Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas is looming...

The chassis is powdercoated.  Sadly, I couldn't get away from work before the chap left for a couple of weeks in warmer climes so I can't collect it until the 7th Jan.  I myself head for a few days in Tuscany on the 8th so its not ideal.  Never mind.  In the meantime, I'll continue to thin-out the loom.  I think I'm nearly there to be honest.  I might even break the monotony by carrying-out some of the mods to the engine that will hopefully prevent it from going bang.  I've got a sump baffle plate so that can be sorted out.  That'll leave me with the breather mods and replacement of the damaged covers.  I also want to replace the clutch.  Hmm... sounds like plenty to be getting on with actually.

Nadolig Llawen.


Wednesday, 12 December 2012


The chassis has finally gone to the powdercoaters -  Before it left I did my very best to degrease it.  Regular readers may remember that in November 2010 the chassis was thoroughly oiled and put into storage.  As a result I thought it was worth going over it with acetone and a rag to try and get it ship-shape before blasting.

One other job pre-painting involved drilling some holes for the bonnet pins.  These can be seen below.
Fourteen holes took forever as my drill bits clearly need sharpening.  I was also left wishing that I still had a mains-electric drill.  Anyway, I got there in the end and popped a bonnet pin in one of the holes to check that all was well,
Another job done.  I've mentioned in a couple of previous posts that the chassis was going to be painted grey.  That is still true, at least to an extent.  However, I decided that plain grey was all very well but a bit common and not necessarily in-keeping with my retro theme.  So, after procrastinating for long enough to be uncomfortable with my lack of decisiveness, I bit the bullet (hence the 'JFDI' title) and went for Grey-Beige or RAL1019.  Middle-aged before my time?  Probably.
So an unusual colour for an unusual car.  SNAFU then.


Saturday, 8 December 2012

Date and Weight

The draft race calendar is out and can be seen here.  I can't see the car being ready until May so I will sadly miss Rounds 1-4 at Donington and Brands.  That means a debut at Snetterton on the new (to me at least) 300 circuit.   My previous visit to the circuit was a bit disappointing and its a bloomin' long way from home but we'll book the Friday test and see how we get on.  A date to work towards should hopefully provide some real impetus.  The chassis is ready and heading for coating next Thursday.  We managed to get it on a set of scales - its 60kgs which, considering that it includes so many of the fixings and brackets to construct the car, is rather pleasing - its the same as a Locost chassis.

I'm still working on the wiring.  As soon as I've got that sorted I'll start working on the motor - I want to change the clutch, fit some upgraded springs, replace the damaged covers and carry-out the necessary mods to the breather system and sump.  


Monday, 26 November 2012

Z-a-p-p, C-r-a-c-k-l-e & P-o-p

The big weld-off with Dave at Track Developments happened as planned this weekend.  Here's the man in question wielding his TIG torch:
The modifications and additions to the chassis are too numerous to even think about listing.  If nothing else, it's unique.  Here it is inverted, with Dave moving too fast for the camera:
If you look really closely you can see the reworked portion at the rear of the tunnel; this is where we had to make changes so that the prop shaft didn't make contact with the chassis.  If it looks a bit lightweight here it's because the photo was taken pre-gussets.

The plan for one evening this week is to crawl all over the chassis with a torch looking for any missed welds. Assuming all is well, I'll give the chassis one last tidy-up before it goes for powdercoating (in grey).

In other news I've been identifying connectors on the loom.  I think I've got three to still find a home for.  Next I need to decide what to get shot of.  There is some really good information on the web relating to the wiring but nobody has removed the bike's relay assembly which I'm really keen to do.  I really don't fancy fault finding amongst that lot.  Therefore I am minded to invest the time now to make it a bit easier later.  This has been my train of thought throughout the chassis mods too.  Let's hope it pays off when it comes to bolting the thing together.


Sunday, 18 November 2012

Multiple Trauma

I knew that the centre tunnel was important for providing stiffness.  The theory was proven to be fact when we cut a portion out of it last weekend.

My Gemini is going to run a rear ride height that is about 40-50mm lower than most.  This doesn't sound like all that much perhaps and you might well assume that it should be relatively straightforward to achieve.  However its thrown up a number of problems already and I now have fears about the rear tyres fouling the rear arches.  I've already had to reshape the rear of the car to prevent the panhard rod from interfering with the chassis, or rather the other way around.  Another issue was just around the corner.

