Ultima GTR Bob's Ultima Site

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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

I know, I know, absolutely ages since I updated the site. Apologies to those of you who've enquired! Anyway, I'll get on now with what's happened with the car since I last updated in January.

Firstly, the car's fine. I'm currently getting a few little jobs done in preparation for my trip to Le Mans in just over a fortnight. After the mess it got in in the winter it's taken a while cleaning it up, and I still haven't finished. The salt on the road really makes a mess of all the bare metal, whether aluminium or steel. When you build it it all looks nice and shiny, but all that unfinished metal soon deteriorates. I'll stick a mini index below here to list the various aspects of work.

Gear Shift
Wheels
Intercom
Battery
Headlights
Carpets
Gearbox Leak
Radiator Fan Switch
Preparing for Le Mans
Headlight Relay
Post Le Mans

Gear Shift

One of the casualties of the salt was the gear shift linkage. The bit inside the cockpit was fine, but where it runs through the engine bay it has become corroded. The shaft itself is corroded where the plating has been removed or damaged (you have to remove quite a bit to get it to slide through the rose joints). The little universal joints are just mild steel and had turned a rather unattractive shade of red/brown!

I tackled this on a nice warm sunny day in March. With the car outside on the drive I removed the rear section of bodywork, which then allowed easy access to the gear shift linkage as well as the other parts I wanted to clean. Removing the linkage rod was a bit fiddly, had to knock out the roll pins and unbolt the end fitting from the gearbox. All the parts could then be cleaned up with wire brush, wire wool and wet and dry before a lick of paint. I'd got some stuff called POR15 from Frost Autorestorer's Equipment. This is generally reckoned to be better than hammerite. I'd ordered it in black, silver and clear. The shafts got a coat of the silver, the UJ's were painted black. Once dry it was all reassembled, refitted and lubricated. Looks much better and should now stay that way.

While the bodywork was off I also cleaned up the rear chassis, exhausts and catch tanks etc. The exhaust headers took quite a bit of work - I can see why others have had them camcoated, and I might consider that at some stage. Whenever you see the factory cars the headers are always like new, God knows how long it takes them cleaning it every time it's been out! I feel that the factory demonstrator gives you slightly unrealistic expectations, I really can't see any way you could actually use a car regularly and keep it looking like new without cleaning it being an almost full time job! Anyway, Frosts also sell some stuff called Blue Away which works a treat on headers to get them back to a stainless finish. Does require a bit of elbow grease though.

Wheels

Wheel looking a bit sad (click for larger image)

The wheels are three piece with an OZ Racing rim and billet aluminium centres made by (or for) Ultima. The rims are lacquered and retain their finish fine, but the centres are bare, and therefore free for the elements to attack them. Mine had become quite tarnished and pitted in places. I haven't finished them off but am working my way round with wet and dry followed by loads of polishing. they're looking acceptable again, but if I were building again I'd either get them lacquered to start with or consider buying a different set of wheels that are more likely to retain their finish.

Monday 31st May, 2004

Had another go at one of the front wheels today - the faces of the 'spokes' weren't too bad but the edges of them were awful. Encrusted with brake dust and oxidised. I had an alternate plan to the wet and dry this time - wire wool. It worked a treat! Needed a bit of elbow grease but even before I set to it with the metal polish the finish was good. I got some polishes from English Custom Polishes a couple of months ago which seem pretty good, and after an hour or so the wheel was looking great. I then used some wheel cleaner to get all the brake dust etc from the back of the wheel, dried it off and gave it a final polish before refitting it. I didn't take a pic as it's been raining since lunchtime :-(

Intercom

I decided fairly early on that I wanted an intercom in the car. It's a pretty noisy environment, and although you can talk to your passenger you have to more or less shout. It also added the option of using a portable radio and mobile phone. Long journeys without a radio or music are a bit tedious, even in an Ultima!

There are a few options for an intercom. A browse through the Demon Tweeks catalgue finds a few, but the decent ones (Peltor etc) are horribly horribly expensive, and all are designed to be used inside a helmet. Some offer a standalone ear defender style headset, but it doesn't look very practical for road use. First off I think you could look a plonker driving round in them, secondly they look a bit uncomfortable and would probably be a bit hot.

