Saturday, 31 December 2011


A little more progress was made yesterday - not as much as I'd have liked but there you go.

The reinforced back-end which is necessitated by the MSA requirement to have roll-bar back-stays is now almost fully welded.  I say almost as there are some weld-runs that I need to do once the chassis has been inverted.
The strips of white tape are reminders that there are welds that need finishing once upside-down.  This chassis mod took me ages.  Cutting the angles on the horizontal(ish) tubes proved a little problematic.  Some of my welding was then utter dog-sh*t so I ended up grinding it back and having another go.  
I will not be welding the roll-cage and may even leave the engine mounts to someone better than I!  Ah yes, the engine mounts.  What was going to be square is now round. I realised that I had some nice water-cut brackets left over from the aborted se7en project that would do the job quite nicely.  I was also worried that the tube that's been lying around various garages for almost two years might be fubared but it's minty-clean inside so we'll run with it.
As, usual, ignore the improvised spacers on the overly-long bolt.  I am going to see if I can get the original bolts on a lathe to get the thread cut to length to reuse them.  We'll see.
The last 45mins of the 'garage-time' yesterday was spent looking at the possibilities for fitting a reverse.  I have no real idea what I'm going to do yet - not good!

Happy New Year by the way.


Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Poly go me

I'd love to report that there has been lots of progress on the chassis.  However, when your success rate of cutting tubes with awkward and opposed angles is about 1-in-5, it does tend to slow you down.  At least I'm not making my own chassis from scratch!

Some items have arrived, notably the plates to mount the main roll hoop, a pillow block bearing that isn't suitable for the intended job and a set of four poly bushes, crush tubes and housings.  
The vast majority of the suspension joints on the car are to be rose jointed; the front can be seen here.  In fact the only exceptions are the axle-end joints on the trailing arms.  My thinking is that the 5-link live axle set-up will probably benefit from an element of 'compliance' (read 'squish.')  As such the bushes I've gone for are at the lower-middle end of the hardness scale at Shore A = 80.  My experience is that anything harder than this defeats the object and doesn't really do the job that I want it to do.  My experience is also that these, whatever the hardness rating, need to be very carefully matched to the accepting clevis so I think I'll be calling on Dave at Track Developments and his lathe to get them right.

Anyway, I'm sure that this will be my last post this side of Christmas so may I take this opportunity to wish you Nadolig Llawen


Saturday, 10 December 2011

If you didn't know me better...

... you might think that progress was being made.

I KNOW> some sort of tangible progress.  What ever next?

Where to start?  Well, I have an engine.  As I explained last time, the budget is tight.  As such, I'd set myself a target of obtaining a running 5VY R1 engine for £1500. There didn't appear to be much around.  Andy Bates said that he had one coming in but that would have blown the budget.  Malc at Yorkshire Engines didn't have one but he did have a later 4C8 engine.  I asked him what he thought of the reliability on the 4C8 as numerous have exploded when fitted to cars.  He explained that cooling is key and you also need to retain the EXUP gubbins - but he said that he runs one himself without bother.  This got me thinking, and prompted me to look again at eBay.  Amazingly there was a 4C8 package, still in the frame with everything needed to run it and it was at £600-and-something with 20-odd hours to go.  Long story short, after several messages to the vendor I decided that it was worth a punt.  One free EZSnipe later and it's mine for £842.  Shazzam!

The only downsides were that it was in Wigan and that it needs a couple of new covers.  Anyway, last Saturday I borrowed a van and picked it up.  It was great to be able to see the motor running before loading up.  The service history was a rare treat too, as was the V5 and the fact that the guy selling, Steve, was one of the nicest blokes you could wish to deal with.  Here's the heart of the beast in Steve's garage::
While I'm very pleased with my purchase, it could spell trouble.  As I mentioned above, the 4C8 doesn't have a great reputation as a reliable unit.  Of the RGB-bunch, Austen described me as "brave," Al Boulton urged me to rethink and I wouldn't be surprised if dragon-tamer and series sponsor Bates thinks I'm a prat.  Anyway, it's 4C8-devotee Paul Rickers' fault.  When I told him that I was fitting a 5VY, he just said "No Mate.  You want a 4C8 - I've got it sorted."  Here's hoping!

