In which I knock 8/10’s off my PB at Loton, talk to some Formula Ford drivers and line up a gearbox rebuild.

Not much RF-84 rebuild news as in all honesty there hasn’t been much action on that front.  Too many hillclimbs and other stuff for that.

The Midland Champs event at Loton last weekend was fantastic, even though as Bob Ridge-Stern reports on his site, you’d go a long way to find many people who prefer a 2 day event to a 1 day one. I for one would prefer to do all my runs on one day and get home; the gap between runs is just too much over 2 days.  But when an event is as great as Loton was, I can’t complain that much.  Weather was fantastic and the venue was as fantastic as ever. It ties with Prescott as my favourite course.  As I mentioned in the title I managed to knock 8/10’s off my time, which I was really very happy with.  Looking at the numbers some can be put down to the car going faster because of its new exhaust and some, I hope, can be put down to me. When I got back I extended the results spreadsheet to include all the split times and speeds, and hacked around to create some sector times. Which showed me a lot.


Essentially, the run made of fastest sector times isn’t much faster than my best time.  And I could see just how completely I messed up my last run.  But then I had fallen asleep just before it.  See comments on 2 day meetings.

The good thing about a 2 day meeting is the time you’ve got for talking.  I managed to hook up with some of the Formula Ford drivers. One of them seemed to think the RF84 was ugly. Ugly or not it will be out in their class next year.

So coming up?  The Graham Hill Sprint on the Curborough 8 and a visit to Mark Bailey Racing to look at what needs doing on the MK9 Hewland.  Exciting stuff.







Some hillclimbs, the gear linkage goes in and I attempt to cut out a new firewall.

A good few weeks.  Hillclimbs at Gurston and Prescott, the model aircraft indoor nationals (happy with 5th there), I managed to fit the gear linkage, and got stuck into making the new firewall.

I just wasn’t going well at Gurston, and was in fact slower than last year, when I wasn’t as fast as I could have been.  We’ll put that one down to experience, and I’ll hopefully put in a better performance when I go back later in the year. At least I opened my scoring in the HSA championship.

Prescott was much better. The intense cold meant that I was somewhat surprised by the lack of grip at Etores the first time round. I set myself two targets – faster than last year and sub 1 minute.  Achieved the first and nearly the second. Last run 60.00!!!   I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry (I chose the former.)  This was my first Midland Champs event – there aren’t any other 1.4’s in the production classes, so I’m using these as practice for the HSA rounds.

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The very wet bank holiday Monday allowed me some time to get on with the RF84.  The next tasks on the list were to fit the gear linkage and make and fit a new fire wall.  Apart from the tedious task of re-tapping the holes (that again) fitting the gear stick and linkage was relatively straight forwards.  Re-tapping the holes was not helped by the fact that tubes prevented the tap holder making a complete turn – deep joy.

Cutting the fire wall out was more straightforwards than I expected. I screwed the old one through the new material into a sheet of MDF.  Then used the old firewall as a drilling jig. It was suggested that I use a jigsaw to cut it out by a friend who restores Austin 7’s and Wolseley Hornets, and this worked really well – thanks for that one Jack.  Some filing remains to be done, but the new firewall is looking OK, and certainly neater than the old one.

Next weekend is free so I should be able to finish the firewall and move on to some other tasks.  And I may be putting some new cams in the Panda – we’ll see how that one pans out.

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More progress.. and formula ford festivals

I’ve been making steady progress with the RF84, although everything takes longer than you expect.  But for an unexpected reason.

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This project is a one man band thing, like I guess, many many others. You have to be engineer, mechanic and driver.  But the role that dominates everything, at this stage at least, seems to be buyer.  Today I wanted to re-assemble the steering and front arb properly, which I did.  And then I wanted to put the gear linkage in.  And, as previously, it turned out I needed a UNF tap to clear the powder coating, and guess what? (Last week it was 1/4UNF nylocs) I don’t have a 3/16 one.  Even with the impressive turn arounds at Tracy Tools its a couple of days away.  With the pedals and front suspension away at URS, and no means as yet of cutting out the new firewall, work stops again.

I can’t remember where I first heard the idea of a hillclimb Formula Ford Festival, though it was certainly in a paddock somewhere.  So it was great to read the there’ll be one at Gurston in July.  July… given current rates of progress 837 is never going to be there this year though there is a temptation to have a shot at it; OK it’s futile.  If they run it I’ll be there in 2017, and as I intend being at the 2016 meeting in the Panda, I’ll at least be able to watch.

