Tuesday, May 5, 2015



My arch enemy, the electron. My (limited) understanding is that the electrons are the little red balls riding around on the big silver ovals, whatever they are. The big red thing in the center could be the nucleus (whatever that is), a planter, or a fancy dog dish.

It's no secret, I'm technologically challenged. The go-to tools in my box are a hammer, a hacksaw, and a course file. Luckily, I know some people who understand things that I can't, and I look up to them for that. I've been told that I can probably do some things that others can't, but I can't imagine what those things might be. So I lean on people skilled in areas beyond my comprehension, like electricity. I've never met the principals of this first story, but they still impress me with their cryptic understanding of the mysterious dark powers of electricity.

Eva Hakansson has no fear of electrons. Indeed, Eva and partner Bill Dube are bona fide electron whisperers. Their streamliner is crawling with the things!

Eva Hakansson is driven by electrons. The native Swede was born into a family of engineers (in 1981), all with a focus on electric-powered vehicles. She attended her first race in a baby stroller and, "When I was four years old, I built a 'nuclear power plant' from cans and cardboard, in my father's workshop." Eva's father is champion motorcycle racer, designer and engineer, Sven Hakansson. A scholastic overachiever, it's no surprise that Eva followed Sven's bootprints into alternative propulsion: "Electric racing is like chocolate without calories. It gives me everything I want - power, speed, and torque - without the things I don't want, like pollution." Eva and Sven debuted their "ElectroCat" motorcycle in 2008, and successfully ran Pikes Peak with it in 2010. While in Colorado, Eva was buzzed off her feet by Bill Dube and his seven second KillaCycle. They married in 2009. Since Bill already owns the Worlds Quickest electric bike title, Eva has focused on "Worlds Fastest" rights. As stated above, Eva Hakansson is a bit of an overachiever.

The home garage build of Eva and Bill's KillaJoule electric motorcycle (with sidecar) looks pretty familiar at this stage. From design to fabrication to packing bearings, Eva is hands-on.

Eva built her own battery. It weighs 350 pounds.

Sponsor A123 Systems set up the KillaJoule team with lighter, more powerful materials to make a badder sparker. 

Eva points out the smaller and hotter "power source". I see a fire bottle laying on an ice chest. Uh oh. One of us is way off here (you know, "not hitting on all eight").

"Bill, loading firmware into two Rhinehart Motion Systems PM 100 DX motor controllers." I have no idea what any of that even means...

But this looks like fun.

I do recognize a bunny when I see one. This is Eva's co-pilot, Bonny Flats.

Finally on the salt in 2011. KillaJoule's ultimate target is the overall motorcycle speed record of 376 MPH. Eva concedes, "A goal we may never reach on our limited budget."

In 2014, Eva strapped on her helmet for a 240.726 MPH blast across the salt flats. "KillaJoule beat all previous national and international records for electric motorcycles, as well as for all kinds of sidecar motorcycles, including combustion-powered sidecars. This is the first time in over a hundred years that a battery-powered vehicle takes an overall record for a vehicle type. In 1899, the world's fastest car was electric. Since then, internal combustion has dominated everything."

The speeds that earned KillaJoule a 240.726 average. What did it get Eva Hakansson?

The satisfaction that comes with wearing a red hat! 

PS: Our hometown Pro Stock Bike hero Scotty Pollacheck (right) has test ridden the KillaCycle (among other electric bikes). Here's Scotty (and Bill?) in the pits at Bandimere Speedway. Keep up with Eva and Bill at: killacycleracing.com. (Photos courtesy of Eva Hakansson)


Okay, back to tech that we mortals can relate to. My speed-dial guy for electric spaghetti is our own token Italian, Motormouth Ray (the SGE version of Marlan Davis). For all I know, Ray could be making up everything he says, just to throw me off the scent, which is impressive in its own right. Yet I trust him with a totally blind faith.

After a long rebuild, the Motormouth Ray '65 GTO is now racking up the miles and smiles. Unfortunately, the stock fuel gauge is now a pathological liar. So Ray slipped on his Inspector Clouseau hat and dove into the deep end of the fuel tank.

Ray recently had his eye operated on, only days after a nasty tooth extraction. Due to a consequent extreme dosage of pain medication, SGE makes no claim of accuracy nor takes any responsibility for the following. Read at own risk.

