Build Day 13 – E-brake and engine prep

I’ve been itching to get back to the engine for a few weeks but other commitments have kept me from doing so. Having the weekend relatively free, I coordinated with Adam for a few hours of his time so we could button things back up. In the interleaving weeks I’ve acquired the few bits preventing us from going further last time:

  • Gasket scraper
  • Razor blades
  • 41mm socket
  • Torque wrench capable of 270 NM
  • Ford TDC tools for a Ford Duratec engine (5mm camshaft shim and TDC pin)
  • Crankshaft bolt and thrust washer from Ford since they’re a one time use only item

After breakfast, Kim and I headed down to the basement to get things situated while we waited for Adam to arrive. Since he was held up with traffic on the expressway (at 9am on a Sunday, its Atlanta, go figure) I started with getting the e-brake cables attached to the rear calipers. In my head this was a relatively straightforward process but it turned out to be anything but.

To start with, I backed off the white adjustment knob attached to the e-brake cable mounted on the diff to give me more slack to attach the end of the cable to the caliper. Despite giving it a good amount of slack, the square end of the e-brake cable just would not attach to the clip on the caliper. Gave it even more slack and still no go.

Huffing and puffing, I pried, pushed, swore, bribed, cajoled, and generally cursed the design of this thing until finally I just gave up in frustration. After a short trip to the toolbox and returning with a set of big adustable pliers, needlenose, screwdrivers, some sockets, and a foul temper, I set about taking the spring off the caliper which was easy enough – just undo the one 8mm bolt and the spring will pop out. From there, it was relatively easy to get it attached. But then you have to get the spring re-attached and those things are under some serious tension. Pulling, pushing, prying, with the pliers and with Kim helping it finally slotted itself back into the retaining groove. One down.

Evil e-brake cable attachment

Right about then Adam showed up with Heather and Venice (wife & 18 month old daughter) so Kim excused herself to go chill with the girls while Adam and I tackled the other side of the car. I explained to Adam what I’d done on the right side, and very emphatically explained what I thought about the design, and after a couple minutes looking at it we agreed we’d just pop off the spring like I’d done on the other side. After doing that we still couldn’t quite get it to attach. About this time I suddenly realized I could just undo the handbrake from the chassis and get even more slack. After doing that it popped right on, no issues. For whatever reason getting the spring back on was much simpler on the left side too. Then we re-attached the handbrake to the chassis. I think that was the 4th time I’ve taken it off and put it back on during the build (so far).

With that done we set about putting the hub nuts on since I’d acquired the 41mm socket we needed and the larger torque wrench. And we hit another WTF moment quickly thereafter. The 41mm socket fit the left side of the car perfectly, but wouldn’t fit over the hub nut on the right side. Perplexed I pulled out the Vernier caliper and measured 41.3mm rather than the 41mm we needed for the socket. It was literally just that tiny bit too big. Sighing in frustration we agreed I’d go to Sears after lunch and get a 1 5/8″ socket which was just slightly bigger than the 41mm the manual calls for. Ironically, I’d been to Sears just yesterday to get the 1/2″ to 3/4″ adapter we’d need for the larger torque wrench to attach to the 41mm socket and happened to notice they had a 1 5/8″ socket on the shelf. With the back end on hold again we switched off to focus on the engine.

Last time we’d left the engine broken down with oil pan removed, camshaft timing sprockets un-attached, and valve cover off. I’d ordered the TDC tools we needed from Amazon, Lisle 37410 Camshaft Alignment Kit for $26, and they worked as advertised. We put in the camshaft shim and TDC pin then took off the timing cover as the Haynes manual instructed.

Timing cover off and camshafts in

We adjusted the tensioner, put the timing sprocket on the camshaft, then set about cleaning off all the mating surfaces. I couldn’t find the razor blades so made due with the scraper I’d bought at Sears and some plastic scrapers I had in the drawer. After a bit of cleaning we re-attached the timing cover, being careful to tighten in sequence to 89 inch-lb for the small bolts and 13 ft-lb for the large ones.

With the timing cover and timing sprockets back into place we tightened up the camshafts to 53 ft-lbs. At this point we moved to the oil pan and finished torquing it down since I’d only loosely put the bolts on prior.

