Lots of little jobs

23rd November 2005

The past 7 weeks have been mostly filled with weekends away doing other stuff apart from being in the garage. However, even Sir Ranulph Fiennes would have second thoughts about venturing into the oversized freezer my car now lives in. No heating and the dark winter nights have meant summoning up the enthusiasm to work on the car during the week has been difficult to say the least. Having said that, in hindsight quite a lot has been done since my last update.

I took a trip to Pilgrim again with another local Sumo builder (Hi Graham!) to see about getting a new gearbox cross-member and to start looking at the fit and finish of body panels and interiors on their demo cars. Having heard many disparaging remarks on the forum about the quality of Pilgrim parts, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised looking over the final item. The panel gaps were all fine, the doors opened with a reassuring weight about them and nothing felt flimsy or obviously home-made. I also had a chance to peer over another customer's car who was collecting it after some crash repairs. Opening the bonnet revealed some pretty spectacular items - an old tea kettle for an expansion tank and a beer bottle for (what I assumed was) the windscreen washer fluid! To be fair, it transpired he hadn't built the car himself, but if anyone doubts what benefit the introduction of the SVA has done for kit cars, I refer to the picture on the right.

Back in my garage and with new cross-member in hand, re-adjusting the engine was fairly easy. I realigned everything with the new gearbox cross-member and double and triple checked the exhaust clearance. I still couldn't get the engine in a position to miss the steering joint completely, even with a couple of large washers on one side of the gearbox mounts to try and "twist" the engine and positioning the cross-member so the engine was pointing slightly the other way in the bay. However, it's much better than it was and the engine will have to rock a reasonably large amount now before it connects (and even then only when the right angle of steering lock is applied). Something I may come back to again, but for now it's good enough.

The next job was to acquire and attach a throttle cable to the carburettor. The local (tiny) scrapyard was all out of Sierras so I decided to make do with the throttle cable from an Escort instead. The one I found was already hanging half off the car complete with the original bracket that held the outer cable so it was just a case of detaching it from the pedal inside and pulling it out. Back on my car I fabricated a bracket to hold the cable in the right position. This consists of a small tab of metal that attaches under one of the rocker cover screws and has the original Ford bracket rivetted at the top. The inner cable was screwed to the carb using a solderless nipple (stop sniggering at the back!) and a return spring was attached between the carb lever and the bracket. Attaching the other end to the pedal showed that the Escort wasn't actually a perfect donor. The problem is the outer cable is a bit too long so the pedal is currently pulled up to its maximum height. If you look in a production car the accelerator tends to sit a bit below the brake and clutch, mine is about an inch and a half above. Rubbish for heel and toe gear changes! I will have to splash out another fiver on a proper one at some point, but at least the bracketry is all in place now.

In order to test the newly fabricated throttle connection I attempted to start the engine. Unfortunately, despite plenty of cranking amps and a fresh can of petrol I got no joy. A quick diagnosis showed there were no sparks at the plugs so I rang Jim who ran me through a more thorough testing procedure and we came to the conclusion that either the coil or the amplifier was at fault. As I packaged them up to send back to Jim I noticed one of the wires on the distributor interconnect lead had broken off the plug at the amplifier. When it all arrived in Northern Ireland, Jim confirmed that it was just the wire at fault. He repaired it, bench tested the lot and posted it straight back including a refund of my postage costs. I can't fault Jim for his customer service! Back on the car the engine fired straight away and the accelerator pedal worked too - result!

Having ordered and taken delivery of the roll hoops and harnesses I was keen to try them on the car. My chassis was built for a single roll bar so the first task was to fit the extra tubes to hold the double hoops I was fitting. These are just the standard chassis tubes welded to some steel plate, I drilled two holes in each, marked up the chassis and bolted them on. One thing I did notice as I dropped the roll hoops on to mark the positions was the extra 4 or 5mm of steel plate was causing the hoops to sit at a slight angle, pointing them out a bit like cats ears. I've seen this before on finished Sumos and thought it looked a bit odd, now I know the reason why. I will either need to take the angle grinder to one side of each hoop or bolt them level slightly higher up the tubes. The manual gives a specific distance the need to be above the body to allow the roof to fit so I'll need to do some measuring after the body is on to see whether they can be bolted slightly higher on the tubes.

Despite being desperate to put the body on, I decided to tackle all the little fiddly chassis jobs I'd been leaving until "later on". Fixing the fuse boxes and relays was one of these jobs. I made a bracket from some L-shaped aluminimum to hold the fuse boxes flush against the bulkhead and bolted them and the relay sockets to the chassis. Then it was onto the clutch cable extension tube. This involved unbolting the pedal box, chopping a bit off its clutch cable tube to allow the extension tube to sit flush with the chassis and then drilling some holes in the bulkhead and bolting the extension tube on before remounting the pedals. Definitely worth doing, the clutch feels much more positive in its action now. Not finished under there yet, I cut the small piece of tubing to brace the the top of the pedal box and drilled the hole for the bolt. Discovered the bolt I'd bought was too short, swore at it and made a note to order a longer one.

In the final (I hope) job before fitting the body I phoned the local car radio and alarm shop and asked them nicely to come round and fit an immobiliser to the car. I've read on the forum that many insurance companies don't want to know unless you've got a Cat 2 immobiliser fitted and for my own peace of mind, since the wiring was still hanging out the car it seemed the perfect opportunity to sort this out. I was recommended Wentworth Car Radio by another cobra builder just up the road from me and arranged with them to come round to my garage and fit one for the meagre sum of £175. It only took just over an hour and with blue fingers and nose the guy pronounced the job finished. I have to say, I am impressed with the work. He had neatly taped up the loom and the cuts into the various circuits are very well hidden, it would take a good while to unpick it all to try and hotwire the car. As the dashboard and everything is non-existent he left the LED warning light on a long length of wire so I could position it later and explained how I should fit the aerial around the ignition barrel once the steering column is in place more permanently. Unforunately as the car doesn't have a registration number yet they couldn't issue the certificate of installation, but they said it would be no problem to come and get one in several months time once I'm on the road.

Finally, tonight I've been out to fit the last of the loom wiring - the leads for the fuel gauge sender and rear number plate lights. I think that is everything that needs to be done before the body goes on, so hopefully this weekend will see that happen. I'll then need to start fabricating the steel straps to join the harness top-mounts down to the chassis (required for SVA and general life-saving safety!). I will probably then move on to fitting the boot and doors and aim to get them done before Christmas, depending how much colder it gets of course!

Look closely - it's a kettle!

Throttle cable fitted

Extreme close up!

No good for heel
and toe changes

Source of the engine
problem now fixed

Extra roll hoop
mounts bolted on

Test fitting
of roll hoops

Fuse boxes mounted

Clutch cable extension
tube fitted

Thatcham approved,
Category 2 red LED

Fuel gauge sender
and wiring ready