September 6, 2003

Day 3

EDIT: Don't look too closely at the supposed SVA covers on the track rods - they are totally wrong!

So, back from holiday and the build can progress more quickly hopefully! My ECU, batter master switch key cover, assembly guide, windscreen stantion screws and gear selector had all arrived, as had my deep imperial sockets from machine mart and my 7/32" bit and bit holder. Unfortunately I'd ordered the wrong size bit holder though :-(.

Started by undoing all of the LHS front suspension so that I could check it and put copper slip on everything. Put on both sides with dampers and uprights in around 2 hours! Getting the top ball joint in is a real pain and I had to jack up the suspension to compress the spring and stand on the ball joint so that it gripped whilst I did it up. If you have an F-clamp then you could probably do it more elegantly - but I don't. I also adjusted the springs (I have adjustable platforms) to their most soft to help the compression.

I'd torqued the upper and lower upright bolts as it specifies in the manual (54Nm bottom/61Nm top) but the uprights seemed a bit tight. Oh well, time to move on and fit the ARB. Managed to break one of the balls by overtightening it so that put's an end to finishing the suspension until I've got a new one from Caterham.

Got the steering rack in and attached the rod ends to the uprights, but not before cutting the wrong piece of sleeving thinking it was the SVA cover. The manual says the SVA cover is in the SVA bag but it was actually on the rod end bolt! Another mail to Caterham.

The steering now seems really tight and I don't think it's right but time to go to a wedding.

5 hours today, 7 hours total.

Posted by charles at 12:45 PM

September 7, 2003

Day 4 - a bad one

Decided to loosen off the top and bottom upright bolts to see what difference it makes to the upright/steering stiffness. The steering is a bit looser, but not what I expected (although how I know what to expect is anyone's guess). I think about proceeding with the steering, but it appears that the grommet where the steering column exits the pedal box towards the front of the car is missing - you can see the hole (with the column through it) in the picture below.

Trial fit the steering column and boss and find that I can turn it by hand pretty easily. Now the uprights don't feel tight! So I tighten the uprights back to 54Nm lower/61 Nm top and it goes a bit tight. Not too bad though. Having a look through the guide in more detail I notice that (for the top/ball joint for example) there is a difference in torques in different parts of the manual. 61 Nm in the text, 48 Nm in the summary at the end of the chapter (with 45 lbft equivalent!) and 48 Nm in the summary at the end of the manual (with 35 lbft equivalent). Get a bit fed up and decide that I need to ask Caterham which one they want me to use.

Can't really do anything permanent on the steering because of the missing grommet.

Look at the diff (which has everything cut and filed already for me) but I don't really want to do any more with so many things outstanding. The manual also says to remove the forward boot floor but mines got a fire extinguisher attached and plumbed into it so it's not that easy.

Grumpily decide to give up for the day and weekend and wait for Caterham to clarify some things for me.

2 hours today, 9 hours total.

Posted by charles at 12:55 PM

Day 4 - Take a deep breath

So, the first really 'bad day' of the build - I didn't expect it to come so early! The SVA covers for the track rod ends are the long things that you need to cut the end off. The covers on the end of the track rod ends already are just protectors that can be discarded. In order to split the track rod ball joints so that I could get the right SVA covers back on I needed to buy a splitter. The first one came apart okay but on the second one I damaged the gaiter and put a slight score in the disk.

Then my trolley jack pissed oil all over the garage floor.

Then I gave up for the second time.

Posted by charles at 6:14 PM

September 8, 2003

Day 4a

Seems a bit pointless calling this Day 5 as I'm not going to do any work on it. And it's my diary so I can call it what I want ;-). Spoke to Caterham and they are going to send me the steering column grommet, a bolt that I was missing (but had some spares for), a new track rod end (thanks! - I need to return the old one so I suppose they can just replace the gaiter) and a new ARB end.

No reply from Caterham on the question of torques, or on the removal of the boot floor and therefore fire extinguisher when I fit the diff.

Feeling better today.

Posted by charles at 6:17 PM

September 10, 2003

Day 4b

Bits arrived from Caterham. At first I thought that the grommet they sent was too small but it seems that there is a plate to fit (I assumed that, like the cheese wedge plate, this was already fitted now).

None of my plastic bags of bits have labels which they are apparently supposed to. I don't remember seeing the bag of roll cage fixings so I'm going to have to go through a parts reconciliation again and label everything up.

Looking forward to making some serious progress at the weekend.

Posted by charles at 1:14 PM

September 11, 2003

Day 4c

I found the plate for the pedal box and the grommet after all.

