Welcome back, Reg!

IMW welcomes Reg Schmeiss of Motorvation back to our workshop. It’s going to be a very busy week. We’re hoping to get 4 carbon fiber / kevlar doors and a brand spanking new hood made. If there’s still time available – make molds of the front fenders.

Kevin, Reg, George, and John have started on the doors. Nick will be joining the fun tomorrow. We’ll have photos of the process scattered amongst our Facebook and Twitter pages and an expanded recap in our photos section of this website (probably in early October).

And the molds continue

Reg is currently off with a race team and we’re on our own, continuing to pull molds from Seven’s re-sculpted body. A lot of finish work was necessary prior to pulling the molds as we worked from the rear to the front of the car. The hood and front fenders particularly needed a lot of prep work in order to get he body lines right and the hood itself as smooth and symmetrical as possible.

Every time I stepped back to look at the car, I found something new that needed to be addressed. After working with Reg on the rear of the car, I saw many flaws and problem areas I had not seen before.

Taking longer than expected, we finally got to pulling molds of the rear doors and moved on to the front doors and hood of the car. A bit precarious at times, for we were unsure when we were pulling the mold if we would destroy the original body part. In fact, this was something we all thought of while laying up the epoxy and fiberglass on the hood with Reg being a good thousand miles away and unable to help us if we got into a bind.  We could no longer quell our fears by saying “ah, Reg can fix it.”

But due to Reg’s excellent instruction, and probably a lot of luck, the molds came out extremely well. No parts were damaged.

Now we must finish prepping the molds so that they are ready for the parts to be formed when Reg returns at the end of this September. And we’ll move on to the front fenders and door pillers, hoping to finish sculpting those so that when he arrives molds can be pulled of those as well.

It seems like we’ve been working on this for a long time and we still have a long way to go. So here I go back out to the shop to hack some more off the car and sand it smooth, hoping I get it to look right this time.

More photos of the process have been added to our photo gallery. Take a gander.

Our shopping list for re-sculpting, making molds and carbon-fiber panels

This is in no way a comprehensive list of materials. Your project’s needs will differ. I’m just providing a running tally of the materials we have been using while replacing Seven’s old body with carbon-fiber.

We cannot offer instruction via phone or email. Serious inquiries for in-person instruction are welcome.

From U.S. Comosites, Inc.:

qty description
1 Milled Fiberglass, 5 qt body filler
3 Fairing Compound, 5 qt body filler
1 1/4″ Chopped Strand, 10 # tub body filler
1 1/2″ Chopped Strand, 10 # tub body filler
2 3M Glass Bubbles, 5 Quart body filler
1 Kit 10 gal 635 + 5 gal 556 Hardener 2-EPOX-6355567
1 kit 5 gal 635 + 1.6 gal 3-1 Hardener 2-EPOX-635316
1 kit 5 gal 635 + 1.25 gal 4-1 Hardener 2-EPOX-635415
1 3-1 Epoxy Pumps 2-PX-P31
2 4-1 Epoxy Pumps 2-PX-P41
40 5.7 oz x 50″ 2 x 2 Twl Disc. Carbon
125 4 oz x 30″ S2-Glass
1 3″ Serrated Kevlar Scissors
1 4.5″ Kevlar Shears
1 10″ Kevlar Shears

Other body filler from various sources:

  • USC Autobody Icing No. 26006
  • Pronto Kombi Spot Putty
  • Dynalyte lightweight body filler

