Email 1 – Caterham (Derek) : Shortages, Bellhousing and IVA Trim Questions

Here’s the first, and hopefully only (you’ve gotta think positively haven’t you) email and answers in-line, to Caterham’s chief fixer, Derek. I called him a couple of times on the Monday morning but the poor guy was only just back from a week off so I was only really calling on the off-chance. I decided to send an email after he didn’t answer for the second time.

(responses came by way of a return phone call from Derek later on in the Monday)

  Firstly, questions:
1. Fitting the IVA trim around the front suspension holes in the bodywork… There is a profile to the IVA trim that has a long side and short side. I looked at a factory 420 at Williams a few weeks ago and it looks like the trim is applied with the short profile on the outside of the car. Is that correct (I’ve seen some blogs where it looks like they’ve put the long profile on the outside)?
Derek: Yes, the long profile goes on the inside of the panels.
2. Attaching the bell housing to the gearbox… Manual says to use 70mm bolts which there are none of. I’ve read some blogs that say to use the cap-head bolts pre-inserted in the bell housing. Is this correct and should I use both flat and spring washer with the cap-head. I have assembled the engine, gearbox and bell housing already and have used cap-head bolts, spring washers and flat washers.
Derek: Yes, use the four bolts pre-inserted into the bell housing. Discard the nut but use the bolts, washers and spring washers.
So, when the driver arrived on Friday he said that the only short was the bonnet. It has a couple of blemishes and was going to be resprayed. No problem, don’t need to have this just yet, but making sure you know that its a shortage.
Derek: yes the bonnet went away for a respray and has returned. They will work to get the bonnet redelivered by the Caterham driver when he’s in the Bristol area next.
Onto what I think I’m short of in addition to the bonnet… I took everything out of their boxes and photographed all contents, then put it all back into the boxes or laid the contents out on shelves I have in my garage. So far I can see the following as shorts:
1. NS/OS upper and lower wishbones. There’s no sign of any of the front wishbones for either side. I got the steering rack into the car, went to move onto the front suspension but had to stop due to no wishbones.
Derek checked the shortages box and confirmed they were in there. I should have received the shortages box with the car.
2. Associated with the front suspension, the manual talks about a front and rear plastic bag with contents. I don’t have those but I do have a “suspension pack”. I guess I therefore don’t need the front/rear bags??
Derek: yes that’s the bag now.
3. Rear radius arms, the short sections. No sign of short rear radius arms. I have two long ones but not the short sections.
Derek: The long and short arms are for the Watts Linkage system. That is no longer shipped by default. The parts I have are correct.
4. De Dion Ears. I’m a long way from needing them but going through the parts I have, these seem to be a shortage as I went through.
Derek: they should be in the shortages box.
It was at this point that Derek twigged that I hadn’t been sent the shortages box. It was ready to go with the car when it was delivered but didn’t find its way onto the van.
5. Rear hubs. The build manual talks about rear hubs but there’s no sign of them in the kit. I see rear disks, callipers etc but not hubs.
Derek: Again, these were noted as being in the shortages box. That’s confirmed it then, you don’t have the shortages box.
6. I guess there’s other stuff… I haven’t gone through all the poly bags and checked against the build manual/blogs… I’m expecting to get to those shortages as I go through the build.

Build Session 2 : Engine, Gearbox and Bell Housing

Day 2: front suspension day… or so we thought.

First thing Sunday, while I waited for Harry to “wake up”, as he sat watching the football on the TV, I decided we needed the better bodywork protection I’d been thinking about the day before.

So, I took one of the spare Caterham cardboard boxes (I thought the cardboard would come in useful) and cut out a couple of gaskets to apply to each of the front sides of the bodywork.

Cardboard gasket around front bodywork apertures

I think the corrugated cardboard sandwich is a much better solution than just going with masking tape, we’ll see. Happy with that, even if the masking tape keeps coming free.

