What Up? Dave p.2
Ted Holman Puts The Finishing Touches on His X-90
Editor: Eric Bewley Story/Photo: Ted Holman
BAKERSFIELD, CA. -Steve Kramer at Calmini was on the phone with me every day from the end of January on, telling me to get off my ass and get going again. Nice thing about Steve is that he is used to rejection and my lousy mood did not dissuade him from calling back after I would hang up. It was tough trying to remember why anything needed to be done, but the clould was getting a little less thick and the life that I had shared so completely with David was intruding into my lack of ambition.
About August, I was told that it was too late to do anything about getting the X90 ready for this years Rubicon Run because of the production schedule at Calmini and the prototyping the shop was doing on new parts for the November SEMA show in Las Vegas. I knew my time had finally arrived. I put a charger on the X90, fired it up, loaded it on a trailer, called Steve to tell him I was down the driveway and headed towards Bakersfield, California, home of Calmini and what I thought promised to be a luke warm reception by an over worked crew.
The first thing that struck me was how John, Steve, Chris, Dave and Randy stopped what they were doing and made me feel a part of the place. OK, so they gave me a broom and told me which end of the shop needed sweeping, but hey, what are friends for? After a couple of hours, I had X90 apart on the floor near the fabrication area. I had no idea what was needed to get the job done. John grabbed the front differential from me and took it to his bench. He blew it apart, removing the stock center case and replaced it with a limited slip unit that Calmini offers for the Sidekick/Tracker.
I spent the down time scrounging around the shop looking for parts that might make a bumper for the X90. Calmini has never offered body parts for this rig (all right, no one ever asked for any ) but I found chunks of metal that from other prototyping projects and showed them to John and Steve. After about an hour of searching, we found stuff that would not require too much modification that would possibly fit the job. In the mean time, John had the front end done and I had it back in place in about forty-five minutes and went after the rear diff. Thirty minutes later it was on the bench.
By this time it was lunchtime and I got to enjoy Steve and Randys Dads birthday. Nick spends most of his days down at the shop sorting out medal and inventory, so the entire crew took a break to sing the worse chorus of Happy Birthday I have ever hear. Oh, did I mention it was Nicks 80th? The guy never sits down and I can see where Steve gets all his energy from, trying to keep up with his Dad!
Back in the shop, I found some bent tubes on a shelf and laid them up against the back of the car. They fit like they had been measured for it! Before I could say anything, they were being fitted and measured for brackets. I cleaned the rust off them and finished assembling the front end. Suddenly it was 6:00 and the day was done. Wow, what a day. I was as dirty and sweaty as anyone there and loving it, but to do it everyday. How do they do it?
The next morning had me there at 7:00 when the rest of the Calmini crew arrives. John had me start immediately getting the frame ready for a set of Rocker Skids. Calmini only offers these for the body lifted rigs and since the X90 does not have a body lift on it, everything had to be custom fabricated. My previous trail experience with the Sidekick had taught the value of these items and it was a relief that they were being added. What surprised my was how much time was needed to make the bars fit my un-lifted car. As they had never made a set for this application, they were basically starting from scratch. It made me realize how even apparently simple parts, take an incredible amount of skilled craftsmanship, time and effort to be made right. I would never make in the manufacturing business.
Next up, I was re-installing the rear differential with the Calmini Limited Slip unit in place. At this point I was looking for the zipper on the housing I had done this so many times in the past. John, in the mean time, had attacked the rear bumper parts that I had dragged from around the shop. First were the brackets which were cut by the coolest machine I have yet to watch . You make a pattern out of this hard paper and then load on to the table. The plasma cutter then uses a light to read the pattern and cut the part out of plate on an adjoining table. Think it, draw it, and make it. No wonder the parts from Calmini are so precise! I gotta have one of these (and what for?).
Next all the parts were tacked together on the car and then taken over to a welding bench where John went to work on them . After he tacked them together, he left the finish welding for Suki Stu and we looked at the front end of the car . John started the same process again, assembling bits and chunks of unrelated parts that I saw no connection to. In about an hour he had tacked up the most beautiful piece of work I had ever seen created. A X90 Trail Ready Bumper!
Back to the welding table as the rear bumper came off, just in time for me to clean and paint and it was ready to be bolted on . Then the front was ready for a fitting and the rig was coming together in quick order. I realized that there were four of the Calmini Crew working on the rig all at once and could not believe how much was getting done a and how fast things were happening. By the time the rear bumper was on, the front was ready for paint and it was going on . Suddenly, Daves X90 was ready to come off the hoist. I realized that all of this work and these custom parts had come together in just over two days. Try that at home without gallons of coffee!
It was time to head home and before loading up, I tried to tell everyone that had worked with me the past few days how important this had been to me and how grateful I was that they had included me in their workplace. I had one of the most unique experiences I have ever had, being part of a fabricating and manufacturing plant and loving it. I had one more thing I wanted to do and because Steve was on a lunch run, I parked on the grass (dont let him see you do that!) in front of the Calmini sign and took a picture.
That picture says it all, a great project ready for the trail, a great company to do business with and best of all, great friends to be with that extended themselves when they didnt have to at time that meant so much. Thanks guys and see you next month on the Slabs! The Near Beer is on me.