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Learning how to build Lotus Seven replicas...together!
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PostPosted: May 6, 2008, 12:39 am 
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Location: Denver, Colorado
I have to start by saying I am not all that happy right now! I had over 100 pics of the build, with jigs used and the steps taken for the build table and stripping the donor car to this point, and the memory card was erased by the airport!

With that vent out of the way, my build started on March 12, 2008 when I got the steel. It actually started with me dreaming about building a locost after seeing one at a local autocross (Geoff's car) and reading the article in GRM about Jon's all aluminum beauty built with help from his son. Since I have three boys (and a little girl), I figured it would be a good project to teach them some skillz (with a Z).

So far, so good. I started with a book build as it looked like the bodywork would be easier to do, and I like the idea of it being as small as possible! I have a business that hotrods the new MINI and the new Lotus, so I am into small, and those just weren't small or light enough.

I decided on the Miata as a donor quickly, as I had owned and raced a Spec Miata for the 2004 SCCA season, and had a blast. It is also a great lump, and it seems there is a lot of support for the donor. I found a 1997 Miata that had been "tapped" in the rear (actually it wasn't that bad, considering the rear subframe bolts up straight and true and the rear fenders aren't even tweaked inboard) for $1500. I drove it home and remembered again what a blast these cars are - and drooled about the possibilities that lie ahead with the loss of 1000 lbs or so.

I am working on the suspension layout right now, and already have gained valuable knowledge from the forum here - thanks! I have been talking with locost_adam, chetcpo, Stein, Emile and Jack and still am gathering info from everyone. I even stole some ideas from Emile on the build table that will look familiar if you check his blog. I want not only a good rear IRS design, but I'm not all that happy using the original book mounts for the front a-arms being they are at a different length, and angle when using the track and upright from the Miata. Tall order and I hope not to get stalled too long with it.

In the meantime, I have the donor stripping and selling of parts to complete, so I shouldn't be want for work just yet.

So here are just a few shots of the project to date (all taken at once due to the loss of the entire build photos to this point!):

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The Build Table - thanks for some of the ideas Emile!

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The chassis to date.

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Overhead shot - I changed the rear bulkhead mount point a little - plan to build a shock mount in there somewhere.

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Another pic of the rear.

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I ended up building a jig to get these pain in the rear front uprights cut with the compound angle on a standard chop saw. The hardest part of the build - so far!

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The donor - it was hard tearing into a great car!

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Got a 1.8L - woohoo!

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The rear is stripped - you can see the damage in this shot too.

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Go the top off, the interior stripped and all the wiring marked. This took about 2 hours. Great car to work on (did I mention I think the Miata rocks as a donor?)!

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The workbench has pretty much been overrun!

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There's still room on there somewhere to work, eh?

I really look forward to the input from you guys. To date, your help has been priceless. If anyone has any ideas on suspension design, I would love to hear more. I am using Allan Staniforth's and Herb Adam's books as well as anything I can get from anyone who will give me info. Most of my knowledge is in the MINI (FWD front engine), the Elise (RWD mid-engine) and Porsches (RWD rear engine) so the Seven is a new adventure for me at this point. Obviously some of it carries forward, but I always appreciate helpful input from those who know better than I.

I'll post more as I have time to work on it - not only do I hot rod cool UK built cars, but I fly airplanes for a living, so I'm gone for 4 days at a time (and I mentioned I have four kids).

Thanks for looking and I hope to help as much as I have already received from the other build logs I've stared at for hours!

Randy Webb


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PostPosted: May 6, 2008, 9:03 am 
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Location: Connecticut
Looking good! You're right we are just about tied in the frame build, but you've got your donor so you're light years ahead of me hah.

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PostPosted: May 6, 2008, 10:30 am 
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Looking forward to seeing progress. Looks like you'll be well into the suspension before I get even close. Please ponder on the list for everyones benefit.

With regard to the loss of photos, the saying is "real men don't back up - they up load!" Let the internet remember for you...

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PostPosted: May 6, 2008, 2:39 pm 
If you still have the photo card, there are lots of places that can recover the photos for you. My daughter just had the same thing happen - lost her photos of her trip to the Carribean. Took it to our local London Drugs store, they recovered all of her photos, for under $20, and she probably could have got it cheaper elsewhere.

If this happens to anyone here, remember - don't use the card until you have the pics recovered. They're not actually erased, they just have their titles slightly altered. The data is still there, until you take lots more pictures & overwrite the original data.


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PostPosted: May 7, 2008, 8:55 pm 
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Joined: September 25, 2007, 9:33 pm
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Hey Randy your build looks great so far. I am a member of NAM also (draggonmann). It is funny to see post from people from other forums. I sold my MINI to start this build.


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PostPosted: May 7, 2008, 11:47 pm 
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Location: Denver, Colorado
Thanks for the info on the memory card - Walgreens didn't know anything, but Wolf Camera might. I'll check when I get back. I'm worried they are gone for good because it was the X-ray at the airport that erased them.

Yeah - I have seen a few guys here from NAM! Nate is building one too (Steyr). What re you planning?

I spent yesterday and today doing a few things on the build. I had a couple of MINI installs both days, so my time was limited. I did some more stripping of the donor, and sold the chassis and spare parts for what I bought the car for! That means everything from the donor was FREE! WOOHOO :D

I also welded the basic chassis up. It was cool lifting it to flip it and get the underside joints and feel how light it was.

I of course spent some time looking at the front suspension mounting as well. I really want to get it right. I'm looking at the shocks and springs too. Right now the Koni DA is in the lead, and I may be doing a 350 front and 200 rear spring, but that is definitely preliminary.

