Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What turns my wheels!

Not long ago, the things that got my wheels turning were; how to make a car go down the quarter mile as quick as possible, building engines and, in general, modifying everything. Now though, and in the past few years, the things that keep my brain happy mainly revolve around making Taj more functional and independent of any public utilities as well as making Heidi's and my life more comfortable.

This last year, Taj has gone through many modifications, most of which I have detailed here on our blog. There are a few mods that have been done that I still have to write about and a couple that are close to being completed. This next year will be busy as well. Lots of new project ideas in my mind!

I love this stuff! Re-engineering and designing clever ways to do more in our little rolling home is so much more rewarding to me than most of the activities of my past. I am sure that feeling is due to the immediate and more obvious way each change made affects our lives. Even the smallest changes can have a clear impact on day to day tasks.

My general design requirements for the modifications I conjure up are as follows:

1) When dealing with a repair, the system involved has to end up better than it came from the factory. Possibly this means, better materials, fasteners, and often, an improvement in design.

2) Improved efficiency. In any system I am considering making a change to, the goal is always to end up with the most efficient end result possible. A lot of time is spent researching and almost any concept is deliberated in the quest for the best answer.

3) Simplicity in design. By this I am not referring to the easiest method to do something, rather that there is often a design that is very simple and elegant and perfect for the situation. It is that answer that you know is right as soon as it comes to mind.

4) Quality over quantity or speed. I am not a fan of shortcuts. Diligence pays off and even the things that nobody else sees matter to me. I enjoy knowing I can have confidence in my work for these reasons. Never any sleep lost worrying that something may fail. This also applies to the cost of doing a project. I refuse to go the cheaper route if there is a better alternative, even if it means waiting a significant amount of time. Sacrifices in life are sometimes necessary but when it comes to this type of work, I won't do it.

I made that small list to give an idea of how my mind works while designing. It isn't a formal thing I follow, rather habits and ideas I have formed over the years and do, for the most part, automatically. The list also isn't meant to be complete, but it does give a reasonable idea of how I think for this type of work.

So, what kind of stuff do I have planned for Taj's future mods? More electrical system improvements including solar, LED lighting, maybe some other forms of power generation. The fresh water system is going to get much of my attention with the goals being, access to the interior of the tank for cleaning, and a decent filtration/purification system. Overall there are a few areas I want to work on improving insulation, space utilization and functionality as well. On a slightly humorous note, I intend on designing and implementing a central vacuum. There are actually some pretty good reasons I have for doing such a seemingly silly thing for a van, but I will save them for that specific blog post. Not sure if it will happen next year or the following year, but I intend on adding an on-board compressor and air-bag system as well as a few other changes to the running gear. Sometime in the middle of all this, Taj is going to want some fresh paint I am sure.

There are many other projects on my mind as well, but I will spare you the details for the moment. Did I mention I love this stuff? The wheels are always turning!


  1. "Simplicity in design." I concur! The least amount of moving parts and connections along with the shortest distance to the goal. And, you're so right about the correct answer showing itself when it's right -- the "aha!"

    Did you build dragsters in a former life?

  2. Thanks for the comment Rob! I suspect you and I agree about a lot of our building ideas from what I have seen of your project so far!

    Yeah, last shop was a Race/fabrication shop. Mostly drag cars. Have built a few rails over the years as well. Specialized in custom fabrication and engine building.


  3. There are a lot of boats that have onboard vac systems,maybe you can a copy of the design from a boat company

  4. Mike,

    Good to know. I may have to tap your brain when I get to the good stuff.

  5. I like it Mike! It sure is obvious by looking at the finished product.....

    Did Bill mention that we chance met in Wallies?

    Fun....Keep up the good work and keep sharing it with to follow you two.