Monday, October 16, 2006


Engine Recon

While not intending to do anything with the engine internals at the moment, I did find I couldn't bring myself to put the engine in the car in its current state, which was a bit mankier than I'd hoped!

I started by taking various bits off for cleaning, painting, and then deciding what to do with the block. I didn't discover any magical potions for cleaning alumium unfortunately, so I decided there was no better way than wire bushing with a drill. I think it comes up a treat, and it doesn't matter to me too much that it still leaves dirt in some of the corners - it gives a sort of "burnished" appearance that I think looks pretty good. You can tell which half of this has been done:

A lot of hours and several work out wire brushes later I'm pretty pleased with it. Once it has some repainted details I think it will look great. I've sprayed the whole engine with Sonus Motorkote which is an acrylic wax product that should help prevent it oxidising too quickly.

In particular, the starter and alternator were a bit of a mess:

I was amazed by how tiny the starter armature was given it could crank the engine over:

I fully stripped down, cleaned, painted and reassembled these. I'm fairly pleased with them - I think they'l look Ok back on the engine. Here are the finished articles:



Getting the engine brought one of my concerns back to the fore. I sat in the type R demonstrator down at marlin a fair bit and I found the clutch was *very* heavy. Looking at the build manual I found this was because it still used the cable clutch as per the Rover 200, with a mod on the engine to replace the slave cylinder with a cable bracket. The cable route is quite convoluted and I imagine the ratios might not be the same - a type R might well have a heavier clutch spring than a rover 200? So, as I had a slave cylinder with the engine I decided to go for a hydraulic clutch. Not as easy as it sounds, it turned out!

I managed to get a master cylinder from a scrap yard up near Ormskirk. Unfortunately they managed to deliver a *brake* master cylinder so I had to take a drive up there to swap it. Bit of a pain. Anyway, it came from a CTR so should be a good match. I took some measurements fom a civic to try and make sure I give the clutch cylinder the right amount of travel, and therefore the right ratio - we'll see when it's all connected up I guess!

I had to make various mods to the front bulkhead arrangement to get the clutch cylinder to fit. I made a stiffener plate (the bulkhead is only about 1mm thick normally!), then braced this with some allow angle from the lower chassis member to the pedal box assembly (you can see this in the photos below). Note the cylinder is canted over to the right a little - this allows it to clear the brake servo when fitted.

The spacings also meant that the clutch cylinder needed to be positioned where the heater box inlet/outlet was located. I got around this by resoldering shorter stubs into the heater matrix (see below) and making new holes in the bulkhead for them. I'm actually very pleased with this arrangement anyway, as it makes for very direct water hose routes.

After these sorts of operations, it's always vital to try things out and see if it will all work in practice - as this loon is doing for me here:


Engine Collection

Out of the blue I got an email from Terry at Marlin, passing on an advert she'd got for a Civic type-R engine for sale. I'd been having some trouble finding what I wanted - there were plenty of good looking engines around but not many with sufficient proof of origin. What I learnt was that insurance companies take the identity from the cars before passing them on to salvage dealers for breaking and reslale. This was a problem to me as I wanted to be able to get a year plate from the civic and so needed proof of its registration number etc. Anyway, this engine (2002, 29000) had everything I needed and was not too expensive. Only disadvantage was it was in Falkirk so another van hire was called for...

I had to fill in a questionnaire and all sorts at the bank when I turned up to draw out some wads of readies. Reassuring I suppose :)

The engine fitted in the van fine and looked ok, though with a bit of rust and oxidised alumium here and there. No O2 sensors either alas, which may prove expensive later!

I got back home pretty late from Falkirk, especially as I stopped off in Edinburgh to have dinner with a friend who was up there for the week. Getting the engine out of the van was a bit tricky as I was on my own - hence i was to be found in the early hours of the morning, harnessed with rope to the engine on a pallet, dragging it out of the van down a ramp made from other pallets. it didn't exactly seem light! I found this again a week later when wanted to lift it off its pallet on to a wheeles trolley i made for it. After failing with my crevasse rescue climbing gear (hmm, hat bodes well...) I made some primitive hoists by attaching a couple of ratchet tie downs to the engine and the beam of my carport. Seemed very, very tight, but did the job!


