11s in ’07…Timing is Everything! (pt 1)

Hello to All,

As usual, there’s a Wayland story here, so go get that cup of coffee and maybe a nice cinnamon melt, kick off those shoes, relax, and enjoy!

All I can say, is WOW! Finally, we’ve broken into the 11s that have eluded us for now for the past two years….and yes, we drove it to and from the track! As Rod Wilde posted, Tim Brehm drove White Zombie into the 11s twice, with the fourth run the best ET at 11.948 @ 109.75 mph, and the fifth and final run an 11.960 @ 110.14 mph. Remember when we were trying to be the first street legal EV to crack 100 mph in the 1/4 mile? Geesh, now we’re flying up to 110 mph!

A very grateful thank you goes out to all my friends and sponsors who have never wavered in their support and who have stood behind me in this quest to have White Zombie become the first fully street legal electric sedan to run 11s in the 1/4 mile (per NEDRA and the NHRA). Without the generous help from Tim Brehm, Dick Brown, Otmar Ebenhoech, Rich Rudman, Marko Mongillo, Jim Husted, The Dutchman, and many others (names listed in random order, please forgive me if your name is omitted), this achievement could not have been possible. Our main sponsor of course, is Enersys, and they’ve been great supporters of our electric drag racing efforts. The little Genesis model batteries cranked out the power without a hitch on Friday. We took a conservative approach and left the battery current limit set at 1000 amps, even though we can pull as much as 1500 amps from the pack…and we still broke into the 11s :-)

White Zombie is not the first full bodied EV to run 11s…that honor stays with my former arch rival and now good friend Rod Wilde. Rod was the very first EVer to build and race a street bodied EV (Maniac Mazda, so named by me) into the 11s…deep into the 11s, way back in ’99 when the most EV racers were thrilled to get into the 14s and Zombie’s best ET was a 13.4! Maniac Mazda was an MC (modified conversion) class racer and it was not set up to run in the street legal class. As such, it set its records with the extreme traction provided by non-DOT rated track-only big wrinkle wall drag slicks with wheelie bars to keep it from lift-off, and it was lightened with hollowed out doors, thin composite replacement windows, a gutted interior, lightened bumpers, etc. And of course, it ‘did’ have those outrageously powerful TMF batteries (close to today’s lithium Ion batteries in instantaneous high current power delivery). That said, with a tire swap, the wheelie bars removed, regular glass put back in, and a few other changes to return it to street legal status (Pro Street wasn’t conceived yet) it would have more than likely, still been in the mid 11s with the TMF batteries…glad he didn’t do that, so that eight years later I can claim to have the record for the quickest street legal electric sedan on the planet :-)

Before the limited production short-lived TMF cells made their debut at the track, back when Maniac Mazda was powered by more traditional Hawker lead acid batteries in 1998, Rod pushed it to an impressive low 12 second ET that still stands as an MC/A record. Nine long years later, White Zombie’s backup run to its new world record of 11.948 @ 109.75 mph from Friday night is fun to compare. Though the cars are in different racing classes, both cars’ performance stats while both running on Hawker batteries (now called Enersys) are remarkably similar….Zombie’s 11.96 @ 110.14 mph run… Maniac Mazda’s 12.07 @ 110.13 mph run. Wow! Only 11 one hundredths of a second apart…only 1 one hundredths mph apart! It only took me nine years to catch him! Even though Rod’s machine hasn’t seen the track in a long time, Maniac Mazda is still the poster child for those new to EVs, to look at in awe and wonder. So thank you Rod, because as I savor this moment of breaking into the 11s, credit must be given where credit is due. My hat’s off to Rod for his great accomplishment with a street bodied car, so long ago!

Special note: We may have awoken a sleeping giant by breaking into the 11s with White Zombie, as rumor has it that Maniac Mazda may return to action soon. It’s beginning to feel like 1997 all over again!

OK, on with the story…..Friday night’s successful electric drag racing was definitely a fairy tale, from start to finish!!!!

It really all began back in March when for the first time, Tim and I tried out the new pack of 60 small Enersys 14 lb. high current 12V lead acid batteries (2 X 360V) at PIR in a rare break of dry weather when the track had just opened for the 2007 season. We were immediately impressed with the BIG increase in power (as promised by Enersys) over the previous year’s pack of 30 larger batteries. Even though the new pack added 100+ lbs. of heft to White Zombie and pushed its curb weight up to 2580 lbs., the car was definitely quicker. In 2006 we had changed-out the 2005 version’s heavily abused 348V pack for a fresh set of the same batteries (one more battery added to bring the car up to 360V) but we were disappointed that we were never able to match the Zombie’s best ET of 12.151 @ 106.25 mph established back in 2005. We never got any runs lower than a 12.3-something and the trap speed never broke over 104 mph…the best ET we netted in 2006 was a 12.308 @ 104.2 mph.

