Coupe Build From Australia

If you have a long-term project and would like to share/document progress, this is for you.

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mermar74
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Coupe Build From Australia

Post by mermar74 » Wed Jun 15, 2011 12:53 pm

I have been a member of this forum for some time now and have stayed in the background mostly. I am currently rebuilding my SE4c Coupe, and think it is due time to start a progress report thread on this build which has now been in progress for over 3 years.

A bit of my background;

I live in Melbourne Australia and have had a hankering to own a Coupe since I read about them in British motoring magazines in the sixties as a youngster. These cars are very rare in this country, and it took till the eighties before I got to see one in the flesh, I remember being rather impressed in this car generally and vowed to own one day.

Over the years I have owned and restored a variety of cars, but the thought of owning a Coupe has never diminished. One day when trawling Ebay I was most surprised to come across a Coupe listed for sale in Adelaide (some 800 kilometers from me) and I wasted no time in contacting the owner for more information. This car was complete, running, registered, had recently been repainted and the outriggers replaced. It certainly looked good in the pictures so the decision was made to go and have a closer look. My young nephew and I caught a cheap flight to Adelaide, met up with the owner, and after a short inspection and drive I ended up buying this car and drove it home.

The long drive home was an adventure in itself, as no sooner I left Adelaide the engine started consuming water (blowing water from the right side tailpipe due to blown head gasket) and getting worse the further we travelled. Luckily we had a large water container with us and had to keep topping up the radiator every so often. Another problem encountered was the smell of exhaust fumes in the cabin, I could not stop the ingress of fumes whatever position the windows and sunroof where set at, and it was severe enough to cause headaches, coughing and bring tears to the eyes, but eventually managed to nursed it (and us) home successfully. Amazingly it returned 34 MPG of petrol and consumed 25 gallons of water on that trip home.

When safely in my workshop I made a thorough inspection of the car in general, and I was pleased to find that it was a very original example and was complete with all of it’s original parts, showing no signs of previous damaged, and thankfully had no modifications carried out, so no extra holes or butchery anywhere. It had been painted once with the colour changed from Golden Sands to BMW red by the previous owner. On first glance the chassis looked fine and new outriggers had been recently fitted.

From the outset I had intended to dismantle the car completely and carry out a total refurbishment, including some upgrades, so this car I thought fitted my requirements perfectly.

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Unfortunately my joys started to diminish when I started prodding around the chassis a few days later as I started scraping dirt and paint away to prepare for body removal. It tuned out that the more I scrapped from the chassis, the more rust I found. I was horrified as to how much chassis rust was present and considered myself very fortunate that the car made the 800 kilometer journey home safely without any major incident. We do not experience rust to this degree in Australia (due to the warmer climate and the absence of salt on roads) so it was an unwelcome shock to see first hand the chronic rust issues encountered in other countries. This car had spent 30 years in the UK before being imported, hence the rust. I concluded that this chassis was beyond proper repair and it would be impossible to source another in this country. I had to put the project aside for some time while I decided its future, and contemplated listing the car back on Ebay and rid myself of any further thought of restoration.

After a while I reasoned that I still want to own a nice Coupe, and the chances of finding another in this country are very slim. As it has taken the best part of over 30 years to find one, I better keep this car and do whatever is necessary.

A new replacement chassis was needed; so it left me with no choice but to fabricate one. I studied the chassis and its construction carefully before dismantling the car, and took lots of measurements before deciding that a new chassis could be constructed using similar factory principals. Although the original chassis was very rusty, fortunately it was straight and original enough to use as a good pattern.

I carried on with lifting the body from the chassis, keeping the body complete as possible, the only components needed to remove from the body to accomplish this task were the bonnet, fuel tank and front and rear bumpers, all else remained intact. The body was lifted carefully using a custom made lifting fixture, block and tackle and gantry.

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I then proceeded to make a stand for storing the complete body and some time later made a cart so it could be moved around as required. This cart is made so it supports the body exactly in the same areas supported by the chassis so hopefully the body will not distort over long storage period.

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The body, interior and all else will be refurbished at a later stage when the new chassis is made. I then stripped the chassis bare and had it sandblasted in readiness for the next stage.

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More to follow in time
Victor Pace



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Re: Coupe Build From Australia

Post by scimjim » Wed Jun 15, 2011 1:23 pm

lovely garage and nice looking project - have you read Steves project progress (couperacing) - with ideas gained from a few years of sprinting a coupe? The simplest recognised improvements for a road going car, are to convert to SE5a suspension etc all round I believe.


