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Diary 2013

A big change for my plans in 2013. I had planned to race in the Classic Sports Car Club Magnificent Sevens series this year, instead I have changed my career and now work for the CSCC. This does mean that I won't be able to race in the Magnificent Sevens series; it would be a conflict of interest of course. I am very excited about the change and am looking forward to working within Motorsport.

I'm proud that a couple of my photos were published in the December 2012 issue of Low Flying, the club magazine for the Lotus 7 club.

                             

I took the photo with my Canon S3is bridge camera on manual mode with a 6 second exposure, sidelights on (LEDs hence the blue tinge), a graduated filter and the car rolling forwards very slowly. Just a few minutes previously the moon wasn't hidden by clouds and the shot would have been that much better, sadly this was the moment the batteries ran out and needed changing!

With the help of my wife plus Philip and Paul from the Lotus Seven club we have got the engine back in, this time with no injuries!

Here is the protective heat blanket wrapped around the starter motor and wiring, leading to a relay which greatly helps the starting, a common modification (it looks tidier once put back together).

                                   

Once the fuel was primed through the system (new fuel filter) and the engine was turned over to bring the oil pressure up the new race battery began to go flat. The intention is to return tomorrow with a freshly charged battery and try again. I have booked in a remap for the Emerald ECU with FC Performance on Tuesday, then I can see if the performance increase has been worth the money and effort.

After speaking to Emerald I realised I needed to change the btdc setting as well as the trigger pattern for the engine to work with the new R500 lightweight flywheel. So, next day we tried to start up and it fired into life immediately, it was good to drive the car again after a break of a couple of months. I managed to put about 35 miles on the car before it had its remap, not driving too carefully so as to bed in the piston rings and avoid glazing the bores but not too hard as the fuelling was likely to be sub-optimal.

Drove the Caterham to Circuit Motors, where Leighton from FC Performance mapped the car, only issue was oil in the coolant header tank which is always a concern with the K series. After much checking we continued with the map, getting a power figure between 140bhp and 145 depending on revs and the power run and map selected. Slight torque increase too, and all happening about 600rpm higher which is better for track work and the close ratio box. So, not a big increase but enough to notice and at least I would now have a good strong engine that will take plenty of revs and with just a change of cams and throttle bodies could see 180bhp, but I'm not worried about that for now. The drive is noticeably different particularly with the lightened flywheel; the revs rise and fall so much more quickly and will take a bit of adjustment to heel and toe smoothly again.

The worry about the oil in the coolant header tank was traced to the jug that was used to fill the car up with new coolant! Naming no names! The coolant was flushed thoroughly and tested with fresh water and no problems at all as you would expect from an engine built by Dave Andrews. I decided it was time to replace the radiator as the Caterham triple pass had a small weep from the core, which appears pretty common among Caterhams own rads. I placed an order for a new Radtec radiator, changed the mounting bobbins and lower silicone hose and at last wired in the cooling fan to the Emerald so I have both automatic and manual fan control now.  

Thanks to Stu Forshaw I have a new (used) spark plug cover which I resprayed and fitted a Caterham Supersport badge too, much smarter than the old Rover cover.

                                             

In March I found myself stationary in traffic in Bath city centre when sadly I felt a bump from behind. I had been tapped by a lorry. The driver was very apologetic and we exchanged details. The damage was light, with a broken fog light, number plate light and slightly dented alloy skin, thankfully no damage at all to the chassis.

               

After asking for advice from the Seven community I decided to take the car to the Seven Workshop. My insurance company, REIS were happy for me to do this. I had time to fit in another informal FCCUK competition at Curborough where the car gave me a FTD again, really good fun in changeable conditions. I had fun driving a friends stripped out Clio 172 reminding me how much fun they are for very little money. I also got to drive another friends 400BHP Mazda RX7 and set a good time, with the owner booking me for instruction in July. After the day on track we had a long detour to take the car to the Seven workshop in Hertfordshire on a Sunday (excellent service). 

Helped my friend sell his Caterham and buy a lovely Lotus Elise SC. We gave it a good shake down at Keevil, so we could both experience its handling characteristics before a planned trip to Castle Combe later in the year. It's a very good all round car, although in standard form its handling is set up to understeer. I found I had to really stand the car on its nose to get it to turn in quickly without washing wide, and with no limited slip differential it would spin an inside wheel if I got on the power too quickly out of the hairpin.

