Today, I and my co-driver (Joel) took part in the Lotus7.club 2018 Taffia Fish and Chip Run.
I’ll put a longer post together when I get a chance along with hopefully a YouTube Video, but for those interested, here’s a drone shot I took just before we all left from Chepstow to Aberdovey on a 250 mile round trip for Fish and Chips!
I understand there were over 80 Sevens that headed out and more like 90 by the time we got to Aberdovey.
Fantastic day out in glorious weather… Highly Recommended!!
Three months on from the build and time to do a look back at some statistics…
It’s been three very cold and wet months since I got the car on the road. We’ve had the Beast From The East and it’s lesser sibling, The Mini Beast From The East, along with a bunch of rain and a good dose of a stinker of a cold that kept me inside for too long.
Suffice to say I’ve not been out in the car much. As I write this (end of March 2018) the car only has about 160 miles on the clock and 70 of those were in the last 3 days. There’ll be more on that in a future post though.
In the meantime, how about some build stats? I get asked the usual questions a lot – how fast, how much, how heavy etc etc. But I also get asked a lot about how long it took to build…
… and I’m glad you asked, I say 🙂
So, as well as keeping a Blog on this website while I was building, I also kept a written record of how much time I was spending, both on the website and on the build. I also totted up a few other items in case anyone’s interested. The numbers are “about right”… I think. Don’t quote me to the second, I may have missed recording a time and had to think back as to how long it took, but I don’t think I missed anything big, or I’m too wildy out.
Some High Level Statistics
Visits to the dealer, Williams
Visits to Caterham
Pictures added to Blog
Emails to Caterham
Emails from Caterham
GigaBytes of storage used (mostly video)
Words in Blog
I think most of those stats speak for themselves, but lets run through them for the insomniacs amongst you…
Build Hours – 162
For many of you aspiring builders, this is the only number you’re interested in:
162 hours to build a car
That’s a lot longer than I thought it would take… and also a lot longer than Caterham tell you it will take.
Double what I had hoped.
Where did all the time go…? Well there’s more detail below if you really want to the gorey mess of it… but in the end, it went into the “fun” of it. I really enjoyed the build and I probably took longer because I was enjoying getting it all done the way I thought it should be done, and not just the quickest way.
It also seemed to take forever to get over the final line. Endless jobs to tidy and do the IVA tasks. In the end I did just about everything I could find that was required by IVA. Perhaps all of them weren’t necessary but the way I look at it – it passed first time!
Could you do it faster – certainly… especially with the swanky new Ikea style build manual. Would you have as much fun – depending on your goals… maybe. Would I have had as much fun doing it more quickly – absolutely not. It was a fantastic 162 hours of glorious fun!
What’s not included: I haven’t included any research time. As well at the hours of building and blogging I did many, many hours of reading all the blogs, forums and facebook posts I could find. I’m sure there was at least another 100 hours in research – both before and during the build.
More Detail on Build Hours
If you’re interested (and a real sucker for punishment), then at the bottom of this post I’ve put my whole build log.
I recorded all the major work items, and even lumped in the not-so-major items. I can’t guarantee that I captured absolutely everything, but if you’ve been a follower of the blog you should get a sense of whether I’m the meticulous type or not.
If you’re a “a bit more of the detail” sort of person but not a “dump all the minutia on me” person, then I also grouped the tasks into the following categories and generated a (pivot) table of the approximate headline durations…
Bodywork and Protection
Plumbing – Oil
Plumbing – Water
Suspension – Front
Suspension – Rear
At some point, I might try and put this information back into the gantt chart I first created. I know there were a bunch of you that said it would take me longer than in the gantt… but hey you’re only young once.
Again, there’s more detail at the bottom of this post…
Visits To The Dealer – 7
Of course there were the usual test-drives, spec’ing, paying etc etc. But I also had a few trips out to poke around their stock to see how things were done on an already built car, and I also made trips to pick up my bonnet and a different track day roll-bar.
And while we’re on the subject of roll-over bars… bear in mind that some clubs (i.e. Lotus7.club) insist on the FIA track-day roll-over bar – the one with the diagonal braces running across the car. If you go for the standard roll-over then no-tracky-with-them! They won’t allow you to enter one of their track days unless you have at least the FIA track-day roll-over bar.
Visits To Caterham – 1
A visit to take my bruised, and already late, bonnet back to be reworked. I could have got them to pick it up but decided a trip to the showroom was going to get it there faster… and… it was a worthwhile day out that I hardly needed an excuse for. I learnt a lot from poking around the cars there and also got talking to other builders and mechanics which was also really helpful too.
Pictures Taken – 1,546
I’ve talked about my reasons for blogging (here) and some of the very first comments I got back on my first few posts were – “more pictures please”. We all know a picture paints a thousand words and nothing more so than when you’re trying to explain something technical.
Of course you need to take pictures as part of the submission to IVA, but I only provided them with half a dozen or so. So, taking lots of pictures wasn’t for their benefit. In the end I found it really, really useful to refer back to pictures I’d taken from earlier in the build. I’ve also been able to dig through the collection when people have asked questions later and I’ve been able to find something that didn’t make the blog but showed exactly how I’d done something.
