GRV-1 Turbotug Project 12/15/04

Posted on December 15, 2004

       With the success of the GR-5A’s ECU and starter system, I forged on to finish the GRV-1 project. I disassembled the Turbotug and removed the GR-5A in one piece. The kart was now in need of a good paint job and unfortunately there was nobody to do it but me :0(. I really dislike painting as I often screw it up. Just when I think that it looks good a large run will come out of nowhere, dashing my spirits.

       Despite my inability of applying color properly I started preparing the frame for it’s paint bath. The frame was cleaned with solvent to remove any oil left over from the mill. There were a few spots that had to be sanded and some touch up grinding was completed. I set the frame outside on the lawn over some plastic drop cloths and started applying a “rattle can” automotive primer. Every time I picked up the can the wind would blow. It was a frustrating experience as I am impatient with painting of any kind.
       The next day I had sanded the primer on the exposed sides of the frame and steel panels. I applied some color coats to the frame using a “gunmetal gray” automotive acrylic lacquer (Cat#T177) made by
Dupli-Color. The paint was impressively kind to my ability and even cured with high humidity, low temperature conditions. I had to do some of the painting in the garage as the wind was mocking me again. I now know that if want a breezy day, I can walk out the front door and rattle my spray can. With a few days effort, I had the job done. I was able to start reassembling the GRV-1.
       I started with the fuel lines and control wiring. Once the harnesses were in place, I installed the spindles, axle and wheels. She was back on her feet and looking good.

       Things were starting to fall in place quickly and the frame was now ready for the engine. To prepare the GR-5A I topped off the oil and checked all of the connections on the hydraulic system for leaks. The engine was given it’s “roadworthy certificate” and hoisted onto the GRV-1 test platform.

       I bolted the turbine onto the Tug and hooked up the drive chain. With the power dock system, it took only a minute to plug in the engine. This will make for easy engine refitting when I get to future projects.

       I installed the battery in it’s battery box. The power cables were set up with fusible links to protect against short circuit damage.

       The Tug was now looking like a real vehicle. I installed the floorpan and control panel onto the front of the Tug. A special 3M grip tape was applied to the floorpan to keep the drivers feet from slipping around.

       The steering column and linkage was next to install. It took only an hour to get the column and knee guard panel installed. The time spent on the project had to be at least 100+ hours to this point and the thought of completing it was exhilarating. After all of the parts were installed, I weighed the Tug without fuel. I used a couple scales on opposing wheels and came up with 462 pounds. With one passenger and fuel, the Tug will weigh about 700 pounds !!! The next morning I rolled the finished GRV-1 out on the lawn for a photo shoot. The neighbors curiously peeked at the finished vehicle wondering what I am up to now.

       The GRV-1 Turbotug was ready for it’s first official test. I mapped out a plan to transport the Tug to Rabbit Dry Lake, CA. The dry lake bed is a good place to test as I don’t have to worry about noise issues. My good friend Kent Gallacher agreed to help me film the Tug while testing it so I packed up the video gear and prepared for the trip up to the desert. On Sunday the 12th, we rolled up to the High Desert and set up base camp on the dry lake bed. It was a cool, clear and dry day. The lake bed was just drying up from the recent rain storms.

       After we filmed part of the GRV-1 Turbotug Video, I fired up the turbine for some test runs. The GR-5A spooled up effortlessly and I was off! I drove the tug out onto the lake bed and eased the throttle open. The Tug accelerated slowly at first as the clutch was still breaking in. I reached the end of the quarter mile stretch of lake bed and turned it around for a speed test. I had my GPS with me so I could track my speed. I spooled up the GR-5A to a roar as the heat plume rose above the kart. She started picking up speed and I felt the second speed gear kick in.

       The power turbine was spinning about 16,000 RPM and rising. After checking the EGT temp I pushed the pedal to the floor. I pegged the combustor pressure gauge at who knows how many PSI. The GR-5A was really singing!!! The sound was so cool I wanted to pull back on the “yoke” and lift off!!! As you can imagine, I had a smile ear to ear!!! I was approaching 27.8 MPH when I noticed the tach red lining at 21,000 RPM. I had to back off or I could grenade my power turbine so I slowed down. The GR-5A was running cool and strong so I drove the kart as long as the propane would flow.

       After burning up a few gallons of liquid propane, we packed up and headed home. The GRV-1 was a success and the GR-5A performed like a champ. Without a doubt, this has been the most rewarding project I have completed to date. I can’t wait to do more testing with the GRV-1 Turbotug!!!

       Earlier this year, my father Raymond Giandomenico had passed away. He was a great inspiration to me and a loving father. He also was a gifted engineer who had worked for the aerospace industry for many years. I wish he could have seen what I was able to create as I am sure he would have liked it. I dedicate my research to my dearly missed father whom I will always love.......
       Never take for granted the time you have to spend with loved ones for tomorrow is promised to no man. Do not let trivial disputes separate you from your family members and friends as they are not here forever.

       The GRV-1 proved to be a valuable research tool for me and will use it to test future engine designs. With any luck I will be able to start the next project in the GR series: The GR-7 Turbojet Engine Project. I am thankful of all the support I have been given from my wife, family and friends. Your kind e-mails are also appreciated as they inspire me to continue my posts and research. Thanks for checking out my crazy contraptions and stay tuned for the next chapter.

Till then, be safe......

Don Giandomenico


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