Cosmetic touches

I’d always felt the rubber light mounts looked a bit lacking at the back of the car, and another 7 owner mentioned that he had carbon wrapped his lights, and loaned me some of the 3M wrap for mine.

Just had to measure a template and cut the wrap to shape, and then apply and smooth it down with a damp cloth – very easy.

A subtle addition, but it finishes the rear of the car nicely, and looks very consistent with the carbon stripes/sills/dash etc.

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Winter LED upgrades (2)

The remaining bulbs arrived during the week so I could finish upgrading the lights. These are all direct replacements in theory, so should just slot in.

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LED bulbs (2 front indicators, reversing and fog light and 2 sidelights)

I started by fitting the two at the back and replacing the covers.

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Reversing and fog light fitted

And then moved on to the front of the car. The headlight units were relatively simple also – just needed to unscrew the 2 small screws underneath which attach the front of the headlight to the main body, and then unplug the headlight bulb and pull out the rubber housing for the sidelight.

The main bulb was a direct swap, using the same spring clip and rubber cover to secure it as the original bulb. It then had to be rotated to the correct orientation to make sure the beam spread was correct following the instructions provided with the light. The sidelight bulb simply pulled out of its rubber housing and the new LED bulb pushed in.

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New bulb on the left. Not clear in the photo, but it is a much brighter and whiter light than the older bulb on the right. You can see a difference in the reflection on the nose each side

With both lights fitted I could take some comparison photos:

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Lights off

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Sidelights

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Headlights

The indicator bulbs turned out to be less straightforward (well, one anyway). The first one plugged in without issue…

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New bulb on the left

…but the second one didn’t make a connection in the socket. The older bulb required some pressure to recess it and twist it out, and in doing so it may have pushed the connection backwards a bit so there was then a small gap between the connectors on the socket and bulb. If you pushed the new bulb in it lit up, but that then meant it would be loose in the socket, and I thought it would likely work its way forwards when driving and break the connection.

My first idea was to put a small amount of folded foil between the bulb and the socket. I was quite pleased with my ingenuity – right up until I switched the hazards on and blew the fuse. Bugger.

This then triggered a hunt for the blown fuse. The fusebox in the car does not match the Sigma layout in the manual, so some googling ensued which didn’t turn up anything useful. Going back to the manual, I then noticed that the layout is covered, but is shown as Duratec EU4 175/237. I’m not sure if the manual is incorrect, or Caterham has standardised these now, but at least I could then find the correct fuse and swap it out for one of the included spares.

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Fusebox. Indicator fuse was the red 10A fuse top row, 3 from right

With the hazards working again, I went to plan B with the bulb, and used some small spacers to fill the gap and make the connection instead, which was more successful. I’ll keep an eye on it as I think a more permanent fix means disassembling the indicator housing, but it’s working well for now.

Finally, as I’d had to remove the fuse box cover, I replaced the sticky pads with velcro to make access a bit easier in future, i.e. the next time I get a bright idea with the electrics…

Fuse glitch aside, I now have LED bulbs all round, and I’m really pleased with how they look – adding a touch of modernity to the car as well as giving much better visibility.

Winter LED upgrades (1)

With the weather wet and cold outside (much like the rest of the year), but with some time off for Christmas, I wanted to catch up on a couple of jobs on the car.

LED Lights

I’d bought but not yet fitted the Spiyda rear LED lights and NovSight headlight bulbs a few months ago, but wanted to also upgrade the front indicators, sidelights, fog light and reversing light – I’ll leave the numberplate light as is, no point in making that extra visible 🙂 I removed one of each type of bulb from the car to check and ordered replacements from classiccarleds.co.uk.

They’ll arrive during the week, but in the meantime, I could fit the Spiyda LEDs. This was a fairly straightforward job (once I’d worked out how to separate the Econoseal connectors!). It initially required unscrewing the plastic lens cover, and removing the four screws joining the light cluster to the rear wing. Separating the connector then meant I could just pull the whole unit out, complete with connector and the grommet that seals where the cable passes into the car.