Another builder (Steve) has used a motorbike intercom. He used one from Autocom. These are a very high spec unit, incorporating a vox control and inputs for mobile phone and music. Trouble is they're expensive! About 250 or so. Steve then bought a set of ear defenders and stuck the hardware from the intercom in them.

I did a bit of searching around and found a very similar (in fact seems identical) product, the Starcom. This does exactly the same as the Autocom, and comes with 2 headsets and cable for wiring into 12v electrics. I got one of these locally for 159 and tried some experimentation with headsets. There are loads of decent quality headsets aroudn for PC use, they come with decent quality speakers and a noise cancelling mike on a boom. Trouble is I couldn't get them to work with the intercom via an adaptor lead. I then tried cannibalising the headset and transplanting the intercom hardware in there. This worked but looked a bit of a mess frankly. I had a chat with Tecstar, and their technical guy was extremely helpful. I explained the application. He said he'd have a look for a lighter weight headset than their ear defender set and get back to me. He did get back to me, but with no solution :-( I then explained my efforts with a PC headset, and he suggested I send him my headset and he'd see if he could make up a lead for me. A week later a nice little box arrived back with my headset and 2 adaptor leads. This worked great, so yesterday I spent a couple of hours wiring in the power supply and mounting the intercom box on the bulkhead between the two seats. This went well, and after clipping up the cable etc. I took it out for a spin with my older son to test it out. It's absolutely brilliant! Crystal clear speech at any speed, no raising voices, fantastic. It also works great with the mobile phone (which can also play MP3s) and my miniature radio. Once you've got the vox set up correctly the system mutes the music whenever you speak or use the phone. Just the job for the trip down to Le Mans :-) Many thanks to Alun Jones of Tecstar for the brill customer service.

Intercom box mounted on rear bulkhead between seats (click for larger image)Headsets store nicely on roll cage :-) (click for larger image)

An added bonus to the intercom installation was that I had to go grubbing round in the passenger sidepod. I've taken the power supply from the spur Ultima supply off the dash loom for a radio. This has a permanent live as well as an ignition switched live. Trouble was the switched live wasn't working. After the said grubbing around it turned out that the pink and white wire was just loose at the fuse box end, and was a piggy back type blade connector. Easy job to connect it onto one of the switched supplies. While in there I remembered a particularly annoying rattle coming from that area. In addition to the main relay strip there are two other relays in there, one I seem to remember is the headlamp flash relay, the other is the one I added in for the heater fan motor supply. both were just hanging loose in the front of the sidepod. didn't take long to secure them to the rest of the relays and hey presto! Rattle gone.

Battery

I've had problems starting the car a few times. It has occasionally refused when hot, and always needs a charge when left for over about 10 days. I'd initially put this down to the alarm discharging the battery, but decided I probably had a duff battery. The factory supplid Hawker Odyssey batteries are fairly tiny, but everyone else seems to get on fine. Also my alternator seems to be working fine, the voltmeter always is around 14v when the engine's running.

I cast my mind back and remembered the electrician installing the alarm has shorted it frying one of the earth wires in the process. I'd also had the problem with the starter motor which had also been shorting the battery. Impossible to decide which had caused the problem - if it was the latter (which I think is more likely) then I guess I should be able to argue my case with Ultima. I could see they'd want me to send the battery back etc. and didn't fancy negotiating over it, so I just decided to order a replacement battery. Ultima list it at 145 plus VAT and carriage, so around 180 all in. Ouch. A quick Google found a few cheaper options though, and eventually I found PRI Racing who supplied me one for 87 including VAT and delivery for exactly the same batter (PC625).

The battery is supplied ready charged so it didn't take all that long to fit it. I haven't left it for more than a few days since fitting, but it certainly is much happier turning the engine than the old one so I'm pretty optimistic.

Headlights

When I built the car, like every other builder, I took great care over the headlights - masking the border on the polycarbonate cover, applying the glazing primer, bonding them on etc. When I went out in the wet the insides of the covers ended up covered in 'condensation'. This is discussed in several threads in the Pistonheads forum, with people trying various solutions, including using fixing screws instead of bonding the covers on so they can be removed for cleaning, fitting small fans to ventilate the space etc. After a while I realised my condensation wasn't clear, it was brownish! This wasn't condensation at all, it was water spray from the front wheels ingressing into the lights. Removing the rear cover inside the wheel arch confirmed that the whole headlight assemblies were covered in crap!