From Fibre Glast Developments Corporation:

qty description
5 Pint Deli Style Cups, sleeve of 25
1 9 Mixing Paddles, box of 100
1 Mini Pink Plastic Wedge, 1-1/4 x 4
1 Mini White Plastic Wedge, 1-1/4 x 4
2 Small White Plastic Wedge, 2-1/4 x 6
2 Large White Plastic Wedge, 3 x 10
2 Thin Pink Flexile Wedge, 10″ x 1 3/4‚Äù
1 Thin White Rigid Wedge, 10″ x 1 3/4‚Äù
1 Air Wedge
22 Yellow Sealant Tape
1 MEKP, Gallon
1 MEKP Dispenser
2 Acetone Dispensers
1 PVA Release Film, 1 gal
1 Paste Wax, MGH* 11oz Tin
2 Partall Paste Wax, 24 oz
2 Chavant Le Beau Touche Clay 2# block
1 Duratec Grey Primer, Case of 4 gallons
2 Nomex Honeycomb, 1.8 # density 40x 100 x .210 Thick (+6/-0) Full Sheet
3 Thru-Bag Vacuum Connector
50 Stretchlon 200 Bagging Film / Yard

From Avery Tools:

  • 100 1/8″ (#30) Cleco Fasteners
  • Cleco Plier w/ Molded Grips

From Aircraft Spruce & Specialty Co:

qty description
25 F5000-3 Floating Anchor Nut
50 CR3212-4-4 Cherrymax Rivet
50 CR3212-4-5 Cherrymax Rivet
50 MSP-44 Cherry Rivets
50 MSP-45 Cherry Rivets
1 Avery Plate Nut Drill Jig #10

From Fabric Development Inc.

  • 50 Yards of 1140 denier Kevlar 49, 2×2 Twill, 17 x 17, 50″ wide, 5 oz.

Other assorted supplies:

  • sandpaper (grits from 80 to 1200)
  • plastic razor blades
  • metal razor blades
  • cheap HVPV paint spray guns
  • latex gloves
  • nirile gloves
  • 1 gal acetone
  • US General 2 stage 3 CFM Vacuum Pumps
  • Air line, pvc, pressure gauge, ball valves, bushings, brass fittings for DIY vacuum apparatus
  • Aluminum angle iron and flat plates

New body underway


The team worked with Reg Schmeiss through April and May, pulling molds off the rear of the car and making new body panels out of carbon fiber. As I write this, the area spanning from the back windows to the tow hitch has shiny new body panels. Total, they weigh only about 60 pounds and are much stronger than the foam and fiberglass they replace.

When the new body is in place, Seven will be more efficient than 207 MPGe.

There are a number of photos of the process on our site. You can also catch some informational videos on our YouTube channel:

The rear doors are now ready to have molds pulled. They will have Kevlar and carbon fiber panels to replace the foam that is there. Seven’s steel skeleton is still built like a tank, but just to be sure, the inner structure of the doors will be altered for additional safety.

Reg will be returning in September to help finish creating Seven’s new body. And then we need to decide on a color for the paint job. Kevin wants it to be blue instead of silver. He and I have been staring at blue cars a lot. Current favorites are the Chevy “Lazer Blue Metallic” and Ford’s “Blue Flame Metallic.”

Paint suggestions are welcome. Yes, it looks mean in black, but that will make the interior hotter than Hades, so the paint can’t be too dark.

Slowly getting there

You haven’t heard from us in a while because we have been participating in sandapalooza (sanding almost every night and weekend for over a month).  Seven’s body is almost, but not quite ready for molds to be pulled from it. There’s still a lot to do.  We are characteristically behind schedule.

We’ve filled and smoothed as much as possible with epoxy/faring material and epoxy/glass bubbles.  Personally, I prefer the faring material. Once it’s mixed with epoxy to a consistency similar to cake icing, it is very easy to work with. Unless there is a lot of humidity in the air, it takes a while for it to harden so it allows for multiple passes with the spreader to get it just right. The glass bubbles make a nice, light filler, but they are not as forgiving as the faring material. You get one pass with the spreader.  Any more than that and it becomes a grainy mess. The bubbles also tend to scar easily – leaving lines and seams when it dries. But it does sand beautifully.

