Sunday, 30 December 2007

Happy New Year...

Hello Dear Readers.

The seats are in:
More importantly, having said I would do it MONTHS ago, the bodywork is on for the last time! Pictures to follow soon I hope.

May I take this opportunity to wish you all a prosperous New Year.


Saturday, 15 December 2007

Steve Hignett Showcase…

It’s been an awfully long time since I posted on here. In fairness, I’ve been a bit busy – the MBA is full-on! Fortunately Steve has been making some excellent progress. However, the completion of the car has proved to be far from straight-forward with a few unexpected challenges. I’ve also had some specific requirements that haven’t necessarily made Steve’s job easy. Fortunately, Steve is 100% honest and will do everything in his power to replicate the dream/vision in your mind’s eye.

A good example of this is the scuttle and the holes for the steering column. The dash is integral which means that drilling accurate holes for the column is not as easy on some other cars. As a result, most builders cut slots so the scuttle so it can slide over the top of the column. Unfortunately, that wasn’t what I wanted so Steve had to carry-out a laborious measuring and mocking-up exercise to get it right. This is just one example of a job well done.
Measure - a few times:
Another relates to a difference is size between the chassis and the bodywork. This is a ‘feature’ of all MNRs of a similar age to mine and things have apparently changed since. Some have used wood to shim the bodywork up. I think Steve’s done a much nicer job folding aluminium and riveting it at the right gradient to get a perfect fit. He’s simply not prepared to take half measures or ‘throw’ anything together. He’s a top man – if you find yourself in a similar situation to me don’t hesitate to e-mail him at: .
Some rather ‘spiffy’ bits have gone on the car too – most notably the genuine carbon fibre bulkhead panel from It’s soon to be joined by rear wing protectors and canards (aerodynamic “whiskers”) from the Caterham CSR.

The rear suspension and drive-train is bolted together. The seats are now in. The exhaust is nearly fitted. It’s all coming together nicely… except that my front uprights have gone missing in the post. Not good, since they are relatively rare and not cheap. I’m still crossing everything that they will appear.
If you want to see more of Steve’s work, visit

Merry Christmas


Saturday, 6 October 2007

Precious little time...

I’m afraid I’ve run-out of time! My July deadline shifted to August and then to September and beyond. On 1st October I started my Masters Degree which I’m studying part-time for the next two-and-a-bit years. This is a demanding course and I simply don’t have the time (working full-time too) to work on the car. So in terms of updates, I have nothing to show.

However, all is not lost. I have shipped the car (two trips, 735 miles, 21 hours and no sleep) to a fellow ‘Locostbuilder’ in Cheshire. Steve Hignett has built two similar cars in the past and is a top bloke. I have no doubts that he’ll do a great job on the car. We’re not yet 100% sure whether or not Steve will complete the car – either way I’m sure he’ll make more rapid progress than I did. He’s kindly agreed to take lots of photographs so I’m hoping to keep this blog up-to-date in the hope that it’s useful t someone.

I am of course very disappointed not to be completing the jobs on the car myself but I’ve taken a pragmatic approach to try to get the car ready for the track-day season next year. It’s been two years since I’ve done a track-day now and I’m itching to get back on to a circuit.

So, stay tuned!


Monday, 24 September 2007

Bits and pieces...

There's not been a lot a lot of action since the tub got painted and trimmed but I thought I'd post a few pictures of things that have been finished.
Here you can see a cover that I made to hide some of the wiring. I also wanted somewhere to put some stickers so here it is:

My battery needed something to lift it up in it's tray so it now sits atop some 12mm high density rubber. The result is that it is now fitted for what is hopefully the last time:

That's about it...

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

On the brink...

I’m now very close to fitting the body tub for the last time. Unfortunately I’m also on the brink of cracking the side of the tub! I’ve cut and carved around the bars under the scuttle and I’ve had to take it quite close to the edge. The body has then flexed when moving it around and a tiny crack has appeared on the top of the tub. I’ve glued it together and also glued a plastic ‘splint’ (i.e. part of a zip-tie) underneath the crack. I’ll also duck tape some wood to the side when I fit the tub to make sure that it doesn’t flex again. Once it’s in place I’ll try to cut the holes for the suspension and permanently fix it so that the crack can’t migrate.

