Assembling the Body

Build Diary: Engine | Collecting the kit | Chassis [1] | Chassis [2] | Body
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27th October

First job was to get the main bodywork section down form where it's been hanging from the ceiling in the garage. My helpers stayed at their grandparents' overnight so I'm on my own for now. Finally managed it without breaking it.

Fitted the right wheel arch first, these locate with lugs on the chassis and corresponding sockets on the arches. Some of these wee a slightly dodgy fit and needed a bit of fettling before I was happy. Then drilled out the holes for the 10 bolts used to hold them together which was quite tricky for 3 of the holes where you can't access with the drill to drill through both parts while they're clamped together. Moved on to the left arch after that.

I'd left the remaining exterior aluminium panels to keep access to the cockpit as open as possible, but I'm going to need to fit them before the body goes on. BEfore I fit them I decide to fit the panels on the tunnel side of the footwell - these are ready drilled and I've already drilled the holes for the self tappers that will hold them on. They're quite a tight fit and this takes quite a while.

Removal panel fitted to footwell on driver's side (click for larger image)Passenger side footwell panel also installed (click for larger image)

Fitting the exterior panels takes a while as there are quite a lot of holes to drill and rivet and after breaking my last remaining 4mm drill I need to nip up to B&Q for another. Then when I break that I nip back again . All done by early afternoon though with a bit of help from Chris. Fitting these has made the car look different again.

Offside exterior panel  now completed (click for larger image)Nearside exterior panel riveted in place (click for larger image)Car now ready for main body section to be fitted (click for larger image)

Fitting the rear stop/tail/indicator lights onto the bodywork is next, the first one being done twice as I had the rubber seal upside down first imte, with the drain holes at the top. We used a piece of string pulled taught between the 2 light units to get the line for the rear fog light. Wasted a bit of time pondering over the reversing lamp as I couldn't find it. Then remembered I still had a spur dangling from the main loom where a reversing lamp switch should go. No such thing of course on my reverse box, and I eventually conclude that there isn't supposed to be a reversing lamp.

Next Chris and I pickup up the body moulding and lift it over the car and lower it into position. Quite fiddly getting it to hook under the fuel tank, but lifting the front end of the bodywork as suggested in the manual does the trick. Chris and I are fairly excited as it's a sudden fairly dramatic transformation.

Body section now lowered into place (click for larger image)Body section now lowered into place (click for larger image)Another view of car with body section in place (click for larger image)

The next bit is to attach the roll bar which sandwiches a small flange of the bodywork in position. The bodywork needs to be positioned exactly right, and it takes several retries before I'm happy. The fibreglass is masked before drilling the first hole from below, then a bolt is inserted and measurements taken again. Gradually get all six holes drilled, although I can't finally fix it as I don't seem to have the bolts for this. The roll bar has 2 braces which fix to the rear of the chassis, but I don't have any instructions for this so leave it for now. I'll speak to Westfield tomorrow.

The manual warns that the bottom of the body may need a bit of persuasion to butt up against the rear chassis rails where it's to be riveted, and it does. I don't like lying on my back and working above me at the best of times but this was fairly hard work as it needed quite a bit of force to hold it in position to drill then rivet.

Roll bar now fixed, scuttle resting in place ready for rest of body ... (click for larger image)

The scuttle is the next bit to go on, and this takes a while as I need to cut out holes in the front edge to clear the steering column and the loom as it comes up from the tunnel. The Black and Decker Wizard leaves a nice clean finish, while making a mess of me and the garage! Once I'm happy with the fit I use my clamps to hold it in position, then the manual says to fit the bonnet and nose cone and tape them in position to check the fit. These go on OK, but the fit at the joint of the bonnet and nose cone on the offside leaves a bit to be desired. The Wizard takes a bit off the front return of the bonnet and all looks OK, so I mark up the position of the scuttle before taking the bonnet and nose cone off again. The bonnet and nosecone tend to pull the body front section out from the chassis a bit, and attempts to leave them unstressed but with the body centrally placed fail, so I decide to fit the body flush to the chassis in what I think is the right place and sort out the bonnet and nosecone later.

