Chapter 1


A “Re”cycle : (three wheeled high performance vehicle built from recycled materials and powered for minimal environmental impact)

Yet another hair-brained idea by Greg (aka: Dictator, TurboStude) Meyers.
Contact me:
cartoon of Tribaker body
The Idea:
Playing on the urge to have a vehicle which is accepted by both the bikers and the hot-rodders I hang out with, I have been brooding over a 3 wheel design for30-odd years (Here are some doodles etc. : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 .  Since I have become the world’s authority on turbocharging the flathead six Stude motor (my motor holds records at Bonneville) I wanted to use the pieces of that motor in my new plan. I have been running the TurboStude on the street off and on for a number of years.  My idea is to develop a vehicle with two wheels in front, using late 40’s Stude parts for suspension.  The frame will be a greatly modified 41’ Stude frame. The running gear will be the 190+ cube truck motor, a 4-speed Saginaw tranny, a Datsun“Zx” car rear center section, two sprockets and rear wheel drive sitting on ¼ elliptic springs.  The body I want to develop will look like a channeled and chopped 37’ Stude roadster.  To accomplish this, I found  a 38′ Stude basket case and a 41’Stude frame. I’m using a friend’s 37’ Coupe for “proportional” guidance… Considering that the race car weighed about 3400 lbs “wet”, I figure this thing should weigh in at about 1800 lbs “dry”.

The race car, with this motor did 137 mph so far, with a HP/Weight ratio of 0.066, and this car will have a ratio of 0.125, almost twice.  Adding the aerodynamics of the roadster (smaller frontal area and boat tail) and subtracting the rolling friction of 3 vs 4 wheels, this car should get both good mileage and good performance.  The key to handling will be the relationship between the center of gravity and the 3 wheels.  I want the car to end up pointing forward if it spins, but be easy to turn quickly (it will have to compete with a Mini Cooper S fun factor….).  Since LP gas has been selling for less, has an effective octane over 100 and has emissions, I will be using that to power this beast.

The Engine details:

The  engine is from a late 50’s Stude truck, which in stock form was 185” and made about 100hp.  It has a stroke of 4.375″ and bore of 3.00”.  The stock crank, which has now been detailed, is forged (as are the Ross pistons and stock Stude rods).  It runs on more main bearing surface per displacement than any motor ever produced.  The head is custom made with twice the water capacity, out of steel, with six combustion chambers modeled roughly after the shape of the Harley KR flathead dirt-track racer heads. The compression ratio is 8.5:1 right now, with the forged Ross pistons ( total-seal rings). This might change with different boost levels and blowers I may use.  The induction will be decided depending on whether or not I go with exhaust driven turbo or belt-drive turbo ala Dick Datson. I may also experiment with fuel injection this time around.  The oil pump is a modified Stude V-8 pump.  Ignition is basically Mopar gold box electronic hooked to a Safeguard detonation sensing system and a high voltage coil. Electric fuel pump will be used with a cut-out for oil pressure and impact switch.  I will be changing the intake to accept the LP, including a mixer instead of carb, designed and hand assembled by Ak Miller’s wife.

The Frame:

I intend to keep the flavor of something that might have been constructed as long ago as 1953 when I was born, and when the first turbochargers appeared on construction equipment (which visually appeared very similar to the TO-3 which I have been using).  I will largely hide modern components, though I may use disc brakes.  Stude late 30’s and 40’s frames had a novel transverse front spring which I will use in almost stock configuration with stock A-arms.  I will space it out to give a wider track.

41′ Stude Commander frame

The frame will be wide enough to accommodate two people in a slightly staggered seating arrangement.  It will use the Stude rails.

The frame will be re-enforced above the rails with a drawn-on-mandrel seamless tube cage with an integral roll-cage.  This will have some removable sections which would allow it to compete in some racing at a later date.

Drivetrain: Power will be transmitted from the engine thru a three-speed box with overdrive (T-86 from Stude v-8). It then mates to a Nisson 240ZX rear independent rear suspension differential.