Steering and pedals

The pedal box is a fairly straightforward fit. Marlin offer a modification to shorten and reposition the pedals, but I found that once I'd bent them around so as to stop the brake pedal hitting the steering joint, and the clutch pedal hitting the heater, they seemed to fit just as I'd like them.. I adjusted the spacings and so on to suit me - I like the pedals pretty close together.

Pedal box before mods and titivation:

The steering column bolts in place pretty easily. Marlin supply a drilled square tube which bolts onto the pedal box to provide the rear support for the steering column. I don't know if I was off the mark but I found this was much too loose a fit to provide saisfacory support for the column. Not having a welder, alas, I used chemical metal to pack it when bolted up tight. Once this was cured and the box painted up, it looked the part and gave a rigid support to the column.

This photo shows the steering column trial-fitted along with the pedal box and the heater components.


Handbrake and Gear Lever

The handbrake and gear lever were reasonably straight forward. Handbrake was a direct bolt-on, whereas the gear lever needed a fair bit of work to convert the linkage to take the cable fixings for the actuation cables. Very therapeutic taking the old Rover parts and modifying them, then painting them up to look like new. The linkage will be hidden by the centre tunnel once the car is finished, but I'll know it's there...


First panels

One of the first jobs was to turn the car over and fit the floor panels. It took me ages to work out why Marlin recommend that you fit and then remove the floor - it's because it's much easier to work inside the chassis without the floor on initially, but equally it's much easier to drill for the floor fixings while you can still turn the thing upside down! I used 5mm rivnuts and will be using stainless screws to hold the panels.

Another confusing comment in the manual was not to drilland fix the outer chassis rails. Why? I reckon probably because these fixings will hold the body side panels and so you'll want to to drill them later to ensure hole matches.

The steering rack was next to go on and then the bulkheads. These are amazingly light - 1mm alloy or something. Marlin certainly haven't made this unnecessarily lardy!


Kit Collection

Ok, so as promised I've been pretty hopeless at updating this diary. Anyway, I've sorted out some photos and so on so this is the first of a few posts to try and get back up to date.

So, as I said back in May, the carport was built and I was ready to get the kit, waiting for Marlin to sort out a donor for me. My kit pick up went pretty smoothly - I hired a long wheelbase sprinter van for the trip down to Devon. Nice van - doesn't half shift when it's empty, but still noisy and knackering when you're on a long trip. The weather was vile which didn't make for a relaxing drive but I got there in one piece. Mark and co at Marlin were very helpful and went through the bits I had and the bits I hadn't - missing a few bits and bobs but plenty to be getting on with. Made it home not too late without having to fill up with diesel. Cost me £70 when I got back to Runcorn though!

This is the van pulled up at Marlin's factory in Crediton - you can see a few race spec 5Exis in the factory under construction.

A friend from work helped out the next morning by coming round to help lift the chassis out of the van. These few photos show the chassis out in carport, and also the heaps of bits which now occupying the, ahem, "dining room" and the outhouse:

Sunday, May 21, 2006


The Carport is Finished

And I'm pretty pleased with it; here's a pic in the rain today. It doesn't look too cosy though, I fear, so it should be a good incentive to get the build done during the Summer. On the subject of which, I presume Summer will be here at some point -today the fire's lit and the heating is on!

As far as the rest of the project goes, it should be fairly obvious that I wasn't able to take up Marlin on their offer of a chassis prior to May. In fact, my pick up is delayed due to me requesting a set of donor parts with the kit. I gave up any idea of stripping my own donor just due to the logistics of getting the car here, and the shell disposed of afterwards, etc. I think waiting a little now for Marlin to get the parts will save a lot of time in the long run! Just got to get rid of that boat now. Oh, and find my engine. Though that won't delay the start of the build at all - there'll be a lot to do before it's ready for the engine to go in :-) I actually got a copy of the build manual through the post from Marlin the other day so have been poring over it and salivating. Can't wait to get started!


Driveway update!

