On July 11th 2020, I uploaded a bit of a longer video to YouTube documenting the build of my 420R from nearly 3 years previously.
I’d always planned to do this video, but for the usual many reasons it only got a few hours here and a few hours there since finishing the build in December 2017. But I had a week off work and with the weather being a bit crap I decided to give it a final push over the line. I have no idea how many hours it took to edit the video but its probably well over 50 and might be closer to 100… bonkers, I know! And that’s obviously ignoring the 160 hours of time spent building the car to create the time-lapse itself. It too me two days just to add captions to it!
The video is a bit rough in places, but I wanted to get something out as I hope its a useful addition to my (and others) blog. My problem with the video over the past 2 years has been that I really wanted/needed to make it twice as long to be able to say all I wanted to about the build, but even now at 33minutes there will be very few people that watch it, and at over an hour I could pretty much guarantee that nobody would.
So, the video is what it is. If I was doing this video again then I’d make a better job of the audio. Both the pieces to camera and the voice over of the build itself could really do with less noise on the audio and a compressor applied to lift some of the quiet phrases. The voice over for sessions 1 to 15 had the microphone gain set too high and was hitting the limiter and I should really have re-recorded the voice over again once I’d got to the final wording I wanted to use – the result that ended up in the video was something like 600 sections of audio cut and spliced together and took me weeks to edit down to something that sounds vaguely ok to listen to. There’s nearly 8000 words spoken in the video – no small undertaking!
And if I was setting up the GoPros at the start of the build again, then I’d make sure I took a bit more time to get a good close-up of what I was doing at each stage of the build. Certainly 3 GoPros made for a better video I think. One would not have worked for me, two would have been a minimum and four would have taken forever to edit.
I don’t quite remember now, but I think I set the GoPros to record the time-lapse with 30s intervals. I used 3 GoPro Hero 6 Blacks for the main time-lapse. They’re the first GoPros (I think) to have in-built support for time-lapse. Prior to the Hero 6 Black you had to get the cameras to save stills and then stitch them back together to make a movie afterwards.
The Video and Audio Gear
In the garage I had 3 GoPro Here Black 6’s. They were set to time-lapse at 30s intervals. Each was set to run at the start of a session and stopped at the end. I used GoPro flexible gooseneck mounts to attach them around the garage and plugged them into USB power to keep them going for up to the whole day. Each had a 64GB Sandisk memory card in them.
I also used my iPhone to take over 800 photos that became the blog, but also used it to take some video at times – the side on shot of the engine starting up is shot on iPhone for instance.
For the “to camera” section I used a Canon EOS RP and 15-28mm F2.8 lens to get the blurred background.
When recording audio I use a Zoom F6 in 32 bit mode and then either a Rode Wireless Go and cavalier microphone or a Rode NTG, also into the Zoom F6.
The video was edited in Final Cut Pro X on a selection of Macs and the whole project was about 2TB of footage and proxy media… the proxies were needed because I had to speed the video up in two stages. With hind-sight I would have created sped up versions of the GoPro footage, exported it and re-imported it again to save the Proxy space at 4k. All the video was shot in 4k to give me room to crop and zoom if I needed it. I also created multi-cam clips in FCP to be able to cut from one camera to another more easily. However, that didn’t always work and there are a couple of sections of the video that repeat but from different camera angles. If I were doing it again, then I’d pay a lot more attention to the time/date settings on the cameras to help getting the clips synchronised – and probably used time-code generators… that sounds overkill but it would have saved so much time in the edit.
Like many YouTube videos, the edit got pretty complicated with all the graphics, overlays and animations. Here’s just 2 minutes of the edit timeline for the intro…
Anyway, as I say… it is what it is. It won’t be winning any awards, that’s for sure.
Below is the text from the YouTube description… note: when you’re in YouTube now, you can click on chapter markers to jump you to wherever you want to go in the video… my favorite bit is the trip to the IVA at the end of the video when I’m leaning out of the car to see through the rain after the wiper fuse blew as I left the house! 🙂
I hope its a useful resource and of course I’d appreciate feedback, especially if I’ve made any glaring mistakes.
And here’s the text from the YouTube description that includes the chapter minute:second timings,, but you can find that on YouTube too!