In the mean-time, the rear is all trimmed (as pictured) and the edges are sanded.

It took me an age to decide whether or not to paint the inside of the panels around the cockpit.

In the end the raw fibreglass was just a bit too raw. Despite the fact that the car is destined for the track it’s important that it looks good too.

I think the end result is good. I just hope that I don’t crack the tub trying to fit it!


Monday, 3 September 2007

On second thoughts...

The tub is not going on tonight. I've decided to slow down and do everything right. It's so easy to scratch the tub and the chassis so I'm going to take my time and aim to have it on by next week sometime. It's going to take me a while because I want to rub-down the edges so that they're not rough and also paint the inside of the tub in the cockpit area. I'm not fitting interior panels so this should at least tidy it up a touch. So, no exciting pics today I'm afraid.


Sunday, 2 September 2007

Quick update...

The steering rack is in - albeit temporarily while I sort out some bolts which are the right length. The body tub is almost ready to slide on - I'm mid-way through trimming to fit.

Updates and pics tomorrow all being well.


Monday, 27 August 2007

The best possible news...

The engine is a runner! I haven't got a means of capturing it on video unfortunately so you'll just have to trust me! Considering the toil and worry that have gone into the wiring koom, it's possibly my biggest achievement on the whole car.

I've also fixed the leaky diff (I think) and I've painted my calipers:

They're not exactly light and the orange paint is a bit red but they look tidy enough. Masking them off was no fun at all.

This week should see the steering rack and main body tub go on!

All downhill from here?


Sunday, 19 August 2007

Success snatched from the jaws of defeat...

Okay, let’s get the bad bit out of the way: I nearly set the garage on fire! A dopey mistake when wiring my FIA Master Switch meant that the resistor attached to the switch caught fire. Because this was underneath the scuttle, I couldn’t see how bad the fire was and could only see smoke. As a result, I saw no other option than to give the whole area a thorough covering with the fire extinguisher. In 20/20 hinesight this may have been an over reaction. The loom tape that I’ve used is ‘self extinguishing’ and must have done a good job of preventing the fire from spreading. The net result of the incident was a very messy garage covered in blue-white powder and the need for a new resistor and (being cautious) a new FIA Switch. With this in place and correctly wired I now have a fully operable loom – at least as far as I can tell. All that’s left to test is the ECU when I try to start the thing – yes I know that I’ve talked about it for ages but I would have done it this weekend if it weren’t for the set-back!

Another problem that I’ve had was with prop-shaft and the alignment of the centre bearing. For some reason when the bearing was mounted directly to the chassis as designed it twisted the flexible part of the assembly into a most unnatural position. The bearing would not have lasted at all long in the position so a solution had to be found. This solution came from a mate of mine, Lyn (Lenny.) He fabricated some angled shims to position the bearing at a favourable angle and it seems to be a job well done.
In the picture above, as well as the shims, you can see a couple of other parts that Lyn has fabricated for me. These are a stainless steel vent pipe for the differential and a plug to take the place of the unused oil-level sensor in the sump. Each of the parts is incredibly useful and I’m as grateful as I’m impressed.

Once I’ve started the engine (please start!) I can finally start bolting-on big bits like the body and suspension; not before time. Unfortunately I also need to find a remedy for my leaky differential back plate. It's anothet job likely to get messy!


Sunday, 12 August 2007

The BIG update...

What can I say? It’s been a while eh?

