Render Me A Colour

Colour… the Biggy.

It would almost be better if Henry Ford made Caterhams – any colour as long as its black.

There are so many great Caterham colours. There’s the classic green, or the recently more popular Porsche blue. There’s yellows and reds. Decals. Single, double or triple stripes. The options are endless.
Initial thinking was, at least for me, centering around Purple. With the Purplemeanie domain it seemed obvious. Then there’s the question of flat, metallic or flake.

How to try all this out?

Well as luck would have it I’m a bit of a geek (apparently) and I spend quite a bit of my time tinkering with 3D models – on PC screens, as 3D prints and 2.5D CNC projects.

What I needed was a 3D model of a Caterham that I could change the colour of and test out some paint options without having to actually paint a real car. I did a bit of Googling and found a reasonable 3D model of a SuperSprint I think it is. It’s not quite the right model and the exhaust is on the wrong side (yes I know). But its good enough for the task at hand.

There were a few other possible 3D models doing the rounds but many had aero screens and I wanted to model things with a windscreen. This model also had doors (no hood) so that gave some further options for seeing what colours would look like with and without doors. The rest of the models I found were clearly not realistic enough or weren’t available in the right file format – I tried a couple of free (as in beer, not as in spirit) models first but they didn’t import well into my CAD tool.

I bought the model and got a bunch of different formats. I think I paid $75 for here… [ link to model ]

The tool I’ve been using recently is Autodesk’s Fusion 360. For those interested its a cross platform Qt based application that sits in Autodesks semi-pro/pro-sumer space. It’s really well featured and semi-cloud based so I can work on it from various laptops or PC’s and offline. I like Fusion 360.

I imported an .obj format model in Fusion and as far as I can tell the import was good. It has some scaling issues but I’m not worried about that for this project.

Once I’d imported the model I could select each of the model components (they’re called bodies actually in Fusion for this particular import) and set their appearance. The models I’ve used for this site’s images are mainly set to have the following “appearance”:

  • Shiny black plastic – wheel arches
  • Anodised black shiny aluminium – roll bar, suspension etc
  • Carbon fibre – dashboard
  • Black leather – seats
  • Painted metallic metal – body work
  • Stainless steel – exhaust
  • Satin Steel – some of the suspension… ‘cos it looked better that way

By setting a custom colour I’ve been able to play around with colour options. I tried some yellows, reds, blues etc. But there are dozens of images of those sorts of cars (all nice cars) on the web and I didn’t need to go to all this trouble just to check them out.

What I really wanted to do was try out some Purple variations and see what worked.

Fusion has a rendering engine – for those of you that are still following along but don’t know what one of those is… its a way for computers to be able to create lifelike images from a computer generated model or shape – in our case the model/shape is a Caterham. Fusion does its rendering using a system called Ray Tracing, where the computer works out how rays of light travel from a light source, bounce off a coloured, textured object and then into a camera (all of this happening in the computer’s imagination πŸ™‚ )

So, I played around with a bunch of options in Fusion, some of which are below. To my taste the dark metallic purple’s are what works best for me – each to their own.

Another job sorted… at least until we change our minds!

Sample Renderings

The images below were rendered using Fusion 360’s render tools. Lighting was set at 2000 lux.

Yellow (RGB=255,255,0)

Riviera Blue (RGB=96,176,245)

British Racing Green (RGB=0,66,37)

PurpleMeanie (RGB=84,42,87)

Post Office Red (RGB=146,37,41). I’m not convinced this is the correct RGB for Post Office Red…

Orange (RGB=221,81,0)

To Blog or not to Blog

Before getting into this build I had only partially been aware of the Blog culture of building a Caterham… both with formal blogs and in some cases with forum posts in a thread. But having taken the plunge it’s clear there are some great blogs out there. Here are some of the ones I’ve come across:

Other Blogs since we finished our build:

Update 2017-08-02: If you’re building a 420r like we are, I can’t recommend Marcus Adams’ blog highly enough (Caterham420rBuild). It is the perfect fill-in for what’s missing in the current Caterham Build Manual. I plan to have this blog as part of my daily read before continuing with our build.

So I asked myself a few questions:

  • Do I want to Blog?
  • Have I got time to Blog?
  • Can I add anything to what’s come before?

I’ve run websites for business, I’ve tweeted and posted on Facebook, again for business and I’ve run websites on the Purplemeanie domain a few times… but never really had anything to say. So I guess the answer to the first question is yes, I do want to Blog.

The bigger question is: do I have time to Blog? I’m hoping to get the build done as quickly as we can manage, and so will blogging delay that outcome? I’ve seen some of the best blogs, in my opinion, done in real time… finish off an evening in the build space and then write about it until the early hours. Only time will tell if I can keep that sort of dedication going.

As to “can I add anything”.. hmmm.. perhaps. I’m essentially a glorified project manager at work and have spent many years pushing project plans and more latterly ticketing systems around. These days cutting edge project management is Agile… in my IT world. Can I bring an Agile approach to building a Caterham? Well from what I’ve seen of many other blogs I would say that they’re all pretty Agile anyway… what with Caterham’s parts logistics and the build manuals I would say you have to be Agile if you want to make progress. [link to Agile on Wikipedia ]

Another option would be a video Blog… the blogs I’ve seen so far are mainly text and pictures. There are some good time lapse videos of daily progress and people providing video summaries, but I’ve not seen a detailed step by step video Blog… that’s a possibility and I ought to know how to do a video Blog having spent all my professional life making video communications a thing! So that’s an option.

