 Amp SPX series high output alternator produces 300 amps at 1800 engine RPM and 195 amps continually at low idle while capable of up to a 75% generation efficiency. The rectifier is mounted onboard the alternator and consists of 12 75 amp press fit bosch diodes. The brush holder assembly and slip ring are environmentally protected and the bearings are heavy-duty, oversized premium bearings. The alternator housings are precision-machined cast aluminum and all components are of OEM quality.

Output Voltage: 14.8
Idle Amperage: 225
Hot Idle Amperage @ 200ºF: 195
Max Amperage: 300
Hot Max Amperage @ 200ºF: 250

Posted by Cam, Feb 21, 2012

A Totally Random Blog Update

Where have I been, right? Nowhere in particular…The last few months have been super busy at work. Any extra time I’ve had I have willingly given to my family and appropriated for my hobby. I am working on a recap of 2011 which I hope to post by the end of this month.

I have noticed a lot of these “What other people think I do” collages lately. This one was recently forwarded to me and I thought it was applicable to my life (while not perfect, it’s funny) :

I have been a lot of  blogging over at UtahCorvette.com (yeah, your favorite!). Sometimes people ask me why I blog about car stuff but not my family. Four reasons. 1) Fran is supposed to blog about it (ha!) 2) These days there’s simply too much family stuff to blog about. 3) Sometimes there are privacy or safety issues. 4) If I ever choose to sell my Vette then my car blog is going to be a great resource; it’s in my interest to document projects (no plans to sell the family right now).

In any event, the other day I pulled out my old radiator fan and the geek in me was forced to do this:

Tomorrow I start my marathon training. I have been having tendon issues in my left leg, but at this point they seem mostly resolved. I have really missed running (but somehow this has been a great excuse to eat whatever I want and I have really enjoyed that). A toast to health in 2012!

Posted by Cam Hughes, Feb 19, 2012

Something Random

This was recently forwarded to me. Some of it it pretty funny (and I confess that I don’t know if they all work quite right), so I thought I’d post it here.

Lately I’ve seen these “What other people think I do” collages popping up all over. Someone should make a business out of it, right? I don’t know what the fad-span will be, but I think they’d make good posters.

Also, in case anyone wonders where I’ve been… I realized one day that I didn’t really like blogging about business since that’s what I was do all day. In other words, after work, I don’t want to write about work!  I’ve written a few posts (half ecstatic and half lamenting the unprecedented growth of my company and the associated struggles with said growth). Eventually I may make some visible. Anyway- for the time being I’m focusing on my personal & hobby blogs.

Posted by Cam Hughes, Feb 20, 2012

Radiator & Fan Upgrade

My car runs hot on the hot side because of the extra heat generated by my twin turbo set up. It’s totally within the “normal” range but the cooler your car runs the more power it’s going to make. And in the future none of my plans involved less heat so it was time for another upgrade.

I pulled out the old radiator and was shocked at how small it was! It was hard to believe it was doing much to cool the engine. A bigger radiator would definitely make a difference. Notice how little room there is in the engine bay even with the radiator out (this will play a role in my install later here).

After some research I picked Dewitt’s direct fit aluminum radiator. They also offered Spal’s dual 11″ fans so I got them as well. You can see the old radiator & fan (left) next to the new set (right). The Dewitt radiator is incredibly thick compared to the stock radiator (two rows of 1″ tubes as opposed to a single row). The dual fans cover more surface area and provide more balanced cooling (every little bit helps).

The Spal fan attatches to the Dewitt’s radiator via a pair of brackets. With the help of my buddy Justin I tried to install the radiator & fan bracketed together but it was simply impossible. We put the radiator in first and then tried to slide the fan in, but it was a no go- there simply wasn’t room. In a normal set up there would be a lot of room in the front (you’d just temporarily pull out the air filter / intake) but my intercooler occupied every last bit of space. So we decided that the fan would have to go in from the bottom.

Going in through the bottom meant that I had to take out my PFADT swaybar. Taking out a sway bar isn’t a big deal (maybe a little annoying)- just remove the nut & bolt from the sway bar arms (they are generally not under tension). Next remove the two bolts from the two brackets that hold the sway bar onto the chassis. I had to to undo some of my turbo piping underneath the car too.

