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Learning how to build Lotus Seven replicas...together!
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2013 4:03 pm 
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Entry Number 1 - My name is Doug Altman and I live in mid-Michigan. I have been enamored by LBC’s (Little British Cars) since I was a teenager. I just sold my 1959 Austin-Healey Mark 1 “Bugeye” Sprite that I bought in pieces, restored to concours standards, and drove over the last 15 years so I was looking for a new project. The Lotus 7 has always intrigued me but the closest I would ever come to owning one would be to build one myself. Thus started my journey to build a Locost. About a year ago I purchased and read Gibbs, Tanner, and Brizendine, did extensive searches on this forum, and came to the conclusion I would build a “Book” frame to stay somewhat true to the original Lotus design, and would use a Mazda Miata as a donor. In May I built my build table and in July I bought the initial allotment of 1” and ¾” 16 gauge square tubing and ¾” round tubing from Alro Steel at a city nearby. I laid out the frame on the table, cut the steel using a cheap ($90) Ryobi compound miter saw, and tack welded it together with an acetylene/oxygen weld set I have had for years. Since I sold my wire welder a few years ago after finishing my Bugeye, and did not want the expense of purchasing a new welder (I was never able to become adept at welding anyway), I hired a local welder to finish weld the joints so I would be assured of a safe vehicle. As I was building the frame, I was keeping an eye on salvage sites, e-Bay, and Craig’s list for a cheap, suitable donor vehicle. One showed up on Craig’s list about 100 miles away that seemed to fit the requirements: a 1995 M5 with 165,000 miles which had just gotten a new clutch, timing belt, and brakes, for $2000. It ran great so I bought it and dollied it home. It seems such a shame to ruin such a nice looking car in very good shape, but over the past couple of weeks I have been tearing it apart, taking the time to label all the parts I remove from the car with the intention of selling those I don’t need to recoup some of the costs. Where I will sell them (other than Craig’s List or e-Bay) I do not know. Perhaps there is a Miata racing organization or group on line somewhere who might be interested. I started from the back and am working forward in the parts removal process. It won’t be long until I have the drive train out so I had to start thinking about engine placement to be able to design and fabricate the transmission/driveshaft tunnel on my frame. To ensure proper clearance during engine placement, I needed to locate the nosecone and scuttle. I will order these from Jack at Kinetics over the next few days. That is my progress to date so I thought it was time to start a build log on the forum as a help to others and to gain input and guidance from others on the forum as I progress. Below are pictures of the build table, frame to date, and the Miata donor. Thank you in advance to all those on the forum who have helped me to date and will no doubt be asked to help me in the future. Please be patient with me since I am sure I will be asking questions that have been asked multiple times in the past. I will try to do my best to search the forum for answers before asking my stupid questions. I will update my build log on a sporadic basis as time permits. “Bandana” Doug ….o~’o

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Last edited by Bandana on Fri Sep 20, 2013 8:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bandana's Build
PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2013 6:23 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jul 29, 2006 9:10 pm
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Location: Oregon, usually
Bandana wrote:
To ensure proper clearance during engine placement, I needed to locate the nosecone and scuttle.
Yep, you do. From your text and photo you seem pretty committed, so I'll get the 'glasser working on them. A Miata powerplant is a snug fit in a book frame, and very sensitive to sideways position. As I recall, if you put the engine in the exact middle, the throttle cam is the first thing that hits the hood.
Bandana wrote:
About a year ago I purchased and read Gibbs, Tanner, and Brizendine
An eclectic reading list indeed, but that's Doctor Brizendine to you! :)

[Edit: The joke's on me; I bet Bandana means Gary Brizendine, who is a British kit car writer. The Brizendine that came to my mind (that's The Male Brain for you) was Louann Brizendine, who specializes in gender-differentiated brain chemistry, and who could probably tell us why more guys than gals build Locosts.]

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 Post subject: Re: Bandana's Build
PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2013 8:47 pm 
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Good to see you here Doug. Pop up a couple of pics of your Bugeye so the folks here can drool a little. You built one of the best looking Bugeyes I've ever seen.

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 Post subject: Re: Bandana's Build
PostPosted: Sun Aug 25, 2013 8:15 am 
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Welcome Doug.

There is a long list of builders here who started out, or are still into LBC's. Some even used them as donors. I started coming from a 20 year full restoration of a'56 MGA. I have one or two parts that made the leap from my LBC spare parts bins into my Locost.

Keep us up to date.

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“Any suspension will work if you don’t let it.” - Colin Chapman

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 Post subject: Re: Bandana's Build
PostPosted: Sun Aug 25, 2013 9:57 am 
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Welcome! I hope you enjoy building your Locost as much as you enjoyed the Bugeye. One thing I think you might enjoy is this car will likely take less effort and yet you are starting from scratch.

You can also stay with the same era car and mount a Lola MK I inspired body that our member Jack McCornack is selling. Search for "Lalo" on this forum...

