Sunday 26 January 2014

A week to go...

So it's a week to go until the R500 kit arrives (well it's actually 8 days, but who's counting?!?)... As you can probably imagine I'm getting very excited now!

The weather was terrible today, so I decided to use my time 'wisely' and build the Lego Technic 42000 Grand Prix Racer kit that I got for christmas.

It was great fun to build, and passed the time on a rainy sunday afternoon.  Time lapse video below:-

It cost around £80 and you can buy it from amazon by clicking on the link below:-

Tuesday 14 January 2014

My First (Wooden) Caterham

So not quite the real thing, but for Christmas I got a wooden Caterham to build... I decided to say "If I can't build this then I'm cancelling the order..." well it wasn't too hard and went together quite quickly, so the order was saved!  Was enough to minimise boredom on boxing day for an hour or so...

Time Lapse Video:-
Link to buy it from amazon:-

Readying the Garage

So the garage was full of clutter, dust and not very well organised...
I decided to cover the concrete flooring with a plastic tile covering, and after doing various research I ended up going for a product from the USA called 'race deck.  It was supplied in boxes from a UK company who are the importer, and it went down really easy.  Video of the install below:-

So now the flooring was ready I had to organise some other bits to keep me sane whilst I build the car...
First things first.  Wifi.
Got a cheap ethernet over power to extend the LAN range to the garage, then plugged in an Apple Airport Express and configured it... Viola - garage wifi with an output so I can airplay all my music too.
Apple Airport Express
Apple Airport Express
Next step, speakers.
Decided to get a cheap set from amazon, the Logitech Z506.   Really good price, good quality sound for the price, and perfect for the job.
Logitech Z506 Surround Sound Speakers

Logitech Z506 Surround Sound Speakers

Also got some tools and equipment that I think are pretty noteworthy:-

1. OMP Workshop / Mechanics Overalls from demon tweeks.
Great fit, has knee pads, look cool, plenty of pockets and hooks to hang tools and so on from.
OMP Workshop / Mechanics Overalls
OMP Workshop / Mechanics Overalls

2. Folding Car Creeper from Machine Mart - the Clarke CMC-50 2-in-1.
The name says it all, but it has two uses.  First it is a conventional car creeper, and secondly it folds into a seat with wheels and a tool storage area - perfect!
Car Creeper
Car Creeper
In it's mechanics seat form
In it's mechanics seat form

A quick video of the car creeper:-

3. Tool Cabinet on a special priced deal from Halfords.
Halfords Industrial Tool Cabinet
Halfords Industrial Tool Cabinet
So that's about it for now, so it's just a case of researching other builders blogs, sorting out any last final bits and bobs, and generally twiddling my thumbs for the next 3 weeks until it arrives...

A test drive in the Caterham 620R

A few calls to Doug, to confirm order specs and other bits had passed, and then I got a call from him… He said that there was a free track day to have a go in the new supercharged Caterham 620R… I thought for about, errrr, a nano second before I said “ok, I’m in, where, when” It was at Donington Park on 3rd November 2013… Got up to Donington Park about 8am, had a bacon bap, the usual briefing and then off to have a go in a Supersport R. Great (or at least I thought) until I went out in it.

For one reason or another the car was extremely twitchy and I was left thinking, hmmm what have I done? I don’t remember Andy’s R300 being like this… Anyway didn’t really enjoy it, and when I got out I spoke to the other drivers who were there (one was an academy racer) and they all had a similar complaint about it… 

Hung around for a bit whilst some of the other drivers went for their spins (one quite literally) in the 620R, before it was my go…  The car came in and I was like cool - here we go, however, some marshals instantly flocked around the car and then advised Greg(?) and Doug from Caterham that the car was too noisy and had been black flagged - great! 

Anyway, Greg and Doug done some pleading with the staff who were running the track day and they allowed the car back onto the circuit so long as it was short shifted, with the proviso that if the car went over the db limit again it was an instant ‘time to go home’ moment. Having this said to me just before my go was quite irritating as i wanted to give it the full beans, but didn’t want to ruin everyone else’s chances of having a go. Went out and instantly felt at home in it, seemed much more compliant and like the R300 I’d driven before, so I was chuffed to bits. Video link to footage here:-

Left Donington park thinking that the 620R was the car I now ‘needed’… Spoke to Doug on the Monday and it was a ‘no chance’ of you having that to build, so don’t even bother thinking about it… and you won’t get it until May 2014 at the very earliest, plus it was a lot of money, so had to ‘stick’ with the R500 cool smiley

So… The R500 arrives at the beginning of February, minus (Fuel tank and Fuel pump) apparently Caterham are out of stock of the Fuel pump, so I can either wait until the end of Feb and have my kit supplied with the fuel pump and tank installed in the chassis, or get the kit at the beginning of Feb and put in the fuel pump and tank myself - absolute no brainer...  

The ordering process

So the morning after the night before (well the day after that, but still sounds good) I logged onto the Caterham website, downloaded the price list and put the call into Caterham South, spoke to the receptionist, but she said "there wasn't a sales rep available to take my call!" Having heard a little bit in the past of a mildly blasé attitude from Caterham I thought to call the midlands branch to see if anyone wanted my business.... It turns out that I ended up speaking to Doug Parker, who at the time was fairly new there and he commutes about 1 mile from where I live all the way up to Leicester every day - which is a pretty mean feat...

After the initial discussion with Doug, I specced myself up a nice R300 with a few goodies, however my mate with the R300 suggested he'd much rather have an R400 if he got another Caterham as the R300 engine is a touch on the 'slow side' down the straights on tracks.... So I quickly realised I may aswell go for the R400 and get the goodies I mentioned above included in the price... It didn't end there though...   

So once in the R400 'column' on the price list I added a few more 'goodies' and thought that it was now getting quite close to an R500 price, and for the difference I really couldn't resist the R500 

Gave Doug a call as on a previous conversation he said I couldn't get the R500 in kit form, so I'd have to go with the R400 (which wasn't quite what I wanted) something to do with the fact there isn't a build manual for the R500 and the last person that built an R500 had issues with the oil pressure and throttle body configuration (not his fault) and it all got a bit messy for Caterham..!

Nevertheless, not one to take 'no you can't have that one' too easily, I pushed Doug and he spoke to someone back at HQ.  He then came back to me and said it was OK to get the R500 (manual box) in kit form, so long as I signed a disclaimer, knew that the instruction manual would only be for an R400, and that Caterham wanted to setup the throttle bodies.... I was very happy with that, so was just a case of deciding what colour to go for, and what to do for the next 5 months until the bits arrived!  

Well I've watched this video plenty of times...

The decision making process

A good friend of mine has a Caterham R300 which I've driven plenty of times and thoroughly enjoyed driving... Whilst being a little undecided on the looks of a Caterham, I was always keen to get an occasional use car of some sort.  I'd always been keen on the KTM X-Bow, and the Lotus 2-11 as they have more futuristic / up to date in looks than a Caterham, but as much as I searched I struggled to find anything that has been review or received as well by motoring journalists as a Caterham.

Remembering that the winter last year (2013) was a fairly quiet time especially after Christmas I thought about building a remote control car.  I've built quite a few, my favourite being an HPI Baja 5B SS, loved building something sizeable and I really enjoyed putting it all together...

Hpi Baja 5B SS Kit
Hpi Baja 5B SS Kit
Hpi Baja 5B SS in use
Hpi Baja 5B SS in use
Having said that, I couldn't find anything of interest that had the large enough scale to satisfy my needs of building something massive...  So... To cut a long story short, back in September (2013) and after a few beers down the pub my arm got twisted into agreeing that I really should build a kit car...