The plan for last Saturday was to fabricate the mount for the prop centre bearing and to get the last tabs and sundry bits of steel tacked into place.  

Problem #1:  We couldn't get the prop into the car with the engine in place.  
Thankfully the solution to this was easy - split the prop at the sliding joint.  Happy days, or it would have been except for...

Problem #2.  The rear half of the prop is too long.  We have no idea if the issue was the measurement or the manufacture as I've lost the sketch.  Annoying but not the end of the world as the remedy should be pretty cheap and quick.  So all is not lost, except...

Problem #3.  Err, the prop looks a bit close to the top of the tunnel, even at ride-height.  Full bump is going to be an issue.  So, we replaced the 'dummy dampers' that have been suspending the axle at ride height with the 'dummy dampers' that suspend the axle at full bump.  Sure enough, it's not going to work.  Why-oh-why-oh-why is nothing straightforward and why-oh-why-oh-why did I start this daft project? 

I had two options.  Either cut-out most of the tunnel and replace it, which would have rendered the nice rear cover that I'd had fabricated absolutely useless or, remove the offending tube and replace it with thick plate and then add gussets to build the strength back in   Assuming that it all goes to plan, we're going to go with the second option.  Dave Gallop is looking after the gussets and fillets when he does the final welding.  It should be fine but it did raise my stress levels a bit.

Once a plan was hatched I then went ahead with all the other planned jobs; essentially the chassis is ready to be finished-up.  Hopefully this will happen by this time next week.

Since the weekend I've started to look at another potential source of stress, that is, the wiring loom.  Ay, Caramba! 


Saturday, 3 November 2012

Another chapter...

Its been a busy time: I've got married (amazing day); I've bought a new house.
It's not all change though as progress on the Gemini has been at its usual sloth-like rate.

I did have a good day on fabrication with Track Developments' Dave Gallop however.  I'll include some photos for my benefit but I don't expect any of them to go viral.  Yawn.

Crotch-strap mounts, devised using the very helpful Schroth website for guidance:

Exhaust mount and tab for the lockwire that will ensure the tailpipe doesn't fall-off:

Front ARB mounts:

Finished front-end showing the angled plates at the top corners that will eventually support the bonnet catches that hold the front bodywork in place:

The chassis to-do list looks like this:

  • Prop Centre Bearing Mount
  • Finish Prop Catcher.
  • Hand Brake Cable Bracket - have the basis of this but needs sand blasting.
  • Earth points

I collected the prop yesterday so this can hopefully be finished-off next week and then all welded up the week later.  I then need to decide whether to powdercoat or paint the chassis.  Hmmmm.


Sunday, 23 September 2012

Argh... I need a break from wedding admin.

I stole an hour today nipped to the workshop and made a list.  It made a pleasant change.  From making lists.

Here's the fabrication that's outstanding:

  • Crotch strap mounts - I know what I'm doing here and have ordered the steel.
  • Complete exhaust mount - I have a plan, have the steel; just need to think about exhaust position again.
  • Weld-in body support bobbin on the driver's side.
  • Weld in body mount tab on the PAX side - perhaps use a modified water-jet tab that I already have.
  • Weld in exhaust lockwire tab.  A what?  I'll explain another time.
  • Front ARB mounts - need to be 'adjustable' i.e. multi-position.
  • Rear ARB mounts.
  • Prop Centre Bearing Mount - still not bought prop - next purchase.
  • Finish Prop Catcher.
  • Clutch Pedal Stop
  • Hand Brake Cable Bracket - have the basis of this but needs sand blasting.
  • Finish undertray tabs.
  • Bonnet catch tabs.
  • Rear tub mounts - need to contact Gemini builders to see what they did.
Kate and I are only planning a mini-moon so I may even get a day to work through some of these w/c 1st Oct.

In the mean time, wish us luck!


Friday, 21 September 2012

The small matter of...

Over the years, from time-to-time, I have signposted important things that are happening in my life outside of my love of cars.  It helps me when I look back on what I wrote in this blog and adds context to my car-related posts.

