Nashco
Nashco SuperDork
May 26, 2009 2:41 a.m.

Well, I figure I've started hacking and wacking at the challenge car, so it's about time to spill the beans on our project. It's a project that I've been accumulating parts for over a few years and wasn't originally planned to be a $200X project, but about a year ago (when the $2009 was planned for the West Coast) I decided it made sense to give it a whack since my basic parts could fit in the budget and a deadline would force me to get it done! Here's the skinny on the big parts of the build:

'88 Fiero Formula - I'm a craigslist hound and this is one of my "Look what I found!" trophies. I paid $500 for it because the owner thought it needed the engine rebuilt and had torn the top of the engine off. A few bucks for a used ignition module and a few hours of reassembly later and I had a fully functioning Formula on my hands. I chose a Fiero because it accepts a second transverse drivetrain fairly easily, it's a unique American car, it is GM (to match the motor), and I just plain like Fieros.

S10 Electric motor and inverter - The heart and soul of the project. This was sort-of an ebay find. Schram's is a big junkyard in MI known for getting lots of neat stuff from the OEMs in the area, especially GM. They had an ebay ad for an even more complete motor/inverter/wiring package from an electric S10 that a friend of mine got. When he picked it up at Schram's, they said they had two more on hand that weren't quite as complete. By the time I called (the next day) they only had one inverter and motor left. I paid $800 for the package shipped to my door. The motor is originally rated at 85kW. If you haven't heard of the S10 electric, it uses a motor/inverter that was just like the one in the EV1.

Prius batteries - I've been accumulating Prius batteries to power the electric motor. The Prius packs in stock form don't put out the kind of voltage I need, but they're very flexible designs so I can make my own packs by dissecting the packs and reassembling the modules to get the voltage I need. I can use more or less packs as I want for more or less range, power, etc. The going rate on Prius packs is averaging about $250 each, and I can use as few as two (actually 1.5).

The idea is to make an AWD Fiero hybrid. I can use it as an EV only for short ranges, gas only for long range driving, or hybrid for maximum power and performance. At first glance, this seems like a hell of a complex build, but I'm optimistic that some parts bin scrounging and plenty of digging around on the internet will make it happen. I'm hoping to show you Florida-bound folks that we West Coasters have something fresh to bring to the table and also hope to bring attention to budget electric stuff that is fun. There are a lot of people that build cheap EVs out there, but they usually involve things like Geos with forklift motors that can't go fast enough to get on the highway and people tend to scoff at them. Cheap EVs don't have to be slow and boring!

Bryce

Nashco
Nashco SuperDork
May 26, 2009 2:52 a.m.

I have been using the Fiero as a daily driver for a while, but finally parked it and put it under the knife this weekend. I can't take all the credit for the progress, a couple of buddies from work (Aaron and Bill) came to help and another friend from college and former LeMons teammate (Dante) was in town to wrench as well.

On Friday we started stripping the front end down. Everything that we knew would be in the way came out, which isn't much under the hood of a Fiero. For our first mock up, we place the motor into the car in the "stock" position it would rest in with the S10. The fit wasn't so great right away...well, nobody said this was going to be easy.

We wanted the axle position further back in the chassis without the motor hitting the firewall, so we rotated the motor assembly 90 degrees. For those unfamiliar, the "drive unit" is essentially a motor, 11:1 ratio gear reduction, and differential all in one big assembly. To drop it in, the first cutting started with cutting out the thin sheet metal that divides the spare tire area from the radiator area. This doesn't add much structurally and is mostly to create a wall for packaging so it came out with just a few seconds under the blade.

Ok, now we're talking! The motor seemed much more "at home" in the rotated position. Sure, the diff lubing will be a little bit different, and that's something we'll keep in mind later, but this was forward progress. Next we had to do some hacking away to make the motor sit lower. Left unchanged, the suspension subframe left the motor pretty high up. Saturday was a day off because of a memorial service I attended. On Sunday we did some strategic cutting and eventually got the motor to sit about six inches lower. Not only did this give us big benefits in lowering the weight, but also in reducing axle angle and the amount of cutting required for axle clearance.


After we made space for an axle shaft to exist in, it was time to fit the axles. This was a lot of research in the making, but on the surface the axles are pretty simple. I'll spare you all the gory details on my internet sleuthery, but what it boils down to is that I'm using Saturn S-Series inner stubs, axle shafts from low output manual transmission applications, and the same outer stubs that are used on the rear hubs. The hubs being used in the front are the same as the stock rear (Fiero) hubs. The knuckles are stock knuckles that have had the hub bore enlarged about .040" to accept the same rear hub. Like I said, it seems easy on the surface, but it took me a bit of head scratching to get it all figured out.

