December 4th

Original diff internalsWell, as usual, things are proceeding very slowly. What's more, our central heating boiler* has failed for the umpteenth time and it's too flipping cold.

Anyway, I got the diff back finally, this time with the ATB internals fitted. The photo here shows the original Freelander open internals.

I don't know anything about 4x4s really, but I would have naively thought that an open diff was a complete no-no for an off-road vehicle and there'd be some way of locking the diff. But then, perhaps there are some Freelanders that actually aren't expected to go off-road? Odd that...

ATB diff in chassisAll the same, with the diff back I struggled for a while and got the thing back into the chassis and nicely bolted in. You'll notice from the photo that I've managed to clean at least some of the grot off the chassis. This area was hugely dirty and I've managed to get a lot of it off, essentially by repeatedly squirting solvents at it at high pressure. (Using a paraffin spray gun.)

That plastic bag at the top left, by the way, is wrapped around the end of the (currently open) brake line.

Cardboard templateOne of things that I want to do to the car is to panel in the bottom of the chassis. Of course, this will increase the weight of the chassis which is not quite the point, I know. However, I'll do this in thin aluminium so it shouldn't be too bad. I'm using 20swg sheet which is all of 0.91 mm thick in fact.

Now, OK, you might well look at this photo and decide that I've finally gone mad as I actually seem to be using cardboard. However, that's a template that I was making. My next trick will be to fix the sheet of ally, which is now cut to size, to the bottom of the engine compartment with some Dzus fasteners. I'm using those as I'll need to be able to get the panel off pretty easily.

Once this one is done I also want to make a long narrow panel to go under the transmission tunnel and something to go under the rear suspension too. If nothing else, doing this should have the advantage of keeping some of the grot out of the car.

I've also been pressing on trying to sort the roll cage. There's been a bit of set-back with this this week. I was originally quoted £195 by Fishers for the steel just cut and bent to shape. That seemed OK and was about the price that other people have paid for similar things from other suppliers. However, I sent them my drawing and they've come back with another price of £360, on account of the size being non-standard. As the original cage was also non-standard I'm rather bemused at that. That cage cost me £412 including the power coating and, of course, actually welding it together, so I sort of feel that someone's winding me up.

Consequently, I've been talking to other suppliers. (I suppose, to be fair, I could find out that this is a fair price.) I've got a quote from a local roll-cage fabricator of £300 and Andy Bates is also getting me one.

I'm actually starting to feel that I need to get on with things now. So, I guess I'll also start processing my licence renewal this week. As I'm an old fart I need to get re-medicalled every year so the first stop is going to be a trip to my doctors.

December 13th

Panelling under engine compartmentIt seems that I might have been a bit harsh on Freelanders above, as apparently they don't use diff locks as they do something clever with the brakes/ABS system. Oh well, what do I know?

As for the Fury, well, I'm still crawling forwards. This weekend just gone I've panelled the floor of the car, as discussed somewhere or other. (I sort of lose track of what I've actually written here you see...)

Anyway, I added a couple of chunks of ally to the bottom of the car. First of all under the engine compartment. This photo is of the front right corner. If nothing else, this panelling might at least stop some of the grot buildup, some of which you can see in this photo. Of course, the corollary is that once something gets in there it'll just stay there and make it even worse.

ClecosFitting these panels was made hugely useful by scoring some Cleco fasteners off EBay. Clecos are sort of like temporary rivets and allow you to hold a panel in place, and drill holes, etc., without having to worry about how the alignment is maintained. I've wanted some for ages...

In this photo you can see another panel under the transmission tunnel, held in by the aforesaid fasteners. Later on I permanently attached this panel using some small M4 set screws and rivnuts. The panel under the engine is much more likely to have to come off and is held in by Dzus fasteners. (Quarter turn fasteners much loved by the racing community.) You can see one of these right at the top of the photo just above, and some more of the works of the fasteners in the previous photo.

One of the things that I've been wondering about doing to the car is sorting out the suspension. After the abortive experiments with poly bushes a while ago I decided that I was either going to put it back as it was, or use some rod end bearings. (The things that everyone calls rose joints even though none of us actually uses those particular ones. I think they're really called Heim joints but that's even worse.) Of course, the thing about using rod ends is that the wishbones would all have to be changed. When I thought about that I also realised that one issue with the current wishbones is that they're obviously made out of bits rejected from battleship assembly lines as being far too sturdy. For example, the rear lower wishbones are made from 1", 12g tubing which is way, way, heavier than anything else I've looked at.

However, on chatting to the people at Fishers they say that the newer wishbones are rather more dainty which is good. They might even have the ability to bend and break up before actually lunching the chassis as happened to me earlier in the season.