I’ve enjoyed having the photo collection to go back through and I hope you enjoy the montage header picture on this post – which is (most of) the pictures uploaded to the site so far… in a montage (ImageMagick if anyone’s interested). I think there are 504 images in that montage – don’t ask about why there’s a difference between the 504 here and the 601 mentioned below… there just is – right!
Pictures Added to The Blog – 601
I think that’s way more than I was expecting and probably took forever for people to download as they read the posts… but it seems they helped a bunch of people through their own builds so hopefully worth it in the end.
I’m also aware that some people just look at the pictures on the pages… with very little evidence that they’ve read the words. That’s ok too… and of course I can bad mouth them here because they won’t read this either! 🙂
Emails to Caterham – 58
I never would have guessed that – honestly! I thought I was trying to keep the traffic to Derek to a minimum. Hmmm.
Derek was great, and often surprised me with how quickly he got back… but sometimes not so too… so don’t rely on him for a guaranteed response if you’re in a rush, would be my recommendation – but realistically, nobody promised that either.
If you need help quickly, there are some great Facebook Groups and of course Blatchat if you get stuck in a rush:
Both those sources helped me out during the build, but the standard internet and social media warnings apply: only with an adult’s permission and caveat emptor!…….. what! you didn’t pay for your internet content… ! 😉
Emails from Caterham – 35
Derek wasn’t always as chatty in return… some of the disparity in numbers comes from me replying “thanks” or “ok” a few times. But, also Derek, I’m sure, has other jobs to do and so his responses could sometimes just be “yes” or “no” – which left my questions answered but sometimes a little lost as to actually how I had to move forwards.
However, for the overwhelming majority of the time, Derek’s answers were great and left no room for confusion.
(The one exception to that was the pictures he sent of the washer bottle install, in the boot, that didn’t include the non-return valve and caused water to spray the windscreen whenever the brakes were applied as I drove the car for the first few times! 🙂 … more on that in a future post).
GigaBytes of Storage Used – 877GB
Yes, that’s right, not far off a TeraByte of media… mostly video.
For the whole of the build I had at least 2 GoPro’s running. I have many, many hours of video that, one day, I hope to make a time-lapse or even a “These are the Steps to Make a Car” video.
I had started off thinking I would do a VLog as well as a Blog. However, it became clear very soon into the build that building, blogging and vlogging would have been too much. The general rule seems to be that 10 minutes of video takes about 200 minutes to film and about another 100 minutes to edit. And as you can see below… I spent almost as much time blogging as building and to edit and post a VLog was going to take me way over the time I had available. Sorry no VLOG – yet.
Blog Posts – 65
Hopefully you’ve all read them! They were great weren’t they?
Words in Blog – 83,869
Phew! That’s some piece of work!
Hours Blogging – 111.83
I didn’t count all my time blogging – some of it was on planes, trains and automobiles. But… I did “time” some of my blogging and that gave me a metric to use… which worked out at about 750 words an hour while I was writing, drawing, uploading and editing. So… 83-thousand words @ 750 words per hour =
I could have built another car in that time, or at least I could do now I know what I’m doing!
Website Views To Date – 9,530
Whilst not exactly the web’s most visited site, I’m pleased that there has been at least a few people interested to take a look at the fun we’ve had.
From the start of the blog to March 26th 2018 (just over a year), the website has had some 9,500 views. And for those of you interested… a view is counted when a visitor loads or reloads a page.
That’s it for stats… I hope you enjoyed the journey so far…!
And now for something completely the same… The Full Build Log
Now for the real insomniacs amongst you, here’s the full build log…
Following the IVA test on December 7th, I sent off the registration application to the DVLA (Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency). Their website says they will process an application for a new registration within 4 weeks.
I had hoped that the run up to Christmas would be quiet for them, but it seems that was counteracted by them being low staffed. I was really hoping that they would complete the registration process in time for Christmas so we could drive the car on the road over the holiday period. They managed to dash our hopes on both the two week and four week schedules.
The car stayed in the garage all Christmas.
Once it had got to early Jan, in fact exactly four weeks after I had sent in the application, I gave the DVLA a call. They said my application had been received and that they processed applications for this type of application in four weeks. I pointed out it was already four weeks and the person I had on the phone said she would go and check some more. The phone went dead before she could give me an answer.
I waited a few more days and called again. This time there was progress. They said the application had been approved and I should receive the various docs within 3 to 5 business days.
In fact, the confirmation of registration arrived the next day, Jan 10th, in the post – so much for 3-5 business days. The day after that I got the V5.
Now that I had the registration confirmation letter I could get some number plates and get on the road.
Prior to the registration application I had decided not to go for a so called vanity plate of any kind – I just relied on getting a random number assigned. In the UK, there have been a number of different number plate configurations. Obviously in the very early days of cars, number plates consisted of just a few numbers, then letters were included and there have been a number of different schemes in the intervening years.
