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The Build (2003/4): June | July | August | September | October | November | December | January
Updates: 2004 | Le Mans | Sold | New Project
GT3 | Becker TrafficPro Install
Started thinking about delivery dates again - it's 8 weeks ago today that I ordered the kit, and the factory had said it should be ready in 8-10 weeks. In a moment of weakness Jen suggested it would be OK if I got the kit before July ...
So, this morning I rang and spoke to Richard Marlow who said it would be ready within the week. We started talking about dates, I suggested a week Friday, but of course the poor souls have to go to Le Mans then, so that was no good. Richard ended up suggesting this coming Saturday, which sounded fine to me! So, Saturday it is! Better finish off the garage clearance operation!
I did a bit of shopping in Machine Mart a coule of weeks ago, had an invitation to one of their VAT free days. My old compressor struggled coping with the air tools, so I got a bigger compressor, plus air nibbler, rivet gun and 90 degree angle drill. Also got a drill press. Looking forward to trying them out!
I'd already made a start on the garage, and this evening Jen's out so I spend the whole evening in there getting ready for tomorrow's delivery. Got the bench cleared, tools all sorted out in the cabinet and the floor swept. Cleared out some old stuff that was taking up space on shelves etc. Also brought the wooden trestles down from the attic ready to stick the chassis on them.
I'd had a delivery from Screwfix yesterday - some drills, needle files and a couple of other bits and pieces. The main thing i'd wanted had been the 3.2mm drills. I remember going through a couple of these building the Westy, they tend to break, then I waste half an hour nipping up to B&Q to get another one for a couple of quid. Screwfix sell packs of 10 for £1.69 - I reckon 20 should do me.
Up early, as usual, and got on with some work. True to form the delivery was early, he arrived at 8.15 after driving the 170 or so miles from Hinckley. Spent a while over a cup of tea having a natter - he seems to remember most of the people he delivers to!
After a cup of coffee I set to work carrying the boxes upstairs to stack them in the garage attic - really glad I put a staircase and proper floor in when I built the place!
As well as the build manual I've also got a couple of build sites cached on the laptop, so that comes out to sit on the bench. The build manual's nice but isn't comprehensive and there are a few areas where I can save myself some hassle by referring to what others have done. The two most useful sites are CJ's build site and James Crewe's. Both have got a lot of detail about some of the more fiddly aspects of the build and plenty of pics to supplement the excellent ones in the build manual.
The first panel to fit is the rear bulkhead, so after protecting the nearby chassis members with some gaffer tape I can hold it in position to see where it'll need trimming to fit snugly round the welds. The plastic clamps I bought at Stoneleigh work well holding it in place to mark it - their plastic faces won't mark the chassis and they hold it firm enough that you can still just move it to get the final position right. Then it's time to have my first play with the air nibbler. This is a really useful tool but needs treating with respect! The next couple of hours are spent repeatedly fettling and refitting till I'm happy with it. Next mark and drill - all spaced at 30mm working out from the centre. Then clamp it in position and drill the corners. I nip upstairs to get the panel fitting sundries out of their box - big bag of rivets, pack of 10 skin pins, tin of Waxoyl and tube of mastic. Once I've got it pinned with a couple of the skin pins it doesn't take long going round drilling all the other holes in the chassis. The 90 degree air drill means it's easy enough to get to some of the tighter corners, the cordless electric drill makes short work of the rest.
Minor interruption when my friend Mike rings - he's back from golf and we've arranged to go for a run. He's entered the race in Austria too and we're doing quite a bit of training together. We meet and run for just over an hour, then home for a shower and some lunch then back out to the garage.
The manual's a bit light on detail about the holes for the handbrake cable in the bottom centre of the panel and the gearshift linkage down the right hand side, so I refer to CJ's site for hols sizes and positioning. The handbrake cable holes are easy enough to position, I just left a few mm clearance from the chassis rails, but the gear linkage is more tricky. After a bit more rummaging upstairs I come down with the gear linkage parts to fit the rose joints to get the position for the hole right. Out with the 1/2" UNF tap to clear the powder coating from the threads and they're in. I clamp my metre rule against the chassis to get the height of the hole, and using the spirit level and tape measure mark where I think it should be. I drill a small pilot hole and sighting though the rear rose joint it looks like they'll line up fine - the rose joints can be adjusted a bit in and out anyway. Back on the bench and the stepped drill is used to create the holes - 14mm for the gear linkage and 18mm for the handbrake cable.