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Original bulbs

I took a photo of the wiring into the connector so I could ensure it went back correctly (more on this later), and removed the pins from the connector.

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RHS connector wiring

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Old and new light boards

With the connector removed, I could re-use both it and the grommet rather than have to find replacements.

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Parts

The next job was to add some heat shrink and crimp some pins onto the Spiyda wiring. I’d borrowed a Durite crimping tool from another of the Essex 7 group (author of the excellent https://caterham420detailedbuildblog.co.uk) specifically designed for econoseal pins, and this made the job very straightforward – amazing the difference having the correct tool makes!

With the pins attached, I reassembled the parts and fitted it back to the car.

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Completed unit

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Modern lights!

With the help of my son in the car, I then tested the lights and noticed that the brake light on the LHS unit was going on when the pedal was released rather than depressed. A quick check of the wiring confirmed I’d wired it in the same way as the original light, but this was different to how the RHS was wired. I swapped two pins to match the RHS wiring, and it worked correctly. I’m assuming the Caterham lights were handed whereas the Spiyda boards are not. Fortunately, I did the RHS first which worked correctly – I think if I’d done the LHS first, I would have been convinced I’d done something wrong or the board was faulty…

I was very pleased with the improvement to the original lights though – they are much brighter and there is a definite increase in brightness between the tail lights and brake lights.

The photos below are with the new units on the RHS:

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Tail lights

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Brake lights

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Hazard lights (less obvious in the photo but much brighter on the RHS)

With the LHS wiring corrected and fitted, the indicators flashed much more quickly, but I had the replacement relay with the Spiyda lights, so swapped these over. This was a case of feeling which one was clicking when the indicators were on, and then pulling it out and slotting the replacement in.

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The final job was to deal with the extremely loud indicator beeper by tracking it down by ear (it’s behind the steering column), and then applying some masking tape to shut the little sod up.

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Taped speaker (just to the left of the thin orange and green wire)

A successful couple of hours playing with the car. When the new LED bulbs arrive and are fitted, I’ll have much brighter lighting all round, which makes a big difference to both night driving and being seen by other cars.

500 miles and a new identity

Took the car out for a longer run through North Essex yesterday, which was all country roads. 32 degrees again, so a fantastic day for a drive out – confirmed by seeing 2 other Caterhams, a Morgan, a McLaren, a Lotus Elise and Esprit, MGBs and others out on the road.

Of course, I also had the usual BMW and Ford Focus ST crews crowding up behind me insisting on showing why their cars are faster… Spoiler: they weren’t.

Also – no more issues with the speedo which was positive given the warm temperatures as I was on the move the whole time.

Engine run in

On the way back I ticked up to 500 miles, so the full rev range is now mine 🙂

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[Hums The Proclaimers]

New numberplate

Amusingly, I nearly caused a Police van to rear-end a car at a roundabout yesterday as he was looking at me coming round rather than the traffic ahead 🙂 I think he was looking at the car rather than the number plate, but I’ve found running an ‘unconventionally’ spaced number plate more of a bugbear than I’d expected whilst running the car in. Whenever I see police cars on the road there’s always the “What mood is he in?” moment, as well as the uncertainty for toll cameras etc.

I could leave the correctly spaced versions of the plates on, but they don’t look quite right. I’ve gone backwards and forwards on this a few times since buying the plate, and finally decided that I probably made the wrong choice. The DVLA site still had the C7 plate I was thinking about as an alternative however, so I bit the bullet and purchased that instead this morning.

Once the paperwork comes through, my car will be re-Christened to:

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First Service

Day off work today to drive the car down to Caterham in Crawley for the first service (3 months/1,000 miles). Easy run down – the car cruises along nicely at 70mph, but it does feel a bit small next to anything else on the M25..!

Dropped the car in at Caterham, and in addition to the service, asked them to have a look at the gearbox oil leak and throttle response – it’s still a bit jerky at low revs, and I’m pretty sure  others at the Essex meet were running more smoothly.

The service was going to take about 3 hours, so settled in with some coffee and back issues of Autocar.