Once the oil pan was ready, we applied the black high-temp gasket sealant in the right shape then attached to the bottom of the engine. It seemed easier to come from bottom up rather than top down to keep the metal/rubber O-rings from moving around on us. We attached with the bolts provided and torqued to 18 ft-lbs for the oil pan to crankcase and 89 in-lbs for the timing cover to oil pan bolts. Note, there were not bolts provided for the timing cover to oil pan so we re-used the ones we’d removed from the engine. Also, two of the provided bolts stripped out on us. We re-used two of the previous bolts from the stock oil pan with no issues in lieu of those.

Oil pan on

Timing cover and oil pan on

With the bottom done up, we moved on to the spark plugs. These were torqued down to 108 in-lbs. I couldn’t find any from Caterham so we re-used those that came with the engine. It’s a new crate engine so figure they’re fine otherwise I’d have purchased some new ones.

The valve cover was then re-attached and torqued to 89 in-lbs.

Coil packs, new from Caterham, were then installed over the spark plugs and torqued down to 89 in-lbs. There wasn’t a spec in the Haynes manual but since most of the other similar size sockets were 89 in-lbs it was a safe bet.

Valve cover and coil packs on

With the engine buttoned up we called it a day. The girls were hungry and I was in a state of being overwhelmed. While digging through the box of engine parts from Caterham I realized just how much more reading I needed to do before tackling everything and wasn’t ready to move ahead.

My closing thought of the day is I really, really, REALLY hope we did the engine right. I’d hate to get this thing in the car, blow it up, or have to take it back out because we’d not assembled something right. It’s quite disconcerting.



Build Day 12 – Rear suspension

Not being too terribly hung over for a New Year’s Day, Adam came over to help on the car for a bit. Since the engine stuff was on hold we decided to start the day attaching the dampers, radius arms, and Watts links. I’d already built out the Watts links prior, one of them backwards, so saved us a little time but then also wasted some when we realized one was right and one was wrong. Of course we didn’t realize one was wrong until it was on the car and that the other was correct until I’d taken it apart again. Remember back to when I commented about Band of Brothers being distracting…

Radius arm and watts link


Next up was getting the rear anti-roll bar (RARB) assembled and into place. First thing to do is get the orange bushes stretched over the corners of the bar. They are tight! Holy crap tight! After pulling on them a bit with no luck, we then moved to soaking them in hot water with some dish soap added. They seemed to be a lot more pliable after, and a few squirts of Dawn along with a screwdriver prying them from underneath got them around the corners and into place. It was as tough as I’d read about in other blogs; just take it slow and apply lots of dish soap and you’re good to go (we had no rubber lubricant).

Rear ARB


When installing the RARB, make sure to install them with the arms facing down. It takes a bit of maneuvering, but if you don’t you’ll end up with them blocked by the calipers. Thankfully we’d just test fitted the caliper and popped it right off.

Oops, arms blocked


This is what you want.


We also used a hydraulic jack and a hockey puck to lift up the DeDion tube when we needed to align things. It seemed to work out ok to get clearance from the chassis on a couple occasions.

Next up was the A frame attachment. This went pretty smooth, except we left out the plastic washers in the back since we couldn’t find them. Of course we found them after the fact and went back and installed them properly. You have to centralize the A frame in the suspension; ours took 3 thick washers on one side, 4 on the other, similar to the diff install. It’s not too horrible to do, but like the diff, you’ll be adding and subtracting washers several times. An extra set of hands was key to getting it done simply.

Right side washers


Right side washers


With the suspension largely in place we moved to the brake discs, pads, and calipers. Right side caliper and disc


Adam installing the pads on the left side.

Adam installing left side pads

Once complete we were at a stopping point. I didn’t have the 41mm socket or a torque wrench capable of the 270 NM we needed to hit so just called it a day and got lunch. Before we left we put on some wheels just to see what it looked like… technically we have a roller (kinda).


Roller from the back

Lots of good progress today. Once the engine bits I need get here I think things will move pretty quickly.



Build Day 11 – DeDion tube, drive shafts, and oil pan assembly

I didn’t have a whole lot of time today so set about getting the rear suspension started. As I was starting the radius arms and Watts links Kim came down and snapped a picture of me. Having the TV hooked up to the computer is both good and bad – I can blow up diagrams and instructions if I need to, but also distract myself with Band of Brothers streamed from Amazon Prime fairly regularly.


Since Kim was around, I switched off to the drive shafts and De-Dion tube. I climbed underneath the car and had her pass the DeDion to me from the right side. I also wrapped the chassis tubes with some rags to protect the paint; good thing I did. Then inserted the drive shafts; right and left sides.

