Marc's Public Blog - Cars


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Below is a recounting of various car events I've attended along the years, from car club meets, autocrosses, track events, and enthusiast drives.

Table of Content for cars:

More pages: August 2021 July 2021 June 2021 May 2021 April 2021 November 2020 August 2020 June 2020 March 2020 February 2020 December 2019 October 2019 September 2019 July 2019 June 2019 May 2019 March 2019 February 2019 November 2018 October 2018 September 2018 July 2018 June 2018 May 2018 April 2018 December 2017 October 2017 September 2017 July 2017 June 2017 May 2017 April 2017 March 2017 December 2016 November 2016 October 2016 September 2016 July 2016 June 2016 April 2016 January 2016 December 2015 November 2015 October 2015 September 2015 June 2015 May 2015 April 2015 March 2015 February 2015 November 2014 September 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 April 2014 February 2014 November 2013 October 2013 September 2013 August 2013 June 2013 May 2013 April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 October 2012 August 2012 July 2012 June 2012 May 2012 April 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 November 2011 September 2011 July 2011 June 2011 April 2011 March 2011 October 2010 August 2010 July 2010 April 2010 February 2010 November 2009 October 2009 September 2009 June 2009 May 2009 April 2009 November 2008 May 2008 April 2008 December 2007 November 2007 October 2007 June 2007 April 2007 December 2006 November 2006 May 2006 January 2006 July 2005 May 2005 April 2005 January 2005 December 2004 October 2004 September 2004 August 2004 July 2004 June 2004 May 2004 February 2004 October 2003 May 2003 April 2003 March 2003 November 2002 October 2002 July 2002 May 2002 April 2002 March 2002 October 2001 September 2001 August 2001 July 2001 June 2001 May 2001 April 2001 March 2001 February 2001 December 2000 November 2000 October 2000 September 2000 August 2000 July 2000



2020/11/28 Skyline to the Sea Loop
π 2020-11-28 01:01 in Cars
Damn, it's been more than a year since our last drive. It was short and sweet, but after so long, it was nice. Lots of people on the road though, but I was lucky enough to get mostly clear roads for most of the fun bits:










really nice, inside
really nice, inside

social distanced meeting
social distanced meeting

We then went for the drive. It was fun once I was able to get some free road on hwy84, all the way to the beach:











huge line at alice's resaurant, we skipped it and went home
huge line at alice's resaurant, we skipped it and went home

Thanks to all, it was fun.

See more images for Skyline to the Sea Loop
2020/11/01 Trying Out a Kuga Campervan With Off The Grid AC Inverter Improvements
π 2020-11-01 01:01 in Cars
We got a Kuga Campervan for a road trip from travellers-autobarnrv. While the underneath platform is a crap chevrolet with a gas guzzling engine, unreliable AC/heating, poor build quality across the board (gaps in the door seals creating major wind noise, we had to fix them with duct tape), and not even a glove box, it actually worked pretty well for our national parks trip, and as much as the platform vehicle is on the poor side, the campervan conversion is quite good.
We definitely looked at competing options, but turns out they were both a lot more expensive and had a very poor kitchen in comparison (including total lack of 120V support of any kind, and of course no microwave, and microwave is great to quickly heat food and drinks on the road)

You can read about our two trips with it, here:

  • http://marc.merlins.org/perso/trips/post_2020-10-30_Road-trip-to-Dallas-via-Arizona_-New-Mexico_-and-Texas-National-Parks-plus-Oklahoma-City.html
  • http://marc.merlins.org/perso/trips/post_2020-11-11_Road-trip-from-Dallas-back-to-CA-via-Texas-and-New-Mexico-National-Parks.html
  • Here are specs on the converted vehicle: Kuga Campervan PDF Specs

    Platform

    It doesn't win beauty contests (ok, the decals and color scheme don't help), it's top heavy and will be happy to tip over on a curvy road if you drive it like a regular car, but it is practical and much easier to handle than a full RV:


    the Kuga didn't like twisty mountain roads though, it was a boat to drive and the seats in the back would fly around
    the Kuga didn't like twisty mountain roads though, it was a boat to drive and the seats in the back would fly around

    One plus side of the gas guzzling V8 though, was that I never felt it didn't have enough power. The van was ECU limited to 100mph, as the engine could do more, and I was easily able to reach 85mph+ climbing at altitude. Too bad the vehicle doesn't have a more efficient V6 turbo like some competitors.

