Build Day 6 – Headlight and upright

After using this morning to clear my head a bit from last night’s Primus concert…



… and knocking back a few aspirin, I went down to the garage to tackle the headlight and finish up the suspension. The headlight assembly went together without a hitch – having done the first one a few weeks ago made this one a snap. I’ve covered all the details of what I did in a prior post so will skip that here.

As for the suspension, after doing a double check on all the pieces I realized a crush washer was missing from the top damper bolt. Yes, that one that I’ve come to loathe indeed had to come out again. So I set about pulling it out (again), put in the crush washer, and then put it back in, this time torquing it down to 20nm and saying a small prayer it is in for good.

Once that was done, I turned to the headlight stalk and getting the wires routed through the grommet, the stalk mounted to the front upper wishbone mount, and then torquing the suspension in. Straight forward and no major mistakes that I can tell. I’ll double check it yet again tomorrow just to be sure since I seem to find these little odd’s and end’s which aren’t quite perfect.

Headlights and front suspension on


Once the head lights were on I took a glance at the clock and still had a little bit of time until the F1 race came on. Next up was the uprights.

The uprights were much simpler than the manual indicated, primarily because I’d elected for the wide-track suspension and the up-rated 4-pot brake calipers which meant the hubs, brake caliper, brake disc, and upright were already all bolted together. As a single piece all I had to do was add a spacer to the upright mount on the lower wishbone ball joint and then bolt in the cycle wing stay. I torqued the special downturned nyloc nut on the bottom of the upright / lower wishbone to 55nm and left the rest loose for now.View of the upright

A front view that’s a bit better than the manual picture.

Front view of upright

And on that note, it’s time for an F1 race so I called it a day.



Build Day 5 – Differential & left suspension

It’s been an amazing few weeks! A two week trip to India for work, a weekend at the Taj Mahal, and a weekend at home on the couch with the flu accounted for a lengthy delay in getting anything done on the car but it was time well spent. The trip was amazing and the weekend on the couch, while not being ideal with the flu, was actually what I needed. I’d been running ragged the last couple months and I think my body just finally gave up; the flu was a blessing in disguise because it gave me the time to watch some Michigan football, put a fire in the fireplace, and eat pot roast from the slow cooker. It also gave me time to read a bit in the manual, read a couple more build blogs, and plan my attack on the diff.

A box from Caterham showed up this week too. Inside I found my missing lower left wishbone, fuel filler cover for the boot, and another spare wheel mounting boss. The wishbone has some metal slag loose inside the hollow tube, but you won’t hear it over the car, so am just moving ahead with it (although mildly miff’d they sent it from the factor like that). The spare wheel mounting kit I didn’t need – I need the wheel and tire – but there seems to be a disconnect somewhere at Caterham (understatement of the year if you’d read my earlier posts about the wrong car showing up). Anyway, they’ll get it sorted eventually, so sent an email back asking for the correct parts. The handbrake clevis wasn’t in the box either now that I think about it; will have to follow up with them on that too.

Saturday morning at 9am Adam showed up and we got to work on the diff. Mick said he was going to come by later that day and lo-and-behold he strolled in shortly thereafter. I put him to work on the front suspension while Adam and I tackled the diff.

The first thing we did for the diff install was fix my backwards handbrake cable. I realized last week I’d been thinking about it upside down when I ran it the first time. Easily fixed so not a big deal and you really have to get the adjustment knob in the right place for it to get into the diff holder properly.

Car ready for the diff

I was a little apprehensive about the diff. In some of the blog posts it goes in piece of cake… in others its a nightmare. Our experience was somewhere in between. We first started off with getting it into position by Adam lifting it up and then me sliding some long screwdrivers into the top mounting brackets to hold it. That worked fantastic. I snapped a quick picture of Adam under there aligning it for posterity.

Adam holding the diff

For alignment, we used a tape measure to the  outer side of the 1″ box anti-roll bar mounting point on each side (its the black box right over Adam’s head). We ended up with 17″ to each side which necessitated 3 washers on the right hand side of the lower mount and no washers on the left hand side of the lower mount. The long upper bolt received 4 washers on the right side and none on the left side. We were within 1/16″ on our measurements and were pretty happy it.

