SVA Day

Build Diary: Engine | Collecting the kit | Chassis [1] | Chassis [2] | Body
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19th November

Surprisingly managed to sleep till my alarm went off at 5am. Cup of tea, read a few emails etc. then make sure I've got all my stuff ready - engine receipt plus Haynes manual to prove age of engine for emissions test, insurance cover note, Westfield receipt showing that it's an LSD etc. Pack a flask and some spare clothes in case I get soaked on the way there.

Nip out to the garage and it's freezing - cold easterly wind and it's started raining. Oh well, nowt I can do about it.

I stick all my layers on and leave a few minutes later than I'd planned to. The car starts fine, lights on and off we go. She sounds great going up through the gears! I only live a couple of miles from the M4, but have decided to take the A roads. I'm running the engine in so don't want to go above 4k rpm for a while, though a bit more isn't likely to hurt it. I've been advised not to rev it too high or to labour it. By the time I set off the rain has stopped. I find it's much more comfortable with the visor down, although it does restrict visibility a bit, especially in the dark. It's the first time I've driven the car properly on the road, and it feels great. The steering's nice and precise, with minimal tramlining and the ride is reasonable - better than the Evo anyway! And the engine sounds fantastic.

I'm concerned about the speedo - at 4k rpm it's showing just under 25mph when I reckon it should be showing over 30. I take it up to 50mph which is 6k ... hmmm, I suspect the speedo sensor is only picking up 3 of the 4 propshaft bolts. If I have time when I get there I'll do a quick calculation and reset the speedo.

Through Neath, then I bypass Port Talbot on the 50mph stretch of M4 before leaving again at Margam. I really enjoy the drive along the A roads as daylight creeps along. I get near the test station and stop to fill up. I'm a few minutes late, and the old boy in the garage tells me the way to the test station.

The receptionist tells me to park the car outside the SVA bay and someone will be along. I change my shoes - I'd driven there in my race boots, size 12s and small pedal boxes don't mix well. The race boots are bright blue suede and make one of the lorry driver's day .

I have time to reset the speedo just as the inspector comes along and introduces himself. He asks me to drive the car into the bay. He spends quite a long time on the roll bar and cockpit. He asks me to prise one of the roll bar mounting bolts off to check the bolts have the right high tensile markings. Lots of time checking seat mountings and harnesses. He's worried about the passenger seat which doesn't seem firmly fixed. I assure him I'd noticed it too, and have double checked all the bolts etc and came to the conlusion that it's just play in the sliders- only one of the locks. After a good poke round the torch goes away and he moves on. He doesn't use any sphere, but carefully checks round with his hands for any sharp edges anywhere. He's pretty friendly and chats while checking everything - I'd been worried the inspectors might be a bit patronising, or just not say anything, but he was very polite, explained clearly what he was doing and said he rckoned Westfield were one of the better kit car manufacturers.

I'd bene a bit worried about the aeroscreen - Mark Walker at Westfield had said not to fit the perspex and to trim the top edge of the GRP. I'd decided this would look really naff, and in addition it would be painfully obvious that after SVA the screen would be going on, so I'd taken a piece of U section rubber just in case. After carefully checking the height to ensure it couldbe classed as a wind deflector rather than a windscreen he concluded that Mr. Westfield had done his homework and it was just under the limit.

Next was the rolling road to check the speedo. Take i through the gears into top, then up to 30 mph, followed by 40, then 50, 60 and 70. At 70 the engine is revving higher than I'm happy with, and after I shut it down he says it's way out. At an indicated 70 it was doing 90 ... hmm, wonder if I messed up the calibration. Oh well, if there isn't much else I might get chance to look at it again.

After this another inspector joined us and they did the emissions test. I asked him if he wanted proof of the engine's age. I got the receipt from the breaker showing the original reg number and date of registration. He asks if I have a copy of the log book - unfortunately the dealer didn't have that, I suspect the engine had been hanging round for a while. I offer the Haynes manual - although my particular engine number doesn't appear in any of the age ranges, it's a higher number than the 92s and lower than the 93s. He says he's happy enough with that but will need to copy the documents. The other inspector helpfully says he thinks on the later models the thermostat housing is in a different place anyway. The emissions test is a bit amusing. They try to get the engine running steadily between 2500 and 3000 rpm but can't do it even using the idle adjustment dongle. It keeps wanting to rev higher. In the end they appear happy and we move on.

Up onto the ramp next and they check all the front suspension and steering out, then spend a while in the engine bay. Next they lift the ramp and spend quite a while underneath. Quite unnerving - you can hear them tapping on things and talking, then pulling on suspension etc. Then down it comes and they show me the things they're unhappy with. In the engine bay they want some of the wires clipped up a bit more, including the throttle cable. Underneath where I've taken the brake pipe round the bulkhead they want it prising out a bit, and the loom securing more tightly. Also I've left the locknuts on the rear wishbone rose joints loose - d'oh!

