October 4, 2003

Day 16 - plumbing (oil) and exhaust

The aim this weekend is to get the engine started. I needed to fit the Apollo first (or oil/air separator) and the first step is to fit the lower bracket to the chassis members. It's pretty tricky as you have to avoid the LHS suspension mounting and the alternator belt; plus you have to drill through the chassis members so don't want to get it wrong. In the end I modified the bracket slightly (look at the top left hole) so that I could move the bracket towards the front of the car a bit and drill centrally into the chassis members. There's also a top bracket to fit.

I put some PTFE tape on the drain plug and the temp sender to try and reduce the chance of leaks. I struggled for ages to try and match the routing of the oil pipes in the guide but eventually had to settle for my own routing - I also changed the horns round so that they were facing downwards. This gave me some more clearance for the pipes. In the end, I managed to keep everything out of the way of the alternator belt (I hope!)

I had a bit of trouble locating the black and yellow wire for the oil temperature sender in the Apollo. There was a wire wrapped round the upper LHS chassis member but it was shinkwrapped and so I couldn't see the colour and I didn't really want to start pulling it apart. Blatchat suggested that it could be low down and I found a black and yellow wire and connected it in - it did look as if it was from the engine loom rather than the chassis which made be a bit suspicious. A subsequent reply suggested that the wire wrapped round the chassis member might be the right one. Something to sort out then.

Went on to fit the exhaust without too much problem.

I went on to start to fit the radiator but one of the bobbins had a really short thread and so I need to get another. The list for Caterham on Monday is starting to get pretty long.

Did some wiring - plugged in the ECU and immobiliser (which I had to fit first as it was out of stock when my chassis was built) and then got confused about the battery master switch leads. Although the guide mentions the battery master switch I think it's inconsistent. It says that two brown wires should be connected to the solenoid and that a red wire should be connected directly to the battery. The latter certainly didn't sound right as this would bypass the master switch and I couldn't find the two brown wires. In the end I assumed that these were wired to the output of the battery master switch.

5.5 hours today, 56.5 hours total.

Posted by charles at 8:05 PM

October 5, 2003

Day 17 - plumbing (water) and crutch straps

Well, I didn't get it started.

The day began with plumbing which was all pretty straightforward (I'd decided that I could replace the faulty bobbin quite easily once Caterham had sent a replacement). Fuel pipes went on alright. Then disaster struck as the small hose from the expansion tank to the head was missing. Another thing to add to the list.

Given that I now wasn't going to get it started I just did some bits and pieces. I fixed the mounting rails to the seats and thought about how they could be fitted to the car. On the driver's side there are some aluminium reinforcing plates and I assume that you just drill through these - the guide isn't clear. However, with the lowered floor the adjuster arm catches the chassis cross member. Another question for Caterham....

Decided to try and fit the crutch straps with the fixings that James at Caterham had sent me. You can see that James knows I like things to be clearly labelled!

Not only do you have to drill through (expand) the existing bracket you also need to drill through the floor so out came the drill again. On the second picture you can see what I think are the seat mounting strengthening plates on the floor and on the right hand side the chassis member that the adjuster is likely to catch against.

In the end though, everything went on alright and it was a good end to the day.

4 hours today, 60.5 hours total.

Posted by charles at 8:27 PM

October 7, 2003

Day 18 - few more bits and pieces

Fixed the oil temp wire to the apollo - got the right one now (twirled around the LHS upper chassis rail). After a few discussions with Caterham they have agreed that I need to get some longer bolts for the seat fixings - the lowered floor now has strengthening strips that make the two choices of bolts supplied unsuitable. They're going to send some. The solution to the adjuster catching on the chassis rail is low-tech; bend it. Caterham also confirmed that I've got the wiring right for the battery/alternator (the manual is wrong if you have a battery master switch fitted).

My other bag of goodies arrived today so I've replaced the knackered radiator bobbin. The missing 'water' hose arrived and was actually a fuel hose; I already had an off cut of fuel hose from the lower pressure return but assumed the water hose was different! Oh well.

The expansion tank still doesn't sit properly on the apollo pipes so I need to shave a bit more off. Still got the bloody rear wheel protection bar to fit.....

1 hour today, 61.5 hours total.