The Results

The service came back all green which was great – no concerns with the car. Caterham provide a list of all the checks done (which is pretty comprehensive), as well as a video outlining the key items checked.

Regarding the gearbox, they confirmed there is no leak fortunately – they thought that any oil drops under the car were from the breather pipe just releasing some excess oil. This was great news – I had visions of having to leave the car there to have the engine and gearbox taken out at great expense whist I trudged off to find a train home… For the throttle response, they spotted that the pedal stop hadn’t been adjusted at PBC so set that as well. I could hear them testing the throttle in the workshop – the exhaust sounded great 🙂

A final clean of the car, and I was ready to head home.

Drive home

Driving away from the showroom and through the local roads, the difference in the throttle response was obvious. Far smoother at low revs and less prone to kangarooing when hitting a bump or rut in the road, when the throttle jumps.

Out onto the M23 and M25 I was able to happily cruise along again. Now nearing 500 miles and with a clean service check-up, I’m getting ever more confident in the reliability of the car, and that it won’t suddenly fall apart because I built it…

This was until I hit about 7 miles of standstill traffic leading down to the Dartford tunnel. On a sunny August day, with slow moving traffic, the car started to run hot and was less happy. The gauges looked ok, with the temperature dial never exceeding 100 degrees Celsius, but the car was definitely less keen trundling along at low revs and I could see the heat haze above the bonnet. The engine actually cut out 3 times as the car came to a stop in traffic, although started again each time without issue.

At this point the speedo also stopped registering and dropped to zero. It had done this briefly once before when it was 33 degrees outside, so I think the heat gets to the sensor. Interestingly, with the speedo not registering, the odometer doesn’t register distance either – turns out not all miles are created equal. Mile 000417 was quuuuuuuite a long one…

I was just pondering all this when a truckie called down from above me, “Nice car mate!”, so had a chat with him as we trundled along instead 🙂

Finally through the tunnel, the traffic cleared and I was able to pick up speed again. The temp gauge came back down to about 80 degrees, and after a couple of minutes the speedo flickered back into life at 70mph as it cooled. It’s certainly easier driving not having to guess where you are relative to the speed limit!

With the temperatures back in a more normal operating range, the car started to behave flawlessly again. After that, it was just a fun drive home enjoying the sunshine…

Crawley, we have a problem..?

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Bit of a hiatus from the last post, but I’ve actually had a chance to put a few miles on the car (a little less than 300 so far, so not fully run in yet). I’ve been out for a few local weekend runs when the weather was playing nicely, and met up with the Essex Caterham group for the first time last week, which was fun – 35 7’s at the meet this month!

New stuff

I’ve not done too much to the car, but have bought a few bits:

  • Spiyda LED rear lights (not fitted yet as I need a specific econoseal crimping tool)
  • A small portable toolset and tool bottle which is strapped in the boot
  • A radio and headset for weekend group drives

Full beam LED/LED lights

I was aware that the standard headlights are not supposed to be very good, but driving back from the Essex group meet last week was the first time I’d driven in the dark, and it was an eye-opener. Literally.

I’ve got used to cars with LED or halogen bulbs over the last few years, and the Caterham headlights are a bit of a throwback. It made driving at night in country lanes with oncoming traffic more interesting than it should have been…

To compound the issue, switching on the main beams triggers the blue LED in the tachometer display, which is: a) brighter than the sun, and b) aimed directly into the driver’s eyes. Unless you drive one-handed with your other hand covering the LED, there is actually less visibility with the main beams on than off…

So – LED bulbs on order for the headlights, and a little bit of masking tape applied over the blue LED to shield the glare.

Gearbox oil

The other thing I have bought was a little outdoor camera monitoring the car. When I moved the car out last week, I noticed on the footage that there were a couple of dark marks on the driveway that looked new.

Had a look under the car this weekend, and it looks like those dark marks are probably leaking gearbox oil. Not too much (fortunately the camera was in place, or I wouldn’t have spotted them), but enough to be a concern, and not take the car out.

