Dangerous Homemade Technology

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In the fall of 2009, my good friend Tim Taylor and a squad of like-minded insane people decided to build a race car. This race car, to be precise:

race carThe car was built to compete in the 24 hours of LeMons race, an endurance circuit race for cars costing less than $500. The full story of the car design and fabrication is beautifully chronicled in a MotoIQ article by Dave Coleman.

Fabrication basically involved buying and dismantling a wrecked 1971 Honda Z600, a wrecked RX-7 GSL-SE and a Honda Magna VF1100C motorcycle, selling off all the unwanted parts and salvaging the remainder. Many custom parts were fabricated from raw materials and the team did a whole lot of welding. The end result was a 1400 lb., 116 hp race car dubbed the Angry Hamster, built from less than $500 net of parts. It took the team 3 months of blood, sweat and tears, for a wild 24 hours of racing. A good portion of that 24 hours was spent in the pits, working on the car. Although they placed 140th (not in the top half), the team won the coveted “Dangerous Homemade Technology” award, in recognition of the incredible engineering horsepower brought to bear on what could be classified as a ridiculous idea: combining these three vehicles and making the beast rear wheel drive.

The unflagging dedication of Tim and the team to the engineering process is inspiring. Read the MotoIQ article. This is love of design (and insane hard work) personified. Now, like many an ambitious project, the fabrication phase lasted right up until the race day, so the race really was the prototype test. Who knew that the 6mm gear box bolts would shear? Or that the starter bolts would back out, causing the starter to exit the vehicle? Or that the shift selector would fail? Lessons learned! (Keep in mind those first two were successfully fixed on the fly. It was the third that ended the Hamster’s race.)

I can’t wait to see Angry Hamster Racing in 2010 with a few more of the kinks worked out. Of course, knowing Tim, he may just build a whole new car—for him the building is almost as much fun as the end result.

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About the Author

Kathy Davies
Kathy teaches at Stanford University, where her students use Design Thinking to design cutting edge products and to reshape their lives, at Stanford and beyond. Kathy has worked with Arena ... Read More 

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