I only have one knuckle machined so far, it was essentially a proof-of-concept until this weekend. Well, it looks like our axle lengths will be almost perfect, but until I get that other knuckle machined I won't be positive. Once I have a pair of modified knuckles I can put the entire assembly together, hub to hub, and do final motor positioning. Right now it looks like the steering rack will have to move a bit less than an inch from it's original home to avoid hard interference between the rack and the diff housing. The steering shaft will also have some shenanigans to avoid interference with the axle.

I haven't talked much about the changes to the springs and dampers, which are rapidly approaching on the to-do list. The stock '88 setup places those between the two A-arms, so they were one of the first things to get cut out. We still haven't done any mock up on new shock/spring locations, that will be coming up soon. We're pretty happy with the progress in two build days!

Bryce

thatsnowinnebago HalfDork
May 26, 2009 4:13 a.m.

Impressive work. I like the AWD idea using the electric motor for the front wheels. For those of us not familiar with electric motor power ratings (me), how many horsepower does 85 kW equal?

jmthunderbirdturbo New Reader
May 26, 2009 5:53 a.m.

nice build. i cant wait for 2010...

-J0N

HIDGolf
HIDGolf New Reader
May 26, 2009 7:48 a.m.

85 kW is 114hp.

It was great to spend Memorial Day weekend with Bryce & Co. in a garage wrenching on something a bit unique with mostly GM parts. What's more 'Merican than that?!

Keep it up Bryce!

MrJoshua SuperDork
May 26, 2009 8:41 a.m.

Nice build Nashco! Ive been curious what you were stirring up ever since you hinted at this months ago. Maybe I will go ahead and put the electric stuff I have in my challenger and we can see who's faster.

P71 Dork
May 26, 2009 9:01 a.m.

That is wicked cool Bryce! I wish I would have come down to help out, but it was worth staying home because I finally got a new job! Now I can afford to fix stuff! Yay!

Stuc HalfDork
May 26, 2009 9:29 a.m.

Wow, this is an ambitious build for sure! I commend you.

Out of curiosity, is there any sort of energy recovery system planned?

Nashco
Nashco SuperDork
May 26, 2009 11:27 a.m.

Thanks for the compliments guys, but we've still got a long way to go before celebrating. In my past projects I've learned that it's easy to hack stuff out of the way, putting it back together is the tricky part.

Stuc wrote: Out of curiosity, is there any sort of energy recovery system planned?

Yes, the motor is an AC motor and has regeneration capabilities. The S10e allows for a low percentage of regen when the accelerator pedal is lifted and a slightly higher percentage when the brakes are applied (something like 15 and 30% IIRC).

Bryce

spin_out New Reader
May 26, 2009 12:30 p.m.

Awesome!

I was going to say a lot more, but awesome seemed to cover it.

HIDGolf
HIDGolf New Reader
May 26, 2009 12:52 p.m.

You should charge it thru the regen by going backwards and then race forwards, like a life-sized windup car!

Think of the charging period like massive turbo lag.

Nashco
Nashco SuperDork
May 26, 2009 1:05 p.m.
HIDGolf wrote: You should charge it thru the regen by going backwards and then race forwards, like a life-sized windup car!

Actually, I don't know if the controller will even allow it to regen in reverse, sorry to spoil your dream.

Bryce

hotg54b
hotg54b New Reader
May 26, 2009 1:32 p.m.

Cool project! I've had a Fiero AWD project stirring in my head for a few years. This is great info. I've been wanting to do a diesel awd "rebodied" fiero running on wvo.

dyintorace Dork
May 26, 2009 1:59 p.m.

Super cool project. Best of luck with the build and please keep the thread updated when warranted!

SVreX SuperDork
May 26, 2009 4:44 p.m.
MrJoshua wrote: Nice build Nashco! Ive been curious what you were stirring up ever since you hinted at this months ago. Maybe I will go ahead and put the electric stuff I have in my challenger and we can see who's faster.

You mean an electric assisted Ro-spit?

My money's on the Fiero!

Nashco
Nashco SuperDork
May 26, 2009 4:57 p.m.
SVreX wrote:
MrJoshua wrote: Nice build Nashco! Ive been curious what you were stirring up ever since you hinted at this months ago. Maybe I will go ahead and put the electric stuff I have in my challenger and we can see who's faster.

