The Search for Fuel Economy

Pages from a Designers' Notebook

This page updated July 20, 2008

Chap. 12: Finishing it enough to head for Ohio
I had hoped to ride this thing to AMA's Vintage Days in Mansfield Ohio. But it ain't going to happen this year. This is a "Work in process" and I am resigned to trailering it from Carmel, CA cross country, unfinished. Actually, it will be a long time before it is finished and totally streamlined. Until then, I do not expect much in the way of fuel reduction.
Nose structure
It is time to create the nose structure. Fortunately, I had a perfect shape for the nose - a headlight mockup I made for my design for Custom Chrome in 2002.
This shape fits perfectly. I hand formed another aluminum bulkhead for the front. I plan to sandwich the yellow plastic skin between the bulkhead and the fiberglass nose.
My design for Custom Chrome, 2002
I would like to mention, for you designers who might be planning your own high-mileage project, that as we make a change, it is important to go out and ride it.

This way, we can spot problems before we invest a lot of time going in the wrong direction.

I knew from the beginning that the stock Helix headlight would not match the curves of the new streamlined body. I have yet to find a DOT approved headlight that fit the contours.

Any suggestions?

Not happy with the stock Helix headlight
It is time to design and make another bulkhead which follows the angle to the fork head. This bulkhead will offer structure as close to the rider as possible while not interfering with the handlebars.

Cardboard Aided Design comes thru.

This time I will make the windshield turn with the handlebars to make ingress and egress easier. This is a major design change. Will this cause problems in side winds?

Front structure
Notice that I have collected the mirrors, headlight and turn signals (from an old Vetter Qiucksilver fairing) together on the handlebar. This is to be easier to eventually streamline them into one, simple enclosure.

Notice, too, the aluminum structure I made to support the new skin. The work is slow here and I am beginning to wonder how I will ever get this done to depart in time for Vintage Days in Ohio.

You may have wondered why I am closing off the right side of my streamliner.

"Streamlining is a smooth, continuous shape"

Until the body is entirely smooth - without gaps - it won't be streamlined.

After riding I am confident that it will be OK to enclose the right side. I never get on or off on the right side. Besides, bikes don't like it when you get on from the right side.

Cardboard patterns aid fit-up
Radiator Bulkhead
Honda engineers had fitted a plastic baffle around the radiator that forced whatever air that came into the front to go through the radiator. Pretty cool. Of course, that original piece would not do the job with the new streamlined nose, so I made a new baffle out of 3/4" Ethafoam - which is ordinary packing material. Ethafoam is very light, durable and easily squishes into odd shapes. Gas does not affect it either.
Working late into the night: Three days before departure
Since the front is a compound curve - meaning that the skin curves in both directions - it will be impossible to make a perfectly curved shape from the yellow .035" polyethylene sheet. I must compromise and piece it together in segments that give it an armored look. Plack plastic barbed fasteners hold the skin to the aluminum bulkheads. Note the Ethafoam hatch covering the storage bay.

I didn't know it, but the wind will have its way with this this thin plastic in 100 degree weather at 70 mph.

I awoke for my test ride to a California continuing to burn
This plastic is so easy to use. Ordinary scissors are all that are necessary. How big should the air intake opening be? This was my first guess. It turned out to be correct. That is all the opening needed to cool the engine.
Carol and I rode over the Laureles Grade to see how everything worked. Carol rides with another prototype Vetter fairing on her BMW. I halted work on this fairing to develop the Streamliner.

This was my first and only ride before packing up for Ohio. Note the sliver of windshield.

It turned out to be a very warm day in Carmel. The windshield folded back at 70 mph. Carol noticed that the front yellow plastic sheet was severely denting in at speed.

Too late to do anything about problems

Gotta pack up and head east.

Vintage Days, here we come
It got even hotter in the deserts. The yellow plastic seems to want to expand and ripple.

The wind blows it in. Hmmm... This is how we learn.

Stay tuned. See you in Ohio.

Master Index to the Last Vetter Fairing Story

This page updated July 20, 2008