I have actually been thinking about making the wishbones, as there's nothing particularly rocket-science about them and it'd be quite easy to make jigs from the current ones. I've actually made some CAD models of them, such as in the picture, as part of the process of working out if I'd actually save any weight and the answer is yes, a surprisingly large amount. Of course, this weight saving is additional to actually making the suspension work better, although to be fair I could get the same weight saving even using metalastic bushes by using thinner tubing.

December 24th

Gussets!I'm really feeling that I need to get on with things now and at last I've managed to actually do something over the last couple of days.

It seemed to be about time to put the engine back in. One of the problems I had last season was cracking in the right hand engine mounting. (I'm not the only person to have problems with this, it's not exactly a well-engineered part.) So, I went all over this particular mount, rewelding many of the parts and adding a couple (more) gussets to the structure so as to try and stop the cracking. It remains to be seen if I'm successful or not. The photo shows one of the little triangular gussets, in exactly one of the places where it failed before.

With that dones I could get the engine back in. One issue here is that originally the sump was just slightly below the chassis. In fact, the major issue in adjusting the ride height was the space below the sump. As I've now panelled in under the engine there was going to be an issue here and I either needed to raise the engine slightly or cut a hole in the panel for the sump to stick through. Obviously, raising the engine (and hence the CoG) is not necessarily a good thing. However, if the corollary is that the car can be lowered (including the fat lump in the driver's seat) then the overall effect is probably good. (The aforesaid fat lump weighs a good deal more than the engine.)

Pile of spacersSo, I decided that, at least at first, I should raise the engine a bit so as to avoid cutting a hole in the panel. Unfortunately, to do this properly, and get the engine level, I ended up with this stack of spacers under the right hand mount. (It's not as bad as it looks, as there used to be the bottom two of these there before, so I've just added one and a half. All together this is 45mm of spacers.)

It would probably be a good idea to remake this but for now it will do. Although it looks precarious it does have a sockign great M10 bolt down the middle which is really nice and tight so it's probably not going to move.

Next job will be to refix the prop shaft. It may well be that I have to move the centre mount slightly, again, so as to fit in with the repositioned engine.

The other problem with doing this is how much the air filters and/or air box stick up above the bonnet. I've ordered some new bodywork and will presumably have to do something like the scoop that I used before. I hope that I can use the same mould again to make the scoop as I really don't want to do through the performance of making a new one. I think that there should be enough room with that but I really can't tell until I've got the new bodywork mounted on the car.

December 27th

Another wierd bendI finished off putting the engine in today. With that in I bolted the propshaft back in and then spent a long time tweaking the position of the propshaft (the engine's moved slightly so the shaft does too) so as to get it just about right. I may have to change it again but it seems OK for a start like this.

I then went to fit the gearchange and discovered, surprise surprise that I would have to change that too. I've wondered for a while about making another of the wierdly bent rods that's at the heart of the gearchange so that I had a spare so I went ahead and did one just right, as Goldilocks would have it. I can keep the old one which can be bodged into service if needed. The photo here shows the new rod. The reason for the colour is that I annealed the aluminium after bending it and the gunge is the soap that I used as a temperature indicator.

Boxed in...So, with that connected I put the underfloor panel back on to check that it fitted and it was fine. It looks really odd being able to see something solid under the engine!

One thing I'm going to have to be careful about with all this panelling is making sure that there's somewhere for the hot air to go after it's gone through the radiators. Most people with panelled underfloors run some sort of ducts around the radiator.

Taper adapter in front uprightStill working up to doing something about the suspension, I took off the front uprights. One of the things that I've got is some tapers to replace the balljoints that are used at the bottom of the uprights with rod ends. The photo shows one of the uprights with the taper adapter in place and a rod end connected to that. One huge advantage of doing this is that I won't have to keep breaking the ball joint so as to adjust the camber. Even if I make it so that the camber is adjustable by twidding the rod end it will still be massively easier than struggling with a socking great ball-joint separator all the time.

December 29th

Braced suspension mountingHoly Moly, Batman! Yet another update. Anyone would think he'd made a new year resolution or something.

Anyway, first thing today was to get on with stiffening up the front suspension mountings on the chassis. Martin at Fishers told me a while ago about the new design being a bit prone to cracking so I cut out a couple of bits of 3mm steel and welded them in so as to brace the mountings to the sides of the chassis proper. The extra brace is the thing on the right hand side of the mounting "turret" as in this photo.