I’ve actually got some stuff done and I’m very close to being able to start the motor! So what’s been done? Well, I finally got the footwell panels back from the world’s slowest powdercoaters – I can only assume that the guy used to make Scotch for a living and works to the same timescales. Anyway, with the help of Lyn (Fesycresy to all you Locostbuilders out there) they were fitted and I honestly think that they were worth the wait!
The engine is in for what is hopefully the last time. The airfilter is on thanks to a custom base-plate from Mr MNR himself. The fuel line is connected up too. Oh yeah and the wiring is FINISHED! WOOOOOO HOOOOOO! I’m just a little bit pleased! I hope you agreed that the under-scuttle wiring looks pretty tidy – I am so anal about this stuff. I’m still not truly happy. The Odyssey battery and it's little tray are in - Alloy Racing Fabrications did the work. They're reasonable but I'd send them the battery rather than dimensios in future! The dash is also more-or-less finished.
The main dash unit still needs to be fixed but I can’t do this until the steering column is in to check sight lines – I’ve held it in place to give you an idea of what it looks like. The fuel tank is in – more powdercoating ‘a la’ Scotland’s biggest export. Again, I think it was worth the wait.
So (with the help of very pleasant Italian lager and music from The Bucketheads) I’m struggling to be negative. However there have been a few expensive issues. I’ve had to replace the looms for both the Veypor digidash and the SPA dual gauge. I’ve also had to buy another thermostat. Silicon hoses from weren’t cheap either but you should expect to pay for that sort of quality and service.

'Til next time - Cheers!


Sunday, 8 July 2007

Ugh... very little progress.

I'm afraid that my target of finishing the car 'sometime in July' is going to be missed by some margin.

I'm still wiring the thing and to be honest it's led to a severe drop in enthusiasm. It's very nearly there however - the fuel pump runs, the starter solenoid clicks when it should and the dials seem to work. All that is left is to wire coils, the alternator, the neutral light and then the car is ready to start. That will just leave the SPA dual gauge which can be done last.

So that's it. Very little to report. I'm a bit fed up with my slow progress. It seems to be a vicious cycle.

I have a couple of days booked-off work in the next fortnight so hopefully I'll start the engine briefly to prove that it (and my cut 'n' shut wiring loom) are OK.

Christmas is coming... :(

Monday, 21 May 2007

How flippin’ cool is that….

Believe it or not but the fact that the engine is in the chassis is actually holding me up! Now that it’s been in and I’ve connected both ends of the prop, I now need the engine out to be able to drill and fit the centre bearing.

The loom from the ECU to the engine is now complete leaving the ignition circuit, fan circuit, brake light circuit, instruments…. Oh dear! I’m waiting on the arrival of a fuse box with a bus-bar to keep everything neat. Once the wiring is in and I’ve measured where the exhaust cut-out (in the body) needs to be the main tub can finally go on.

So what’s so flippin’ cool? Well the solenoid for the Kliktronic is in and it looks fab! I had some nice fixings lying around so they’ve been used as well. The photo shows the hardware in all its glory. The only downside is that the gear-change arm isn’t aligned with the rest of the kit so I’ll need to get that re-made.

That leads me to an important point… I have been totally reliant on a couple of mates to get this far. I can’t weld and I don’t have a lathe so all of the parts that have had to be fabricated have been done by a combination of Lyn, Lenny (another Lyn) and Colin. Thanks gents – I owe you big time.

Where am I against my July target? Miles off! I’ll be lucky to finish in September at this rate.

Friday, 4 May 2007

It's set to be an expensive weekend...

The engine is sitting in place to allow me to run cables to the correct length and fit the prop centre bearing.

I'm of to Europe's biggest Kit Car show on Sunday to buy a lot of "stuff" to complete the build.
It could be costly!

In other news we have two 8-week old kittens. They've kept me out of the garage this week but I don't mind - they're very funny! We've called them Daff and Dill. (Born in spring and the Welsh national flower.)

Hmmm... the most random post yet. **Nice**


Wednesday, 25 April 2007

A picture speaks a thousand words...

... or I hope so, because this installment is going to be light on words and big on visuals. Work is a nightmare so progress is still sloooow!

Below we have a nice picture proving that I can drill in straight lines (I'm getting better,) This is my rather lovely stainless braided fuel line.

Above and below you can see that the scuttle and one-piece tunnel cover have been trimmed to fit and now rest in place. The first Gulf logos are on too - I couldn't resist seeing how they'd look.

My very nice black/polished Minotaur Minilite-look-a-likes.
Also with Cortina stub-axle and Raceleda brake disc.
Work on the wiring continues but is now more-or-less on hold until the Stoneleigh show when I purchase the gubbins required. Soon after that, the main body-tub can go on.
About time eh?

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Kit Car Crisis (I am a Muppet!)....