Also on the project management front the build blogs around are exactly that… a chronological log of what people have done to build their car. Some are almost a replacement for the build manual but not quite – as they have to dodgeabout the theoretical build order while parts are couriered to them as a result of mis-shipping, omission or breakages. So, could I do a video build manual for my build… hmmm… that’s an option too. And yes, I appreciate that for some, doing the build their own way and in their own order is a lot of the challenge and fun.

I’m not sure where I’ll go with this Blog and whether what I’m thinking of will be too much to chew on, but perhaps that’s something I can do for the people that follow. Of course that could all get bypassed by the approaching next-gen IKEA-esk build manual that Caterham are working on, if it arrives before we finish the build.

But for the moment, the decision is made:

  • Put a blog site together on
    • For those that are interested it’s LAMP and WordPress based (Twenty Seventeen theme as of this writing)
  • Write up my experiences from here onAnd see where we end up

One option that didn’t make the grade was thatΒ I was thinking of completing the build using a ticketing system like Jira or Redmine, but:

  1. I think it’s overkill
  2. It wouldn’t be as accessible to everyone (you the reader) as a Blog
  3. I suspect it wouldn’t stand the test of time
  4. Search engines don’t index ticketing systems so well, so nobody would find it
  5. It wouldn’t easily allow the journey to be written about after the build

… shame, I like tickets!

Mind made up… a blog it is.

Having said I won’t be using a ticketing system, I will be using an itemised build order… broken down into a todo list. Let’s see how long that lasts. I might write a post about that approach if your unlucky.

PS: the decision to Blog was made on a trip to the US during the week of March 17th 2017. Therefore, anything you’ve read before the 17th was actually written after the decision to Blog and I’ve just adjusted the post-date in WordPress to reflect the date I did things.

First Pass of the Build Manual

Ok, so today I had a ten and a half hour flight to Los Angeles from London. There wasn’t much for it but to read the build manual cover to cover. I ended up, reading 2015 V2, which Williams later confirmed as the latest available.

I spent the flight trying to digest everything and understand where it was confusing or unclear. I then marked the areas I wouldn’t be needing and corrected all the references to figures that were just about all wrong – initially the figures were all out by a count of 3, but later on that jumped to an offset of 6. Figure 100 in the text should have said 94, etc.

This is such a simple and obvious mistake by Caterham. I’m dumbfounded. A rainy Sunday afternoon with the original of the manual and it would be fixed in no time. How can they justify not fixing such glaring mistakes… amazing! It wouldn’t also be beyond the wit of man/woman to tweak the manual every time someone pointed out an error. For the 5 minutes it would take every time… they’d have an at least passable manual in a couple of months with only 5 minutes work a day. Amazing.

It took a few hours to read the manual but it’s done now and makes more sense of things when I’m reading build blogs and forum posts. It’s well advised that anyone doing a build reads the build manual as soon as you can stomach it.

Pre-Build Starts Here

First deposit paid… what to do next?

Even with my still unbelievable June delivery date, I’m going to have to wait 3 months. That’s a lot of planning time and evenings mulling things over.

On the todo list is:

  • Option selection
  • Colour – a biggy
  • Sort out the build space

Options, options

It’s all too easy to get carried away with the options list. But I’m thinking of the car as a journey, in many ways. So, I’m happy to leave some of the “less essential” options like carbon wings as future winter projects.

The bigger options like tuning level, S/R pack, SV, lowered floors, choice of gearbox are the critical ones for me and I guess anyone.

I’m pretty sure of what options I’ll be ticking but will wait to go through them with Lindon when we spec the car up later on.


Hmmm… that’s a biggy. The obvious choice is Purple.

We’ve had the Purplemeanie domain for 20 years or so and it seems almost rude not to take advantage of this project being “The Purplemeanie” (Don’t ask why Purplemeanie – there wasn’t a good reason). The question is whether I/we can live with that as a choice and I think key to the decision is what shade we can find that will work. I’m more of a “stealth” paint-job sort of person than a fluorescent pink sort of person, but we’ll see. Friends and colleagues have expressed the view that it needs to be a “stand out” colour, but I’m not sure.

I need some way of testing colours…. sounds like a job for a renderer. More on that in a later post.

Build Space

The build space is going to be the garage.

We had an extension built a few years ago that reshaped the garage. Originally it was a rectangular single skinned, single garage. The extension reworked the garage by adding a triangular section to the floor plan and cavity walls. See image below:

Dimensions in mm.

The car will fit in the original garage space but I’m hoping the triangular section will give me much needed space for the engine and gearbox before they get dropped in – other boxes can get stored elsewhere in the house. Building a Caterham was always on our mind during the extension build and I even got talked out of putting a pit in by the finance and planningΒ committees during the build. That would have been useful now. The trick will be to fit all of what’s needed into the garage while leaving room for the beer fridge!

All that’s left to do now is:

  • Find somewhere for all the non-essential tools:
    • wood working – mainly Festool stuff which generally designed to be portable (all part of the master plan to allow the garage to be the build area)
    • x-carve CNC – fun but can’t think of a reason to need it in this build… yet!
  • Figure out what to do with 3 bikes that are not currently suspended in the ceiling
  • Finish painting the walls – started after the extension build but not completed
  • Apply epoxy garage floor covering – bought after the extension build but not applied before the garage filled up again
  • Fix the lighting – the extension build electrical contractor only put in single tube 4′ fluorescents and every time I turn the lights on in there I think I’ll get round to sorting it out
  • Possibly paint two of the 6 wall (yes 6) that are plywood
  • Possibly paint the ceiling
  • Wait… for… delivery…. day… that’s going to be the hardest part!