Next are the side panels. I decide to start on the passenger side as I reckon this one's marginally less critical than the driver's side! Much more tricky this one, you can't even get it in place without setting to it with the nibbler. I grab a few sheets of A4 card from the study for making little templates of the cutouts, and this works fairly well. Getting this panel right takes me a couple of hours, but in the end I'm happy with it. I just have time to mark the rivet holes, drill and deburr before it's time to clear up as we're going out for the evening. So, it's under way!
Late start today as the morning was spent with a bit of work early on before going out on the bike for a couple of hours. The passenger side panel is done, time to make a start on the driver's side. This one's even more tricky as it's difficult to get into position. After a few attempts I work out which way to turn it as it goes in and life gets easier! Using card again for templates I set to work creating the recesses with the nibbler and files and within an hour or so it's done. Next a bit of time spent measuring and marking for the rivet holes, trying to get the spacings reasonably even in the most critical area which is the upper row near the gear lever. Drill then deburr and back into the chassis it goes. Once clamped in position the first holes are drilled and it's pinned into place with the skin pins and the rest of the holes are drilled in the chassis. While it's there I mark the holes for the gear linkage rose joints and using the stepped drill make the holes big enough to provide a bit of clearance.
The side panels also need fettling to clear the harness mounting points, and it seems a good idea to run the 7/16" UNF tap through these and the centre mounts while access is easy.
The next panel is the front bulkhead. This is quite an enclosed area and the panel won't go in there without some trimming off the top corners. So another sheet of card gets used as a template. This worked really well on the side panel, so I'm feeling confident now. Trouble is the panel doesn't overlap the chassis members anywhere near as much as I expect so I've trimmed too much off! First boo boo! Ho hum, never mind, at least it's about the smallest panel, and shouldn't be too expensive to replace. Also means I can now use this one as a template to get the holes for the master cylinder mounting lugs right.
Time to clear up - about time I swept up all the bits of alloy nibbles all over the floor.
I manage to get out into the garage early evening. I'd rung Ultima in the morning to order the replacement bulkhead panel so that should be here within a day or two. Plenty of things to be getting on with in the meantime. Andy also said they'd be sending on my rear roll cage support struts - these are custom made and need to be matched to the individual chassis. Mine weren't powder coated in time. I won't really need them till much later anyway.
I decide I may as well carry on with the front bulkhead and mark it out for the master cylinder studs and holes. After marking the panel centre line it's not too difficult to measure up for these. They're soon marked, centre punched, drilled and deburred and I can see how they fit. Pretty good, so time to mark up from the back for the 38mm holes. These are then easily cut out with the hole cutter - this doesn't make such a neat job as the stepped drills, and they need a bit of cleaning up with the fine file. That done I put the panel aside and get the engine bay rear bulkhead down from the attic.
This is another panel that won't really go into place until you've trimmed a bit off it - it needs trimming at the top corners for the main chassis tubes and a rectangular notch in the midline at the bottom for the square section tubing. Plenty of gaffer tape protects the tubes from scratching, this panel needs to be flexed to get it in. After several trim a bit and refit cycles it's done. The build CD is a bit sketchy about this panel, but I'm sure I recall seeing some angle brackets on CJ's site, so I nip back into the house to have a look and sure enough they can just be seen on one of the pics on the build CD, and CJ has some helpful pics quite a bit later on in his build. Off back up the attic to find them - they're packaged with the battery tray.
These are over length and need cutting down to fit. I then mark a line 19mm in from the outer face which will hopefully coincide with the centre of the 38mm chassis tube. I hold a steel rule against the chassis tubes where the alloy bulkhead panel will go and butt the bracket up against this to make sure it's positioned right. Then centre punch one hole, fix it with a skin pin, recheck the position then drill another hole. Very happy with this I can then drill the remaining holes. Then I'm ready to fit the first of many pop rivets! I thought the air rivet gun wouldn''t fit in there, but it did for all bar the lower rivet. It really does make the job much easier, and removes the risk of the damaging the panels. When you pop them with the hand gun it can sometime clang back onto the panel as the rivet mandrel lets go.
Well pleased with this one I get going with the bracket on the other side which doesn't take long at all. Next job will be marking and drilling the rear bulkhead ready for fitting.
Long lunch break today which is nice as won't be able to play out in the garage this evening. There are a few things unsaid in the build manual ... like not fully rivetting the top of the front bulkhead. Later on in the body fit section it then says to drill out the temporary rivets. I bunged CJ a quick email on this and he confirmed it's probably best to just temporarily rivet along the top edge of both the front bulkhead and the engine bay rear bulkhead till body fit time. So no need to drill these holes yet, otherwise it will mean more work later trying to match them in the bodywork which will lay over the top of them.