Down we come for the light check and there's a problem with the offside rear light cluster which seems to have developed an earth problem since last night. The headamp alignment wasn't quite right but without any comment the inspector just pulls them round into position.

Further down the bay next to the brake testing rolling road. This took quite a while. The inspector explained that althuogh it's an LSD they've established that the low speeds they use aren't a risk. I decide to argue would be foolish since he's probably right! After a while he appears fairly happy but says he'll have to put the numbers into the computer. He's not terribly happy with the brake pedal which he thinks is too soft and goes down too far.

Off outside next for a dynamic brake test. After two runs with the first inspector driving while the second observes they conclude that the wheels are locking up together. Then it's round the back for mirror check and noise test. By the time I've walked round with the second inspector the first is there ready and says the mirrors are fine without doing any more formal testing. He adds though that the nearside wing mirror is necessary - obviously others have tried t get through with just interior and offside wing mirrors.

I'd been apprehensive about the noise test since day one. This beast is just sooooo noisy! Inspector 2 sets up the mike carefully, and on the first try inspector one has overrevved it a bit. I try to see the meter and I think it said 104db. Hmmm, the limit's 101db. The next run shows 100.8, followed by one at 100.9 and the third one is 100.9 again. Mr. Westifeld's cut it fine that time they say. I smile.

Inspector one says the test is over, and although it's failed he says it's a relativelly short list compared to many, and that overall the car is pretty good. They ask me how long it's taken - I picked up the kit 6 weeks ago yesterday. They reckon it shouldn't take me long to sort the problems!

Quite a wait now till I get the paperwork. Time for a cup of coffe and a banana. It's really cold but I'm looking forward to the drive home. The inspector comes back and runs through the list again - it's exactly as he'd already explained. He tells me I have 6 months to sort it out, but that he expects to see me well before then! And off I go.

On the way home I'm a bit more confident and chuck the car round the roundabouts with a bit more vigour. I take it up to just over 6k, but it wants to go higher, I know it does! Lots of stares on the way home, back through all the town centres. I know it's failed, but I'd accepted beforehand that it was likely to, and overall I'm happy. I was very pleased with the way the test was conducted, and the only fault that causes me any concern at all is the brake bias and pedal feel. I'll have a go at bleeding it again, but if it doesn't feel any better I'll be on the phone to Westfield again. The rest of the issues I can resolve in not much more than an hour once it's up on stands.

Can't wait to drive it again though!

21st November

Managed to fit in a bit of time in the garage this evening. I decided to have a look at the brakes first as that's the only job that causes me any concern. First of all I hop in and push hard on the pedal - I can't get it right down to the floor, but it does travel quite a long way. Next I drive the rear end onto my wooden blocks so I an get a jack underneath, and in 10 minutes the whole car is back up on the stands, rear wheels off.

I'm using my old Easibleed kit this time, with the bottle connected to the offside front tyre valve to supply the pressure. I start off at the rear nearside as that's the longest pipe, followed by rear offside, then up to the front, offside first, finally nearside. Then I hop back in to find the pedal much improved, about half the travel, much firmer. Once I've done the other stuff I'll try it on the drive and see which wheels lock first.

I remove the transmission tunnel cover next to tackle a couple of jobs under there. Firstly I put some spiral wrap round the main loom where it exits around the corner at the end of the tunnel, and ease the brake pipe away from the corner also. It only takes two minutes to adjust the handbrake cable. Then it's off with the speedo sensor to undo one of the prop bolts. I've decided to file a large washer to leave a tab sticking out and adjust the speedo calibration accordingly. Once that's on and the bolt and nut have been refitted with some threadlock I refit the speedo sensor and adjust it so the distance from the washer looks right. Then start her up and run throught the gears into top and hold it at 4,000rpm. Excellent - nice and steady and showing 45mph, which would give 135mph at 12,000rpm. I've calulated it should do 130mph in top at 12,000, and have added in 3% to make it over-read (SVA requires that the speedo doesn't show a speed less than the true speed) so it looks like it's spot on. Back down through the box then switch off and it's time for tea.

22nd November

Bit knackered today - worked all day Friday, overnight Friday night then till noon today. Ho hum ... time for a bit of sort-the-car-out therapy!

Start off under the bonnet - the inspectors were a bit picky about some of the wires, the flexible fuel line to and from the pressure regulator and the throttle cable. A couple of aluminium P clips sort out the fuel pipe, and a couple of tie-wraps the throttle cable. I attach a couple of tie-wrap mounts and protect the wires to the brake fluid warning switch and the ignition coils with some spiral wrap and secure with tie-wraps and they're sorted.