Front Suspension Misfire

Cups of tea in hand we got ourselves ready in the garage. We had a quick re-read of the build manual and started looking for the parts we’d need. It then started to dawn on us that we hadn’t seen any wishbones anywhere in the parts we’d found so far. A check and re-check of the boxes and parts we had on shelves told us we weren’t dreaming and the wishbones were nowhere to be found.

Oh dear. This was really the first major build process in the project and we’re already missing major items. This would have to be a phone call to Derek Howlett in the morning.

So, what are we going to do now for the day?

Looking around the garage the only thing that came to mind was to fit the gearbox to the engine and bell housing. This process involves taking off the pre-installed bell housing from the  front the engine, attaching it to the gearbox and then refitting the two back onto the engine. Should be relatively simple.

Engine, Bell Housing and Gearbox

The first job though was to make some space. This is where the CJ Autos axel stands really came into their own. The chassis took its first outing and we wheeled it out of the garage and onto the drive. We had the whole garage then clear to play with the engine, bell housing and gearbox.

To protect both the components and the garage floor we had put down an offcut of ply wood onto the floor and rested the gearbox and bell housing on that. When Catherham had dropped off the engine I’d got the driver to put it onto a home made trolley we had. It made scooting it around the garage really easy.

Getting ready to take off the Bell Housing

Getting the bellhousing off the engine was reasonably straightforward. The bell housing was a little reluctant to come away from the engine but after we’d released the tension on the bolts holding the starter motor to the engine (there’s an overhang of the starter motor casing to the bell houseing and a rubber seal that crosses the two) and some gentle persuasion with a leather end of our persuasion stick (a #2 leather/copper headed hammer) it came free.

We’d seen a number of blog posts where people had got themselves confused about which bolts go where on the bell housing to engine interface. But Marcus Adams had posted a great solution where he tie-wrapped each bolt in place on the bell housing once it was free from the engine. That way the bolts don’t come lose and get mixed up with where they should go.

Harry and I had to scotch the engine and bellhousing forwards on the trolley before the bell housing would disengage from the engine as the assembly was resting on its trolley with the bellhousing touching. The weight of the assembly was therefore running through the bellhousing as we were trying to extricate it from the engine.

Now we have three pieces where we once had two.

Engine, gearbox and bell housing separated

The next conundrum was now around the bolts that you use to connect the gearbox to the bell housing. The bell housing has four bolts with washers, spring washers and nuts in the 4 holes you use for this part of the task. Then there are also four bolts with washers also already in the gearbox in the corresponding threaded holes. To compound the confusion the build manual talks about using four 70mm bolts and washers – none of the 8 candidate bolts are 70mm.

Over the iPad for some googling.

We first checked all the blogs we had open on the iPad. They were either for the wrong config (6 speed or Sigma engine) or they didn’t talk about this part of the task at all.

Now it was google’s turn. A few minutes of searching and we turned up a blog post from the site. Someone had had exactly this conundrum and had quoted Derek Howlett as confirming that its the four bolts from the bell-housing that are needed. The post didn’t explicitly call for the washers and spring washers but we assumed as much and used them.

We’d also sort of got there on our own reasoning too. It seems that the Mazda sourced gearbox comes pretty much as-is from Mazda. It’s in the Mazda shipping box and doesn’t have anything in the way of Caterham logos on it. Conversely the engine is covered in obvious changes made by Caterham. Our thinking therefore went along the lines that if the Mazda box was standard and Caterham had tinkered with the engine, then Catheram must have put the 4 bolts in the bell housing for a reason. And if they were just there as hole plugs then they wouldn’t be as extravagant as to add washers and spring washers to the bolts. Caterham must have put those bolts, washers etc on the bell housing for a reason…. so we could use them to fit to the gearbox.

With that reasoning and the blog post to go by we decided we’d ask Derek about this step but that we’d use the four bolts, washers and spring washers and complete the assembly with them. [ once I’d talked to Derek, he confirmed we’d done the right thing ]

The bell housing went onto the gearbox with no problem and we torqued up the four bolts.

