It's a dirty job, but somebody's gotta do it.
I've also not been dancing around in the street wearing a pink tutu, but that's really not relevant to the subject of this post.
What is relevant to the subject of this post is flying. Lots and lots of flying. As much as possible anyway in between working, and fixing things, and building things, and fixing and building things that fly.
And then there's the Mugi Mobile.
In amongst all of my practically daily wheelings and dealings, I've managed to secure for my aircraft carrying pleasure, one 1986 Chevrolet Astro Van. I know, it's not a Volkswagen Bus, but I haven't exactly had too many people offering to sell me a bus for the song that I got this thing for. Like all cheap/free vehicles that I've acquired in my lifetime, it had a few issues. Actually . . . . it still does have a few issues, but not nearly as many as it did when I got it. I really wish I would've taken the time to snap a few "before" pics of this thing, but since I didn't, you'll just have to take my word for it. While the drivetrain is pretty sound mechanically, and the body isn't too shabby either, the interior could be summed up with one word: "THRASHED".
Luckily I just happen to have a wrecked Chevy S10 pickup taking up space here at the Big J Ranch, that just so happened to have had a really nice set of bucket seats in it. Since this van's days of being a soccer mom taxi are over, there was no need for the utterly destroyed remnants of what were once the back seats, so they got a free ride to the dump. The S10 seats mounted easily on the Astro seat bases, only requiring the drilling of two holes in the base of each seat.
After about two gallons of Armor All, interspersed with a whole lot of air hose blowing and vacuum cleaner sucking, applied with a heavy coating of elbow grease, the interior actually cleaned up pretty good. I've of course equipped the Mugi Mobile with radio communications in the form of a CB radio and K40 base load antenna mounted in the roof, a remote power hookup in the back for running battery chargers and other RC related electronic devices, a pretty damn kick ass stereo system (that isn't done yet. A set of 10" subs and a 200 watt amp are waiting in the wings), and a few other odds and ends like trippy little purple lights stashed here and there with more to come in the future. Can't have a shaggin' wagon without trippy colored lights, but the bean bag chair will have to stay home in order to make room for more airplanes. Groovy red curtains are in the works however.
Other than the interior, I've also replaced all 4 tires (one went BOOM on the way to the tire shop, they were almost as thrashed as the interior), repaired the air conditioner (when it comes to keeping my cool, I need all the help I can get), changed the oil and gave it a complete tune up, replaced the tail lights since one was missing a sizable chunk (don't want any undue attention from the Long Arm Of The Law), and a whole lot of other little odds and ends that are too numerous to list. I've still got to check all four brakes, repaint the wheels and install the center caps and trim rings, finish customizing the interior to suit my purposes (half the fun of owning a van in my opinion, although it's a project that's never truly "done"), inspect and repack the front wheel bearings, then there's the fact that the muffler fell off on the way to the drive in movie last night . . . . . . . I'll have to address that little green monster sooner rather than later.
Hey, whaddya expect for a $300 van?
Anyway, here's some pics.
Here she is at the park on a beautiful sunny morn not long ago. If you look carefully, you can see a big yellow airplane that's really happy to not be stuffed in the back seat of an extended cab pickup.
Here's a shot of the interior. I know, the carpet's faded and the seats are the wrong color. I hear it costs about 25 grand if you want a van with everything all new and color coordinated. I can live with it for the price difference. If you look closely, you can see a big yellow airplane that's really happy to not be stuffed in the back seat of an extended cab pickup.
Here's another shot of the interior. I know, the carpet's faded and the seats don't match, but I hear it costs about 25 grand to get a van with everything all new and color coordinated. I think those vans come with a back bumper that isn't bent too, but for the price difference, I can live with a crooked bumper and off color seats. If you look closely, you can see a big yellow airplane that's really happy to not be stuffed in the back seat of an extended cab pickup.
If you have to replace your taillights anyway, why be boring? These genuine rice rocket wannabe taillights are cheaper than the factory versions, and a damn sight better looking. They fit great with the rest of the van, don't you think? Now all I need is a fart pipe exhaust (which I kind of already have, at least until I make it to the muffler shop), and a big, ugly assed spoiler on the roof and they'll be recruiting me to appear in the next Fast And Furious movie.