Once the sway bar was out it became apparent that the fan wasn’t going to go in easily from the bottom either. There is a bolt that comes off the ABS unit and it was in the way. The first thing I tried was cutting out part of the fan casing (you can see a notch in the pic below- I ended up having to cut out a more than that). The blades still hit a little so we ground off some of the offending bolt. That seemed to do the trick and we were able to push the fan up in place. It was tricky to get the brackets back on after the radiator & fan were installed but we managed. We spliced the Spal fans into the stock fan controller. I’ve heard arguments that this is okay and that it’s not okay. So far no issues (if a problem develops I’ll switch to a relay controlled system). Once the car was all back together we filled it up and drip… drip… drip…

Whoops! The radiator had a leak. We pulled everything back out and inspected the damage- it wasn’t bad, but we had clearly poked two holes in the cores. It was immediately obvious what had happened- the back of the fan unit has some pretty sharp edges and they had smashed the cores as we finagled the fans in. I emailed Dewitt’s are they were very sympathetic and had me send the radiator in for repair.

Since I had some time on my hands I decided to replace my old radiator hoses (some of them were looking pretty worn out). I picked a set of VenAir red silicone hoses to add some contrast. Everything went on with no issues except one of the heater hoses- it was just too small. I wrested with it for a long time before I gave up and contacted the seller. Turned out it was the wrong hose (Custom Corvette Accessories sent the correct hose after I contacted them- they were very responsive). I think this kit is a great aesthetic upgrade.

I got the radiator back from Dewitt’s shortly after the hoses were installed. They (Dewitt’s) were super nice. They did a great job fixing the radiator and they shipped it back to me quickly and didn’t charge me for the repair or return shipping! So, round two: We covered the the back of the radiator with cardboard to protect it when we slid in the fans. Even being super careful (and grinding down the sharp corners on the fan) you can see that we dinged up the cardboard quite a bit! We bracketed the units together, reassembled everything, filled it up and listened. Nothing. Sweet nothing.

We were almost done. The last step was to fire up the car and see how she liked it. At first things seemed to be perfect, but then the fan blades started hitting that ABS bolt again. I pushed the radiator shroud back a bit and bolted it. Still hitting. That’s when I realized that the bracket that holds the fan to the radiator has slipped forward about a quarter inch dropping the fan blades back into the bolt. Not a problem- a clip, a drill and a screw later I had rigged up a way to hold the bracket back so that the fan is pulled away from the bolt. And they all lived happily ever after.

This was a fairly big project because of the sheer number of complications that arose. Total downtime was almost a month, but I think the results are worth it. So far the car seems to run much cooler (I’ll be really curious to see how it performs once summer hits). While everything was apart I took some time to give the engine a good cleaning. Here’s how she looks right now (yes, this is my car):

Not a lot of “how to” stuff in this post (I guess you could take out your sway bar if you wanted) but if anyone has any questions about replacing the radiator (or hoses) please feel free to contact me. Also, if anyone with a similar set up (front mounted twin turbos) decides to add the Dewitt radiator & Spal fan combo I’d be curious to know how your install went and what your engine temps are like. Mod on!

Posted by Cam Hughes, Feb 19, 2012

Corvette Z06 Ron Fellows Interior Upgrade

In 2007 Chevrolet introduced a special edition Ron Fellows Corvette with a black and red interior. Every since I saw a picture (here: Ron Fellows interior) I wanted that color scheme! The red and black interior colors weren’t offered on my black Z06 so I knew it would have to be a custom job. All red interiors were common enough on the C6 cars so I knew at some point I could get the red panels I needed. I created a saved eBay search (“red corvette door”) and waited. A year passed and a set of red interior trim panels popped up but the set was missing one tiny piece (mentioned below). So I waited another year and a complete set finally became available and I jumped on it.

The set I got was from a standard model C6 that didn’t have some of the features I needed so I had to take everything apart (my door & the new-used door) to mix and match components. I ended up with a giant pile of spare parts. I should just chuck them, but for some reason I have them in a box. If anyone wants this pile here let me know- I’ll send it to you for free (you pay shipping).

I started with a black ebony door and I worked in red cobalt pieces from the new model. I changed it a little from the Ron Fellows model because I wanted additional black accents. I also added a brushed metal kick plate on the base of the door. Overall I really like how the doors turned out. And I’ll just take a sec here to apologize for these pictures- most all the photography I do on my blogs in with my iPhone. When it’s not an iPhone you’ll know ;).

I pulled out all the under panel trim from the interior and replaced it with the new red parts. The only real issue I had was the tiny red piece you see in the picture below (piece in the center – and this was the same trim piece that was missing from the first lot of red trim that I passed up). I thought that the piece was being held in by rivets, but after drilling them out I realized that they must be something else. In the end I simply had to pry them out using brute force. I have no idea why they would have used these fasteners- total overkill. When I put in the new trim piece I simply used screws.

I have a red center console but I haven’t decided yet if I’ll put in in. At some point I have to take my receiver out to troubleshoot a ground loop so I might do it then. However, for the time being I’m pretty satisfied. This is the result so far (yes, this is my car):

Posted by Cam Hughes, Feb 17, 2012