One drive axle flange has one 28 or 32 tooth sprocket bolted to it. A 60H chain carries the power back to a similar (but numerically different) sprocket which is attached to a specially constructed hub.  This hub can be removed easily for tire changes and has incorporated in it an automotive type disk brake (large GM).

Early sketch of rear cross-section

rear axle sketch

rear hub mock-up

The rear swing arm has half an ellipse spring fixed above the swingarm in front and with a shackle in the rear. This helps define the arc without posterior displacement. Chain tension will be adjusted by sliding the rear axle fore/aft. Below is one of many early ideas for the swingarm….

The Body:

I’ve been in love with late 30’s cars, Deco, etc. for a long time. I like the long nose-short rear look, fairings, boat-tails, exposed exhaust pipes of the era.  I’d like to incorporate some of that in to the design.

Basically 37’ Stude-style “waterfall” grill which has been chopped in height.

Fenders in front will probably be either absent or faired “pods” ala  Stinson SR-6 Reliant high-wing or Indian motorcycle. The car will be a roadster with tonneau cover and Duval-type wind-screen or Brooklands fold down screen.

It will have a boat-tail with a fairing extending back from the drivers headrest. I am debating over the best material for fabrication.  It will depend on weight and the availability of front end sheet-metal. I do have front sheetmetal from a 37’ Stude.  I am probably going to use a recycled material (plastic milk cartons) to do some decking in a pattern not unlike the “Cobra” below. A Minnesota company may be providing the product.

Hopefully, by the time I have the chassis rolling, I will have acquired more pieces. A good friend is able to form aluminum for me.  I will do the interior in a vintage wood boat motif using parts from 30’s Studes and ChrisKrafts.

The Cobra

Rough concept……

To make the body a little narrower, I will set the passenger seat a bit rearward of the drivers seat as in old Brooklands cars.

Upholstery will be red pleats with ivory side-panels. The dash will be burled wood and the steering wheel will be wood trim or ivory colored. The instruments are from a 36’ Stude.

Instrument cluster from 36′ Stude

Here are some early 2-D images from a 3-D program called Google Sketchup:

I found the frame on a farm in White Bear Lake frozen into the ground.  It took a jack-hammer and three grown men to extricate it.  My friend Bob won’t let me forget that day.  Had I waited, it would have been gone.  It cost $75….

The body will be a combination of steel and recycled material as yet to be developed, jointly with my daughter.  As it stands, It looks like the track will be between 60.5 and 63 inches, and the wheelbase will be 95 to 108 inches.  The CG will be about 20″ off the ground, with a weight distribution of about 36% on the rear wheel.  If I can accomplish this, I should be able to corner at 1 G.  I am researching some ideas for active weight transfer to improve handling.  I have obtained a “behind axle” power rack and pinion from a Monte Carlo which looks like it will fit well.

9/18/07 I spoke with my 3-wheel mentor Dr. Starr.  He agrees that the springs in the automotive clutch disc should probably provide plenty of driveline shock absorbing capability.  I have been toying with an unlocked differential coupled to some linkage, but will abandon this and weld the spider gears as in a drift car.

Here is the finished hub without cush drive for mounting the rear sprocket to the rear wheel:

Some calculations:  Using the following knowns…. Differential ratio is 4.083:1  28 tooth front sprocket  32 tooth rear sprocket 28″ tire, the speed at 4800 rpm will be 112 mph, 6000 rpm will be 139 mph and 6100rpm will be 142 mph.  The final drive ratio is 3.57:1 which with 290+ft-lbs of torque will just about allow me to run without shifting gears (just leave it in 4th…….) or I could pull a trailer carrying extra LP bottles…