The UK number plate registration system these days is a complex system to try to describe on a blog like this, Google will tell you all you need if you’re interested. Suffice to say our registration was designated a 67 registration semi-year! The 6 denotes the second 6 month period in 2017 that’s actually from October to March 2018. The 7 denotes 2017. We were also given a region specific prefix of WX (W being “west”, i.e. Bristol) and then a random letter sequence of LCN. The whole plate therefore reads: WX67 LCN.
Not very inspiring but it will do.
The day the registration confirmation arrived (34 days after sending off the forms) I went and got new plates for the front and rear, white for the front, yellow for the rear. I used velcro to attach them. That works fine on the back with a flat surface to work with but is far from satisfactory on the front where the nose-cone is contoured and you have to get the flat plate to fix to a contoured surface. The way I have the front plate at the moment… I know it’s going to fall off soon.
I think I’m going to 3D print some braces/brackets to help keep the front plate from dropping off.
In the end I went for UK and Union Jack designations on the number plate. I’m absolutely not, anti-european, but I’m aware that having a Euro flag on our number plates is going to be a thing of the past – might as well accept that now.
That’s it. I can drive it now.
How Does It Drive
Since getting the number plates, the weather has been really bad.
Fog, rain, snow, ice and more rain.
It’s not that I want to be a fair weather Caterham owner, I’m just biding my time. The 420R has a reputation for a) a fierce clutch and b) a proclivity for lighting up it’s rear tyres. With both of those together I’m not keen to stick my nice new car into a wall/ditch/other-car (delete as appropriate) because I’m a novice.
So, I’ll bide my time. I’ve been out in it a few times in the past week since getting the plates but I’m building up to an appreciation of the cars capabilities and quirks and will, I’m sure, be all the happier for it.
Here’s me and a friend in the car after one of the few outings to date…
Initial impressions of the driving experience are exactly what I expected…
There’s torque available in any gear to hurl you down a road
You’re the smallest thing on the road, by far
It’s amazing how much heat the heater and transmission tunnel generate – this is going to be a problem in the summer
There’s not much space between the clutch and brake pedals. The SV is ok with the accelerator pedal but the other two are close. It caught me out on the trip to the IVA test where I wore shoes that were too wide. I’m going to have to work on my wardrobe.
Bump-steer – there’s clearly some bump-steer being generated from somewhere in the geometry. I heard Lotus7.club members talking about steering rack height (raising it 10-12mm), so may need to look at that.
Giles pointed out that the front LHS tyre was running very close to the wing-stay at the front. I’ll have to take a look at that at some point. It’s not touching, but it is close and I can imagine it might rub under some scenarios.
Indicator Trouble Again
On one of the first drives, the front RH indicator gave up the ghost – characterised by the indicators running double speed. Caterham clearly use the resitive load of the indicator bulbs as part of the RC circuit determining the indicator mark-space ratio… sounds a bit old fashioned, but not a complete surprise!
I’ll have to sort out a new bulb for the indicator.
It’s the big day. The one I’ve been building up to for 9 months!
The test appointment is set for 8AM at the Avonmouth test centre… and I live in North Bristol, about 5 miles away. It’s about a 15minute drive at that time in the morning.
I got up in plenty of time to get the car out of the garage and to get to the centre.
I looked out of the window – rain!
I’d been watching the forecast all week and it had resolutely refused to stop forecasting rain for Thursday morning. The whole of the rest of the week was dry, but not the only morning I had a test planned in an open top car with no doors.
I’m taking the car to the test centre with no hood or doors. I didn’t want the extra complexity of presenting the car with either, and seeing as I’d not been inside the centre I didn’t know if there would be somewhere I could store them while the test happened. I didn’t want any risks here so decided to brave the rain and reduce the complexity.
It wasn’t set to rain heavily but it was definitely going to rain.
After getting ready, with obligatory hat and coat, I started the car and got it out of the garage. Imagine the scene: I’m sat on the drive with the garage now closed, it’s not really light yet, engine running, 4-point harnesses on and me ready to go. It’s raining and the windscreen is covered in water.
Wipers on. Err… no! Dead!
Wipers on. Err… no! Dead!
They worked last night when I gave everything a once over! Grrr!!
For the second time in 12 hours I’m wondering whether this is “meant to be” today. It’s going to be an interesting drive to the test centre. But much worse than that, there’s no way I can pass the IVA test with no wipers.
Get the car back into the garage and do a once over: almost certainly going to be late for the test and I really don’t want to have the inspector started off on the wrong foot from the get-go with me being late.
See if I can fix it in the rain on the drive: Hmm, sounds like a recipe to get really wet and probably still late
Drive to the test centre as best I can and see if I can fix it there: I know from a rec’ie I did of the test centre a few days earlier (thanks Will) that there was a canopy in front of the test bays.
Maybe the wiper drive mechanism was “bound up”: I’ve had cars in the past where the wiper mechanism can stop in a location where it can’t start itself again and the mechanism becomes bound. I gave the wipers a quick tweak as I sat in the car and the mechanism didn’t feel “locked”.