              

After a lengthy few weeks wait whilst an assessor eventually agreed (thanks to Chris and Jackie) that alloy could not be beaten out without stretching, the rear skin was be replaced at Arch and sprayed by TSK, with all other work being looked after by the Seven Workshop. I have always known that our Seven is well loved but a bit tatty in a couple of places. Well, the full extent of years of being driven in all weathers was all too clear once the bodywork was removed, although the photos make it look worse due to the general dirt covering the tubes.

            

            

             

    

Chris suggested we use the 'opportunity' to replace the two triangular side pieces of bodywork that are mostly hidden under the leading edges of the rear wheel arches. These wheel arch panels were both corroded and also holed where rear wings had been mounted incorrectly. In addition Chris tidied up the wiring, treated the surface corrosion, removed the stubs of the spare wheel carrier, fitted new arches, re-padded the fuel tank whilst it was out and replaced the rear lights.

It was only when my wife went to collect the car that the full extent of the work taken place was apparent. Many parts had been painted or sealed to prevent future corrosion, a bush replaced on the radius arm where the bolt was seized and drilled out, new grommets where the wiring exits the bodywork to the lights, sealing the boot floor and many more little jobs that show evidence of workmanship above what was asked and paid for.  

   

It looks great, but so plain now without all its track outline stickers. Still not certain about the new Caterham logo, but I have the old one which I could return to. I have kept the old skin which could form some kind of artwork at some stage, if I'm allowed to keep it in the house that is!

Two days after getting the car back it was back in action with a fun trackday at Castle Combe with friends celebrating a 70th birthday party. Our friend Philip was celebrating in his new Lotus Elise SC. Our Caterham performed brilliantly with best laps of 1:20 (looking back at video) which was pretty good considering full screen, lights and very very worn tyres. I was asked to drive and give an opinion of a turbo charged MR2 roadster turbo producing 400BHP. I was very impressed, with recommendations limited to pedal position and traction control settings; the bumps at Old Paddock and Folly were producing quite violent fuel cuts losing us time. Not sure what lap times were like, but they felt quick.

On cooler morning I have noticed that the coolant temperature hasn't been getting up to its usual 80c temperature, sticking around the 70 mark unless driven in traffic, therefore have changed the coolant and the thermostat, and it's now back to running at around 80c. I have drilled a small hole (1.5mm) in the thermostat as before

August 2013

After our article about the Celica TRD Sports M was used in Pistonheads here we were approached by a previous owner of the car who missed it and wanted it back. A deal was done and we find ourselves without a tow car. My wife and I had been looking at Boxsters for some time, they really have become good value for money so we started looking properly. We agreed to look for an S, ideally a 2000 model for the cheaper road tax and without the PSM stability control and not black or dark blue as they just show the dirt and scratches too badly. We then discovered this low mileage, two owner car at a specialist dealership in Peterborough (TWG). After agreeing a price (subject to seeing it) we bought train tickets, test drove it and took it home there and then.

                            

Slight disapointment to find that our fresh MOT had an advisory for CV boots that turned out to be rather more than a slight split, with 3 of the 4 cv boots were completely gone, plus non functioning reverse lights and knackered wipers. Still, nothing that we couldn't put right ourselves the following couple of weekends.

                 

                 

It turned out to be a bit of a job, mostly because the exhaust clamps were rusted and seized so the angle grinder did a fair bit of work. We booked a trackday at Keevil for both the Caterham and Boxster, so as a precaution changed the Porsches brake fluid, coolant and gearbox oil which was straightforward to do from underneath. The Caterham had an oil change too.

                                                         

The Boxsters non functional reverse lights were just a simple switch replacement and some new Bosch wipers and RainX have greatly improved visibility.

The trackday was very enjoyable with friends in their Caterhams and Elise. Twice we had heavy showers and both times the Boxster proved the fastest car on track, despite having standard Michelins all round. The grip was remarkable and whilst the balance certainly favoured understeer, it was pretty fun and gave confidence to us both. My friends Elise SC was sporting a different set of wheels and tyres this time, and with the wider fronts the handling balance was much sharper with a better initial turn in and less understeer, more fun.  The Caterham as always was superb once the surface dried, only a suspected spigot bearing or clutch issue at the end of the day clouded the experience. Engine out next week, what fun! Still, had fun chasing my friends CSR260 up until that point.

