Build Part 1
Kit Collection - (21st November 2008)
Well the day finally arrived to collect the kit, we set off early Friday morning and planned to cover the drive in 3.5 hours from North Wales to Mansfield, arriving at approximately 9.30am. It was a pleasant trip regardless of the mode of transport. I had been fortunate to borrow a friends Mercedes Sprinter D310 long wheel base, which we were to find was more than adequate for the job.
On our arrival, we were greeted with the usual pleasantries from the MEV team Stuart, Julie and Alan, and a nice hot cup of coffee. The majority of the kit was already bubble rapped for the journey home. However as requested Stuart had left the side mouldings unwrapped and clipped to the chassis in order that I could see for my self the colour scheme chosen.
I also took the opportunity to inspect and test out the newly designed seat, which I found very comfortable. I then set about for the next hour discussing my list of prepared questions with Stuart in order to clarify in my mind the various stages and issues in the build. Once all the issues had been covered and prior to packing the various parts of the kit in the van. Stuart had asked if I would be kind enough to use my photographic skills, albeit amateur, to produce a short video of the Sonic for his web site. Although we were restricted to the MEV test track, a relatively short figure of 8 circuit, we had an enjoyably 30mins blasting the Sonic around the track.
Some 4 hours after our our arrival, and having probably driven Stuart mad with all the questions we said our fair wells and set off for the long drive home.
Unfortunately, although I now had the kit in the garage, well the chassis at least with the rest of the car filling most of the conservatory, I was unable to make a start on the build due to a variety of other work related commitments. Therefore the build start would have to wait until the start of December.
Part 1 The Build – (1st December 2008)
Note:- (As I had received one of the very first Sonic7 kits from MEV Stuart had advised that I may have to do a little bit more fettling than normal and had asked that wherever I had to adjust to fit or in the unlikely event that I found anything of major concern that I make MEV aware in order that they could address for subsequent kits.)
Included in the kit are a number of second-hand parts that require refurbishing, it should be noted that this is subject to the specification and options that you decide upon. I required the front uprights, but not the callipers as I had decided to purchase new twin pot Wilwood callipers direct from Rally Design as per fitted to the demonstrator. I had also requested a new steering rack rather than deciding to refurbish a used one.
I had decided to spend the extra money on both brakes and steering, as I feel confident that the money spent will be worth it in the long run. (Don't want any problems stopping or turning do we!)
Apart from the front uprights everything supplied by MEV was effectively new therefore enabling me to get going straight away with the build.
Just couldn't resist putting the panels on for a quick look-see of the colour scheme.
I had decided to do a simple trial fit of a number of the components Steering rack, radiator, steering column, handbrake, seat etc. this I did to:-
Provide confidence to myself that everything was going to fit and not foul.
Devise a solution and make / source the necessary items to connect the steering rack to column, and
Think about the all important driving position.
This is critical to me as at 6ft 2in with long legs and having a partner of 5ft 2in with short legs it will have to have the necessary adjustment. The focus column comes standard with both in/out and up/down adjustment, Stuart has incorporated three positions for the peddle box mount, only the handbrake is predetermined, the seat and gear selector being left to kit builders choice.
Right, less talking and on with the Build.
The first task was to fix the aluminium floor pan to the underside of the chassis. The floor pan if supplied cut to size by MEV and only requires a slight trim and deb er. It is fixed using 5mm Dia x 12mm Long large head aluminium rivets spaced approx 80 ~ 100mm apart. It should be remembered that the rivets running down the sides of the chassis are also used to anchor the fibreglass side panels, the floor pan effectively being sandwiched (use 5mm Dia x 20mm Long large head aluminium rivets) . Therefore the panels must be attached when drilling the side holes. Due to the restricted space of my garage I had decided to complete the drilling process but not actually pop rivet the sides at this stage, therefore allowing me to work on, installing the brake lines, steering column, wiring loom, cooling system, etc. with the side panels off the car, providing more space / access and giving the added benefit of the side panels, being less lightly to get damaged.
After careful consideration I decided to use, a commonly found ¾ in spherical male threaded track rod end, to support the steering rack column shaft, with a 7/8 in O/D 1.6mm wall thick tube welded to the standard Sierra rubber UJ linkage and stub shaft removed from the focus donor. Support was supplied by a simple, appropriately bent and holed bracket welded to the front bulkhead cross member – total cost around £20.. (this solution could be easily introduced by MEV – laser cut bracket supplied for bolting or pre welded to the chassis would be even nicer)
This required some head scratching, I calculated I would require at least 8” of seat travel. After careful consideration I opted for a OMP seat rail (OMPHC665) that would require modification. I had wanted to use a seat rail that would lock and adjust on both sides as well as being width adjustable, this was done by cutting a 2” section of the lift bar out, and rejoining with a 8mm threaded stud. I then used four strips of steel plate to provide the ideal location / sliding point for the MEV supplied seats to be located. While iff given the time I would have preferred to use aluminium alloy, this structure although heavy provided a credible solution.