Underneath the car a couple more tie-wraps to secure the loom under the front of the tunnel and push the brake pipes away from the tunnel corners front and back. Some more spiral wrap goes on the loom as it exits the rear of the tunnel and secure it again. Also nip up the rear wishbone locknuts.

Next job is the rear lights. A new bulb goes in the number plate light and check out the offside light unit to find the earth terminal has got pushed out of the block. While it's out I solder the wire in then refit it all.

The exhaust heat shield comes off and I attack it with the file to round off all the corners and smooth off along the edges, then it goes back on. All that remains now is to put the tunnel top panel back on and tidy up.

26th November

I'd thought I couldn't get back for an SVA retest this wek but am unexpectedly off tomorrow. I rang them and booked it in for Thursday morning.

27th November

I've decided to have a look at the front brakes. Out with the pads and sthey look a bit glazed in places. I clean them up on some coarse sandpaper flat on the bench then clean the pads and disks with some brake cleaner. Up and down the drive a few times to try to convince myself the fronts are locking first but I'm pretty sure they aren't. I can only hope they bed in a bit on the way there tomorrow.

All that remains this evening is to clean the car and repack my tools, trim, tie-wraps etc. And check the weather forecast which says sunshine and showers.

28th November

Early start again today, booked in at 8 o'clock. Very dark and a bit cold but dry at the moment. Well wrapped up I set off taking the A roads again, partly because I want to avoid the motorway and partly because I want all the braking I can get to try to bed the brakes in. The trip feels a bit different this time - I suppose I know a bit more of what to expect. I also suppose I'll be more disappointed if it fails this time. Driving the car again feels great though, noisy, light, responsive. The roads are pretty wet so I have to be a bit careful, and the spray is a nuisance. Around Bridgend it starts to rain but I realise that while I'm doing more than 40mph all that's getting wet is my helmet and shoulders. I'm wearing my full face helmet, and at anything above 40mph really need the visor down as the aeroscreen is doing a remarkably efficient job of deflecting the wind into my face!

I arrive at the SVA station and as I walk into the reception the inspector sees me and waves me straight into the lane. One thing I'd forgotten about from my biking days was the effect of being on a bike in the cold on my bladder. It's no different in a Westfield! So off I pop to the toilet first.

First check is the speedo and I hold it at 35, 40, 50, 60 and 70 for them. The tester hands me a copy of the printout - no problems today! Reading 33 at 35mph, 38 at 40, up to 67 at 70. Ideal.

The inspector hops into the car to check the brake pedal and doesn't look happy. He says he can still push it all the way to the bulkhead. Not what I wanted to hear. I drive the car onto the ramp for them to check all the bits and pieces and after 5 minutes very careful checking of all my bits of handiwork (and a few bits they'd apparently been happy with last time!) they seem happy. We talk about the brake pedal - they wonder if I've left any air in there. I'm confident I haven't, but can't see how else it can be spongy. They say if there's no air in there it must be a dodgy master cylinder. They take the pedal box inspection cover off to see if there's any movement of the master cylinder but conclude that it all looks fine. Off the ramps next and onto the computer controlled rollers to test the braking force on each wheel. It seems clear early on that they think it's no better, but can't say for sure till they've stuck the numbers through their computer.

While I'm waiting for them another kitcar turns up. Seems he's there for a retest as well, spongy brake pedal and a few other things apparently. The inspector comes back after 10 minutes or so with another fail certificate for me.

I'm disappointed, starting to feel depressed and am becoming aware that I'm starting to feel a bit annoyed. I can cope with not getting it perfect first time and having a few issues to resolve, but I feel that this isn't my fault, and frankly can't see a way round it. I was pleased to have built the car in 6 weeks but now it seems to be taking ages to get it through SVA.

It's still raining as I leave, and for the first few miles I'm stuck behind a lorry in his spray. Eventually I get past him and onto the A48 to Bridgend. The rain's stopped and I blat past a few cars buzzing it through the gears with clutchless changes. The SVA inspectors are soon forgotten, running it up to 7,000 rpm now as it's done almost 150 miles since the rebuild.

Once home I nip out to get some brake fluid. I want to ring Westfield, but know that the first thing they'll suggest is to bleed the brakes again. So, a pre-emptive strike it is. Off with the wheels and out with the Easibleed kit again. I run almost the whole litre of new brake fluid through, and although I hope I'll see some bubbles I don't. Once it's back on terra firma I hop in and press the brake pedal again - no different. Another minor issue is the exhaust heat shield - it's hanging off! It's held on via 4 U shaped aluminium brackets which have been spot welded on. Three of them are detached now. Much as I dislike the heatshield it has to stay on at least until after the car's through SVA.

