Vehicle Incarnations

Back to Home Page

The Tomato Years (1996–1998)
1996 • • 1997 • •1998
da Vinci Days
As in all things kinetic (or maybe it's just me) waiting until the last minute seems to be the norm. Despite all the damage that the first vehicle suffered, I had a year to rebuild. However, almost nothing was done for six months. During this time I wasn't actually idle as I searched for suitable, small differentials, redesigned the entire drive and frame, and learned to weld.

With only a month to go before the '97 race, I still had nothing ridable. But boy, did I ever have piles of notes and numbers on paper!

Kinetic Party
In an attempt to get me to be more prompt, my wife planned a kinetic party the weekend before the da Vinci race. This was supposed to be the unveiling of the new vehicle. Work on the wheels had been occurring at home but the frame and drive portion was being built at the shop.

At 4 P.M. (the party started at 5 P.M.) I finally arrived home with the frame. We started assembling the three major components (frame and two wheels) for the very first time.

Fortunately and surprisingly they all fit as designed. At this point, the drive mechanism was functional but the steering still hadn't been built or even fully designed. Brakes weren't hooked up, only one wheel had any foam attached but it could be ridden around.

We had a great party and got lots of tomato songs and jokes from the guests. The following day we got the steering set up and had the chance to see how it performed. It proved to be a bit troublesome but everything was functional.

Nothing like last minute details
With one week to go there was still much to do. The second wheel still lacked flotation. I hadn't given much thought to water propulsion, art, tires or brakes (who needs brakes?).

On race day, I was still gluing foam onto the wheels and and my wife (who was now beginning to refer to herself as Tomato Widow) was painting everything red.

T-minus minutes and counting <Return to Top>
Once again with only minutes to spare we got the vehicle on to a trailer and hauled it to the race.

It was a big hit. Everything worked as planned.

The new drive mechanism was really slick. Steering was a little troublesome and the tires had a terrible thump at the joint. I had used 3/4" industrial hose for a pneumatic tire. The joint was a pair of band clamps over a brass insert, but it all worked just fine.
Throwing Your Weight
Spectators always ask why there are handlebars on the front of the frame. As you can see in the photo, sometimes you need a bit more mass out front to get through some of the obstacles.
Ace Pilot <Return to Top>
I was rewarded by not only completing the course without any breakdowns, but also aced it (completed it without any external assistance). Much to my wife's surprise, I actually floated! She doubted my math. I was honored again with a Racers' Choice award, and the Top Engineering award. This was quite an improvement over the previous year, and I was pleased with the performance of the vehicle and the thrill of racing it and showing it off.
Yeah, but how does it steer?
One of the things I liked the most was baffling the engineers. There was always someone around who just blew off the design and stated “oh, it’s easy, he just steers by braking one wheel”.

When it was explained that this wasn’t the case, they were frequently completely baffled and even when it was explained and all the parts pointed out, they went away scratching their heads. It was fun to force them to try and think outside the box.

More Tomato Years --> back to 1996
Updated: 11/3/06

© 2001 by S. Clark