Bonnet now  tacked in place with masking tape (click for larger image)Nose cone now added (click for larger image)

I drill the top of the body along the top chassis rails for 3 rivets each side and fix it in place. Measuring and marking the scuttle to bolt it into the rivnuts in the chassis is fiddly but goes fairly well, and I just about manage to get this done before it's time to clear up again. I've spent the best part of 12 hours in here today, but have made good progess and it's definitely looking very much like a car now

28th October

Picked up a couple of bits and pieces during the day and spoke to Westfield with a few queries and with a shopping list of missing parts. While the consensus is that the 'Blade loom I have is definitely from a later model. The ECU therefore almost certainly is too. Consensus also seems to be that it's likely the later ECU will be OK in any case, with a risk that it will be unhappy with the lack of throttle position sensor and fall back into 'limp home' mode. If so I'll need to source an ECU from the earlier model.

Popped over to Llanelli to a breakers to pick up a voltage regulator and starter solenoid. These are both off a 92 Blade, so if needs be I can get the ECU from them. The guy who stripped the bits off the sad old Blade reckoned it won't be a problem.

First job in the garage this evening was to drill matching holes in the nosecone and bonnet front edge where the aluminium locating pegs go. This went quite nicely, main difficulty was drilling 18mm diameter holes in the nosecone to take the rubber grommets. I used a 16mm wood bit which gave a nice clean outer circle then used a sanding drum on the Wizard to open them out. This was followed by quite a bit of jiggery pokery measuring, marking and drilling the holes for the nosecone mounting bolts into the rivnuts at the front of the chassis. These I started with a small pilot hole I could poke a rivet shaft through to assess the position, then gradually enlarging the hole in the right directions till it would accept a bolt through into the rivnut. Unfortunately the manual tells you to drill for 8mm bolts when in fact the rivnuts in the upper chassis rail are 6mm. Ho hum. After checking that the bonnet fits in with the nosecone in position I drill a 6mm hole for the lower nosecone mounting bolt. Only to discover that this one is an 8mm rivnut! The bonnet's under a bit of tension but I'm fairly happy with it. The only way of avoiding this seemed to be to have the front end of the main body section slightly lopsided on the chassis, and I didn't want that.

Shot of aluminium dowel on front return of bonnet which locates into grommet on nose cane (click for larger image)

This started off as a project to produce a cheap and cheerful car to abuse on track, and here I am fussing about getting all the panel joints looking pretty. Pah! Still, I have become rather enamoured with it...

Main bodywork now complete (click for larger image)View from front with nose cone and bonnet clipped on (click for larger image)

The latches holding the rear of the bonnet are next to go on. Main thing here apart from getting them straight is to make sure they're under a bit of tension. Otherwise the bonnet could go walkies at speed which wouldn't be good. Out again with the masking tape, marking, drilling, rivetting and it's done.

Bonnet catch on nearside (click for larger image)

After this I completed the rivetting of the body to the chassis top rail, followed by the dreaded rivetting of the bottom of the body section. 10 rivets each side from underneath. Did I mention it always makes me feel grotty lying on my back working above me? Thought so.

By this time the garage floor is a bit of a mess with swarf and bits of fibreglass drillings everywhere so I spend a little time clearing up. Dave Hackett emailed me this morning responding to a query I had about the washers used under the heads of the screws holding the GRP bucket seats with a photo showing the rather nice countersunk turned aluminium ones. I'd wondered what they were for sitting in one of the boxes of bits! So I whipped out the passenger seat and fitted those. Looks much better now.