As I’d read about in other posts, the long top bolt was a pain in the ass. We chamfered down about 2mm of the threaded end of the bolt with a file and used a rubber mallet to pound it through. Having two people is a must – I couldn’t imagine trying to tackle it solo.

With the diff in we turned to the prop shaft and started to get it bolted to the diff. Only to find the prop shaft on the ground where we’d left it… and not in the transmission tunnel where it should have been. Uh oh…

Diff install

After trying any number of other approaches to get the prop shaft into position we realized we were going to have to take the diff out to get it in. Son of a… sigh. I’ll skip the summary, but let me just say if you thought putting IN the diff was hard, you should really try taking one OUT. Holy shitballs Batman.

But in the end, with a lot of rubber malleting, prying, pushing, twisting, banging, and swearing, we got the prop shaft into place and the diff out then re-installed and aligned. I took a pic of everything in but it doesn’t do the effort justice. Only someone else who’s built a Caterham will understand I think.

Diff installed

Meanwhile of our diff shenanigans, Mick was busy up front working on the suspension. Using the right hand side of the car I’d already done as a guide, and following the directions from the manual, Mick was able to get the lower wishbone, upper wishbone, and damper installed. It wasn’t until we started torquing things down did I ask “Hey Mick, you put the bushing spacers into the damper upper and lower mounts, yeah?”. Mick’s reply is a classic, “What bushing spacers?”. I snapped a quick pic prior to disassembling the dampers since I knew I’d be getting anti-seize all over myself in about 30 seconds.

Suspension installed on both sides

At that point Adam had to head out so we bid him farewell and set about getting the bushings put in. The damper is pretty straightforward, but that top bolt is a pain to get to. It’s right up against the body work, the upper wishbone mount, and takes an Allen wrench to get in there so its a slow process. Couple that with a bunch of copper slip / anti-seize all over your fingers and its truly a joy.

Front suspension install

What I’m learning about building the car is to be successful and efficient you follow these steps:

  1. Read the manual.
  2. Fit parts.
  4. Read the manual again, word for word and check every single thing as you read it.
  5. Fix half the shit you did in step 2.
  6. Repeat steps 3 and 4.
  7. Now you tighten the bolts.
  8. Get another cup of coffee or beer before proceeding to the next step.



Build Day 4 – Engine stand and handbrake

It’s been two weeks since I’ve been able to get some time on the car due to work trips. The few times I’ve been home, I keep thinking that single headlight is staring at me in the same way a half completed monster would fondly gaze at Victor Frankenstein in the hope it would be completed. But the suspension still is not here yet and I’ve got no word from Jon at Caterham USA on when it will arrive.

In the meantime, I’ve got an engine stand I picked up at Harbor Freight for $50 to assemble and can’t think of a reason not to tackle something simple to get myself going again. Assembly is easy; few bolts here and there and viola’, we now have an engine stand.

Engine stand

Once the engine stand was done, I started tinkering with the hand brake cables. Assembly was straight forward, although I’ve discovered I’m missing the thick clevis pin. When reading build blogs to figure out the headlights, I remembered seeing someone else missing theirs. I did a quick double check and sure enough – numerous other folks were missing theirs. Seems like an odd part to be missing, I mean, it’s just a metal dowel and can’t be that complicated to make. Another note – the clevis and some of the handbrake parts seem very sloppily made. They don’t quite line up, the thin clevis didn’t quite fit (rubber mallet solved that pretty easily), and in general just seemed… messy. But it seems to work, or will I should say, once the thick clevis pin gets here. I sent an email to Jon at Caterham letting him know I needed that as well. I also followed up on the suspension to get an ETA for those parts – it’s been almost 7 weeks and no closer to getting them than before.

Handbrake installed

A quick picture of the handbrake assembly loosely fit into the transmission tunnel and I called it a day. The diff will have to wait until I’ve got more hands and want to read up on it a bit more before I try to tackle it.