Posted by charles at 8:08 PM

October 10, 2003

Day 19 - rear wheel protection bar

So, I decided to start fitting the rear wheel protection bar and it proved to be every bit the pain in the arse I expected. Firstly the rear of the car had to go back up on axle stands (on the chassis) to take the weight of the suspension and A-frame. Then both wheels off and unbolt the A-frame, loosening the De Dion/A-frame bolts as well. Got the bar on but there was no f****** way it was going to go under the cage bracket however much persuasion I gave it. So, I did what every good Caterham builder would do and drilled another hole in the front bar mounting alongside the existing one - unfortunately my drill battery ran out half way through so it bought a halt to proceedings. Anyway, the longer set screws for my seat have arrived and I sorted the washer bottle so it sits properly now.

1 hour today, 62.5 hours total.

Posted by charles at 9:12 PM

October 11, 2003

Day 20 - finish RWPB, gearbox oil, wiring

Finished the rear wheel protection bar this morning which wasn't too bad. Car is now back down on it's wheels. Finished off the plumbing and filled the cooling system with Comma Coldstrea - about 4.5 litres (no heater remember).

I also fitted the heater blanking panel whilst I was at it. Decided to use the heater fixing holes (which means drilling some additional holes in the panel) rather than the rivet method (which means drilling lots of additional holes in the bulkhead. It's sealed with silicon.

Started filling the gearbox with oil using the same technique as I used for the diff - so another long drawn out process. The gearbox oil is a bit thinner so it all moved along a bit faster. I had to raise the rear of the car so I had enough room to get underneath it and remove the sump plug (the exhaust on the LHS and lowered floor on the RHS makes access difficult with all four wheels on the ground). Whilst waiting for the oil to fill I finished the wiring and tidied it up ready for the first start. The ECU ground lead isn't mentioned in the guide proper, but the wiring diagram says it should be affixed to the engine lifting eye bolt. On my car, the bolt was too big so I connected it directly to the battery negative terminal.

Still waiting for the oil so I started on the interior. I put in the two knee panels but found that on both sides the third hole from the front of the car wasn't drilled into the chassis for some reason. I couldn't work out why and started drilling (dangerous!) with a small drill but managed to break the drill by pushing too hard. Decided to leave this for the time being and did the rest of the screws and riveted the side trim panels in place with the plastic piping. I also had to fit the fuel filler neck as this wasn't available when my chassis was built.

Still waiting for the gearbox oil to fill. 1 litre in and started on the second litre bottle. A couple of funnels full later I noticed a massive oil slick all over the magazine I'd put under there to catch the drips and soaking through the cardboard that I had on the floor. A stressed 5 minutes ensued, trying to get rid of the oil as quickly as possible and stop any more flowing down. I then realised that because the back of the car was up in the air I was probably limiting the amount of oil that I could get in the car. Doh! (again).

Called it a day, but spent a long 9 hours today, 71.5 hours total.

Posted by charles at 7:21 PM

October 12, 2003

Day 21 - start up!

Up early to wash my other car. Went down to the petrol station to fill the Jerry can with 10l of Optimax.

Continued filling the gearbox oil. I got a bit more in (I think) but it wasn't long before there was oil dripping out again. A hurried post on Blatchat suggested that a number of other people had used only 1.2 - 1.3 litres. Bloody assembly guide. After checking a number of times that the filler tube was in the gearbox drain hole properly I decided that it was full and to put the drain plug back in. I couldn't jack the car up this time and risk pouring all the oil out so I struggled for around half an hour with oil all over my hands trying to get the drain plug in. Eventually I managed to get a couple of half turns with my fingers and then could use the cut down Allen key to tighten it.

Put some petrol in the car and had a last minute check. I poured in around 6.5l of oil and then turned the battery master switch. The horns sounded and they are bloody loud! Quickly turned off the battery master switch :-). I hadn't finished wiring up the steering wheel etc. so I disconnected the horn lead in the hope that this would stop them sounding which it did. Time to crank the engine and get the oil pressure up. The fuel pump went on ignition '2' and then to ignition '3' and.....


Bollocks. Maybe the battery is a bit flat? After having another look round it was clear that the click was coming from the MFU but not the starter solenoid. Quickly I worked out that the thick brown/red wire that was dangling around was the starter solenoid signal wire so I attached this and had another go.

It turns over!