I decided to go with “drive it to the test centre and wing-it” strategy. It was either going to be a loose connection, a fuse, a relay or a dead wiper motor. I didn’t have any spare fuses and I couldn’t fix the wiper motor. My thinking was now heading towards “worst case scenario”… it was going to fail unless, in the most unlikely scenario, it suddenly fixed itself and there was a dodgy connection. I’m now also thinking that I might as well get the test done to find out what else is bound to be wrong and assume I’m going to have to do a second test.
Nothing for it but to brave the rain.
The Drive to the Test Centre
I’ve driven in some precarious driving conditions in the past. But this sits high up there along with:
No working brakes on a Fiat Super Mirafiori as I drove it to be scrapped.
A 1972 Avenger, which at 14 years old in 1986, threw a con-rod on the M1 whilst on a trip from Sheffield to Northampton, limping home on 3 cylinders.
The time a ladder came loose on a roof rack as I was driving over the Old Severn Crossing.
Wheels falling off, brakes seizing, car running away with itself and nobody in it… etc etc, you get the picture
All scary road trips, but a virgin drive of a self-built, brand new kit car, in the pouring rain, during Bristol rush hour, with no windscreen wipers certainly ranks up there.
Initially the rain was not too bad and I could just about see enough to make slow progress. Though I’m beginning to think this wasn’t such a good idea now. But I’m on the road and there’s not as much traffic as I was expecting. I’m also heading out of Bristol as everyone else is heading in.
As I got to about mile 3 of the journey the rain really started to pour. Nothing for it but to stop and try and clear some water off the screen. I was also working on a game plan I’d concocted: Once I’d got closer to the test centre I’d take another look at the wipers, give them a jiggle to see if there were mechanical problems. At least I could spend the time looking at things in the knowledge that I was closer to the test centre and therefore knew better how much time I had to play with. .
Back on the road again, it’s now properly raining and my only option is to drive while leaning out over the side of the car. My eye-lids are doing a way better job of clearly the falling water than the windscreen was.
But I got there. It was a real relief to pull into the covered bay outside the test centre. I’d been told to park in the SVA lane in the box marked on the road.
I took all the GoPro’s off the car and stuffed them into my rucksack, then went into the main building where a sign told me to wait by my car. So out I went again and waited for the inspector.
Here’s a video of my trip to the test station and realising at the end of my driveway that the wipers aren’t working!
Phew! I’d arrived!
The Test Begins
I was probably 5 minutes early, but the inspector turned up soon from the depths of the test lanes. The inspector introduced himself as Les and I took the car inside.
While Les was sorting himself out, I had a bit of a rummage around under the dashboard to see if I could see any loose wires – there were none in sight. Well… that’s sort of good I guess??
That’s about the only picture of the test process. From memory the test went something like this:
Weigh front then rear on the red weigh scale in the floor (above picture). The results in the scanned docs at the bottom of this page will be slightly out – I hadn’t taken about 10Kg of tools out of the boot!
Static, Switchgear and Visual Tests
Move car (by me) forward off scale
I noticed that the bonnet-catch covers weren’t attached. I went to get them from my box of tricks and showed them to Les. He said he didn’t need to see them on the car if I had them, he had a quick glance at them. He knew what they were supposed to look like.
Emissions test – no problem, I think
Les did various measurements including using a few different contraptions to measure things like the relative positions of steering wheel and seats
It was at about this time that Les told me – “you know, almost nobody passes first time. They usually fail on the brakes.” Hmmm, that’s making me feel good!
We discussed the need for the collapsable steering column. I’m glad I got Williams to fit it in the end, Les said it would have been a fail if it wasn’t fitted. He showed me his IVA bible where it mentions a deformable steering column. I think the wording could be interpreted a couple of ways – but I wasn’t arguing.
He sat in the car and tested all the switches.
Test wipers – bugger – no change! We had a discussion about what might be wrong. Les was turning out to be very amenable. Firm but fair. He genuinely wanted the car to pass if it could. We left the wipers for the time being.
Everything apart from the wipers was working.
He took a long look at my “milky” rear fog light, from the debacle the night before, but didn’t poke around at it and didn’t try to take it off. He made no comment.
With those tests completed, the topic of conversation (we were chatting all the way through) turned back to the wipers. Les went to make us both a coffee while I had a fiddle.
It didn’t look like there were any loose connections under the dash and the mechanical side of things seemed to be fine. That meant it was probably a fuse or a relay. If it was a relay then I was going to be in trouble. If it was a fuse, then perhaps there was a chance to salvage things. Now… both the washer pump AND the wipers weren’t working. So, it would have to be some weird wiring for a relay to cause both to be out. So lets assume the more likely problem that can affect both the washer and the wipers, a fuse… but which fuse.
We got the build manual out and turned to the wiring diagrams at the back. The 420R fuse layout seemed to be completely wrong. We tried reading the lists from different directions but neither made sense of the diagrams vs car.
While Les was cleaning a couple of cups for the coffee, I decided I’d take out each fuse in turn and have a look. Car fuses are usually very obviously blown when they go – lots of current. So… 50/50 chance of starting at the top or bottom… top first.