In a daze of stupidity this weekend I greased a couple of bearings with Copperslip! Copperslip: the clue is in the name. The stuff contains tiny pieces of metal - perfect for wearing down bearings. Needless to say that when the error of my ways was pointed out, I spent a good few hours cleaning everything with diesel then thoroughly rinsing. I will re-grease with the correct stuff tonight.

I also learnt that the motor is best lifted in by three of you - two lifting and one guiding. Have had to touch-up the powdercoat as a result of that "lesson."

So all in all, I've had less haphazard weekends. On the plus-side, the fuel line is in and the diff is in place. Huzzah! Pics to follow.



Tuesday, 3 April 2007

An unhealthy habit and a new addition...

I appear to have developed a costly and unhealthy habit which has occasionally led to me jabbing myself with small pointy bits of metal. Contrary to what people might tell you, I have not become a heroin junkie. I do however have an unhealthy habit for drill bits. On Friday alone I snapped 5 – that’s right, 5!!!

It all started to go ‘Pete Tong’ when I was drilling a piece of flat bar which would normally be used to mount the handbrake. The 1.5mm titanium bit I was using snapped – I was probably going too fast. Some of the drill-bit got lodged in the chassis and subsequent attempts to drill the bar resulted in blunt bits, a melted bit and a pleasant red-glow around the hole – well the garage is cold! A brand new Bosch bit finally did the business and normal service was resumed.

So why all the drilling? I finally thought it time to crack-on and fit the posh stainless braided brake lines. On the whole it went ok. The only real PITA is that I didn’t quite have enough slack to go as straight as I'd have liked in the front of the tunnel. The result (pictured) looks more like a Welsh mountain pass than a roman road and I shall dispise that part of the car for ever as a result… hopefully once the prop and motor are in though it won’t be so obvious. It also took-up the area that I was intending to use to mount the regulator/rectifier so that’s now moved to the top of the tunnel. The brake lines are nearly all in. I just need to replace the Cleko fasteners with some ‘real’ rivets once they arrive.
That's real blood in the picture as well - Ouch!

There’s been a new addition to the family – Julia’s twin sister gave birth to Francesca Scarlett Coleman a few weeks ago. I’d like to show you a picture but I can’t so here’s a picture of my baby in its cradle instead.

The weekend also saw some serious head scratching in terms of the wiring. I’ll say more when I know what the hell I’m doing! Parts either returned or on their way back to me this week include rear bearing carriers (thanks Derek) with new bearings fitted, a modified steering column (thanks Col – your welding shames most of the manufacturers!) and my freshly ceramic coated exhaust. How exciting is that?

Anyhoo – I’m off to do a bit more.


Friday, 23 March 2007

Slow and steady wins the.... Hillclimb?

I'm not exactly flying through the build at the moment - mostly due to work commitments allied to a lack of sundry-type parts. However, there is some movement.

The picture below shows the footwell panel ready for powdercoating and held in place with Cleco fasteners. These things are brilliant. I've had the panels on and off a dozen or more times and these temporary rivet type devices make it so easy! They are simply squeezed into place with a special pliers and removed in the same way. Mine were bought from and are a must of you have a lot of panelling to do on a kit car. I think they're right up there with a Dremmel in terms of useful tools.

Other work has focused on the wiring and things are starting to fall into place. I'm desperately trying to keep the wiring as neat as possible. The picture below shows the ECU, starter solenoid and Kliktronic controller bolted to the centre tunnel. I need to invest in some wire to get it all plumbed in now.

The new flexible brake lines have arrived from Merlin Motorsport and these will go in as soon as I can get hold of some 6.5mm p-clips.

I was originally hoping to have the engine in these weekend but a combination of 4 nights out on the town this week and lack of time to order bolts has meant that it'll have to wait. There's little chance to make great strides this weekend due to work commitments.

That said, I hope to get the remaining aluminium panel (scuttle/footwell tops) drilled and ready for fitting at a later date. I really need to sort out a powdercoater also!

If you want to see a similar car coming together more quickly, try here: Steve actually collected his kit a week later than me!

In any case, I'm enjoying my time in the garage!


P.S. If you've never tried drinking cocktails named after cars and talking to another Petrolhead with a similar machine I can recommend it. Cheers!

