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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Finished my Masters last Wednesday. After a relatively quiet 2 years on the forum it is time to get back to work on the car.

I want to introduce: Project Ladybug

The car: 1970 Opel GT

The plan:

I received the car in 2014, freshened everything up and put 1000 miles on it. During those miles enough issues popped up for me to decide to go full resto-mod rebuild. The goal is to build a dependable ‘daily’ car. While it won’t see daily driving duty, I want a car that I can depend on to fire-up and drive. Part of this is good maintenance but the other part is starting with a good foundation. Second, I hope to bring some modern-ish comforts to the car: more heat shielding, more audio deadening, improved stereo system, fuel injection, and an overdrive gear (5spd). Last but not least, this car will see some (more) time on track - approximately 2-4 HPDE events per year and a handful of SCCA Autocross runs. To improve overall safety I am adding a rollbar to the rear, installing a race seat, and 6-point racing harness. Think of the final build as a track-day car that has a few creature comforts. It is meant to be the fun car, not the practical car ;)

The plan is to use this thread to post some history on the car and the progress I make each week. Weekly posting should keep me honest on the work I actually get done. My hope is to have the car moving under its own power by the end of 2018. Anything beyond that is gravy.

Technical issues I run into or general requests for opinions will be posted in separate threads in the forum.

Time to get wrenching!
 

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Congratulations Mister Master :haha:, good luck, and enjoy the progress!

And - keep 'em coming! The reports, and pics!

Dieter
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Where are we today?

To bring everyone up to speed: The last 2 years were not a complete pause. I have managed to strip the interior and pull the engine.

Evil Genius Racing welded in a 4-point roll bar in July. There is a certified removable section behind the passenger section to allow for easier access to the ‘trunk’.

In terms of parts waiting to be installed:

As some will remember from elsewhere on the site. I am the proud owner of a 2.2L(ish) engine that Charles helped put together (thanks Charles!). He also sent over a 5-spd in my engine shipment.

I have lots of other goodies hoarded over the past few years. Aluminum radiator, aluminum flywheel, MegaSquirt, big bearing rear end from a later GT and much more. Some parts, like the rear end, will be installed after the engine is up and running. Let’s break one thing at a time here, haha!

Lots of stories from the past to tell but this should bring everyone up to the current state of Project Ladybug.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Week 1

Hands-on time this week: 14.5 hours
Total: 14.5 hours

Someone once said, ‘If I had four hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first two hours sharpening the axe’. Well, this week I did a lot of ‘sharpening’. Working in a 1.5 car garage means space is at a premium. Over the past 6 months the garage had become a storage site so some housekeeping was in order. I bought some containers from Home Depot, got parts sorted and stored, and did a good cleaning. It isn’t perfect but the garage is better.

On the car side I spent a good chunk of time cutting and welding patch panels for some holes drilled in the interior for a three-point belt conversion. Did most of the grinding, but I still have a little bit more to go for a smooth finish. I borrowed my friends engine hoist and was able to get the engine off the rotary engine stand and onto a moving pallet. The idea is to have the engine on the ground to be able to mate it to the transmission. The transmission went up on the rotary engine stand so that I can give it a deep clean and spray it. Charles made the engine look so good I can’t slap the trans on there ‘as-is’. *Thanks for nothing Charles* ;)

While borrowing the engine hoist my friend let me snag his spare Kirkey Race seat. I did a test fit and was surprised by how much I liked it. I have historically used an Ultrashield Pro Road Race seat - it is super comfortable but a tight fit. The Kirkey sits a bit higher but is much narrower through the shoulder, meaning there is more room. I am still a good ways out from picking a seat but now I am conflicted on which seat to use. Ultimately, it will come down to maximizing driver visibility AND head room. Anyone have a favorite race-seat for a GT? It needs to be comfortable. Right now I would go with a side-mounted Ultrashield so I can perfectly dial in the height, tilt, and distance from steering wheel. (For what it is worth I am 6’).

Pictures from the week can be found here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/yKCQ3r9Zeqj64bup9

Next week I will be in Belize for a friend’s wedding so I won’t be making any progress. That said, when I get back I will be focusing on cleaning the engine bay and transmission as well as painting the roll-cage.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
A blast from the past: The known history

A blast from the past: The known history

Didn’t do much work on Project Ladybug this week due to travel. So in lieu of an update, I am posting about the history of the car.

My grandmother bought the car in 1973 from a Buick dealership in Virginia beach. The car was originally the dealer’s wife’s car. She had gone out of her way to customize it - the tennau top, stripe, and door bumpers were all dealer-installed. My grandmother drove the car for several years and then eventually it got stashed away.