The drainage bolt head was slick to the touch, but is done up tightly, so not sure if this is the source of the leak, or just a low point where the oil is gathering. For now, I’ve wiped the bolt heads down and stuck a piece of thin chipboard under the car so I can measure where it’s leaking from.

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Bolts are slick to the touch

It’s just about due it’s 3 month/1,000 mile service anyway, so it can go back to Caterham for an inspection. I had planned on putting a few more miles on it first, but don’t want to fry the gearbox, so I’ll get it booked in – might mean towing it rather than driving it though.


FB group verdict/TADTS

Spent a bit of time on the FB groups about the oil leak, and was a bit surprised that the general response was “They all do that, Sir…”, so maybe not quite as worrying as I’d thought. There were certainly other posts reporting the same experience.

I’ll try and get to the gearbox filler plug at the weekend and check the oil level, but otherwise it sounds like it can just be checked at the service – and can be driven down…


Filler plug access

Raining over the weekend (naturally), but got under the car on this evening to see if I could learn more about the issue. Fortunately, there was only a very small amount of oil on the chipboard I put down last weekend, so the leak is not catastrophic.

I managed to trace the oil by feel back up to the prop shaft, so it looks like the rear seal is leaking a bit. This could well be “normal” Caterham behaviour, or it could just be that the gearbox oil level is too high – the rear seal is higher than the filler plug. Caterham did check oil level at the PBC, so it’s possible it was over-filled.

The other thing I wanted to do was work out how to access the filler plug. I’d read some blogs and internet posts saying this was difficult to reach, and needed a cut-down Allen key to access from under the car.

Fortunately, a bit more searching revealed that on the newer gearboxes, the filler plug access has been improved; if you peel back the carpet, there is a hole in the passenger footwell to provide access to the square-headed filler plug.

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Hole convenient…

There was some heat reflection padding in the way, but cutting a small section out meant I could easily attach a 17mm hex socket.

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Easy!

I didn’t have enough time to actually check the oil level this evening, but at least it does look straightforward if I come back to it at the weekend. In the meantime, I wiped the gearbox down and put a drip tray underneath, and will monitor until I have more time.

LED Lights

Finally, my LED H4 replacement bulbs arrived today also, courtesy of a colleague who also runs a 7, and ordered some for both cars.

Pretty sexy for a lightbulb…

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Geek chic


Gearbox oil top-up

Back under the car on Saturday to check the gearbox oil level and top it up if required. Another quick google to make sure I was definitely undoing the correct bolt confirmed it is the square-headed bolt, so I removed this with the 17mm hex socket. Unfortunately, oil did not pour out which put paid to the optimistic theory that it may just be over-filled.

I checked the oil level by dipping a cable tie secured to my finger through the hole in the footwell, and it did look like it was low, so I used an oil syringe to slowly inject the new gearbox oil, again accessing the hole from the footwell. It took 0.5 – 0.75 litres of oil before it started to run back out of the fill hole, which seemed quite a lot after less than 300 miles assuming it was checked and filled at the PBC as reported. Because I’m not 100% sure the gearbox did have the right amount of oil post-PBC (having lost some before installing the gearbox), it’s not possible to measure the rate of loss. I can going forwards however.

With the oil topped up, I went out for a quick drive to warm the gearbox and oil. The gear changes felt smoother than previous drives, which was interesting – it’s potentially something to look out for in future as a sign the oil might be low. I was out for 30-40 minutes through country roads to maximise gear changes, and then parked the car back up with the drip trays back underneath.

Once the car had cooled again, I went out and had another look, and there was no oil in the trays, which was unexpected but positive.

At least it doesn’t look like it’s a massive problem; I’ll get some advice when it gets serviced this week. At worst, it’s something I will need to just keep an eye on along with the other fluid levels if it is indeed a case of TADTS, and it’s an easy enough job to top-up.

A quick run, a new brake light and mirrors

Finally managed to get another run out this weekend. Weather was still not great, but it wasn’t raining, so I’ll take what I can get at the moment!

I removed the doors for this run, to see what that feels like. At lower speeds, it heightens the experience – you feel closer to the road, exhaust etc, and the hedges rushing past. Above about 50mph it becomes a bit more frenetic, with the air turbulence knocking you around a bit. Actually quite a fun experience, but I’m not sure passengers would enjoy it!