Final job for the evening was to be the petrol filler. It's a rather pretty looking polished aluminium jobbie. First thing to do is try to get a projection from the centre of the filler neck on the tank to the bodywork, and I manage to get a ruler on the neck to give me an approximate centre, through which I drill a small pilot hole. This looks to be about right, so next it's out with the 55mm hole saw after the usual ritual with the masking tape. Once the disc is cut out I can see that I've got the hole positioned spot on, so I then enlarge it up to 65mm with the Wizard.

Nice neat hole cut for fuell filler cap. You can see the red plastic cover on the fuel tank filler neck (click for larger image)

Next I cut the rubber hose to length, put the two jubilee clips over the filler neck and struggle to get the hose on - main problem is the body's in the way. It goes on in the end, and it doesn't take long to mark and drill the 6 screw holes and fit the locking filler cap. The jubilee clips are easy enough to get to and the job's a good 'un.

Rubber hose securely clamped in situ (click for larger image)The finished article (click for larger image)

29th October

I was planning to fit the number plate light this evening, I'd assumed this was going to go centrally at the bottom but Westfield had said to mount it to the left of the spare wheel recess as there had been SVA failures with the light shining upwards. They'd said whereabouts to mount it, but after looking up the size of a square number plate I decided space looked a bit tight and I'd rather do it when I've got a number plate or at least a template.

Next I decided to bite the bullet and cut the hole for the exhaust manifold. THis is daunting because it's a big hole smack in the middle of the bodywork and you have to trust the dimensions given in the manual! It didn't take long to mark it up ready

Centres of two circles marked out first for exhaust cutout (click for larger image)Then just mark the circles and 'join the dots' to create the outline (click for larger image)

The Wizard came out next with a heavy duty cutting disc to cut the rough outline, before taking it to the line with the sanding drum.

After first rough cut with Wizard (click for larger image)

Then off with the masking tape and 20 minutes or so with the Wizard followed by wet and dry to make the hole smooth and pretty. Very pleased with it. Pity the exhaust wouldn't fit. No way. The aperture measures 27cm acrosss, as per build manual, but the manifolds are 28cm across, and that excludes the flanges. So back out with the Wizard and enlarged the 'slot' at each end, then manage to get the manifold in position.

Trial fitting of manifold after enlarging initial hole (click for larger image)

Couldn't get the silencer can on as it's too tight a fit, so decide to sort that out with the manifold off. Another 20 minutes with the wet and dry and I'm happy (again) with the result

Final priduct after finishing off with wet and dry (click for larger image)

It's a funny stage of the build now really. The way forward is less clear than before where there was a fairly obvious sequence to follow. Now I have a long list of jobs, any of which could be done next. I decide I'm still in cutting-holes-in-bodywork mode so decide to tackle the indicator repeaters next. The holes are quite fiddly, and the fit is a bit odd, I think these are designed to snap into thin metal sheet rather than 3mm of fibreglass. The nearside one goes on OK, but no way can I get the offside one to snap in securely, it pops off. After much frustrating fiddling I give up and decide it would be better waterproofed anyway and reach for the silicone sealant. A nice bead of this all round smoothed off with a finger does the trick, and I do the same for the nearside one to waterproof that.

Nearside indicator repeater fitted (click for larger image)

The manual had said earlier not to tighten the steering rack until you know where the steering column is going to be, so I look at that next. The steering rack is resting on flats anyway and has nowhere to go so I tighten it up then look at sorting out the upper steering column. This is mounted on 2 bracket, one at the top the other at the bottom, so both can influence the final height of the steering wheel. Westfield supply an alloy spacer which goes above the lower bracket, thus raising the wheel a bit, but on trial fitting the dash I've discovered it was still a bit too low in the precut hole. To lower the bottom end any further I need to enlarge the hole through the footwell bulkhead, so take the column off to do this. After trying various combinations of spacers I have the column as I want it, with the spindle just clearing the top of the hole in the dash and centred laterally. To get it any higher I'll need to make the hole in the dash bigger and I don't want to do that.

