Sunday, 30 October 2011

Caterham Academy 2012 - Build (Day 16)

Day 16:

Yesterday was my last day working on the car before Caterham pick her up on Monday to complete the post build inspection and put her through the IVA. I had originally planned to do all of this myself, but have well and truly run out of brownie wife has been fantastic about the whole process and very supportive, but I work very long hours and don't really see my kids during the week, so being away from them at weekends is just too unfair on everyone.

My brother was over for the weekend, so came to give me a hand. I got him working through the IVA checklist whilst I finished up a number of the jobs I knew I still had to complete. I spent most of that time trying to get the plug out of the diff so I could top it up with oil, which was a bit of a pain, but eventually managed with an improvised tool consisting of a cut down 14mm bolt and some mole-grips (there just wasn’t enough room between the diff and de-Dion tube to get my 14mm socket in). I then wired up the front lights, got the IVA mirrors fitted, put the rear view mirror in and finally fitted the fuel filler cover. All jobs relatively easily and quickly completed. Meanwhile my brother put IVA covers on all of the suspension components, exhaust and all around the cycle looks rubbish and I can't believe that it will really make any difference in an accident, but needs must and I want the car to go through the IVA first time, so on it went. How long it remains on the car I just can't say!

After 5 hours in the garage, we dropped the car down onto her wheels, started her up and drove her outside onto the drive, which was a fantastic feeling and gave me a real sense of achievement. I let her run up to temperature, checked that the fan cut in and that I had no leaks. Everything seemed fine, but there are a couple of small things that are not quite right yet. The oil pressure gauge isn't reading (despite plenty of oil) and the tacho occasionally flickers, which suggests that one of my earths isn't quite right or that a fuse is playing up, but these are small things.

I then drove her to the end of the close and back again......well just because I wanted the satisfaction, before driving her back into the garage and getting the paperwork ready for Caterham. I have left them a list of a few things that I want/need checking/completing. I know that I could do these final few jobs myself in less than a day and am a bit annoyed that I didn't have the time to do them, but my family time is so precious that discretion dictated I leave them to Caterham next week.

This whole process has been hugely absorbing and has given me a massive sense of satisfaction. It has been hard work and frustrating at times, but I wouldn't hesitate to do it all over again and for now I am just looking forward to getting the car back from Caterham and starting to use her in anger. I have been without a Caterham for almost 6 years, but getting into my new baby and driving her to the end of the road and back has made me realise that has been 6 years too long....I can't wait for that first proper drive post IVA!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Caterham Academy 2012 - Build (Day 15)

Day 15:

Today was my last day on the car before I have to go back to work and unfortunatley I didn't quite get quite as far as was hoping to. I think I am probably 2 - 3 days off being totally finished, but loosing a day to the diff installation and spending far too long on the seats put me back a bit. I also realise that I have probably put myself under a bit too much pressure to get it done in the two weeks available, but with a young family and a busy job time is very limited. Still, I am really pleased with what I have done and know that I haven't cut any corners in anything I have done, which was important given the cost and pride involved.

I started today by securing the front passenger wing and then moving on to the drivers side, which took a couple of hours and, with the exception of the wiring for the front lights, was the last major bit of assembly that I had to do. I then spent time preparing the car for its first start up, which involved adjusting the throttle cable, filling the car with fuel, filling and bleeding the brake and clutch systems. The brakes went just fine, but the clutch was a real pain, with the bleed nipple in a horribly hard to reach. I am not happy with the result and will probably have another go at it in the next week. With the brakes done I could get the rear hubs done up to the correct 270NM and put the wheels on. I then filled the engine with oil and the cooling system with de-ionised water and anti-freeze, which highlighted a couple of unions that needed tightening further to avoid minor leaks.

It was at this point that the day became hardwork and incredibly messy. The infamous gearbox plug required me to take an angle grinder to an allen key and spend a good hour under the car trying to locate and extracate the plug. With the plug out it was time to rig up a real Heath Robbinson combination of pipes and funnels to channel gearbox oil into the gearbox. The result was that after at least another hour I was litterally covered in gearbox oil and not entirley sure how much went in the gearbox and how much went over me. It was a pig of a job and not one I want to repeat, so I will ask Caterham to check carefully that there is enough oil in the gearbox when the car goes in for its post build check. This job genuinley rivalled the diff for frustration!

At this point I dropped the car onto the floor and connected the battery, which scared the crap out of me by sparking visciously the first time I connected the positive terminal. I then decided to start the car up for the first time and after turning her over for a little while she kicked into life on 3 cylinders. I had a good dig around, checkign HT leads, connections etc and gave it another go, at which point she fired properly and settled to a nice idle. There was quite a lot of smoke from the exhaust primaries, which is various oils burning off and it was late, so I decided not to make too much noise for fear of annoying the neighbours.