You mean an electric assisted Ro-spit?

My money's on the Fiero!

In the world of $200X projects this involved, I think he who finishes the challenge...wins. Honestly, just finishing it, driving it down to San Diego, competing, and driving it back would put me on cloud nine.

However, if a wager were to be made, I'd put money on the Fiero as well.

Bryce

dyintorace Dork
May 26, 2009 5:04 p.m.
Nashco wrote: In the world of $200X projects this involved, I think he who finishes the challenge...wins. Honestly, just finishing it, driving it down to San Diego, competing, and driving it back would put me on cloud nine.

If you guys each built an electric or hybrid Challenge car, I can't imagine how they wouldn't be an in-depth magazine article to follow. You'd be famous!

mad_machine SuperDork
May 26, 2009 5:11 p.m.

I always wanted to build a fiero.. always thought they would make a great candidate fir VW TDI or Full electric.

blizazer
blizazer New Reader
May 26, 2009 5:18 p.m.
dyintorace wrote:
Nashco wrote: In the world of $200X projects this involved, I think he who finishes the challenge...wins. Honestly, just finishing it, driving it down to San Diego, competing, and driving it back would put me on cloud nine.

If you guys each built an electric or hybrid Challenge car, I can't imagine how they wouldn't be an in-depth magazine article to follow. You'd be famous!

I like the sound of this.

MrJoshua SuperDork
May 26, 2009 5:29 p.m.

Mines farther along-both the front and rear suspension/driveline are complete!

2002maniac Reader
May 26, 2009 10:13 p.m.

very cool! I can't wait to see how it turns out!

SVreX SuperDork
May 27, 2009 3:03 p.m.
MrJoshua wrote: Mines farther along-both the front and rear suspension/driveline are complete!

Agreed.

But Nashco is building a car for the 2009 Challenge, not the 2003 Challenge.

Oh, and for the record, I consider Mr. Joshua a winner whether or not his Ro-spit ever makes it!

Besides, I've got more unfinished projects than he does (although he may be the one who started most of them!).

MrJoshua SuperDork
May 27, 2009 7:28 p.m.

Nashco has a better record of finishing cars than me-so my money is on the Fiero as well.

Osterkraut Dork
May 27, 2009 7:38 p.m.

I'm putting my money on the $30,000 M-body!

Nashco
Nashco SuperDork
May 30, 2009 4:37 a.m.

It's been a busy week, but I'm really happy with the progress. The days have kind of blurred together, so I won't bother documenting what got done on what day, I'll just spill the facts out. Looking back to my last update, here are the big hitters that have been finished over the week.

The upper control arm mounts ended up working out way, way better than I thought it would. I wanted to mount the upper control arm to the chassis instead of the cradle, as it used to, for packaging reasons. This meant I needed a big honkin' bracket to attach to the chassis. I have a small pile of scrap steel that I've accumulated and occassionally turn to for moments like this. There are all sorts of odd stampings that are pretty thick, WAY thicker than I need most of the time. However, that dumpster diving occassionally pays off. Here's the scrap stuff I started with:

And here's what I ended up with:

I tack welded the brackets to the chassis (after lots of measuring, marking, welding prep, etc.) to get the same upper control arm geometry as the car had stock:

I had some beefy Bilstein coilovers I got at a swap meet that I was planning on using, but once I tore them down for inspection/mockup I found one of the dampers was totally obliterated (piston was in bits and pieces). So, I headed to the U-Pull with intentions to find a suitable alternative on the cheap. I ended up with some front strut assemblies from an Accord that look like they'll work out well (as well as some others that didn't work as well). This is what I started with:

And this was the mockup that convinced me I could make these work out:

I got the second knuckle machined so I could get the full assembly bolted up from hub to hub. I had already stripped the axles of their boots and all the gooey grease so that I could check that the axles were the proper length. The axles work out almost perfectly; if I was ordering custom axles they'd be within an inch of what I've got from the junkyard, so I was very, very happy about that. I dialed in the motor position with the steering rack, hubs, axles, etc. all factored in:


It ought to be another action packed weekend. Coming up next...steering rack mounts, motor mounts, damper mounts, and lots of work beefing things up where material has been removed. I'm hoping to have it back on the ground and driving (with the gas engine) in a few days time for a suspension shakedown. gulp

Bryce

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