Back to March of this year…the first time we hit the throttle, we knew there was a lot more power coming from the twin packs of the smaller batteries. Here’s what I wrote about that:

…the car had a new attitude and with its new pack the very first run down the track netted a quick 12.646 @ 98.69 mph. Such a quick time on cold and not-yet-broken-in batteries was quite a surprise.

That 12.6 ET was the quickest time the car had ever turned on the first run of the day, and it indicated that the new twin pack setup was a change for the better. White Zombie continued to get quicker with each run and got tantalizingly close, to within a scant one tenth of a second, of the 12.151 ET benchmark from 2005, with a strong 12.161 @ 106.50 mph run. Then, on the next (and last) run that we all thought was ‘surely’ going to be that elusive 11 second pass, we had that ‘we blow things up, so you don’t have to’ moment:

at about the 2/3 mark, White Zombie lit up the track with a fireball…this, on a sunny afternoon! Tim got out of it and coasted the final >1/3 across the finish line, with a trap speed 13 mph slower at just 94.18 mph. After coasting so far, the ET was still 12.256!

Yes, this was a huge disappointment for us :-( We had once again, flirted with the 11s only to have our hopes doused by a motor failure. Tim reported that during the fireball incident it felt like the armatures might have been cogging or slipping on the motor shaft, or that maybe the output splines of the shaft had twisted within the slip-on driveshaft yoke, but I thought the effect he was he was describing was more than likely the monstrous plug-braking effect from the motor being shorted by an arc between opposing brush poles. I knew that under the care of motor expert and team Plasma Boy member Jim Husted, it could be rebuilt and made well again, but I also knew that with newfound battery pack power reducing voltage sag at the far end of the track, that my old nemesis ‘the fireball monster’ – total mayhem within the motor from a high voltage arc – had returned and that something needed to be changed. That change was motor timing, I ‘thought’ it then, and I certainly know it now!

On with the story…In early May I was contacted by OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting) as they were interested in doing a feature about Team Plasma Boy and our adventures racing against and beating powerful gasoline fueled muscle cars and hot tuner imports with our electric car at the drag strip. At around the same time we were also contacted by the Wall Street Journal’s John Fialka who’s been with them now, 25 years. John too, was interested in coming out west to discuss the birth of NEDRA and the whole EV hotrod scene, and he was especially interested in the David vs Goliath thing between little ‘ol White Zombie and the classic big block muscle cars we often go head to head with. John also wanted to take in some real drag racing action at the PIR drag strip. I did not want to schedule any stressed-out full bore 1/4 mile runs with the car, too close to the Wayland Invitational III races for obvious reasons…breaking it badly and making it inoperable for a race with my namesake would no be good. Breaking it badly and making it inoperable to the point where I’d miss the opportunity to run with Bill Dube’s spare lithium pack would be a colossal blunder! Because the car was still down from the March incident, and considering the calendar of EVents scheduled including the big June 23rd SEVA ‘Gasless on Greenwood’ car show I had committed ourselves (and White Zombie) to, I told these press people that the car would be back on the track in hopefully, early June. Any failure modes in early June would still give us enough time to rebuild and be ready for the July 13th Wayland Invitational III races.

On 5-23-07 I wrote:

Before pulling White Zombie’s injured motor last Saturday (now in Jim’s loving hands)…

Yeah, it took nearly two months to find the time and the spirit to pull the damaged motor…work, family matters, and life in general affecting both Tim and I took priority after the March racing, but eventually the Siamese 8 motor was pulled and delivered to Jim Husted’s Hi Torque Electric motor shop to be renewed and remade into a power plant that could better hold up to the extremes we’ve been putting it through. This would be accomplished by Jim’s expert fabrication skills and my directing him to twist the brush timing at both motor sections from 10 degrees to 15 degrees total advance.

On 6-7-07 I had written:

Mods to the Siamese 8 are coming along nicely. The big change is my decision to go from 10 degrees advance to 15 degrees for more top end hp and much greater arc-fighting capability.