It was a satisfying point to leave the build on, even if I didn't manage to get quite as far as I had hoped. I still need to do the following jobs, but they will have to wait for next weekend:
- Connect and adjust the front lights
- Fill the diff with oil
- Bleed the clutch
- Adjust the throttle and clutch stops
- Set the suspension up
- Rivet on the heater blanking plate
- Give her a quick run around the block :-)

It has been frustrating, satisfying and hard work, but the reward so far has been fantastic and my appreciation for the car and how it works has grown significantly. Above all I feel as though I have learnt a huge amount and hope it will stand me in good stead when I start racing early next year.

Caterham Academy 2012 - Build (Day 14)

Day 14:

Today, well yesterday (I had an old university friend come to stay yesterday evening, so went to the pub with him in the evening instead of updating my blog.....sorry for those avid followers) I got cracking with the bodywork in an attempt to make the old girl look like a real car, or as real as any Caterham ever does!

First off I started with the rear wings, which went on without too many problems. The most time consuming part of the process was cutting out the rubber strip that sits between the wing and the side skin, but it was worth taking time on this to get a decent fit. With that done it was simply a case of bolting the wings on and fitting the rear lights. Like many of the jobs you undertake when building a Caterham it feels as though you need three hands, but it was satisfying to see the end result. I don't think it would be uncharitable to say that the rear lights, well all of the lights on the car, are of rather dubious quality. So many of the parts Caterham use are beautifully finished, but then there are some that look like they have come straight off a 1970's Austin Maxi and in all honesty these probably have!

With the rear wings done I bolted the exhaust together properly and moved onto the front cycle wings, which put up rather more of a fight. I actually only managed to get the passenger side done with the time available, but was pleased with the result. With the indicator fitted to the wing it was a case of lining up and drilling the wing and the wing stays and making sure that the wing fitted properly relatively to the wheel. I phoned Caterham at this point to ask a general question and was told that if I wanted to I could just glue the wings on (I always seem to get these useful insights about an hour too late), which didn't seem quite right to me. In the end I decided to drill and bolt the front of the wing for extra security and glue the back. The most frustrating part of the whole process was trying to feed the indicator wiring through the wing stay and out of the tiny hole at the bottom. After 30 minutes trying I gave up on the day, leaving the front wing loosely fitted and went to see my mate for a beer, but not before putting the rest of the bodywork on to get a first glimpse of what she will look like when finished!

It was a good day!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Caterham Academy 2012 - Build (Day 13)

Day 13:

After the success and satisfaction of yesterday today had a lot to live up to and spectacularly succeeded in frustrating me. Again, it is the simple jobs that seem to take the time and today it was the seats.

I started the day by fitting the transmission tunnel cover and the gear knob, which were both satisfying and straightforward jobs to complete. I then set about the drivers seat and got thoroughly confused by the alignment of the holes in the floor, which didn't marry up with those of the seat runners on the drivers seat. After a couple of hours of putting the seat in, taking it out and putting it back in again I decided to phone the ever patient Sean at Caterham. It turns out the that holes in the floorpan for the seats had been drilled incorrectly in my car and that I needed to drill out new holes for the front mounting points of the runners. With this done I then spent another hour or so trying to locate and pass through the bolts that hold the seat runners to the floor. I can only liken it to trying to play a game of Jenga, blindfolded with your hand shoved through a letter box! I managed to get all of the bolts located and passed through, but so far have only managed to do the front two up. I can’t work out how I hold the rear two still whilst tightening the locknuts from below.

I then moved onto the passenger seat which put up a similar fight. I eventually worked out that the combination of lowered floors and tillet seats meant that the rear most mounting bracket for the harness was causing it to foul the seat and not allowing it to locate properly. With the harness moved to the front mounting point the seat went in without too many issues. At this point I should have called it quits, but a friend popped around with a brake bleed kit and decided that we should prime the brakes. It was at this point we discovered that there is an issue with the front brake unions where they leave the engine bay and head to the callipers. Basically the female union on both sides is bottoming out before it seals properly. I treble checked the instructions, but it looks as though the combination of washers and locknuts is too thick to allow the male and female unions to come together properly. Another call to Caterham tomorrow should hopefully provide the answers I need.