 

Out of almost 100 trackdays this is only the second ever mechanical issue experienced (the first being a broken weld on an exhaust), I put that down to good maintenance and a bit of mechanical sympathy with a slow warm up process and at least one cool down lap after each session.

September 2013

I've booked a race! First time in two years! I have signed up for the Birkett 6 hour team endurance race on the historic Silverstone GP circuit. Much as I would rather race with my own club the Classic Sports Car Club, I'm not allowed to so have to look at events with rival companies, in this instance the 750MC. I'm hoping to be part of a team of CSCC Gold Arts Magnificent Sevens racers, but will know more in the next couple of weeks.

Since buying the Boxster we have no tow car (just the trailer), so I now have to think about buying a shed of a tow car which will double as a winter commuter. Whilst driving the Caterham to work has been fun this summer I just don't fancy it come the winter. I'm not sure we will have the budget for even the cheapest of tow cars though, so may need to rely on the generosity of others and borrow one for this race.

As always I'm going to have to make do with old sets of tyres and hope it doesn't rain as I have no wets! I will need to get the extinguisher serviced again which is annoying as I've only had one race since the last time.

With the help of Paul Manning, his son Tim and Philip Coles we removed the engine expecting to find clutch or spigot bearing issues. Sadly, there were none, which pointed the finger at the differential or gearbox. After removing the gearbox it was clear this was where the problem lay.

                                 

I have cancelled the race next month, as budget just won't allow the repair of the 'box as well. Next step is to take it to a specialist for a strip down and work out what's wrong, as we can't see any visible issue after taking the cover off, only that the output shaft is now jammed.

The Boxster started to make an annoying creaking noise from the rear suspension. Searching on the forums this appears to be a common issue, with many replacing their bottom wishbone aka coffin joint. Some people however have tried injecting grease or WD40 into the dust boot with success, providing it is caught early before wear or slop can develop in the joint. As the joint appears to be dry anyway we were happy to try WD40 and it worked instantly, no creaking and with no damage to the dust boot except a tiny hole in which to push the WD40 straw. Will see if this is a lasting cure.

After a good chat on the phone to Caterham gearbox expert Phil at Road and Race, we drove the gearbox to him in Kent, should get an update on which parts are required and what to refresh shortly.

After much thought, and far too much time reading about old Porsches I have decided to sell the Caterham, advert here, not sure if I'm doing the right thing though! 

The first owner Damon Dance has kindy e-mailed me some original photos which appear to be hanging on his wall. This is the first time that I have discovered my car raced in 1996 (not 1997) and that it raced with the number 77 that by coincidence is the same number I chose!

                        

We enjoyed a few days away on the west coast of Wales, some superb driving through the Elan Valley.

                                        

                                                                           

With another year rolling by and heading towards Autumn, with no racing, and having no tow car thoughts turned to changing the Caterham. For many years I thought the Seven would be a car I would keep for decades to come. However, I was increasingly finding that whilst it is THE perfect car on the right road or track in the right weather those times are few and far between in our country. The summer of 2013 was almost too good! The holiday Beth and I took to Cornwall was uncomfortably hot in the Caterham. The onset of winter generally makes me a bit down, with less opportunity to enjoy the car and it's worse now with no garage (just a car port) and no electrics. All this got me to seriously thinking about a replacement. Everyone has a short list in their heads, but actually a Caterham is a very difficult car to replace. It was almost pointless to find a quicker, more responsive car in my budget, instead I would look for a car that would try to give me a similar feeling of ownership that I could enjoy for more of the year. The Boxster is an excellent car, it really is, but lacks a little of the character I was looking for. A lack of depreciation is important to me, ideally I would like a car that I could spend money on and see some increase in value. 

A car I just kept coming back to is the Porsche 911, especially the older air cooled models.911s have received a huge amount of press coverage in 2013 in their 50th anniversary. This seems to have had an influence on the their value, to the point that values of air cooled Coupes were creeping out of my reach. Having decided that now was the time to buy a 911 I wrote a detailed advert and then shelved it to be sure I was doing the right thing.