 I now turn the lectern over to Professor Motormouth...

Thanks. Thank you! Please, be seated. Thank you very much. Take your seats, please.

Yes, that's my GTO in the above photo. I shot it last fall, just before its first drive in many years. After fueling up the car for the first time since the rebuild, I found that the fuel gauge was only reading a quarter tank, and not 'Full', as it should. Here's where the fun starts, as the tank was reconditioned, the sending unit was rebuilt (and tested when returned), and the dash harness was replaced. Plenty of places for a gremlin to lay in wait. What was the last thing that was changed? Everything.

The rebuilt sender (now wearing a clean sock), and a resistor reading 0.7 ohms.

The diagnostic trail goes like this: The gauge plug was measured, and had 12 volts, plus the sending unit signal. The sending unit measured 26 ohms when disconnected from the electrical circuit (the equivalent of a quarter tank, since the resistance range is 0 to 90 ohms). Grounds were good, and there was a nearly full tank of gas in the car. When the sender signal wire was grounded, the gauge needle swung past 'Full', as it should.

The original 1965 sender, clearly stamped with a 90 ohm specification. All GM units from '65 through the 1990's used this rating.

Written diagnostics* all pointed to a bad gauge resistor (specifically noting a 1/4 tank reading when bad). Removing the resistor showed a reading of 82 ohms, wasn't opened or grounded, and when it was re-installed on the gauge, the total resistance measured 42 ohms (showing the internal gauge resistance and the external resistor in parallel). On to the definitive test...

Sending unit installed in tank. The brown wire transmits the resistance reading to the gauge through
the flat harness under the carpet (if I had a carpet). 

Disconnecting the sender from the wiring harness connection point under the back seat (or where the back seat would be, if it was in the car - yes, sometimes it's nice not to have an interior yet), a variable 100 ohm resistor was wired into the circuit loop, and guess what: Zero ohms showed an empty tank; 45 ohms showed half a tank; and 90 ohms showed a full tank reading on the dash gauge. The problem has to be in the sending unit!

Dash gauge finally wakes up, once fed proper serving of ohms. (Photos courtesy of Motormouth Ray)

Removing the sending unit from the tank while catching the cascading fresh fuel (most of which was absorbed by my sweatshirt), and setting it up on the bench to be measured, showed the full range of the float corresponded to what an empty and full tank should show (0 to 90 ohms). The trouble tree is damning: The sending unit had been installed upside-down(!), preventing the float from relaying the appropriate resistance value up to the gauge. Flip it around, lower the car, refill the tank with the salvaged fuel, and hit the key, to reveal... 3/4 tank of gas, as expected.

Lessons learned:

1. Think out the problem.

2. Perform diligent diagnostics.

3. Don't ever overlook the obvious.

4. Toss those gas-soaked clothes in the wash, and take a shower before you sit down to dinner.

As for Ray's current state of health: "I've healed up 100%. My eyesight is 20-20 again, and I'll be fitted with new glasses soon. Life is good." (Photos courtesy of Motormouth Ray)

*The "written diagnostics" referenced above are detailed here: http://www.chevyclassicsclub.com/the-gm-fuel-gauge-mystery-1965-newer/


The Engine Control Module has scared off many rodders since becoming prevalent in the mid-1980s. Despite a penchant for finned aluminum, I led the stampede away from ECMs.

Within a couple years of the ECM's introduction, a custom-burned chip and a bit of wire swapping produced supplemental power without dirtying your hands. The brave explorers pioneering this work were instant heroes.

As Eva Hakansson demonstrated, electronics have now proven their worth in motorsports of all disciplines. But those who lean on the electron to enable high velocity activity on America's highways and byways may soon be in for a challenge from some very formidable foes...

While we were on the subject of electronic rodding, Motormouth Ray alerted us to this recent development:

The Association of Global Automakers is a lobbying firm that represents a dozen auto manufacturers around the world. The AGA recently approached the U.S. Copyright Office with a request to prevent car owners from accessing "computer programs that control the functioning of a motorized land vehicle, including personal automobiles, commercial vehicles, and agricultural machinery, for the purposes of lawful diagnoses and repair, or aftermarket personalization, modification, or other improvement."