Getting into the hang of marking out, centre punching and drilling the rivet holes now, but of course it's when you get complacent that you make mistakes! So taking care I mark out the rear engine bay bulkhead, drill and deburr it all. I also put the cockpit side panel on top of it to transfer the positions of the handbrake cable and gear linkage holes. Then mark up where the top edge should be on the gaffer tape I've stuck on the chassis rail and clamp the panel in position and start drilling. Quite a few of the holes are difficult to access, due to the positioning and angles of the chassis rails (which was borne in mind when marking in the first place). The right angle air drill is really handy in the tight spots. during a quick excursion back into the house for coffee the replacement front bulkhead panel arrives - excellent service!
Still a bit of time left so I set to work on the front bulkhead. First thing is just to mark up and nibble the upper outer corners to clear the chassis rails. This is the bit I c***ed up before, so extra care this time round! It's a bit awkward to get into place and requires flexing. After a few goes with the nibbler and a bit of work with the hand files I'm happy with it. Next to mark the holes for the master cylinder studs, and this is easier as I already have a nice alloy template! Drill them all out to 10mm to go over the 8mm studs and it fits perfectly. To be honest, I've come to the conclusion that it's easy to get a bit over paranoid about these things! If they hadn't been spot on it wouldn't really have mattered anyway as the master cylinders themselves will be covering the holes! This applies to lots of areas - don't get me wrong, I will be making sure it's all spot on, but it needs to be kept in perspective or you could end up losing sleep at night!
Just mark the 38mm holes from the back , remove the panel and get going with the hole cutter, then tidy up with a fine file. Next up is to mark and drill for the steering column, but I'm out of time ... back to work. Maybe I'll get an hour or two in tomorrow evening.
First job today was measuring for the steering column hole then removing the front bulkhead to drill this hole out to 28mm as well as mark up the rivet holes, followed by the usual routine of centre punch, drill, deburr. Next refit it, drill the corners, skin pin in place and drill the rest of the holes. I've decided to fit this panel next, so I clean up the edges with a fine file and remove the protective film. Then remove the gaffer tape I've been using for marking up and measuring followed by cleaning the chassis tubes using some methylated spirit. Time to open the tube of mastik supplied with the kit and trim the nozzle at an angle and apply a thin bead of the sealant along the line of rivet holes as well as a thin bead along the rail just above the master cylinder holes to stop it vibrating. Needs quite a bit of care manoevring this panel into place without covering it in the sealant, then fix in place with skin pins and insert the rivets. The air gun won't go on all the rivets, so some are done by hand but pretty soon the job's done. I experimented using both petrol and WD40 to remove the minor smears of sealant that had extruded through the rivet holes and around the edge and both seem to work equally well. On the basis that the WD40 is a bit safer/less unpleasant I think I'll stick to that in future. I have only used three rivets on the top of the panel so apply three of the little handiclamps to hold it against the rail until the sealant goes off. The rest of it will be rivetted when the body goes on.
Jen's out tonight so after cooking a meal for myself and the kids it's off out to play! I want to get some of the cockpit panels in this evening, and the first one is the rear bulkhead. Before stripping the protective sheeting off it I spend a bit of time tidying up the edges with a fine file, likewise the holes for handbrake cables and gear linkage. Then degrease the chassis rails with some meths, and apply a bead of sealant. Carefully lift it into place taking care not to scratch the chassis rails and a couple of skin pins see it fixed in place. Stick all the rivets in then start going round with the air rivet gun - really amazing tool, makes really light work of it. Should have bought one when I built the Westy!
Once it's all rivetted up it takes afew minutes cleaning the sealant off - I try some meths this time which seems to work even better than the WD40! The next job is one I've been mildly apprehensive about - napping the top of the panel over the round chassis rail. Mildly apprehensive because when I've seen and sat in Ultimas I think this is one of the most striking features about them, and looks really good. Similarly could look really bad if you make a mess of it! I tried first of all using a cork sanding block, whacking it with my dead blow hammer, but didn't get far as the cork was too soft and springy. I then resorted to a block of ordinary softwood which worked fine. It's quite difficult to get it to go completely flush with the rail due to the springiness of the alloy but I was pleased with the result.
Still plenty of time so I start preparing the passenger side panel, deburring and tidying up the recesses I've cut out where it fits round the chassis tubes. This takes quite a while, then it's time to degrease the chassis and apply the sealant. The panel goes in fine, and after getting all the rivets in it's out with the rivet gun again. A couple of them need doing with the hand gun because of restricted access, but overall it's pretty straightforward. Once the rivets are all this one needs napping over also, tricky in places because of the dash tubes - can't get the hammer in properly. Bit of cleaning up and it looks great!