Build Day 3 – Headlights

I started the day being side tracked by a present from Mick. Lotus Seven & The Independents is a history book of sorts covering the origins of the Seven and all the clones since. I never knew there were so many out there! The book is done well; what started as a cursory flip through turned into a two cup of coffee delay in getting started.

New book

Prior to tackling the wiring I needed to make a Home Depot run for supplies. That turned into a trip to Ace Hardware too; Home Depot didn’t have all the heat shrink I thought I needed. The problem with going to either place is you find a bunch of stuff you “need” but don’t have. This trip was no different; I went in to get wire and heat shrink tubing but acquired a Vernier caliper, a metric and standard Allen key, some ring terminals, wire splices, extra 16ga wire, solder gun, solder, and heat shrink tubing of assorted sizes, none of which was entirely necessary.

Headlight supplies

Now armed with the right supplies I started tackling the lights. With the lens popped off and unplugged I did the following steps:

  1. I cut off the bullet connectors from the indicator pod red and brown wires
  2. Put some heat shrink on the wires (both wires together, think it was 1/8″ heat shrink)
  3. I then fed the heat shrink wrapped wires up through the base of the headlight housing
  4. Crimped and heat shrunk a ring terminal to the brown wire
  5. Attached the brown wire to the small screw / nut with the other black wires from the light
  6. Spliced the red wire to an extended length of new green wire (where my finger is, then heat shrunk it)
  7. Fed the now extended red / green wire back down the headlight housing, through the rubber grommet and down the plastic tubing that came with the light.
  8. Re-assembled the headlight lens and bulbs.

The light was now complete. Or so I think… no way to test it quite yet but from what I’ve read on other build blogs I believe it’s correct.

Headlight final wiring

Once the mounting was complete and the wiring sorted out I mounted it to the headlight stalk and fed the plastic tubing down the inside of the stalk. Note, the plastic wrap the factor sends is NOT heat shrink tubing. It will melt before it shrinks. Don’t ask how I know.

Getting it fed down the stalk is a bit of a challenge and you have to go slow with it. What seemed to work best is feed the wires down the stalk one at a time, then fold the plastic wrap into the shape of a U so its tight around the wires. Go a few millimeters at a time and with a little patience you’ll get it fed through with no problems.

Once the stalk was ready to go getting it mounted to the chassis was simple. I fed the wires through the hole in the upper wishbone mount using the same ‘fold-in-half-U-shaped-technique’, after putting the rubber grommet into place, then bolted in the headlight stalk with the upper wishbone bolt and nut. Fairly straight forward, just requires some patience is all.

Headlight mounted

Since the lower wishbone for the left hand side is missing I decided to stop there for the day to go ponder the differential install.



Build Day 2 – Headlights

After a few hours sleep I headed back down to the garage to regroup. Progress was much slower on Friday night than I’d hoped for; largely because it was a learning experience in many intangible ways. Or what I hope will be tangible as I go along. Finding bolts in the bolt packs is a little daunting at first, but as you do it more you start to look at it with much less uncertainty. Ironically enough, after a few hours I was picking out bolts and identifying them by size, ‘M8 x 25 cap head bolt’ and boom, there it is.

As I was getting organized to start the headlights, I noticed the GoPro was out of batteries – again! When I was working Friday night it would run dry after about an hour and a half. A little peeved, I broke out the drill and a 1/2″ drill bit and put a hole through the case. It wasn’t quite the right size, so broke out the dremel and opened it up a bit more and viola! I now have a hole for the power so I can just leave it plugged in all the time.

Modified GoPro case

With the GoPro problem solved, it was onto the headlights so I could attach them to the upper wishbones and get them bolted in. I’d read somewhere, I think maybe it was in the manual or might have been a build blog, that its much easier to get the wires run properly if they’re done at the same time as the upper wishbones.

And that’s where I hit my first really frustrating point. Before, when I was working the suspension, it was fairly straightforward. The couple missteps I had Friday were because I was trying to learn the manual, learn the build process, and kind of figure things out as I went. I’ve worked on cars for a few years and can confidently say taking things apart and putting them back together the same way is pretty easy; following a paragraph of descriptive ‘English’, finding bolts (which may or may not be missing), and a diagram which does NOT match your setup in any meaningful way fundamentally slows (or halts) forward progress. I lack patience. I’ll be the first to admit it. This process is not for those who lack patience – you will be frustrated and pissed off very quickly. But I’m learning; perhaps this build-a-car-thing will enable me to improve an important life skill?