I don't call it the Mugi Mobile for nothing, more graphics yet to come. I did these myself, the rest are at the sign shop. The diamond tread aluminum on the left rear door is covering up the big assed hole that was ripped in it by the swing away spare tire carrier that is currently on its way to Korea to be melted down and made into Kias. If you're going to mount a spare tire to the back door of a modern vehicle, add some metal on the inside to back up the bolts. The spare tire now resides underneath where it belongs.
Speaking of Mugis, Morgan is on the verge of releasing yet another new and exciting product, in the form of an excellent followup design to the Mugi Evo. This one will be called the Tea Racer, and is fashioned after a sleek looking 1930's air racer. The plane is of course made of Coroplast, the same 2mm used in the Evo, only this design looks like a conventional aircraft more so than a delta wing. I happen to have in my possession, the plans and build instructions for this little gem, and the Top Secret Skunkworks at Big J Aviation is currently getting tooled up for the prototype build. Expect full buildups, as well as video and flight test results here when the time comes. Don't however, expect free plans for this one. The price will be more than reasonable I'm sure, but Morgan does have to make a living after all. I can assure you all that whatever he decides on for a price, the plane will be worth it. Although I obviously haven't flown one yet since I'm not done building it, I have taken a good look at the design and it seems quite sound, the build looks almost as easy as the Evo, and I expect this plane to rival if not exceed the Evo in speed and performance. Stay tuned here and at the Mugi Site for more information on this exciting new product.
Now on to Chapter 2. Don't you just love catch up blogging?
Speaking of new and exciting products, I was recently made aware of these little gems. The only problem was, that I couldn't find anybody that would sell me one. As a testament to the importance of good foreign relations, Morgan was nice enough to pick one up from a shop in Spain and ship it to me. It pays to have friends, even if you haven't actually met them in person.
This thing is awesome. The FlyCamOne weighs just under an ounce, and has a pretty small footprint to go with it's lack of burdensome mass. What this means is, that not only can I now shoot aerial video with my larger planes, I can attach this camera to just about anything, even my helicopter. At about $75 US, it's still cheaper than even the phoniest wireless setups, and probably lighter when you figure that it doesn't need a 9 volt battery to run it. The FlyCam charges through the USB port of your computer. It also has provisions for adding an SD memory card for expanded capacity. I've been using the 1 gig SD card from my other digital camcorder and so far, haven't encountered any compatibility issues. I don't know how long the battery will last in it yet, but I do know that neither the battery life, nor the memory capacity with the 1 gig card have become an issue yet. Stay tuned on this subject as well, since I've only just begun to explore the capabilities of this exciting new device.
This is the FlyCamOne with the included mount. This camera is made specifically for RC aircraft use, so it includes this ingenious mounting device complete with a right angle mirror so that the camera can look forward, backward, sideways, ect. without creating excessive drag.
This is the easiest and most secure way I can think of to attach the FlyCam to my Mugi Evo. The camera sits just above the plane's recommended center of gravity, and has only a minimal effect on the aircraft's flight characteristics. A 3mm Depron spacer was needed under the camera to keep the control buttons clear of the airframe, but other than that all I used was two carbon rods and two #64 rubber bands. It doesn't get much easier than this. If you happen to notice, and like the outrunner motor mount, stay tuned. I'll be doing a complete demonstration on how to build one in the near future. Being able to easily mount a brushless outrunner to a Mugi Evo opens up a whole new world of power choices, and these mounts are about as easy and cheap as they get. A couple of easy mods to a GWS gearbox frame is all that's required, and the parts cost nil to nothing. I've been flying mine for several weeks now, and I've had no issues with this motor, or mount. Although I kept the performance similar to my brushed Speed 400 with this particular installation, the power consumption is roughly half, translating into about double the flight time that I was getting previously.
Here's looking at you, kid. The right angle mirror mount works flawlessly, although everything in the resulting video is a mirror image. If you use Windows Movie Maker, it's a piece of cake to add a Mirror Horizontal effect to your video and turn it back the right way. Or, you could just leave it backwards for a whole new perspective on life!
Here's a sample of what a Mugi Evo can do with a FlyCam along for the ride. This was the first time I'd flown an Evo with a passenger aboard, but I have to say that the performance was mostly unaltered. It was definitely evident that something had changed, but the plane still performed quite admirably, and after a few clicks of trim here and there and a little practice, I got quite comfortable with the setup.
Make sure you've got your barf bags at the ready, it's time to turn and burn!