Bingo, the first, topmost fuse was blown.
Everything else was working on the car so this was almost certainly the wash-wipe fuse. Now, what to do, I still had no spare fuses – schoolboy error…!
ALWAYS TAKE SPARE FUSES TO AN IVA TEST!
I was wondering if I could “borrow” a fuse from another location in the fuse box and still have a car that Les was going to pass – did the whole car have to be in a pass configuration or could it pass “in pieces”. While I was musing over this, Les came back over and said: “hang on, let me see what I can do”. He trotted off to his car and came back with a spare fuse – top man! He GAVE me the fuse and we moved onto coffee… after I had confirmed the wipers and washers were now working.
At least the car wouldn’t fail for a wash-wipe fuse!
This part of the test probably took 20 minutes, plus about another 20 minutes on coffee and fixing the wipers. It turned out that Les gets to test some very exotic vehicles – often imports. There’s also a lot of Atoms he tests from the Ariel guys down the M5. Earlier in the year he got to test a Garden Shed, on a Sierra chassis – the owner wanted to make it road legal!
Drive the car (by me) onto a ramp
Ramp lifted about 5 feet in the air
I stayed in the car while it was up on the ramp.
Les asked me to apply the brakes a few times and to apply the handbrake as he inspected underneath the car.
The ramp was lowered and I remained in the car
Les did the headlight tests. Both needed a tweak (even though Williams had said they had adjusted them). Les was happy for me to adjust them while we watched the headlight test jig displays. It was at this point that I realised I didn’t have a spanner for the headlight nuts. Williams had adjusted them and I didn’t have the 26mm spanner needed. I also hadn’t brought an adjustable spanner. I eventually got them loose with a pair of pliers and I got them just about tight enough to satisfy Les.
That was about 15 minutes.
Next we moved off the ramp and onto the rolling road brake test rig.
Les sat in the car at this point and ran through front and back brake tests.
The machine ran through a sequence and presented Les with results that he wrote down. The test included him attaching a pressure pad to his foot so he could check brake pedal pressure. He wasn’t giving anything away though – I had no idea if I was passing or failing. From what I could see of the readings on the machine, things looked ok – but I couldn’t tell.
About another 15 minutes.
Final Rolling Road
I moved the car off the brake test rolling road and onto a final rolling road which tested what I think was speedo and more brake tests – though I lost track of things at this point, not quite sure what all that was about.
Next I moved the car outside for the noise test, it had stopped raining by now – thankfully!
This was probably another 10 minutes.
The noise test consisted of me sitting in the car and aligning the exit of the exhaust with the red line you can see in the picture above, running across the car – the red line under the front wheels in the picture above. Les then placed a “jig” to the side of the car. This jig allowed him to place his noise meter at 45degrees diagonally to the rear of the car and 1m away. The noise reading came out at a surprising 94dB (when measured at 75% of full revs – 5700rpm). I was expecting it to be much closer than that, but it was an easy pass in the end (pass mark is below 99dB).
5 minutes for this testing.
The final test was for Les to take the car for spin around the site. We’d had the car up to some pretty high static rolling-road speed, so by this point it seemed Les was happy to trust my workmanship with his life. He wasn’t hanging around but also wasn’t totally crazy. He took the car back around to the entrance of the hanger and I walked back to the weight scales through the hanger.
2 minute test.
That was it. The test was done. Les offered for me to sit down while he did his paperwork and he left me in suspense.
Here’s a not very in-focus selfie while I waited…
While Les was working through his paperwork, I made sure I absolutely did not leave 2 x £1 coins next to the kettle. It would certainly not have been appropriate for me to have made sure Les was not out of pocket for his gift of a wiper fuse 😉 . He was adamant that he couldn’t take anything for it and that such a payment might be construed as bribery! That absolutely did not happen!
Five minutes later, Les emerged from his yellow office and walked over to me. He presented me with a piece of paper and said “this is what you’ve been waiting for”. I did a double take… it looked like all the sections on the page said – pass. I couldn’t see any fails.
He said “it passed”.
I was just a little… over-the-moon. I was certainly hoping it had passed but I wasn’t expecting it. Especially after the trip there and his statement about not many passing first time. I must have thanked Les at least half a dozen times in the next 2 minutes. We talked about a few nothings and I said my goodbyes.
Here are redacted versions of the various docs I got…
I needn’t have worried so much about the formality of the test. There was plenty of opportunity for me to present the car how I wanted. I’m sure I would have been fine to turn up with doors and hood and to have taken them off prior to the test. The whole process only took about 3 of the 4 hours that were allocated. I’m sure other’s take longer, and I suspect that some would have been shorter, given the wiper diversion.
The inspector, Les, was knowledgeable and easy to get along with. He was firm but fair. I don’t think trying to con or kid him wouldn’t have worked – he’d been doing the job for over 30 years. You get to know a few dodges in that time.
I was pleased with the state of the car as I’d presented it. I don’t think I could have done any better. In the end, that was enough.