Now that I’ve waxed poetic, time to get back to the headlights. First step was to get the turn indicators mounted into the rubber rings and get the lenses put back on.

Red and brown

Once I got the indicator together I noticed the metal rings weren’t black as they should be. A quick search online revealed they should be; will have to address that with some black spray paint at some point.

Wrong rings

After reading through the instructions a few times I couldn’t make heads or tails of the indicator wiring. I got the indicator mounted to the headlight housing easily enough, but the wiring on the indicator has bullet connectors on it while the manual says the black wire, which doesn’t exist as I’ve got just a red and brown wire, should connect to the headlight housing via a ring terminal and the red wire should go to the wiring harness with the other wires. I’ll have to table that for a bit until I can figure it out.

Since the headlight was on hold I went ahead and tackled the damper install. It was straightforward; essentially you pull out the bolt that comes shipped in the upper chassis mount and the one shipped in the lower wishbone. The upper one can be a bit of a pain in the ass. The body frame and aluminum sheet metal make for tight clearances and its hard getting an allen wrench in there. A little patience and finger work to get it out. Once out, insert the bushings in the upper and lower damper mount, along with a healthy dose of anti-sieze, and then assemble. A quick torque to 20nm and you’re done. Just don’t forget to torque down the upper wishbone first… you can’t get to the bolt once you get the damper in. I know from experience.

Damper install

With that done I called it a day to go figure out the headlight wiring.



Build Day 1 – Steering rack

With Kim gone for the day, and me being between work trips, I decided to take a couple hours off from work in the afternoon to finally get some time in the garage. My goal for the day was what I now know to be … overly optimistic. I went into it thinking I’d get through the steering rack and front suspension on the first day, the manual looked to be so simple, just bolt this bolt that, and you’re good. Well… it’s not quite that simple.

To start the day off I snapped a couple pictures in her pristine state. She’ll never not have parts on her after today. Sentimental… or just mental… I don’t know.

Starting block

First step of the day was to cover the front in tape to protect it from scratches. Picking up the roll of blue painters tape I got to work. And when I was done, I realized I may have been a bit overzealous. I hit every nook and cranny with the tape. I did not, however, put tape through the edges of the cut suspension and steering rack holes because I was worried I wouldn’t get it back out and end up with remnants of blue tape on the car forever. Knowing what I know now I would have double or triple coated it. Wrenches have a habit of scratching anywhere you don’t have tape as if by magic.

Lots of blue tape

The second build tip would be to wrap the bonnet catches with foam and tape. I didn’t at first and the second time I bumped into them simply said that wasn’t going to do. Last thing I need is to scratch this thing up before I even get it on the road.

Padding and tape on the bonnet latches

With the tape and foam in place, I moved onto the first real part – the steering rack. After staring at the manual for a few minutes trying to make heads or tails of the orientation, I slid it into place. But something didn’t look right. The little green rubber nub on the steering rack was in the right spot, but it didn’t line up with the steering box. I was under the assumption that those should line up. Had I put it on upside down or something stupid? So I pulled the manual page out and cocking my head left and right, up and down, it suddenly dawned on me the manual was written for a British right-hand drive car. The manual I had was not the US version, but the British one. So I pulled it out, flipped it around and sure enough, everything lined up as I expected. First learning moment complete – anything that’s oriented towards the drivers side needs to be reversed.

Steering rack

Once the rack was in place (which took all of about 30 minutes to do something so simple) I had to find the steering rack clamps, bolts, and washers. After a little digging around, and by little I mean 30 minutes of searching in every damn box I had, I finally found the polythene bag marked suspension in the very last one. Pulled out the clamps, found the necessary bolt pack after a much quicker search, then through process of elimination found the right bolts and washers. Loosely clamped the rack in place and attached the track rod ends.

