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Maximum Bubble Mods - Spirit of Motion

Josiah Fast

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I'm new to scratch building so hello fellow enthusiasts!


This build is for my father. He loves early automotive design and I was inspired when I saw a 1938 Spirit of Motion made by the late Graham-Paige company. The design and shape of this build is heavily inspired by the "sharknose" grill the Spirit of Motion has.


Because of complexity and the number of parts I wanted to model the case first. Modeling also is helping me keep sense of the scale. I want this to be as small as possible as it will probably be displayed on a desk top and we all like space! I will also need the drawings/schematics for cutting metal parts out.


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I wanted it leaning forward but unlike the original car I also wanted it widening as it goes up in height to give the sense of moving onward and upward! Very "Spirit of Motion" of me I know.


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Next was the grill design itself and the "panels" (do i still call them panels? lol). I chose a color scheme at this point with: candy apple (red), silver, and black.


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Started stuffing generic standard size components in and creating the needed mounts and fixtures for parts. Because this is a car grill it only seemed natural to put a 280mm radiator right in front where it belongs.


The big kicker for this case will be how you access your components. This choice is also why the motherboard is inverted and mirrored and the GPU will be vertical mount. To keep the I/O below the hinge point.




Next up is creating the 2D drawing files for waterjet cutting the raw aluminum grill pieces, lasercutting and bending of the sheetmetal for the rear I/O, aluminum frame, rad mounts, mobo mount, ect ect.  Update coming real soon!

Thank you to my sponsors!
EVGA provided a fully modular SuperNOVA G5 power supply  AND  NVIDIA provided a GeForce RTX 2080

Edited by Josiah Fast
Fixing pictures
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  • 1 month later...

The 3D and 2D models of the one sheetmetal piece I am having made are sent and the part is in the que. The twenty three unique files for the grill pieces are being cut via waterjet and I'll have those soon.

I traded some work for time in a machine shop so this update is covering a couple days I was able to spend working on the first aluminum parts.




The first day was focused on making the large side panels from 12 x 12 x 1/2 inch 6061 aluminum I got off ebay. Because each panel has many threaded holes in different locations on the inside, I started by drilling and tapping all those. I then flip the side panels over and use those threaded holes as my alignment and way of mounting the side panels to a fixture plate so I could cut the final outside shape and the roundover. So below you can see my finished right side panel being held down by the threaded holes that will eventually be where my motherboard is mounted!


panel2.thumb.jpg.03f4073ec18c612be520819e511e6068.jpg panel1.thumb.jpg.8b15f6ba2b82b53c210167d6bd8a32c1.jpg


Day two I needed to machine the two 1 x 1/2" bars that connect the two plates together. Because the case widens as it goes up the ends were cut at a 92 degree angle on each end. Once made the main body could be welded. I made it beefy and welded this main body because the entire grill (hood?) will hinge off the rear of this. It needs to be a little heavy and to be stiff.


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Last thing I did was to machine a few more pieces that will be needed. I cut the profiles of these all with the CNC and then using a manual mill I drilled and threaded the holes on the perpendicular plane. These pieces are two lower radiator mounts, the air spring mount, and the grill backplate.


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  • 3 weeks later...

Hey all! With frame welded up I started filing the welds that needed to be flush because it is either going to show or there would be sheet metal mating against it. Some that will show I went ahead and used a round file to create a nice radius between the pieces instead of my less than perfect TIG weld 😅


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I followed up with some rough sanding. This gets my shape right and now I will just leave it raw aluminum for a while so I don't have to worry about scratching paint or anything while assembling/ mocking-up stuff etc.

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I then 3D printed the motherboard mounting bracket I designed. It would have been easiest to simply mount the motherboard to the aluminum side panel with threaded holes and standoffs but this bracket holds the motherboard further away and adapts the angled side panel so the motherboard will be truly vertical like the other components. I used 3mm black oxide screws and 1/4" standoffs.




I currently have a mATX board that is going in this build but it would be super simple to 3D print a different bracket for any other size board. The board is a msi B450M Pro-M2 MAX (really rolls off the tongue haha)


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  • 2 weeks later...

The frame probably is a little over built, so I'll elaborate on the thought process for the choices.