Drive shaft and DeDion tube right side

Drive shaft and DeDion tube left side

The drive shafts slotted in with no trouble, but noticed a 5mm or so gap between what I thought was the seal and the shaft. This seemed odd to me so gave it a wallop with the rubber mallet a couple times. They didn’t budge and seemed like they were in ok. Off to the computer to research other build blogs.

Drive shaft gap

Having solved the drive shaft mystery (yes, its normal for a gap to be there based on the other build blogs) I went ahead and started on the oil pan.

The oil pan is interesting. First of all, it’s a Raceline oil pan made for Caterham that’s thick and heavy enough to withstand a nuclear blast. Second, there’s no instructions on how to assemble it. Thankfully, Dave had put together a good overview on his blog and the steps to do so are pretty straight forward. In the event his blog ever disappears, I’m recreating the step-by-step here with some pictures.

  1. Two rubber O-rings on the L shaped pipe. You’ll know which two they are.
  2. Two rubber O-rings on the little metal O ring. Again, you’ll know which two they are.
    Metal O-ring with rubber O-rings
  3. Add screws and spacers to the baffle plate. Secure with nyloc nuts. I torqued until tight then a little bit extra.Baffle plate assembled
  4. Screw the L shaped pipe into the bottom of the pan in the center with some red loctite. There’s only one screw that fits so this is straight forward. Put the plastic clip down over the pipe, again there’s only one way it fits.L tube into pan with plastic spacer
  5. Put the mesh filter in through the hole in the side and secure with the blue cap. Note the metal O-ring and the rubber O-ring.Mesh and blue cap
  6. Put the hose attachment in on the 45 degree hole in the side. I secured mine with a bit of teflon tape. Torque until tight… then a little bit.
  7. Lastly, attach the dozen or so screws to the top with some red loctite. Torque until tight… then a bit more.
  8. The cheese wedge piece of metal gets screwed to the engine oil pickup with the rubber O-ring situated in the grooved ring. Use a little grease to hold it tight.
  9. The metal O-ring with the two rubber O-rings attached gets added to the indent in the oil pan. Use some grease to hold it steady. Note, we attached our oil pan from the bottom up rather than the top down to keep things sitting where they should be and not having to risk that O-ring not sitting right.

With the oil pan loosely assembled I called it quits for the day. I got where I needed to and was pressed for time anyway.



Build Day 10 – Rollover bar & engine prep

With Kim out of town and a rainy Sunday before me, I set about to get the rear suspension started and with the help of Keith and Adam start hashing through the engine prep. I knew from reading Dave’s blog posts, discussions with Jon at Caterham USA a year ago when I bought the engine, and from skimming the manual there were a number of bits which would need to be addressed prior to putting the engine in. I also knew there was no manual for what needed to be done – all I got from Caterham was a box of parts without so much as a parts manifest – so this was largely going to be a learn-as-you-go process. Thankfully I’d enlisted a couple friends who knew what they were doing.

To start the day out while I waited for Keith and Adam, I went ahead and put down two layers of blue painters tape over the rear chassis members as the build manual advised. I then pulled the two dust covers and drive flanges out of the diff using a flat bladed screwdriver to pry them loose. With a little wiggling they popped out pretty easily although they got a little mangled in the process – they’re going in the trash, or maybe becoming book-ends on the bookshelf, so didn’t care too much.

Dust covers out and mangled

View inside the diff.

Inside the diff

From underneath.

View of the diff with the flanges out

With those out, I finished up the pop rivets on the DeDion tube to hold the rigid brake lines in place. I had missed one of the P clips earlier and had to source new rivets from Home Depot. I couldn’t remember the exact depth, but I know they’re 1/8″ rivets. I had steel and aluminum rivets in the pack so went with aluminum since there’s a lot of aluminum in the car. Good scientific approach right…

Rivets done

View of the DeDion tube with the brake lines attached and the 3-way junction in place.

DeDion tube with rigid lines attached

About that time Adam showed up and we set about bolting in the track day rollover bar. The rollover bar has to be secured prior to the rear dampers going in since they obscure the bolts coming up through the bottom of the chassis.

Rollover bar bolt blocked by damper install

Nothing major to report on this one – six bolts, some washers / spring washers as the manual specifies, and you’re done. The rollover bar didn’t quite line up to the rear mount points, but by keeping things loose and applying some pushing, pulling, and swearing, the bolts went in with a minimal amount of fuss. I was surprised at how far the track version of the rollover bar leans forward into the cockpit. The standard version goes up straight, or nearly so, and the track rollover bar leans forward a good 20 degrees.