YouTube Description Text…
Almost 3 years after turning on the first GoPro to film our Caterham 420R Kit Car build, I finally got around to creating this video…
This video is a recap of the major points of our build and is in no way representative of everyone’s experience – every Caterham and every build is different!
It has taken many many hours of editing to get this video into the shape you see here. The audio is a bit janky in places and there are too many jump cuts in the pieces of me to camera… but after 3 years I decided I just had to get something published.
Hopefully it’s of some use to anyone building, or looking to build, a Caterham.
[ Bonus points for anyone who can count the number of “in the ends”, “at the end of the days” and “measure twice, cut onces” 🙂 ]
Finally, yes.. I know sessions 24 and 32 a missing – I forgot to roll the cameras for some reason. Here’s the break down minutes:seconds of each section of the video…
04:20 Session 1: IVA Trim and Steering Rack
04:57 Session 2: Body Protection & Gearbox, Bellhousing, Engine
05:31 Session 3: Harness Tapping *
05:41 Session 4: Front Suspension
05:59 Session 5: Front Suspension & Headlights
06:35 Session 6: Headlights & Front Suspension
07:44 Session 7: Uprights
08:13 Session 8: Brake Pipes, Front ARB & Dinitrol
I thought I owned them all until I built a Caterham.
Sorry to all you non-builders, another technical post I’m afraid.
I’d been planning to do this post since finishing the build but I only finally got it over the line after being contacted by a number of prospective builders all asking me about tools. There’ll also, hopefully, be another one soon about “consumables”.
How Many Tools are Enough
Clearly any discussion about the number of tools needed is going to end up showing the total to be N+1, where N is the current number of tools you own. The same rule applies to all sorts of things… bikes (both kinds), t-shirts, books, car magazine subscriptions… and oddly enough – unicycles!
Having said that, I did have almost all of the essential tools, and probably could have got by without buying many at all. But I did end up buying a number of additional tools, of course! Some were just to help make things easier, some were to speed up the process. And some were because the one’s I had were a bit tired and I liked the idea of an upgrade. In some cases, like a socket set, I was missing a few sockets and decided now was the time to buy afresh. One or two tools I bought and didn’t turn out to be useful at all – but surprisingly few actually!
Is This List Definitive?
The discussion below is not meant to be definitive, exhaustive or for that matter definitively instructive. It’s what I used and may give you food for thought if you’re thinking about building a Caterham.
The tools listed are just for the build. As time goes on you (I) will need other tools like an oil-filter wrench and feeler gauges etc etc. But here goes for the build tools…
To the Tools
I come from the school of thought that says that:
At a wedding, there should be just one photo taken that includes everyone attending
It seems I think the same way about tools (I hope nobody was at the bar when it was taken)…
The image above contains all the main tools (I think). Of course I also have others that got used that are not shown but hopefully there’s nothing major missing.
For instance I have a lot more screwdrivers, pliers, cutters, hammers, many spanners, etc etc, that are not shown. The ones that are shown are, I think, indicative of what’s needed. I also tended to use socket sets instead of dedicated tools… I’d often grab the 1/4″ socket set for: allen-head bits, posi-head bits, small sockets. I always seemed to be pulling that set out and diving into it. The 1/4″ socket set (blue lidded socket set in the middle of the picture) was ideal because it had just about everything in it I needed and it was small enough to fit in, and around, all the tight spaces of the car. Having said that, if I had to have only one socket set then it would be a 1/2″ set in both metric and imperial.
The only major things missing from that picture above are the axel stands I used (highly recommended for small garages or where you want to get the car outside to work on)…
… and of course there was the engine hoist (borrowed)…
You may disagree with how I classify the following categories, it is just my opinion in the end.
I’ll give a quick list and then discuss them in more detail below.
Here’s a list of the really useful stuff. If something isn’t critical then it’s listed elsewhere:
Brake bleeding kit
Engine hoist and leveller
Low profile Trolley Jack
Petrol can and/or jerry can
Revolving Punch Pliers
Stanley knife and blades
You May Need These
Brake Piston/Caliper Windback Tool
Tap and die set
The Time Savers
The items below would sit squarely on my essentials list if I were to do the job again. That’s not to say you need them, I just thought they saved me a bunch of time and they were worth the expense to me and I had many of them already anyway.
