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Building the Bucky Wagon: Under the hood (technically, under the seats)

September 26, 2011


A cracked transmission put the Bucky Wagon out of commission in the first place, so the installation of a new transmission and motor is a pretty monumental step in finishing the revamped wagon. Still, the assembly of the electric motor, donated by Remy International, and the transmission, from ZF Transmissions, seems somewhat unceremonious, partly because it’s the sort of thing that members of the vehicle team do all the time. Here you can see members of the vehicle teams goofing around near the new motor and transmission before they bolt them together using an adaptor system designed by other students in the program. The new engine won’t be under the hood, but instead beneath the body of the wagon. Now, the hood will house all the batteries necessary to keep the wagon running. The engine provides enough power to get the wagon up to around 30 mph. It’s not exactly a speed demon—but there’s more than enough oomph to ferry the Spirit Squad around in style on game day.

From left to right: Formula SAE Team member Kevin Higgins, the electric motor donated by Remy International, and the transmission donated by ZF Transmissions.



Building the Bucky Wagon: Same Classic Siren


The Bucky Wagon’s siren has been cleaned and polished to a new shine, but it’s still the same siren the wagon sounded in Camp Randall in 1973. Not only does it maintain the look of the wagon, the siren–along with the old headlights, which also are cleaned up originals–are some of the most valuable parts of the wagon, fetching several thousand dollars apiece when up for sale. Unfortunately, engineers designing fire engines in the 1930s weren’t all that concerned about electricity use, so the siren is a huge power draw. If left unchecked, that power draw could spell trouble for an all-electric vehicle, so Bower and his team have worked around the siren’s limitations: A controller will prevent the siren from wailing for too long or too often, depending on battery levels. A few short bursts might be kind of a bummer—but that’s certainly better than forcing the Spirit Squad to push the Bucky Wagon the rest of the way to its destination.

The siren has been cleaned up, but otherwise it will function the same as ever, flaws and all.



Building the Bucky Wagon: Body Work

September 19, 2011


The body of the Bucky Wagon has only recently started to look like something even close to the iconic fire wagon, mostly because restoring the body has been a tedious, time-consuming process. First, the original body went to the Madison College body shop, where rusted-on bolts had to be ground off to free each piece from the body for restoration. With the wagon stripped down to its skeleton, the frame headed to Eau Claire-based EnviroTech to be sandblasted and powder-coated, banishing rust from the renovated wagon’s undercarriage.

Finally, the wagon headed to Pierce Manufacturing in Appleton, where it remains while Pierce engineers–mostly working in between other projects, even on weekends in some cases–have stripped each piece of the wagon of its original paint and primed them all for a fresh coat of Badger red. They’ve also reconstructed the parts of the body that were either beyond repair or not designed for the rigors of carrying around the Spirit Squad, leaving a pile of discarded Bucky Wagon parts in their junk heap.

Now, the wagon awaits its final coat of paint. Until then, take a look at photos of the vanilla-flavored body, primed and ready to show its school colors.

Pierce Engineers re-assembled parts that could be re-used, and reproduced those that were beyond repair.

The frame of the Bucky Wagon, shortly before being sand-blasted and powder-coated at Envirotech in Eau Claire.



Building the Bucky Wagon: Tires and Rims

September 13, 2011


Not everything about the Bucky Wagon could be faithfully brought over to the all-electric version. Most of the changes won’t be visible–the old motor, brakes and steering mechanisms had to go for obvious reasons, but their disappearance will not be immediately apparent to Badger fans watching the wagon glide by. But one necessary cosmetic change is being made to the wheels, specifically the wagon’s rims.

The original Bucky Wagon had split rims, the type that you might see on a tractor, with an outer rim supporting the tire and an inner rim that connects the axle and the tire. This makes tire changes possible without removing the entire wheel assembly, but the design of the rim places a tremendous amount of pressure on the bolts holding rims together. Changing split rims requires a level of experience that students working on the wagon might not have. And then there’s the small point that having students work with a rim nicknamed “the widow maker” probably wouldn’t be popular with parents and administrators.

Swapping the cumbersome old rims for new rims from Alcoa became a matter of necessity–they may not look like something that came off the assembly line in 1931, but the custom-made rims look pretty sharp just the same.

Glenn Bower explains the dangers of the old split rim design.


Shiny custom-made aluminum rims, courtesy of Alcoa.



Building the Bucky Wagon: Batteries Included

September 1, 2011


It’s been a few months since the last update on our intrepid Bucky Wagon.

Frankly, it’s in pieces.

But trust us,, that’s a good thing–the entire body has been disassembled to be primed and repainted a glorious Badger red. The frame has been rebuilt and powder-coated. New pieces of the wagon arrive in the garage every week, as Glenn Bower and his students work tirelessly getting the Bucky Wagon ready for its debut at this year’s homecoming.

We’re going to be highlighting these pieces on the blog each week as the big day approaches. When the completed wagon finally comes together, expect a sneak peak at the big reveal.

First up, we’re talking about power: the lithium-ion battery pack donated by A123 Systems—something that’s definitely new to the old fire engine. The huge battery array in the Bucky Wagon will be regulated by a controller that ensures the batteries are depleted evenly and at a safe temperature–warm so that the batteries provide the optimal electrical output, but not so hot as to give Bucky second-degree burns in his seat. The batteries provide enough juice to get the wagon up to a planned top speed of around 30 MPH.

Check back for more updates on the engine, the new tires and more as the wagon comes together.

Lithium-ion batteries that will power the all-electric Bucky Wagon.



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