A trackday was booked at Keevil in September with friends, the result of this can be seen below

                                         

A real shame to have broken the car, but considering it has completed at least 50 trackdays and races in my ownership this is only the second time it has broken on track (the first was a broken weld on the exhaust). I removed the engine and gearbox and delivered the 'box to Phil at Road and Race. Phil quickly diagnosed the problem as a broken tooth on the main shaft, apparently and issue he has seen before on these early race boxes. Whilst the gearbox was stripped he also replaced two worn syncro sets and collets as well as a new main shaft of a later design as a precaution.

Despite still loving the Caterham it was the right time to place the advert here, mentioning that the new potential advert would be welcome to assist in putting the engine and gearbox back in the car as a way of them learning the car. After a good bit of interest this is what happened, and a sale was agreed subject to a drive and flat floor set up.

                

                  

After two long days of work, 'Colin' was driven away by the new owner Danny, who is a real enthusiast. Danny owns a tidy 1400 Caterham and having caught the bug for trackdays, he did the sensible thing and bought my car which was of course a very good specification.
I did get quite upset seeing 'my' car drive away, but I had to convince myself it is the right thing to do at this stage, and I had the promise that should the car go up for sale in the future I would have first refusal. It was odd to see the car without its race stickers and track outlines.    

                        

Whilst I was tracking down a replacement, which was not easy, a bit of maintenance was required on the Boxster, when the drivers side electric window stopped working. Every time the doors are opened on the Boxster the window drops a cm. This presumably accelerates wear, so a replacement regulator was sourced on ebay at a fraction of the cost of a genuine Porsche part. It took a few hours to fit and annoyingly has resulted in the airbag light staying on, which our OBD2 devices can't reset, so it will have to go to a Porsche main dealer at some stage to be reset.

 

The start of a new chapter, 'Colin' the Caterham has sold, and I have bought a new car for road and track - a Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera Coupe, a car I have wanted for some years now. A very long day driving to North Yorkshire and back, but a big smile on my face! More information on the 911 page, under Cars.

                                 

                                 

                                

A list was made detailing work that was needed to get the 911 to a better standard. This included -

Broken Speedometer that wouldn't read above 58mph
Brake calipers that were sticking
Full service
Various cosmetic work including both front wings
A poor gearchange, particularly when selecting 1st gear
Main beam that would come on at random when the lights were on dipped beam (not good!)
An occasional 'screech' suspected to be a bearing, if not the brakes.

Coming just a week after buying 'Percy Senior' aka Percy the Porsche 911, I've bought another car, this time one which won't be gracing these pages very often. It's a winter commuting hack on winter tyres, ideal for our drive to work through muddy lanes, bought from my boss at the CSCC.

Meet 'Peggy' the Peugeot 206 -

                                

Having replaced the 911s drivers side rear caliper which was the worst of the four we drove the car to Rob at Racing Restorations in Worcester to assess the bodywork. A very worthwhile couple of hours with Rob giving great advice and talking us through the priorities as well as examples of their work. I was very pleased that everything he found was as we had identified ourselves when first viewing the car, with only one exception - the headlight bowl.

          

Thankfully the headlight bowl is replaced with the front wing so it's not a concern. It does go to show how badly these cars can corrode down to poor design where dirt builds up plus no wheel arch liners. The 911 (now named Percy Senior by my wife) is booked in with Racing Restorations in mid January, after I finish working at the Autosport show.

Next job was to replace the passenger side rear caliper.

                                               

                                             

Much better, I could feel the difference when driving.

The speedo had two faults - it had stopped recording mileage and also it wouldn't show a speed above 58mph (a problem for a sports car). Searching online and in the excellent 101 projects book it appears to a be a common problem, where teeth on one of the cogs become brittle and break off.  

                        

A new cog priced at 24 Euros from an Austrian company plus removing the old broken bits fixed both problems.

        

 
 
I changed the oil and filter on the Boxster, the mileage had really added up in the past few months, and I want to get into a routine of changing both far earlier than is due.

It's something I have always done, believing that fresh oil is extremely important, plus some reports suggest that fresh oil is likely to prolong the IMS bearing life should the seal fail prematurely.  

          

                               

It felt good to change the oil (Shell 10w40) and oil filter and air filter, this time on the 911, the night before the drive to Teddington for a Pistonheads meet, where my 911 was one of 100 assembled to help finish the 50th anniversary of the 911. It was good to meet up with other owners and to see a number of other Guards Red Carreras (mine is on the left).

