Neil Fletcher Racing

JIJ9975 - Running Reports No2.

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August 2009 and the rear arches of the rally car are starting to get a bit rusty, the passenger side one has been made worse by being clipped by another competitor during a rally.
14th August 2009 012.JPG (89155 bytes) The rear arches haven't had any real work done to them since the car was built in 1973 so they are starting to show their age, the passenger side one was hit by another car some time back which made matters worse so we're going to fix this one first.
14th August 2009 011.JPG (118912 bytes) First job is to remove the tank in that corner of the car.
14th August 2009 020.JPG (94101 bytes) Next up I offer up a Hadrian replacement outer arch, there's no inner arch to worry about as most of it was removed for wheel clearance as you'll see later.
14th August 2009 015.JPG (103463 bytes) As you can see from my marks the replacement arch extends up the rear quarter about 4 or 5inches but I'll not be using it all, there's no real point in cutting out good original metal if I don't have to.
14th August 2009 017.JPG (67486 bytes) At first this bit at the back of the arch where the other rally competitor had clipped us looks to be the worst area.
14th August 2009 018.JPG (54888 bytes) Whereas the front of the arch looks quite good - at first.
14th August 2009 019.JPG (105268 bytes) But once I run a Zip wheel right round the arch a few more bad areas start to make themselves known.
14th August 2009 023.JPG (101239 bytes) Once I have paint etc all cleaned off I can see where good metal start and can then go ahead a make a cut right round the arch leaving a good strong edge. You'll notice that all my original marks are back about 1 1/2 inches from this cut edge - a good overlap but I'm going to butt weld not overlap.
14th August 2009 020.JPG (94101 bytes) The repair arch goes back on again and this time I mark it on the inside where it overlaps/meets the cut I made on the car.
14th August 2009 021.JPG (121258 bytes) Here you can see my white mark on the inside side of the repair arch, then I cut off the excess metal on the arch with the air shears.
14th August 2009 022.JPG (108775 bytes) I don't cut right down to my line but leave a little so I can work it in a little at a time with the grinder and zip wheel until it mates perfectly with my cut on the car.
14th August 2009 024.JPG (105583 bytes) Most of the inner arch had been cut away and repaired a good few years ago but there is a little gap left at the front where I had cut some rot out.
14th August 2009 025.JPG (103317 bytes) Another shot of the same area which shows it a little more clearly.
14th August 2009 028.JPG (78146 bytes) Once the arch has been trimmed and mates nicely to the shape of my cut on the car I can get ready to start welding.
14th August 2009 030.JPG (65740 bytes) These little clips are a great job as they both hold the repair arch in place and also space it nicely leaving the perfect gap for welding etc.
14th August 2009 031.JPG (84723 bytes) I start off with a few tack welds then I can remove the holding clips.
14th August 2009 032.JPG (60890 bytes) Then I slowly do more tacks and little short runs but at the same time trying to avoid excessive heat build up.
14th August 2009 033.JPG (96672 bytes) Once the welding is finished I use a combination of grinder, zip wheel and DA sander to tidy up the welds.
14th August 2009 034.JPG (93918 bytes) The whole area round the arch is now ready for a very light skim of fillers to finish the job off.
14th August 2009 041.JPG (106993 bytes) Here is a photo of the reverse side of the welding, because the little clips hold the panels nicely spaced you should end up with a fairly neat finish on the inside edge which just needs smoothed off with the zip wheel.
14th August 2009 044.JPG (73395 bytes) And a couple of little piece are let into that gap that i had at the front edge of the arch/wheelhouse.
14th August 2009 048.JPG (64894 bytes) These repair arches have a very wide lip on them so I take the air hacksaw and cut quite a bit of it off.
14th August 2009 051.JPG (92752 bytes) Then I smooth off the cut edge with the zip wheel.
14th August 2009 050.JPG (81614 bytes) Before giving any little rough patches a final smooth off with a little flap wheel. You don't want any sharp edges here as someone may have to grab the car by these arches to lift her out of a ditch or some such at a rally.
14th August 2009 052.JPG (73338 bytes) Once the edge is smoothed off nicely I take a panel hammer and slowly beat/bend the remaining lip back up in on itself to give a nice rounded finish.
14th August 2009 054.JPG (72777 bytes) Then it's on with a quick dollop of fillers before sanding it down to a reasonable finish.
21st August 2009 013.JPG (82433 bytes) Any rough patches and heavy sanding marks are given a quick covering of stoppers and then some finer sanding.
