The Odyssey Begins...
decision is made - I WILL build a Lotus Seven-like car. I have spent many hours
on the Internet researching what kits are available and decide that they are all
currently out of range of my pocket unless I win Lotto or save for several
years. Luckily, I also discovered the existence of Ron Champions book in my
search. I have found and joined the "Sevens"
and "Locost" mail
lists and ordered the book from amazon.com.
Unfortunately, they are currently out of stock, but a new edition is currently
being printed. Hopefully, I will get one of the new editions (there are a few
anomalies in the plans in the original book that the constructor needs to be
While waiting for the book to arrive, I have made contact with some other
Australian constructors. I have also spent the time obtaining every bit of
information I can lay my hands on that might have some use somewhere down the
track. Some of the links I have used in researching the Locost are available on this
page. I do a lot of day-dreaming about how I might do each part of the
construction and contemplating where I may deviate from the book plans. It might
be useful to put my aspirations down on "paper" to compare with the
finished product (some years in the future, no doubt). The specifications I am
currently contemplating are as follows:
Toyota 1600 4A-GE 20 valve EFI motor (or possibly a 4A-GZE supercharged motor,
depending on what's available at the time)
Toyota T50 gearbox
Ford Escort Differential with 5 link suspension (unless I can locate a
suitable IRS diff then unequal length double wishbone suspension)
Ford Cortina TC/TD front uprights (spindles)
Ford Escort Quikrack steering rack
13"/14" light weight wheels
Yokohama A008 tyres
I'm still researching coil over shocks (dampers). The recommended units (AVO
or Spax) are rather expensive and I don't believe the "home made" Mini
shocks and springs are likely to work too well. There has been some talk in the
Locost list about using motor bike coil-overs, which bares further
Update: I've located a "local" bookshop (Pitstop
Bookshop - only 600 Km away in Perth!) that has the book in stock. It costs
a little more than it would from Amazon and it is the original edition, but at
least I can get it now rather than 7-10 weeks down the track.
I'm now considering buying a donor vehicle, when I initially thought it would
not be cost efficient to do so here in Australia. The donor won't be the typical
Ford Escort, but probably a Toyota Sprinter AE86 (Corolla GTS in most other
countries). The reason I am thinking of buying a Sprinter is that they had 4A
engines in a north-south configuration (rear wheel drive), a T50 gear box and a
heavy duty rear axle with disc brakes that should fit with little modification.
The steering column may also be used, perhaps even the dash instruments. The
number of parts that will be useful should make the purchase of one of these a
sensible buy. I have seen complete examples advertised as cheap as AUD$850.00. A
T50 gearbox alone could cost as much as AUD$500.00. Hopefully, I can find an
example with a good drive train. It could provide a large percentage of the
items needed in one fell swoop.
So what happened to the high performance motor configuration I initially
planned? Well, after the stars in my eyes decreased enough to see the empty
wallet, I decided that the high performance setup could wait until some time
after the Locost is on the road. Even if do still use a 20 valve or a 4A-GZE,
there are many small parts that would still be necessary from an AE86 and would
have to be sourced. Now I just have to wait until I can afford the Sprinter and
hope I can locate one when I do have the cash!
Not a lot happening at the moment. Saving money, more reading, more
research... I'm reluctant to make a start on the chassis build until I'm certain
what motor and axle (at the very least!) that I'm going to use. No good going
off half cocked and then having to undo what has already been done to fit my
chosen drive train into the chassis. I've been spending the time productively,
drawing up the standard plans, ready to make changes where needed. It's much
easier to widen a chassis on paper than in the metal after everything has been
welded up! I've been using IMSI's excellent Computer Aided Design package
TurboCAD 2D, which can be downloaded from the 'Net for free! (no longer available).
Ever since I thought it might be a good idea to buy an old Toyota Sprinter, I
haven't seen another advertised at a reasonable price! Oh well, back to buying
the bits and pieces as and when needed.
I'm now considering a Nissan CA18DET as a possible engine. They were made in
rear wheel drive form and seem to be readily available with good power/torque
figures in stock form. It seems like a good idea to get the performance I want
from an engine in stock form, rather than buying a fair engine and paying for
performance modifications afterward.
I've got three weeks off work at the end of this month and the start of the
next - I have to baby sit our youngest two children for 7 to 10 days while my
wife takes our eldest to Perth for some corrective surgery (I'm not looking
forward to meal times - I'm a lousy cook!). Hopefully I should get some time to
myself during the day, while the kids are at school - time to start getting some
gear together and preparing a base board, etc.
After some not-so-subtle hints, I've been offered some welding lessons from
the lecturer in boiler-making where I work. At times it can be handy to work for
a University/TAFE (Tertiary And Further Education)! I've never attempted welding
before, but he reckons a couple of evenings of tuition and some practise is all
I should need. I'm looking forward to it... He has also given me
permission to borrow one of the portable MIG welders whenever I need it (which
will certainly save me a fair bit of cash)!
I've put together a web page with some pictures of fibreglass panels (since
removed to make space) and pieces that are available to fit the Locost from White
Pointer Fibreglass - a company in Queensland (Australia). The prices of the
parts (in Aussie dollars) are also shown. Rick Hargraves from the Locost mail
list sent them to me. Some of the parts look to be similar to those used on the
Westfield. They look like they may make some of those more difficult panel
bending jobs a great deal easier. In fact, I think you could probably make a
chassis without having to bend a single pipe or shape any panel beyond a simple
fold, using these fibreglass parts. I'm not affiliated in any way with the
company, I just thought some of those people that are building Locost's (at
least those in Australia) might like to see what is available and for what cost.
Update: In typical fashion, life has thrown one of those curve balls,
I'm now on holidays, the bills rolled in, and now there is next to no spare
cash! Oh well, I'll have to just spend even more time on researching things
together this little on-line converter program to
convert Horsepower into Kilowatts and vice versa.
August - December 1999
Progress is currently stalled due to a change in my employment situation. My
current employer is in some financial difficulties and they have decided that
the solution is to reduce staff numbers. They are providing an attractive
voluntary severance scheme that I have decided to take after working for this
same employer for over 13 years. I will be moving back to Perth, so it doesn't
make sense to make any real start to the Locost until we have moved and found a
new house (hopefully with a large workshop and garage!).