Talking of the Panda there are a couple of performance mods planned for this season, one being a Raggazon exhaust.  This is being fitted tomorrow, and if it results in any form of power increase it’ll be money well spent.  And if it doesn’t the car needed a new one anyway.


Lots of effort, seemingly little progress..

It won’t come as a surprise that I’ve been working on the RF84 this weekend. However it seemed like I didn’t achieve that much.

First thing to do was to fit the front rocker and shock units properly (they were only trial fitted previously.) That went relatively well, although using the right bolts meant that I had to clear the powder coating from the holes again.  Much quicker this time.

The job list (yes I do it that way) then had “paint and refit the gear linkage” as the next job.  I read that John Barnard invented the semi-sequential gearbox because he didn’t want to route the gear mechanism on the 639 in the late 80’s.  I now share his low levels of enthusiasm for that part of the car.  Its taken me an age to strip the gear lever mechanism, and repainting bits has been something of a trial.  I’m there with the gear lever; its start again with the gear actuation rod (or whatever its called)  as the paint finish isn’t great, and the rod is quite visible. Hopefully I’ll get it done this week.

I also stripped the pedal assembly ready for replating, and measured centre distances of all the front suspension components. These will all be off to Universal for plating and new bearings next week.

The other thing I discovered is that all it takes is an absence of something like a 1/4unf nyloc and pretty much everything stops.  I really am a beginner at all this.  And it all seems to take much longer than I expect, although I hope that progress will be a bit more rapid as the car goes together.

Something I’m less of a beginner with is CAD.  The model of 837 is progressing well, with the rockers, shocks, front beam assembly and anti-roll bar now in place.  The springs have been a bit of a trial to fit, and I might have to get some help at D3D Live on Thursday.







Starting with the front suspension

Having had a go at fitting the rockers last week, I decided the next thing to do would be to trial assemble all the internal suspension components at the front end. Trial assembly would allow me to check everything went together, sort out any issues, and then finally torque everything up properly.

The main lesson of the day was that the powder coating process makes everything a bit tiresome.  Its also really quite impressive how a couple of holes that are too small for the bolts that go through them can slow up a whole days work.  After I realised that I could get a drill at the troublesome holes, and that a knife is the best way to remove powder coating from an anti-roll bar, things moved on.  In fact I managed to trial fit the entire front suspension set-up today, which was really pleasing. That included assembling the front shocks with the newly powder coated springs.  These look really good and must be a significant improvement over the somewhat tired units on the car when I bought it.

The CAD model is lagging the real thing by some margin now.  This could be put down, at least in part, to putting a few tubes into the space frame in the wrong place.  A couple of evenings should see the model catch the real thing.  In terms of developing an understanding of how the car works, and why its like it is, the rebuild and modelling process seem to be working really well.

The next move is to visit John Young’s shop in Witney (amazing place) to source as many new bolts and nylocs as I can.  As soon as I’ve got them I’ll break the suspension down again and put it together properly. That will possibly be next Saturday, but preparing for my first event of the year at Curborough (the only Shenstone event I’m doing this year) may have to take priority. That assumes that the dodgy throttle pot can be fixed in time – what ever was wrong with a cable?



Space Frame Back..

Last week I drove to GT in Newark to pick up the refurbished space frame. They’ve done a fantastic job.  The dodgy repair has been done properly, some of the sections have been replaced and the whole thing powder coated.  It, as the pictures show, looks brand new.  (The garage needs a bit of a tidy; things got a bit out of hand whilst it was away..)IMG_0956

And today the re-plated and re-bearinged (is that a word?) suspension rockers arrived back from Universal.  These look pretty much perfect too, so the aim of making the car look like it did as it was pushed out of the workshop in Norfolk in 1984 doesn’t look too unrealistic.

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This evening I tried a trial fit of the rockers in the chassis, not as straightforwards as it might seem as the powder coating had somewhat reduced the size of the gap into which they fitted.  An hour with a file and emery sorted this out and the parts went together.

The decision to draw the car as the rebuild progressed will make for more work, but ultimately will allow me to plan the rebuild better and have a more complete record of what happened. This is what the partially completed model of the space frame looks like.

