Two Lanterns

For some reason I’m reminded of Paul Revere’s famous quote “one if by land, two if by sea”. It’s meaning should be obvious… the car is on the boat! The ‘STUTTGART EXPRESS’ left Southampton on June 23rd, bound for Antwerp, Bremerhaven, and Le Havre in Europe before a 12 day journey across the Atlantic to Veracruz and Altamira Mexico, then a 1 day jaunt to Houston for unloading. From there it’ll be a truck or train to Caterham USA in Denver, and then, finally, a truck to Atlanta.

Shipping stops for Stuttgart Express

Its been just under a year, I ordered on August 27th, 2013, but seems like just yesterday. Well… maybe not yesterday. More like last month. But certainly doesn’t feel like last year. Lately I’ve been asking myself “what should I be doing?”. I mean, right after I ordered it was like feverish activity – download the manual, work on strengthening my back so I can actually build this thing, get the garage done, put up insulation, put up drywall, paint, get cabinets, get flooring, get tools, read about actually building a car, read the manual (at least twice)… it was like non-stop neverending … stuff. But now, the garage is mostly done, I’m kind of like ok… what next… but haven’t got it cracked. I mean, maybe do some painting… I guess. It’s kind of funny – I was this whirling dervish of activity but now I want to say I’ve settled into my stride… its just about enjoying it, rather than “zomg I gotta get shit done!”.

But I still stalk this thing via the ASIS marine GPS systems on the internet. :)



Walls up

Got home from work tonight to find a lot of work had been done by the contractor today. Got the wall covering the storage area done, got the first bit of drywall up, and the electrical is mostly done.  It’s coming together. And looks completely different with the drywall up; it looks almost like a room rather than a place to store dead zombies.


Post-Thanksgiving Update

Today’s a lazy post-Thanksgiving Saturday – turkey left overs & the Michigan / Ohio State game on the TV. Haven’t got the TV in the garage hooked up yet so rather than spend time on insulation and drywalling I’ve been doing some research on the ipad reclined on the couch; watching youtube vids of Ford Duratec builds, reading threads on, and searching ebay looking for a motor. Lots of progress:

  • Logged into and my profile was granted access to the owners manual, build manual, supplements, and price lists. I don’t think I mentioned it, but when I signed up several weeks ago it wanted me to provide owner information which I didn’t have. Someone at Caterham must have pushed a button which indicates I really do have a bunch of car parts being built and packaged over there (!!). Pulled down copies of the PDF’s; ver 05.2012 with 221 pages, and so far have been pretty impressed with it. Easy to follow directions, good pictures, and schematics for most of the major components. Feeling a little more comfortable with the “zomg I’m building a car” feeling.
  • Found an awesome black and white picture in the manual; copied and linked screenshot below.
  • Managed to locate a motor. There’s a used automotive parts distributor in Fairburn, about 30 miles south of me. Will have to find a weekday to head down there and see what they got in stock, but based on their ebay listings they’ve got a good supply of Ford 2.0L Duratecs with the right 8th digit VIN (“N”).
  • Pulled down a tool list off Copy and pasted into a Excel sheet – will need to go through the list this week and start acquiring tools. I know I’ve got most, but some things I don’t and will need to acquire (rivet gun, 200lb torque wrench, engine hoist, etc.). Good thing Christmas is coming up… (mom, hint, hint).
  • Got a reply from Jon at Caterham USA regarding the gearbox. I’d sent him an email on Friday trying to find out if they had gearboxes in the US already he could sell me since Caterham UK seemed to have them on back order. Unfortunately, I have to order through the UK apparatus, but the good news is they are always listed as being on back order on the Caterham UK parts website. Jon gave me the number for a contact there; will call the UK on Monday to get the gearbox ordered.

Unrelated news, I spent an hour and a half in my office this morning organizing a 5-year old stack of paperwork on my shelf and found my original Lotus invoices for the Elise and the Exige. Once I get the Caterham paperwork may need to frame all three and put them up somewhere.