So, one of the jobs on the to do list is to redo the headlights. First job was to remove the rear covers, take the light fittings out and give them a good clean. I attempted to clean the inside of the front cover through the aperture, but you just can't get to the edges. Also the black GRP light surround needed repolishing as it was also brown. And the top edge of the left one had a small leak allowing water in from the front. The right hand front (polycarbonate) cover was fairly easy to remove (I think this was the first one I did and I used the plastic primer from the glass fitting kit instead of the glass primer, and the primer didn't bond as well to the polycarbonate), the left slightly more difficult, but I got there using a plastic adhesive applicator that had a fairly sharp edge. Took a time cleaning the mastic off the covers and the GRP.

I spoke to Dave at the factory who said that on their cars they don't have a water ingress problem, and that the expanding foam tape they use to seal the rear cover stops water ingressing. So I decided to give it another go. I tried to find some expanding foam tape locally, but failed miserably and ended up coughing up 14 to Ultima for a length of tape.

The headlight covers cleaned up OK, and remasking with some lining tape was fairly straightforward. I got some more glass primer from Brown Brothers locally for 7 and applied that using cotton wool buds. Next job was to refit the light assemblies and get them reasonably aligned - they'd been too low before. I put strips of tape on the inside of the garage door, one for the dipped beam lamps, the other for the main beam, and set the lights roughly level for now - I can take it out and try it and readjust using the tape as a reference point. Once all was done I cleaned up the rear covers, applied the expanding tape and refitted them. As recommended by Dave I left a small gap in the tape at the bottom of the cover to allow some ventilation.

Then remask the GRP around the headlights and rebond the covers in place, with plenty of masking tape holding them in place till it goes off.

Carpets

Saturday 29th May, 2004

Carpets!!!?? Yes, carpets. Firstly the little lowered section where your heels go is a bit slippery as bare aluminium, and I'm sure the car would be more comfortable to drive with something a bit more grippy there, so I've planned for some time to put a piece of thin rubber mat there. I found a cheap (and therefore thin) mat in the local motor factors and after a bit of measuring and a cardboard template it was in and looked much better than the scuffed dirty aluminium.

The rest of the cockpit floor was also pretty marked up and dirty - there's no way of avoiding it really unless you ban folks from wearing shoes in there. After investigating for a while I decided on using some carpet tiles - these are intended for hard wearing areas and the ones I chose look similar to the bulkhead carpet, but are anthracite in colour. fitting these took even less time than the rubber mat (no pedals to cut around), with just a cutout for the passenger footrest and to fit round the area previously trimmed with the rubber mat. The whole interior of the car seems transformed, looks much better. Also any bits and pieces on the floor are a bit less likely to slide around now.

Rubber mat fitted to driver's footwell (click for larger image)Cockpit floor carpeted - the pic looks lighter than it really is (hint: seats are actually black!) (click for larger image)

Gearbox Leak

Monday 31st May, 2004

Lovely sunny start to the day today, but the weather forecast promised rain by mid-late morning. As soon as I thought it reasonable to fire her up on a Bank Holiday I took the Ult out of the garage and removed the rear canopy. This only takes 20 minutes or so, although I need a hand lifting it off the chassis.

Since I built the car there's been a leak from the gearbox. I was initially quite worried about it, but last time I had the canopy off it looked like it was coming from where the breather hose is screwed into the little inspection cover high up on the right hand side of the box. At the time I assumed (as you do) that it was my fault and I hadn't tightened the braided hose properly. So I tightened it. But the leak persisted.

Inspecting it this morning, I'm still confident the oil's coming from the same area, but it looks like it's the joint between the oval inspection cover and the box that's leaking. So I whipped the little cover off to find that it's been off at some time and whoever took it off didn't bother using either a new gasket or any sealant. Which was good news for me, as it meant the fix should be pretty easy. First job was to stick a bit of oil back in there, although to be honest not much had leaked out, it just looks a lot on the garage floor. Scrape off the bits of old gasket, clean both sides with some meths, apply some silicon instant gasket and pop it back on. Then clean up all the oil I spilt trying to top up the box ...

I can also now get at the rear shocks properly - I adjusted the front ride height up by about 5 mm on Saturday, but couldn't really get to the rears. The rear is also about 5mm down, probably represents some settlement of the springs. Bit of a pain adjusting them as my C spanners aren't very good (came with the Westy shocks!), but after about half an hour or so I was there.

