51. Failure to launch


About 3 weeks ago, just before Bob and I got the spider installed on the chassis, I attempted to take the SLC out around the block to bed the brakes and give the car a shake-down.  I wanted to double check a few things before we put the spider on the body (hopefully permanently).  Wouldn’t you know it, I backed the car out of the garage and got it turned around then the car just sputtered and died.

We dug into a bunch of different things but discovered an issue with my Bosch 044 high pressure fuel pump – it wasn’t working.  After verifying all the electrical connections were good we were left with nothing else other than to whack it with a rubber mallet – and that seemed to do the trick, the pump spun up and I got fuel pressure back.

Hmm…  sounds like a dying fuel pump right?  Welp … I also discovered my battery was dangerously low on juice … like almost dead.  I put my Optima battery charger/conditioner on there and the gauge read 0%!  Good thing I got a deep cycle battery, hopefully I didn’t kill it.  Makes sense, the last time I drove and charged the car up was back in December of last year (!) so it’s been a while.

Being the dork that I was, after the battery got topped off I cycled the system a few times and the pump seemed to work fine.  Hit the ignition – pump was working fine, fuel pressure good.  Hmmm … weird …

Time was running out so we proceeded to get into all the paint work.  All the while, I had left the old pump in place thinking I’d get to it later.  Well … weeks later and the darn thing kept working just as it should.

Is it possible the low battery was what caused the fuel pump to not work?

I was feeling kinda like this …

Everything seemed to work OK at this point so I just kept chugging along.  Last Friday I wanted to take the car around the block a few times to bed the brakes in and get things checked out in anticipation of a longer drive.

I warmed the engine up, verified everything looked good, then dropped by the house to pick my wife up so she could come by and watch.  As soon as I tried to start the car up (not more than 20 minutes since warming it up!) the car failed to start.  Zip.  Same symptoms as before, fuel pressure low and the HP pump wasn’t whirring.

  • Check the wiring – OK
  • Check the fuses – OK
  • Check the battery voltage – lowish, but OK (I need to see if I’ve got some kind of parasitic drag somewhere …)


Take the wife back home.  Come back, wring my hands, shake my head, and tell myself I’m an idiot for not changing out the pump the last time.  Good thing I’d already purchased a replacement pump and it was sitting on the shelf.  Too late to change the pump out on Friday, it would have to wait until Monday.

Monday rolls around – first thing I do is take a look at how buried the pump is and think to myself “this is going to suck”.  My newly installed oil cooler duct is in the way so out it comes.  I set my QuickJack on its highest setting and start digging into it – actually, not that terrible.

I had the pump swapped and fresh seals installed in about 1.5 hrs.  I even pulled my fuel filter apart and replaced the filter element.  About the biggest pain in the butt turned out to be managing the few quarts of fuel that drained out.  Phew!

Wire the pump back together, do a quick scan for any errant tools – there weren’t any – and cycle the ignition.

Sweet mother, the pump whirred and I was making pressure again!  I cycled the system a few times to get the new pump primed in.  Once things were looking good I adjusted my fuel pressure regulator to something near 60 psi then turned the engine over.

The V8 cranked to life and chugged a little before steadying back down to idle.

Final adjustment of the fuel pressure regulator.

All systems are pointing green so I give my wife the call – the SLC is ready!

I did the quickest pick-up I could and got back into the garage before Mr. Murphy could put a damper on my day.  Thankfully the SLC started right up.  I was feeling a bit gun-shy; I think this is one of those things you just get used to and deal with as a component car owner.  I’m sure everyone who’s gotten to this point has their own little prayer they say just before starting the engine – at least until the car’s sorted and confidence is gained.  Till then it feels like a crapshoot on whether the car will run when it’s supposed to!

A few quick laps around the block, a few stomps on the slow pedal, and it was time to bring her back in.  The drive was over way too quickly but I didn’t want to annoy my neighbors too much.  I was pretty amped up by the time I clicked the release on my harness!

Second round of initial thoughts?  Hard to say.  Once again, I really wasn’t in the mindset to do a critical walk-thru of everything I was experiencing, I was just kind of experiencing it.