I've confirmed with Caterham Midlands that the correct fitting order is harnesses, full cage, rear suspension to save having to undo lots of stuff so I have been desperately trying to find out how to fit the cage. The instructions seem horrendously out of date, plus I then discovered that half the fixings are missing - it didn't help that they were all in the 'Misc' bag with 100's of other fixings! James Gibson at Caterham has come to the rescue again on that front.

So, the fixing method is:

Rear legs to brackets inside rear panel
X2 BF5/16X2 Bolts, X4 WPH5/16 Washers, X 2 NFYF5/16 Nuts. 1 washer is to be used either side of each bracket.

X2 SFH1/2X1 (Special bolt with reduced size head) to be fitted from underneath up into the legs which mount on the upper rail behind the seats.

X4 SF7/16X5/8 Bolts, X4 WSH7/16 Spring washers to fix front legs. 1 bolt either side of each bracket.

Looking from the rear of the car, the correct sequence is:


taking note to fit the inboard cage plate between the inner panel and the chassis boss for a neater finish.

The one car that CML have had delivered already had the holes cut in the skin/inner panel, but typically mine doesn't so I'll have to drill them.

I'll post pictures when I've fitted it!

Posted by charles at 1:31 PM

September 12, 2003

Day 5

Another load of stuff from Caterham today. The complete set of fixings for the roll cage as I was missing half of them (nicely labelled up, thanks James!) and two replacement ARB brackets and ends as I stripped the threads on one of the brackets trying to torque it up (the 'cheap' Draper torque wrench strikes back - stick to Britool from now on). I decided that this was completely my own fault so I ordered the replacements from parts and paid for them rather than asking James at CC for even more things!

Spent about an hour and a half on the car tonight. Torqued up the lower damper mounts now my 7/16" hex bit has arrived, fixed the steering U/J, steering column (upper and lower) and rack in place. Everything now turns beautifully! Just need to fit the boss/wheel and rivet the front pedal box mounting plate in.

Tomorrow's first jobs will be to finish the steering, fit the harnesses (even though it now appears you can get to the bolts with the cage fitted) then the cage. Hopefully should get onto the rear diff and suspension!

1.5 hours build today, 10.5 total.

Posted by charles at 8:05 PM

September 13, 2003

Day 6 - harnesses

Started by quickly finishing off the steering - riveting the pedal box in place and tightening up the upper/lower column clamp properly. The pedal box plate is a bit of a pain because it's next to impossible to get the drill in the right place so I ended up drilling the holes at an angle. Did the job though.

Suspension and steering finished (except for putting the steering wheel on - I decided to leave that until later).

Moved on to fit the harnesses. Pretty straight forwards but they don't turn in their mountings like I expected them to. Blatchat confirms that this is to be expected but you can leave the crinkle washer out if you want them to turn. I'll leave mine in for the moment. I haven't fitted the crotch straps as the assembly guide doesn't seem to apply to lowered floor cars. I'll speak to Caterham Midlands about that one.

So, onto the cage. Firstly I needed to drill the holes for the front mounting points. The inner ones are alright because you can pull the trim panel away from the chassis but the outer ones are a bit scary because you need to cut the aluminium but nothing else. More than a couple of mm to far and you will start cutting the chassis boss. In the end it wasn't too bad and with a bit of help from the Dremel, the holes were sorted.

So, on to fitting the cage. I started trying to get the front bolts in and instantly managed to cross thread the chassis boss! Disaster! I tried to clear the thread by screwing a large bolt in from the other side but it was just damaging the thread more. After worrying about it and wondering whether I could just leave it to be sorted at the post build check, I decided that a 7/16" tap would probably save me - I hadn't gone that deep into the boss. A quick post to Blatchat and I had two offers of help (thanks Pete and Peter T). Maybe this will save me!?

Decided to stop doing anything else at this point.

7 hours today, 17.5 in total.

Posted by charles at 6:25 PM

September 14, 2003

Day 7 - roll cage and start the diff fitting

Off to Beckenham this morning to pick up the tap. Have a chat with Pete (thanks again!) before coming back and running the tap through from the inside of the car to the outside so that the existing thread pattern is well established before reaching the cross threaded bit. Seems to work well, but an awful lot of material comes out. However, the bolts now go in beautifully - better than the non-tapped side I have to say. I expand all the holes I drilled yesterday with the Dremel to make sure that there is a clear path for the bolts and prevent me from cross threading. Finally, the cage goes on and I bolt in in place (except for the one bolt that I'd destroyed cross-threading the boss; need to ask Caterham for another). It was a bit nerve wracking torquing up the bolts into the tapped thread, but they didn't let go and the torque wrench clicked - sorted! A bit of damage (see below) from the cage where I constantly took it off and on but it is a race car after all (subsequent polishing with Autosol improved it a lot). James from Caterham had thrown me slightly by including some plain washers with the front fixings, but I just assumed these went under the spring washers.