Exhaust back onNext up was to refit various connections to the engine. This included the oil cooler, the clutch cable and the exhaust system. (This is good this, at the moment things are going smoothly. However, I'm aware that there's a lot of problems coming, although there is, of course, always the possibility of just putting the old suspension and roll cage back on the car.)

If only I had some oil and a new filter, I could restart the engine in its rebuilt form. However, that will have to wait until I get some oil.

On that topic I've been trying to find some way of getting hold of a large quantity of motorbike oil, rather than buying it in 4 litre containers which seems daft. A friend (another RGB racer) works for Castol and he's getting me the name of the local distributor to see if I can get a larger drum. In fact, I'm also going to change to using semi-synthetic oil as recommended by Andy Bates (the builder). If nothing else, that will reduce the cost of all the oil.

New bodyworkFinally, Martin Bell popped round and dropped off the new bodywork that I've ordered for the car. Hence the garage is now full of crap again and I'm tripping over the stuff as I move around the garage.

As you can see in the photo it's rather yellowish, which is because it seemed sensible to put a small amount of pigment in the small amount of gel coat that they did use, so as to make it a bit easier to see. It's rather thin, though, and pretty see-through in places. I can only hope that it'll hold together rather better than the last lot did. I probably need to get on with mounting this to the car as soon as possible, if nothing else to get it out of way to some extent. What's more, as I'm going to spray it I think it'll be easier to do that with it on the car. In fact, I think I ought to order some paint and get practising on the spraying to see if I can get better at it than I managed last time.

Big problem, though, is the issue of what colour to do it. Anthea is insistent that the car has to be red and yellow again. She says it makes the car very distinctive and she prefers that when watching me risking my life out there. One possibility that we were talking about is drawing a diagonal line across the whole car and making one side red and the other yellow.

I've also been wondering about using the new scuttle section from the new yellow tub. The current one has got rather bashed up over the years and has a myriad holes in it that it doesn't need. However, it would be a pain to have to change it over. Probably worth thinking about though...

December 30th

Well, with all that new bodywork here, I might as well get on with it.

I've had a couple of comments that it looks awfully yellow for something that's supposedly not got a proper gelcoat. The photo above is actually deceptive. The photo here is a bit more of a closeup and you should be able to see (well, even I can see it) the blotchiness of the thin layer of gel. I'm just praying that it doesn't all just fall to bits, to be honest.

BTW, I had my medical for the race licence the other day and sent off the forms to renew my licence for next year. Hopefully, I'll get the licence back soon.

left sidepod taped in positionAnyway, the first thing to do was to attach the bodywork to the chassis using gaffa tape, as from past experience that's the only way to be really sure that it's all in the right place. To be honest, I shouldn't have put the exhaust on the other day as the sidepod has to be cut around it and if I find that I've got it in the wrong place I will have cut the sidepod in the wrong place. However, I'm not going to take the exhaust off again so some of the holes just might have to be bigger.

So, I mounted the left sidepod and progressively cut the various holes I needed in it. This is a variation of the technique I used last time which was to mount the sidepod, take the car to Bruntingthorpe and nearly set it alight and then incompetently hack some holes with a rusty hacksaw blade. This time I reckon I know what I'm doing so I completely removed the front "wall" of the sidepod and cut a large hole where the silencer (which is the bit closest to the GRP) is. I'll probably also drill some big holes in the rear wall.

I've mounted the sidepod in the same position as the other one was. However, after doing all this I'm suddenly worrying that they've actually changed the length of the pods, as they did really need to be modified in that manner. So, it may be that I've got to adjust the position slightly.

Right hand sidepodI really noticed this possibility when I mounted the one on the right, which is a lot easier to do as there's no exhaust over there.

Again, this is mounted in the same position (determined by the front mounting) as the original one was. However, I noticed after it was on that the rear of the pod doesn't look as though it will line up with the rivnuts that are in the seat panelling for attaching a mounting bracket to the rear of the sidepod.

As mentioned above, I suspect this is due to Fishers having lengthened the sidepods. (They are the same design as the old live axle car and it's always been a problem as the IRS car has a slightly longer wheelbase.)

Still, I should be able to work out how it will fit by fitting the other bits of the bodywork. With luck I can do this tomorrow.

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*Just in case you're interested and on the off-chance that Mr Google will be along, the boiler's a Baxi Combi 130 HE and it's been a complete pain in the bum since we had it fitted about 3 years ago. It's had a wide variety of faults ranging from serious ones that have put the thing out of commission (such as the main burner expiring and us having to scour Europe for a spare) to an obvious problem with the control system where every now and then it all stops and announces that the power connections to the pump are reversed. Strangely enough, I haven't been in there with my wire cutters in the mean time.