Tomorrow is going to be focused on getting the wings on and the rear lights attached. After that I am into final checks and hopefully start-up. The end is starting to feel near, which is both a great relief and quite sad. I just hope the last few days go OK and don't flag up too many issues!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Caterham Academy 2012 - Build (Day 12)

Day 12:

Today didn't start off too well, but actually ended up being very satisfying. My first job was to attach the prop shaft to the diff, but at this point I realised to my horror that the two bottom bolts holding the diff in were fouling the prop-shaft and needed to come out......yep, the diff had to come out for the 3rd time! I really could have kicked myself at this point. It was another pig of a job, but was done in an hour or so and enabled me to finally move onto other jobs.

With the diff back in I attached the prop-shaft, got de-dion tube in, fitted the rear dampers, connected the rear radius arms and fitted the A-frame within a couple of hours. It amazes me how you can spend four hours fitting a boot cover and get the whole of the rear suspension and braking system done in a similar amount of time. I finished up by fitting the drive-shafts, hub mounts, hubs, disks and callipers before calling it a day. It was a really satisfying afternoon and one of those days where you make really good progress with seemingly very little effort.

This now means that the front and the back of the car are pretty much complete and that the remaining major jobs are fitting the seats, sorting out the lighting and fitting the front and rear wings. With those jobs done it will then be into the final checks and hopefully the first start-up.

I am now celebrating a good day with a very large glass of red wine and a satisfying feeling in my stomach which may or may not be alcohol related. I am really looking forward to pushing onto the final stretch and getting the car down onto the wheels and starting her up!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Caterham Academy 2012 - Build (Day 11)

Day 11:

I was waiting for my new handbrake cable to arrive from Caterham this morning, so got on with some of the other interior jobs whilst waiting for the postman to turn up in rural Hertfordshire.

I started with the boot cover, which looked like a 30 minute job, but took me all morning in the end. I took my time to make sure I got everything was lined up properly and that I didn't miss-drill any of the holes required for the harness fixings or the poppers around the side and back of the boot. Measuring, drilling, fixing, re-measuring etc. took plenty of time, but was well worth the effort, with a nice tight fitting achieved. It also required me to un-do the roll cage to enable the outermost harness fixings to be secured, so I was going over old ground for some of the morning.

I then moved onto the harnesses, which went on without too much of a fight, although it took me a while to work out how to get the crutch straps attached. The postman arrived just after lunch, but I decided to crack on with the interior and get the seats fitted. This didn't go quite according to plan, with the passenger seat putting up quite a fight. I got the rails attached to the base OK, but managed to cross-thread one of the bolts into the rail when trying to fit the seat into the car. To cut a long story short I had to cut the bolt out and will have to order some new fixing rails.....not great.

It was at this point I decided to get the new handbrake cable in and the diff bolted up into position. After all of the faffing around over the last few days this actually took me less than an hour, so was a good note to end on. This means I can crack on with the rear suspension whilst I order some new mounting brackets for the passenger Tillet seat, so although pissed off with myself at making a mess of it, it doesn't stop me from making progress with the build. Here is hoping that the rear suspension goes together without too many issues.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Caterham Academy 2012 - Build (Day 10)

Day 10:

I phoned Caterham first thing this morning to get advice on the handbrake situation and was advised that it would be a safe bet to change it just in case. I think it is the right thing to do given the hassle involved in changing it now vs changing it once all of the rear end is in. Given Caterham can send me a new one to arrive tomorrow morning it seemed like a good excuse to carry on doing other things, so today I continued working on the interior and weather gear.

First off I got the knee protector panels located and fixed to the chassis rails under the dash, inserting and fixing the rubber trimming that goes along the top of the inner side-skins as I went. It looks like a 5 minute job, but took me a couple of hours by the time I had got all of the holes drilled and the rivets in both sides. Once the inner side-skins were done I could move onto the cage and get it fitted properly, which wasn't too much of a challenge once I had manhandled the rear locating holes into alignment with the mounting brackets in the boot. I am not sure if they do it on purpose, but everything on a Caterham seems to be 1 - 2mm out of alignment, so this took a bit of brute force and some swearing, but at least I know it isn't going to go anywhere now it is in.

With the cage on and all the bolts torqued up properly I moved onto the hood, getting the bars bolted to the mounting brackets at the front of the boot and the tensioning straps attached to the chassis rail at the back of the boot. The hood then went up so that I could line up the doors and get them mounted. This was another pretty straightforward job, but it took plenty of time to drill the holes for the mounting brackets and then line up and attach the various mounting poppers on the chassis rails (which fought a long battle with my drill-bits, blunting a number of them as we went along).