Brakes: The rear disk and hub are one piece, with a 4.75″ bolt center from a 77″ MonteCarlo, as is the caliper and brake pads.  The caliper is mounted on a custom plate which has a fulcrum on the axle and rotates freely around that axis.  The plate has an ear extending towards the ground which is the attachment point for a drag link which goes forward to attach to the chassis.  This should transmit rotational force on braking to the chassis.  This point will be determined to prevent “jacking” on deceleration.  The front brakes are done using the original spindles.  The rotors are from a 77′ Fleetwood, as are the bearings, calipers and pads.  The stock wheel bearing grease seals are used. These rub on Jim Turner’s bearing-spacers which are cut down to 0.67″ thickness from 0.75″ with the proximal side again radiused to accommodate the machining on the spindle.  These are a shrink-fit on the spindle. He sells a caliper adapter for the Stude trucks which I have modified to allow it to clear the upper spindle and needle bearing on the pre-war cars. Back-spacing with steel washer stand-offs gets the caliper in line with the rotors.  Two regular washers with 0.75″ i.d. are needed under the regular “keyway” washer to get the outer bearing snugged up to its race.  The front rotors have a 5″ bolt circle which is not a problem for me.  I am using 15″ unilug aluminum wheels front and back. These will be “disguised” to look older with full moon discs. Pre-war Commanders, Presidents and most Stude pickups used a 5″ bolt pattern.

Modified Turner truck disc conversion brackets

Spindle mods

Swing-arm: In discussions with Dr. Starr, it seems that for this vehicle, a swing-arm radius of 30″ would be optimal.  That seemed long, but would make a few things work out better.  The longer the wheelbase, the easier it is to get the mass low.  The location of the swing-arm pivot needs to be above an imaginary line drawn from the top of the front tire to the contact patch of the rear tire and the longer swing-arm makes that easier.  Leaving the components where they are, with the longer wheelbase afforded by the longer swing-arm will also effectively put less weight on the rear of the vehicle, and should improve turning characteristics.  If the rear-end turns out to be a little too light, I can shift some heft back there or add ballast .   I have purchased a pair of 1.75″ wide trailer springs from Northern Tool which are said to be good for 750 lbs each.  I plan to cut each about4″ beyond center on one end, and secure that end to the frame, with the “eye” end running rear-wards over the swing-arms, connected by a shackle.  There will be a tube shock (probably from an early 50’s Mopar ) on each arm, fastened at one end to the swing-arm (adjustable by multiple holes in the bracket) and at the other to a frame element that comes about 8″ up and across to tie the two sides of the swing-arm support assembly together.  The swing-arms themselves are odd cross-section channel steel, the pivots being surplus double-ball bearing units sitting in machined carriers which in turn are welded into the swing-arms.  Sideplay is adjusted with wired locknuts and shims.  Axle adjustment and thus chain tension will be by machined slots in the swing-arm  sandwiched with adjustable yokes.

Swing arm support

Swing arm pivot

Idea for a swing-arm

Front suspension:  I wanted to use that really cool pre-51′ planar front suspension, but with some changes to suit the present application.  The original spring had 16 leafs and an aggressive arch.  This left ground clearance near 12″, which was appropriate for the road conditions (and 4-doorheft) of the original vehicle.  I wanted to get the track as wide as a Caddy and as low as a Mini for cornering.  Measuring the eye to eye unloaded spring, it was 46″.  I found a mid 80’s chev truck front spring with a flatter profile, half the thickness and with symmetric eyes.  It had 1/2″ bushes.  I made small bushings to bring the9/16″ holes in the spring perches down for a grade 8 half inch bolt. I used 2″ square thick wall tubing to make spacers which would bring the A-arms out to about the right place to match the spring width and give the right camber.  This can be further adjusted with stock camber shims.

A-arm spacer for wider track

Front spring/perch

The 2003 MonteCarlo power steering rack is about 2.3 turns lock to lock, and internal inspection reveals it can be used without power in this light vehicle.  The outer ends pivot about where the camber-limiting links are anchored, and I suspect will be good for minimal bump-steer.  The rack is “behind the axle” type and is minimally heavier than a manual rack.

A front sway-bar from a 53′ Stude coupe is set in place.  It will be fastened to special brackets which are mounted where the old Houdaille shocks screwed in to the upper medial a-arms thru conventional link rods..  I’ll shorten the ends to prevent interference with the steering.
(earlier picture to show shock excursion)
Lt front with shock brackets….tape on shock is lower limit of upper tube
10/08  Progress has been a little slow, as I have been working on my long-time “cruiser” Elsie

I have made a few decisions since starting….Decided that the “cush” will be handled by the automotive clutch, and the rest of the rubber in the driveline will be removed.  I have cleaned up the Stude 3-speed manual with overdrive, and built a very short “driveshaft” to mate it to the differential.

