The engine arrives from Caterham bolted onto a specially adapted pallet, and in my case with the bellhousing loosely bolted to it.
The gearbox arrived in a massive and very sturdy cardboard box which was taking up a load of space in the garage, but did come with a handy cardboard stand inside to keep the gearbox upright. I managed to cut the top of the box away so i could use the stand to support the ‘box while I bolted the bellhousing on. Once this was assembled I tried to manhandle this over to the engine and get it connected, but it was too heavy for me to move it around gently and accurately enough to get the input shaft to slide into the clutch spline. Fortunately Darren next door came home at just the right time to help, and after a bit of swearing the gearbox and engine slid together.
If I was doing this again I’d have the bolts easily to hand and positioned in the right sequence, as they’re all different lengths and you need to make sure they go in the right place, which isn’t that easy to do when you’re trying to hold up a 55kg gearbox.
Getting this done felt like a really big step in the build and also helped to get rid of some very big cardboard boxes! Next step: engine in.
First job today was to fit the horns. In order to rotate them on their brackets to get the electrical connectors closer together you have to undo the central nut. Some other people had struggled with this but a quick blast with one of these:
…and they came off really easily! Hey presto, horns fitted. I’ll connect the wiring later on when I build up the headlight connectors.
So, the de Dion tube. The Caterham manual said to drill out the holes that the brake pipes mount to for clearance, so I got cracking.
I then did some swearing because the drill bit snapped off in the first hole I attempted. I scratched my head for a bit – I couldn’t get hold of the broken bit because it sheared off flush with the surface, and I didn’t want to risk drilling the hole out any bigger. Thankfully the tube is hollow with access from either end, so by using a drift and a hammer I managed to knock it through and start again.
The rest of the holes didn’t cause any issues, and the brake pipes, three-way adapter and p-clips were riveted on. The shorter brake pipe didn’t look like it would fit – the end is 90 degrees away from pointing in the right direction. A quick email to Derek confirmed this was standard Caterham and needed to be bent into shape by hand. I’m not 100% sure why this couldn’t be done when the rest of the bends are done during manufacture, but never mind. I’m getting used to having to hand finish things and that will be a big part of this being my car.
With the front suspension attached I could bolt on the front antiroll bar. This looked pretty easy; a couple of little plastic balls that thread onto the end of the bar, a pair of bright orange rubber bushes and some brackets. After past experience I decided to dry fit the brackets first to check everything cleared – the holes in the chassis tubes needed a drill running down them to clear out a little of the powder coat and to open up the holes in the aluminium. Then with a quick spray of rubber lubricant the orange bushes pushed into the brackets and then both could slide onto the bar in roughly the correct position. The balls on each end just screw on, but Caterham recommend some threadlock to stop them coming loose.
The plastic balls on the end of the ARB push into cups on the upper wishbones and with a bit of grease applied the first one seemed to fit. A bit of brute force was needed to bend the second one into place but not too tricky.
On closer examination, though, I couldn’t get them to push right inside the cup and seat properly, which meant the bolts wouldn’t reach the brackets. Hmm. With a bit of wiggling and some longer bolts I managed to pull the bar into place against the chassis in the hope that this would pull the ARB into place, but this left the bushes looking a bit weird.
This was clearly not right (which Derek from Caterham agreed with when I sent him some photos by email), and my mate James recommended cutting a little groove in the side of the ball to let the excess grease and any trapped air could escape from the cup and let the ball seat properly. 5 minutes with a junior hacksaw later and the anti roll bar was looking a lot better, with the balls seated properly and the bushes not looking distorted. The little groove certainly helped and I don’t think it should cause any issues, but only time will tell I guess.
After sorting the headlights I could get on with attaching the front wishbones, shocks, uprights, and brakes. The Caterham build manual is actually pretty good for this part of the assembly so apart from forgetting to apply copper slip a few times it was all pretty smooth.
Caterham suggests fitting 2 washers either side of the rear wishbone mounting which involves a bit of gentle persuasion (hitting with a hammer). The real pain in the backside is the top shock mounting bolt. You have to ‘ease the aluminium panel away’ to clear the bolt, but this is a bit of an understatement and you need to be pretty forceful. I cut down an allen key to enable me to access the head of the bolt and then spent a long time and some scraped knuckles turning the bolt a quarter of a turn at a time until it was all together.
This might now look all assembled, but I’d forgotten this…
…so off came the Nyloc nut at the back of the hub and the upper balljoint so I could fit the stupid wingstay and bolt everything together again. And with that, the front end was starting to look like a car! (Must remember to adjust the headlights).
Before I get excited and start bolting the suspension on, the manual and many of the other blogs I’ve read say you have to fit the headlight bracket as you bolt on the upper wishbone, which pretty much means you have to do the headlight wiring. A lot of people (including Rob’s excellent blog) use a method suggested by Daniel French to neaten up the wiring. The first thing is to put some IVA strip all around the bottom of the plastic indicator housing, I fixed mine using some dots of superglue every inch or so.
It’s a bit tricky because all the wires have to end up inside the chassis after having passed through the indicator housing, various fasteners and a tiny hole down the middle of the headlight bracket.
For the first headlight I tried out Daniel’s method which worked OK, but it’s left me with a pretty short indicator wire inside the body – it will reach the wiring plug OK so shouldn’t be a problem but I’m not that happy with it. Once you’ve shrink wrapped the wires it’s really difficult to feed them through the headlight bracket and into the headlight housing using this method. For the second headlight I decided to use Caterham’s method and I’ll decide which one I like the best afterwards.
Now I’m getting to grips with the build it’s obvious that a single garage is a bit snug to build the car – pretty much every step involves me moving some boxes around and gingerly stepping over the car while trying not to fall over or scratch it. With some help from the neighbours (thanks Nick, Bee and Oliver!) we got the car on axle stands which has made a bit more space underneath for the de Dion axle, driveshafts and stuff which has made the situation better, but until the engine and gearbox are in I’m going to have to put up with it. Better get some more bits fitted to reduce the number of boxes!
So the predictable first step is to bolt on the steering rack – this is a nice easy job, the bits are obvious and not too much can go wrong.
The steering rack is held in place by aluminium clamps which are nicely machined – these are held in place by caphead bolts that drop in through the top and through holes in the crossmember. Flat washers and nyloc nuts go underneath and get loosely tightened for now.
After putting the steering rack in place I thought it might be a good shout to put some tape over the paintwork to protect it – I bought some blue masking tape from B&Q which is just sticky enough and is pretty tough.
I then immediately peeled it all off again because I’d forgotten to fit the IVA trim strip. To pass the IVA test this has to go around the openings in the chassis that the wishbones poke through. Read the manual, Ben. This is fiddly to fit but not too difficult – I started at one end then cut it to length and put a 45 degree cut at either end to make it look a bit neater. The it’s just a matter of putting a dab of superglue every inch or so along the strip as you fit it, making sure you hold it in place in the tight corners until the glue has set. I has to cut some little triangles out of the strip in the tightest corner to allow it to bend tightly enough without wrinkling but it looks pretty good now it’s finished.
At this point it was pretty dark and I was very hungry, so time to call it a day.