Whilst these seem like funny little jobs to be doing at this stage, there is a method to the madness, as they all need to be done before I can move onto the boot cover tomorrow, which has to go on before the belts can go in and the seats after that. I think there is probably another day of work on the interior/weather gear before it is all finished, but I may leave that for a later day and move back onto the rear suspension, assuming the new handbrake cable comes through on time. It would be great to have the car down on its wheels and started up by Thursday. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Caterham Academy 2012 - Build (Day 9)

Day 9:
I wasn't looking forward to today’s jobs, but in the end I had quite a good day.

Firstly I fitted the expansion bottle and associated hoses, before fitting the wires to the alternator. Both jobs had been left whilst I waited for Caterham to send missing parts through and I just wanted to get them out of the way.

I then got stuck into the job I was looking forward to least, removing the diff to take the handbrake out and swap the cables around. In the end the diff came down without too many issues. I then spent a while faffing around with the cables to make sure they were orientated the right way and weren't rubbing together, as Caterham told me that if they were it was an IVA failure. Apparently the handbrake bracket is slightly canted to one side to hold the cables apart, but only if you cross them over in the right way. Having got that sorted I noticed that the rubber gaiter at one end of the cable was split, which gave me a dilemma. Do I just stick it in and hope it doesn't cause an issue come IVA, or do I err on the side of caution and get Caterham to send me a new one? Being Sunday I couldn't call them, but not wanting to take the diff out again I decided discretion was the better part of valour and I moved on to another job and will give Caterham a call tomorrow to check the best course of action.

I then got de-dion tube out and set about getting the rear brake lines attached, ready for the tube to go in when the diff is finally sorted. With that done I moved onto the roll cage, which is now loosely on the car, whilst I sort out the trim between the chassis rails and the side skins. I think seeing the cage go on gave me a real lift as it is another very noticeable step forward for relatively little effort, whereas the diff was a whole days work and you couldn't really see the difference!

Tomorrows jobs will depend on what Caterham say about the handbrake cable. If it isn't an issue then I will get that in and the diff finally fitted, before moving onto the de-dion tube etc. If I have to wait for a new cable then I will get the cage fully fitted then onto the seats and other interior bits and bats.....basically whatever I can do without the diff being in first.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Caterham Academy 2012 - Build (Day 8)

Day 8:

So today was supposed to be a good day, but very rapidly turned into a very frustrating one was bound to happen at some point. Basically I spent all day trying to get the diff in, only to find out that after 6 hours work I need to take it out again due to an error in the build manual!!!!!!

I have a new BMW diff, which is supposed to be much quieter than the old Sierra diff, but proved to be a bit of a pig to fit. I got the diff onto a trolley jack and into position reasonably quickly, but the three retaining bolts that hold it into place didn't want to go in. I could get the bottom two retaining bolts in OK and the spacers between the diff and carrier in with a bit of jiggling, but the top one was an absolute pig. No matter what I seemed to do the diff and the carrier were out of alignment by about 1mm. I went round the loop of tightening, untightening, shifting, lifting, jiggling and generally shouting at the diff three or four times before phoning Caterham, whereupon I was told to encourage the top bolt in with a hammer!

Eventually after much blood and sweat I got the diff in, all of the spacers properly sorted out and the retaining bolts done up, only to look at the paperwork that had been hanging off the rear frame in the plastic bag. I had removed it that morning and not looked at it, instead following the build manual as I had been all along. In it were a set of installation instruction for the diff that were different from those in the build manual and it was at this point that I lost my sense of humour. The new instructions, for the BMW diff rather than the Sierra diff, require the handbrake cable to be installed the opposite way around and for a different set of washers to be used on the retaining bolts, neither of which seem like big things, but they do require the diff to come out again!

I am taking the day off tomorrow for a family event and will come back to it again afresh on Sunday. Hopefully the whole process will be a lot quicker next time around now I know how it all goes together, but it really is not a job I want to do again! Oh well, onwards and upwards.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Caterham Academy 2012 - Build (Day 7)

Day 7:

Today I started late as my little girl was doing a harvest festival performance at school and I wanted to go along and see it. I am burning brownie points with the family quite quickly at the moment, so it was a good way of earning a few back. It was also the cutest thing I have seen for a very long time and quite lovely to watch her up there performing (she is 3 so spent most of the time looking a little confused by it all), so no great hardship and a nice break from the build for the morning.

I got into the garage just after lunchtime and spent a few hours finishing (most of) the wiring and getting (most) of the cooling system done. A few small jobs remain, namely working out where two remaining rogue wires from the main engine loom go, getting the expansion tank fitted when the new bracket arrives and taking the slack out of the throttle cable, but they aren't anything major. Once that is done I will focus on tidying everything up with cable ties and doing a final sweep of the engine bay to make sure it is as good as it can be.