Trial fitting of dash to ensure optimal position for steering column (click for larger image)

I move on next to the cooling system, that and the ECU mounting plate are all that remain to be done from the Megablade build manual (all the rest of the work is in the standard SEiW 'car engined' manual). I get the box of aluminium tubing and rubber hoses down from the garage loft and realise there's a lot of space up there! Not many parts to go now.

First of all I lay out the bits to get an overall idea of the layout. First thing I need to do is refit the radiator which I'd taken off to prevent it getting damaged. Then I have a look at the longest aluminium pipe which is supposed to run from the water pump, along the engine bay floor to the radiator bottom inlet. It's obvious this will need cutting down and I the hose coming off the radiator has to take a fairly tight bend around the chassis within its first few centimetres. Both rubber hoses need cutting and I assemble it all in position with the jubilee clips loose. Not ecstatically happy with it, but not sure I can get it better due to the shape of the rigid pipe. I'm confident this will just buckle and flatten if I attempt to tweak it so I don't try. A smaller pipe tees off this one to go to the bottom of the header tank, so I identify the hose, fit the bottom end and find it's a really tight fit on the header spigot. I end up taking the header tank off to be able to apply a bit more force. I come next to the pipe from the thermostat housing, top front of engine as it's mounted in the chassis to top of radiator. I realise I don't have enough rubber hose. I can do one end, but don't have a right angle left for the thermostat end, and realise I've used the wrong end of one of the 2 rubber elbows and have left them too long, leaving offcuts which are unusable. Bugger. Still, shouldn't be too difficult to find some more.

I've found it a bit of a frustrating evening, although looking back I've got a few fairly important things done, and once I get another hose the cooling system won't take long.

30th October

Tried to get some bits at lunchtime without much success. Couldn't get a radiator hose with the required bend/dimensions, also couldn't get nuts to mount the manifold. First thing I did this evening was to have a look again, and I can get away with it with a nit or rejigging and a hose i saw in Halfords. So I complete what I can and decide not to worry about it too much. I'm also not sure about some of the hose I've got for the overflow, all I seem to have is some larger bore fuel piping which looks a bit big for the rad overflow. I'll ring Westfield tomorrow.

I've decided to reroute my handbrake - the current route is pretty tortuous and is apparently suggested based on the larger diff, which I'm not using. This doesn't take too long and looks much better, giving me a bit more free play in the cable.

I decide next to look at the earth and starter leads. Spend a bit of time identifying what's what and what goes where, then run the lead from battery to starter solenoid and include it in the tie wraps along the chassis cradle. I also sort out the lead from solenoid to starter motor and clip that. Next sort out the earth strap from the battery which just reaches one of the bolts mounting the engine cradle to the chassis and connect that and the main loom earth lead to the battery.

Leads now in position ready for connection to battery (click for larger image)

I can't see anywhere handy to mount an earth strap from the engine to the chassis, the one supplied by Westfield is quite short. I also need to earth the modified engine loom. The build manual shows a stud welded to the chassis for this purpose, but there doesn't seem to be one on mine. In the end I drill a 6mm hole in one of the chassis corner gussets and connect the strap from one of the redundant mounting holes on the engine to this.

I have a look at the choke cable, the routing is fine, I'll need to trim the bodywork edge to fit it to the chassis rail and decide to leave this for now.

Next I tidy up all the wires in the engine bay and tie them all down, which makes it look better. I also tie together the wires going to the brake fluid level switch and brake light switch and tie them to the chassis and connect them up. Then it's time to clear up and finish for the night.

Engine bay wiring all tidied up, top colling hose in place (click for larger image)

31st October

Managed to get a few bits and pieces today, including engine oil, brake fluid, antifreeze etc. in anticiptation of getting the engine running over the weekend hopefully. Also picked up the manifold nuts and a new set of plugs from the Honda dealer. I'll start it on the old ones and swap them over once I've burnt off the oil I squirted liberally into the cylinders during reassembly.