More pics when I return from my trip next week.

Thanks for the encouragement!!
Randy


Last edited by RandyBMC on May 9, 2008, 1:04 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: May 8, 2008, 4:51 pm 
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Joined: February 9, 2008, 1:11 pm
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Location: denver, co
Great to see a local build! Especially a miata based build. I'll be paying close attention to your progress. I'll feed you false information, of course, since we may both end up in local autocrosses together. :twisted: . Then again, I have probably bumped myself out of your class by using my spare FD engine.


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PostPosted: May 8, 2008, 5:09 pm 
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I doubt it - I only do the BMWCCA autocrosses anymore. Twice the runs with a catered lunch for the same money! I also instruct for NASA (when I ever get weekends off) so you may see me at Pueblo if you attend any of those.

I always give straight info even to competitors, because I want to know I beat them on skillz alone... :P

You're welcome to check it out anytime! Have you started yet?

Randy


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PostPosted: May 8, 2008, 5:40 pm 
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Nevermind on the starting question - just saw it. I knew there were two guys here other than me, and I wasn't sure which one you were. I'd love to see your build too!

Randy


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PostPosted: May 8, 2008, 5:44 pm 
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Yeah, would love to get together sometime. Just curious, do need a BMW to go to BMW events? I never knew for sure. I'm also saving my pennies to get a Spec Miata to use as a "daily driver" . I tell my wife I would save lots of money on gas compared to my Hummer. :P


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PostPosted: May 8, 2008, 6:51 pm 
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I honestly don't know for sure on the BMW thing. I snuck in with the MINI being that it is owned by BMW - kind of a loop hole.

I raced a Spec Miata through the 2004 season - they are a blast (and one of the big reasons I chose the Miata as a donor)! Mine didn't see any street use, but it did get great mileage even on the track. I think you are safe in saying you will do better than the Hummer :lol:


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PostPosted: May 14, 2008, 9:44 pm 
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More work this week between MINI installs!

I welded up the basic frame as well as ground smooth the outer welds. It doesn't look like much progress, but it took a while.

The other assault was on the donor front. I plan on pulling the motor/gearbox and diff tomorrow, and all of the work leading up to that has been a bit more tedious than I thought it would be. Labeling everything has added a bit of time, but it certainly should save a lot on the other end.

Here are the pics of current progress:

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Welding up...

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Getting the underside.

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All ground down!

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Bet you guys had no idea I was 12! JK, it is help from my son - trying to teach him the basics of wrenching through this project.

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Stripping continues...

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and continues...

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and continues...

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starting to look bare in there...

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maybe tomorrow I can lift this lump out!

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This one was fun to get out, rusted bolts and all.

So tomorrow I hope to have the big bits out, then get the wiring harness and suspension/brakes out.

The really cool news is that I sold the chassis and its bits to two different guys - all of it - for $1500. They are coming to haul away the respective wanted bits too. I paid that for it and had already sold $150 worth of stuff, so I got my complete wiring harness/ECU, brakes, steering, engine, gearbox, differential, and all the other donor bits and bobs for free plus some! Woohoo!!!

I also found the engine hoist at Checker on special for $67 new - 2 ton! I am getting the hang of this locost stuff I think...

More to come :)

Randy


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PostPosted: May 16, 2008, 7:25 pm 
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I have the heart of my Seven! Now I am going to work on the front and rear subframe and the wiring harness. I hope to have it completely stripped by Sunday.

Here are some pics of the removal:

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Success!

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Naked...

Everytime I take something out of the car, thinking I am almost done, it reveals that much more stuff still to do! Oh well, I'll just keep plodding along.

On other fronts, I am finalizing the front suspension with the help of others on the forum. I plan to draw it up and post it along with the wishbone analysis once it is done.

On the rear suspension, I am leaning toward two options - the first is to just use the Miata rear subframe, and the other is to copy the pick up point and mounts of the Miata rear subframe in 1" then use fabricated a-arms just to get the heim mounts and lighter weight. Haven't decided yet.

More pictures this weekend hopefully!


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PostPosted: May 16, 2008, 7:39 pm 
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Looking good! Glad to see you're getting your ute out of the TV room and into the garage.

If we had you x 250,000,000, we'd be on Mars by now!

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PostPosted: May 16, 2008, 9:47 pm 
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Ute = arse, took me a minute to figure that out! Thanks but I don't know about getting to Mars :lol:

I have a bit more time than I usually would. I had the misfortune of having a small piece of metal embed in the side of my eye just to the left of center, but in my field of vision. I was grinding the welds smooth on Monday (with safety glasses on) and a bit managed to hit me. I really didn't think much of it, except that by that night, my vision was blurred. I called on Tuesday morning and got in to the Doctor. It was embedded and had also caused a "rust ring" on my cornea. Yikes! Did I mention that I'm a pilot by trade?

So, she numbed up my eye and removed the metal, then "scraped" my cornea to remve the rust. She got it all, but the wound is not healing all that great, as the microscopic rust particles that are on the surface are very toxic to the cells, making it slow going in the healing process. She is afraid to scrape any deeper, as it can cause scarring and I would forever see it.

I went back a couple of times, the last appointment was today, and she said that it looks like it is healing, albeit slowly. The only real issue is that my vision is still not 100% due to the swelling. She also said that would do better in the next few days. I got to see pictures of my optic nerve, my retina, my macula, and the cornea - pretty cool!

Needless to say, I took off the next trip I was supposed to fly this weekend. That gives me a few more days to finish up the stripping of the car!

I also would recommend to anyone using a grinder or even getting underneath a car to use goggles or a full face mask instead of safety glasses. There are too many gaps in safety glasses!

Randy


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