I had decided to use the recommended Wilwood pedal box purchased direct from Rally Design. MEV have given the builder the option to mount the pedal box in three different locations thus giving lateral adjustment of approximately 50mm. I decided to pick the centre location to determine both the seat and gear stick position, prior to any fine tuning, giving me the final option either way.
The steering wheel head is a predetermined fixing, however it should be remembered that the standard Ford Focus column used has a small degree of up, down, in and out driver adjustment. With the air bag removed an after market steering wheel and suitable boss will have to be sourced.
My first mistake, I had been led to believe that any Ford Mondeo post 1996 gear stick and selector box would be fine – NO. It must be sourced from a MK1 1996~2000. Not to bad, cost me £15 plus the 30mins to take it off at the scrap yard. (there is a version of the MK1 in plastic, used by Adrian Bennett on his Rocket www.jetpower.co.uk, I am advised by Stuart that either can be used, he has no particular preference)
The correct gear stick and selector box now sourced, requires a small degree of modification with a 4in angle grinder and a file. The main thing is to remove the cable mounting bracket welded to the base plate. Once removed two nicely made laser cut cable selectors supplied by MEV in the kit are bolted in their place. I have decided to make slot hole in the brackets in order to give adjustment as their exact position cannot be set until the engine and cables are installed. This area requires special attention as a smooth gear change is essential, and something I know MEV are very proud of their engineering solution too.
The selector box base plate is bolted directly through the box section floor pan support rails using 3 suitable bolts, its exact position is determined by the Builder, I decided to leave this until I have the engine installed, gear cables connected and can thus ensure everything runs free and easy. (note that the gear stick shaft will require straightening)
Another item transferred unchanged across from the Focus Donor, including the handbrake warning switch which will require wiring up and the cable splitter plate one to two. The front handbrakes position is predetermined by MEV and is mounted slightly off centre in order to provide better clearance for the gear cables to pass to the rear. The rear mounting hole is drilled and determined by the Builder.
The bottom mounting lugs are pre welded to the chassis therefore the radiator just slots in. The top mounting brackets are supplied lose by MEV and only require bending, drilling and bolting in position and subsequently painting. This ensures the builder can guarantee the appropriate clearances, i.e. steering rack column.
Forward and Rear Bulkheads
The bulk heads are made from the same material as the flooring (1.5mm thick aluminium alloy sheet) While the bulkheads are effectively pre cut to overall size they will require a small degree of trimming work, this can be achieved using simple hand tools i.e. Aviation snips, Scroll nibbler, File and an Electric drill. The rear bulkhead top edge comes pre folded therefore no access to a sheet bender is required.
I have trimmed the forward bulkhead fully and left provision for the fluid reservoir rather than make a bracket. This level of trim is not necessary required therefore I have marked as options the elements that could be left out.
The rear bulkhead is almost unchanged, only holes for the gear and handbrake cables, handbrake switch wiring, fuel tank piping and electrics, will need to be made.
The cooling pipes connecting the radiator in the front to the engine in the back are manufactured from 32mm, 1 1/4” aluminium tube provided pre bent by MEV. The pipes require firmly mounting to either side of the chassis, this can be done by either forming aluminium strips around the pipe to use as anchors or suitably sized 'P' Clips pop riveted to the chassis. Remembering that these pipes will get hot, I have avoid using cheap plastic P Clips as they will soon become brittle over time. Suitable rubber hoses will be required to connect the cooling pipes to the radiator / engine, to a degree the standard focus pipes can be utilised here although 2 sets will be required and a couple of additional short lengths of aluminium tube.
Remember to take the burs from the end of the pipes in order to aid fitting, a useful trick is to spray Hair Spray on the tube just before fitting the rubber tubes as it initially acts as a lubricant before setting and acting as a weak glue. These pipes then secured with appropriately sized Jubilee style clips.
Note:- Take care when fixing the position of the nearside pipe to leave sufficient room for the fuel filler pipe.
Main Electric Loom
There is no electrics supplied as standard with the kit and builders are left to decide whether to take up the option of purchasing the electrics kit. Being reasonably competent in this area I thought long and hard about whether to take up this option or go it alone. In the end, and probably due, at least in some part, to the release of MEV's E-Dash, I decided to take up the option. The main loom comes fully shielded, colour coded and marked up. It is fitted front to back, alongside the (near side) cooling pipe and will require securing to the chassis, for this I have again utilised P Clips.