Have fun and share your pictures and thoughts as you go. :cheers:

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 Post subject: Re: Bandana's Build
PostPosted: Sun Aug 25, 2013 11:18 am 
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Joined: Tue Jan 31, 2012 12:49 pm
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Location: Raleigh-Durham NC
Greetings! I moved from Jackson a little over a year ago.

That you found a mostly rust-free and usable Miata in mid-Michigan was no small task -- not a ton of "foreign" cars and the salt on the roads make things a lot dirtier!

I'm building a Hayes build, and that has some files floating around the 'net to use Miata parts. IF you haven't seen that stuff, let me know -- might be something in there you can use.

-Geek49203, aka Tim


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 Post subject: Re: Bandana's Build
PostPosted: Sun Aug 25, 2013 3:28 pm 
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Entry Number 2 - Thanks to all for your offer of help. I will definitely ask. Yes, Gary Brizendine. As requested, below are some pics of my Bugeye. "Bandana" Doug ....o~'o


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 Post subject: Re: Bandana's Build
PostPosted: Sun Aug 25, 2013 4:03 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2010 5:39 pm
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Location: hopkinsville KY
http://s91.photobucket.com/user/hpbugey ... 2587400515
in the late 80’s I had a car that looked just like that, minus the perfect presentation. Then I found out that a man in town raced a bugeye sprite. So I met him and sold the 100% original bugeye to Charles Runion of the Roadster Factory who bought it for his son. I was then able to purchase a race prepped bugeye that would start me down the road of SCCA road racing. This little car brought me and my father closer together as he use to crew for two men who were racing a sprite in the 60’s. lots more to the story but here is some of what we got into.
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Book based build with miata drive train: viewtopic.php?f=35&t=11764

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 24, 2013 1:26 pm 
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Entry Number 3 - Somehow my pictures from my Entry Number 1 got deleted so I'll put them back on here. This also gives me a chance to update my Build Log. I received the nosepiece and scuttle from Jack at Kinetics and they look great. I have been thinking a lot lately about the front and rear control arms so I will probably order the fronts from Jack soon and talk to him about the design of the rears, since I am not using the rear sub-frame from the Miata. For the rears, I am leaning toward using the bushings off the donor arms to attach to the spindle and heavy duty clevises to attach to the frame. Hopefully I can design them so the coil-over shock can attach to the lower arm and still miss the axle and upper control arm. Does anybody have a design like this? I may even order the gas tank so as to make sure the rear end assembly, coil-overs, gas tank, and battery all fit. I have completed tearing down the Miata donor and have labeled, categorized, and stored the parts for possible future use or sale. Probably my next challenge will be to tear into the wiring harness to eliminate everything I don't need. So, if anyone has some detail about how to approach this task, I would appreciate it. Thanks for watching. "Bandana" Doug ....o~'o

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 24, 2013 3:44 pm 
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I've got a 280Z "stored" on shelves just like yours. I can tell you from experience 1) you can never find the piece you want and 2) things fall off those shelves very easily. :oops:

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2013 6:27 pm 
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Below are some lessons learned from engine, transmission, driveshaft, differential, and rear axle preliminary placement. If anyone notices I am doing something wrong, I would certainly appreciate the input.
1) 16” had to be removed from the middle of cross-member C to place the engine into the frame. This will be tied back together with a piece that will be bolted in place for ease of removal in the future.
2) For the engine to fit under bonnet, the oil pan had to be 2” below the frame. This equates to 3” ground clearance with the front lower control arms level. This also means the engine mounts will have to be made to extend below frame members G1and G2. The ground clearance will be improved, if needed, by adjusting the shocks to raise the frame.
3) For the engine throttle cam to fit under the bonnet, ¾” of fiberglass will have to be added to the underneath of the nosepiece purchased from Jack at Kinetic Vehicles.
4) For the engine to fit and the location of the gearshift lever to be reachable, the engine had to go as far back as possible, the transmission case coming within ½” of frame cross-member Q.
5) With the differential and rear wheels centered on the frame, the driveshaft connection to the differential is off to starboard about an inch. Design of the Miata, I guess. The driveshaft output from the transmission is exactly centered in the vehicle.
6) To obtain the 3 degree downward slope of the driveshaft, the rear wheels had to be 9/16” lower than the front wheels (which in reality means the frame in the rear will be 9/16” higher than the frame in the front, which will give the car a slight downward slant). Most cars are more pleasing to the sight with a slight rake forward like this and perhaps more rake will be added by adjusting the rear shocks.
7) An attempt will be made to use the heavy aluminum rail that the Miata used to tie the transmission to the differential. Approximately 11 ½” will have to be removed from the middle of the rail. An attempt will be made to bolt the resultant pieces together after shortening.
8) The resultant location of the rear lower control arms means that frame members RU1, RU2, and Z will have to be removed. Bracing for mounting the differential and rear lower and upper control arms will need to compensate for these removed members.
9) For the rear shock absorbers to mount on the upper plates of the frame and the lower control arm and still remain vertical, they will have to be mounted forward of the rear axles by 2”.
10) The rear upper and lower control arms and mounting locations will be designed to be as close to the Miata dimensions as possible. This means the inboard mounting locations for the rear lower control arms will be slightly below the frame.
11) With the face of the drive shaft mounting plate on the rear differential vertical, the mounting bushings on the heavy aluminum wishbone cross-member that fix the differential on top have a slight forward tilt. I surmise it is more important to keep the driveshaft mounting flange vertical so I will have to tilt the mounting hardware for the wishbone accordingly.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 18, 2013 7:57 am 
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An offset lower cross member or bolt in type is a common modification. Just do not leave it out. It completes the forward shear plane. If you go with just 3" of ground clearance to the oil pan, a pan shield would be a good idea. Add tabs or put nuts in Cross member "E" that allows you to attach the shield to the bottom of the tube. I would reduce the drive angle to 1* to give you a little more clearance. Also the drive shaft flange angle on the diff, should be your set up point Vs the rubber mounts. I ended up have to put a formed clearance plate over the throttle cam. I thought it was the best option Vs raising the slight line of the hood and nose cone. Their has been builders that used the aluminum trans to diff brace, but they end up using more a lot more valuable interior space. I would look other Maita builds that added a 3rd rubber mount to the nose of the diff. Dave W