Because I waited so long to get the motor to Jim, by the time I ‘did’ get it over to him in mid May, he was in the middle of a heavy work load and so progress was slow on the motor. As it was with Tim and I, work, family matters, and life in general had Jim pretty well booked, so my estimate of early June of having the car back together came and went. Calls were made to all the press people and dates were refigured to later in the month…and I began to get real nervous about everything!While the Siamese 8 was under the knife, Jim also replaced the heavy duty Husted-made inter-brush stranded/insulated wire conductors with even heavier duty dual semi-circle solid copper bus bars insulated and hand-wrapped just so, to give the 2000 motor amp current the best chance of getting into the armatures. Attention was also paid to clearances and the placement of all the conductive parts inside all areas of the brush end bells. The twin armature-long shaft affair was pressed apart, and each armature inspected, electrically tested, cleaned, re-dipped and baked, pressed back together with a new center bearing, and then sent-out and professionally balanced at high rpm.

Back to the time line…

June in Portland is a month that never seems to know what kind of weather it wants…it’s almost as crazy as our Spring weather. In June, one is lured outside wearing sandals and shorts by oftentimes 85-90 degree hot days and the feel that Summer is here…only to be then blasted by 50 degree days darkened by foreboding grey clouds and pounded by in-and-out thunderstorm downpours. June is Rose Festival time in our ‘city of roses’, time to coronate the queen of Rosearia (always from a high school, always pretty and blushing with pride), time for Rose Cup Races, Cart Races, dragon boat races, and of course, the Grand Floral Parade and the Starlight Parade. Each year in June, we Portlanders cringe, wring our hands, and worry about ‘the weather’. Will it be hot and sunny, or will it be cold and rain-soaked? We never, ever know what we’ll get! This year, it was hot and sunny all week up until the Grand Floral Parade, the biggest event of the festival…then right on cue on the day of the parade (and only that day) it rained all day! Of course, the big parade and all the festivities went ahead anyway…it takes a lot more than rain to get us web-footed Oregonians down.

With this backdrop of never-knowing-what-you’ll-get-weather, I was pretty nervous about having a writer fly out from Washington DC and a producer/film crew setting aside precious ‘camera time’. After already canceling plans for any early June runs at the track, the new date for racing was either going to be Friday June 22th or if we got rained-out, Saturday the 23rd. White Zombie also needed to be up in Seattle (180 miles north of Portland) very early Saturday June 23rd for the ‘Gasless on Greenwood car show….and the car was still torn down, still minus its motor! As if that wasn’t bad enough, I was sent out on another service call took me up and over the Cascade mountains to the Central Oregon Bend area again on Wednesday the 21st of June. This took me 160 miles away from doing prep work on the car, but it also positioned me in Jim’s neck of the woods ‘just in case’ all the planets lined up and the armature balancing guys actually got the twin armature /shaft affair balanced…it was taking a lot more time than they said it would.

The 10 day weather trend showed it was going to be sunny and dry…then 4 days before John Fialka of the Wall Street Journal was to fly out, right on schedule the forecast was changed to rain for both Friday and Saturday…with of course, sunshine returning ‘after’ the racing weekend! We once again, aborted the plans at the last minute. I was actually relieved about this, because White Zombie’s motor work was still not done! We then penciled-in the following Friday, June 29th as the night for drag racing and had Saturday planned as a back up day, just in case of ‘weather’ again. With the drag racing canceled for Friday night, June 22nd, the pressure was off a little in regards to trying to do both a late Friday night’s racing, and, driving three hours getting the car up to Seattle for the following Saturday morning at 6:00 am…whew! Still, a lot of people were counting on my pulling through with everything and things seemed to be getting worse.

Finally, something went right and when while I was in Central Oregon, I got the call from Jim that the balancer guys had finished the job. With the guts of the Siamese 8 back in Jim’s possession, the motor could be reassembled. As a last item to be done, a more intense color of purple was applied to the motor’s frame/field bodies to add a little more eye candy as well :-) After reassembly, Jim then hand-timed the two motor sections. One end was fixed at 15 degrees total advance, and the other was made adjustable so it could be tweaked to match the other exactly by syncing-up the volts, amps, and rpm of each motor section to one another, per our ‘intense’ discussions. It worked out great that I was right down the road from Jim’s shop with my ‘haul anything’ work service truck, so I simply picked up the motor on my way back home on Thursday, June 22nd…just in time!

On 6-22-07 I wrote:

…back into the Portland area (from central Oregon) right on schedule at 5:35 pm…no AC in 86 degree weather kind of poops you out. I never even got out of my work uniform and just kept on doing ‘wrenching stuff’ when Tim and another helper, Kevin, showed up…It took us until 8:30 pm to get the Zombie’s heart beating again.