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Still no pictures and limited progress.

I have finally got all 100 holes drilled in the aluminium footwell panels and the chassis. I have 3 big holes left before the whole lot can be deburred and finally sent to be powdercoated. Two of these holes are for the brake master cylinders, the final hole is to run the brake line to my line-lock through.

There's more parts to be sorted for powdercoating at the same time. These are:
  • 2 x Fuel tank securing straps
  • High level brake light mounting panel
  • 2 x nose-cone supports

I'm contacting a couple of companies for quotes for the brake lines tomorrow. The ECU is mounted in the footwell. The position of the starter solenoid is marked. I am making some progress - honest Guv! On the subject of the wiring, I'm happy to do it as long as it's kept simple. For this reason, I'm not using the bike relay box or starter solenoid and am instead using a trusty Lucas-type. Where I'm not so good is on the size of cable to use for some of the wiring so I'll be taking advice from Vehicle Wiring Products when I order.

One final bit of good news - after much searching, I've located a source of new diff drain plugs. Mine is chewed to bits so this is a relief!

It's amazing what makes you happy when you're building one of these things.

Look after yourselves & each other... :p


Sunday, 4 March 2007

I never said I'd make it easy for myself....

Apologies for the lack of updates, but due to the house move, I've no broadband and we can't even find the charger for the camera!

There's 3 of us that have all picked-up our MNR kits at around the same time. Needless to say, they other two guys have raced ahead. So why is this? Well, predominantly because I've made a few decisions that have slowed me down:
  1. The brake lines supplied with the kit have been sold and I'm going to run Goodridge flexible hoses throughout the car. The lines didn't fit anyway because of my line-lock set-up and I just don't like the look of copper pipes (I know - how daft does that sound!?) so with the help of a guy called Chris Mason (cheers Sir!) I've worked out what flexis I need. I haven't bitten the bullet yet because they're not exactly cheap!
  2. I once had a conversation with a guy who successfully builds and prepares race cars. He told me that he rivets panels on at inch intervals. Stupidly, I've taken his advice when it comes to my footwell panels. So whereas other MNR builders may use 30-odd rivets to affix the panels, I'm using exactly 100! Great! I've also decided to have the panels powdercoated so they're not on yet either.

On the positive side, I have done a fair amount of planning when it comes to the wiring, so that shouldn't be too difficult. I've also dropped my 4-2-1 exhaust off at Camcoat in Warrington to have it ceramic coated. This should a) Reduce under-bonnet temperatures and b) look cool.

So, that's about it for now. I'm off home to get back in the garage. I should have some pics on Tuesday when I'll explain what a wonderful device the Cleco fastner is.

Ciao for now.


Saturday, 3 February 2007

Frustration is an unfinished house....

  • The good news: The paint is dry and the kit is in the garage.
  • The bad news: Work can't start until the house is finished.
It's set to be a week of slow progress while the house is sorted before I can really get stuck into the build. In the mean time, I'll write a bit about the "concept" (overstating it a bit) for the car and also what I've done in preparation.

The BIG idea
The idea has always to build something quick by keeping it simple and therefore hopefully light. That said, I haven't gone all-out for the lightest possible components. Value for money is a big driver. For example, my diff is the heavier lobro-type with viscous LSD and my front uprights and brakes are Cortina originals rather than Raceleda aluminium items. All being well, these components can be swapped at a point in the future to try to see what benefit they give me.

What I am doing is trying not to use anything that I really don't need. As a result, the car's not having a handbrake - just a hydraulic line-lock for occasional use e.g. on a trailer. Similarly, I'm having the bare minimum in terms of lights - hopefully just one bright high level brake light, Also, the loom's been stripped back to the bare minimum and also simplified as much as possible for reliability and to aid fault finding. Wise Man once say: Simple = Reliable. There's no clutch switch, tip-over wotsit or similar here.

Components - general ramblings

I've been collecting bits for ages and from all sorts of places. EBay yielded some freshly reconditioned Cortina uprights/hubs as a start point and it's all gone downhill from there.