    That said, the conversion inside is the better one I found amongst rentals I looked at:

  • decent size fridge fully powered by big enough solar panels (it'll run forever without plugging in or driving). Competition often required you to plug in if parking for a few days, or run the engine
  • The kitchen is legit. Proper gas burners with an 8 gallon propane tank, not a little camping stove thing you screw in and out every time you need it
  • A nice sink with more than 15 gallons of water (not safe to drink for reasons that are a bit complicated to go into)
  • And the big bonus is: a microwave. With the microwave, we ended up heating most of our food and barely use the gas outside of cooking eggs and stuff like that.
  • The one thing missing, which is available in more expensive campervans, is a toilet. Having some makeshift toilet would have been nice, but realistically it's not in any campervan of that class.
  • Power System

    Back to the power system, our version (not all Kugas have power fed from the alternator to the rear battery, but ours did as I requested it), the main issue, was that the microwave, or expresso machine we added, would not work unless the van wan plugged in utility power (RV site), so I decided to fix that.

    this is how it's supposed to work
    this is how it's supposed to work


    similarly, RV sites have water that you can use to refill the Kuga
    similarly, RV sites have water that you can use to refill the Kuga

    This is how it looks by default: big cable to allow jump starting the car if its battery is dead, power input from the car's alternator to charge the battery when the engine is on, and solar charge controller:


    my big 3000W inverter didn't quite fit in the battery cabinet, but there was a hole to feed cables to the battery
    my big 3000W inverter didn't quite fit in the battery cabinet, but there was a hole to feed cables to the battery

    non standard equipment, but nice addition :) (uses over 1000W, just like the microwave)
    non standard equipment, but nice addition :) (uses over 1000W, just like the microwave)

    the kitchen is definitely better than other campervans that trade this space for a 2nd row of seats
    the kitchen is definitely better than other campervans that trade this space for a 2nd row of seats

    Because I made a temporary addition, I didn't wire the inverter into the car's 120V system, so cheated by making a male-male plug (totally illegal ;) ):


    Two things have to be done to use the inverter: turning off external power (to make sure outside power is never backfed into the inverter), and the 2nd breaker turns off battery charging from external power. This one is important or the battery charger tries to charge the battery from 120V while the 120V is coming from the battery through the inverter:


    our Kuga had been upgraded with a 12V and USB plug coming from the battery, my inverter meter is on the left. The 12V plug there was only good for 10A though, so you can't use it for an inverter
    our Kuga had been upgraded with a 12V and USB plug coming from the battery, my inverter meter is on the left. The 12V plug there was only good for 10A though, so you can't use it for an inverter

    Here is a demo of the microwave. The start was a bit rough because the microwave needs around 150A from the 12V battery at start, my connecting cables didn't have the best connection for so many amps, and the battery was a bit low, so the voltage sagged a bit at start:

    Demo of the expresso machine, which also requires over a 1000W and peaks at more than 120A on the 12V battery:

    I will however stress that, if you attempt this:

  • have a good understanding of Amps, Volts, and wire gauges. Understand how many Wh are usable in your 12V battery, so that you don't run it flag and damage it
  • if your battery is not fully charge, run the engine and the alternator will bring in a lot of extra amps
  • unless you really know what you're doing, not the best thing to do a rental vehicle. If you damage the electrical system, that's on you. If you create a terrible short without a fuse and start a fire, that's definitely on you
  • you need a big inverter, and it really should be pure sine wave or the microwave will not be happy. My inverter is 3000W for a 1500W use.
  • you need thick and short cables between the inverter and the battery. 150-200A is a lot of amps, you need fat cabling for this to work, and many inverters come with cables that are too thin.
  • again, keep track of your battery voltage. Running 1500W from the battery will work for 5 to 10mn at most if the battery is full, or not at all if it ran the fridge all night and it's low on charge in the morning
  • Lead acid batteries get damaged if you run them down, the Kuga's electrical system does not have a low voltage battery disconnect (it could), so it is on your to make sure the battery is not run down
  • Space in the Kuga