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 20, 2013 11:07 am 
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Entry Number 5 -

1) In Michigan, you should keep the title of the donor vehicle when registering your Locost to prove from where the major components came. I’m told a facsimile of the title should work but I know how that goes so I am not taking any chances and am keeping the title. BUT, to scrap out the body parts from the donor to a local scrap yard, they require the title to prove to the state from where the body parts came. SO, how to get rid of the body parts? I put an ad on Craig’s list for free scrap metal for the taking and the body parts were gone in four hours.
2) The driveshaft needed to be shortened and the universals needed to be replaced (of course!), so I took it to the only driveshaft repair facility in our three-city area. Because the universals are staked into the yoke rather than c-clipped, they said they cannot repair it, shorten it, or balance it. I did find a set of universals on e-Bay that are specifically designed to replace the universals in the Miata driveshaft (item number 190814006846) but it was cheaper and better to just buy a new custom driveshaft from Driveshaft Specialist out of Texas for $300.
3) I took Dave W’s suggestions and added a mount to the front of the differential and to the end of the transmission rather than use the girder the donor used to tie the engine/transmission to the differential.
4) I also used Dave W’s suggestion to add a pan shield to the underneath of the frame.
5) I designed and built boxes made of quarter inch plate which mounted to the frame and captured the ends of the wishbone of the differential. The nice aspect of the boxes is they also suffice as the mounting surface for the rear upper control arms (see picture). The bad aspect is they had to be welded in place with the differential in-situ, which means the differential cannot be removed. All potential repairs of the axles and differential, therefore, will have to be done with the differential in the vehicle. This did not bother me since how often does one break into a pumpkin?
6) The input to the differential on the Miata is offset toward the starboard side. To maintain as narrow a driveshaft tunnel as possible in order to maintain cockpit room, the tunnel angled slightly into the passenger seat area as it went back into the rear bulkhead. To make the seat fit, therefore, I had to narrow the last section of the driveshaft tunnel.
7) I removed the power steering components from the steering rack and the power brake system from the master cylinder.
8) I plan on using the donor master brake cylinder, clutch master cylinder, and gas, brake, and clutch pedals so I spent considerable time bringing the donor pedal mounting systems from about an 18 inch width to a nine inch width to fit into the foot well (see picture).
9) Rear control arms were made using the salvaged bushing ends from the donor and one inch seamless 11 gauge tubing (see picture). Overkill for the uppers but just right for the lowers. Now waiting on bungs and rod ends from Kinetic as well as front control arm assemblies.
10) Purchased special order 135 degree aluminum front fenders from Fenders N’ More. I’m thinking of using the same type fenders for the rear wheels instead of the body mounted steamroller fenders. They would wrap around the tires 180 degrees and would have to be mounted to the rear wheel assemblies (similar to the front) to move with the wheels as they suspend.
11) Purchased Kirkey racing seats, headlights, ignition barrel, and seat belts from Speedway, all at garage sale prices. The LED taillights I got from Harbor Freight, designed for inset into the sheet metal of an enclosed trailer. I will inset them into the aluminum sheeting wrapped around the rear of the vehicle.
12) Found out I cannot get into vehicle without removing steering wheel, so installed a steering wheel quick change system on steering shaft much like they have on race cars.
13) Major purchases and fabrications still to be made: body sheet aluminum, fuel cell (Kinetic), windshield assembly (Kinetic), windshield wipers and washer system, shock absorbers (Gaz), dash switches (toggles), gas and brake lines, radiator. If anyone has a used radiator of the proper size, in good or bad shape, they would part with, please let me know.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 20, 2013 12:39 pm 
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I can see that the top arms aren't symmetrical, but can't tell about the lowers. Unless you made a spare set, it "seems" like your left and right arms are exactly identical and non-symmetrical. If so, how can the same arm be used on opposite sides?

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 20, 2013 1:31 pm 
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They look like mirror images to me. One of them is upside down.


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