The Drive Home
I didn’t have a chance to set the GoPro’s back up as I left the test site and I wasn’t in the mood to stop and do so once I was off the premises, so sorry, no footage of that. It was certainly a less eventful trip than the ride there. But here’s a selfie looking back at the test centre with some blue sky and a very happy driver.
Needless to say, I took the long way home.
All in all the car had now done 14 miles. It had 2 miles on the clock when I’d left in the morning – being put on by Williams and by my trip to fill up with fuel the day before. It was around 5 miles there and probably 6-7 miles the way I went home.
Once at home it was time to get the beemer out and head into work. I had all my V5 application forms pre-filled so it was just a question of signing / dating and getting all the various docs in the post. I did that when I got to work.
In the meantime, I needed a selfie of me, the car and the pass certificate…
The hope is that with a following wind I could get the forms of to the DVLA straight away and get the V5 back before Christmas in 14 days. Then we could drive it over the Christmas break.
For those of you not familiar with the UK regulations: while I have a test pass I still need the formal registration documents for the car. Only then can I legally drive it on the road. This doc is called a V5 or “log book”. The DVLA website says it processes applications for new V5’s in 4 weeks. I’m hopeful that it will be quiet before Christmas and it’ll come sooner. On the flip-side, I guess DVLA will have people taking vacation at this time of year and that might make the processing longer.
We’ll have to see.
[ Note from the future: fat chance! DVLA took more than their 4 weeks ]
Of course… thanks goes to all those who helped and supported me. To all those people who “popped round” to have a chat and lend a hand – it was great to see everyone and a fantastic experience. Thanks to Harry and Joe for helping out. Thanks to Andrew Pepperrell who was a huge help via Facebook Messenger. Thanks also to the Facebook and BlatChat communities for their comments on my posts. Thanks to Ted, next door, for all those times he leant over the fence to offer support. And of course, thanks to my wife, Sue, who didn’t complain once about the amount of time I was spending in the garage. Awesome!
The Purplemeanie has returned from its PBC and so its time to get all the remaining small jobs done before its IVA test next week. This post will be a catch-all for all those tasks, sorry, it’s probably a long one.
Friday December 1st – Return from PBC (6 days to IVA test)
I don’t have any pictures of the car returning, but good to their word, Williams delivered the car just after lunch time. This time they used a covered trailer rather than the flatbed from the other day.
One picture I do have is of the PPF application added while at Williams. Somehow I’d got it in my head that it was going to be less obvious than it is. On reflection, it couldn’t be and I think they did a good install.
If I’d have gone for a full “wrap” then those lines wouldn’t exist, but I was more interested in protecting the critical areas than making it look pristine. My PPF application included the following:
Front nose cone upper and lower
Bodywork side panels – also protecting against 4-point buckle “slap” when people “throw” the buckles off
Rear Wing L-shape – protects more of the wing against gravel rash from the front wheels
Bonnet sections where the door mirrors land
Below fuel filler cap
Front of front wings
I think all of that came to around £550. Expensive, but I think worth it.
Saturday December 2nd – Bleeding Brakes Again (5 days to IVA test)
Tom at Williams had confirmed that my brakes were a bit soft, so it was time to have another go at getting them bled again.
He had said that he uses a pressurised brake bleeding system. I therefore followed his lead and ordered a Sealey VS820 Brake & Clutch Bleeding System after returning from the PBC on Wednesday and which duly arrived the following day. You’ve gotta love Amazon!
The idea with these systems is not to go through the cycle of pump-pedal, open-nipple, close-nipple, pump-pedal, open-nipple, close-nipple, etc etc. but to just pump fluid straight through the system with the bleed nipples open and pressure in the tank…. you just replace all the fluid, and air, with clean fluid.
This Sealey system was simple to use and took me about an hour to flush enough fluid through the brake lines to completely replace all the fluid, and some. It took a few minutes to figure out how to use the system, so I suspect the next time I need to use it I could bleed the whole system in a few minutes. I also went and bought a 5 litre bottle of Dot4… I wanted lots of clean air-free fluid to work with, rather than what was left in the bottle supplied by Caterham.
Of course there could still have been air pockets in the system after this bleed session and I’ve heard some people say they have problems with the rear of the car. I guess that can happen if there are cavities in the system that create a sump, but I didn’t seem to suffer from any problems like that in my experience.
Here’s what the system looked like…
With this bleed system I was able to get a pretty firm pedal. It wasn’t rock solid but it felt better than a new 420 that I’d taken for a test drive at Williams in March. There was also no sense of the pedal needing to be pumped to get any increased firmness – a sign that there’s air still in the system.
I was happy with the pedal now so we’ll have to see if it passes the brake efficiency scrutinising at the IVA test.
Front Flexible Brake Hoses – IVA Treatment
Whilst at Williams I had discussed the fixings/couplings that attach the front flexible brake hoses to their callipers. Tom agreed that it might not be essential to cover them for IVA but that it wouldn’t hurt. So that was the next task: cover the unions and fixings to conceal any sharp edges that might promote an IVA fail.