Not surprisingly, the automakers themselves support the action with a claim that their current vehicles are "too complex" for home mechanics to understand, so "for safety's sake", all maintenance and repairs must be performed solely by certified factory technicians. The bureaucratic ride that began with emissions controls, then On Board Diagnostics, then blocked access to factory service manuals, seems to have delivered performance enthusiasts (ironically famous for their brand loyalty) to the ultimate roadblock. Computer tweaking is obviously over my head, but the millions of hot rod geeks worldwide who successfully employ home-manipulated electrons to do their bidding are not amused. Thousands more, employed within the aftermarket industry, now face possible unemployment. But wait, there's more: A recent episode of CBS Television's 60 Minutes program detailed the ease with which U.S. government hackers (secretly funded by the Big Three, according to some conspiracy theorists) can control on-board computer functions while tracking vehicle speeds and whereabouts, via Department of Defense satellites. So, who's really driving your car?

Despite my ignorance of electronics, I'm very sympathetic to the people to have invested their hard earned dollars into digital software and hardware for their late model dream cars, only to be told they don't know what they're doing and they may now be criminals. Ignorance be damned, we'll be following this developing story to the best of our limited abilities. Um, you know, this is probably nothing... but there is one thing that's kinda been bothering me... why haven't we heard anything from SEMA on this?


If Ray can be a hero on four wheels, and Eva can do it with three, it's no surprise that Oregon's Strode Brothers want to do it on two wheels (sans electrons). They're currently building a twin-engine minibike, so a rocket-powered unicycle can't be far behind. In the meantime, we have procured exclusive secret spy photos of Marty Strode's "Stallion" motorbike, as it nears final assembly.

Marty: "The powdercoat, anodizing and ceramic coating (on the exhaust) are complete. I'm taking the tank, side cover and number plate to (master striper) Mitch Kim - he always exceeds my expectations. That's brother Tom, doing the assembly. I really have better things to do than fool around with these bikes. But I have to admit, Tom and I have been having the time of our lives, building and riding them!" (Photos courtesy of Mr. X)


At the polar opposite end of all the above high-techery sits the SGE Model A project. Alas, last weekend's intense efforts on the project produced no results beyond the usual cussing, sweating, and farting of two old guys forgetting their ages until their backs reminded them. Doctor Lockjaw and I gave it our all, but had nothing to show for our efforts when we hung out the 'Sorry, We're Closed' sign at Doc's Custom Metal shop on Sunday afternoon.

My open drive '48 F-1 rear is now completely consumed by weeds, so I'm running this shot from last fall.

With our front brake project on hold, we knew it was high time we got our rearends in gear, so we pulled our crusty mock-up rear from the chassis and broke it down. That killed about five minutes. 

Since the mock-up rearend had no bearings installed, the first step of the teardown was removing the bearing races from the bells. This one spit out its race after some hammering on a length of round tubing.

Ta da. A few rust spots, but the Timken number is still readable, so we called it a success.

The other bell, on the other hand, refused every effort from the sledge hammer, cutoff wheel and torch to extract the race.  We tortured it the entire day and it never budged a bit. I'll be attacking it again with a bigger hammer and a chisel as you read this. Tune in next week to learn how many times I hit myself in the head with the hammer. 

Electron wizardry at Doctor Lockjaw's Custom Metal shop, via the overworked TIG pedal. The shop is otherwise all analog. (Scotty shots)



Last week, we reported on Holly Felsen Welch's heroic rescue of a baby squirrel that had fallen from a tree in her yard. We're happy to report that Holly and squirrel are both recovering nicely, thanks to compassionate neighbor Karen Muelhaupt, who has volunteered to care for the displaced squirrel while Holly tends to her swans and prepares for this year's Henry Gregor Felsen Car Show at DesMoines, Iowa. (Photo courtesy of Holly Felsen Welch)

Danny Thompson relies on the SnapOn rollaway in the background to handle the drivetrain refurbishing of his Challenger II streamliner, in preparation for this year's Bonneville Speed Week landspeed record attempt. The project, begun in 1960 by Danny's dad Mickey, made promising test runs late last year (including a best of 419.702 MPH), following the rained out Speed Week. Mickey's dream will be on the line again this year. (Photo courtesy of Danny Thompson)