I managed to get the springs from the exhaust primaries to the cat fitted, which were causing me issues yesterday, but this required some gentle persuasion with a hammer to be directed towards the retaining clips before they would go on. I then got the diff out and set about fixing the handbrake and cables into the transmission tunnel before the diff can go on tomorrow.

All being well tomorrow will be full steam ahead on the rear end of the car and the hope is that by the end of the weekend I will have the majority of the mechanical bits on. The hope is that next week I can focus on getting the cage and interior installed before trying to start her up and run final checks. I think the next couple of days should see me break the back of the work and have something more resembling a car than boxes of bits. Here is hoping tomorrow is a productive day!

Caterham Academy 2012 - Build (Day 6)

Day 6:

Having worried endlessly yesterday about the 2mm off-set on the gearbox and how I was going to get it perfectly aligned, one short call to Caterham put my mind at rest....."oh don't worry about it....they all do that". Brilliant. A final check of all the engine mounts and I could move on.

I spent the morning connecting the majority of wires and getting thoroughly confused by the starter motor wiring, which is completely different to that in the build manual as I have a master cut out switch for racing. Still, a couple of hours and a few calls to Caterham later I had the majority of it together and had managed to go back and do a couple of small jobs that I had missed the day before (washer jets, replacing one of the engine mounting bolts etc.). I am scrupulously making notes of everything that I am having to skip because of missing parts and trying to get the jobs finished no later than a couple days later, otherwise I worry that I will forget something and only find out come IVA day, which would be less than ideal!

In the afternoon I moved onto the exhaust primaries, which went in without an issue, but for the life of me I couldn't get enough compression on the springs holding the primaries to the cat, so need to have another look at them in the morning, before I can tighten the primaries up properly and get the rest of the exhaust on. I then spent an hour or so getting the steering column in and aligned properly, before tightening up the rack clamps and getting the steering hub on. In doing these jobs I found a couple of other bits missing, but Caterham have been very good at sending things through promptly, so I hope not to be held up too much.

Finally I moved onto the radiator and associated plumbing which all went together nice and logically. I decided to stop when I got to the expansion bottle and found that the mounting bracket had been welded together incorrectly, requiring another one to be sent through (hopefully here in a couple of days time), otherwise i would probably still be going at it was a good day in the garage yesterday. I am finding a momentum with the build that I am happy with and am starting to gain more confidence in what I am doing.

Tomorrow I am going to try and finish the wiring, plumbing and exhaust, which will be almost all of the front end of the car complete, before moving on to the prop, rear suspension and the dreaded diff!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Caterham Academy 2012 - Build (Day 5)

Day 5:

The aim of today was to get the engine and gearbox in, which I managed to do....just. I spent the morning sorting out random things such as the engine mounts, horns and other things that are inacessable once the engine and gearbox are in. I then spent some time protecting the sides of the engine bay and transmittion tunnel with cardboard to protect them from any damage when lifting the engine and gearbox in.

I roped my stepfather John into helping me with the lift itself, which was a jolly good idea as it is very definatley a two person job when you do it for the first time. We took three or four attempts to get the angle of the engine and gearbox right, the axle stands in a position that wouldn't get in the way of the legs of the hoist and the garage door in a position that it wouldn't catch on the arm of the hoist! We took our time as this really isn't a job to be rushed, but by angling the car down and getting the engine and gearbox at approximatley 30 degrees we got it in.....only for me to realise that I hadn't put the gearbox mounting bracket on first! Luckily there was enough wiggle room for us to pull the engine forward, put the bracket on the gearbox and then slide it all back 6 inches.

We then put the engine mounting brackets on and set about fixing everything in position, which is where it all started to get interesting. With the gearbox positioned exactly right I torqued up all of the bolts for the engine mounts, only to find that it had pulled the gearbox 2 - 3mm off centre. We had 3 goes at getting this right, but it kept moving just away from centre, which is very annoying. I am going to have one more go tomorrow, but if it repeats itself then I will phone Caterham and see what they suggest. I don't think it will cause any issues as the prop has a CV joint in it and the gearbox is clear of all obstructions in the tunnel, but I want to satisfy myself that it will all be OK.

I then completed a final few jobs, putting the gearstick on and the reverse light switch in. I then started on some of the engine wiring before calling it a day tired but satisfied. Today was a good day, with real visible progress made and the old girl starting to look like a car rather than a collection of boxes.

Tomorrow I hope to get everything in the engine wired up, before moving onto the rear suspension and diff.....which I think will be great fun if all of the stories I have read are to be believed!