Again, I think some of the job with all this IVA protection is to give the IVA inspector confidence that the build has been done well. They can’t inspect everything so they’re looking for the obvious things and IMHO can, to some extent, assume that if the obvious stuff is done well then the less obvious stuff is done well too… and so they don’t poke around so much. That’s very much IMHO… your mileage may vary!
Here’s what I did with these fixings: a length of 5/16 hose, rounded off at one end, slit down it’s length and attached to the fixing with self-amalgamating tape plus cable ties. Hopefully that will do the job.
I think the tape and cable-ties were a bit of a belt-and-braces approach, but it seemed to make sense at the time.
The Bonnet Badge
Another simple task today, now that the PPF was on, was to add the bonnet badge. Awesome!
A Mangled A-Frame Conundrum
What I had omitted to mention at the top of this post was that I managed to mangle the rear A-frame at the start of Saturday morning!
Since going to Williams, and as part of the suspension setup, the ride height had been lowered. It therefore transpired that I couldn’t now get my trolley jack under the back of the car to lift it up.
Somehow I convinced myself that it would be a good idea to partially lift the back of the car on the A-frame. I would then put my trolley jack under the chassis and lift it onto the axel stands like I had done normally.
However, jacking a Seven on the A-frame turns out to be a really bad idea – no surprises there. The A-frame is not meant to take any significant vertical load…
… and so it bent.
Not a particularly bad bend – I’m not that thuggish. But unfortunately, as well as a bend, I’d put a kink in the RHS tube. I was sure I could get the bend out, but removing the kink was going to be another matter. I went through all sorts of options in my head to think through how I was going to remedy this kink but I doubted I could get it right first time.
Now, don’t get me wrong… This is a small kink. Almost imperceptible – except that as it sat under the nice new car, with all it’s clean and straight chassis beams… it jarred. You could also feel the kink as you ran your hand down the tube.
If this had happened after the car had passed its IVA test, then I wouldn’t have worried about it. It wasn’t sructural and there would be no effect on the suspension setup. It’s like one of those people who routinely clean behind the fridge and when someone asks “why do you do that, nobody else can see it” the reply comes “because I know its there”. It was nagging at me like that… If I left it and the IVA inspector noticed, and I failed the test, then I would kick myself.
I decided to ponder the problem. It was Saturday afternoon by this point and Caterham parts department was closed – I know, I tried to call them. The website was showing stock of the right A-frame, so this was an option if I decided to solve the problem on Monday with a credit card.
I took the car back into the garage, still on its axel stands, and left it while I pondered.
Sunday December 3rd (4 days to IVA test)
Having thought things through for a day I had decided to take the A-frame off and at least try and straighten it. Perhaps the small kink wouldn’t get noticed at the IVA test, but a bow in the A-frame probably would.
I tried a few combinations of vice, grips and clamps but eventually resorted the fully calibrated “body and plank” method.
In the end I found that I could best modulate the bending force I was applying, and where I was applying it, by lifting the A-frame onto a low plank of plywood and “jumping” on it. I didn’t really jump on it, but I could feel the amount of “give” in the tube and got all of the bend out of the bar with my weight.
The kink remained.
Monday December 4th – A-Frame Ordered (3 days to IVA test)
First thing Monday and I decided I would go for a parallel approach on the A-Frame. I had the “unbent but kinked” A-Frame but would also order a replacement in the hope that it would arrive on Tuesday to give me another option.
A quick phone call to Caterham when they opened and they confirmed they could get an A-Frame shipped today and hopefully it would arrive tomorrow – credit card engaged and order placed. The A-Frames seemed to be relatively cheap at around £70 ($95) – not a costly mistake but still frustrating at this stage in the game. Little did I know, but there was further self-inflicted frustration to come.
Tuesday December 5th – A-Frame and Labels (2 days to IVA test)
True to their word, Caterham got me the replacement A-Frame via a next day delivery.
[Note from the future: while we’re talking about the ordering of an A-Frame – Caterham were a little too efficient. A second A-Frame arrived a week later. When I called to return it, they thought that the shipping team had shipped the first one without waiting for the invoice to percolate through their system and so when it did, a second one was sent out.]
It was a quick 30 minute job to install the new A-Frame and attach the handbrake cable on both sides with my P-clip arrangement.
To bolt the A-Frame in, I decided that this time I would drill out the rear A-Frame bolt holes.
When I fitted the first A-Frame a few weeks ago, I had carefully Dremelled out the bolt holes but not quite gone far enough. Inevitably, this meant I had a devil of a job to get the bolt through both sides of the A-Frame and took some of the thread off the bolt in the process.
This time around I took out my callipers and measured the bolt. I then went up to the next 0.5mm drill bit size and drilled out both sides of the back of the A-Frame – not the front mounting points.
One job I’d not got round to was the labelling of the dashboard switches. It’s an IVA requirement to have the switches labelled and as usual I was going over the top. I had spent a day or so playing with some printed options. The idea was to laser-print, cut-out and stick-on sticky-backed vinyl sheets with dashboard graphics as below…
Unfortunately, I ran out of time and had to go with plan-B.
