A day worthy of mention I suppose. This was the day I decided to build a Locost!! After looking at loads of websites I ordered Ron Champion's book from www.amazon.co.uk and set about looking for a donor. I asked my brother (a trader) and my best mate (a mechanic) to keep an eye out for a suitable MKII Escort. Now, the reasons for me building a Locost were purely as a track car.
I'm fortunate enough to have a TVR Griffith 500 for my sporting thrills and have used it on several track days. However, my enjoyment has always been restricted by that niggling voice at the back of my mind saying "but what if you stuff it into the armco???" - GULP! So this is why we bought a knackered Dutton Malaga B+ last year and rebuilt it for track use.
A cheap racer. The Dutton though was originally a road car which we have put on the track and is therefore compromised. I wanted to build something dedicated to the task in hand and in the Locost fitted the bill perfectly! I must point out that I have no intention of building the chassis for three reasons:
Well, patience was never a virtue for me and I was eager to get my hands on a car. However MKII prices in the private ads were obscene!! 500 quid for anything running. Anyway, fortunately I have fast access to the internet at work and so my search for a MKII Escort continued there. After a quick search on the Loot website I managed to locate a likely looking suspect for 85 quid! A quick call later confirmed that the car was a good'un - 2 owners since new and the first only had it 3 months! Mechanically sound with only a busted passenger window where someone had nicked the tax disk, it was almost too good to be true.
It looked set to shift pretty quickly and the seller stuck to his 'first come, first served' philosophy. I was unable to have a look at the car that evening but my brother kindly stepped in (little did he know!) and offered to make the drip to NE London to look at and hopefully buy the car. Well, that evening an unfortunate lorry driver tried to jump the M25/M1 flyover in his artic leaving it hanging perilously over the M1. My brother - poor soul - got caught in the ensuing jam and took almost 3 hours to get to view the car. Fortunately it was in good order and he bought it. Onto the trip home.... By this time he thought that the motorway would be clear and he could make steady progress home - NOT! The lorry was still in place and the jams with it. Six hours after setting out he finally got home. What a top bloke! The only dramas with the car were all the lights failing 200 yards onto the M25 (fuse blown) and a mild overheat in the traffic jam. Little did AME241T know that it was the last trip it would ever make - well, in this guise anyway.
After reading 'the book' thoroughly, I finally got my mits on AME241T. I had made a list of all the parts I needed from the MKII and set about getting them! The X-flow had become a pretty familiar unit to me (probably the only one!) as we had rebuilt a 1600 lump for the Dutton. Incidently, said car was due to be taken on a track day on Saturday which is why I managed to take the day off to: a) prep the Dutton and b) strip the Escort!
Luckily my best mate runs his own workshop business and my rented unit is next door; so access to a ramp, tools and and engine hoist made for swift progress. Exhaust and propshaft were removed with the car on the ramps in about 20 minutes and the engine was drained of it's vital fluids. After that, the car was put back on the garage floor so the engine could be removed.
All the bolts were pretty obliging and with my mate's help, the engine was out within the hour! Radiator, master cylinder, pedal box and electrics followed suit and by the end of the day the only thing left to remove was the handbrake, rear axle and rack. However, I needed a rolling chassis so that I could wheel the car back and forth between the units for the time being.
Well, nothing to report on the Locost front, but as an asides I thought I'd say a bit more about the Dutton. I won't bother you with the history of the car here as you can view it at http://www.pistonheads.com (a great site btw). Anyway, we'd got the car fully 'nobbed-up' as we like to say, in readiness for a MaxTrack track day, with the recent additions of race rubber (Yokahama A032R's) and a high pressure oil pump "just in case". Well, to cut a long story short the car started losing power after a meagre 5 laps. I pulled in (just my luck for it to be my turn to drive as I co-own and drive the car with two others) to find no oil pressure - arse!! Finally got towed to the pits to investigate the damage. Still no oil pressure and a lot of big end clatter - double arse!! We trailered the car up and had some lunch. Curiosity got the better of us over lunch as we scratched our heads trying to think of possible causes. We tried once more to fire the car up on the trailer and hey presto - normal oil pressure - triple arse!! Still, this was of no use as the big ends were obviously knackered so a depressed threesome made their way home. The engine was removed the following week and awaits a strip down. Martin (workshop mate) got his hands on a 2.0 Capri S for a hundred quid and we decided to put the 2.0 Pinto lump into the Dutton (no substitute for cubes!). However, that's another story! The added bonus was that the Capri has laser alloys on it which were perfect for the Locost so I helped ahem, Martin clear some space by buying all 5 (a spare too!) for 50 quid - result all round!
