D Day

Build Diary: Engine | Collecting the kit | Chassis [1] | Chassis [2] | Body
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3rd November

Today was the day I was hoping to hear my baby splutter into life. When I'd collected the engine I'd been tempted to try getting it going, but decided against it as I was planning to strip it all down anyway. There were times when I'd looked at all the bits lying on the garage bench and wondered if it would work if/when I got it back together again.

I woke up early, first of all at 3.30am with a thunderstorm, but then dozed off again till 5.30. I was out in the garage by 6.30 - no hangover this morning! A quick check told me there were no oil or coolant leaks.

I'd decided today's first job was to get the dash sorted. This meant first of all drilling through the dash and scuttle, which was straightforward. Next I decided I'd have a stab at the aeroscreen. I'd already offered it up to the scuttle and realised it could be a nightmare. I checked Dave Hackett's build site and wasn't reassued by his description of 'guess a drill'! Attaching the perspex was a doddle, then onto the tricky bit. I really could see no way other than trial and error, and because the screws embedded in the GRP aeroscreen were entering the scuttle obliquely it's impossible to guess where they go. Fortunately the screen covers the holes so it doesn't matter if the holes become slots or even quite big holes so long as they aren't bigger than the washer underneath. I even tried measuring to get it symmetrical, but abandoned that when I realised the screws were far from symmetrically placed in the moulding. After about an hour I was happy enough with it, it looked straight and it was a close fit to the scuttle at its front edge.

Next I toddled back into the house armed with the dash, dash loom and a couple of bags of terminals and connectors. I'd already fitted the instruments and the push in rocker switches, so all that was left before the wiring was the warning lights and the little toggle switches for the horn, indicators and dip switch. These were no problem,then I realised I had a light left over - a brake warning light. I'd already fitted a smaller plain red lamp for this, but I thought this one was probably the handbrake warning light, so I took the dash back out to the garage and made a hole big enough for it.

Identifying the correct terminals from the loom took some time as quite a few are redundant, and the wiring diagram didn't always match reality!

Dash assembly on kitchen table ready to start wiring (click for larger image)Dash wiring completed (click for larger image)

By 9.30 I was able to take the completed dash out and fit it to the car. Connecting the loom was simple, and I hooked up the indicator repeater lights and ignition switch. Getting at the nuts behind the dash was tricky but not too difficult. Pretty soon the cockpit was looking more business like.

Dash and aeroscreen now fitted onto scuttle (click for larger image)Dash and aeroscreen fitted (click for larger image)

I spent a little while tidying again, and vacuumed out the footwells which were full of bits of swarf and fibreglass drillings. I checked the battery which I'd had charging overnight - now fully charged.

Time to go through a checklist before I could turn the engine over. I needed to check there were no shorts in the electrics, so dabbed the main loom +ve connection on the battery +ve, followed by the lead to the starter solenoid. No sparks so it looked OK. Turn the ignition switch to the first position and repeat, still OK. Next turned the ignition to the second position and tried again. There was a faint spark this time, accompanied by a noise from the rear of the car, I guessed it was the fuel pump. Stuck a couple of litres of fuel in the tank next before bolting the leads onto the battery terminal as I didn't want to run the fuel pump without fuel in case it damaged it.

Before attempting to start the engine I wanted to spin it over for a little while without the spark plugs in to allow the oil pump to push some oil round the engine. While reassembling it I'd squirted clean oil around quite liberally, but wanted to play it safe. So the next job was to remove all four spark plugs, then connect up the battery. A turn of the ignition key and the starter whirred into action spinning the engine. I ran it for a few bursts then switched off and refitted the spark plugs.

Feeling really nervous now, and with a small audience of my two kids plus their friend, I turned it over again. No joy, but not unexpectedly as the idle was turned right down and there was no choke (missing bit to fix cable inner to carb choke mechanism). Standing by the car I could just about about reach the carbs to pull the chike slider over. A couple of turns and it burst into life. The kids all backed away, but I was ecstatic! It really was very noisy, but the manifold was blowing. It was also pretty smoky, but I expected that to clear as it burnt off all the oil I'd squirted over the piston rings during the rebuild.

I only ran it for half a minute or so, then shut it off. Next time I tried without the choke, but it died straight away. I remembered that when I'd put the carbs back on I'd wound the idle adjuster screw right out to make sure it didn't rev its head off. A small turn of this and it was idling smoothly. Shut off again and try starting it from the driver's seat. It starts no problem but it soon reminds me how quick the throttle response of these engine is! The accelerator is like an on/off switch and will clearly take a little getting used to. I also check out the clutch, the gearchange and the reverse box, all of which seme to work fine. By this time my father-in-law has arrived and seems almost as excited as I am.

One problem emerges - the header pipe from number one cylinder is touching the bodywork and isn't doing it any good at all! I'll need to take the exhaust off to fettle the slot in the bodywork. Better let it cool down a bit first! Also need to sort out the oil pressure and water temp seders - neither guage is working, the oil pressure one showing maximum when the engine isn't running. I decide to fit the Westfield supplid oil pressure sender.

I ring my brother Andy to let him know about the successful startup, and he reassured me that manifold gaskets usually need a bit of persuasion to go in, so I decide to try again with the manky pattern gaskets I'd got.