So, what's occurring?  Well, on Monday/Tuesday Kate and I are completing the purchase of an idyllic cottage on the edge of the Forest of Dean complete with a brook AND a stream AND (hopefully) room to store a certain racecar.  Next Saturday (29th) Kate and I are then getting married.  Its all rushed-up rather fast and is all rather exciting and rather stressful. Its also costing rather a lot of cash which is another reason why car-related activity has slowed still further.

Also, its built like a big ol' kit car so probably deserves a mention: we've also bought a Land Rover Series III.  Its my post-racer project.  Or something.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Tow Loop Mount

If it weren't for the fact that my blog was linked to my e-mail address I'm sure that I would've forgotten my sign-in.

Anyway, the car hasn't had a look-in over the last month or so.  I finally got to do a bit of 'tinkering' today.  I've been trying to find a sensible way to attach a front tow loop and I've really been struggling, believe it or not.

I finally realised what needed to be done and set about it today; it essentially involved bracing the angle that was originally added to mount the oil cooler to and drilling a 1/2" hole in the middle of it.
I could do with reviewing the list of stuff that needs to be done to the chassis.  It should be pretty short now. I'll endeavour to do this next week.


Sunday, 22 July 2012

Card Bored

The car hasn't really had a look-in this week.  Last weekend I started mocking-up the fuel tank.  To do this I needed to support the axle at what will be maximum-bump - it at least confirmed that the raised rear tube will work nicely.

Unfortunately I ran out of 'craft' card.  I should say that the main reason for doing this was to see where the rear ARB mounts could go.


Monday, 9 July 2012


As planned, my fabulous fiancée and I headed over to the workshop on Saturday afternoon to test fit the body. This was the first time that chassis and bodywork had met and it was in fact the first time that I had seen the front and rear sections together.

I've heard about a couple of cases of tubs having to be cut and re-glassed in various areas as they failed to fit properly against the chassis. Happily, it looks like there are no such issues for me.

Bearing in mind that there will be aluminium riveted to the chassis and the fact that I'll probably space-off the exhaust side to try to get some air in, that doesn't look too bad.
One minor issue is the fact that my unusual fuel tank will clash with the intended mounting point at the rear (the vertical piece of GRP that you can see with the boot panel off.  I'm sure that this can be sorted however.  A further minor issue is the fact that the boot isn't quite centred.  This may mean that the Roll Cage back-stays go through the body at different points which might look a bit odd - oh well, it's a racecar and not entering the Pebble Beach Concourse d'Elegance.

Perhaps the most interesting thing for me is that it confirmed where I'd be sitting in the car.  Compare my old Locost to the new car:
Its not all that easy to tell in actual fact but I'm some 5" further back than I otherwise would've been.  I'm right at the back cockpit, which isn't often the case when you are 5'7" and short in the leg.  That's the joy of setting the controls to suit yourself.

Apologies for the ugly mug (mine!)

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Hasn't my welding improved?

The implied message in the title and photograph above is a deception.  The lovely aluminium weld above is by Martin Keenan or one of his chaps and comes from the rear tunnel cover that I asked him to make for me.  I made him a template as seen below and he did the rest.
Am I happy?  Very much so.
The part is relatively heavy at 770grams so I wouldn't want to do too much panelling this way but the front of  the driver's footwell is going to need similar 'jiggery-pokery' so I'll get another template sent once I've sorted out the final reverse motor mount.
Martin is also going to supply my tanks - fuel, swirl and catch; again all from templates.

For some reason Blogger is turning my photos clockwise by 90degrees. Please accept my apologies if I cause you to twist your neck!


Thursday, 5 July 2012

Raising the bar.

A bit more chassis related progress.  We really are getting close now.  I think.

So, the car is going to run with a rear ride height of 100-105mm.  The standard chassis isn't designed to run that low and hence, if it did, the Panhard rod would likely come into contact with one of the chassis tubes.  Consequently, something needed to be done.  I actually forgot to take a 'before' photograph but figured that a picture would help, so what you can see directly below is me holding the original (downward sloping) tube against the new one.
The new tube therefore looks like...
Neat, I hope you'll agree. 

Other works well under way include the prop catcher (here shown at a bizarre angle and highlighted in red.)
Also, the aforementioned water-cut bracket for the Digi Dash 2 arrived and has been tacked into place:
The bracket can be seen behind the paddles.  