Torquing things up

The gearbox and bell housing assembly were then slotted onto the engine with a little jiggling and using the tie-wrapped bolts to pull the two mating surfaces together gently. We “jiggled” the gearbox into place as it went home and it was obvious that the splines engaged from the gearbox input shaft to the clutch after a couple of jiggles and the tell tale “give” in the interface as the splines engaged. There was no need to rotate the engine or gearbox shafts, we must have been lucky that everything was “about right” as we pulled it all together.

It was around this time, with one or two bell housing to engine bolts engaged in their threaded holes, that we got our first visitor of the day. One of my work colleagues dropped round on his Vespa for a look at what was going on. And then after a cup of tea and a chat a further family of friends arrived to peruse the new arrival too. Steve, the father of the family is an avid flyer and had just got back from popping down to Devon for a coffee… which got me musing about future TopGear’esque challenges to come. Not sure we can find someone in a boat but I’m sure Steve and I can do the car vs plane challenge to somewhere for a coffee in the future.

While these visitors were downing their tea, I was a little bit of a nervous wreck. I had probably a couple of thousand pounds worth of engine and gearbox teetering on a home made trolley and a trolley jack.  The assembly at this stage seemed to be stable but whenever I got the chance I would bend down and nervously give one of the untightened bolts a quick tweak to take it home just a little bit further. I was less worried about the engine coming off the trolley but very worried about the gearbox falling off the jack. The last thing I needed was someone in their caffeine heightened state brushing into the gearbox and taking the whole thing to the floor.

Once enough tea had been consumed and Lorenzo from work had left, Steve, the father in the visiting family, and I got the bellhousing and gearbox fully home on the engine and torqued up the bolts.

Torquing the bell housing and gearbox to engine

With the help of Joe and Steve’s son Tom, we shifted the weight of the whole assembly back on the trolley to stop it from tipping and the whole thing seemed pretty secure on its new ride.

When Steve and family had left I trolleyed the engine assembly to the side of the garage and gently snugged up the protruding gearbox with the trolley jack underneath, just to be sure nobody caught the assembly and pulled it all off the trolley whilst it sat their waiting for it’s big day.

That was the end of day 2 and the first weekend of building. Some progress, but nowhere near what I had hoped to achieve. I’m resigning myself to the prospect of this taking much longer than I’d hoped. Not so much in terms of person-hours but certainly in terms of elapsed time. Hopefully next weekend will be different, assuming Derek has good news on the missing parts.

Build Session 1 : IVA trim and Steering Rack

And so we’re off and running…. sort of!

Saturday morning broke and I was hoping to get a full day’s build in, but of course, things didn’t go to that plan. We ended up doing a bunch of chores around the house, and garden, and didn’t get off to a great start with the car.

And… once we did get going after lunch we got into some stuff not found in the build manual. It’s ironic that after all the preparation and reading of the build manual, the first job is actually not in the manual… but more of that in a second.

The first completely unscripted job was to get the axel stands sorted out. We’d left the car “on the skew” on the stands and the first job was to get everything central – we didn’t want the car falling off the stands with a nudge in the wrong place. We also needed to trim the axel stand cross members (hopefully saving our shins later on). A Caterham is signficantly narrower than a “regular car” at the points where you support it, so the cross members stuck out a long way on the stands. Out with the re-saw and off with the cross members.

Trimming the front axel stand cross member to a more appropriate length

For anyone interested, we have the distances between the axel stands centres on this SV at:

  • Front: 470 mm
  • Rear: 930 mm

Bodywork Protection

Next up was to get into the build proper… er, or not. We decided at this point that we’d apply some protection to the front of the car. The manual says to do this before installing the front suspension but we thought seeing as we were going to be fiddling with things around that area, it was best to protect the bodywork at this stage just in case.

We applied a layer of masking tape to the front two bodywork sections, but not really happy with it. That will need looking at again.

Layer of masking tape for bodywork protection

Front Suspension Apertures – IVA Trim

So, on with the Steering Rack… er, no!