21st August 2009 018.JPG (86826 bytes) Before shooting on a quick couple of coats of primer.
14th Sept 2009 021.JPG (64447 bytes) And then finishing off with a coupe of coats of Sebring Red and the car is all ready for our next rally in a week or so.
September 2009 and my next project is fitting power steering - to be exact a Corsa C electric power steering unit obtained off eBay for 47 plus postage.
14th Sept 2009 051.JPG (116746 bytes) Before starting I spoke to a guy down the road from me who prepares Mk2s for rallying to get a few pointers on the best way to go about this conversion.
18th Sept 2009 014.JPG (126568 bytes) One of the first jobs was to remove the steering lock mechanism and various bits of switchgear that I would not need. The trouble was the top bearing was housed within this complete plastic unit. I ended up butchering off most of the plastic with the hacksaw and angle grinder just leaving the centre bit with the bearing in it.
14th Sept 2009 052.JPG (87361 bytes) Rather by luck than design the Corsa unit that I had bought came with the short double ended sliding universal jointed bit at the bottom end of the column. This makes the job of fitting it to an Escort a lot easier.
14th Sept 2009 053.JPG (81014 bytes) I only needed one half of this bit, the ended which attaches to the column itself. There's a couple of small peenings which hold it together, these need to be drilled out first.
14th Sept 2009 054.JPG (83912 bytes) Then it should slide apart fairly easily, a good hammer blow or two might help.
18th Sept 2009 001.JPG (92379 bytes) Next up I get a standard Mk1 column and dismantle it - no way was I going to butcher a proper Mexico short column. Anyway you need to remove this circlip at the bottom of the inner column before it can be slid out of the top end of the outer column.
18th Sept 2009 015.JPG (121490 bytes) The complete inner shaft can then be slid out of the top of the outer column. It's a bit rusty from having lain about for many years but I first gave it a go with the sander, later I'll take it round to mum's and give the splines a proper clean in the blast cabinet.
18th Sept 2009 002.JPG (128895 bytes) I have a bit of a look through all the old scraps of metal that I keep lying about and find this little bit with slotted holes, I reckon that I can use this to make a bracket to bolt the column under the dash.
18th Sept 2009 003.JPG (111778 bytes) I also cut and bend a couple more scraps into "L" shaped brackets, these are then welded onto the bracket above - see below.
18th Sept 2009 004.JPG (94769 bytes) At this stage I do a trial fit into "Project New Mexico" - I don't want to start into the rally car yet as we're rallying this weekend. The little bracket I made holds the top end of the column in place and the universal bit just extends through the Escort floor.
29th Sept 2009 020.JPG (115227 bytes) A few days later and with no more rallies for 3 weeks I can get the rally car into the garage and up onto the axle stands in preparation for so serious work.
29th Sept 2009 021.JPG (130115 bytes) The first job was to remove the steering column etc and make room for the new column and motor to go in.
29th Sept 2009 025.JPG (95385 bytes) There's a bit of a jumble of wires in here with various items having been added after the car was originally rally prepared.
29th Sept 2009 034.JPG (89330 bytes) And at the other end there is the ubiquitous group 4 joint, one of the good quality solid cast ones that aren't so easy to get nowadays.
29th Sept 2009 026.JPG (69847 bytes) This black plastic part is the remnants of the Corsa switch unit and steering lock mechanism which I had butchered off with the angle grinder, a roll pin holds this to the main outer steel tube of the column.
29th Sept 2009 027.JPG (85957 bytes) This plastic collar will be retained because it houses the top column bearing and it's a very sturdy bearing when compared to a Mk1 Escort one.
29th Sept 2009 028.JPG (105291 bytes) The next bit off is the collapsible part of the upper column, this just kind of twist and slides off - it's not permanently fixed other than being bolted to the dash in a Corsa.
29th Sept 2009 030.JPG (101065 bytes) It's probably not very clear in this photo but that bolt hole thingy beside my thumb is actually plastic and obviously meant to break away and allow the column to collapse in the event of an accident - I'll be getting rid of those eventually.
29th Sept 2009 029.JPG (66535 bytes) A close up of the inner tube of this column and you can just make out a long raised ridge of metal, there are three of these round the inner tube and the outer is then a tight sliding fit on these ridges.
In a Corsa the steering ECU gets speed signals from the engine and wheels, when fitted to another car it needs a control box to supply these inputs for control. This little unit costing 13.75 from Motorsport Innovations supplies the required signals.