The next major(ish) job requires the propshaft so that will be ordered next week.  In the meantime, Kate is going to help me to trial fit the bodywork on Saturday.

Watch this space....

Monday, 25 June 2012

One step backwards, two steps back

Almost a week ago now we set about fabricating the main supports for the reverse.  All went pretty well, although we did decide that we should put something on the back too - so I need to sketch something and get it water cut so that it will bolt straight onto a chassis tab that I'm yet to make also.
Naturally its all just tacked at the moment... although that didn't stop me from connecting a battery and seeing if it worked...
I did even have a video but I managed to delete it by accident, clever lad that I am. Actually I've been a bit dull. 2/3 times the gear seems to work a treat - out it pops'n'spins turning the prop flange as planned.  However, 1/3 times the bloody gears don't mesh properly and you get a nasty chattering sound.  Why?  Well, neither gear has a chamfer to help it mesh.  DAMMIT!  The point is that no real harm is done at the moment but its only trying to turn a shaft in a high quality bearing.  It's going to have to move at least 515kgs.

So, what now?  Well, I thought things through enough when I 'designed' the system that I've had the expensive gear hardened so that the the cheaper one wears.  This was a great idea at the time.  Unfortunately convention would have me chamfer the smaller gear.  Ah, woe is me.  Time to adapt; either try to chamfer the big gear with the Dremmel or get a chamfer put on it by a machine shop and see what happens.  I've not decided what the right thing to do is yet.

In other news, last weekend's racing at Donington Park was originally planned to be my RGB debut - hilarious level of optimism obviously.  Not being able to drive a glorified climbing frame, I travelled up to watch yesterday instead.  Most folk seem to be going faster.  Al Boulton dominated Class F as normal while Tim Gray took another outright win by a country mile.    Perhaps the most important thing for me was the fact that Paul Rickers' 4C8 R1 is still going strong.  Good news!

Next time - a sexy water-jet cut dash mount.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

500 pounds of ballast!

I got home this evening to find that the custom drive gear for my reverse mechanism had finally arrived.  About time too!

So, it was more-or-less straight out to the shed to see if everything would hang together as planned.  Ah yes, the plan.  The plan was originally to use an unmolested starter motor from a Honda Civic to engage on a cog mated to the propshaft-to-gearbox-output-shaft adaptor to drive the car in reverse; rather like a milk float.  A very slow milk float.

Now, while I can't really claim the original idea as my own, the system that I was essentially copying didn't quite meet my brief.  Dan's ( method engaged the starter with a button and a mechanical lever.  This sounded far too complex and involved more components than is, to my mind at least. strictly necessary.  The idea was therefore to have a purely electric system.  The problem was that the planned system would work brilliantly right up until the point that you realised that the electric motor would get in the way of the propshaft - a fairly critical component when looking to propel the car in either direction.

After much head scratching I decided that the only way forward (or backwards as it were) was to replace the driven gear on the starter motor - the 'slave' gear was already as large as I could get it.  I originally planned to fit a standard 2.5MOD gear of the correct PCD and O/D to the innards of the original gear - having had the original external teeth machined down.  We did get as far as machining the teeth off before I conceded that it was likely to be a horrible bodge - welding to hardened steel wasn't going to be terribly easy and the need for a fairly small centre bore meant that I couldn't get a HPC-supplied gear off the shelf anyway.  The picture below shows the original gear in its current state as well as a portion of the 'nose' of the starter which I cut-off to provide greater clearance for the new driven gear.
I obtained a quote from HPC Gears, having sent them a decidedly non-engineering drawing and the original part.  While it took a while to be delivered, apparently due to outsourced spark erosion, I can't fault the part itself.
This then gave me the kit of parts seen below.  
Inclusive of the machined bushes, both gears and reconditioned starter, this lot owes me about £500 i.e. about the same as MNR charged me for a reverse box a couple of years ago.  The upside is that the new electric kit is much lighter than a gearbox.  
The downside is that I'm not certain if it will work.  Due to a driven gear that is larger than those on most  BEC electric reverse systems, the torque required will be somewhat greater than on other solutions.  Hence, everything needs to be sturdy, including the electrics.  Of course all it needs to do is reverse the car on flat ground and hop a wheel over a bit of wood to pass scrutineering, but I'd be gutted if I'd got this far and the thing flunked the test.  Time will tell.
While this all seems like a terrible faff, the fact is that 'rules is rules' and if they, meaning the increasingly active eligibility scrutineers, find that your reverse mechanism doesn't do what it says on the tin, then you get disqualified.  This has already happened a couple of times this season.  Its possible to form a decent argument to say that these potentially-token reverse systems are a waste of time and money and just add weight to the cars, but the diktat comes from the MSA rather than the club so its not even a fight worth fighting it seems.