All recent blogs recommend getting the IVA trim in place around the front apertures in the body work before starting on the front suspension. Ok, so hold off on the first step in the manual (steering rack) again and lets get into the IVA trim.

After pulling the IVA trim out of the IVA bag it struck us that we’d not seen anyone post about what orientation you have to put the trim onto the car with. The profile of the IVA trim is such that there’s a long edge and short edge, see below:

IVA trim profile highlighted in red

I searched a couple of blogs to look at pictures (by this time I now had an iPad sat permanently in the garage with as many blog sites open on it as I could find) but they were either inconclusive or what I thought to be wrong. It seemed to me that the shorter profile section should be on the outside and the longer on the inside of the bodywork panels; that way there would be more of the profile on the inner edge and the part you want to apply glue to. Back up a bit there… I’ve read in various places that super glue is what you want to use to stick the trim to the bodywork (a dab every one, two or three centimetres – depending on the radius of the section in question). But applying super glue to the painted front face is possibly going to be a one way street – taking it off may take some paint off with it (some have reported needing paint to be touched-up in exactly this scenario). So, the plan is to only apply super glue to the part of the trim that sits on the bare inside of the aluminium panel. Therefore… you want the longer trim piece on the inside to give you more to stick to the inside of the panel. Hope that all makes sense.

Having, therefore, looked at a bunch of blogs and not got conclusive confirmation of my theory, I turned to the pictures I’d taken of a factory built 420R at Williams a few weeks ago. Luckly I had one picture of the front suspension and it seemed to show the short profile on the outside. That was enough confirmation for me and so the trim went on with the short profile outside and the long profile inside.

Later on whilst talking to Derek Howlett, he also confirmed that this was the right approach (but more on that in a later post).

The trim went on fairly easily, though it was time consuming. We probably spent a couple of hours doing both sides of the car. As other bloggers have said, you need to cut, or slit, the trim to allow it to sit flat on the panels and for the glue to do its job.

IVA trim cut to relieve tension and allow to lie flat to bodywork

In the end we found that we could, mostly, dry fit the trim and then apply glue to the inside profile by lifting up the trim and squeezing some glue in. That didn’t work in all areas, where the trim got close to the suspension mounting points, but it allowed us to make sure there was no glue on the Aubergines.

We used clothes pegs to apply pressure while the glue set.

Clothes pegs hold things in place while the glue sets

It’s also worth noting that we decided to put trim around all edges of the apertures. I think I read somewhere that this isn’t a requirement for IVA but we thought it looked better anyway… and we’re not sure if the trim will remain in place after the IVA check, but we wanted to make sure it looked the way we wanted it to look, just in case, for the long term.

Steering Rack

Finally we’re adding something non-cosmetic to the car!…

…In the end I’m not sure we did the right thing with the steering rack.

This should have been a short job, but turned into something like an hour and us having to put the rack in and out 3 or 4 times.

The first problem was the fit of the rack into the machined aluminium mounts. One side was a snug fit into the mounts, but fine. The other just didn’t fit. There was overspray on the rack in the machined slot where the Al mounts sit. We could have just tightened the mounts up on top of the overspray but I was worried that doing so would have meant it would have been difficult to take the rack off again at a later date. It would also have meant that we would have had to have left the mount really, really lose in order to be able to line up the rack to the steering column later. No matter how careful we were going to be in lining up the rack now to where we thought the steering column was going to land on its spigot, we just weren’t going to get it perfectly lined up.

So, out with the Dremel, and files, and remove the overspray. However, this still meant the mount was really tight, but much better.

Next we fitted the rack but found that the cap head bolts had bound in the top machined aluminium mounts. Looking back at this now I realise that this is probably how they should be. But at the time it seemed to be a problem as it was tough to get a spanner onto the bottom nyloc nut and to do-up the nut/bolt from the bottom. We therefore thought we had to tighten the mount up from the top but the bolt was binding in its hole. So… we opened up the recesses for the capped bolt (after using a copper/leather hammer to extract the bolts from the mount). The cap head bolts are just under 10mm in diameter so putting a 10mm drill down the recess and wiggling a little was enough to open the holes out just enough to allow the cap-head to be free in the recess. On reflection, I should have used a socket on the nyloc nuts and allowed the cap-head to bind. No harm done I don’t think.