29th Sept 2009 031.JPG (120648 bytes) Everything, column, control unit, ECU etc all get bench tested before going any further - being out of a scrap car you just never know with the steering but luckily all proves to be working OK.
29th Sept 2009 032.JPG (60809 bytes) I had originally intended to buy a boss to fit my Astrali steering wheel to the Corsa splines but when I heard that it could well cost over 50 I decided that the budget for this job wouldn't stretch that far. Well OK I was just being a typical tight Irishman. So the splined end was cut off.
29th Sept 2009 044.JPG (85448 bytes) As well as being splined it's also threaded up the inside and I have to cut another little bit off to clear the threaded bit. It's hollow inside for a good few inches so I intend to fit the top of an Escort column right down inside it.
29th Sept 2009 036.JPG (111936 bytes) And here's a couple of Escort inner columns, an early pre-ignition lock type one and the upper one is the later one.
29th Sept 2009 038.JPG (102408 bytes) Notice also as well as being a slightly different shape the lower early one has also a finer thread on the end - a very rare British Cycle Thread, I didn't realize it at the time but this was to cause me some problems in the later stages of the project.
29th Sept 2009 039.JPG (116201 bytes) The early style column is the same thickness for it's whole length, this is handy as both ends then fit inside the hollow Corsa inner column without any further modification.
29th Sept 2009 040.JPG (101287 bytes) If you are going to use a later column you will need to get the top part of the column lathed down so that it will fit inside the Corsa one.
29th Sept 2009 041.JPG (77469 bytes) Anyway I went ahead and cut about 8 or so inches off the top end of the early Escort column.
29th Sept 2009 043.JPG (60290 bytes) And I proceeded to slide this right down the inside of the Corsa one, part of the reason for cutting it so long was to give me a little come and go once I got round to doing a proper trial fit in the rally car - it's always easier to shorten something that's too long but if you cut it too short you're kind of stuck with it.
14th Oct 2009 001.JPG (91149 bytes) After having done various trial fits I also cut about 7 inches off the bottom of the Escort column.
14th Oct 2009 002.JPG (104670 bytes) This will go just over 2 inches up the inside of the Corsa bottom joint that I split apart at the start of the project. It's not quite as tight or firm a fit as the bit in the top end but it is good enough to keep it all straight.
14th Oct 2009 011.JPG (83945 bytes) Next up it's time to start welding the shaft. This is not something you want to be doing yourself unless you are very confident of your own welding ability and even then only if you have a fairly powerful machine - at least a 150 and preferably a 180 Amp welder.
29th Sept 2009 046.JPG (137119 bytes) And this is the first proper trial fit just to see how I like the position of the wheel, basically I want it to be as near as possible to where the wheel was when using the original Escort column.
29th Sept 2009 045.JPG (105590 bytes) I also need to be sure that the motor will clear the pedal box etc - I was a little worried about the accelerator pedal as I have the long Twin Cam/RS1600 style one fitted to my car but I needn't have worried, there was plenty of clearance.
14th Oct 2009 023.JPG (99732 bytes) The bit of tube, the washers and nut etc are used to protect the splines and threads from any possibility of getting damaged by welding spatter.
14th Oct 2009 025.JPG (88480 bytes) I had to weld a little bit at a time as there appeared to be both plastic and grease down inside the outer tube of the column.
14th Oct 2009 026.JPG (90669 bytes) The weld was then ground down flush with the Corsa part of the column to allow the top bearing and remains of it's housing to slide down into place. Just visible is the circlip which helps to hold it in place.
Moving on to the main part of the column I need to make a mounting bracket, this will attach the motor and housing to the pedal box. Luckily the Corsa unit comes with a steel bracket already in place.
14th Oct 2009 003.JPG (91520 bytes) To this bracket I bolt a length of 1" flat steel, it needs to be offset to one side to allow it to line up with the pedal box.
14th Oct 2009 004.JPG (115447 bytes) Using some more 1" flat steel I start to make up the other end of the bracket which will bolt up to the pedal box.
14th Oct 2009 005.JPG (113570 bytes) This part is then bolted to the pedal box using the bolts which hold the cylinders in place - these had to be removed and longer ones fitted. Just visible to the left side of the photo is the part of the bracket which is bolted to the column.
14th Oct 2009 006.JPG (122093 bytes) Next up was to join these two bits of bracket using some old off-cuts of inch angle iron. This looks simple but actually took quite a bit of trial and error fitting and tacking and refitting etc. 