Here’s what I can say so far:

  • The steering wheel feels a bit low.  I’d already raised it about 0.5″ from the highest factory setting but it feels like it could be even higher.  This might be exacerbated by my seating position.
  • I’m sitting pretty close up on the wheel.  It almost feels like the wheel is at my chest. I chose this seating distance because I felt I needed to get right up on the wheel for no/slow speed maneuvering.  It’s true – at a stop, it takes a LOT of effort to turn the wheel (at least for me).  Once you get the car rolling, even at a snail’s pace, steering effort drops off dramatically – almost too much maybe.  I need to get the car up to real speeds but at the 30-ish MPH I was hitting steering effort is lower than I’m used to.
  • Coupled with my seating position – my right elbow is too close to my center console. I made my console high so I could have a storage pocket there but that may have been a mistake.  Pushing the seat further back moves my elbow further away so maybe that’s the solution – or I make a new console.  When turning right, it seemed I would tend to grab the wheel at 12 o’clock to initiate my turn because I didn’t want my elbow fouling the center console.
  • The car feels soft.  I’ve got front and rear suspension set at 10 clicks of compression and rebound.  Even at this setting the car feels soft – almost zero harshness at all.  That’s not to say the suspension doesn’t feel precise, it’s just not beating me up like I’d expect it to.  Not enough transitions to get a good feel, but the car felt FLAT.  No body roll.  It’s weird to feel the car turning and remain flat, and yet be soft at the same time.
  • Initial alignment seems OK.  Vehicle was tracking just fine and the car didn’t pull on braking.
  • Brakes don’t have much bite.  I didn’t get on them too hard – no panic stops, just smooth, consistent pressure from 30/40ish down to 0.  But there’s no initial bite like there is in my German cars.  Brake pedal is firm.  It’s going to take some time to get used to the new pedals.  Heel/toe was easy to do – I had tried the maneuver a few times in the garage and wasn’t sure I’d be comfortable doing it but it felt very natural while driving.
  • Shifter is awesome.  I didn’t even think about it while driving.  Shifting felt a bit clunky in the garage with the engine off but with power and under motion the transmission shifts like it was lubed in 10 lbs of butter.  Smooth.  Not notchy like I expected.  Reverse is easy to engage and feels natural (for someone who’s never had to engage a lockout before).
  • The seat feels good.  I’m a pretty small guy and the bolsters feel good.  Not overly large and didn’t try to crack one of my ribs.  The harness also feels good.  I’m on the small end of the spectrum when it comes to what Schroth had designed for – my belt adjustments are almost maxed out.  None of the belts felt like they were digging – I was originally a bit worried about the 2 crotch belts but I think their loop design works to give the crotch belts more articulation and less surface area.
  • Acoustics are OK – thankfully.  I had a pretty terrible time in JBurer/Allan’s #17 car.  The acoustics in the car were giving me a headache after a short drive.  Lots of echo and ringing in the car.  Jury is still out on my car but I didn’t feel like my ears were getting smacked on from all sides.  It’ll be different once the windows are installed so fingers crossed the acoustics will still be acceptable once that happens.  The cabin isn’t quiet by any stretch of the imagination, but all the sounds are good.  Engine and exhaust come in nicely but aren’t too overbearing.  Downshifts and exhaust pops sound pretty bad ass.
  • The car feels light (to me).  Keep in mind my daily drivers are an electronics laden S5 and Q5, neither of which are dainty.  But this car feels super-light ;).  Power feels good for now, though I haven’t really driven it in anger.  I probably haven’t gone past 50% throttle – trying to keep things responsible for now and not break things ;).  I’m excited to see how it feels on the road, at speed, and with traffic.
  • Transmission gearing – yeah, feels short.  Not too short just yet but I’ve been floating near the 2/3 shift point at relatively low speeds and the engine’s revving a bit on the high side.  Normally I’d lug my engines a bit more and keep the RPMs lower before shifting.  Jury’s still out on gearing.
  • Engine – hasn’t broken a sweat yet.  The cam is pretty lumpy; it’s not as bad as my Mustang was – that got to be such a pain in the butt to drive I hated starting it up.  As lumpy as this LS376/525 is, it seems tolerable for the street.  I think a tune is mandatory.  It needs to get smoothed out and I’d even be OK bumping the idle speed a bit if it meant holding a steadier speed at idle.  This engine seems to like to rev.  As I said, it hasn’t broken a sweat and I haven’t mashed the go-pedal yet but it spins seemingly effortlessly.
  • Forward view – actually pretty darn good.  I thought the thick a-pillars were going to be annoying but they’re in such a place that it doesn’t cut down on my side and forward view enough to be annoying.  At least not yet.
  • You sit really low to the ground.  Really low.  Without having driven in traffic yet it’s hard to get an appreciation for how different the perspective is with other cars around.  I can tell this is going to take some adjustment.
  • AutoVox mirror – works pretty darn good.  I’m super happy with it.  Resolution and clarity/sharpness is good.  Awesome that you can adjust vertical imaging with your finger.  No issues with vibration.  Compatible with polarized lenses.

Excuse the terrible editing – I didn’t try to make this a nice video.

Cam’s Superlite SLC – 2nd road test (Youtube link)

And a few photos …



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