Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 1 guest. Posted: Mon Jan 05, pm. Does anyone have pictures of the Caterham's for a side by side comparison? The caterham is smaller and lighter and has evolved since the 60's and generally has been strengthed over that time. Haynes and Tanner's books, have good pictures of the Locost. Probably missed this someplace in the forum's but tried.

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Anyone can build a car. Just hire a pro and begin practicing your penmanship for writing zeros on an unending number of personal checks. Or you can try doing it yourself — and attempt to spend less than 10 grand.

Don't laugh. We recently met up with four guys who have built cars themselves and didn't wind up in bankruptcy or divorce court. There's a good deal of interest these days in back-yard carbuilding, thanks to Ron Champion. The book does show how to build an inexpensive sports car practically from scratch, but more important, it can get a gearhead thinking, "Hey, I could do that!

In 10 years, about 60, copies of the book have been sold, which is a lot for a how-to book. Champion's instructions describe a car that looks much like a Lotus 7, and he appropriately named it the Locost pronounced "low cost". Cloning the 7 was logical because the Lotus, which first appeared in oddly enough as a kit , is probably the most fundamental sports car ever built.

It's a lot of fun to drive, and its appeal continues even after five decades—indeed, there are several kit cars for sale today that resemble the original. The most well-known is the Caterham, offered by an English company that bought the rights to the Lotus 7 in We've test-driven more than a few of them; the Caterham is quick and agile and feels wired to your brain.

We'd all have one except they're expensive — a basic model costs more than 30 grand. Champion, though, says you could build your own Lotus 7-type car for a fraction of what a Caterham goes for. Could that be true? It's true, but it's not easy. There are discussion groups on Yahoo! From those starting points, most builders end up at www. Run by a year-old engineer from Orlando, Florida, Jim McSorley's site chronicles his odyssey of building a Locost it's not yet finished and also has Locost chassis blueprints, build sheets, and downloadable 3-D models.

These items make creating the steel-tube chassis easier. McSorley's downloads are free, which is probably because of the grass-roots nature of the hobby and also because the demand is small. There are several hundred Locosts knocking around England, but here in the U.

The problem has been that Champion's book recommends donor parts—engines, transmissions, axles—from cars that are readily available in England but not here. Several North American companies, however, have begun selling various bits and pieces to simplify the process.

Builders can buy frames and parts from places like Deman Motorsport www. It depends on how much the builder wants to do himself and is willing to spend. Although it is possible to build a Locost for little dough, would the finished product be something you'd want to drive? To find out, we posted a message on the Locost forum and invited builders with finished home-built cars to meet us at an event called the Southwest Se7ens Festival.

This annual gathering is held at MotorSport Ranch, a racetrack about 30 miles south of Dallas. We got commitments from four guys, and they all showed up — two with finished cars and two with cars that were running but not quite finished.

We did the usual driving and testing and learned that, above all, no two Locosts are the same. Winterhalter, an acknowledged penny pincher, built his car for the least money. Father and son used drawings from McSorley's Web site and attempted tasks they had never performed before. They learned to weld by watching a minute instructional video that came with their Miller welder. The signature feature of the car is the curved aluminum nose cone that was shaped by Winterhalter on an English wheel — a difficult-to-master metal-shaping device — he built.

The nose alone took 80 hours to complete. Winterhalter became enthralled with sculpting metal, and it shows in his good-looking work. When he retires in two years, that's what he's going to do with his free time — "shape metal. Although Winterhalter's homemade car is certainly an entertaining piece, it's not really a Caterham substitute. With only horsepower, it's not terribly quick 0 to 60 mph in 7. The car was darty, and if the driver takes his hands off the wheel for a moment, it veers off-course.

We didn't get the predictable behavior from Winterhalter's car that equates with fun driving, even though it pulled an impressive 1. The car did have its charms: a burbly exhaust note and a slick shifter among them. It would provide plenty of fun on a sunny-day romp through the countryside. For two-and-a-half grand, it's hard to complain about how it works. Winterhalter said the real value of his car goes beyond the finished product.

You could throw the car away and still be far better off. The younger Winterhalter used the build as his senior project in high school and is now studying mechanical engineering at Penn State. Wheelbase: Rivera started his project with what could reasonably be called a blasphemous act: He scavenged his own '94 Miata.

He had turbocharged the little Mazda but wanted something even quicker, so he decided to build a lighter car. The original plan was to sell the Miata and use the proceeds for his Locost, but takers failed to appear, so he took a Sawzall to it.

