Saturday, 1 September 2007

Summer 2007

Now our kit's ordered I thought it may be interesting to keep our friends and family updated with our progress. It will also be a great help in creating a build diary to aid getting through the SVA to make the car legal as we've been told they're getting sticter by Chris(MNR). So here's how it started. From a young age I've always been into cars and at 16 in 2002, I joined an established motor spares company. Lazy evenings in the shop and I came across the Haynes "build your own sports car for under £250" book. The manual went through how to weld, cut, chop, mould, fabricate and paint your own lotus 7 based car. Doing a diploma in motorsport engineering with all the skills I was taught I thought this would be a great side project to test myself. So I bought the book and tried to get started. Unfortunately nothing came from this, as for myself the £250 target for a donor car, materials and tools would be near impossible.

5 years past and we're in 2007. After loving my first single seater track day experience I had to get more, so with my Dad we got into talking about kit cars to get more track action. Thinking nothing would come of it my Dad surprised me with a real interest in getting one. With the idea planted in my head from the Haynes book and recent TV shows like "A Racing Car Is Born", based on the Westfield built by Mark Evans we were inspired to get one. We both liked the Lotus 7 style car as they have a real classic shape that we both really like, many spares and upgrades are available and ultimately they are relatively cheap, or so we thought!

Kit car selection

The budget started at about £4-5k and our first thought was to go for a second hand Caterham 7 being a well known name in the industry. This instantly proved unrealistic looking in kit car magazine classifieds where even some 90s cars were coming in just under £10,000!!! New models aren't that bad at £12,000 but the engine options are a bit on the weedy side and for quicker models they are over £30,000 and it's a similar story with Westfield. Our attention then turned to less well known cars that filled the rest of the 'for sale' sections like Robin Hoods and the Tiger Sports Cars. They dont quite have the status and quality of mass production but the cars are much cheaper especially if you build your own. This was starting to sound like a plan; all I had to do was convince my Dad we could turn a bare frame into a living, breathing car.

First kit we looked into was the Tiger Cat purely on looks so we went to see their premises in Cambridgeshire. The initial engine choice was a Ford Pinto thinking it would be the least expensive and easiest to maintain. We were really impressed with some of the cars they had and were lucky enough to be taken out in a 2.0L zetec engined Cat and were shocked by just how quick it was and the ease it went sideways. We both liked the company and its cars, all that remained was to get some detailed kit prices and then hopefully seal the deal. We had decided on a full kit so there were no donor cars left rotting on the drive which would annoy my Mum further as redecorating had already taken a back seat to save towards the kit car fund. The kit came in well over £10k(after VAT).

Before making any deals I scoured the forums and a few recommendations for MNR, MAC#1 and MK came up being superior to Tiger (I believe a member of the Tiger Owners Club even recommended them!). It was noticeable that Marc Nordon Racing Ltd was making a real name for itself for top quality with realistic prices and an excellent reputation for customer service. Their press articles are very impressive for someone relatively new to the industry and we were really taken by the way they advertise very little and let their products sell themselves. MAC#1 sounded and looked quite nice but we simply prefered MNR. We also saw MK and their Indy at a show which looked great in white with black but there was something I didnt like. We both felt the MNR's also look better than the norm with the shaped bonnet and scuttle although we would still have to have the traditional nose cone over the MNR item. So we had changed our minds yet again(who said women were picky!) and the next week we visited MNR at their workshop 260 miles away in Yorkshire. A few hours of discussion and we're sold on a MNR Vortx RT (Road and Track) inboard as the quality of components was fantastic, mostly brand new and has a stronger and lighter tubular chassis. The Vortx also uses independent rear suspension being superior over the cat and six and was in fact even cheaper! The lads at MNR recommended a bike engine like a Yamaha R1. To be honest we were very sceptical about this at first. The main BEC (bike engine car) points being light weight (60kg v 150kg), massive power to weight ratio, sequential gearbox, newer and low mileage engine (newer reg plate with reverse), amazing sound and no expensive modifications i.e. dry sump for it to be ready straight out the box. But they do have some drawbacks basically they're not made for the stress of being in and operated in a car. We really had to think about this one as we had only ever considered a car engine.

There was only one way to decide between a car and a bike engine; to go for a drive in both. A local locost builder ( member Des kindly offered to take us out in his really tidy MK Indy with an R1 engine. My Dad went first, half an hour later he returned with hair full of wild life and the largest smile you've ever seen. I couldn’t wait and WOW!!! The car feels completely manageable round town and once it gets past 6,000rpm it goes ballistic! After that experience we had to get an R1 even if it was an expensive addition to an ever increasing build budget. At the end of the summer with the specification finalised we then placed our order with an estimated collection of date in December 2007.