    While the Kuga can fit 3 people, it's not comfortable when you drive (the middle seat is small and narrow). Also, the 3rd person needs to sleep on top, which requires setting up boards and shifting luggage every night (we did use the top space to store luggage, which was more for 3 people). Yes, you can have a passenger ride in the back, it's legal in some states, illegal in some others (CA, but no points for the driver, while in NM it's definitely a big fine for the driver)

    don't let the picture fool you, the middle seat is only ok for someone not very wide and ok being somewhat sandwiched for many hours of driving
    don't let the picture fool you, the middle seat is only ok for someone not very wide and ok being somewhat sandwiched for many hours of driving

    The kuga is not meant to have 2 boards on top, or hold luggage or more than the first, non moveable, board. If you put 2, you need a way to stop the luggage from flying off, and even the board from sliding around:

    because there was no way to stop the bottom board from sliding, I jerry rigged something with duct tape and got it secured that way. Ghetto, but it worked well enough.
    because there was no way to stop the bottom board from sliding, I jerry rigged something with duct tape and got it secured that way. Ghetto, but it worked well enough.

    normally if you only need the minimal of luggage depth, there is fabric and clips to hold things
    normally if you only need the minimal of luggage depth, there is fabric and clips to hold things

    this was the 2nd board before I found the way to properly secure it
    this was the 2nd board before I found the way to properly secure it


    The bottom bed is big enough, albeit a bit short. I'm 5"10 / 1M77, and my feet stuck out a bit, but thankfully stopped just before the doors:


    you're actually supposed to sleep in the other direction, but if you're short both directions work
    you're actually supposed to sleep in the other direction, but if you're short both directions work

    One of the boards used for the bed, is conveniently also the table, that works pretty well:



    we can also note on this picture that the pantry had decent space
    we can also note on this picture that the pantry had decent space

    while we often used the microwave, the gas cooker was quite functional
    while we often used the microwave, the gas cooker was quite functional

    At the end of the trip, we had to refill the little propane we used:


    the container is well sized and should be enough for most trips
    the container is well sized and should be enough for most trips

    Conclusion

    The Kuga is not even close to a $200,000 custom converted Mercedes campervan, but it also doesn't come close to costing the same. It's so much cheaper. We got ours from travellers-autobarnrv and we were very happy with the pricing and service (including free unlimited miles).

    And here are the adventures we went on with ours. Maybe it'll inspire you for yours:

  • http://marc.merlins.org/perso/trips/post_2020-10-30_Road-trip-to-Dallas-via-Arizona_-New-Mexico_-and-Texas-National-Parks-plus-Oklahoma-City.html
  • http://marc.merlins.org/perso/trips/post_2020-11-11_Road-trip-from-Dallas-back-to-CA-via-Texas-and-New-Mexico-National-Parks.html

  • More pages: August 2021 July 2021 June 2021 May 2021 April 2021 November 2020 August 2020 June 2020 March 2020 February 2020 December 2019 October 2019 September 2019 July 2019 June 2019 May 2019 March 2019 February 2019 November 2018 October 2018 September 2018 July 2018 June 2018 May 2018 April 2018 December 2017 October 2017 September 2017 July 2017 June 2017 May 2017 April 2017 March 2017 December 2016 November 2016 October 2016 September 2016 July 2016 June 2016 April 2016 January 2016 December 2015 November 2015 October 2015 September 2015 June 2015 May 2015 April 2015 March 2015 February 2015 November 2014 September 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 April 2014 February 2014 November 2013 October 2013 September 2013 August 2013 June 2013 May 2013 April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 October 2012 August 2012 July 2012 June 2012 May 2012 April 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 November 2011 September 2011 July 2011 June 2011 April 2011 March 2011 October 2010 August 2010 July 2010 April 2010 February 2010 November 2009 October 2009 September 2009 June 2009 May 2009 April 2009 November 2008 May 2008 April 2008 December 2007 November 2007 October 2007 June 2007 April 2007 December 2006 November 2006 May 2006 January 2006 July 2005 May 2005 April 2005 January 2005 December 2004 October 2004 September 2004 August 2004 July 2004 June 2004 May 2004 February 2004 October 2003 May 2003 April 2003 March 2003 November 2002 October 2002 July 2002 May 2002 April 2002 March 2002 October 2001 September 2001 August 2001 July 2001 June 2001 May 2001 April 2001 March 2001 February 2001 December 2000 November 2000 October 2000 September 2000 August 2000 July 2000

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