On Thursday evening I started to get the engine into a state where I could remove it from the frame.  In essence all I had time to do was to remove the airbox and to start freeing-up the loom - wow, there's a lot of loom!

I waded-in again this morning and within a couple of hours had the radiator off, the damaged exhaust (cut) off and the wiring out of the way so that the frame could be lifted over the top.
Like I said, it's a lot of wiring!  Once it was all removed, it was time to introduce it to its new home.

With the engine loosely in place, I could start thinking about fabricating the engine mounts.  There is still lots to do, but the most substantial addition is a new longitudinal tube which will support the upper mounts.  This isn't welded in place yet but, its fairly self explanatory.
Also cut and awaiting welding is the tube at the bottom of the tunnel which will bridge the gap between the two footwells, hopefully adding some stiffness to the whole front-middle of the chassis.
Finally for today, I spent some time removing the angle section at the rear which was designed to support, if memory serves, a mini-van fuel tank.  The angle is to be replaced by 18g square section and complimented by another tube connecting the left rear to the right rear.  The aim is to make the structure strong enough to provide mounting points for the mandatory rear roll cage supports.

There's still work to be done, as can be seen in the pic above,  More flap-discs required!

In other news, Procomp Motorsport are busy rebuilding my diff with its new Quaife ATB as well as checking and altering the camber and toe on the built-up axle.  Also, I really need to get the bodywork ordered.  Rather charmingly, Autotune have asked me to post a completed order form.

Oh, one final thing - the provisional race calendar is out which has rather spurred me on.  Time to renew my license!


Sunday, 27 November 2011

Whining and grinding.

To be honest I've been a bit troubled of late.  On the one hand I've been looking at the spreadsheet that I've constructed to estimate the cost of the build.  On the other hand I've been looking at the cost of our wedding.  Kate and I are very fortunate that we both have good jobs and earn decent money.  However the car and the wedding are both significant projects and I'd started to fret.  What brings the issue into stark contrast is the availability of race-ready machinery at a fraction of the build cost.  The sensible thing would undoubtedly be to go out and buy one of these cars and get back to racing - something which I'm now missing more than ever.

However, the fact remains, I intend to complete one build and I've come a long way and invested a lot of cash already.  So, having flirted with the idea of either moth-balling the Gemini or even selling up and buying some turn-key solution, I've resolved to carry on. Thankfully the future Mrs C is hugely supportive, if probably fed-up of me talking about cars.  The only slight change is that, whereas Plan A was 'Gold Standard' throughout, Plan B will probably leave some room for later upgrades.  So, for example hubs will probably be reconditioned OE stuff rather than lightweight aluminium and brake pipes will now be kunifer and braided rather than top-of-the-range Goodridge throughout.  These type of decisions will be relatively small beer providing I'm out racing in 2012.

Anyway, I have done a bit to the car.  Roll bar mounts have been rather exercising my grey matter as the chassis was never really designed to have a full cage fitted. I think I've got it sussed now and have sent a couple of drawings away to get brackets water-jet cut and fabricated.

 I even spent a happy morning making models!
I've also started making the necessary mods to the chassis.  Hopefully my fabrication skills will improve with practice; it's taking me an age to cut and file tubes such that they are a half-decent fit!

I'm on the hunt for a suitable R1 motor and I plan to order my bodywork when I'm in Lancashire with work next week.  I still haven't fixed my welder.  MUST DO THAT THIS WEEK!