I suspect the cap-heads are meant to be tight in their recesses so there’s no chance of any play in the mounting of the steering rack. Having the rack wobble around under heavy cornering loads (need to think about whether there’s any load on the rack under cornering, but there must be some) would not be a good idea. [ Edit note: I’m not sure the makes any sense, if the rack and mounts are not tightened enough then there will be play around the bolt passing through the rack cross member near the nyloc nut – I doubt the interference fit of the cap head in its recess is that important. Please leave me a comment if you have an opinion ].

It’s also perhaps worth noting something that I’ve not seen others comment on: to get the steering rack into the car, you can’t feed it through from the outside of the car. The steering column spigot gets in the way and won’t fit through the holes in the body work. You have to feed the rack from the inside through the N/S hole then bring it back so the O/S track rod goes through its hole.

Steering rack installed loosely

Tomorrow we’ll get onto putting in the front suspension.

Our Kit Car Has Arrived

After 151 days since putting in our order, the Purplemeanie Caterham 420R Kit Car has arrived!

We got final confirmation of a delivery date earlier this week and a courtesy call from Caterham yesterday confirmed that they would deliver our car before lunch time today…

… And at just after 11 this morning the Caterham driver arrived. We had a cup of tea and then got to moving the boxes and chassis into the garage. This became a four person task and so was completed in no time (Harry has been looking forward to helping out and was waiting for the driver, Joe arrived back from a rugby training session just in time to help out too). Even with a few chats with the driver we managed to get everything unloaded and stored, including doing the paperwork, in less than an hour. As well as the regular paperwork the driver left us with a business card for Derek Howlett. I’m hoping that Derek and I do not get too well acquainted, and that’s not a reflection on Derek, I’m just hoping we have a fairly complete kit.

Just arrived

From the side

Chassis coming off the van

Everything installed in the garage

Colour is looking great by the way. Sue and I are both very happy so far. Driver said it’s the first car he’s ever delivered in this colour – cool!

Colour looking great!

I got a couple of GoPro’s set up as we unloaded and I’ll work to get them included in the first VLOG that goes onto YouTube soon (hopefully).

A note to those thinking of building a Caterham… the CJ Autos rolling axel stands worked well today. The process of getting the chassis onto the stands involved firstly getting it down onto the wheels/tyres then lifting it onto the stands. The fact we could do that in the relative space of the drive and roll the chassis into the garage was a great help. I’ve also found myself rolling the chassis around the garage already to make more space.

Front CJ Autos Axel Stands
Rear CJ Autos Axel Stands

One of the first jobs tomorrow is going to be to re-align and trim the excess square tubing off the ends of the cross members both front and rear – I’m going to bark my shins on them way too many times otherwise.

We also dropped the engine onto a home made trolley that I’ve had around for years. The engine sits very solidly on the trolley and that’s going to help with flexibility in the early stages of the build too. The OCD in me needs to shift it so its square on the trolley though!

Engine on trolley

As soon as the driver had left, we had our first visitor. Two doors down from us lives Pete. Pete has two old Lotuses, neither of which are on the road at the moment. Pete came to see what one of these “new fangled things” looks like. I think he went away impressed. I hope to see plenty of Pete through the build process and he’s also kindly offered an engine hoist from his collection of tools which will come in very handy, hopefully, shortly.

Seeing as today was a regular work day I couldn’t spend more time than was needed just to unload and store the boxes. There were 18 boxes and a few bubble wrapped items (exhaust silencer, nose cone, seats and oil cooler). There is only one shortage – the bonnet (hood for you non-UK people). As Caterham were loading the van yesterday they noticed that the bonnet had a couple of blemishes and they decided to rework and then ship. Top marks to Caterham for spotting this and making the right decision. And to be honest, not having the bonnet at this point is actually a bonus – keeps it out of harms way for a couple of weeks while we work on other things.