Crows Foot Spanner’s
Drill Rivet Attachment
Hot Air Gun
Rotating Hole punch – highly recommended
Scissor or low profile bottle jack
Some of the tools I bought were more to test things out than because I thought they were going to be really useful. I just wanted to see how that worked or it was clearly going overkil. I thought this list would be longer when I created this section…
Tablet in the garage
Some stuff I bought I wouldn’t recommend. Other’s might find useful but I didn’t.
Pipe bender – for brake pipes. Some people may find they have the time to bend brake pipes with a pipe bender but I ran out of patience. It was much more fiddly than the usual central heating 15mm pipe bending I’ve done for household plumbing. In the end I formed the rear brake lines around whatever cylindrical item I had to hand and that I thought would create the right radius.
Could Have Needed But Didn’t
Ball joint splitter
Here’s the list again in more details and with some comments. I can’t guarantee that all the links will work forever but where they do I hope they’re helpful – it’s amazing how far you can go back and see your Amazon purchases, I bought some of those tools over 10 years ago.
[ Note: you can click on the pictures find out more info on Amazon ]
Various sizes, lengths and config: loose, socket sets, t-bar set.
Special: 9.5mm (3/8″) for engine mounts. The only other odd allen-key that caused me problems was the diff fill-plug – short 14mm.
When I bought these they came in a different black case… but these seem to be what I bought…
Min 3 regular but I used AJ Autos Mobile Axel Stand and replace steel wheels for “rubber” wheels
In the end I used Sealey VS820. I tried a few different brake bleeding options (mostly cheap and not so cheerful) but this did it for me in the end.
Any drill really, but cordless always works better for me and I’m caught in the Dewalt eco-system, so I use a Dewalt (DCD996) and which is my bestest of friends around the house
4 wheeled home made dolly (40x50cm). Useful for moving engine/gearbox around on (not shown in the picture but it’s in the blog in a few places). The dolly linked here is similar to the one I made.
Used for grinding and cutting on many occasions. Through a quirk of history I actually own two Dremels. I keep one with the flexible extension shaft on it and the other just with a cutter installed. That’s way overkill to have two Dremels but I think one (or similar) is essential to fettle bits that don’t quite fit.
My Dremels are an older generation than the one linked.
Metric (1mm – 10mm) and imperial (1/16″ – 1/4″) (pretty essential for some of the rivet holes that need the right hole size or else the rivets won’t fit or pull out)
For fibreglass cutting, at the least. I’ve got on well with the 3M mask linked, but your face shape may work better with something else.
Sometimes used these when doing a lot of drilling/grinding. I use the Peltor ear defenders, your mileage may vary
Engine hoist and leveller
I’m going to call the leveller essential but you could get away with straps… but I didn’t
Of course. I use all sorts of clear and tinted safety glasses… too many to link to.
Various files. Needle files are very useful bot tricky to get at places
For various fluids and one with long neck for fuel fill
I mainly use 6″ QuickGrips but also used some old school steel G-clamps.
Prop shaft universal joints
Slip Joint Pliers – I know them as “grips”
Useful for creating custom allen keys or cutting down bolts I provide that were that are too long
Need something like 20l to prime system so something bigger than a 1G container can save some trips to the petrol station. Carrying petrol around is dangerous and I haven’t bought any containers online so I’m not going to link to anything I haven’t tested.
Thin nosed most useful for me. The ones shown are electrical but any will do.
I do have mole-grips but try to avoid using them. They’re fine for holding something that might get hot (when grinding perhaps) but I rarely use mole-grips.
Revolving Punch Pliers
2.0-4.5mm. Highly recommended for rear wing rubber trim etc
A hand riveter is essential and I found a drill attachment to be a real time saver
Amazed how often I was reaching for a set of scissors
Flat, posi and torx (wing mirrors)
For wire, IVA trim, cutting misplaced zip-ties etc. The ones I have are electrical ones but they’re good quality and I can’t stand poor side cutters.
1/2″ is essential in metric (not linked, there are too many options but going with a reputable brand would make sense to me).