There were some places on Seven that needed to be built up. Particularly the door edges and the front wheel wells. To create something out of nothing, varying weights of other fillers were used.  The US Composites milled fiber is a good heavy filler that is not too lumpy to work with. The 1/4″ chopped strand fiberglass is a lot like “kitty hair” Bondo – you can fill some serious gaps with it but it’s not pretty. The 1/2″ chopped strand fiberglass is amazing. Kevin and Nick used it to create part of the wheel wells and that stuff is extremely solid.

This week Seven had the first of many coats of Duratec surface primer sprayed onto it. It’s a high build primer that can be layered up to 40 mil. In the top photo you can see it looks black on the car. The discoloration is the filler resin that hungrily soaked up the first round of primer. Duratec sands easily and after spending so many weeks working on the car we were relieved to not have to put a lot of effort into sanding primer.  For more information about the primer, go here.

Next week we will have a professional in the shop to teach us the right way to prep Seven for the molds. More about that later.

Thanks for staying tuned.

Seven is a sticky mess

We have a date set for a professional to visit the IMW workshop in mid-April and teach us how to pull a mold off of Seven. This means the month of March will be a flurry of activity, getting the body ready.

Seven’s “skin” has always been rough. The team was behind schedule to meet the X-Prize Shakedown date so there were bigger concerns than a smooth fit and finish. I put body filler where I could, smoothing deep seams in the fiberglass on foam body, and constantly having to move so that the rest of the team could address things like electronics and windows. But it wasn’t enough.

Now the focus is purely on how she looks. We’re getting the body as symmetrical and smooth as possible. The sculpted foam on the fenders was sealed with a candy coating of epoxy resin and two kinds of epoxy compound were used as body filler. Unfortunately, that still didn’t lend enough strength to the foam to protect it from an accidental knee leaned against it, or a slip of the sander.

Kevin added a fiberglass mesh to the rear fenders, which are now rock-hard. I’ve covered that with an epoxy resin faring compound filler. I love how that compound is pliable for a long time – it made it easy to cover large areas. Unfortunately, it’s also taking forever to dry.

The top and sides of the doors have ripples which I am in the process of smoothing with a thin polyester body filler. Luckily that stuff dries relatively quickly. There will be several coats of filler of different weights going onto the body this month, and waiting a day in between for it to dry before being sanded isn’t really feasable.

But right now, Seven is one sticky, multicolored mess.

Other updates:

The new hinge structure that Kevin, Nick and George worked on has been scrapped. Nick has been working on plan B today, along with sealing the exposed foam in the top middle of the car with fiberglass and epoxy.

The foam around the headlights is just about right. I think Kevin can stop fussing with it (soon).

And a new one speed transmission (within the housing of the Geo Metro transmission) is being custom made for 7. I believe Kevin is ordering extras from the machinist just in case he manages to break it. But more on the transmission later when I have more details.

All I know right now is that I’m tired, sore, and have a 3 inch lock of hair permanently encased in epoxy resin.

February 2012 update


Work continues on Seven’s remodel. A lot of hours have been spent sculpting the new curves and making sure they’re as symmetrical as possible.

The rear of the car is the most altered. It doesn’t flare out as far and now has body lines not unlike tail fins. The front of the car is a little narrower and has body lines that lead along the hood to the headlights.

High density foam is easy to accidentally dent or shred, so George and Kevin painted a candy coating of epoxy resin on top of the foam once the final shape was achieved. This will protect the foam from being damaged.

Since the old body will be used as a plug for the construction of a final carbon fiber shell, it needs to be as smooth as possible. Seven now has two weights of body filler on it: a light white coat composed of epoxy resin and 3M glas bubbles, and a heavier brown coat of epoxy resin and fairing compound. They do the same job that Bondo would do, except that since they have the same epoxy resin that was used to candy coat the foam, they will adhere better. They should add less weight than Bondo.

The headlights never fit properly, so new mounts are being fabricated and the new body foam cups the lights instead of leaving a gap between the chrome trim and the body.