Another thing bugging me was that the exhausts weren't centred in the holes in the rear grille. I suspect it's down to the headers, I think I'm not alone in having this problem. So I undid the rear brackets and swung on the exhausts a bit to persuade them to move, then refastened them.

By now the promised rain has started to arrive, so I turn the car round and stick it in the garage, with the canopy inside the other doorway. I've really enjoyed myself this morning, I don't think it gets much better tinkering with your pride and joy on the drive on a nice warm sunny morning. It's different to the build - you know you can take the car out for a little blast whenever you feel like, no worries about the SVA inspector! Before refitting the canopy I spent half an hour or so cleaning things up - chassis rails, breather hoses, exhausts, engine/gearbox adapter plate etc. Then removed the right hand front wheel to have a go at cleaning it up. Once the canopy was refitted (which is a bit more of a pig of a job than taking it off) it got a bit of the Autoglym resin polish treatment. I could then tidy up and leave the car sitting gleaming in the garage to go and have a beer before dinner :-) Only 9 days till I head off to Le Mans. Not really excited at all ...

Saturday 5th June, 2004

Quick update ... the bloody thing still leaks :-(

It's absolutely clean and dry round the little hatch I sealed up, and it now looks as if the oil's coming from the right hand drive shaft seal. On first thoughts I thought that probably meant a complete 'gearbox out and take it all apart' job but the 911 gearbox has round panels on each side (just visible in this pic):

Gearbox supports replaced (click for larger image)
... so I should be able to sort it without too much drama. It can certainly wait till after Le Mans though.

Radiator Fan Switch

Sunday 6th June 2004

In the winter I had a problem with the thermostatic fan switch - it would come on almost randomly, and certainly well below 80-90 degrees. Then last week it didn't come on at all when I was on the drive despite the temp gauge showing 105. I do have a manual override switch anyway, but would rather have the automatic safeguard. It's a fairly standard part, and the guys in the forum confirmed this, but I rang the factory and Richard sent me a new one, along with a new headlight relay.

The drive slopes up towards the garage so I turned the car round so she was nose up a bit and it only took a few minutes to remove the dud one and stick the new one in. Lost some of the water/antifreeze, so turned the car around and topped it up. Left her running (very warm day!) and soon she was up to 80 degrees and the fan kicked in automatically. I was surprised it came in at 80 - I'd rather it came in a bit higher as one fo the problems is that with the heater, aircon and rad fans running it puts quite a load on the battery. Ah well, if it becomes a problem on the trip I can easily pull a wire off and just manually switch it.

Preparing for Le Mans

Sunday 6th June 2004

Only a few days now till I head off to Le Mans. Getting very excited - lots of driving in the Ultima, a few days with my good mate Richard, and a complete petrolhead atmosphere out there. I'm driving over to Richard near Oxford on Wednesday afternoon, then we're on the 9am Eurotunnel from Dover on Thursday morning.

A few little jobs left to do. first one is to finish off cleaning the wheels - I managed to get the fronts done already, so just need to jack the rear up, remove the rears and give thema good clean. First use some wheel cleaner, then set to with the metal polish. Can't really get rid of all the pit marks but you can only see them up close. And while it's still ;-)

While the wheels are off I take the opportunity to clean inside the wheel arch - clean and polish the chassis rails, wishbones and the rear end of the sidepod. Also clean off the alloy upright and brake calipers.

The headlight relay is next - the dip switch isn't working properly. It is supposed to act as a momentary flash button when the lights are off, but acts as a toggle between low and main beam when they're on. It isn't toggling any more. The replacement arrived Saturday morning with the rad switch, and it's only 10 minutes of a job to remove the sidepod front cover, swap the wires over, secure the relay and refit the cover.

the whole car gets a general clean then, Autoglym resin polish on all the GRP and give the windscreen and side windows a good polish too. It's really looking brilliant, really glad I got those headlight covers sorted. Once it's all done I popped round to see a chap in the village whio I've talked to loads of times in the pub. He drives an Escort Mark II rally car and has been wanting to see the Ult for a while. It was great showing the car off to someone who was really into cars and who appreciated the work that's gone into it. After a good look round we went out for a spin which I think left him suitably impressed! Nice hot afternoon but of course no trouble lighting up the rears at all ;-)

When we got back I had a good nose around his Escort, and very lovely it was too. He's obviously spent ages rebuilding it, and absolutely everything was immaculate, from the mechanicals to the paintwork and all the neatly clipped pipes and wiring. Well impressed, I'll have to see if I can blag a ride in it once it's on the road.

while looking round the Ult he noticed a small oil leak which I hadn't seen before. It looked like it was a bit of seepage from under the right hand rocker cover at the front corner. It only took a few minutes once home to give the rocker cover nuts a little tweak - they all tightened up quiet easily even though I was only using a 1/4" drive ratchet, so it may well be that that will sort it. If not once back from Le Mans I'll take the cover off and seal it properly.