End of day 1

After getting that done I decided it was time for organizing the bolt packs a bit better so set off to do that but was quickly interrupted when the phone started ringing off the hook. Apparently there was some new computer vulnerability, something to do with the bash shell, and mass chaos was about to ensue on the internet. So with a sigh of resignation, I flipped off the light, trudged upstairs, and went to work.

A few hours later, with the company’s response to the Bash ‘Shellshock’ vulnerability under control, I wandered back down to the garage. It was late, close to 10pm, but wanted to hit my goal of getting the front suspension on during build day 1. After skimming the manual a bit as a refresher, I’d already read it several times to let things sink in, I started gathering up the parts I needed from the boxes and set to work. It was during my haste that I interpreted LWR to indicate ‘left side’… which it most certainly does not. So with the lower wishbone in hand I began attaching it to the left hand side of the car. I can assure you the wishbones do indeed fit on the wrong sides of the car. It wasn’t until I was doing a double check for the missing left-hand lower wishbone that I realized the mistake. So … next step was to remove the right lower wishbone from the left side of the car and remount it properly on the ‘right’ side of the car (yuk, yuk, yuk).

Lower wishbone

A couple things I learned while getting the lower wishbone into place:

  1. A flathead screwdriver and rubber mallet are your friends. The fitment was a bit tight and took several good whacks of the mallet to push the washers into the respective alignment to allow the bolts through.
  2. Wide track suspension needs 4 washers together on the rear lower wishbone mount rather than the 2 + 2; this is not indicated in the diagram. At first I was reading the manual PDF on my iPad directly going solely on the diagrams which is a mistake. Going directly on the iPad kinda works, but makes it difficult to use when you have anti-seize goop on your fingers.
  3. There are numerous spots in the manual where the diagram indicates the ‘normal’ way to do something, but on a later page you’ll find a statement that usually starts with “If you’re using the optional…” which changes how you did the previous step(s). The solution that I found to work best is to print off all the pages, then with a pencil (or sharpee or pen or whatever) cross out the sections which won’t apply to your build. It’s kind of like a choose your own adventure novel. Which in a way I guess this car is now.

Upper wishbone

Once I had the lower and upper wishbones on loosely I peeked at the clock and realized I’d been down in the garage for 3 hours and it was after 1am. I finished off my Allagash, shut down the GoPro for the time lapse pictures, and decided to call it a night.

Beer and GoPro



On the stands

Tonight Chris and Jimmy came over to help get the car moved. With two of us in the back and one up front we got it lifted off the crate and onto jack stands. I had some extra microfiber rags and placed those between the chassis and the jack stands to protect the chassis from being scratched. After getting it moved, we bullshitted in the garage a bit, liberated a couple beers from the fridge, and wrapped up the night with not much more progress than that.

Green chassis sitting empty


Completed the parts inventory

Tonight after going out for some La Parilla, Kim and I finished the parts inventory from the manual (using latest I could download from Caterham, Nov 2013) and emailed Jon at Caterham USA about what’s missing and my questions.

Here’s what it looks like I’m missing and/or need clarification on:

  • Spare wheel w/ associated fasteners, center caps, center cap badges, etc.
  • Gearbox fastener pack ZGB14 says its for a K-Series engine; I’ll be using the Duratec engine so not sure if this is the right fastener pack or not.
  • Driveshaft nyloc nuts – I see two nyloc nuts on there but both are white and the manual says one white and one green. Asked Jon about what I should have.
  • Fastener pack for the suspension in the manual is 30R012A, I got 30R012C. I’m assuming its correct but didn’t match the manual so wanted to ask.
  • Missing lower wishbone left hand side, wide track. Of all the things I’m missing this one is the most important as it’s one of the first things that goes on.
  • There’s no SVA bag; I’m assuming there is nothing in there I need since I’m not in the UK but wanted to validate.
  • I’ve got an extra bag of random parts – aero whiskers, clutch line, screws, washers, nuts – and think it might be Simon’s (the owner of the red Superlight I got by accident) because I found a bottle of red touch up paint in the bag with his build number on it. I’ve got his address (from the side of the box) and can send it his way. Similarly, I think he’s got mine as I’m missing the fuel filler cover, wiper blades, wiper arms, transmission tunnel cover, IVA trim, velcro strips, green touch up paint, fastener packs 30P106A, ZCH, and ZWE – essentially everything from page 43 of the manual that was shipped loose in the car.
  • I’ve got a ton of Ford parts with no parts manifest. I asked Jon if Caterham has one so I can inventory those boxes. The big things I can think of are in there, but wanted to see what I should have because I’m sure there’s a million little nuts, bolts, random bits I’ll need.