I need to get some supports fabricated and get it welded in next.  Adrian has done a good job of bracing his ancillary starter motor so I need to look hard to see if I can do something similar.


Sunday, 3 June 2012


As part of the effort to get the chassis itself finally completed and sent to be powdercoated, attention turned to the fuel tank.  I have no aspirations to make my own but the mounting points had to be set-out in such a way that the part, once fabricated, could bolt straight in with minimal fuss.  This meant fabricating a template that I could use to locate the mounting points while the tank maker could use it to help make the tank itself.

The plan for the tank is another good idea that I've stolen from someone else.  Matt and Ivan at Procomp Motorsport can be thanked for this.  Here's one they made earlier:
The idea is that the tank sits against the back bulkhead and above the axle on the passenger side.  While the mass of the fuel sits quite high, there are a number of advantages to this method:

  1. The tank is well away from the rear of the car and therefore less likely to be interfered with in the event that the car hits a tyre wall backwards.
  2. The weight is over the rear axle; Procomp's LA Golds have a habit of outrageously good starts and one suspects that this plays a part.
  3. The fuel and tank should, along with the engine which is also placed as far to the left as is possible  (from a RHD perspective,) go some way to balancing-out the weight of the driver i.e. me.
So, having made a couple of cardboard templates, I the dragged out the jigsaw, files, sanding block and drill and produced the following.

Its worth noting that mine is wider than the Procomp version.  I suspect that my bulkhead isn't quite as tall as on a Locost and I have the Brikett 6-hour relay in mind so want a little extra capacity.

The tank will eventually be mounted with the same style threaded inserts that we used on the engine mounts, as seen here.  The tank will be isolated from some vibration by using 5mm thick rubber washers.  The mounting method can be seen below.
Again with chassis completion firmly on my mind, I also wanted to decide where my Digidash 2 was going to live.  After much deliberation I decided that behind the wheel would be best.
I'll now probably get the mount water-jet cut so it can be tig-welded to the column.

That's it for now.  I'm still waiting for the reverse gear and motor to return, but I've been promised that I'll see it this week.  Fingers crossed!


Sunday, 27 May 2012

Steering Committee

Yesterday was the first time that I'd spent a whole day in the shed for some time.  The main focus of the day was to firm-up the position of the upper steering column and to get most of the fabrication done.  Dave was thankfully not far away and was able to notch tubes and turn-up bushes as needed. His tig welder also came in very handy. As part of the job of fabricating the upper column, we also needed to determine where the paddle was going to sit and also make the stand-offs to suit.  

The main support is in place, but it the outer column needs a couple of stabilising tubes to make sure that it doesn't move.  I was originally planning to drill lots of holes in the outer column but will now leave it as-is as there is some 20-odd cm of length where it needs to be self-supporting.  The column inner is now also mostly complete.  The run is very smooth which should mean that I get a clear idea of what the front wheels are doing.  The main point is that it suits me perfectly; between the custom column and pendulum pedals its shaping-up to be the most comfortable kit car I've ever sat in.

Speaking of pedals, I also spent some time experimenting with the clutch pedal linkage which is effectively ratio-adjustable.  I hesitate to say it but it looks like the clutch feel will exceed that of most BECs, which is a very good news as some are like on/off switches.
Finally, and not unrelated to the pedals, I sliced up some ERW tube to obtain some suitably light angle with which to fabricate control-cable support brackets.  Again these are just tacked in place at present.  The bracket in-front of the pedal box in the picture above will actually just support a fabricated stand-off which will hold the cable adjuster for the 'go' pedal.  The bracket in the top-centre of the photograph, welded to the flank of the pedal box, will house the cable adjuster for the clutch cable.

I was hoping to finish the reverse gear this weekend but its yet to arrive - two weeks later than quoted!