I speak to Mark Walker at Westfield who says he'll send out another master cylinder today. I press him a little bit on how much confidence he has that this will sort the problem, but he reassures me that only yesterday he successfully submitted a factory car for SVA with the same master cylinder. I come off the phone not feeling terribly reassured and with nagging doubts that it's not going to be so simple. To be continued ...

30th November

The replacement master cylinder arrived from Westfield and I spent the whole of the morning swapping it over. It was all going fairly swimmingly until I realised there was loads of brake fluid in the footwell. I let go of the pedal and it fell backwards all the way onto the floor! So, back out with the spanner, off with the master cylinder and it turned out that the circlip holding the piston in the cylinder had come out of its groove. Not impressed! Didn't take long to sort it out and pop it back in then refit the cylinder to the car. Then start bleeding again ...

I'd got sick of spending money on expensive brake fluid so I'd bought 5 litres for £9.99 at a local spares shop. 2 litres later and I hop into the car to check the pedal feel out - I can still push it all the way down. Not a happy bunny.

2nd December

Had a rather difficult phone conversation with Mark at Westfield. I put it to him that it had been suggested to me that the fix was to fit an AP Racing master cylinder +/- a restrictor valve on the rear circuit. He expressed his unhappiness at the 3 page thread on the WSCC forum discussing my SVA failure. He also said he's investigating the problem with their master cylinder supplier and would get back to me on Wednesday.

The Final Chapter?

Seems a long time since I updated the site. Probably because it is a long time! Been working away quite a lot in December which delayed sorting the car as well as writing the update. Also not at liberty to fully discuss the fixes yet until Westfield can be clear about their definitive solution. Suffice to say that they are taking it seriously and have been bending over backwards to help get my car sorted.

The car was ready on 14th December, but when I rang the Vehicle Inspectorate on Monday 16th they couldn't fit me in that week apart from times I was working, so the appointment was booked for my 3rd SVA at 8am on Monday 23rd December.

23rd December

The weather forecast for today is pretty awful, and the whole journey will be in the dark this time - previously it's come light about halfway there. I leave nice and early - my 11 year old son Chris had been almost pleased the VI couldn't fit me in last week as it meant he'd be able to come with me today as school has finished for Christmas. As it is he's ill with a rather unpleasant virus and isn't well enough to come, so I'm on my todd again.

The journey is pretty uneventful, but it feels good to be out in the car again. All the hassle over the SVA has detracted from the experience somewhat and I hadn't felt quite so excited setting off this time, probably because I'm not exactly overbrimming with confidence and I know I'll be really unhappy if it fails again.

I arrive just before 7.55 and one of the inspectors pops over and says hello and he'll be with me in a minute. He's back shortly after opening the place up and directs me onto the ramp and asks me what I've done to the car since the last visit. I explain and he has a good nose arounf under the bonnet cheching with a dry cloth that there are no brake fluid leaks. He lifts the ramp and checks underneath. After lowering the ramp I drive the car onto the computerised rolling road used for the brake tests. I've come to dislike this machine ...

He hops in and comments straightaway that the pedal feels much better. I start to feel a bit less anxious about it, and we have a chat as he runs through the series of tests on each wheel at the 5 different levels of pedal force. He doesn't comment on the results as he goes along and I don't like to ask! After the last one he says it looks better, and hops out to type the figures into the spreadsheet they use to calculate the figures. He seems fairly positive, and sure enough after typing in all the figures he scrolls down the page to the results row where I see the word 'PASS' in all 5 cells. I'm still sure there's something can go wrong, and ask what else there is to be done. He says there's no need to do the wheel locking test outside, he's happy with the results.
"So it's passed then?"
"Yes. Do you want a copy of the spreadsheet printout?. I'll go and write out your certificate."

What a great feeling. At last! Happy, relieved, elated ... while I'm waiting I ring home and tell Jen. I come off the phone not sure just how much of the relief in her voice is 'cos she didn't know how she'd put up with me over the next few days if it had failed again! One of the lorry drivers comes over - he's building a Morgan replica, and says he's seen me driving through his village on my way here.

The inspector returns and shakes my hand and hands me the certificate. He suggests that if I want a copy I should scan it before going to the VRO as they'll retain it.

So that's it then. Now I can really enjoy the drive home.

Minister's Approval Certificate (click for larger image)

Build Diary: Engine | Collecting the kit | Chassis [1] | Chassis [2] | Body
D Day! | Finishing Off | SVA | Registration | Post Registration | Trackdays
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The next project ...

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