I won't have time to do the driver's side panel this evening, it's time to go in and shoo the kids off to bed. Also still haven't watched the WRC Acropolis Rally yet, it's been sitting on the TiVo since the weekend. Can also hear a couple of cans of Guiness calling me from the fridge ...
So, last jobs of the night - clean up and fettle the next panel ready for rivetting tomorrow, then sweep up all the rivet mandrels etc. Before heading in I also apply a bit of sealant between the chassis cross braces and the side panel to stop it drumming.
Not much time today - had to sort the Megablade out ready for trackday at Llandow tomorrow. As well as the usual spanner/oil check etc. it needed the exhaust manifold gaskets replacing. When I rebuilt the engine I used all genuine Honda parts ... apart from the exhaust manifold gaskets, and the pattern ones were cr*p!
Anyway, I did get onto the Ultima eventually. The driver's side panel was ready to go on, followed by the engine bay bulkhead. The latter only has 3 rivets along the top as the body will fix along that line later and I'd only have to drill them out. The handiclamps held it in position while the sealant set.
So now all the panels I've prepared are done and dusted, next up is the double skin for the cockpit floor.
Got home slightly earlier than expected from Llandow as the Megablade's 3rd gear let go towards the end of the afternoon. Disappointing but not the end of the world - I've had the engine apart before so am confident I'll be able to fix it.
Time to start thinking about the cockpit floor double skin. This has a fair bit of work involved as there's a cutout for the pedal area with folded edges. It's difficult to get it into position till you've removed the cutout, so I trimmed it a bit to get it in then marked it up properly. All I managed in the hour or so I had in the garage this evening was to get it partly trimmed so I can at least get it roughly in place. No more work on the car for a while as I'm flying to Edinburgh on Sunday and working there till Wednesday.
With a bit more trimming the cockpit floor fits, and I can mark the position of the cross brace accurately to mark it up and cut it. After checking the measurements a couple of times I set to work with the jigsaw. Unfortunately mine's a battery powered one and the battery died part way through, so I took to it with the Black & Decker Wizard (Dremel lookalike) that did such sterling work during the Megablade build. The little cutting disk made short work of it then I spent a while with the file tidying it all up. I left the angled cut till I'd trial fitted the panel to make sure it was in the right place. Once happy I set to work on the folds. With the sheet clamped in position over a length of the alloy box section used to space the sheet from the floor it's not too difficult to bend it over. It takes quite a while to get the bends as square as I can get them but I'm happy with the end result. Have to finish there as I'm off out for beer and curry with friends.
Up early to sort out my email etc., then off out for a nice 9 mile run before brekkies. Glad I didn't drink too much last night - the race is 2 weeks tomorrow! Anyway, out to the garage by about 10 to finish off the cockpit floor. The folds are OK enough, but it's difficut to get them square, so I find a couple of lengths of nice square timber and get the G clamps out again. After about 40 minutes of knocking it about with the deadblow hammer I'm happy with it, and start measuring up ready for the rivets. Getting a dab hand at marking out these sheets, couldn't be bothered making a rivet jig, it's easy enough to measure them. Interruption late morning as a friend is down and has offered to lend one of the kids a surfboard, do mine gets dusted off and we head down to Llangennith at the western end of the Gower peninsula. Lovely part of the world, but narrow roads and good weather mean the traffic is hell! By the time we get back after an afternoon's surfing I only have time to finish off the cockpit floor before clearing up for the day. First job is to make sure the edges of the folded down bits are flush with the alloy box sections so their edges will sit flat on the cockpit floor. I manage to get it all drilled and deburred, apart from sorting the the holes for the alloy box section along the unsupported edges, but they can be done after the main floor panels have gone on the underside of the chassis.
Late start in the garage today after a morning out with the bike club. Starting to taper down the training now so only 47 miles today. First job is to trim up the rad pan double skin. This forms the upper floor inside the radiator bay and is a bit of a bugger as you can't get it in position at all till you've lopped some bits off it. Once it's trimmed for the chassis tubes it needs marking for the holes where the 2 small rubber bobbins used to mount the radiator will poke through it. The bottom threaded portion of these needs cutting down by 5mm to avoid them protruding through the floor underneath, then these are the first parts to go on the chassis. Plain nuts are supplied with these, so I used a bit of thread lock.