After a very long work day that continued into a work night, White Zombie was back together Thursday evening! I took it out for its maiden voyage with the newly rebuilt, more aggressively timed motor. I always love the smell of breaking in a Husted-made motor…the warming up of the redipped armatures, the fresh coatings inside, the new insulation wraps, and the new frame paint all have that new car smell. It’s especially intoxicating when you lift the hood after the Siamese 8 has been brought up to temperature. The car drove completely different to me. No, I didn’t put the hammer down at all, rather, I just took it easy. I ‘did’ give it a little throttle a few times though, and the attitude was one of a car wanting to rush up to speed with effortless ease…it felt very promising.Back at the Wayland EV Juice bar, Tim had his Dodge truck and the trailer ready for load-up, as the the next day, Friday, we were scheduled to travel north to have the car in the weekend Seattle car show. We got it loaded up and secured, and with that, White Zombie was whisked away in the night to Tim’s place. Because of my heavy out-of-town work week schedule I had racked up a lot of OT, so I only worked a few hours on Friday. I got home early, packed my stuff into the Insight, and headed north to Seattle. Tim would leave after work and meet up with me in the early AM in the park near the car show where the SEVA gang traditionally meets before we parade the EVs into the greenwood car show. Saturday’s show went well, and a good time was had by all.

The next week was sunny and hot again with the weekend (June 29-30) forecasted to be dry, and once again, Mr. Fialka’s travel plans had been arranged. We decided to make it a two day thing, so as to have a second backup day in case of a rain-out on Friday. I was able to take the car out a few times during the week for long drives to help seat the brushes. On one of the first drives, I stabbed the pedal down a bit to see how the acceleration would be, and smelled a not-so-good electrical burning smell. I had hoped it was only the fact that the brushes weren’t seated yet and that 2000 motor amps was simply giving them a hard time. I checked the motor out very carefully after I returned home, and to my pleasant surprise found absolutely no visible damage or burn marks anywhere. I was relieved but also a little upset with myself for not having the self control to allow the brushes to break in before hitting the hammer a bit. Subsequent runs on the streets with the car went smoothly with no bad smells and no problems to report other than a bit of a lower frequency vibration that seemed to improve as road speed was increased.

Sometimes I think the gods of weather are scheming against me, as the day before Mr. Fialka was to fly into Portland, the Friday forecast was again updated to include thunderstorms and heavy on-and-off rains, with Saturday being the turn-around day where sunshine would return. Great….Friday looked to be a bust, and Tim Brehm would be unavailable for driving on Saturday, as it was his 11 year old daughter’s big birthday bash that included daddy driving the family south of Portland and away from anything to do with racing.

Friday morning arrived with overcast skies and unfriendly temperatures. As I’m thinking about John Fialka flying across the country only to land in rainy Portland, my stomach ached and I felt as Jim Husted must feel when he gets his panties in a bunch over what I might do to the Siamese 8! When I thought of how I had to then tell him there’d be no Tim Brehm to drive the car on Saturday, my stomach twisted some more. Then, I thought about the OPB crew about to show up at around the same time as Fialka with all their media gear in tow. I wondered about how in the world I’d split myself in two so I could be interviewed by the Wall Street Journal and filmed by OPB at the same time without dissing one or both at the same time….this was not turning out so good :-( Icing on the cake….Tim was stuck at work a bit longer than we had planned and would not be at my place until maybe an hour after the media folks were to arrive….great! Want more? My front lawn is already a piece of crap, but it at least looks ‘OK’ when I mow-down the dandelions. I got home from work early to prepare for my guests, and as I went out to get the B&D cordless mower, a thunderhead pulled up right over my house and soaked the lawn for a half hour or so….nice! So here I was with a home looking like white trash lived there (dandelions wafting in the breeze), horrible weather taunting me to dare take my car to the track, and guests arriving thinking they were going to get great EV racing to film and write about. It was all starting to look bad.

To be continued…

See Ya…John Wayland

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One Response to 11s in ’07…Timing is Everything! (pt 1)

  1. Jim Husted says:

    I dropped in to see if you had posted anything about last weekend and reread this post. After this weekend we know that in fact all the planning and work paid off. Can’t wait for you to post about your latest adventures. Congrats to a great weekend of racing! How bout them motors Bitch! 8^o LMAO!

    Jim Husted
    Hi-Torque Electric