From the Ace Newsletter Archives: November 2006
The Summer of love
The summer of 2006 goes into my memory as the most rewarding of my career: after years of design & development my cycle-car project has born fruit, and what unexpectedly delicious fruit it has proven to be!
Riding with the King
Somewhere along the way, producing the cycle-car had become an obsession, fueled in part by a number of test drives in a Triking, generously loaned to by by my friend, David. This vehicle allowed a taste of the cycle-car experience and hinted at where I hoped my project was leading. The Triking was great fun, but, with a borrowed car I could never bring myself to put my foot into it or explore the limits of traction or handling: that would have to wait for the completion of the ACE prototype in the spring of 2007.
After 1 year of testing & revision which included: two versions of HD engines & motor mounts, castor & tie rod angle revisions, spring & dampening rate changes, three versions of primary drive, transmission ratio changes & cluster rework the ACE was reassembled in the spring and one again taken out for another tentative test drive. At first, I refused to believe the results, after a few miles there came an “Oh my God” revelation…this is what a cycle-car can feel like: light, crisp steering, smooth power everywhere, steady mirrors, powerful linear
brakes and confidence inspiring stability both at highway speeds and cornering! Rather than taking the car down for “tarting up” with paint, chrome & upholstery, I made the decision to do as much testing as possible through the summer.
Since Patty & I are booked continuously with sidecar orders, the testing went like this: almost every weekday afternoon, just before quitting time, I fired up the ACE and rocketed across the I-90 bridge to Mercer Island where an unbelievable 12 mile circuit of asphalt switchbacks
provide a workout for any car & driver with sporting pretension. I’ve driven this road since high school with a collection of vehicles including MG’s, Minis, Lotus and many motorcycles & sidecar outfits. Never have I felt the confidence and fun factor that I experience driving the ACE. The speed here are probably only 20-40 mph but the sequence of corners which would generally require quick dabs at the brakes & squealing tires in most cars can be seamlessly woven together in the ACE by simply feathering the throttle and pointing the wheels. A friend of mine who made a feeble attempt top follow the ACE through here on his
motorcycle termed it “A holy terror!”
Further out I-90 is the exit to my secret back road: for limbering-up early morning runs on weekends. This road is 10 miles or so of roller-coaster asphalt meandering through a forest. It’s much faster, but blind curves offer elevation changes and challenge your nerve: the ACE is
in it’s element here. Finally, my touring itinerary: most Saturdays & Sundays throughout the summer, I tossed a sack lunch and camera into the ACE and fired it up in the predawn darkness for a day of testing on some of the most famous & challenging roads the Pacific Northwest has to offer. Some of the roads I covered are: North Cascades Hiway, Steven’s Pass, Mt. Rainier – Sunrise & Paradise, Hurricane Ridge, Lake Crescent, Chuckanut Drive, Snoqualmie Pass, Chinook Pass, Hiway 101, Hood Canal.
High School Fantasy
These amazing driving experiences, in a vehicle of my own manufacture, are the realization of a dream I’ve harbored since high school and already justify the economic and emotional investment in my cycle-car project …. but I won’t stop here: I have told a few friends
“it’s so good, I can’t not build it!”
Throughout this testing (2k + miles) I would characterize my driving as “kind to the engine & harsh with everything else.” My goal was to sample the car under many conditions, rack up mileage and uncover any deficits.
Nuts & Bolts
Two remaining problems were identified and are being addressed: 1) A commercial component in the primary drive eventually failed and will be replaced by a new design with a much greater service factor. 2) The twin-plate rally clutch still proves to be difficult to modulate, even with specially produced driven plates. A far more tractable, larger diameter single plate clutch will be used in production vehicles.
Working drawings, chassis fixture, body molds & trunnions are complete. We’ve arranged to have our chassis tubes CNC laser-coped and CNC formed by a state of the art job shop. An auto-electric specialty firm in the east is lined up to batch produce our wiring harnesses.
The first production is underway and will consist of six rolling chassis, one of which we be finished as a demo for us. This winter will be very involving & exciting as we turn from prototype development to actual limited production.
This summer, through the courtesy & generosity of my friend Brian (owner of four vintage three wheelers), I had the rare opportunity to both ride in and drive an original 1930′s JAP powered Morgan Super-Sports. As a passenger, the car feels remarkably solid and the road-holding is marvelous for a vehicle of this vintage. As a driver, I was immediately intimidated by unfamiliar controls i.e. throttle lever on the steering wheel, brake pedal where throttle is expected, reversed gate shifter on the left etc. etc. Brian laughed good naturedly at my fumbling attempts to control the little car, and complimented me for “not killing the engine, at least.” Brian assures me the mastery comes with practice and he himself can drive the vehicle while sipping a latte!