As a kid, I only knew what the tail lights looked like because the GT lurked under a pile of garage junk. (Funny how I can still remember their garage in Suffolk and the smell of oil and gas.) Eventually my grandparents decided to move closer to my family in Richmond. They sold the house in Suffolk but kept the GT.

Now my grandma had a problem, she wanted to get the GT to Richmond (~1.5h) away, but she didn’t want to pay to have it towed. Moreover at the time she had some joint problems and couldn’t push the clutch. So sometime in the late 90’s my Mom limped the ol’ GT to Richmond. I need to ask her, but if I recall the GT had simply been uncovered and had some starter fluid sprayed in. It ran, not well, but enough to gimp to Richmond.

Once in Richmond my grandma was determined to get the GT back in shape. She eventually found an Alfa Romeo mechanic that would take on the project. From here on out I will refer to the mechanic as ‘Alf’. As a disclaimer, I really appreciate all Alf did. He helped me turn my first wrench on a car and did his best with a relatively oddball car. With that said, let’s say Alf was… pragmatic. He made all the typical GT upgrades: weber carb, headlight rewire, etc. but always did it in the easiest way. Some of the mini-projects in my build are redoing Alf’s repairs haha. Anyways, with grandma’s money and Alf’s handy work the GT came into the mid-00’s in a fairly reliable state.

By this time I had bloomed into a full gearhead: Watching car shows, dreaming of builds, and tinkering on engines. My grandma decide it was high time I learned to drive stick. After school she would let me drive around the neighborhood. I picked it up quickly but there were lots of stalls and sketchy situations on hills before I ‘got it’. She never complained and was a constant support. As a result, I can say that my grandma taught me to drive a manual in a GT!

Life then kicked into high gear. I went to college, moved out West for work, got married, and bought a house. All the while the GT sat in Richmond. I tried my best to maintain it from a distance but it was only run about 4 times a year. One day my grandma surprised me by offering to give me the GT! Of course I said yes, but then I had to get it across the US. I ended up contracting with an independent driver through Uship for a decent price. Waiting in Richmond as the tow rig pulled up I was nervous about the journey that lay ahead for it. Lucky for me the driver was from Europe, named Urs, and actually had owned a GT at one point. I am not sure who was more excited, Urs or myself. Either way Urs babied it as he traveled across the US and I took delivery a few weeks later out West. A lot has happened since then, but that is how in the Summer of 2014 I took ownership of the GT.

I will capture the Western adventures of the GT in the future but I wanted to close out by thanking my grandmother. She passed away in 2015 and was a huge part of my life. It is crazy to think how her purchase in 1973 lead to me learning stick and cementing my passion in cars. Regardless of the outcomes of Project Ladybug, the still unnamed GT will always occupy a special place for me and always stay in the family.
 

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Patrick,
Thanks for sharing the Opel and family history.
Your grandmother sounds like a wonderful person
(with great taste in cars :cool: )
I re-posted the pic in your pdf in case anyone had trouble
opening it. Keep us updated on your progress.
Regards,
Ron in Indy
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Week 1

Hands-on time this week: 7.5 hours
Total: 22 hours

Met my first setback in my project this week. As preparing to paint the cage I noticed that the driver side rear tube wasn’t fully welded. :grumpy:

I made some calls around and found a welder to come out to try and repair it. The good news is that he will come to me so I don’t have another tow. The missing weld is very close to the roof so I am not sure he will be able to repair it - which would be a major setback. Lesson learned kids, always check every weld BEFORE leaving the shop that is a 3 hour tow away…

While work stopped on the cage I made progress in other areas. I was able to clean most of the old oil off the 5 speed. One more wire brushing and it will be ready for paint! I removed the wiper motor overcoming 2 rusted on screws, in preparation for some paint touch ups. I finished the patch panels in the rear quarters, removed the fuel tank, and undid the wiring harness to remove Alf’s lazy wiring repair. Took the Dremel to some small rust patches in the rear drivers window frame and will put on some rust inhibitor next week.

Overall the week was a bit of a bummer. It stinks to pay good money for ‘professional’ work to have it not be done correctly. The new welder comes out tomorrow night. Fingers crossed he can repair it. I didn’t get my full 10 hours in, mostly using my extra time to chase down a welder. I did get to order some parts which always makes you feel a bit better (S-10 clutch and Lizardskin ceramic insulation and sound insulation).