The door hinges were functional but were neither attractive nor allowed the doors to be water-tight. Kevin created a new design for the hinges and their support structure and Nick and George are digging into the top of Seven to remove the old hinges and framework.

A couple of videos and some new photos have been added to this site during the winter rebuild, if you’d like to take a look at the progress so far.

Stay tuned. More to come as time and spotty rural wifi allow.

Seven under reconstruction

After putting a lot of miles on Seven this year, she’s back in the workshop for some cosmetic surgery. The body was constructed in February 2010 when the team was rushing to meet the X PRIZE deadline. The fit and finish wasn’t what we wanted or what Seven deserved. Now there is time to go back and make changes.

This weekend Kevin, Nick, Nate and George worked to dismantle parts of Seven and began to recreate the rear fenders. About 4-5 inches have been removed from each side and the curves are closer to what were in the original design drawings. She’s lost a little trunk room as a result, but since the old trunk was over 12 cubic feet, the new cargo space won’t feel cramped.

Seven’s CD was estimated at .23. The changes the team will make this winter to the front and rear fenders as well as the hood and roof should bring that CD closer to .20. That’s the goal, at least. This may mean an increase in efficiency of 16.5% – an extra 30+ MPGe.

I know some people will criticize the flared fenders for decreasing efficiency. The decrease is nominal and well worth the objective of keeping Seven true to her original design. The team always wanted a car that was functional (street legal), efficient, and stylish. This winter’s rebuild will remain true to those goals.

We will be chronicling the changes in photos, videos, and blogs. Stay tuned.

EVCCON and Beyond

It’s been a busy couple of weeks here at Illuminati HQ.

Nate and I headed down to Cape Girardeau Missouri to the first annual EVCCON hosted by Jack Rickard of EVTV fame. We met a lot of our old friends, some from X Prize and others from the EV community, and made many new ones. The convention was filled with long days of extremely knowledgeable speakers, who tended not to have my bad habit of rambling. It made me realize that I’m going to have to work on living with the debilitating disease of Tangentitis, and hopefully, with many long sessions of rehabilitation, learn to if not overcome at least control the symptoms of my disease while in public or posting blogs. (If you also suffer from this terribly debilitating disease, there is help, go to tangentitis.com for the latest information on dealing with this disease and the newest medication possibilities by BudPhiser, a flavored liquid medication called ‘allphuctup’, or if more drastic measures are needed try the new BudPhiser, ‘gonein60seconds’*)

The List of Honor from EVCCON:

Each and every one of the following could be written into a blog of their own.

First a thank you to Steve at autobeyours.com; we first worked with Steve while finding parts for our XPRIZE car, later we actually got to meet the “STEVE” in person at the shakedown event in Michigan. He had been hired, like the A-Team, to help Global E in their quest for the gold, almost single handedly building Global E’s hybrid entry for the competition: a full size car that achieved nearly 60 MPGe on the racetrack (take that Big Three!). Steve, Nate and I worked a several electrical issues on both Global E and Illuminati’s car’s while at the competition and we were really happy to get a chance to meet with him again at EVCCON. In fact, Steve had come with a gift for the Illuminati, an electronic power steering unit from a Prius that he thought might be just what we were looking for to add to Seven, and he was right! After getting the unit home and tearing it down to just the components we need it looks like it’ll fit perfectly onto the steering column of Seven! We’ll be adding it during this winter’s tear down and rebuild. Thanks Steve!

Also, for those who saw the videos of EVCCON you can see some of Steve’s handy work, you see Steve is the owner of Autobeyours.com, he rebuilds Toyota Priuses and also does custom modifications, in the drag race you’ll notice a stretch Prius limo, that’s Steve’s; he’ll do almost any custom Prius work, pure electric, El Camino pick-up, stretch limo, you name it and if it’s with a Prius he can do it.

