Seat Heaters, Suspension, a Big Ride

   Posted by: kdavis

It’s now been just about 2 years exactly (as of 4/18) since Aaron and I made the long trip to WI and back to get the roadster kit, and this last weekend saw another huge milestone in the life of the project…the first official Go-Kart ride, complete with rides for the whole family. Leading up to that, I had a few more minor things to get finished up, and also worked during the week on some items.

Seat Heaters:

Living in the mountains of Montana, not only are our roadster-driving seasons short, but the days can be pretty cold, especially once the sun falls below mid-sky. For that reason, I need all of the heating I can get in the car. Along with the summit heater I’ve already installed, I added a nice set of seat heaters in the car, which came from, and are very nice, complete with OEM style 2-level heating, pre-wiring, etc. Installing them did require partial disassembly of both seats, which wasn’t too bad overall, but the seat backs are a bit of a challenge to get the heating elements pushed up into the back of the seat and taped in with the supplied double sided tape.

I basically followed the instructions provided with the kit, and on the website, but there was one hugely helpful tool that the kit left out…an 11 year old girl. ;-> With skinny arms, and a willingness to help, she was able to actually reach up into the seat back and position the seat heater properly. As you can see in the pictures, I also used a ruler as a “push rod” to adjust it, which can be done, but if you can find someone who’s arms fit, all the better.





Seat Installation:

The installation of the seats is one of those “make it up as you go” kind of steps in the build. In my case, that was definitely true, and it was actually a “make it up, then change it, then change it again” kind of step, at least the first go around.

Almost everyone recommends that the seats are installed such that the front of the seat angles back so that they are a little more comfortable. It seems the sweet spot is about 1.5″ of lift on the front of the seat, with the back sitting on the floor. Since I needed to fabricate some sort of mount, I looked around the shop and found some 1.5″ angle steel that I had. Each side actually measures just a little bit over 1.25″, which means that it’s perfect, and strong enough to be a permanent installation. This part went quite well. I cut 2 pieces of the steel, about 10″ each, and clamped and drilled holes for bolts through the 3/4″ support bar on the bottom of the seat (the 2nd one in since the 1st one is covered with the seat cover.) I used some bolts to bolt them on. The flat part of the bracket goes onto the seat so that the other side makes a sort of “pedestal” for the front of the seat. Very sturdy and strong.

My first attempt at the seat install was on the driver’s side, and I had decided to use some large rivnuts on 3 of the holes, and a through bolt where the plate runs across the bottom of the foot box. This didn’t really go well. I ended up over drilling the holes so the rivnuts wouldn’t work correctly. I attempted to “work around” the problem, but in the end, decided to cover the 3 rivnut holes, and go with another solution. Since I was going into the 4″ tube in 2 places and the rear 2″ tube in another, I decided that the best approach was to drill and tap those holes. For me, this was the best solution, and worked perfectly. I could probably lift the whole car from one of the seats. Once I figured out the driver’s side, the passenger side was pretty straight forward, and I realized a simple rule for this project: “upon finishing any task in the build, the pile of tools that were required to complete it is in direct relation to how difficult the task was, and if one or more hammers are in that pile, it didn’t go well.”






Pinion Angle, Alignment, Etc.:

The last step with the suspension before the Go-Kart ride was to get the suspension marginally dialed in. I’ll need to do a complete alignment on the car once the body is on and it’s fully weighted (windshield, lights, etc.), but I still needed to get the 3-link setup, pinion angle set, front end alignment and sway bar basically set, and all of the components greased up. The pinion angle setup is a bit of a challenge at first, but once I understood the concept, it was pretty easy. I actually used my ipod touch and a 4-wheeling app that measures angles to get the pinion set to about 3 degrees at the ride height. This should allow for good travel on the drive shaft. I discovered a way to use my lift and a couple of saw horses to simulate “ride height” so it made it a little easier than trying to squeeze under the car to adjust the upper link. At the same time, I also set the left/right bias of the 3-link so it was centered and locked in the nuts on the 3 link. The rear ride height is set to about 4.5″ right now, which will settle a bit.

On the front end, I managed to get a very basic alignment completed, and the spring collars adjusted so that the initial ride height is set to about 4″. Just like the rear, this will change once some weight is added.



A Big Ride!

The first official go-kart ride is one of the major milestones in the build, and the whole family got to participate in it this weekend. After buttoning up any loose wires, and doing a pretty thorough check of everything, I got the video camera and the wife out, and fired it up. I decided to take the first ride on my own in case something went very wrong, but thankfully, nothing did, so I was able to take her and the 2 tween girls all for a ride each, which was great fun. I did learn, as you can see in the video by my slowness, that without a body on it, these tires make quick work of picking up small pebbles out of my driveway, which gave me a nice little pebble shower. After the first run, I gave up on the driveway and used the lawn. I have plenty of room to make my own entrance/exit in the field, so this won’t be much of an issue in the future, I’ll just have to stay off the gravel driveway.

Overall, the drive went very well, and I was able to “give it the full beans” as James May would say a couple of times, and man, it’s fast, even with a conservative engine and tranny build. I did have a couple of minor issues, one, I need to re-bleed the brakes, they were a little soft, and 2, still need to dial in the carb and timing, when I came off the throttle after giving it a little extra, it bogged a bit. Not unexpected, and pretty easy to deal with. I also found that although the t-stat on my electric fan is working, the fan itself wasn’t coming on. Should also be a pretty easy fix.

The last issue I found was I had installed an entirely too wimpy of horn. I found a pretty good deal on one on ebay, but the euro/supercar type tone was just too girly. I found a new one for $50 that is a dual tone, 400/500hz, which will be much better. I got the new one on amazon. Here’s a link if you’re interested: PIAA 85110 115db 400HZ + 500HZ Sports Horn.

On a very positive note, both the seat heaters and the summit heater I installed worked great, and should make a big difference in the comfort of the car on those cooler mornings and evenings here in MT.

Video of the Go-Kart Ride:

So, the next steps are to fix the fan issue, put the body on, windshield, and lights in, and I’ll be able to get the car registered. It’s an exciting time in the build!