Overall, the inventory task wasn’t too bad. Things were together in boxes by function, i.e. suspension, engine, lighting, weather gear, etc. and Kim was down there helping me so went pretty quick – with both of us I think we knocked it out in about 2 hours. The problem was the manual was pretty spotty on the polythene bags – it just says “suspension polythene bag” and you take it at face value the polythene bag has what you need. I’ve got to see if Caterham has a parts database for every part number – that’d be really helpful. And no parts inventory for the engine; it’s like a big black hole mystery right now what the heck I need to do with that thing and all the ancillaries but will cross that gap when I get there.



Finally… delivery!

After getting the shipping confusion straightened out with USF Holland and New Penn Freight, it was determined the crate would be delivered Thursday the 28th between 4 and 6pm. Which explains why at 11am a USF Holland truck pulled up in front of the house. I went outside and talked the driver and told him he was early by about 5 hours and we could do the delivery now, however, I was about worthless since I couldn’t lift more than 10 pounds because of my surgery this past weekend. He said no sweat, let’s do it, so to work we went.

A truck with a lift gate

First step was to get it onto the lift gate; no issues encountered but that was the first time I noticed the holes. It looks like someone put a forklift through the end of it. One hole was wide open, the other merely cracked open, so my guess was the tongs on the forklift didn’t go all the way into the crate and hit the chassis. Either way, it still made me shake my head… nothing simple or easy.

Two holes

Next step was to get it down the driveway. For that we put it on the pallet jack, let it slide its way down, and gravity did the work. No drama there either. We then spun it around, picked up one side with the pallet jack, and pushed it into the garage. And she was home.

The crate is home

With the crate in it was back to work for a few more hours. The holes had me wondering all afternoon, but was busy with work and knew I wouldn’t have time to get it checked until later.

Mick, Carol, Jimmy, Kim, and Bob showed up around 6 and we proceeded to open the crate up. I was pretty sure I’d have a green chassis, but the big question now was any damage that might be present. And those holes… still had me nervous.

After pulling off the top of the crate it was apparent the chassis was far enough away from the edge of the crate that the tongs from the forklift didn’t hit it. Whew. Felt much better after that mystery was solved. So … on to opening the crate.

With the big reveal complete, let’s look at some pictures! First, we have Mick being … Mick.


And we got me in the green one with a big grin.

Green and a smile

A shot of the dash. I should have gone with the carbon…

Should have gone carbon

And with that the green one was here; somewhat anti-climactic but I feel measurably better knowing she’s here safe and sound. Next step is to get it on jack stands and start the inventory process. I’m sure, based on other blogs I’ve read, there will be parts missing and the sooner I get those figured out the better. I’m ready to get this thing going!



Delivery confusion

I’m frustrated. I talked to Holland Freight Monday morning and confirmed they’d be here Tuesday afternoon between 4 and 6 pm to deliver the box. We even coordinated the time so I would have people here to help get it off the truck since a 13′ crate on a lift gate is difficult.

Then Monday afternoon around 2pm they tried to deliver it on a 53′ truck with no lift gate, no forklift, no pallet jack, and 1 guy. I asked him how he proposed to get 1000 lbs off the truck without any of those items. He had no answer and took the crate back to the depot so it could be delivered on Tuesday as planned.

A few minutes ago I called Holland Freight, to make sure we’re on for today between 4 and 6, and now they’re telling me it might get delivered on Thursday but can’t confirm because they weren’t paid for a lift-gate or residential delivery; talked to Caterham USA and they assured me it had been setup with lift gate and residential delivery. All the delivery trucks are out on their routes, my crate isn’t on one, so it will definitely not be coming today. So close… yet so far away.