Also, he’s not only a Prius expert, he’s got lots of new and used parts that can be used. For example, putting electronic power steering on your EV conversion.
So give him a shout and see what’s up at Autobeyours.com and tell him, “the Illuminati Sent Me.” We like to make him think he’s being watched…it gives him that warm fuzzy feeling of an IRS audit ;) And hey, if you can’t joke with one of your buds, who can you joke with.

New friends:

While perusing the vendor booths, Nate and I came back to each other with a info flyer from RechargeCar with a picture of a really cool, nicely shielded amp probe they’re about to go into full production with. Later on during the event, at Jack’s house with a few of Jack’s specials in us, we met up with these really cool guys, and found out that they are RechargeCar and they liked our car and wanted to test their new amp probe on an AC system, which is notorious for making noise and interfering with the brains of amp probes, to see how theirs would fare. Well, I’m happy to say it fared very well indeed. We even tried making things a bit noisier for it and it had no problems whatsoever, so we’re going to be working together in the future, us trying to break their amp probe, and them trying to thwart our efforts, all so that Jack will have a new recommendation in instrumentation and so that the you, the EV converter, will have the most reliable, noise proof, instrumentation to incorporate into your builds.

So I’d like to say thanks to Andy and the rest of the folks at RechargeCar.com, and tell them that we look forward to trying to break, I mean test, the first of the production versions of their amp probe and instrumentation, which so far, both I and Seven have miserably failed in our attempts to break, fry, scramble, and otherwise reek havoc upon. I’d include Nate in that, but he’s the guy that usually is fixing what I’ve found some way to break and until that changes, well, Nate is only good at breaking big metal objects, like wrenches, pry bars, and ½ inch grade five bolts ;)

Renewed Vigor:

We have also returned from EVCCON with renewed excitement and enthusiasm for Nate’s battery charger project. I’d like to go into more details, but that would spoil the surprise…lets just say it’s everything Jacks been looking for in a charger.

Also, as some of you may know, I once again broke the transmission in Seven while on the autocross track at the CON. So, how many times is that? First time was only a clutch at X Prize. Second time was this past spring just after turning up the inverter to 90% and doing some 0-60 runs, and third…well that was EVCCON, however from our failures our greatest successes shall be born. I very obstinately told Jack, after he repeated that we needed a bigger transmission, that we’d be back and with a smaller stronger transmission.

From that fire our phoenix is taking shape. We’re working on our own clutchless single speed gearbox specifically designed for electric drive trains. That said, I like shifting and I doubt I’m alone, so, we’re also working on plans for a high-low box, a two speed trans for electric cars. When will it be ready? I’m pushing for the one speed for next spring, the two speed will take a little longer…testing on the shifting mechanism to make sure it’s bullet proof will require lots of hard driving time for me….darn.

And a two speed may only be a pipe dream. Tesla tried a two speed as well with little success. So for now keep the two speed thing just between you and me and be looking for a rock solid one speed racing gearbox for electrics because I’m tired of George Hamstra’s Netgain Motors and others like his always breaking all of our stuff.

If axles are your EV’s issue, check out Rockford Acromatics, they made our axles which I haven’t been able to break and are the only company so far that we’ve found that will build custom axles for a front wheel drive application…even if it is hooking up a metro trans to dodge hubs. Make sure to tell them that the axles are for an EV application and they’ll know what to do.

After getting home from the CON at 3am Sunday morning, Jen and I (mostly Jen) drove up to the Rockford area to meet up with a college buddy of mine and former Hybrid car builder, Tony Spaldon. Tony is looking into helping us with our trans and motor/trans coupler issues and was in possession of our last spare transmission. A quick 4 hour trip to see Tony and collect the trans and 4 hours back so that Monday I could tear apart and put back together Seven with the spare trans before Jason Fagone, an author working a book about the X Prize (“Genius is Not a Plan” from Crown/Random House), was due out at Illuminati HQ (a.k.a my barn).