This upcoming week could split one of two ways. If the welder completes the cage I have a lot of time to make some solid progress. I will paint the cage and prime the raw metal in the interior. Once all the metal is covered I will get started scrubbing the engine bay in preparation for paint. If the welder can’t complete the weld… it will stink (let’s cross that bridge when we get to it.)

Week 2 pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/yKCQ3r9Zeqj64bup9
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Week 3

Hands-on time this week: 10 hours
Total: 32 hours


About to hit the road for two weeks to hike the Inca trail and wanted to update everyone before heading out. Week was sporadic but I ended up squeezing out 10 hours.

I was able to have a welder come out and complete the missing portion of the cage. Once that was complete I scrubbed the whole cage with steel wool and then wiped it down with alcohol. After prep, I painted it with two coats of Rust-oleum hammered black. I contemplated spraying but after talking with some friends with cages they pointed me in this direction. I am very happy with the outcome. The paint is self-leveling and applied via brush. This has two benefits: first, I don’t have to tape off all the panels in the car to apply paint and two, I can always touch up any scratches easily in the future. The weld, prep, and paint took up a large percentage of the week. I used the remainder of the time to prepare the car for spraying Lizard Skin. I removed the riveted sheet metal above the gas tank and removed 5 of the 6 lights in the rear. While I am not as far along as I hoped, I have made solid progress.

When I return I am going to continue to prepare the car for Lizard Skin. I need to remove a few more bits and then clean the engine bay. I have some time reserved on a lift to be able to knock out all the painting work quickly. In other news, I picked up a relatively cheap set of wheels from a buddy. I really like the design of them but will need to paint them because I am not going to stick with the red. Slow and steady wins the race so I am continuing to put one foot in front of the next.

Talk to y’all in a few weeks!

Week 3 pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/yKCQ3r9Zeqj64bup9
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
The first 1,000 miles

I am back and getting to work. In lieu of an update this week I have a story!

I drove the GT for 1,000 miles between when I received it in California and when I pulled the engine to start Project Ladybug. This is the story of those first 1,000 miles

The first thing I did was drive it everywhere and the first thing it did was show me all the problems a 40 year-old problem can have as a daily driver! Where I live in California is a good bit warmer than what the car experienced in Virginia. I spent my first miles always closely watching the temperature gauge and praying to make it to my destination before it got too hot. Once I made it I had to pray to the auto gods that the carb would not vapor-lock from sitting in the hot engine bay. The new-to-me charm quickly faded and it was obvious some changes were needed.

The first modifications were to address the overheating in all of its forms. I pulled the radiator and had it professionally cleaned and added a filter to the radiator hose to keep it clean*(more to come here). I re-routed the fuel line off the block and to the colder side of the carb. In addition, I added a heat shield under the carb and added an electric fan. All said-and-done my heat problems disappeared in daily-driving situations. With the car in better working order I could tackle some bigger trips and goals.

So what did I get up to?

I attended VARA racing school at Buttonwillow raceway. I got the GT on track, fell in love with racing going over Phil hill, and met Gary (a fellow GT owner who races with VARA). I went to two autocross events hosted by the SCCA and witnessed how the GT performs on tight technical courses. I attended a track day at Thunderhill and realized that I hadn’t beaten my cooling issues on-track. Finally, I capped all these experiences off by doing the goldrush run to Gil’s with the NorCal Opel group. I had a ton of fun racing and driving all over Northern California and seeing what the ol’ GT could do!

WIth all of that said, I do not want to give the false impression that it is all sunshine and rainbows. These fun times were punctuated with frustrating and difficult moment. At Buttonwillow I blew off my lower radiator hose and spun out (learned the value of t-clamps as a result) and I sheared the pin in my throttle linkage and had to coast off track (slapped it back together with the help of a Mustang driver). At the first autocross I was humbled in both my ‘skills’ and car by being slower than a stock Toyota Echo. At my second autocross, I almost broke down on the side of the road due to a clogged fuel line and was saved by having a back up filter. On the goldrush run to Gil’s I almost broke down on the outskirts of Auburn because a small nut had backed off in the distributor and stuck the advance - I was only saved because Mike was carrying the super tiny socket that allowed me to reconnect it (Thanks agaon Mike!). I wish these were the only failures but they are unfortunately just a subset. There is a deep sense of satisfaction overcoming these issues but it is worth pointing out the less-fun sides of my exploits. While I love a good car TV show I find that they typically fail to show the realities of dealing with cars in the wild. The fun is in the challenge not the simplicity haha.

Ultimately I achieved my goal of sampling the GT in a variety of different driving pursuits: racing, autocross, grand tour, and daily driver. All of these experiences showed me a different side of the GT and potential areas of improvement - all of which informed the Project Ladybug roadmap. Now it is time to get back to wrenching so that I can make some new memories in the rebuilt GT.

Photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/djdahapxv329jGKa6
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Week 4

Hands-on time this week: 10 hours
Total: 42 hours

They say prep is 90% of a good paint job… it is also 90% of the work! Even with the short week I was able to squeeze in 10 hours. All of it was spent preparing to take the car to my buddy’s shop and spray sound and heat insulation.

I finished removing all the rear lights. I rolled up the wiring harness to not overspray it and I removed all the vent tubing. I removed both door windows and regulators. I also spent a good chunk of time removing the black ‘caulking’ that held a plastic sheet between the interior panel and cut outs in the door structure. Additionally, I removed the clutch and gas pedals from the interior and the brake rod and clutch cable from the engine bay. Last but not least I finished patching the two holes in the rear interior quarter panels.

This prep stuff just eats up time without seeing a lot of progress. I found one additional hole I want to weld up and I need to finish a spot on the rear quarter window. Once those are done I will need to get to work with the wire wheel to prep the interior. After all that is done I will tape up everything and start spraying. I am moving the GT to the shop tomorrow and hop to lay the sound deadening this week.

Week 4 pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/yKCQ3r9Zeqj64bup9
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Week 5

Hands-on time this week: 10 hours
Total: 52 hours

The GT moved to my friends shop this week so I can leverage his lift and air tank. Having the car in the shop has pros and cons. Pros - I have more space and access to some great tools. Cons - The shop is about 30 minutes away round trip and I can’t leave things lying around because it is a shared space. In short, I can make faster progress when I am there but I lose more time per day I work on the car.

This week, I spent 2 hours on the car shuffle - pushing the GT out of my garage and towing it over. In between time at the shop, I was able to paint the transmission and get the engines beside each other to swap accessories. At the shop, I welded up the remaining holes in the rear package and fixed a piece that rusted out in the rear driver window. There is a small amount of work left to finish off those repairs. I also started the tedious process of wire-wheeling the interior. You can see what the passenger side looks like in the photos. I need to finish wheeling the rest of the interior and removing a few last interior pieces. Once that is done I will wipe it all down, tape it off, and spray. I thought I would get to spraying last week but it is taking twice as long as anticipated. This week should be the week. I have the time booked and the schedule all lined up. Hopefully I will have some big progress to report next week!

Week 5 pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/yKCQ3r9Zeqj64bup9
 

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Hands-on time this week: 10 hours
Total: 52 hours

The GT moved to my friends shop this week so I can leverage his lift and air tank. Having the car in the shop has pros and cons. Pros - I have more space and access to some great tools. Cons - The shop is about 30 minutes away round trip and I can’t leave things lying around because it is a shared space. In short, I can make faster progress when I am there but I lose more time per day I work on the car.

This week, I spent 2 hours on the car shuffle - pushing the GT out of my garage and towing it over. In between time at the shop, I was able to paint the transmission and get the engines beside each other to swap accessories. At the shop, I welded up the remaining holes in the rear package and fixed a piece that rusted out in the rear driver window. There is a small amount of work left to finish off those repairs. I also started the tedious process of wire-wheeling the interior. You can see what the passenger side looks like in the photos. I need to finish wheeling the rest of the interior and removing a few last interior pieces. Once that is done I will wipe it all down, tape it off, and spray. I thought I would get to spraying last week but it is taking twice as long as anticipated. This week should be the week. I have the time booked and the schedule all lined up. Hopefully I will have some big progress to report next week!

Week 5 pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/yKCQ3r9Zeqj64bup9
That's a hard way to work but your progress is great!
 

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Patrick,
Thanks for sharing the Opel and family history.
Your grandmother sounds like a wonderful person
(with great taste in cars :cool: )
I re-posted the pic in your pdf in case anyone had trouble
opening it. Keep us updated on your progress.
Regards,:
Ron in Indy
Aha! That red stripe and vinyl roof rung a bell of "where did I see that before?". This car was the subject of a great Regular Cars review:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehwKrlJua_k
 

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Aha! That red stripe and vinyl roof rung a bell of "where did I see that before?". This car was the subject of a great Regular Cars review:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehwKrlJua_k
Thanks Mike.
I missed that connection, even though I recall watching that "review" a while back.
I just re-watched it and am still confused if the reviewer liked or hated the car. :confused:
A few factual errors, but I think Patrick's car looked great in the video.
Cheers,
Ron in Indy
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Week 6

Hands-on time this week: 13 hours
Total: 65 hours

A Story of Tape & Plastic

Whelp - another week and no paint laid. This prep work is just a time drain. The week was spent doing much of the same as last, welding small holes, removing interior pieces, and wrapping up the last little odds and ends. I taped off the rear end, the roll bar, and one of the doors.