You notice the car ‘warming up’ on a run – it is still quite tricky to drive smoothly at the start, but once it warms up, it gets a lot more fluid. Keeping it below 4,000rpm is the challenge at the moment!

High level brake light

When I got back, I wanted to add a couple of the post-build items I’d picked up. I started with a high-level LED brake light, to try and reduce the chance of having someone go into the back of me because they’d not seen the brake lights low-down on the arches. I’m planning to replace the bulbs with LEDs too to make sure all the lights are reasonably bright.

Because my car is relatively new, it already had the required sub-loom fitted to the right of the fuel tank. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was looking for as I couldn’t find information online about the connectors, but I spotted a white spade connector wired into the loom that looked like a likely candidate. It was only a single wire connection however, but a quick poke around revealed another one hiding behind the chassis member.

Attaching the brake light required feeding the wires from the light down through the space between the boot floor and the body and then fitting two spade connectors. Except for the limited space around the loom connectors, it wasn’t particularly difficult and once the connectors were correctly attached (positive and negative), the LEDs lit when the brake pedal was pushed.

I then secured the light to the roll bar with cable ties in a position where it is visible with the half-hood fitted, ran the wires down the inside of the roll bar and concealed with some black insulation tape. Some more cable ties to secure the wiring around the connectors and a final test showed everything working 🙂

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New brake light

Pitking race mirrors

I then had a go at replacing the side mirrors with the Pitking mirrors I’d bought, but had a problem getting the mount tightened. The thread on the mount supplied is quite short, so gets limited purchase (1-2mm) on the thread within the windscreen mount. Tightening this then stripped the thread on the mount, so it just turned in the frame.

I sent Demon Tweeks a note to get a replacement, but a quick eBay search has also thrown up some mounts with longer threads that might be a better fit. I’ll see what Demon Tweeks say, and then look into other options. I would like to get these mirrors fitted as they give a better field of view behind the car.

Under the bonnet

Finally, I’d read a FB post about someone who’d managed to wreck their new 620R engine in 600 miles, so thought I’d better do a sanity check on fluid levels! The dials showed oil pressure and engine temperature were fine on the drive, but it gave me an excuse to take the bonnet off 🙂

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Pitking race mirrors, Take 2

No response from Demon Tweeks, so I ordered the replacement mounts from eBay. It turned out the seller lived locally, and was happy to drop them off too to reduce cost.

He actually machines the parts; he races Caterhams and had the same problem with the mirrors, so had made a batch with a longer thread for his and friends’ cars, and then put the remainder on eBay.

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New (longer) mount on left

Installing the mounts was fairly easy, although the LHS mount took a bit of patience, and required temporarily removing the other two screws holding the screen in the bracket to allow it to be aligned and tightened.

The mirrors then just screw onto the mount. I’ve deliberately not over-tightened them, so will see if they stay in position, or need to be tightened further.

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New mirror FOV

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Just need a quick test drive now 🙂

Build reflections

With the build finished and the car on the road, I thought I’d start wrapping the blog up with some reflections on the build.

Build time

The car was delivered in October 2017, and I’d planned to do a winter build and have the car on the road for Spring 2018. This turned out to be wildly optimistic, mostly due to inexperience and limited spare time.

Especially towards the beginning of the build, I was concerned about doing something wrong, so took the build at a very slow pace, making sure I read the manuals thoroughly and got familiar with the car. This did accelerate as I got through the build, and became a bit more confident in both the manual and my own ability. Certainly I noticed that when a job was to be done on both sides of the car, the second side took a fraction of the time!

The other thing I’d over-estimated was how much spare time I would have  – especially with two young children! Once it became clear that Spring was not going to happen, I resigned myself to a slower build anyway. There seemed little point rushing and not enjoying the build experience. Limited weekends also meant the build went in phases of building/not building, with a couple of months where very little was done. At points, I also caught myself thinking of the car more as a project to be delivered rather than a car to be built, and I had to consciously push myself to re-engage with it – once I did though, I quickly got back into enjoying the build each time.