Used the 1/4″ set most of all
3/8″ used less.
I do have a 3/4″ socket set but didn’t need that in the end.
I also bought converter bits to allow me to put, for instance, a socket from one set onto a ratchet from another.
I use a simple 25W hobby iron
Lots. I have many metric from 5mm up to big. 24mm for headlamp locking nut adjustment, thin 15mm Spanner and a 32mm for the oil lines.
Don’t forget you often need two to do up a nut and bolt. Sometimes it works that a socket and a spanner will do but sometimes you need two sockets or two spanners. Doubles are only really needed for the common metric sizes – 10, 13, 15, 17 and 19.
I do own adjustable spanners, but I use them only as a last resort… and only use ring spanners where at all possible – much more reliable than adjustable or open ended spanners.
Tended to use digital calipers more to measure bolt lengths and the like, but sometimes need some extra reach
To be honest I used my iPhone light more often than not when reaching for a torch. But I did also have a rechargeable magnetic torch/bulkhead light.
Torque Wrench’s – x 3
Norbar 13658 3/8-inch 8-50NmTorque Wrench
Norbar 13441 1/2-inch 20-100Nm Torque Wrench
Norbar 13445 1/2-Inch 60-300 Nm Torque Wrench
Obviously used the 20-100 the most but 8-50 useful for things like brake lines and 60-300 needed for rear hubs, though many leave those for PBC to complete.
Regular bench vice
You May Need These
Brake windback tool
I ended up fiddling with the rear brakes a lot to try and improve feel and still not sure if applyig handbrake before bleeding was the cause.
I took the rear brake calipers apart but can’t think of another use
Tap and die set
Metric. Questionable essential, but was for me. Seat belt harness but also when cutting down bolts to clean up occasional thread.
Not being the spring chicken I once was, I found this convertible creeper/stool to be invaluable whizzing around under the car and sitting on it when working on suspension stuff
Crows Foot Spanner’s
Metric and imperial. The metric ones came in handy a couple of times like the dry-sump to radiator oil lines. 32mm for oil lines
Cheap as chips these days and I think almost essential
Hot Air Gun
I used one of these to shrink all the heat shrink – gotta be careful not to get too hot though. Otherwise a soldering iron works too.
Used hot glue to tack a few things down when I needed a light tack before final fixing.
Rivet Drill attachment
Real time saver completing the riveting for the internal trim
Found it useful instead of a tape measure but by no means essential. The one shown is a bluetooth version that I picked up for another project – Bluetooth is overkill
Low Profile Scissor or Bottle jack
Sometimes needed to lift something where the trolley jack couldn’t get to. I had an old scissor jack that I used along with a hydraulic scissor jack that I had to modify to fit under the rear A-frame (ground the recess at the top down).
Leatherman Wave. I’m a fan of having something quick and dirty on my belt while I’m working in the garage. Gotta be careful not to butcher whatever I’m working on though, there’s no substitute for the right tool.
QucikGrips useful when you only have one pair of hands. My Quick Grips are over 20 years old but I think the linked Irwin ones are the same. I also have the 18″ ones but don’t think I used them on the Caterham build.
Good for pulling wires out of holes in tubes
Dremel Flexible Shaft
As mentioned elsewhere I had the luxury of two dremels one always fitted with the flexible extension
Thought I’d use it more but only ended up using for the lambda sensor cable under the driver footwell and attaching the oil catch bottle to the frame.
Tablet in the garage
Many times flitted between build blogs looking for a picture that helped me decipher the old build manual. New manual much better in that respect but as of mid 2018 the new manual is still not good enough to do the whole build.
I use iPads… other tablets are available.
I thought I’d be able to create lovely neat rear brake pipe install with this but I didn’t have the patience to “get the knack” of it.
Could Have Needed But Didn’t
Ball joint splitter
Might of needed this if I’d needed to strip back the front suspension but I got that right and so didn’t need one.
So that’s a lis of all the tools I used. I toured my garage a few times trying to think if there’s anything I missed, and of course I added some items as I did those tours. But hopefully I got most of them.
Next up I hope to have a similar list of “consumables” – things like masking-tape, extra zip-ties, jubilee clips, rivnuts, adhesives etc etc.
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!