All posts by Me

New Zealand

Classic inspiration

In the early 50’s, when people were nuts, there was an Italian refrigerator-and-scooter manufacturer who decided they wanted to mass-produce a micro car.  The Isetta was born.  Designed and first produced by Iso SpA, variations of it were produced by many manufacturers in many countries.

This tiny egg shaped car was only 2.3m by 1.4m, and powered by a 236cc two-stroke.  To get in, the whole front of the car swung outward as the door, with the steering wheel and instrument panel attached.  It had a top speed of around 74km/h, but apparently took 30 seconds to reach 50km/h!

I love the this quote from Isetta Broker:

It is said that the stylists had arrived at the design of the Isetta by taking two scooters, placing them close together, adding a refrigerator and shaping the result like a teardrop in the wind.

At first I dismissed it as an ugly (but weirdly cute) throw-back, but the more I researched it, the more I have come to like it’s cute 50’s retro style.  Perhaps not a model on which to base my project, but a great early example of the species.

My favorite image has to be the Isetta pulling that tiny teardrop caravan. To really get a feel for how small that caravan must be you only need to take a look at the last image (with the family) to put the scale of the Isetta in perspective!

Isetta with door open

isetta_02

isetta_03

isetta_04

Image sources: Al & Ed’s Autosound, magiccarpics.com, emmiebean, netcarshow.com

More information about the Isetta, visit: Isetta Broker

Setting the goal posts

I love projects.  I love the idea generation and nutting out the potential problems.  I love the dream.  I’m sure I’ll love the finished result too.  It’s the bit in the middle that worries me.

To make sure there is a finished result, I guess I need to know what I am working towards.  My wife will tell you – I am great at starting projects, but terrible at finishing them. To give me the biggest chance of finishing and preventing project blowout (also known as feature creep) I need to have some well defined goals.  To start with, that means some general guidelines:

  • At least one seat, possibly 2
  • Enough storage space for a few bags of groceries
  • Completely enclosed and weather proof
  • Comfortable at least for shorter trips (up to an hour)
  • Cheap to run
  • At least 50 km/h capable (70 km/h goal)
  • At least 100 km range before refuelling
  • Legal and road worthy
  • Suitable for general urban roads (including speed bumps)
  • Very small footprint (exact dimensions yet to be decided)
  • Drive train based on small motorcycle or scooter
  • Driver compartment able to accept different drive train options
  • Cheap to produce
  • Able to be reproduced
  • AND it has to look great!

It looks likely that the vehicle will be 3-wheeled.  2 steered wheels at the front, and a single powered wheel at the back.  The logic for this is that (hopefully) the drive train will consist of the back half of a pilfered scooter (125cc or 150cc for example).

The Malone Skunk is a stinkingly fast (sorry) example of a three-wheeled machine.  This car is available as a kit, based on a Yamaha 1000cc motorcycle donor.  Doesn’t quite meet my project goals, but a nice example of a ‘different’ form of personal transportation!

Malone Skunk

House on the hill

Every year, huge numbers of Kiwi’s migrate from the cities to their dream lifestyle blocks on the fringes of population.

Every year, equally huge numbers of disillusioned Kiwi’s migrate back to the city as they realise the rural-esque life is just not for them.

Having both been brought up up on lifestyle properties and farms, my wife and I at least have some idea of what will be in store for us.  Although possibly an endless search, we always have our eye out for that perfect location – not too far from civilization (and work) to be impractical, not too big to be unmanageable, not too rugged to be inaccessible, but of course beautiful, brimming with nature, and with a gorgeous view.  Not too much to ask for then.

This gives me a great excuse for another project – designing a hill house to take advantage of the view and sun.  I have some specific ideas, and so does my wife.  I want a rounded shape to hug the hill contour and follow the sun – she wants 90 degree corners so that furniture fits.  Luckily most of our requirements are complementary!

house on the hill

Measure twice. But measure the right thing…

There was a time when TVs were like small fridges with blurry, curved screens, and 1080 was just a pesticide.  One day we will tell our children and grand children, and they will laugh, and then we will realise how absolutely ridiculous those old things were.

That time (for me) was only last year.  But the local Dick Smith (not a variation of ‘Lock Smith’ or ‘Gold Smith’, but an electronics chain store in New Zealand) was having a sale.

I had my eye on a shiny, slim 37″ Sony Bravia model, and since it was clearance stock the salesman said we would save a whole bunch of money by buying it.  My wife cautiously agreed – on one condition; that it fit into our current TV cabinet.  So I looked up the model on the internet, measured twice, checked thrice, and it would fit easy!  So you can imagine my surprise when we had the TV home and it wouldn’t fit in the hole.  They must have given us the bigger model!

Sadly, no.  Seems I took the measurements without the stand.  Oops.  Now we have nowhere to put the TV and it seems I have another project to add to the list…

1950s TV

I love impracticality

Perhaps just eager to start a new project, or possibly realising the magnitude of building a full-size sports car from scratch, one of my latest project ideas is to build an urban personal vehicle.

Urban personal transportation is just a spiffy name for a small vehicle that carries a single person and is meant for city driving. In other words; a tiny vehicle with no air bags, crash protection or other safety features; no modern conveniences or driver comfort; a pathetic travel range; and no room for a wife/child/friend, or even a bag of groceries.  Extremely impractical – I like it already!

Many examples of these already exist.  Here is one of my favourite from yester-year, the Peel P50, as featured in an hilarious Top Gear feature where Clarkson drove it to his office.  All the way to his office.

Peel P50 - World's smallest production car

Image from Indiaserver.com

The nursery

What started off as a loose flap of wallpaper way down in the corner of the room ended up as something much bigger.  Somehow.  Now more serious measures are required.  Like I needed an excuse to start another project…

We have a couple of paint test pots from the Resene ‘whites and neutrals’ range.  Quarter Akaroa, and quarter tea from memory.  We want a much lighter, neutral colour on the walls (currently sort of a dark khaki green), and then add some brightness with the wall hangings and other bits and pieces.

nursery

The coffee table

When my wife and I moved in to our first house together, we inherited an older wooden coffee table from my parents.   The coffee table was covered with a shiny layer of varnish that I thought would look better naturally oiled.  My father is somewhat of a handyman when it comes to timber, so I assumed some of it had rubbed off on me.  After sanding straight through the veneer, exposing a nice bright patch of MDF, I realised it hadn’t.

So the coffee table inherited a permanent table cloth, and I started my plans for a new coffee table.  I had already successfully designed our bed, bedside cabinets and dressers – though my parents had these built by a furniture maker for our wedding – but I had yet to build my first piece of furniture.

Long story [snip] short [/snip], my father provided the timber (some nice 2″ thick macrocarpa for the top and frame, and 4″ for the legs), and I set to measuring, measuring, cutting, gluing and screwing.  Not too long (in my project-time terms), the end result:

coffee table

For those interested in the plans (sorry, they are rather bare):

Coffee table plans

I have project-itis

They say the first step is admitting the problem.

I have project-itis

There, I said it. I have project-itis. A need to start yet another project and leave the raft of others for a day that my attention will wander back to them. I just can’t help myself.  My brain craves new, shiny things. I’m a project junky.

I initially categorised it as ‘excessive-project syndrome’. My wife (who is a scientist) says that, concisely, it should be ‘excessive-unfinished-project syndrome’, because it is the unfinished part that is the problem! I call it project-itis, because it is friendlier.

So what do I do? I start this blog. Another project.

Just more proof that I have a problem…