Brake and Clutch pipes
Almost all of the braking / clutch system is new, the only used/refurbished parts being the rear focus callipers, the clutch and fluid reservoir. The brake and clutch master cylinders are Wilwood and are either supplied by MEV or can be sourced direct from Rally Design, coming from the US all the items are in imperial, therefore you will need to source 3qty 3/8th UNF long reach male brake pipe unions and 3qty 7/16th UHF Bolts and Banjos or equivalent, for connection to the reservoir. For reasons of convenience I then switched to metric, 1qty 4way brass T 10m Metric and 1qty 3way brass T 10m Metric will be required. The 4way accommodating the hydraulic stop light.
SVA/IVA rules require that all brake piping be “adequately secured” many different methods can be used including the use of proper brake pipe clips. I have used self adhesive cable tie bases pop riveted to the chassis, the pipe being sleeved with 3/16th plastic windscreen washer tubing, providing insulation, clamped with a cable tie. This was purely because of an abundance of cable tie bases and no brake pipe clips at the time. These fixing were spaced approximately 150mm apart.
Note:- flexible hydraulic piping used must come with a manufactures certificate of “fitness for purpose” for SVA, i.e. that used between the three master cylinders and the fluid reservoir.
Note:- The electrical loom, cooling pipes, brake and clutch front to back runs must be secured prior to the fitting of the side panels.
It came time to unwrap the the role bar from its bubble wrap. I had chosen to have my role bar plastic coated white rather than the standard black. I immediately noticed that the role bar was of a different profile/design than that fitted to the demonstrator car. While I must confess to preferring the new shape I was a little alarmed to find that unlike the role bar fitted to the demonstrator this roll bar displayed compressions of the tube on the draw sides of the bends. I have to admit being somewhat disappointed, as Stuart had never mentioned anything when I collected the kit, and as the item was pre rapped for transport, I had not picked the change up on collection. I suppose that will teach me to check everything more carefully prior to acceptance.
I contacted Stuart with my concern where upon he explained as follows:-
“I have checked 8 roll bars which were part of the same batch as yours and all exactly match. The only thing to note is that they are formed in one piece on a CNC mandrel bender and the 3 bends are done in succession. This creates very slight compression of the tube on the draw side of the bend, it is not possible to have the draw points mirrored as the work piece cannot be removed half way through the process. Thicker tube, i.e. scaffold tube would not compress but cannot be formed on their mandrel bender and accuracy is very difficult to guarantee with other benders. We are making a light vehicle, however and do not wish to go to heavier tube.
The bar shape has changed slightly as our car had to have 3 joins in it to form it. We also noticed rear visibility is impaired by our slightly less curved version (if you have a screen mirror). The new shape is M for MEV and is styled to give the twin hoop look. Again if you're not happy with it and wish to have your own made locally to you then please return it and I will credit the amount plus post. I hope you retain it though as I think the new shape is great.”
While I respect Stuart for both his honesty and offer to provide a full refund, it still would have been nice to have be advised upfront, 'lesson learnt check everything thoroughly then there's no unexpected surprises'. That said I have decided to retain the roll bar supplied and if I find the uneven compressions bother me too much, either foam cover the bar or consider replacing it at a later date.
If like me you have had the chassis / bones plastic coated then you will need to ensure that the tube surfaces are clean prior to fitting the poly bushes. Even if you have not had the bones plastic coated, the tubes are seam welded and may require some smoothing. I found that a half round file, drill mill bit and a ¾ inch Rubber Drum Sander was the best set of tools for this job. Once the paint/seam and tubes edge burs are removed then the bush should initial fit under hand pressure at least ½ to ¾ the way in, use a rubber mallet to seat home.
Once the poly bushes have been inserted, and under advisement from MEV, I then reamed out the centre of the poly bush. You will find that poly bushes centres compress when seated home and will require opening out slightly in order to ensure that the tube inserts are not to stiff.
I made up a special tool to do this job from an old 22mm flat wood drill bit, grounding the outer edges down to an overall with of just under 19mm. After reaming out the bushes I smooth the surfaces with a small rubber drum sander.
The tube inserts de-bured and appropriately greased should then be pushed / taped in. Remember the outer surfaces of the tube inserts too inner poly bushes surfaces are the pivot surfaces therefore when the bones are fitted they should pivot smoothly but should be neither stiff or loose. (remember to grease appropriately or you will end up with squeaky suspension) I'm not going to suggest a grease as many people have different views on this subject, all I will suggest is use a good quality waterproof grease that dose not harm polyurethane.
Note:- although fitting the bushes is a little time consuming and repetitive, is a nice little job that can be done at intervals when inevitably awaiting for parts, again take your time and your efforts should be rewarded with none squeaking, smooth performing suspension..