Estimates for total build time vary, but a rough guide is 100 hours. I know I spent considerably more than that, although I don’t know the actual number. 100 seems doable, and I’m sure if I were to do it again now, I would be much closer to that scale of effort.

Build manual and parts (the “Caterham experience”)

Wow, the manual is bad. This car has been relatively unchanged for 60 years, and they still can’t put a decent manual together…

I ended up switching manuals from the older text-heavy version to the new diagram-centric version relatively early on, and the latter was definitely an improvement, although neither completely covers all aspects of the build. There were times when I ended up flicking between the manuals for direction, and frequently ended up on others’ blogs or emailing Derek for advice on something not covered by the manuals.

This really feels like something that could easily be remedied with little effort.

The main frustration with the manual is that it’s hard to tell if you’re building it right. You end up either stopping for clarification or taking some educated guesses at times to carry on. This was not always successful either, and caused a couple of re-work items in the PBC (e.g. seat washers).

The other key challenge impacting whether you feel you are building correctly is that some parts didn’t fit and needed some adjusting/shaping (widening holes etc.). For these I wasn’t sure whether it was the part or, whether I’d done something incorrectly. As the build progressed (and I got more familiar with the “Caterham experience”), my confidence in adjusting these grew until it actually became a familiar, almost funny refrain during the build.

Part of the challenge I had on my build (which may not be a problem for others) was that my car was delivered with part references from the older manual (labelled bags etc.), but the parts are labelled differently for the new manual (or not clearly identified), so I had to spend time with each step trying to make sure I had the right parts.  Parts also tended to be packaged in odd combinations, with bags often containing bits not required for the build. This did at least get easier later in the build when there were fewer parts remaining, however.

Derek and the blogs

Because of the issues with the manual, I ended up emailing Derek a lot early in the build. He was always very helpful, and sent very quick responses. I found that short emails to him with photos got the best responses. He obviously knows every aspect of the Caterham build – not sure what I would have done without his help at times!

I found others’ blogs to be a really useful source of information too, particularly purplemeanie.co.uk and caterham420rbuild.com. They just help validate that you’re not going too far off course, and photos of the car at each step really help supplement the gaps in the manual.

I also enjoyed writing my blog – taking the time each day to capture what I had done and the experience, and it’s something I can keep to remember the build now the car is complete. It also turned out to be useful in the PBC debating a couple of warranty items!

Achievement and frustration

There’s no doubt that building your own car brings a real sense of achievement. It’s great seeing the car develop as you go, transforming from a shell into a completed car – slowly shaping into a Caterham as the key parts go on.

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Day 1

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Day […several]

There are also a couple of really significant bits of the build – the main one being the installation of the engine. Navigating the engine and gearbox hanging from a hoist above the car and then into position was probably the most rewarding and terrifying part of the whole build.

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I found that the parts of the build I most enjoyed were where I could bolt the chunky stuff together: suspension, prop shaft, rear hubs etc. Anything that was nuts, bolts and spanners was the most enjoyable aspect. As a result, I now know every bolt on this car, and feel really confident working with it.

The aspects of the build I enjoyed less were the more fiddly parts: headlights/wiring and grommets (what a PITA that was), engine plumbing and the last few bits and pieces of IVA prep. Some of these jobs just took hours for no visible gain, and for the IVA prep there was limited information as to what “done” looked like, so I ended up getting a bit 80/20 towards the end, willing to let Caterham tidy it up a bit rather than spend lots of hours with an uncertain goal.

I did screw a couple of things up too. The main one was the bolts for the bell housing and engine mount where I broke the thread, although I maintain this was the fault of the torque values in the manual (especially as others had the same problem). It was easily remedied at PBC though, so no lasting damage.

The other irritating thing was that I managed to scratch the bodywork twice during the build. Entirely my fault, as I got too casual working near the bodywork over time and should have taken more care to cover it up as I did earlier in the build. That said, I was able to repair the paint damage, and I now already have some stone chips from it being on the road, so you can’t get too precious – it’s to be driven, after all! I can always get it resprayed/have the wings replaced down the road.