After a cup of coffee I take the exhaust off and try to make the gaskets a bit smaller using a jubilee clip with little success. I set to the slot in the bodywork with the Wizard and a sanding drum, followed by 240 grade wet and dry then 400 grade. Once happy I 'persuade' the gaskets into place using a hammer shaft to knock them in and a small screwdriver to prise the edges into the manifold. Not pretty, but hopefully they'll seal. Next I refit the manifold, which is fiddly, followed by the silencer..

Reworked exhaust cutout following first run up of engine (click for larger image)

I tackle the oil pressure sender next, which takes longer than expected as it's in two pieces and quite tight in the threads. The new one takes a bit of effort to get in too. Fortunately it's only just below the oil level, so I lose very little oil.

I fire her up again and she sounds much better without the blowing gasket, and the blue smoke has dwindled to nothing now.

Next job is to go round the suspension checking Ive got the right washrs in the right places. I already know one of the rode joints needs swapping, the ones for the suspension are stainless and I've fitted one of the standard plated ones ehich is for the roll bar struts. I swap that over and check all is torqued up.

The upper ball joints at the front need tightening. The neaqrside doesn't take long, but I waste the best part of an hour on the offside one as it won't tighten. The nuts are special all-metal locking nuts (not nyloc) and I just can't get it to tighten and eventually give up on it.

Next job is brake fluid. Chris helps out with the brake pedal and within an hour that's done. I nervously go round checking all the pipe unions, but no sign of any leaks. We get the wheels back on, add a it more fuel to the tank, and refit the nose cone ready to take her out into the daylight.

Nose cone refitted ready to lower her off the stands (click for larger image)

Chris and I lower the car which is a multi-stage operation involving various blocks of wood, and several manoevres with the trolley jack. Eventually she's on the ground and I stick the bonnet on in readiness for her debut out in the daylight.

It'll be four weeks ago tomorrow that I picked up the kit from WEstfield, and in that time I've had a week away in Lanzarote. I'd been hoping to get her on the road fairly early in the New Year, and I reflect on this as I climb in to take her out of the garage for the first time. She's not finished, but I'm thrilled to have got this far so soon.

It's amazing how low the car is, and I struggle a bit getting my legs in under the steering wheel. She fires up immediately without touching the throttle, I push on the clutch and snick the gear lever forward into first gear. I've spent weeks wondering how many time I'll stall it but the clutch is light and progressive, intended of course for operation via a hand lever on the bike. I remember having a left forearm like Popeye when I had my 1976 Ducati 900SS!

Driving the car out of the garage for the first time (click for larger image)

I decide to check out the brakes quickly - it's downhill down the drive. As I'd expected the pedal's fairly long travel but the brakes work fine. They'll be better once they've bedded in a bit. Main problem is actually making sure my size 12's hit just the brake pedal and not brake and accelerator combined, which I do once or twice while manoevring. The reverse box is fine but often needs a sort of double declutch type action to get it to change.

I take her down the drive and do a three point turn at the end - steering lock is even worse than the Evo! I blat back up the drive. The surface is wet, and even pussyfooting as I am keeping the revs under 4k the rear wheels are spinning on the damp tarmac. Woo hoo! Chris is itching for a ride, followed by my father-in-law, then David, my oldest son. I think they're all a bit taken aback by the rawness, the noise of the exhaust which is about two feet from the passenger's left ear, and the snatchiness of the transmission. I absolutely love it. It's almost exactly as I'd imagined it would be, but better. The gearchange is better than expected, and finding neutral is a doddle (I remember this could be quite tricky on some of the bikes I'd had years ago). For any non-biker readers, a bike's transmission is sequential, with neutral positioned between first and second. So in the Westfield the gear lever just needs a nudge forward from neutral to engage first, then to go into second you just pull the lever back and go through neutral, back again for third and so on. To get neutral you have to go into first or second and gently nudge it - too far and you go straight through neutral and into gear. I was worried that the fairly complex gear linkage mechanism would make it imprecise and awkward but my fears are groundless and I'm really pleased with it.

Reversing back down the drive (click for larger image)Down the drive (click for larger image)Manoevring outside the garage (click for larger image)

The weather's not too good, there are a few spots of rain, and there are wet leaves all over the drive which make it particularly good fun .

I reverse her back into the garage and clear up. She needs a good wash already, the rear wheel arches particularly are splattered with bits of leaves. I clear up and sweep the floor ready for the next stage of the build. I'm absolutely bouncing, today has been fantastic. I hadn't thought about where or when I'll be getting the SVA done, but I guess it won't be long before we're ready. I've got quite a bit of work coming up away from home, and I know I've got loads of fiddly bits to complete but I'm confident it won't be too long now.

Since collecting the kit the ignition keys hav been in the lock on the steering column. As I close the garage up for the night it occurs to me that it's a car now, not a kit, and I'd better take the keys in the house!

After we've been out to play - nice and dirty! (click for larger image)Car needs a  wash after several trips up and down drive (click for larger image)

Build Diary: Engine | Collecting the kit | Chassis [1] | Chassis [2] | Body
D Day! | Finishing Off | SVA | Registration | Post Registration | Trackdays
Home | Links | Contact me
The next project ...

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