Saturday, 5 November 2011


Before I attempt to construct a to-weld list, I must commend the team that I supported at the Birkett 6 Hour Relay Race as Silverstone on Saturday 29th October.  The guys were all very quick and ran faultlessly.  The result was a 'scratch' class win. Uber-Mega. I'm not going to give a blow-by-blow account of the day.  Others are much more able than I in this regard.  For example, click Dr Bob's linky-doo-dah on the right hand side if you are interested.  What I would say is that although its an enjoyable day, it's not easy - and I inevitably get cold and wet at some stage.  I actually hope that it's my last year 'taking part' as an administrator.  I'd best get some work done then...

I'm a bit fearful of rushing this list as it will hopefully be a really useful reference. Thankfully I can edit blog entries so here goes.  The list at this stage only covers the chassis itself and not things that hang-pff it.
  • Front ARB mounts
  • Radiator mounts
  • Oil cooler mounts
  • Engine mounts (taking inspiration from Wyn)
  • Electric reverse mounts - I'm a bit worried about clearance - more in a later post
  • Additional tube at bottom-front of the transmission tunnel
  • Gear shift pivot mount
  • Pedal box mount
  • Prop catchers x 2 
  • Some side impact protection (tbc)
  • Engine undertray Dzus tabs
  • Tunnel cover Dzus tabs
  • Rear undertray mounts/suppots
  • Front roll cage mounts - I'm not 100% sure how best to do these yet
  • Steering column mounts (top and bottom) - to incorporate paddle-shift mounts
  • Crotch strap mounts for 6-poiint harness
  • Fuel tank bobbins
  • Replace hindmost tubes with something capable of supporting roll cage rearward supports
  • Roll cage mounts for the above
  • Tow strap mounts
  • Rear ARB mounts (need to discuss with Dave at Track Developments)
  • Bracket for rear brake line & cable at rear of tunnel.
And that's before I've tried to fit the body and worked out if that needs anything different.  

I'd better get my welder fixed.


Saturday, 8 October 2011

The good, the bad and the ugly...

Well, it seems that I'd not really thought through the axle-alignment / finessing job. Apparently you need the actual differential unit that's going to be used to make sure that the halfshafts are in the right position.  I'd foolishly assumed that the issue would revolve around the axle tubes themselves rather than the way that all the parts fit together.  The issue with this is that I haven't yet purchased the Quaife ATB diff - and due to the payment of a hefty deposit to secure our wedding venue/date I'm not in a position to do so this month.  Having apologised to Matt at Procomp, he's agreed to postpone the work.  Oops. 

I spent Wednesday and Thursday of this week with Martin Keenan in Rotherham essentially getting an introduction to MIG welding.  I wouldn't say that I was "born to weld" but I seemed to do okay.   My main issue is making sure that I can see the joint properly - it's all about getting my head in the right place.  I laid-down a fair amount of welds over the two days.  Apparently I used over a third of a big bottle of gas; Martin uses roughly the same amount to produce two chassis!

Here's my early practice runs:
These practice pieces were very useful and not only in their intended way.  They also made me realise how much heavier things can get if you have to weld something several times to get it structurally sound.  Right-first-time = lightness.

Anyway, by lunchtime on Day 2, I was producing welds like the two below with reasonable consistency.  They aren't wonderfully pretty but they don't break in the vice.  Result. 

While we all know that a 'bad workman always blames his tools,' Martin made it abundantly clear that a good reliable weld is a result of both man and machine doing what they should.  Unfortunately this means that I need to spend some money on my eBay welder.  
The bearings on the wire feed seem to be shot and as such it can be a bit hit and miss.  When it works though, it does so very well so it's worth sorting out.

In any case, I'm looking forward to getting stuck-in, something that I'll be able to do as my local workshop space is sorted at last.  I'll be in by the end of the month.  I'll make my next blog entry a welding to-do list.

Finally, the front wishbones from Dave at Track Developments are just about there with good levels of adjustment, more than sufficient freedom of movement and of course the intended geometry.
One needs to ignore the unnecessarily long bolts, odd spacers saving nyloc nuts (we are in a time of austerity after all!) and upside-down damper (borrowed.)