Headlight Relay

Tuesday 8th June 2004

When I drove to Oulton Park in the dark last December I once or twice had the scary experience of the headlight relay not working - I'd hit the button to toggle main/dip beams to go onto main beam and have only sidelights! This then seemed to sort itself out till more recently. A post in the forum revealed that I wasn't alone. Seemed like the actual relay used is a bit rare too so I rang the factory. Richard sent me a new relay and I swapped them over. Job done. This one lasted at least 3 actuations before failing!

So I decided to bite the bullet and have a go at fixing it. The cover comes off easily to reveal a fairly substantial mechanism with a solenoid. There's a rather clever (but obviously not clever enough!) latching rocker switch that swings a little leaf spring with a terminal on the end into contact with either the dip or main beam terminal. This little rocker was going too far and getting stuck, so as suggested by Steve_D I superglued a little square of plastic sheet under it which seemed to sort it out. Put it back on the car to find it's latching OK but still no main beam. Multitester showed that despite the rocker latching correctly it wasn't pushing the leaf spring contact far enough, do I just leaned on the main beam terminal a bit and that did the trick.

Also adjusted the headlight alignment - dip beam was a bit too high. Then a bit more polishing - getting very excited about tomorrow's trip!

Post Le Mans

Quite a little array of things to sort out following the Le Mans trip. The first job is to give her some clean oil and a new filter. I had to top up in France wuith 10w40, so I wanted to get rid of that ASAP. Off up the the local motor factors for some oil - 5 litres of Valvoline Racing 20w50 comes to just under 13 so I got 3! I buy quite a bit of oil there between the 3 cars so they generally do me trade price. I got 2 filters when I mail ordered last time so still have one in the garage.

Easiest way to get at the filter and sump plug is to jack the offside rear corner, remove the wheel then lower it a bit. The whole job takes half an hour or so.

True to his word Ted had sent me a new thermostat - I'm still a bit dubious about whether it'll make a difference on a longer run, but swapping it over only takes 15 minutes or so. I appreciate that having a thermostat that opens early will help prevent it getting hot in the first place, but surely if I'm on a longer run, the car is up to temp, then I hit traffic on a hot day, it isn't going to make any difference. Unless it somehow offers less resistance to flow through it, which seems unlikely since it looks identical to the old one.

The aircon was a bit of a miserable failure - I remember my friend who gassed it up wasn't terribly happy at the time. Was muttering stuff about pressures being wrong. I think he suspected at the time that there was a bit of moisture in the system which was then icing up the evaporator nozzle. Certainly the pressure switch had been clicking on and off a lot. It was really cold and damp when it was gassed up originally in December. He popped round again, vac'd it out and regassed with much more success, he was happy with the pressures while it was running and it was working much better. His temperature probe was showing sub-zero air coming out of the vents and it seemed able to maintain this :-)

When I'd dropped Richard off on the way back we'd noticed the passenger side sidepod grille had come detached. It couldn't fall out completely, and I had nowhere else to put it so I left it sitting loose in the sidepod for the journey home. The sealant had come away from the stonechip paint, so after pulling most of the sealant off the grille and cleaning up the edges of the GRP with meths I bonded it back in place.

Following a thread in the forum I spoke to Ted again. He confirmed what my Holley manual had told me - I should have turned the idle mixture screws OUT not in to richen it. He was very confident I should be able to reach a satisfactory solution, so I had another play. Following a bit of fiddling I ended up with an idle speed of just under 800 rpm which dropped to just under 700rpm when the aircon clicked in. Not exactly a scorcher today but warm and sunny and warm, when left idling on the drive the water temp didn't get above 82°C. Took it out for a spin and the aircon's working great now, constant supply of cold air :-)

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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

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