With the cage finally fitted, it appears that you can get to the harness bolts; it must be an improvement with the new cage. Oh well, nothing lost.

Moved on to trial fit the diff. At the suggestion of Steve (or Grubbster, who is currently building his car as well) I checked the diff lower mounting threads. The nearside was fine, but the offside was very tight. I gingerly did the bolt up in to clear the thread a bit and then blasted the hole clean with WD40.

I hadn't arranged for any help with the diff and it was a bit of a challenge with my Black & Decker workbox, pieces of wood and bubble wrap to get it aligned with the top mounting bolt. A few washers later, I managed to get a pretty exact centre (the guide suggests +/- 2mm).

Decided not to fit it tonight, and will probably pick up this next weekend. I might bend the brake pipes onto the De Dion during the week as I can do that in the house and I need to take my time.

5 hours today, 22.5 hours total.

Posted by charles at 6:40 PM

September 20, 2003

Day 8 - rear differential

Obviously getting cocky now as I'm ignoring bits of the assembly guide thinking that I can 'improve' the instructions! First job for today was to sort the boot cover out - I should have done this before the harnesses (before the cage, before the rear suspension) but luckily the new style cage still lets you get the harnesses out. The guide says to remove the metal strip inside the boot cover and discard it as the harness bolts have to go through the cover and the metal strip isn't wide enough to drill holes big enough. Instead, I just cut the metal strip into smaller strips so that they would fit either side of the harness bolts - much better! I also ignored the advice to drill new holes in the centre of the harness mountings rather than use all the existing ones. I may come to regret it if I come to fit a tonneau but I've got no intention of doing that ;-). Didn't quite manage to finish it off because I ran out of poppers so I'll come back to it sometime.

Onto the rear diff. I'd centered it with washers last week and double checked, with two different measuring devices, that I was happy with it. I already knew that the bottom bolts would go into the diff without problem but I just couldn't get them in when it was suspended in the car. I removed the diff and checked and they definitely would go in. I hung the diff from the top bolt again and managed to get the offside bolt in. It took me around an hour to then get the nearside bolt in, eventually removing the top bolt and supporting the diff from the bottom, and then wiggling it around whilst trying to screw in the bolt. Once the two lower ones were in, the top one (suitably spacered) wasn't too bad - thank God for soft faced hammers.

Started trying to do up the special blue propshaft bolts but there is very little room as you can see in the picture below. I couldn't torque them up because the prop just turned. The advice from Blatchat is to wait until the wheels are on the ground, or attach the prop to the diff first but it's too late for the latter.

Successful day so far - onto the rear brake pipes. After carefully attaching the 3-way union the right way round I started with the short pipe. I was a bit unsure of the radius figures given in the guide as I assumed that a 1" radius meant that it shouldn't be bent round anything smaller than 2" in diameter. This obviously isn't right as there would be no chance of getting the pipes in the right place so I just used a 20mm socket as my bending device. After a while I had something roughly right but I hadn't been positive enough with it and had ended up with a bit of a wavy pipe.

I briefly thought about whether to get another pipe and start again but instead I moved on to try the other side. This time it was much better and I had the pipe sorted in no time.

I then got suspicious of whether I'd fitted the union the right way round. After studying the guide text again, I was pretty sure I was right (mounting offset towards the centre). However, the pictures indicated I was wrong and a quick peruse of previous build diaries didn't help. I bit the bullet and swapped it round without too many problems. The long pipe was now a bit close to the radius arm mounting on the De Dion but I decided to sort that out when fitting the calipers. The short pipe looked much better with the P-clips rivetted in place.

Slid the De Dion into the car, my nicely bent brake pipe catching on the diff as it went in and bending out of shape! Oh well, they're pretty forgiving luckily. Fitted the radius arms - decided on the lower 'track' chassis mounting. Finished the day mounting the A-frame.

8 hours today, 30.5 hours total.

Posted by charles at 8:11 PM

September 21, 2003

Day 9 - Rear suspension/axle complete

Went through the process of putting in the driveshafts, building up the axle ends and attaching the calipers/hubs. Did the hub nuts up reasonably tight - the Nyloc is very strong and it's easy to think you've got them tight enough, but it's clear when you pull everything together as the nut just stops turning. I can imagine that 200 lb/ft won't actually turn it that much more but I need to wait until the brakes are bled before I can get them any tighter.