The next two weeks will be combined into one because I am traveling for work. The goal, as always, will be to lay paint. I am proud of the fact that I am doing it ‘right’ - I just wish it didn’t take so long.

In other news, as things stand I will be joining Mike in Sacramento to work on the Lemony Ascona 10/26-10/28. I will post some pics as part of my next update!

Week 6 pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/yKCQ3r9Zeqj64bup9
 

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Hi Patrick. If I recall correctly, your GT was equipped with a dealer-installed ARA air-conditioning system. Are you holding on to it?
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I am holding onto the ARA console. I plan to move back to the East coast one day and will be installing AC then. I know it is a hard to find part!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Week 7

Hands-on time this week: 10 hours
Total: 75 hours

What a crazy week! I landed from Asia on Tuesday. Sleep deprived and jet lagged I went straight back to working on the car. I finished masking the car, did one final vacuum and wipe down, and then started to spray. I laid down two coats of the Sound Control and one coat of the Ceramic Insulation. Overall it was an interesting experience and I am happy with the final finish.

The instructions provided by Lizard Skin were clear and easy to follow. The process took way longer than expected. It was easy to get to about 80% of the car but the remaining 20% required some weird body positions (resulting in me painting a significant amount of my body). There is not a lot of room in a GT and the cage further complicates it. One additional hiccup I ran into was that the product took much longer to dry than I expected. I didn’t spray in any strange conditions but each coat took a solid 2+ hours to dry enough for the next coat. This lead to a lot of down time. Since I was at my friends garage I didn’t have many other projects lying around to make progress on - oh well. Slow and steady wins the race, right?

I am interested to see how the Lizard Skin products perform once everything is back together. The final result looks much better than any foil/mat product. That said, masking and dealing with over spray is not fun. Right now I am not sold that I would do it on another car but I really need to see how it performs before firming up my opinion.

So all of THAT happened Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. On Friday I headed up to Sacramento to join Mike and crew working on the Lemons Sports Wagon at the Sacramento Auto Show. It is Mike’s or Eric’s story to tell. All I will say was that it was a blast! Wrenching all day, for 3 days, with talented, car-crazed individuals was so much fun and I picked up a ton of pro-tips.

Mike may be the greatest brand ambassador we have. What he pulled off was incredible. Make sure you read his updates to hear all the details. Thanks Mike for the opportunity to wrench and figuring out all the logistics!

One thing I thought about on my way home was home many hours it truly takes to put a car together. I personally put ~29 hours on the wagon. Typically we had around 6 people working on the car, and let’s assume they each worked roughly 10 hours each. That equates to roughly 180 man hours on the Sports Wagon! This is a totally conservative estimate because it doesn’t include the team’s prep work. That is 2.5x longer than I have put in on my GT, and the Sports Wagon has some more work needed on it before it hits the road, forget being fully track prepped. I need to remember that Project Ladybug is truly a marathon.

With that, 10 more hours this week! The plan is to get the GT on the lift and finish cleaning the engine bay. If I can knock it out quickly I want to lay down both layers of the Ceramic Insulation and then two coats of smoke grey (easier to see oil drips). If I can get all of that done this week, I can bring the GT back home.

Week 7 pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/yKCQ3r9Zeqj64bup9
Sports Wagon Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/5JTz4WcBPNjHKZhp7
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Week 8

Hands-on time this week: 11 hours
Total: 86 hours

Another good week of progress! I kicked off the week late because I was recovering from the back-to-back-to-back nights in Sac. That said, I was still able to get 11 hours in. I masked off the front end of the car to get to work on the engine bay. I the spent four hours scrubbing and washing it to get ready for the ceramic insulation. It was a very dirty job, but thanks to my friend’s lift I was able to get all the way into the trans tunnel. Once that was cleaned up I laid down two coats of ceramic insulation on the firewall and trans tunnel. I had a half gallon left and decided to lay down an additional coat on the interior roof and floor boards. If the stuff works as promised I should have a much cooler and quieter ride!

Next week is my last week at my friend’s shop. I am going to give the engine bay a fresh coat of paint and finally unmask everything! My home garage is a wreck and will need to be cleaned up before Project Ladybug will fit back in, so I plan to spend a significant amount of time cleaning and towing home.

Week 8 pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/yKCQ3r9Zeqj64bup9
 
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