I am working on the girdle which will hold the differential in line with the swing-arm axis.  This girdle will be attached to struts coming laterally to the frame rails.

The body will be a cut up c-cab or bits and pieces of a 1937 Stude 4-door dictator I have found.

To get the whole thing down, and change the angle of the upper a-arms in relation to the transverse spring, I removed a number of leaves.  This should bring the virtual roll-center close to the ground.

Well, the car is now off the rack and sitting on the concrete with the engine/transmission/driveshaft/differential in position for the initial “fit”.  It looks like the weight of these components will bring the ground clearance down to a useable height.  By that, I mean that it can still go up driveways without scraping, but not compromise handling too much.  I know approximately where the seats will be now.

I have been trying to analyze what makes a comfortable interior.  A pet peeve is all the special construction vehicles (hot rods, three wheelers, race cars etc.)  that are built to look cool, but can’t be tolerated for more than a 10 mile ride.  A friend with a Triking gets leg spasms whenever he drives it any distance!  Interviews with guys driving chopped and channeled coupes almost universally indicate that the “look” took president over comfort, and that real driving enjoyment was compromised.
I thoroughly enjoy driving my 2002 Mini Cooper S, and felt that the Tribaker needed to be equally comfortable.  I have compared interior dimensions of the Mini, the MGTC, the Saturn Sky, the Miata and the Corvette and have come to some conclusions about what might comprise a fairly “universal” recommendation to shoot for, provided that the driver is not too far from average size. I haven’t seen this discussed or published anywhere.  I didn’t record center hump heights, which I expect is a very personal preference, but have observed these to be comfortable up to about half way between the lower seat cushion and the arm-pit.  If the upper arm were straight down in driving position, it would be about one third of the way up.  Depends too on the height and placement of your shifter…..
Here are a few numbers:

Interior space                  MGTC                                                    Mini

Across seats                   45                                                           50.3

Seat width                       17

Seat depth                       17                                                           21

Dash height                    20.5 bottom

Dash height                    28  top                                                    28

Steering wheel               12 above seat

Steering wheel               12  before seat back

Firewall to seat              30.5                                                         30

pedals to seat                22                                                            26

Miata, Saturn Sky, Corvette were also evaluated.  All had about same legroom and cockpit width, so I will assume they would be similar to the Mini in terms of driving comfort.  Pedal positioning and design needs a good look…..

Dash height 28″ or less
Cockpit 55″ firewall to back of seat
Pedals 26″ from front of seat
Seat depth 21″ or less….down to 17″ (which is probably plenty)
Cockpit width 50″
Seat center 14.5″ from midline
Seat 17″ wide
Legroom (pedal to back of lower seat cushion) 42″
Possibly 6″ wells in upper kick-panel to allow clearance for pedals, etc. would be nice.

I think that I will be able to put the floor under the seats even with the top of the frame rails.  The seats will sit a little higher this way, but given my bum hip, should make getting in and out a bit easier.

With the running gear in place, back to the differential, and knowing the active swing arm length, I revised the wheelbase to 96”, down from 109”.  This will still give room for the LP tanks arranged like saddle-bags to each side of the rear wheel.  These can sit fairly low, yet still be in a good position for filling, the “business end” of the tanks facing rearward, unobstructed.  Insider information tells me that LP is headed below $3 a gallon (and that’s for the equivalent of 110 octane….).

Some engine pics

Here are a few recent pics of the frame getting tacked together.  I’ll get the pieces cut and in place, then take the whole thing apart, weld it and gusset it up.  I’ll sand blast it then and paint it black. I’ve got the rear suspension together now.  It uses two sets of trailer springs in a quarter elliptic configuration, and will be adjustable for ride height.


With height adjusters and “traction” bars added.

Now that I can see where I will be sitting, I have decided to use a top-mount shifter on the T86 transmission.  I’ll be detailing how this is done at some point, with guidance by Gord Richmond.


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