Surprises: yep, there were a few. Firstly, the car has come with the hood (that’s the roof for our American readers) already fitted. All “poppers” for the full hood have already been fitted and the hood is in place. It seems that Caterham have recently decided that this saves headaches in the future where people screw up the installation of the poppers and make a very expensive mistake. I’m wan’t necessarily looking forward to that part of the build and it will have taken a few hours off the build time, but, it seems a kit is now more and more like a finished car.

Hood already attached and poppers in place

I was also surprised to get a printed build manual. I thought I’d read that Caterham had stopped sending them out. I’m not planning to use it as I’ve been keeping notes and changes in an electronic version on an iPad, but I’ll have a read through just to make sure its not and different to the one on line.

Once all my meetings today had concluded we could spend some time figuring out what we’ve got. It’s still early days on checking through the parts that have arrived but in all the major items seem to have arrived.

I had rigged up a DSLR in the house to get an overhead view of the parts laid out on our kitchen table. The idea is to have a photographic record of what’s arrived and to be able to review the contents of a box without having to actually find the box, open it and rummage around. I’m hoping this will cut down on searching time.

So, we spent a couple of hours pulling boxes from the garage, unpacking them,  photographing the contents and then repackaging and putting the boxes back into the garage. We also to the opportunity to put some items back on the garage shelves without being in boxes. We’ve managed to get rid of four large boxes already and will help getting around the single garage.

I’ll put a montage together of the pictures we’ve taken and post that soon. Taking a lead from Adam Savage (of Mythbusters fame) the task of laying out all your components before a project build is known as Knolling. It’s what OCD people (like me) do before building a lego set – lay out all the bits and pieces so you know what you’ve got. I’ll post a Knolling picture soon.

On the topic of storage – items we’ll need later will be stored in an office I have in the garden. Wheels, Nose Cone, Seats, Rear Wings and Roll-bar will all go out there for the time being.

Having gone through all the boxes it strikes me that I haven’t seen any front wings yet. I’ve seen the wing-stays and various mounting kits but no wings themselves. I’ll need to have another look around and see if I’ve overlooked them. If they’re not to be seen then it’ll be a call to Derek on Monday. UPDATE: I found the front wings in the passenger footwell… we hadn’t ventured that far into the car until I went looking for the wings – the fact that the hood is already on meant we just hadn’t got to sticking our heads into the cockpit fully.

It’s been really hard to resist actually fixing anything to the car today. I’ve been dying to actually start to put something onto the car… but better to be patient and get things in order before the onslaught.

That’s all for today. Kit delivered, knolled and stored. The next post will probably be the start of the build – finally.

Pre-build Update #6 – Delays but now “in build”

Breaking news: The Purplemeanie 420R is now “in build”. Caterham have updated their online systems to show that the car is now being built. Delivery is still likely to be end of July or early August.

For those of you that have been asking… the Caterham 420R kit car delivery date is delayed but is now on what Caterham has as a production line. When we’d ordered the car we had been given a build week of Wk26. This recently then slipped to Wk28 but is now showing on Caterham’s online tracking system as August. The latest is that we might hope to get the kit delivered late July or early August.

BTW: sorry for the lack of posts. That will be a relief to some of you but others have been asking where I’ve got to. It’s been a busy first half of 2017 with three trips to the US since my last post (Dallas, Salt Lake City and Sacramento, Clearwater (Florida)). I had planned a bunch of updates but I just haven’t had time. Hopefully things are going to quieten down now for the next few months.

I have also managed to get a morning over at the dealership (Williams) to take some pictures of a factory built 420R. I’m hoping the images will give me some reference for when the jigsaw puzzle finally arrives.

Here’s one of the many pictures I took…

Engine bay of Factory built 420R