Track day rollover bar

We then debated what our next step should be. I wanted to use Adam and Keith’s time wisely so we opted to tackle the engine prep before going further with the suspension. I can handle the suspension solo whereas they were the resident engine experts and wasn’t sure when they’d be available again.

First step was to get the engine unwrapped and off the crate, where its been sitting for a year, and onto the stand.

Engine in the crate


Engine unwrapped

To do that we started with attaching it to the lift, but quickly realized the arm on the lift didn’t quite have the clearance we needed to get around the crate. With a little creativity we got it bolted on and slowly lifted it up until it swung free without bumping into the Exige. On second thought I probably should have moved it to be safe, but no harm no foul.

Attaching the hoist

Exhaust side of the engine

Intake side of the engine

Next up was getting the stand attached to the engine. This was a bit of an issue as we didn’t have any bolts readily available. After scouring the miscellaneous z-packs we settled on some M10 bolts scrounged from the suspension bag. They fit ok and gave us about 5-6 threads of depth. We got 3 bolts in but had to remove the 4th bolt when we got to the oil pan removal. I’ll source some better bolts tomorrow from Home Depot and swap them out.

Once on the stand we started pulling stuff off. The engine I’d ordered was fully dressed so all the component parts needed to be removed. Taking those parts off, to me, was somewhat helpful. I’ve done lots of car “stuff” before with my 350Z and on the Lotus’ but had never delved into the mysteries of engine internals. After today I feel a little better about it – it’s all pretty straight forward actually.

There’s no manual or instructions per say, but I did get the Haynes online manual for the 2008+ Ford Focus so we’d have the torque specs as necessary for the Ford Duratec 2L engine. From talking with Jon at Caterham USA back when I ordered the engine I knew the intake came has to be swapped so it can use the single pin intake came instead of the multipin setup on later Duratec engines.

Single vs multipin camshaft

Here’s the list of steps we took to get it disassembled and swapped.

  1. Take off wiring loom and coil packs.Take off the coil pack and wiring loom
  2. Drain oil. Didn’t do that at first because we didn’t realize it shipped with some fluid in it; big mess ensues.Drain all fluids
  3. Remove intake manifold.Remove intake manifold
  4. Remove fuel rail.Remove fuel rail
  5. Remove valve cover and spark plugs.Remove valve cover
  6. Remove timing cover (maybe).
  7. Remove water pump.
  8. Make sure you’re at top-dead-center (TDC). Refer to the Haynes manual for proper steps and orientation.
  9. Take off the bolts holding the timing sprockets and bearing caps.
  10. Pull out camshaft (intake).Camshaft removed
  11. Lube the camshaft journals with moly lube.
  12. Put in new camshaft and align with the camshaft locking tool.New camshaft in
  13. Lube bearing caps with moly.
  14. Tighten hand tight, inside bearing caps to outside in the order 5-3-1-2-4.
  15. Tighten to 62 inch pounds, same order as above.
  16. Tighten to 144 inch pounds.
  17. Re-attach timing sprockets.

And that’s where we ran into issues. The timing sprocket just wouldn’t get back onto the camshafts due to tension. We were trying to avoid taking off the timing cover and all it ensued, but no luck. Since I didn’t have a bearing puller or a way to get the crankshaft pulley off, decided to halt there and move onto the oil pan removal.

Taking off the oil pan was pretty easy. Loosen the dozen or so bolts from the oil pan then use a screwdriver in the slot, located in one of the corners, to pry up the pan and break the seal around the gasket. Be prepared with a towel or something underneath. We weren’t and a mess ensued (again).

Oil pan removed

I didn’t have any instructions to assemble the oil pan from Caterham, but did find a good write-up on Dave’s blog at We were already well into a 7 hour day at this point so called it quits until later this week. I pulled a large trash bag over the engine to keep debris off it since it’s all opened up until then.



Build Day 9 – Steering rack (again), handbrake (again), and uprights (again)

After two weeks of waiting I was starting to wonder where the heck my wide-track steering rack was and figured I’d give it another day before bugging Derek about it. On Tuesday, when I got home there was a small white box in the mail with Caterham printed on it. This must be the clevis pin I was missing so opened it up and out popped a little baggie with the pin and some odd looking metal hexagon nuts.