I've never been very good at keeping diaries up to date and this is no exception. Since the last post I've been getting on with preparations, in amongst the usual distractions of spring, like skiing!
Here are a few pics of the driveway and carport under construction:

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Things to do list

So to the present day. It's Now February 2005 and I'm just in the process of completing the order form to get in the post to Marlin. Terry tells me that they have a spare chassis from their spring batch that I could have at the end of the month if I wanted it :-)

I can't be ready for the end of February but they'd be willing to keep it for me in the meantime - It would save me waiting until the end of May for the next delivery. My build area isn't quite ready yet though as you can see. Picture this area with a flagged floor and a carport built over it and I'll be getting closer. Oh, and no boat in the way - I have to find a new home for it.The door at the far end opens into a workshop I've fitted out over the last couple of years with benches and shelving and so on which should come in handy. So before I can really get stuck in, I'm left with just a few quick and easy tasks - build a carport; buy and collect the kit and donor parts; and source a low mileage Civic Type R Engine. Should be a doddle...


Which Kit?

I wasn't in a position to start a kit build immediately, as I'd bought a house that was going to take a lot of work, even to create a build area! I decided to bide my time. Over the past few years then I've looked at a few different kits, in magazines, on the web and at shows. I'd initially been thinking of building a seven style car and considered the Tiger Super Six, the Westfield SDV and the Robin Hood 2B amongst others. However, at the Stoneleigh show in 2003 I saw the Marlin 5exi which was nearing completion of its development and grabbed my attention - I liked the modern mid engined approach and the clever use of the donor parts. When I was down in the West country for a holiday in Summer 2004 I called in the Marlin factory and was given a drive in the silver 5Exi K series 1600 demonstrator that Mark and Terry were running at the time - I loved it.

Still, I was still torn between this and a more classic LSS car. I'd narrowed my "seven" choice down to the MK Indy, which I liked for its good looks, nice chassis and single donor build and so by Autumn 2005 when I finally decided I was close enough to be ready for a build, it was the Indy versus the 5Exi. I had never been in an indy and so I went along to the Donnington show in October where Marlin and MK were both exhibiting. While there I had a ride in a Fireblade-engined Indy round the track, which was fantastic but convinced me that the seven style was just too stripped out for the sports touring ambitions I had, so I wandered back to the 5Exi stand. The clincher now was that Marlin had the new 5Exi-R build there with Honda Civic Type R power. The engine looked gorgeous in the car and my mind was made up. I had a good chat with Terry and Mark and told them I'd be placing an order in a few months' time!


Why build a kit?

It was probably about 4 years ago that I got the idea to build a kit car. I'd started my first job out of university (where I studied engineering) and was considering changing car - I had an aging 1300 golf mark 2 at the time. I was looking round for something quicker and considered various options - Fiat Bravo HGT, Pug 306GTI-6, Seat Leon Cupra-R. My shopping list was straightforward:
Not too much to ask, surely? It seems I was wrong though, and nothing fitted the bill. High insurance premiums, low mpg, high cost whatever I looked at. Even the good contenders had the problems of front wheel drive, and performance hampered by the weight of air-con, electric everything, doors.... The Peugeot Rallye versions were a good effort but my mind was made up. I needed two cars. A workhorse for everyday use, and a sportscar for playing at the weekends. Unfortunately though, this wasn't going to be cheap and that's when I started looking at kits. I loved the idea of building a car that did exactly what I wanted - nothing more and nothing less. In the meantime I bought a Citroen ZX 1.9TD as the workhorse. I really like it actually - torquey, and handles well.

Friday, February 03, 2006


I Feel Dirty

I do. Largely (though in truth not entirely) because I now have a Blog. Despite, in my opinion, being a strong contender for "man least likely to ever have a blog".

I blame Simon, and all his chatter of Web 2.0 while skiing the other week; he's quite an evangelist. So am I web 2.0 now? I can't remember whether blogs were 2.0 or 1.73. Anyway, it seemed to me that this was probably the best format for creating a web diary of some kind - this may be something of a truism - without having to put in any effort apart from typing a few words and uploading a few pictures.

So what do I intend to diary? Fear not, readers! I shan't be baring my soul to the world. No, I'm going to use this to record my quest to build a car. A fast car.

There now, that should be enough text to see what this looks like, without resorting to Lorem Ipsum.

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