Once all the front bones have been bushed then the refurbished Cortina uprights and hubs can be assembled with the chosen discs and callipers. All the rod ends are supplied with the kit from MEV. The same attention can then be afforded to the rear suspension using the refurbished focus front donor hubs .
Note:- The Cortina hubs are fitted as standard with short wheel studs designed for steel wheels, these in most cases will be to short for alloys, therefore I have taken the longer studs from the refurbished focus front hubs now used on the rear and used them to replace the shorter Cortina ones. The donor focus front hubs used on the rear of the sonic are then fitted with Plus 20mm ford focus studs in order to accommodate the 20mm spacers that require fitting to the hubs. Make sure you fit the longer studs in the rear hubs before assembling them in the rear uprights.
Peddle Box Balance Bar
I mention this item as at present it may or may not be an SVA/IVA issue on the Sonic7. In general balance bars are frowned upon by SVA/IVA inspectors and in most cases require locking out. Therefore I have drilled 2off 3mm holes at either end of the high tensile steel balance bar prior to fitting the peddle assemble. This gives me the facility to adjust and set the brake balance bar accordingly both prior too, or if necessary during SVA/IVA.
Note:- Split pins or lock nuts are not acceptable only 'roll pins' will do.
Unique to MEV cars is the E-Dash. Any one who has build a car will remember the long and fiddly task of installing the dashboard instruments. SVA/IVA rules are becoming ever more strict and to have a panel that in effect not only fully complies with the statuary requirements but takes longer to mount i.e. cut the hole in the dash and make a bracket, than to wire up is a true inspiration.
This I feel will be the way forward and will inevitability be copied by other kit car manufactures as it simplifies the cars wiring process immensely.
The fuel tank is a simple all aluminium welded structure, holding approximately 27lts / 6 gallons and utilises a relativity simply modified fuel pump/sender unit taken from the Ford Focus donor car.
The only job the builder has to do here is cut the 120mm hole in the top of the tank.
MEV at this stage recommend that the majority of the fibre glass body work is fitted as the bones of the suspension, steering, transmission drive shafts, brake lines etc. all pass through the side panels. Under normal circumstances I would do this, but due to this being a winter build, the restricted build space of my garage and the build manual not being as detailed as one would like, as well as it being a long time since I last built a kit car, I have decided to take the longer route of doing as much of the work as possible before fitting the bodywork.
Knowing my luck I'd probably end up damaging the body work as well.
It had always been my plan to do the build this way, therefore I had designed my chassis stand from the outset to withstand the weight of the engine/transmission.
Engine TI (Trial Installation)
Check 3 point engine mounting, clearances and drive shaft seating
Set up and decide upon gear linkage cable, hydraulic clutch piping and handbrake/accelerator cable runs.
Source and cut piping for engine bay fuel, cooling runs and position and mount header tank.
Once all the hard cable and piping runs have been decided upon and miscellaneous mounting brackets made, then the more flexible electrical cable runs can be decided upon and the position fixed of the engine bay fuse/relay box and ECU.
With the engine fitted I thought it would be a good opportunity to fix the gear shift selector box to the chassis. First the cables were installed, on mine the white plastic screw clips were for the forward/rear motion, I like some other builders on the rocket, found that the fit was twisted, this is easily rectified by pushing out the rubber selector grommet on the gear box end, and twisting the cable through 180 degrees and refitting the grommet. After finding neutral and setting the gear stick in the central position I then then determined the position of the MEV supplied selector brackets. I then proceeded to tag weld the brackets in position. A quick refit and reposition confirmed all was well. I had on purpose angled the centre bracket a little to give the cable a little easer clearance of the hand brake. Again following a trial fit of both myself and the misses the ideal position was found for the gear selector box and it was finally drilled and bolted in place.
Note:- As the gear stick selector box from the Mondeo is reversed when installed in the Sonic the gear stick will require bending / straightening and cutting to drivers preferences.
Although I was not intending to fit the side panels at this stage, I though I would take advantage of a warm dry day to attack the fibreglass side panels prior to there fitment. Any one who has worked with fibreglass will appreciate that this material is best worked on out in the open in a well ventilated area as the dust gets everywhere.
The Fibre glass side panels will require holes cutting in order for the suspension bones to go through, the panels come pre marked by MEV (with the exception of the drive shafts and brake pipes).
There are many methods for cutting and trimming fibreglass, hole saws, jig saws, hand blade are but a few. The best tool I have found for cutting/shaping fibreglass is a small 500watt high speed rotary cutter, (some where between a Dremel and a Router) although this tool cuts through fibreglass like a hot knife through butter, the user needs to be extremely careful as if you loss concentration then you can very easily make an unwanted cut. (go slowly take your time and concentrate) The holes can then be finished of using a simple flap wheel in your cordless drill. It took less than an hour to do each side inclusive of a nice cup of tea.