Once happy with all this it's time to invert the chassis and make a start on the main floor panels. When I did this with the Westfield it was a doddle asd easily lift it with me, but the Ultima chassis is considerably more substantial. My friend has offered to help, but when I pop round he's out, so I decided to give it a go with my 2 kids and their friend who was round. The floor next to the chassis was covered in corrugated cardboard and we managed to lift the chassis and lower it down onto the outrigger rails on its side. Quick rest then it was lifted again and turned upside down and back onto the trestles. Bit of adjustment to make sure the cross members are resting on the lengths of pipe lagging I've got on top of the trestles and the job's a good un.
The 3 sections of floor panel all fit OK, I start by lining up the rad pan section with the front of the chassis, clamp it in position, then butt the steering rack bay panel up against it and clamp that. The main cockpit floor goes against that and a quick check confirms that it does clear the line of welds holding the steel seat pans onto the chassis. Once the corners of the rad pan are drilled that's fixed in position with skin pins and the rest is marked up, drilled and deburred. There are 2 diagonal cross braces in here and although they could be marked from underneath I decide against it as the backing underneath is black, making any markings fairly invisible. also they would then need transferring to the top of the panel where error could creep in. So using masking tape I mark the position of them on the chassis and t's then easy enough to mark their centre line on the panel. It goes back on the chassis and is skin pinned in place for the chassis holes to be drilled. Same routine, off with the panel, deburr and waxoyl through the holes. I also mark and ddrill holes over the radiator bobbins - I'm not likely to need access to them later but one sure way of making ure I do need to get at them is sealing them in! I make sure the holes are big enough to fit a small 8mm socket through.
The steering rack section is a doddle, then time's up for the day.
Monday 23rd June
Last time I spoke to Richard at the factory he was talking about an 8 week lead time for the bodywork, so I've decided I'd better get that ordered. Still haven't made my mind up between red and blue, but in the end go for red. It costs extra to have all the flashlines removed and polished up and holes predrilled, and although doing the flashlines doesn't worry me too much, I suspect the holes for lights, hinges etc are more tricky. I'm keen to do the whole thing myself, but decide in the end to get the factory to do this - I've already made up my mind not to have them pre-fit the bodywork, so it's important that's made as easy as possible by having all the holes the right size and in the right place. I'm quoted a 12 week wait by Andy when I ring to order it - hope I don't run out of things to do!
I manage to make an early start in the garage in the evening. Onto the largest panel for the cockpit floor. This is again a doddle to mark out, but takes quite a while to drill and deburr as there are over 140 holes. I decide to get the mains powered drill out for the chassis drilling for this one and indeed it does make a quicker job of it than the cordless drill due to its higher speed.
One job i've decided to look at before fitting the panels is to make sure the pedal mounting bolts will go through the holes in their brackets - other builders have commented that firstly the powder coat makes them too tight a fit and secondly once the floor's in place access is very difficult to clean them out. With the chassis upside down access is really easy, although it's difficult getting anything like a drill or file in there as there's so little space between them. My cunning plan in the end involves a left over 8mm bolt from the Westy build - I use the threaded section as a sort of file and it works really well!
Once all 3 panels are ready to fit it's time to apply some more sealant. First of all I go round the edges of the steel seat pans applying a bead inbetween the welds to make this watertight, then apply a bead along all the rails where the floor panels will fit. Carefully place them in position, then stick all the rivets in the holes and take a couple of pictures - looks very impressive with a forest of 340 rivets sprouting out! The mastic seems to take quite a long time to go off, but since there are so many rivets I decide to go all the way round the panels popping every 3rd or 4th rivet to get it pinned down in place and compress the bead of sealant to ensure a good tight fit. At this stage Chris makes an appearance - he's not done as much on this build as he did with the Westy, mainly because it's summer and he's a busy 12 year old out playing with his friends! He's keen to have a go with the air rivetter so he does a bit of that then I finish off. I've been very sparing with the sealant so it doesn't take long to clean the few bits of excess off - mainly where it's come back around the odd rivet head.
Time now to get the chassis back the right way up, so I gather the helpers again and it's again fairly easy, although they take the rear of the chassis this time as the front's a bit more tricky to hold now since the panels are fitted. I can now fit the rad pan double skin which is almost ready - just needs the length of alloy box section fixing to the rearmost edge where it's unsupported. The sides will need to have the triangular side panels fixed later on so I just put one rivet in the front hole and fix along the front member and along the cross braces.
Busy week ahead with work so not many opportunities to get more done. The next bit will be to fit the cockpit floor double skin, which first needs the alloy box sections fitting, then it'll be out with the spanner to fit the pedals and master cylinders.
Home | Links | Contact me
The Build (2003/4): June | July | August | September | October | November | December | January
Updates: 2004 | Le Mans | Sold | New Project
GT3 | Becker TrafficPro Install