Jason was flying out for a ride in Seven and to get a follow up on how and what the Illuminati are doing so he can finish his book. No pressure to get Seven running, right? I mean I have a whole day before I go back to work and 4 days before Jason arrives.

Yeah, well, that’s when the adventure began…We got the old trans out and the new one in by late Monday night, rolled it back and forth under it’s own power in the shop and everything seemed fine; Fast forward to Tuesday after getting home from work, I take Seven out of the shop to make sure everything is working OK and to shake some air out of it’s cooling system which is notoriously hard to bleed. It was at that point I noticed something wasn’t quite right. It may have been the growling, the tender massaging action of the accelerator pedal or the violent vibrations as I went down the road…I’m not sure which of those keyed me to the fact something was amiss with our new used transmission. something that just wasn’t going away. Something about a bearing not really being round anymore. DOH!

The new used trans that we just spent the last two days acquiring and installing has bad bearings and we can’t get another replacement in time for Jason’s visit…so what do we do? We go buy some tools and pull a couple all-nighters to pull the transmission (again), and disassemble it (again), pressing off the old bearings and installing new ones then getting it all back together and into the car.

We made it with at least a couple hours to spare and even got to sleep a few of those before Jason arrived.

So, the author/reporter guy shows up, not knowing that his well planned trip and flight from out east were hanging in the balance. Luckily he hadn’t seen the video up on Jack’s blog site.

The visit went well. The entire team, plus our intern, Matt, were able to make it out and we discussed our adventures since X Prize, tore apart some transmissions to rebuild, worked on our designs for future transmissions and power supplies, and started work and planning for adapting the Prius power steering unit Steve gave us into Seven.

Also started working on plans for a guest automotive builder to come out and give us a hand with proper use and incorporation of light weight strong composites into Seven and the rebuild we’re planning for this winter. But more about our friend later, this is just a heads up…a teaser for you, because he’s not only coming out to help with our project. He’s decided to take his 40+ years of fabricating and building cars for the race industry and start teaching others how to do the same, so our work with him will be his initial foray into the realm of education; and you will see why we are so honored to work with this, for now, unnamed individual and the benefits he brings to the EV conversion and builders world in the form of light weight strong materials and safety and how far he can help us advance in our endeavors in a very short period of time. More on this and other topics later….my “gonein60seconds” is starting to take hold…good thing I’m a fast typist.

Audere Est Facere
Kevin Smith

*warning, gonein60seconds is a highly flammable medicine that should not be used near open flame or while smoking or in the presence of someone smoking. Side affects may include: loss of memory, incarceration, head aches, loss of feeling in extremities, fear of bendy straws, and the desire to play with high voltage.

5000 miles +

After 5000 miles on the road, the 2010 IMW Seven has used approximately 24.2 equivalent gallons of gas in total electricity consumption.

That’s just shy of a 2010 Cadillac Escalade’s gas tank capacity if you want to compare it to a more recent car. But I don’t. I can’t help but compare Seven to my first car, a 1974 Chevy Caprice Classic. It had a 25 gallon gas tank and by the time my dad, Nick, handed the keys to me, the “old Chevy” got a whopping 17.8 MPG on the highway.

Seven has been driven the equivalent of across the lower continental United States and 2/3 of the way back on what used to be one tank of gas in my “old Chevy.”

At today’s gas prices, I can’t imagine taking that trip.

For the sake of easy math, let’s say the “old Chevy” got the best case scenario of 17.8 MPG for the whole 5000 miles (I wish!): at $3.50/gallon of gas that would cost about $983

At our current 11.8 cents per KwH electric rate, that same trip in Seven (averaging 200 MPGe and using 33.7kwh as our electric to gas energy equivalency conversion): would only cost about $99.42

Using those same numbers over the life of a vehicle…lets estimate low at 100,000 miles as the life expectancy the lifetime Fuel costs to drive each would be:

“Old Chevy”: $19,600

Seven: $1,988