Clevis pin and steering rack extensions


I had a hunch what they were and after doing some Googling it turns out I was right. Caterham doesn’t supply a different rack anymore, just some extensions which thread into the normal S3 steering rack… which I’d already taken out of the car thinking I needed a whole new rack. I discarded those onto the workbench until I had more time to deal with it – it wasn’t going to be a quick job.

Fast forward to today, Saturday the 13th. First up is to put the steering rack back in and attach the extensions. Since this was the 3rd time installing the rack (first backwards on day 1, then in correctly on day 1, now in again day 9) it went in with no issues. Attached the upright (again) and then threaded the extensions into place as pictured.

Tie rod extensions

Steering rack extensions


Steering rack full frontal.

Full frontal


Next up was to bend the brake lines for the DeDion tube. Everything aligned pretty good, except for the right hand side rigid line. I procured a line bender from Home Depot for $30 and it worked great. I was a little nervous about doing the bending since I’d never worked with rigid brake lines before, and didn’t want to mess it up and have to deal with the delay in getting another, but first try it went perfect. Whew.

Bending brake line


With the line bent I went about riveting it in place. All was going well until I hit the last P clip, or rather, didn’t hit the P clip. I missed one of the holes and the clip wasn’t attached all the way. Easy enough to fix, just drilled it out slowly with a 1/8″ drill bit (same size as the rivet) but didn’t have any spares. That will have to wait until I can get to Home Depot to procure more. In the meantime, I snapped a bunch of pictures of the DeDion tube as its assembled on the bench.

DeDion tube assembled


Close up of caliper.


Close up of caliper


3-way junction.


3-way junction


Since the front end was mostly together and I was making good time I went ahead and tackled the front anti-roll bar (ARB). Following the manual, I put red loctite on the plastic balls and screwed them onto the ends bar after getting the blue bushings pushed on. These were fairly easy to do; a little dish soap and warm water and they slid right on.

Front ARB assembled


With the ARB assembled I enlisted Kim to help get it the plastic balls pushed into the metal sockets on the suspension A-arms. A lot of bending, pushing, grease, and cursing got it into place. The rubber cups were then slid over the grooves and secured with zip ties. Front suspension now complete except for torquing down the wing stays.

Front suspension mostly done


Feeling pretty good with where things were I went ahead and tightened up the brake lines and routed them to the hard lines. Washers, shake washers, etc. all done (and triple checked) according to the manual.

Right side brake line


Inside brake line, right side


Left side brake line


Inside brake line, left side


Feeling pretty good with things, I kept going. Last item of the day was to address the missing clevis pin on the handbrake. I cut the zip tie, pulled out the handbrake from the chassis, attached, and put the pin into place with the wire pin. And with that, we had the first functioning part of the car and a very successful day! You need one of those every now and then when working on the Caterham to keep your sanity…




Build Day 8 – DeDion tube and front suspension

Jimmy had a few hours to spare so he popped over for a bit and we figured we’d take a go at the DeDion tube and getting it prepped. Prior to that though, since I had an extra set of hands, I thought we’d take a go at finishing up the front suspension and the left upright.

Starting out things went quite quick. Having done the right side before I knew what went where and in a few minutes we had the left upright on with the caliper and wing stay. And that’s where things went off the rails. As we attached the steering rack we noticed it wouldn’t quite line up. So we pulled on it, and pulled on it, and finally got the upright to attach but when we looked at the front of the car it was apparent something was wrong. Both brake calipers and discs, and thereby the wheels should they had been on the car, were toe in at 45 degrees!! We both scratched our a head a bit, ran through the manual again, and then deduced we’d done everything right. WTF?

Taking a step back we looked at it and realized it appeared the steering rack was too short. Knowing I had a wide-track suspension I wondered if maybe there was a special rack I didn’t get? We hopped on the Caterham website, looked up the parts, and sure enough I’ve got the wrong steering rack. We were effectively stopped at that point – would have to e-mail Caterham on Monday to send the right one. Knowing a new rack was needed we took out the rack that was in there, which involved loosening up all the suspension bits I’d already put on the right side because the steering shaft nub wouldn’t go out the hole in the chassis. With some finagling we got it out without scratching anything but it was a tight fit – now I know why they say attach the rack first in the manual. I used a zip tie to secure the left upright in the meantime – it kept wanting to spin back against the body.

45 degree toe in

Next up was the DeDion tube. This went together pretty easily on the bench. The manual (surprisingly) does a decent job of explaining everything and the schematics in the manual were right on. After a quick pic Jimmy had to leave and I went off in search of a beer and a nap.

Jimmy and DeDion



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.