My first full day of fettling! Now, my Locost is going to be raced and so the engine is a pretty vital part of the car. "Well they ALL are" I hear you cry. Well.... errr... you're right but mine had to make some decent HORSEPOWER too!!
In light of my recent experience with the 1600 x-flow in the Dutton I decided to do a complete strip down and rebuild of the 1300 with some mild tuning (following the 750MC's regulations for the Locost formulae). I've done two bottom end x-flow rebuilds already so this was pretty simple stuff and you need to see what you've got to work with before you start again.
Well, fortunately the news was good and the engine was in remarkably good nick. Mains and end shells showed little wear, the bores were only mildly ridged and the camshaft and followers were remarkably untouched (these were to be replaced anyway). The parts showed quite a lot of carbon deposits but not unusually for a car that had light use and short trips in its lifetime. Fortunately I have access to a steam cleaner (thanks again Martin!) and gave everything a damn good blast! Some parts came up almost like new. I intended to get the block, head and some ancilliaries bead and vapour blasted so everything else was given a light covering of oil and stored ready to be rebuilt.
Time to take the axle out so the Escort stayed in the unit. A quick trip to the local Halfords relieved them of 4 axle stands and me of 20 quid - bargain! Back in the unit I jacked the axle up and went next door to get some sockets. Strong smell of petrol on my return and a big pool of it on the floor showed my error. There was still plenty of it in the tank and I'd forgotten to plug the fuel pipe where I had removed it from the pump in the engine bay. Not a problem when the car is on the level but one that obeys the laws of gravity when you jack the back up! Anyway, the pipe duly plugged, I set to work on the axle.
I dunno about you lot, but the best tool in the garage has got to be a long socket bar (about 700mm long). 20 years of rusted bolts succumbed to it's leverage without too much effort and all bolts were removed in about half and hour. Jack back under the axle to support it and away it came. Job done! Only the Cortina hubs to source now and I'm ready for the chassis.
Took a boot full of engine bits to Eltech nr. Heathrow run by Elliot Purcival. This was the chap featured in the February 2000 issue of Kit-Car magazine (as well as a few others). A thoroughly nice bloke and knew his stuff too with loads of experience in renovating automotive parts. His workshop it a right old Alladin's cave of rusting metal and shiny, freshly blasted stuff. After a long chat about what's possible and what's not he agreed to do everything except for the bellhousing (still attached to the gearbox) as he was concerned about the grit contaminating the gearbox and fu..... err... breaking it. We settled on a figure of about 100 quid cash for the lot. A bit of a luxury but as I said, I wanted to do the best job I possibly could and this was the best way I could achieve an 'as new' engine look. Elliot was trying to get a days worth of auto bits (as opposed to fireplaces etc) and hoped to get them done for the weekend - woohoo!
This is more like a build diary isn't it! Almost daily entries ) I hope that I have as much enthusiasm for this project at the end as I do now - although I see no problem there. I seem to be dreaming about engine tuning at the mo!!!! btw. Peter & John Wallage's book Rebuilding and Tuning Ford X-Flow and Pinto engines is well worth the 12.99. Anyways, Martin has called me to let me know that he'd located a couple of Cortina's in a local scrappy. My brother's offered to get the bits off for me as I can't get away from work at the mo. Hopefully I can get them to Elliot at Eltech in time to have them blasted with the other bits. I'm rapidly running out of excuses as to why I haven't got a chassis!!!
Well, I managed to fail to do anything on Saturday but as my engine isnít back from the shot-blasters thereís not a lot I can do do it! Unsure what to tackle next I decided to refurbish the transmission and axle. The gearbox was as smooth as you like before removing it from the car and the oil was as clean as a whistle so rather than strip it down I just gave it a damn goods steam clean and several coats of Hammerite smooth black. Good as - no, make that better than new!
Next - the axle. I cut the brake lines leaving a small stub at the ends and stripped out the brakes. The pads have no discernable wear so Iíve decided to save myself 11 quid and re-use them (cheapskate!). The pistons were in good nick too, so I stripped and cleaned them thoroughly. Another good blast with the steam cleaner (which strips paint almost aswell as grime!), a quick whizz over some rusty bits with the drill and wire brush and it was ready for painting. Several coats of Hammerite smooth red later, with a bit of silver on the hubs (thanks for the inspiration for that colour scheme Rob Lane ) and it looked fab. If only I had a bloody chassis to bolt it to! I knew that Iíd have to repaint some of the axle once Iíd welded the brackets to it but this got the worst of it out of the way. I finished the day resolving to order the chassis from Martin on Monday.
Well, no luck in getting hold of Martin Keenan. So Iíve left messages and dropped him an email. Obviously the price of success is soaking up his time! The Stafford Kit Car show is happening soon so heís probably busy preparing for that to. Try again tomorrow.
On to March