                   

On the way back Beth and I dropped in to Keevil where Motorsport Events were holding their last event of the year. I wanted to take the 911 out on track for a quick session just to give me an idea of what its handling was like. It is the first 911 i've driven on track, and the rain started coming down, so I didn't want to go too mad. The gear change is poor (another job) so I was slow and deliberate with my shifting. I enjoyed lifting off when turning in and feeling the back end come round slightly to help tighten the line before applying the power and being impressed with the traction. My first impressions were of a similar handling feel to the Boxster, only with lift off oversteer. I really enjoyed the experience, although the brake pedal went to the floor at the second attempt to go out. I hadn't had chance to flush fresh dot5.1 fluid through the front calipers due to lack of time, so it was to be expected. Once cooled down the brake pedal returned for the drive home = a good day.

 

                           

The Boxsters interior fan had become increasingly noisy, eventually only working intermittently. Having removed it from the car it was very easy to see the problem. The 'Hamster Wheel' was missing a blade and the band was split and scuffed. I can only guess that at some stage in the past someone has dropped a tool in the fan when changing the pollen filter above it. A new fan is over 300 from Porsche, but a bit of research showed that it was a common VW/Audi part used in the VW Golf and Lupo among others. I sourced a known working fan from a yr 2000 Mk4 Golf GTi and paid a whopping 18 for it from ebay. It was nearly identical, only having a different connector - whilst these are available at extra cost it was far simpler fitting two insulated female spade connectors. The fan works perfectly again and is quieter than ever before.

 

 

 

Whilst on a roll with fans the fresh air fan on the 911 made a horrible screech from time to time, normally when on the lowest speed. During my Christmas break out it came for a good clean (no pollen filters on this age car) and oiling of the end bearings. The brushes and commutator are in good order so it should keep going for a good few years yet.

Removing the fresh air pipework is the best and really only way to get to the backs of the gauges and wiring, so I wired in a fused lead from the fuse board through a grommet in the firewall to power the DL1 datalogger and Dash3 that I used to use in the Caterham. Not wanting to make the classic Porsche appear too modern I have hidden the DL1 in the centre console (where the tape storage used to be) and the Dash3 screen is velcro'd to the underside of the ashtray, both can be removed with no damage. The fan is now lovely and quiet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To cure the common problem of main beam coming on when dipped beam is selected I bought a good replacement switch from ebay. More research on the excellent Pelican and Impact Bumpers forums showed that the fault occurs due to the switch carrying the full headlight current, instead of a relay being used. Dirty and slightly bent contacts can create a short circuit. A newer switch together with a J West relay kit from Pelican Parts should stop the problem returning, as well as a reported increase in headlight performance. I will report back on this when the parts arrive from the States.

 

I removed the steering wheel to get better access to the rev counter feed wire. More web browsing revealed instructions for bending the switch contact slightly (red arrow in picture) which appears to have worked for a number of 911 owners, so I gave this a tray and am pleased to report it works, no more main beam stuck on by mistake. I will keep the ebay purchased switch as a spare for now, and will fit the relay kit.    

Whilst having time on my hands over Christmas I replaced the interior festoon bulbs with LEDs and cleaned up the drivers door switch so it earths properly. The result is a brighter interior that doesn't draw much current. The only downside is a slightly modern blue tinge to the light which I'm not so keen on. I may change these at some stage for a 'warm white' version.

Keeping busy I tackled the vague gear change issue. I had previously ordered a set of gear linkage bushes and started taking apart the interior. All was going well until I tried to press out the shift coupler pin and broke the casting, BUGGER! That was 90 wasted, still, the new shift coupler had new bushes already fitted. 

                              

 A few hours work and everything was cleaned and correctly adjusted. A quick drive to warm the transmission showed an improved already, although first gear is still reluctant to be selected when moving. I got the car back home and onto my new Machine Mart wide ramps for a gearbox oil change. Judging by the difficulty in removing the gearbox filler and sump plugs I don't think the oil has been changed for a while. Still, all done, although a subsequent drive doesn't feel any different. The bushes are a good improvement and I found an original rubber gear surround underneath the vinyl one, I prefer the retro look.

                    

That's it for 2013, a good year, even if no racing took place. Still, a great new job means I had arranged plenty of racing for other people with the CSCC, changed both cars and enjoyed some great trackdays.