Wednesday, 14 September 2011


My axle casing, differential and half-shafts are being dropped-off with Matt and Ivan at Procomp Motorsport tomorrow evening to be given the once-over.  The casing should return nice and straight or possibly even with a smidgerino of desirable angle.

The search for a local workshop/garage with power is on; I may have tempted fate with Plan A in this regard.


Friday, 2 September 2011

Welding *slash* Wedding...

In an attempt to become a bit more self-sufficient, I've just bought myself a Cebora MIG welder.  I've also got two days of training booked in Rotherham with Martin Keenan of MK Engineering to learn how to use the thing.

In an attempt to add something pictorial to the previous post, here's the prototype wishbones - the top 'un is a touch too short and the bottom one really needs the rod-end to be cranked upwards a bit.  Dave at Track Developments has all this in hand.
Dave also accompanied me to Silverstone last weekend - we went to watch the (very wet) RGB race, to have a look at some of the cars and to have a chat with the builders - I wanted to give Dave a feel for what is involved and what people are doing.  As usual the RGBers were very accommodating and generous with their time.  My thanks go to them; particular thanks go to Della Rogers for the fabulous cake!

Oh and in other news, I asked Kate to marry me.  She said "Yes."  Brrrrrrrrrrraaaap brrrrrrrrraaap!  Err, I mean splendid news!

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Location Location Location...

The chassis has been lowered from the ceiling.  The wishbones are now in production and should be trial fitted this coming weekend.

It also looks like I may have found a new home for the build that has two major advantages:
  1. It's not 1hour+ away from home.
  2. It has power.
I don't think the move will happen until the autumn but it will make a huge difference in terms of the prospect of getting out next year.

All positive stuff.

Sunday, 3 July 2011 is no more...

... welcome to

In an effort to refect the fact that I sold the MNR in 1947, I've now changed the title of the blog to  I think the new name embodies both my aspirations and my modus operandi.


Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Fate? Coincidence? Black (and white chequered) magic?

Long-suffering readers will remember that I raced as #41 in the 750MC Locost Championship in 2009.  Interestingly the chap I bought the Gemini chassis from, Dave Beddows, built and maintained another Locost that used to compete as #41.  Well, there's now a third connection to Locost #41 and things are starting to get a bit spooky. I'd better rewind a little...

For some time I've been watching 3.54:1 ratio English differentials on eBay.  The going rate for these has been somewhere between £160 and £190.  With a new crown wheel and pinion only costing £250, I'd pretty much resigned myself to buying new.  However, this weekend there were four potentially suitable diff's on the world's favourite auction site - very unusual - there's only usually one or two available at any one time.  Basic microeconomics tells us that when supply goes up, price (ceteris paribus) goes down. I decided to watch the auctions closely.  
The first one to end wasn't anywhere near home but the seller was offering postage at £15.  I won the auction for less than £113; tidy!  I paid via Paypal and received the usual e-mail confirming the transaction and also giving some more detail about the seller, including their name:  Keith Malpus.  "That's familiar" I thought.
I had a feeling that there is a Keith Malpus racing in Locosts.  Sure enough, there is - and guess what his race number is...  I e-mailed the seller to ask if it was the same person.  Of course it was.  How's that for a happy coincidence?  The upshot is that I'm collecting the item from Donington on the weekend, saving myself the £15 postage. So, it's clear to me that the car needs to compete as #41 - its karma.  The only problem is that someone already uses that number in the RGB Championship and has done for many years.  Fingers crossed he'll have a great second-half of the season so he can 'upgrade' to a nice low number for next year.  Go Neil! :)


Saturday, 25 June 2011

Pedal Power...

The pedal box is just about complete.  Although its based on a design which dates back to the 60s, I think its infinitely better than the vast majority of fabricated kit car pedal boxes that I've looked at and used.  
Andy at Arrow Auto Engineering has been brilliant to deal with and has done everything possible to make the pedal box suitable for the Gemini - he's also taken as much weight out of it as possible which is good.