Day 21 - trying to start it.jpeg (1Mb Quicktime movie - me turning a car engine over. How boring is that)

I turned the car over in about 5-10 second bursts but the battery started to flatten and still no movement on the oil pressure gauge. Eventually after 5 or 6 goes it started to flicker into life but the battery was pretty drained at this point. I reconnected the inertia switch and went for the start. Cranked for 5 seconds (slowly....) but nothing. Tried again and this time the fuel pump kicked in again to prime the system - I think it's on a time delay to stop flooding - and it started!!!

Day 21 - running.jpeg (1Mb Quicktime movie - the car running and me looking for oil leaks. Even more boring.)

Checked the oil but I couldn't see any oil on the dipstick, although the oil pressure was > 4 bar. Unfortunately I wasn't convinced I would be able to - I'd like to know who the muppet was that designed a dipstick with a yellow end making it impossible to see the oil. People had warned me that it could take 7 - 7.5 litres so I poured in some more oil. This went on for several iterations until I thought I could see oil on the dipstick but I need to check this again. The pressure stayed well above 2 bar the whole time though. My worry was the temperature that was rising really quickly. I loosened the radiator bleed screw and some air came out but the radiator wasn't getting hot. Eventually I stopped the engine worried about it overheating. [EDIT: I had ignored the assembly guide section about backfilling the heater as I don't have a heater. However, this is still relevant in order to fill the head circuit. I probably had very little water in the head and hence the thermostat didn't open and the temperature rose very quickly. Hopefully I stopped the engine before any damage occurred]

Some more advice from Blatchat suggested that this was a classic symptom of an air lock and it needed more bleeding. Later in the day I put the front of the car back up on Axle stands and ran the engine again with the bleed screw off. This time the radiator slowly started to get warm and the temperature gauge got to 80 quite quickly but them seemed a bit stuck. There was a fair bit of coolant coming out of the bleed screw but I bottled it as the temp gauge was moving really slowly and I suddenly thought that it might be broken. Some more advice from Blatchat suggests that I'm probably almost there now and that the temp will rise very slowly above 80 once the system is fairly well bled. Unfortunately I'm now out of coolant so will have to get some more before having another go.

3 hours today, 74.5 hours total.

Posted by charles at 6:47 PM

October 13, 2003

Day 22 - SVA...

I haven't really mentioned the SVA before. First thing is to ignore the advice you are given in the guide. This implies that you should apply only if you are going to build quickly and that there can be a 4 week delay for an appointment. The form itself also looks a bit of a gamble as it asks you what date you'd like for the test - too soon or too early?! The reality is that it takes at least two weeks to get to the point where you can actually book an appointment. After filling in the first form (and another they then send you) they send you a card asking you to ring them to arrange an appointment. I did just that this morning and they can either do this week (too early and no time for Caterham to do the PBC) or on 25th November. I've gone for this, but they are going to try and get a cancellation earlier. The car is booked in for it's post build check on 15th November; I wanted to drop it off on a Saturday and the 22nd is a bit too close if they need to do any work.

Posted by charles at 2:51 PM

October 17, 2003

Day 23 - fitting the seat

No that I'd got the longer set screws to fit the seat, and given that I needed to test drive the car soon I decided to fit the seat. It's fairly tricky as marking the floor with the rails on the seat is not easy, and you need to bend the adjuster so that it clears the chassis rail. Eventually I managed to get the holes marked after lifting the seat in and out a few times. Once bolted in, the seat wouldn't slide as it was hard up against the trim panel. A bit of research indicated that this is a common problem. For the time being I loosened the fixings off and adjusted the seat to the right position.

2.5 hours today, 77 hours total.

Posted by charles at 7:10 PM

October 18, 2003

Day 24 - interior

Went to the Formula Ford/Caterham festival at Brands this morning. Had a great few hours watching the final two 2003 Academy races and meeting up with Steve (Grubbster) and Dave.

Spent a few hours once home doing bits and pieces on the interior ready for 'the first drive'TM. First job was to fit the alu transmission tunnel place which needed a bit of modification in order to clear the plumbed in fire extinguisher tubing.

There sure are a lot of rivets! I guess if the propshaft/diff bolts ever let go then you would be glad of them.....

It was then simple to drop the leather transmission tunnel cover on and attach the handbrake handle and gear knob.

