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Jeff Shirley builds a Dillon Mini Vee

As always, the project starts with pencil lines on sheets of plywood.

Jeff is building his Mini Vee in Illinois, USA. He bought his plans after watching racing at the 2011 OPC Nationals in Kankakee, IL. He posted this video of our GT Pro race.

(That's Megan Halver taking the lead in her Dillon Mini Tunnel, and my own Mini Vee coming up behind her.)

Jeff has expressed interest in racing. Maybe he'll be driving his Mini Vee with us at the Nationals next summer.

A stack of bulkheads.

"I chose to do the 20" cockpit, zero setback version," Jeff says.

A bulkhead and the transom test fit to the coamings.

"I'm in a holding pattern of sorts," he says. "I ordered my epoxy glue... but it hasnt arrived yet."

"I made some bracing for the stem with some scraps," Jeff says.

"While I was waiting for the epoxy to come in I prefit as much as I could.... Once the epoxy came in it was quick to pull the parts off and have them perm installed"

"Going thru the other customers builds, I saw one that had bracing added between #4 and the transom, I thought that was a good idea. I also decided to add a couple stringers between #4 and #3 (#3 is modded) so that the seat would have something to screw/adhere to."

"For the motor plate I went with 2 pieces of 3/4" ply laminated together. It might be overkill for a 35hp motor but I put a motor thru a transom once."

Actually, that's not overkill at all. From 1.25" to 1.75" is what I recommend.

"I was very nervous about bending the wood as I had never done it before," Jeff says. "Turns out I shouldnt have been. All I needed was some good clear wood and some patience. I went 1 bulkhead at a time until I got to the front and then I just grabbed both sides and bent them in slowly at the same time. 2 screws in the front and it was all held on. "

"I started dry fitting the hull pieces," Jeff says.

"My method for fitting the pieces was to cut it to the general size (a little larger than needed), attach it with a couple screws and then trace the outline with a marker... cut it a little big and then sand it down."

"Im about to get real friendly with my belt sander I think."

Next step is installing the pad.

"Though not shown in the pics," he says, "I did blend all but the last 50" of the ride pad."

"I decided that I dont want to 'glass the underside until all of the exterior work is done."

"With that decision made I went ahead and flipped it so I could begin work on the inside and deck"

"I also had a little help from my helper/tool hider."

We racers are always in favor of getting the kids involved.

Jeff isn't busy enough with one boat, so he's got another thing going....

"For a side project, I converted all the dimensions to 1/4 scale. After I get some cad work done, Ill send them to a buddy to cut on his cnc router so I can build the 1/4 scale rc version. Amazingly, I should be able to go straight to 1/4 scale and not have to modify any of the dimensions to make it 'work'."

Keeping us posted, Jeff, and send some pics.

"I added 2 cu ft of floation foam to the area between transom/bulkhead 4 and bulkheads 4/3. I may decide to add more foam, I have left myself provisions to do so (with a little work)."

NOTE: GT Pro rules require three cubic feet of flotation.

"I used a bunch of [polyester resin] I had laying around from projects. It should provide a nice waterproof coating. In the area between transom/bulkhead 4 I added a layer of 4oz mat when I glassed it."

"I finished the decking, though I dont care for how I did the front. In the picture you can see I have started filling the small gaps and screw holes with a mix of epoxy and saw dust (makes a great strong filler)."

"I couldnt help myself, I had to see what she would look like rigged with a "real" sized motor. Dont tell anyone that its just an empty case...lol."

Don't worry, Jeff. You're secret's safe with me....

"The boat's been laying on its back for a little bit now as I sand, epoxy and fiberglass. I rough sanded the hull for adhesion and then laid down a coat of epoxy. After that cured I sanded it and then coated the underside with polyester resin. The reason I used polyester for the topcoat is to give a harder coating than epoxy"

I questioned Jeff about using polyester resin over epoxy, a practice I learned long ago was not recommended.

"The trick," Jeff answered, "is to make sure the epoxy is completly cured (48hrs min) and then carefully measure your polyester/hardener. Manufactures might claim that it cures in 16hrs or so but it is still exotherming for up to days. You have to let the gasses have time to escape. You also have to make sure to give the epoxy a quick sand to promote bonding. Doing this lets the polyster cure in about 20 mins and is cool and rock hard in about 30."

It was actually Aeromarine who taught me about putting polyester over epoxy [regarding a different project].... They had recommended it because the softer epoxy was producing too much drag."

"I had to build a nose since I couldnt get wood longer than 12' locally. I glued 2 2x4's together then glued them to the nose (that was cut perfectly flat and sanded). I then cut and sanded it to shape."

"The hole you see is for the bow light. Since it wont be used just as a race boat I have to have lights. I was thinking ahead and cut a routing while the deck was off and then secured a wire with a screw that can be pulled out when I am ready to install the light."

"I finally started working seriously again."

"Boat is body filled and starting to sand it smooth. Hope to start paint in a week."

Painting done.

"I'm very happy with how the boat turned out. People that have seen it, can't believe that I built it in my garage with basic tools."

"Unlike the Johnson motors," Jeff reports, "the Force had no way to bolt a bracket at the mid/back so I had to 'fab' something up off the front steer bracket. I somehow dont think this bracket will pass any safety inspections (its been replaced by one out of 1/4" aluminum....)"

After trying a fishing seat, Jeff decided on something a bit simpler.

"Even though its just a piece of plywood, its actually pretty comfy (its getting some foam)."

Fuel tank and battery safely strapped down.

Ah, that looks better.

"I cut the [steering] bracket from 1/4" aluminum plate. I need to pull it off and wire wheel the sharp edges so it doesnt cut up my cables."

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The Evolution of the original Dillon Mini Vee
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Bringing back Mini GT racing, 2010
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