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Modelling the RF-84 and 2016’s first entry

Another whilst the chassis is away blogs.  I’ve been umming and aahhing about doing a CAD model of the RF84.  A bit of a busman’s holiday, but the end result would be really great, and would go together with the 1000’s of photographs I’ve taken to form quite a useful reference on the car.

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The other thing that I’m thinking about is replacing the fuel tank, though as I write this I’m in a “use the old one” frame of mind.  I wasn’t 100% sure that the tank was ally; I was under the impression that it was GRP,  but as I drew it in case I decided that the new tank idea was the one to run with, it became obvious that it was ally. But having drawn the tank drawing the radiator seemed like a pleasant way to pass an hour or two.  And as I’d already drawn a weller wheel and front tyre it was becoming obvious that I’ll end up drawing the whole car.

Today I also put in the first entries for 2016.  The plan was to kick off with Combe and Gurston.  But when I downloaded the regs for Combe I noticed that it is 1 3/4 laps.  For some reason the Panda struggles on the flat, even at Curborough; the longest sprint on the calendar could turn into an exercise in depressing myself.  So I’ve elected to miss Combe and start the year at Curborough.  Gurston entries aren’t open until the 20th.

So hopefully the chassis will be back soon and I can start work rebuilding the real RF-84.


With the chassis away being reworked I’ve taken a bit of a break from working on the RF84. The only thing I’ve been doing has been to spec the new shocks.  A critical look at the units removed from the car leads you to a single conclusion, they need replacing..

A lot of internet searching seemed to show that Quantum Shocks were good and reliable.  And being made in the UK it meant that I could have a sensible conversation about what I needed and what I could and couldn’t have.   Long and short of it is that I’ve ordered a set.. they should be finished by the end of February.  Which is convenient because the chassis should be ready by the end of January.



Almost completely broken down

After this weekend I think I’m pretty much at the point where I’ll have to start rebuilding the RF84.  As the picture shows the space frame is almost completely devoid of additional parts. As it sits there, it does look like a pretty decent chassis..  The floor is still there, but I’ll drill the rivets on that next weekend.

After that its a trip to GT at Newark.  They are going to strip the frame, check it, and almost unbelievably, put it in the original jig.   After that it will be powder coated and will hopefully look new.  I’m almost certainly going to get the guys to replace the floor and side panels, but I guess we’ll talk about that when I take it over there.

One current concern is wiring.  The loom runs through the frame tubes, and I managed to get it all out with damaging anything; but the main worry is getting it all connected up again.  I’ll almost certainly create a new loom and make everything work before routing it all… but thats all some way off.


Clearing out the engine bay.

So, back on with breaking down the RF84. The next logical job was to tackle was the radiator/petrol tank central core, and removal of the oil system.

The first surprise was that the oil system wasn’t completely empty.  So when I removed the oil filter everything near by got covered in oil.  Beyond that removing the, tank, filter and its associated piping was pretty simple.  Clear up simple, but extensive.

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The design of the RF84 echo’s that of the Swift of the time.  The radiator is positioned behind the driver and petrol tank, with air being ducted from the side of the car.  This efficient approach, I guess, would pay dividends somewhere like Silverstone or Brand’s GP, where the car would run at high speeds for a large part of the lap.  This aero advantage will be slight, or non-existent, in a hillclimber.

After the ally ducting had been removed there was then the puzzle of removing the rad and tank.  The tank was retained by a large rubber strap which had perished, essentially killing any compliance.  As I cut it I was imagining a series of calls in which I was told each time that they were no longer possible to obtain.  I also got thinking about a fuel cell – a tank the size the RF84 has certainly isn’t needed when a weekend’s total mileage doesn’t exceed 5 or 6. Price and packaging constraints – the original tank is shaped to optimise the airflow to the radiator – may put an end to those thoughts.

After the oil episode it shouldn’t have come as any surprise that the cooling system was still full of coolant.  At least the ensuing flood helped to clear up the remains of the oil.

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With the retaining strap gone getting the two major components out of the space frame initially proved tricky.  Basically the key to the puzzle was removing the fuel line (which involved a torch and long screwdriver to remove the jubilee clip), as when that was free, the tank could be removed, followed by the rad.



I’ve also finalised the list of mods for the Panda for next season.  This is topped by the seat and harness which have already been purchased, and includes a new exhaust, oil temp sensor and gauge, new steering wheel, and almost certainly a Columbo and Bariani cam.