  1. I want the side panels 1/8" proud of the grill and to have the radius on them (The radius I used was a 1/8"). The grill also rests on the side panels and I should have probably another 1/8" of a lip for it all to rest on. So they needed to be at minimum 1/4" thick for the aesthetic I wanted.
  2. When the grill is in the up position I didn't want the frame to appear more flimsy/weak than the grill so I wanted it to be AT LEAST as thick as the grill material which varies but is mostly around 3/8" thick.
  3. The air spring that will open and hold the grill up is mounted pretty close to the hinge. Because of this the force needed to push open the grill will be in the ball park of ~70 pounds of force (based on an estimated assembled grill weight of 10-15lbs. The air spring force will all be acting on the top rear cross bar. I required a very stiff rear cross bar.
  4. I will use a piano hinge for mounting the grill I think so I need a relativly wide face to mount that to. Most sturdy hinges are 3/4" - 2" wide flanges so I will be cutting that down but should probably have at least 1/2" for mounting that to.
  5. All my sheet metal, 3D prints, air spring, mounts etc. will be mounted to the inside of the case with no fasteners showing on the outside. The air spring I will use has 5/16 "-18 threads which is pretty course so the left side panel that will be drilled and tapped for that needs to be at least 1/2" thick and I will still have to cut down the stud that comes with the air spring some.


So needing a minimum of 3/8" side panels for aesthetics, and the rear cross bar and right panel needing 1/2" thick material, I decided to do it all in 1/2" plate 6061.


The grill's center of gravity is out towards the nose so I also wanted to make sure that when the grill is in the up position it does not want to tip if bumped. So a little bit of added weight could be a welcome addition to just being stable. With all the components in the back of the case as well, the weight really won't be an issue probably but a tippy computer doesn't sound like a good time haha

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Water jet cut grill pieces arrived! There are 25 pieces that make up the grill and each one is unique from the rest.  These are all 6061 aluminum with the majority of them being 1/4" thick. Three of the grills are 1/2" thick and the spine is 3/8" thick. This is going to be the most labor intensive part of the build (and probably lest fun haha).


Waterjet.thumb.jpg.bba157e2c42c099e02592a55c865c33c.jpg Waterjet2.thumb.jpg.94d7eeb317ad94d0cfc8e0e9ec21578f.jpg




I started by using a big square and laying out a little template on my work table with a sharpie. The grills get longer and wider as you work your way up the computer (until the very top) so I made a little grid that I could quickly lay any pieces on and find center.




From here forward, and ESPECIALLY with this very first process of filing the fitment, I have to be so careful not to cut too much or slip. Since each piece is unique and these will be raw polished aluminum, there isn't the opportunity to hide mistakes with a filler or paint. Water jet cut aluminum has a slightly rough surface so I started by cleaning up the spine notch faces so the pieces could slide in more easily.




With the spine cleaned up I grabbed the bottom grill piece and took it to the band saw. The angle of the front of these grill pieces changes as you move along the spine so the angle was free handed initially. very gently I ran the piece back and forth along the blade, then I test fit to see how the angle was. If it was close I would hand file the face to a tight fit and if it was still a little off I would head back over to the band saw and get myself a bit closer.


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The next two pictures show a rough cut fitment and then after filing to a final fit.


FitmentExample.thumb.jpg.eff29eb00f75b26c74c55f2a82577853.jpg FitmentExample2.thumb.jpg.8792fa6fe4ccb0079c65668c4c0c4de5.jpg


The rest of the curve really does not need to be so perfect as it is out in free space and not mating against another piece of metal. The rest will simply need to be very smooth shaping so the polish doesn't look super wavy and distorted. This took me a few hours to shape them all.




I then squeezed all the pieces in the spine so I could check it out for the first time and it definitely got me excited to keep up the pace!


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So this was the first step in a lot of work on these. Next steps:

  1. Polish the top, bottom, and back side of all of these pieces.
  2. Fit the pieces back in the spine and weld them all on the inside of the spine.
  3. Fit the back mount and side bar that will hold all the loose ends together.
  4. Weld those to the grill on the inside.
  5. Using files and sanding, shape the front contour.
  6. Polish the outside of the grill.
  7. Celebrate.
Edited by Josiah Fast
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I played with the design of the shelf/bracket. My dad still uses a disk drive so I wanted to include that for him. I picked out a replacement ultra slim diskdrive for a laptop that I'm mounting horizontally along the GPU.




I'm trying to decide on where to put the SSD that will look best though. Thinking of putting it maybe behind it the optical drive and then running their cables together somehow? The optic drive uses micro sata also which is also new for me.


