Feb 222011

As I have said more than once, I was an 80’s kid. As you know, Tron Legacy came out. While I was a little disappointed in the story, I was totally in love with the art. It was beautifully done with so much attention to the little details. If they paid as much attention to the story, it would have totally rocked… but I digress… I wanted to make this years pinewood derby car in the styling of the new movie.

I decided to take a different approach to the building of my car. Instead of starting from a block and working down, I started by sawing the block down to a thin slab and adding to it. Using thin pieces of wood, I carved each piece of the car with the coping saw and / or razor knife. The caliper helped a lot. The wood is soft enough that I could mark the wood easily. I used super glue to keep the weight down. Then I used wood filler to fill in the the cracks between the pieces.

The overall design is something between an F-16 with no wings and a Comaro. The jet intake, rear, hood grill, and the front grill were from an old set of computer speakers. They were of course rear lit as well. The hood was to have plexiglass inbedded in it, but I could not get the fit to not look chunky so the idea was scrapped for the metal.

In the past I have used screws to hold little things like this together. This year I wanted to make it easier to access the guts. I used a little neodymium magnets to hold the top onto the bottom of the car. The only thing I do not like is the bump in the middle of the top piece. There was supposed to be a rear spoiler, but I did not have time to built up the back end to add it.

I thought through many different ways to achieve the glowing linage. I bought and experimented with everything from science grade glow in the dark paint, back lit plexi, UV reactive paint with UV LEDs, and eventually settled on EL wire. It is what was used in the movie for the costumes. It was the best look for the size. I had to come up with a way to fit the inverter in the car, be able to turn it on and off, and most importantly, how to power it. I opened the case that the inverter came in and hacked the board so I could move the batteries and switch to the middle of the car. For weight and size reasons I chose to use a small LiPo battery. The last thing I added was 0805 SMD UV LEDs for ground effects and head lights. The effect was very slick. Another nifty (and unintended) effect was that the inverter has a high pitched whine to it. In addition to looking very electric, it also sounded very electric.

Triumph and agony…
Sometimes when you work on things for too long, you loose your mind. This can be a dangerous thing if not to yourself, then to the object being worked on. I spent a lot of time priming and painting the car so it had a near ‘real car’ paint job. I mean, I spent a stupid amount of time painting, sanding, painting, sanding… Then it’s time to put the wheels on. If you have ever built a pinewood derby car, you know that this last step is the time where most cars get damaged, and this build was no different. It was 3 am(ish) and I had to finish the thing as it would be checked in the following day. I put the front wheels on first and they went on without issue. The third wheel went on without issue. On the 4th wheel, as I was tapping the nail in, I heard ‘CRACK’. I put my head down on the workbench and let out a big sigh, pretty much knowing what had just happened. After about 30 seconds or so, I decided to look at what the damage was. The top of the car (in the back) had caved in. This was not something that could be repaired easily, or quickly. I had to get up for work in a few hours and it needed to be turned in right after work. There was no time. I chose to get it at least track worthy. I glued the heck out of the broken area. To add insult to injury, when I picked up the car to look the damage closer and the car fell out of my hands and landed beak down. While it did not break, it added another nice little ding to the killer paint job. There is a lesson in here somewhere… I am not sure what it is yet… but it’s there  ;0) .

 Posted by at 8:09 pm