The engine was purchased from a guy who races Jedi single seaters. It's supposedly done less than 1000 miles but I'll never know for sure. Looking back, I may have been a bit rash but the engine looks mint and already has all of the modifications done (sump baffle, drilled oil cooler bolt etc) to bolt it straight in. The price was OK, so we just live in hope now. I did end up having to buy a second loom and correct ECU since the one that the guy sold me was off a Fazer. A term meaning frequent masturbater springs to mind. I only have a dodgy photo of the engine but I'll post it anyway.

You'll notice that there's a strange cylinder hanging off the gear shift arm on the motor. This is the actuator for a Kliktronic gear shifter. The guys who built my original MK used one on their next build and I decided I wanted one too. I bought it off a guy on who had sold his bike engined MK and bought a Jedi single seater. How's that for coincidence?

Wheels are teeny 6"x13" Minators (when they turn-up) and these will be mated with some part worn slicks at least to start with. Cheap and light again.

The 3.62:1 LSD was free from a guy who races a Sierra in the Welsh Sports & Saloons Championship (thanks Ken!) and will be perfect for the hills but pretty rubbish for Brands Hatch. I'll invest in a 2nd longer geared one eventually. This and many other parts have been cleaned up using a combination of electrolysis (see Locostbuilders for more info,) petrol and Hammerite (should have bought shares!) Most of the bits are now shiny and clean. I just have the steering column to do.

I've splashed-out on my seat. I probably should have gone cheap and light again, but instead saw something I really fancied and went for it (same can be said about Julia.) It's an Intatrim Endeavour narrow version. It's surprisingly light, comfortable and should look fan-bloomin-tastic in the car.

In terms of instruments, I've gone for a Veypor VR2 to monitor speed, revs, gear etc and a SPA dual gauge to look after oil pressure and water temperature.

I've stopped keeping track of what everything has cost - I think it'll be easier that way!

Bye for now.


Friday, 2 February 2007

And so we begin...

Well here we are. 1st post having just returned from collecting my MNR Vortx Kit. Some pics from today are intermingled with the tosh I've written thus far.
So where to begin?
Let's get the dull stuff out of the way. I'm 27 and from Cardiff. I've recently bought a house (with a garage!) with my incredibly patient and beautiful girlfriend Julia. I work as a Planning Manager in the food industry. I am totally car mad - I have been since I was about 16.

I've owned all sorts of cars from Peugeot GTis and Ex-rally Novas to an imported Mazda MX-5. A couple of years ago, I fulfilled a dream and bought my first (ready built) bike engined kit car. The car, an MK Indy with a Honda CBR1000 engine, was the king of bling. Big wheels, all black, chrome and polished aluminium. If an american rapper owned a 7 it probably wouldn't look too different! It was a great car, it still looks lovely. However, I got bitten by the trackday bug and suddenly realised that big wheels, showy chrome and carpet were no longer what I wanted.

The car was sold (eventually - Tip No.1 NEVER expect to get what you paid for a kit/kit car back when you sell) and the search began for it's leaner, meaner replacement. After narrowing the search down to Raw Striker, Procomp LA Gold and MNR Vortx I opted for the latter. Reasons are numerous but in summary, it was (in my eyes at least) better value, better quality and crucially easier to put together. This is my first build after all.

I haven't scrimped on the spec - I've gone for the RT+ kit with inboard dampers. I nearly went for the top-of-the range Super but determined that I'm not a good enough 'wheel-man' to reap the benefits. I've also strayed from the norm in terms of my roll-bar, scuttle panel, fuel tank and button operated gearshift to name a few. Chris and Marc @ MNR were extremely helpful (Tip No.2 Just ask!) The car is to be powered by a last-in-the-line carb-fed Yamaha R1 engine (5JJ for those in the know.)
I've been collecting parts for about 12 months and placed my order in September. This means that most of the stuff is ready to go which should mean that the build is a relatively quick one. It also helps that the car isn't being built for road use so I can leave a load of stuff off. It has two primary uses:
  1. Get me around as many UK racetracks on trackdays as possible.
  2. Give me my first motorsport experience in the forms of Sprints and Hillclimbs.

I hope that this blog is of some use to someone - I'll do my best to keep it updated.

As it stands, the kit is still in the van waiting for the paint to dry in my new garage (I'm not kidding.) Should be good-to-go by the morning.