After I spent a couple hours working on the platform that supports and/or mounts the SSD, optic drive, and GPU. After inspiration from @Jean R built on the bit-tech forums (thanks again!) I decided to include a track along the side of the platform where I can run my cables for the optic and solid state drive in a cleaner configuration.


The optic drive cables will sweep back 180 degrees into the track and the SSD's cables will do a smooth 90 degree bend into the track. I didn't want to make the channel large enough to fit the connectors through so I made a slit along it's length. It is just wide enough to press each cable into the channel and the channel just large enough to fit all the cables (theoretically haha)


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Now at the back of the case, the sata connectors will run behind the motherboard mount, come out at the motherboard's edge where the connectors are, and plug in there. Nice and clean. The power cables will stay low and run along the side and to the front of the power supply.


I like this a lot more as there will not be any of these cables now crossing in open space through the case.

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Thank you for the compliments! Now, mistake time!


So I got the one sheet metal piece that I had made by a local shop. The lightly textured black powder coat and workmanship look sooooo good.


SheetMetal3.thumb.jpg.fe1449b6a0224e522e1c96bc1a37533f.jpg SheetMetal.thumb.jpg.c62ebacd452dbf0eff9de360c7ef0455.jpg


The excitement was short lived though as I instantly noticed that I messed up pretty badly. BUT... fixable. I forgot the power supply fan hole so I measured it and marked where I was going to need a big hole in my brand new sheet metal part.


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I put a scrap piece of wood behind the cavity, clamped it to the corner of the table and I grabbed a metal blade for the jigsaw. This is the bottom of the case but I could have preserved the powder coat finish better if I would have lay masking tape or painters tape all over that bottom surface. Hindsight. Applied some oil and went to carefully cutting out the hole.


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I took my time and the jig saw did a pretty good job besides some scratching of the powder coat. I grabbed a couple files and smoothed the edges just a little before sanding the inside edge with some 80 grit sandpaper. Ended up being nice and smooth to the touch once I was done.




Could have all been avoided work but I'm glad it was something easily fixed without compromise.

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  • 2 weeks later...

First thing I did after the fun I had cutting that giant hole in the sheet metal was to actually mount it up. I cleaned the metal dust and cutting oil up and squeezed it in the frame. It is a snug fit but I'm happy to say all the holes line up and it looks fantastic!


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I'm not sure what to call the middle shelf/mount thing but I printed it up in the same filament as the motherboard mount. This print took around 24 hours but came out clean. There was some support material on the bottom and within the cable channel that needed to be removed but it popped out nicely and you can't see any of those areas regardless.


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I mounted this to the main aluminum frame but the bracket did not line up perfectly with the sheet metal cutouts. I didn't want to re-print the part so I found some small washers and simply spaced the bracket out by a washer width. Lined up well after that and I tightened it up. I want the alignment close because of the optic drive.


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I grabbed the power supply and slipped it under the bracket and mounted it up.



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The optic drive just slides into the back and the bracket. It has a cutout for the cables as well as the three holes for mounting it at the rear. The drive cables will come out, do a U-turn, and go into the cable channel along the bracket's edge.


OpticDrive1.thumb.jpg.ac0d20078aee2538a87b73409896e3fd.jpg Channel1.thumb.jpg.d715ff898783586cf673e4b9093b341f.jpg


Further out on the bracket is the SSD mounting location. This is lifted up so the cable can come out the bottom and turn 90 degrees into the channel. These cables will run with the optic drive cables to the back of the case. I made a couple cutout on the 3D printed bracket so the SSD wasn't insulated against plastic. Better airflow even if it isn't needed was my thought.


SSD1.thumb.jpg.07df6c8d2490f02c798693a0346d5b60.jpg SSD2.thumb.jpg.69ed04705c819d48a930778fdb375663.jpg


The picture below shows why the alignment of the 3D printed bracket needs to be pretty close. The optic drive doesn't have huge amounts of space around it. No large panel gap on this vehicle!




I slid the GPU in the sheet metal cutout and noticed that the PCB sticks out proud of its plastic housing. Along the edge that sits on the 3D printed bracket. This holds the GPU up a little so I will need to make a little cutout along the 3D printed bracket so it can sit down the tenth of an inch or so that it is being held up.


GPU1.thumb.jpg.24ab1f9b9fc1c0a698bf97bf5789c53d.jpg GPU2.thumb.jpg.4fc2cb7990d709f3add29b4f628ba0a2.jpg


Because the case is so open and the cooling will be coming in the front and out the top, the rear of the build I think looks simple and clean and I'm really happy with it.





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