The other couple of mis-steps were in how I secured the wings and throttle cable, both of which ended up getting re-done (at increased cost) with the PBC. These were the points I strayed from the guide, so that was a clear lesson.

Build space and help required

Oh, for a double garage! I completed my build in a standard garage, and although it was doable, it did require some contortion at times, and I had to continuously move bikes etc. out of the way each time I wanted to work on it, which meant I couldn’t just do a quick 30 minutes when I had time very often.

I think I completed 95%+ of the build on my own, but at times help is definitely required, particularly for the engine, LSD, brakes and lifting/lowering the car. Thanks Brendan, Ben, Tom, Rach, Ewan and ZoĂ«! 🙂 Brendan in particular really helped with tools and time, which I really appreciated, and Ben’s help with the engine installation was invaluable.

Changes/Upgraditis

I made a few changes as I worked through the build, the main one being to fit an FIA-spec roll bar. I also bought some aeroscreen brackets, although I ended up not fitting these as I couldn’t get them positioned correctly without drilling bodywork. If I do switch to an aeroscreen at any point (unlikely, I think), I’ll have another go with these.

I also bought a high-level third brake light, half-hood, smaller side mirrors and some rubber to line the aluminium bodywork in the boot to be installed after the build. I plan to get some LED bulbs and possibly some clear indicator lenses and repeaters too (although fitting these with the wings now glued could be difficult).

Caterham community

Another aspect of this experience I have really enjoyed has been the Caterham community on Facebook. The groups were always friendly and helpful (S3 vs. SV pontificating aside!), and a great source of knowledge. These will be something I will stay a part of going forwards, and I’m looking forward to meeting more people on club nights, drives and events too.

Final thoughts

I can’t remember the first time I knew I wanted to build a Caterham, but it was a lot of years ago. The experience completely lived up to my expectations even though it was probably a bit tougher than I’d anticipated at times, and definitely took longer than planned! I think I’d rather that than it was too easy, however (although Caterham – seriously – fix the manual).

I love that I now own a fantastic car and motoring icon where I know every nut and bolt. I caught myself thinking today as I turned into a quick corner, “I built this!” 🙂

I really enjoyed the build experience (and writing this blog), and I’ll happily tinker with it and work on it in future, but I’m looking forward to using it now, with the roof off, sun beating down and exhaust rumbling away beside me (above 4,000 rpm)…

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Half hood and first “proper” drive

Soft Bits half hood

Well, the weather wasn’t quite as good as forecasted, so no drive on Saturday, but I did dash out between showers (and thunder/hail!) to fit the half hood, which just required replacing a couple of poppers on the boot cover, and temporarily removing the roll bar rear bolts to slide the restraining straps in.

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Half hood fitted

The half hood actually looks a little less sleek than the full hood when fitted, but does have the advantage that it can be put up/taken down very quickly and rolls away to a reasonably small package in the boot, so is easier to carry around.

First “Proper” drive

We were busy all day Sunday for kids’ football and dancing events, but Bank Holiday Monday gave me a chance to take my son out for an hour or so around the local country lanes.

I’m still keeping the engine revs below 4,000rpm, so nothing too rapid, but we got to have some fun with the roof off and enjoy the car on much nicer roads. I also managed to navigate the whole journey without stalling once, so feeling a lot more comfortable with the pedals now 🙂 The engine is still a bit lumpy at low revs – especially when cold – but I’m getting a much better feel for the revs, and blending the throttle with a gear change.

The handling is incredibly sharp though corners – the speeds we were doing were nowhere near testing the limits – and the exhaust sounds great, with the occasional pop and bang as you lift off. It is just starting to sound really good as you reach 4,000rpm, so looking forward to pushing it beyond that!

After the drive, I got back in my everyday “sports” hatchback to go pick my daughter up, and it was telling how soft and sluggish that car suddenly felt, despite feeling quite nimble earlier in the day!

Looking forward to some great drives when the British summer finally arrives 🙂