Now the picture I mentioned above:


It’s a government project

Today I received the invoice for the build. Like renovating the kitchen in my old house, my last major project where I was over budget by almost double, I’m on par here too. I’m 25% over budget and haven’t purchased the motor or the gearbox yet. Which is understandable. If someone made you pick between the upgraded brakes, the limited slip differential, the wide track suspension, the wheels you want, or the paint color you’re absolutely in love with you’d probably just do the same thing I did. What’s that saying? For everything in life there’s Visa?


Mechanic’s Coveralls

It’s about 2am and I can’t stop reading build blogs looking for those little hidden nuggets of knowledge that will make this project successful. I’m starting to get nervous about this grand adventure – like any project, I’m already about ten grand over my budget. And I don’t even have anything tangible yet. But anything worth doing is worth doing the way you want it and of course I just have to be the first kid on my block with a car that’ll make grown men weep and women ask why in god’s name it doesn’t have an air conditioner, a radio, or a windshield.

Anyway, so I was reading these build blogs and found this one blog from a group of kids in the UK. Apparently they have some kind of charity project for high school kids to build a Caterham; that’s cool stuff. The build blog was scant on details, but what I found awesome in there was a picture of the coveralls the kids got – it had their name and the Super 7 logo embroidered on the breast pocket!

Like I said, I was searching for hidden gems… so yeah… I need to order some coveralls. :)


I have a manual … of sorts

I stumbled onto a blog site and managed to find an older copy of the Caterham build manual. It’s a decade old, so won’t match my revision, but reading it has been helpful to grasp the scale of this project. As I was reading through it kind of hit me … “holy shit, I’m building a car”. Like… holy shit. A little in awe, a lot worried I’m gonna break something important (read that as expensive), but ehhhh… it’ll all come together in the end. Putting this thing together isn’t a race… it’s more like an experience. So with that in mind, my goal isn’t just to build the car, but to document the experience of it.

I was talking to one of the guys I work with a couple days ago and he mentioned he’d love to be able to watch the project remotely as it all comes together so I needed to take lots of pictures. I promised him I would and I guess that’s kind of the point to the build blog. It transforms one man’s journey into a spectator sport comprised of 99% men. Kind of like car racing.

Sometime in October

Car is ordered and now … we wait. Patience is hard. I have none. I spend my idle time clearing out garbage from the garage, playing the stock market to buffer my cost overruns I know are coming, and googling “Caterham build blog” about twice a week. I’ve read most of them on the internet in some fashion.

Late at night, when I think everyone is asleep, I pull out my iPad and just stare at pictures of them. I’m turning into a narcissist.


Deposit is in!

Today is the day! I sent the check, receipt confirmed, and I’ve now got a deposit on a build slot in December 2013 with delivery sometime in early 2014. Final build is:

  • Ford 2.0L Duratec (~175 HP)
  • Limited slip differential
  • Standard S3 chassis
  • Ventilated front discs & quad piston calipers
  • 15” wheels / Avon CR500 tyres 7”f + 7”r including superlight suspension
  • Weather equipment & carbon interchangeable aeroscreen
  • Black Pack
  • Black aero filler cap
  • Spare wheel & carrier
  • Push button start
  • 12 volt power socket
  • Trackday rollover bar
  • Race harnesses

And then there’s the paint. Caterham F1 green with a yellow noseband and bonnet stripe. Looks kinda like this …

All-in-all I know I overspent. But I figure if you’re going to the trouble of actually building a car then by god I’m going to build the one I want!

The first time I saw a Caterham

When you talk to a guy he can always tell you the first time he saw the love of his life. He may deny it, but there’s an indelible visual memory etched somewhere in his brain he’ll never let go of. Usually they look back on that image with a sense of fondness when they think about her.

The first time I saw a Caterham was in May 2008 at a 350Z-centric track day. This low slung, flat grey pencil was bumping its way down the hot pits after coming in from the parade lap. It pains me to admit it, but at the time my first thought was one of disinterest. Here I was surrounded by all kinds of mod’d 350′s and this flat grey albatross was just one of the miscellaneous cars in the ‘other’ run group. It wasn’t sleek or sexy or turbo charged. It was just this striped down metal Twinkie one of the instructors rode on the weekends. It’s not like you’d actually commute or take a road trip in it; it had no heater, no air conditioning, no radio, no spare tire.

Holy shit was I naive.