Lots of work to do this evening so can't get much done on the car. I trim the body panel and scuttle for the choke lever bracket and fit that with some self tappers. I can't fit the engine end as I don't have the trunnion/grub screw to connect the inner cable to the chike 'slider' on the carbs. I spoke to Westfield today and they're sending one on. Running out of time I connect up some of the wiring round the front end: horn, fan and fan switch.

2nd November

Get home at midday after an overnight stay in West Wales for a meeting. Late night last night with far too much red wine. Felt lousy this morning and was lecturing at 10 - fortunateyl recoveed in time! Parcel had arrived from Westfield yesterday morning with my ECU plate, grommet, 18mm nut for front ball joint and bolts for roll bar.

Out in garage by 12.10pm . Loads of stuff to get on with. I really want to have a go at starting the engine up his weekend.

First job is to finish off the coolant pipes. No problems there now, but not sure whether the bottom pipe needs securing to anything. Fortunately I'd spotted that I didn't have enough jubilee clips and had got a couple more in Halfords.

Radiator pipes now finished (click for larger image)

Next I tackle the ECU plate. This is mounted on hinges so the components are accessible via the passenger footwell. The plate goes on its hinges OK via pop rivets, and I tapped out the holes in the tube which runs across under the dash and fixed it in place with some 5mm button head screws to keep Mr. SVA man happy. I spend a while making up some brackets for the ECU and starter solenoid which takes quite a while. I couldn't find any aluminium plate so I bought a wide alu carpet strip from Wickes which was only 2.

Once the electrical components are secured to the plate it doesn't take long to route the cables tidily and clip them in position.

ECU plate now fitted on hinges (click for larger image)Another shot of electrical components with fabricated aluminium brackets (click for larger image)ECU, voltage regulator and starter solenoid now in situ (click for larger image)

Ready to permanently fit the scuttle now and tighten the bolts down. I've decided to fit the coils on the horizontal plate in front of the scuttle instead of on bracket Westfield provided to mount them above the manifold. It's a bit tight for space there and looks difficult to get the bracket fixed to the chassis now the engine's in. Used some aluminium tube offcuts from a kitchen towel rail we'd recently fitted to space them up off the plate.

I'd bought a length of HT lead, and made up the new HT leads and connected up the ignition coils next, and am fairly happy with the result, nice and tidy.

Igniton coils in place and new HT leads made  up and fitted (click for larger image)

I next fit the fuel regulator. The bracket's not as shown in the manual and looks a bit flimsy - I might fabricate another later.

Fuel regulator now fitted to scuttle (click for larger image)

Now it's on to the manifold, and my first problem is with the exhaust gaskets - these were the only non-genuine Honda parts I'd got, and they just will not fit in the exhaust ports. Frustrating! So I refit the old ones, if there's any problem with them I can fairly easily fit some more. The nuts are really fiddly to get on, but I get there, then start on the silencer. I've decided just to fasten it to the GRP bodywork as per the manual - it's pretty rigid here and won't move much. The main problem is getting the nuts on the bolts holding the bracket on as there isn't much clearabce between the GRP and the aluminium panel on the chassis exterior. After much fiddling and some reskinned knuckles it's done.

Exhaust manifold now secured (click for larger image)Full exhaust system now fitted (click for larger image)

The last couple of jobs are getting ready for the starting ceremony tomorrow. The engine gets just under 4 litres of Valvoline synthetic oil which reaches the upper mark on the dipstick. The antifreeze/corrosion inhibitor goes in the header tank, then it's topped up with water. The spark plugs are removed so I can spin the engine to get the oil circulating before I start it.

A quick clear up, then refit the bonnet before going in.

Cooling system now filled, plugs out ready to turn engine over tomorrow (click for larger image)View inside cockpit now ECU in place and scuttle refitted (click for larger image)

Build Diary: Engine | Collecting the kit | Chassis [1] | Chassis [2] | Body
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The next project ...

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