The gore is on display at rivera. Rivera sold the Miata parts he didn't need and nestled the hp turbocharged Miata powerplant into an enlarged chassis he constructed himself. It's comfortably spacious in the driver's seat, but at pounds, it's the heaviest car of this group.

Part of the weight can be pinned on the luxury of power steering and the extra hardware of the turbocharging system. The car still had plenty of mojo. It blasts to 60 mph in only 4. Since the car is so light, there was still plenty of punch when the engine was off boost. We quite enjoyed the thrust of this car as it zinged up and down the drag strip during testing. Toward the end of the session, it started to veer noticeably off-course with just a small tug on the steering wheel, and we had a hard time keeping it from ping-ponging off the concrete barrier walls.

We did a few quick laps on the skidpad, where the Rivera car plowed dramatically at a disappointingly low 0. The problem was obvious — the front wheels were pointing in different directions. On inspection, Rivera noticed that the lower-control arms had bent, which drastically threw off the alignment. He'll have to make those pieces a little stronger. We should note that Rivera is an avid reader who worked feverishly for 30 days to complete his car so it could make it into this story. We suspect he loves Car and Driver so much that he figured he could worm a staff job by killing off an editor on the track.

When he began his homemade car in , Fiaccone's previous experience was some modest wrenching on a Neon he used for autocrossing. Perhaps his lack of experience caused him to take on such a daunting project — ignorance is bliss? The other builders here used rear-drive donor cars, but Fiaccone found a 0. Motorcycles engines like this one have integral sequential transmissions, and to make it work, he had to put the engine on the left side of the engine bay. He wanted his car to be balanced, so to offset the left-side engine weight, he put the driver on the right.

There's some neat work in the tail. For shocks and springs he used coil-over units from a motorcycle, mounted inboard and activated with pushrods. He constructed the frame, purchasing a lot of pieces from guys who'd given up on their projects and placed them for sale on eBay.

The car's appearance, however, doesn't give away Fiaccone's inexperience. While we drove his car around for photos, we noticed that the rear felt unsettled. Back in the pits, we found a few loose suspension pieces that couldn't be fixed by a simple turn of a wrench. So we decided against putting it through our test procedures. That's a shame, because dressed in flat black and weighing only pounds, the car looked mean and suggested it might be a strong performer.

It'll be ready one day. Fiaccone advises gearheads everywhere, "If I could do it, anyone can. Tanner is the crafty ringer of the four. Not only did he have years of experience working on Miatas, but he also offset the cost of his project by writing a how-to similar to Champion's Locost book.

This book is useful for Locost builders in the U. Nevertheless, there are a lot of details covered in his page book, such as how to assemble the steering system, the brakes, and the powertrain. Basically, it details everything except building the frame, and it's an instructive read. Tanner's car felt terrific. The car weighed pounds, and with a hp modified Miata engine, it squirted to 60 mph in 4.

The fit and finish wasn't nearly up to Caterham standards, but Tanner's car was every bit as fun to drive. During the skidpad test — it pulled 0. Simply put, this one had that go-kart feel with predictable responses and quick reflexes. The brakes were also fantastic, stopping the car from 70 mph in feet. We wondered if the tight feeling of Tanner's car was due in part to the professionally built chassis.

Welding steel is not that difficult, but fabricating a frame that's dimensionally accurate and stiff takes some skill. Tanner's car shows, mostly, that you get what you pay for.

True, Tanner's cost four times as much, but the end result was four times as appealing. It also becomes clear that the books by Champion and Tanner are required reading, but you're going to need more help.


The Homemades

Ever since doing a design exercise involving a truss-frame aircraft fuselage, I have a deep interest in frame structures. I'm especially fascinated with three-dimensional truss structures for car chassis design, which so far I haven't found a real example of. Most car chassis are 'space frames' which are usually two truss sides connected with a collection of of transverse tubes. If they are designed badly, they will have a low torsional stiffness, which will make for less than desirable road holding. As an example, a Lotus Seven has a torsional stiffness of around 1,, Nm per degree. For modern high-performance cars, 30, Nm per degree is the target. My own car reportedly achieves 22,


Scratchbuilt 1/10 scale Locost chassis

Anyone can build a car. Just hire a pro and begin practicing your penmanship for writing zeros on an unending number of personal checks. Or you can try doing it yourself — and attempt to spend less than 10 grand. Don't laugh.

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