There are a couple of questions that remain.  Firstly I'm not yet setted on how/where the steering column with negotiate the pedal box.  Secondly, I may need to move the accelerator closer to the brake - we shall see.

I'm going to Donington Park next Saturday to see the RGB race.  Unfortunately the number of entrants is down slightly due to mid-season fettling, holidays and other pressures.  Even so, I'm looking forward to it very much.


Saturday, 18 June 2011

Track-ing Development(s)

Dave and the team at Track Developments are in the process of making the wishbones for the car.  I nipped down there today to have a quick look, to meet some folk from the Bristol Kit Car Club and also to get the geometry checked on Kate's MX-5.  Dave has altered the toe settings and it is much better to drive now - much more confidence inspiring, particularly around the dead-ahead.  I really can't say enough good things about the service Dave, Tom and Ben provide.

My current thinking is that I should get Track Developments to do all the performance critical stuff - including anti-roll bars and specifying dampers.  If it's good enough for some of the big-spending historic guys, it's good enough for my little retro rocket...

I've also been talking to 'Handy Andy' at Arrow Auto Engineering who's in the process of sorting out a custom lightweight pedal box based on a MkII Escort unit.  I'm very pleased with how it appears to be coming together.
This will bolt to fabricated mounts above the footwell.  The master cylinders will be backward facing, meaning that I'll need a quick-access hatch at the top of the main tub - no problem and this will provide very easy access once the job is done.


Friday, 3 June 2011

Fleet of fancy...

No kit car related news yet, but there's a couple of new daily drivers.
Long live summer!


Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Back to work...

Good News:  I start work on Thursday, signalling the end to a series of events that started in February 2009 at the time of this depressing blog entry.

In other news, I visited to the Stoneleigh Kit Car Show a couple of weekends ago.  A good number of the RGB cars were on display but the main reason for going along was to have a chat with Richard Taylor from Autotune.  What a nice guy!  I'm sure that they are going to be great to deal with going forward.  In fact, there has been some discussion since about me appearing in another Gemini in 750MC SR&GTs later this season.  We'll have to play this by ear at the moment as there is an inevitable trade-off between getting on circuit this year and spending on the new car. 

I dropped in to see Dave Gallop at Track Developments yesterday - we had a general catch-up but I also wanted to check that he still had the drawings for the front wishbones - I'm hoping to get these ordered in the next few weeks.

So there we are - positive news!  As if racing weren't often at the forefront of my thoughts anyway, my cross-country commute takes me straight past Castle Combe.  At least I won't need to pay for postage from Merlin Motorsport any longer. 


Monday, 11 April 2011

Across the river without a pedal.

Have you ever put a well-known phrase into an online translator and then converted it from a foreign language back into English?  No?  Me neither.  The title of this micro-post  instead serves to explain that I've moved across the River Severn to South Gloucestershire and also that I've agreed to sell the pedals that I kept from the last chassis  to the new owner of the aforementioned chassis.  The reasons for doing this are:

  1. It would have proved just as difficult to get the pivots made and the bulkhead panel cut as it would to buy a whole new pedal box.
  2. I have in mind that I'd like a pendulum-style pedal box.  My Striker had a modified Escort MkII box and that was great to use.  My only concerns are whether it might clash with the steering column and also that it might be a bit heavy.  In any case its a thought for another day.
There's nothing more exciting to report I'm afraid!


Sunday, 6 February 2011

Back from travels. Well oiled.

We're now back from our travels - which we thoroughly enjoyed incidentally.  I can't say when work on the car will recommence as I have to find gainful employment first.  However, I have had a look at the chassis and can confirm that the oil and stretch wrap method appears to have done a great job of keeping the rot at bay - it pretty much looks like it did when we put it away.  Moral of the story: if you too need to lay-up an unfinished chassis or any other raw steel part, it's worth investing a bit of time to store it properly.  I'm just not willing to contemplate the joys of the degreasing process at this stage.