I started to work on the wings, gluing the Bigheads fasteners onto the underside from the front wings so that they could be cable tied to the supports rather than bolted or glued.

3 hours today, 80 hours total.

Posted by charles at 6:13 PM

October 19, 2003

Day 25 - 'the first drive'TM

So, if everything goes well I should be driving the car for the first time today.

I continued to work on the front wings as the glue had now dried but decided not to fit them yet as wiring the repeaters etc. was going to take a little while and couldn't really be finished until the headlights were on.

The rear wings went on relatively easily. Just a little filing to get the RHS one to sit over the chassis boss at the rear/bottom corner.

I wheeled the car outside and started it up again to check the cooling. This time, the thermostat opened at an indicated 80o and the radiator got warm. Slowly the needle rose to an indicated 85o or so and the fan came on. Sorted! Checked the oil level again and topped it up a bit. I think I've now overfilled it slightly as a fairly small amount of oil pushed it from halfway on the dipstick to the top but I'm sure it will be fine. Time to get in the car then. First job was to remove my right shoe as it's impossible to drive with normal shoes on and I haven't ordered any racing boots yet.

Once in I put it into gear and let the clutch up slowly. It didn't bite until quite high and when it did it was very sudden - didn't stall it though. So, off I went!! A slow lap around the estate ensued and I discovered that at the moment, the brakes are truly terrible but I'm sure they will get better. The only other things I noticed were that the speedo doesn't show a steady speed but oscillates; a question for Caterham, and that the gearbox idle noise is quite loud.

So, it does move under it's own power....

Carried out with the front wings and wired the indicators up. In order to ground them I drilled holes in the wing stays and screwed the earth wire into them with a self tapper. The orange lenses really stand out against the car and need to be changed for clear ones ASAP! Below is a close up of how the wings actually attach to the wingstays - they're a great fit.

5 hours today, 85 hours total.

Posted by charles at 6:25 PM

October 27, 2003

Day 26/27 - lighting, bits and pieces

Did a load of small jobs over the weekend. First one was to finish off the front wings which were straight forwards. I then fitted the inidicators and lights, swapping the indicator lenses and bulbs for clear and orange ones, courtesy of Vehicle Wiring Products - looks much better. Shame about the repeaters; if anyone knows of a source of clear lenses and orange bulbs please let me know! Unfortunately one of my headlamps was missing the lock washer and it's basically impossible to retro fit (unless you undo all the wiring) so I'll have to get one from Caterham and split it. After one mistake with the LHS plug, everything was fine. However, the flasher switch doesn't work and I'll leave this to Caterham to work out.

Fitted the wipers and adjusted the waster jets.

Fitted the rear lights - again, no problems.

I'd noticed that the reversing light wasn't working so I took the cover off and wiggled the bulb a bit and it then lit up.....

Did some trim fixing around the indicator mounts and finally the scuttle trim. I then set about trying to fix my speedo which doesn't indicate a steady speed but waves around a bit. Caterham had suggested that this might be the sensor drive rotating and doing this by hand certainly produced the same results. However, I went out for another drive and held it steady and the same problem was there so that's another thing to go on the list for the post build check.

I then fitted the pedal stops, accelerator and clutch (these are mandatory in the Academy). They went in fine although the accelerator wasn't quite as central as I'd hoped. It is a bit tricky to drill through the pedal box....

On to the nose cone. Steve (Grubbster) had prepared me for this being a bit of a challenge and it didn't disappoint. The clearance round the lower front wishbone mountings was negative and first of all I set about it - the nosecone that is- with a hacksaw. Once I'd got the worst off I got the Dremel ready with a small circular sander. I wish I'd used this at the beginning as it made very short work of it!!! After another 10 trial and error fits it went on properly, but only after shaving some off the cuts for the front ARB as well. [You can see my clear indicators in the shot below as well]

Well it's not quite finished. The wing mirrors aren't on yet (not sure how/where to fit them), nor the rear number plate light.

Drove it round again and really want it to be road legal now. I don't seem to have got the steering on as straight as I thought I'd had and although it's easy to change the wheel, I might try and get the universal joint straightened up as well. I'm going to wait until it's had the tracking adjusted at the PBC first though.

Then I had the fun of trying to get all three cars in the garage...

8 hours over the two days, 93 hours total.

Posted by charles at 9:46 AM