Plan-B was to use a simple label printer, which worked out fine and I can either go with my graphics at a later date or, like many people, pull them off and forget about them altogether.
I only needed to label the switches that didn’t have any logos on, so the green light switch in the picture immediately above was sufficiently labelled already.
Wednesday December 6th – Road Trip, Rear Fog and Reverse Light IVA Treatment (1 day to IVA test)
The big day is tomorrow.
I had some time I could spare in the morning today so decided to take a trip…
The IVA test centre had called on the Monday to remind me that I needed to present the car with a full tank of fuel. The car gets weighed in the test and it needs to be fully wet. They were concerned that I hadn’t been told this when I made the appointment – Nice… considerate!
The weather was chilly but dry, so I decided to go to the local filling station about half a mile away for my first real ride in the car!
I had been threatening to take the car to the filling station for a few days. So… car out of garage, gear up for the weather and take the car out for my first short drive.
Of course I had no plates on the car and I had no appointment I could fall back on as part of the IVA test. So, if I got pulled over I was going to have to talk my way out of it. Here’s a time-lapse of the trip there.
…. and a video of the return trip, with some commentary…
No dramas on the trip, other than a police car pulling out in front of me on the way there, which meant I had to hold back to keep out of his rear-view!
An Evening of Strife
After the first outing for fuel, tonight was about getting all the stuff together that I thought I’d need to take to the test tomorrow. In the end I took this list of stuff plus some other stuff that I’ve almost certainly forgotten about:
Set of metric spanners 6-19mm + 32mm, doubled up on 10,13,17 and 19mm
Set of imperial spanners
Grips, Pliers and Side-cutters
Various tapes, including masking tape, electrical tape and self-amalgamating tape
1/4″ + 3/8″ Socket Sets
Various screwdrivers of different types and sizes
Velcro in case the fuse box needed better fixing
Stanley Knife (sort of a heavy duty craft knife for you non-UK people)
Lots of spare nut-caps
Any remaining IVA trim (of various types)
Remaining 5/16″ hose
IVA bonnet fixing caps – I was carrying them in my kit rather than on the bonnet, where they might fall off (they don’t sit very tightly on the fixings)
It looked something like this…
I also fired up the car and tested all the lights and switches – that’s an important statement for later!
[Note from the future (spoiler alert): I should also have taken at least an adjustable spanner and a set of spare fuses]
Anyway, back to a real job for this evening…
I was kicking my heels a bit after the prep for tomorrow, so decided I’d have a go at the IVA trim around the rear Fog Light and Reversing Light. I’d seen recent blog posts saying that IVA trim around these lights is no longer required to reduce/soften the radius on the housings – probably because the housings have changed, but I don’t know that. However, I had some time to kill and like I’ve said before… better safe than sorry… BIG MISTAKE!
I then proceeded to take off the red fog light lens from the housing…
…which promptly fell apart in my hands!!!!
Ok. Deep breath!
So… this was a BIG problem.
There was no way the car was going to pass the IVA test in 12 hours time if I couldn’t get the rear fog light operational again. It looked like someone had overtightened the lens into the housing and the sides of the lens had shattered. That wasn’t me, I hadn’t touched this assembly until this point.
…what was even worse was that the two bolt-stems/tubes that actually held the lens into the housing had sheered. There was no way they were going to be usable to attempt to attach what was left of the lens back into the housing.
I went through a few options in my mind. Were any of the local garages or auto-factors open (Noop it was about 8PM by this point). Anyone I know able to help? (Couldn’t think of anyone). Could I scavange something off one of our other two cars? (Didn’t sound promising, but possibly an option). Could I 3D print something? (Not enough time and the quality of the result wasn’t going to work… even if I could figure out how to turn clear translucent filament into red translucent filament – nah!).
The only option I could think of was to clear-epoxy the stems/tubes back into the lens, hope it would all line up again, and be transparent, if I took my time. The lens seemed to be ABS, which would take the epoxy fine, and I had a good clean break on the interface of the parts to work with. If I screwed this up then I had a problem – but it seemed to be my only option.
So, out with the rapid-set epoxy…
The end result wasn’t too bad – other than I’d overdone the amount of epoxy, as usual. The epoxy had wept onto the lens a little which made the lens appear a little milky from the front. But, this was still my best option.
I carefully fitted the lens back onto the car, gingerly tightened up the screws and sat back. It was a serious hack to get to this point but not the complete disaster it could have been.
For some reason I was still prepared for more trouble this evening when I decided to still try and attach IVA trim to the fog and reversing light. This time, instead of taking the lenses out, I decided to go with my cosmetic-only approach… cut some IVA trim and glue it to the housing.
The fog light lens ended up looking like this, including the epoxy fix…
I did a similar cut-and-glue-job on the fog light.
Ok… so… a bit of disaster this evening but I think I recovered ok. We’ll have to see if the inspector does, or does not, like my fog light repairs…. along with the dozen other items I’m worried about.