The short (RHS) brake piping curved out a bit early and was in danger of catching the damper if it was set to very soft (unlikely!). I 'persuaded' it in a bit and it should now be clear. The longer (LHS) brake piping curved up a bit early and could possibly hit the radius arm in the suspension was at it's bump stops. This is difficult to check whilst on axle stands but I bent it down a bit anyway. The clearance now looks alright (I'll check when it's on its wheels) but it is a bit close to the lower damper mounting on the De Dion, especially when you bear in mind that the caliper brake pipe mounting actually moves outwards when braking and as the pad wears down. Oh well, there's always something to worry about when building a Caterham. As I was trying to reattach the brake pipe there was a few brass filings around so I blasted it with WD40. A second later I realised that spraying WD40 into the brake fluid entry hole on the caliper was probably a very bad idea. Doh! I'm sure it will be cleaned out by the fluid when I fill it up - I hope so anyway. The routing can be checked by Caterham on the Post Build Check; I'm sure they've seen worse.

Started to fit the handbrake but unfortunately the large clevis pin was missing so I can't put the assembly together and will have to order one from Caterham. I also noticed that the gear lever which had arrived after the main kit doesn't have a knob so I need one of those. The routing of the handbrake cable is a bit Heath Robinson, but makes sense once you can understand the pictures in the guide, especially as they seem to have the adjuster on the opposite side of the car to the one that they tell you to fit it to earlier! [For the record, the adjuster on my car is on the RHS/driver's side]

Not being able to finish the handbrake, I loosely attached all the front brake hoses and the one to the rear De Dion pipes. I want to get the engine in next weekend so I'll be doing a few bits and pieces during the week to get it ready.

5.5 hours today, 36 hours total. Halfway???

Posted by charles at 8:27 PM

September 23, 2003

Day 10/11 - finish handbrake and rear suspension

Spent a couple of hours over the last two days doing bits and pieces. The large handbrake pin arrived from Caterham so I finished fitting the handbrake although the driver's side cable is a bit short to loop round everything and still avoid the driveshaft and De Dion/brake pipes. It seems I'm not the only person with this problem. Brake pipes are all attached and the system is ready for filling and bleeding - first time experience so it should be interesting. I decided in the end to go for Castrol Super Dot 4 fluid which is supposed to exceed the DOT4/5.1 spec and be suitable for racing. Engaging the handbrake allowed me to torque the propshaft bolts which are really difficult to get to!

I took the rear axle stands off the chassis and onto the De Dion in order to torque up the rear suspension. I still need to fill the diff but couldn't get the drain plug undone (not enough leverage from an allen key) so need to get a proper drain plug socket. Whilst I was waiting, I fitted the front brake pipes properly.

Have almost finished the boot cover (which has taken an inordinate amount of time!) and so can then refit the harnesses. Hopefully I should be on track to finish all the bits and pieces before the weekend and can then spend Saturday morning attaching the gearbox, bell housing and engine together before reinforcements arrive Saturday afternoon and help me put the engine in.

Caterham Engineering are trying to work out how I should attach the crutch straps given the lowered floor.....

2 hours, 38 hours total.

Posted by charles at 6:45 PM

September 24, 2003

Day 12 - bleeding brakes (!)

On Wednesday night I decided to try and bleed the brakes. It was a stupid idea from the start as I only had around half an hour to get it all done and I was on my own, although I did have a new Easibleed to hand. After checking carefully the Easibleed itself didn't have any leaks in it I filled it with fluid and started bleeding the left rear caliper, tapping it to try and release air. I found that by constantly opening and closing the bleed valve I could encourage more air out. I then moved onto the right rear caliper and it was at this point I noticed a pool of brake fluid on the floor! The rear flexible hose was leaking where it met the bulkhead and it needed to go pretty tight to stop it. Anyway, back to the left rear, then the right rear, then the fronts which seemed to have a lot more air in them that I expected. Running out of time I pulled everything off and pushed the pedal. One problem with the Easibleed is that there doesn't seem to be enough pressure to push the pads against the disks so there was quite a lot of pedal travel initially to just set the pads close to the disks but surprisingly it did come to quite a firm stop! I'd used just under a litre of brake fluid and decided that I would have another go to try and raise the pedal once I could get someone to assist me with the 'up/down' brake pedal method.

1 hour today, 39 hours total.

Posted by charles at 10:38 PM

September 25, 2003

Day 13 - filling the diff, bits and pieces and start on the gearbox

Decided to leave the brakes for the time being and crack on with some other things. I quickly fitted the washer bottle and horns.

