Building Kevin's New Machine - February 2005

By Eric Hansen (Mister 4x4 @

I was on a forum site that I visit all the time and read the story of Kevin Suberg's battle with Medulloblastoma - brain cancer (Kevin's website).  Kevin is the nephew of my friend and co-worker Ron, and is one of the neatest kids I've ever met.  When Ron mentioned that Kevin wasn't doing well on the website forums (, the members decided they wanted to do something special for Kevin. 

I had built Rusty (my NASCAR machine) because I wanted to have something unique and fitting to have in my room with all my NASCAR collectibles.  When Kevin saw a picture of it, all he could say was "COOL!"  After hearing that he was not doing well again, I made up my mind that building a machine for him was what I wanted to do.

I had talked it over with Ron via MSN Messenger and we had decided that we were going to build the machine and split the cost.  At some point, he had brought it up to his friends at and they decided that's what they wanted to do with the money they were collecting for Kevin.  So I put together a parts list for everything needed build the machine with a cost estimate, and the money started rolling in.

I had the honor of meeting Kevin and his parents around the end of January after completing a class I attended in San Antonio, Texas.  I was sitting in my hotel room yakking on MSN one night, and his Mom jumped on.  We talked a bit and then I found out they were in San Antonio too.  The light went on for me, as I'm sure I'd heard that somewhere before.  I asked if I could meet with them and they agreed.  The Saturday morning after my class, I went over to their place and we had a ball - he showed me his room with all his NASCAR stuff (which makes me look like I'm just getting started), played some games, and went to lunch.  We had lots of fun and I talked with his parents about building the computer for Kevin while he raided the 'claw' machine and won more toys.  His Mom mentioned that the local racetrack was going to sponsor a Daytona 500 Race Watch party at one of the local pubs, and I figured that would be the perfect time to present the machine to Kevin.  Having seen Rusty, she asked me how long it would take to build the machine, and I told her I would have it ready in time for the Daytona party.  She was a little unsure of my claim and kept asking me if I was sure - that it seemed awfully short notice to build something like that... with only 3 weeks lead time.  I told her no problem... I'd have it ready.

When I returned from San Antonio, I ordered all the parts and had them shipped 2nd Day Air so I could get working on it as quickly as possible.  The stuff from Tower Hobbies showed up first, so I was able to start putting the chassis and body together.  I still had the other half of the sheet of aluminum I made Rusty out of, so I began with that.

After cutting down the body to the right shape I was looking for, I marked and cut the chassis out of the aluminum sheet with a pnuematic jigsaw.  After cleaning up the edges with a file and Dremel, I decided to polish the chassis before I did anything else, to save my knuckles from getting hacked up on the rough edges.  This time, I decided to paint the underside with the same colors as the body, so I sand-blasted the bottom side for better paint adhesion.  I used the same 1”x1” aluminum L-channel stock and made the wheel mounts, which I pop-riveted to the chassis.  I also had to cut a round hole in the back for the power supply fan for ventilation.  I also found the need to bend the chassis upwards of 15 degrees in the back to stay tucked under the body.  The power supply barely fits under the ‘trunk’ now.

I had to custom-fab a bulkhead for the power switch & LED and the reset switch and hard drive light, and one for the second USB connector as well.  For that, I used the same 1”x1” aluminum L-channel I used to mount the wheels to the chassis with.  After that, I located everything and drilled the necessary holes to mount everything.  I found a new power cord with a 90-degree bend so I wouldn't have to cut another hole in the body for it to exit.

Now it was time to put everything on the chassis.  I mounted the hard drive up front this time, and put the CD-ROM under the mobo with its facing the left side of the car, so Kevin could eject the CD-ROM without having to lift the body or make room in front of the car like I did with Rusty.  The laptop CD-ROM was mounted using Velcro this time – to allow putting a new one in in case it goes bad over time.  These modifications are going to find their way into Rusty eventually, since they make a lot more sense than what I've got now.

I painted the wheels and put the 'Goodyear' stickers on, along with some strips of yellow electric tape (which is how the pit crews align their tires when they put them on).  I found some #24 decals and the body came with some of the Monte Carlo body decals, so all I had to come up with were the sponsor decals.  So once again, I used PaintShop Pro 6 and PhotoShop 6 to make the decals and print them out on adhesive-back photo paper – a few were scanned from actual pictures of the real car, but the rest were drawn by me.  Getting the decals to fit was easier this time since I already had a pretty good idea how big they were supposed to be, so it worked out fairly well. 

Some of the people weren't aware and couldn't believe that it was a computer.  The Emcee for the party thought it was a Remote Controlled car, until I corrected him - then he was kinda surprised afterwards.

Below are the system specs and pictures taken during the building process with more details about what's going on.

System Specs:


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