14th Oct 2009 010.JPG (132830 bytes) Part of the trouble was there was really very little room between the pedal box and power steering motor that I couldn't really see what I was doing but I eventually got it shaped and welded so that it would hold the motor and column in exactly the right place.
14th Oct 2009 020.JPG (108956 bytes) It was cleaned down and given a nice coat of paint before final fitting. 
14th Oct 2009 012.JPG (80382 bytes) As mention earlier I don't really intend to keep these bolt on wings and I tack my bracket directly to the upper column before cutting the remnants of the wings off completely.
14th Oct 2009 013.JPG (104355 bytes) Another trail fit and once I'm happy I can finally weld my bracket solidly to the upper column, it's much neater with them sticking out to each side.
14th Oct 2009 016.JPG (83238 bytes) I then add another strengthening piece down the back of the inverted "V" before finally painting this part of the outer column.
14th Oct 2009 017.JPG (64118 bytes) And with all the welding done the plastic upper bearing housing can be replaced and the complete column is finally ready to fit into the car - at this stage it has been in and out over a dozen times on various trial fits.
14th Oct 2009 037.JPG (103265 bytes) With the car lowered to the ground again I mess about with the settings on the controller, this does throw up one problem particularly with the controller turned up to "full assistance" - there is considerable torque created by the motor and even with the mounts already fitted it actually twists slightly in place. 
14th Oct 2009 027.JPG (113747 bytes) To combat this twisting I decide to fit another bracket between the motor and the roll cage. This consists of a length of inch box section, two wings are welded onto one end to bolt to the wings on the alloy housing of the middle section of the column.
14th Oct 2009 028.JPG (98100 bytes) At the other end I fix it in place using an exhaust clamp round the roll cage rather than welding. This completely eliminates any twisting and makes for a really firm installation.
14th Oct 2009 029.JPG (115560 bytes) It also allows me to fit a little panel between the dash and this bar and on this I can the mount the fuse box which is seen in the photo above as well as the adjusting knob for the controller and a main on-off switch which I decide to install as well as two other switches which had been mounted on as small bracket in this area. 
14th Oct 2009 030.JPG (135747 bytes) Finally all the wiring is tidied away and I am all ready to hit the road so to speak.
14th Oct 2009 031.JPG (85887 bytes) As required by the MSA - the governing body of motorsport the ignition lock was disabled many years ago by grinding off the internal bolt mechanism. The alloy housing is still there but just to hold the ignition switch, I just fix this to the thicker Corsa column using longer than normal bolts.
14th Oct 2009 032.JPG (110857 bytes) Also the indicator switch is fixed to the column by a similar method. It no longer has any self canceling mechanism but that's not really required by law. The truth is that when I'm rallying one of the few times that I use my indicators is during vehicle scrutiny.
October 2009 After fitting the power steering an unforeseen problem shows up over the next couple of rallies.
14th Sept 2009 016.JPG (93237 bytes) The alternator has failed, it's the first time that it has happened in a few years. The fault is with the rectifier so it is removed for further investigation.
2nd Nov 2009 111.JPG (91752 bytes) All the extra electrical power required by the power steering causes problems with the alternator. With all the spotlights etc it was already running on the ragged edge but now because it is always running on full power the rectifier is starting to overheat and melt.
2nd Nov 2009 117.JPG (101523 bytes) As I unsolder each of the plates of the rectifier it's obvious that all of the plastic insulation between each of the plates is badly melted and allow the whole thing to short out.
14th Oct 2009 015.JPG (83806 bytes) After some thought I decide that I'll build my own version of the old period works charging system.  This alloy case that I've made includes twin rectifiers as per the works cars. Hopefully half the output power of the alternator will go through each rectifier and therefore they'll not overheat and melt.
14th Oct 2009 021.JPG (92230 bytes) Also the alternator itself will need rewired to suit, the wires coming from the windings are extended and a plug is added to the end of them to allow quick removal if required.
14th Oct 2009 022.JPG (93344 bytes) As these wires run very close to the manifold on the BDA I also add some heat reflecting foil.
14th Oct 2009 036.JPG (116107 bytes) Here are both parts fitted, a bracket on the inner wing holds the alloy case as close as possible to the fan on the front of the alternator to aid cooling.
18th Sept 2009 032.JPG (74258 bytes) Another area where heat from the BDA exhaust is a problem is back here where the loom runs up the bulkhead. 
18th Sept 2009 033.JPG (134727 bytes) A little more heat resistant foil stuck to the inner wing between the loom and exhaust will soon cure the problem.


Check back soon for the next installment.

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