After my half-hearted brake bleeding exercise, I decided that I wasn't going to scrimp on filling the diff and would do it properly. Getting the sump plug out was a pain in the arse (loosen it before you fit the diff) and I needed an 18" breaker bar to get enough torque although the restricted access didn't help. I can't remove the boot floor as the manual suggest as I have a plumbed in fire extinguisher. I rigged up a funnel and tube down to the filling hole and warmed the diff oil in warm water to thin it a bit. The funnel was really small as it was the only one I could get into the tube. The oil flowed alright, but slowly. Three hours later, I was still only about 2/3rds of the way through the first litre so I left it. It will take another couple of hours yet to finish off. In the second picture below you can see the problem with the driver's side handbrake cable touching the driveshaft. It's not easy to position it to avoid this and the De Dion and there's nothing in the right place to put a tie wrap round. I'll work it out eventually. You can also see my rear brake pipes that I'm just not happy with for all sorts of reasons. Nothing really definite, just lots of concerns ;-)

Right, onto the gearbox whilst the oil is trickling through. Trial fit the bell housing and there don't seem to be any problems. I get out my instant silicon gasket and smear it on the paper gasket supplied and fit the housing and 'box together. It's a bit difficult to torque the bolts up as the clearance is tight but everything seems to go together fine.

I cover up the diff filling funnel to stop any crap getting into it and call it a night.

2.5 hours today, 41.5 hours total.

Posted by charles at 10:57 PM

September 27, 2003

Day 14 - engine in

First thing to do was to have another go at bleeding the brakes. This time I roped in my girlfriend and use the old fashioned 'up/down' on the brake pedal technique. I got a little bit of air out and the pedal was a bit higher once we'd finished so I'll leave it for the time being. There was still a leak from the rear flexible hose/solid pipe connection which seemed to be caused by the tightened locknut acting to pull the two parts away from each other. I ended up just leaving the locknut finger tight and will get Caterham to sort it on the PBC. The leak seems to have stopped though (famous last words).

The engine crane had arrived from HSS just before 08:00 (!) so everything was in place. I spent a couple of hours finishing off the gearbox/bell housing/engine assembly and bolting the starter motor in place. (Note the car is down on it's wheels for the first time!)

Next job was to protect the engine bay. I didn't know it then, but make sure you put some tape/card on the pedal box edge (I had anyway) as there is a particularly nasty metal bracket which sticks out and tends to catch on there.

Steve (Grubbster) who had just taken his car to Dartford for the PBC and SVA dropped in with two mates on the way back to Gosport and gave me some tips on the engine installation and other bits and pieces that I still had to do.

My best mate had just had his first baby so wasn't able to help me as planned, but luckily Lucy volunteered instead.

So, just got to get the engine/gearbox angle right now! It's worth spending some time getting this right and we had two or three attempts at offering the assembly to the car before we went for it. Once sorted, it went in pretty easily and I didn't even think it was particularly tight. It was a real pain in the arse getting the propshaft/gearbox output shaft to engage and I ended up having to feed them together by hand whilst constantly trying to turn them one way or the other until they finally slotted together (doesn't sound too bad, but I probably spent an hour and a half attempting this whilst above/below/at the side of the car). After about three hours it was finally in!

Time to go out - I left the engine sitting on it's mounts and still in the crane just in case anything went wrong.

5.5 hours today, 47 hours total.

Posted by charles at 7:56 PM

September 28, 2003

Day 15 - bolt engine in place

Bolting the engine mounts and manifold on is a bit tricky as the access is tight but after extensive use of extensions there were only two bolts I couldn't use the torque wrench on and had to do by hand. The manual isn't amazingly clear about when the manifold goes on, but basically the engine has to be pretty much 'in' and where it will eventually sit before you put it on. The manual also tells you to centre up the gearbox in the chassis as clearance is very tight (you can say that again!)

Because of the different heights of the various gearbox bit and pieces it's pretty impossible to know when it is centre so I just made sure it wasn't touching either side and bolted it in. It's quite easy to adjust if I need to.

At this point I had a quick check of the assembly guide supplied with the kit and compared it with the printed version I was using (downloaded from the web and with loads of scribbles all over it). Unfortunately I hadn't noticed the bit about bolting the engine negative lead to the engine mount so I had to undo one of the bolts. I then noticed that I had the lead the wrong way round as the holes in each end of it are of different sizes! So another bolt had to come out before finally putting it all back together the right way.

I attached the speedo drive and reversing light switch - all pretty straight forward. I started looking at the Apollo tank and working out where best to locate it as it's pretty tight to the chassis members and engine. Decided to call it a day.....

4 hours today, 51 hours total.

Posted by charles at 8:06 PM