Jim King

Current: SE5 (8Ball), TI SS1 (snotty), 1600 SS1 (G97), 1600 SS1 (C686CCR), 2.5TD SE5a (diesel 5a), 6 x random other SS1s.
Previous: SE5, 3 x SE5a, 2 x SE6a, 3 x SE6b, GTC, 2.9i GTC, 3 x 1600 SS1, 1300 SS1, Mk1 Ti Sabre, Mk1.5 CVH Sabre
Chief mechanic for: 1400 K series SS1 (Megan3), 1400 CVH EFi SS1 (Grawpy), Sabre/MX5 auto (The Flying Broomstick),
1300 SS1 (Number One) & Sarah's coupe.
CURE THE FAULT - NOT THE SYMPTOMS

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Re: Coupe Build From Australia

Post by Taggers » Wed Jun 15, 2011 1:27 pm

I wonder if this thread might be helpful (no, not the end)

viewtopic.php?f=20&t=1633&hilit=Mightymite

This is a pretty huge rebuild, but probably less bother than to make a whole chassis from scratch.


1979 SE6A

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Re: Coupe Build From Australia

Post by Roger Pennington » Wed Jun 15, 2011 1:53 pm

Hi Victor, I'm very jealous of your facilities! :D That's quite a project you've taken on, but I'm sure the car's worth it. The best of luck with it, and I look forward to the next installment.


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Re: Coupe Build From Australia

Post by ScimitarMatt » Wed Jun 15, 2011 7:07 pm

Welcome to the forum Victor, glad you're sharing your project with us all, you'll no doubt be making a lot of us very jealous of your facilities and skills, that coupe is going to be a credit to you

all the best, Matt


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Re: Coupe Build From Australia

Post by mermar74 » Sat Jun 18, 2011 12:26 pm

Thanks all for kind comments. Now the next installment;

With the chassis now clean my thoughts turned towards making a purpose built jig and stand assembly to build the chassis on. A jig is required for alignment of all parts and to keep parts aligned during welding, as distortion during welding is a real problem and not to be taken lightly, and there is a lot of welding required with these chassis. I proceeded to design and build a jig and stand assembly, using the old chassis for measurement. This required a lot of thought and planning to come up with solutions as to keeping costs down in manufacture, be portable, simple, rigid and accurate. Also it had to place the chassis at a comfortable working height and be able to rotate 360 degrees to aid welding in a comfortable position as this makes for a more accessible and better weld.

I decided on making the base and legs from heavy walled square tubing and the side plates (which incorporate the all important mainframe rail hole positions) from 3mm plate. These side plates play an important role in the jig assembly, as they place the mainframe rails parallel, square and the right distance from each other. These side plates are removable, held to the bed by screws and kept in alignment by dowels. I also made a pair of towers that are attached to each extreme end of the stand; these are for attaching a string line that extends from front to rear, exactly in the center of the jig. The string line is the datum point for all measurements taken during assembly, so both side chassis members can be positioned from center equally. This string attachment method allows the string line to be movable up and down as required yet still remain in center. For accuracy the towers where positioned on the stand using a very accurate laser machine to insure exact center. The complete stand also sits on caster wheels for moving around as necessary.

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The next task was to make accurate drawings of all chassis members to aid the sheet metal firm to guillotine and fold the correct shapes and sizes required. This required a lot of accurate measurements taken from the old chassis as any mistakes will render parts that don’t fit. Also I cut several holes in the old chassis so I could peer inside and see the order of how hidden areas have been assembled and welded at the factory. By that stage I become quite familiar with the chassis construction, and the reasoning used by Reliant for the way they constructed it.

The original mainframe rails consist of two C section sheet metal sections welded back to back to form a rectangular box section. The outer section is in shape of a large C and the inner section the shape of a small C. The two sections are welded together along the edge to create a box. This rectangular box shape in principal makes for a very strong frame member, but I felt that the steel thickness used by Reliant is too thin. I decided to construct the chassis in the same manner, but increase the thickness of all chassis steel and tubular cross members to 2mm. This will increase chassis strength overall and increase torsional stiffness, although will add more weight. The extra weight is of little concern to me as a larger amount of weight will be removed from the mechanicals to compensate.

I felt a lot of improvements are possible while constructing a new chassis and decided to incorporate some changes to original factory design to increase accident safety and improve engineering design overall.

These changes include such items as;

More substantial outriggers
The addition of side intrusion bars connected to outriggers,
Improved outrigger to chassis mounting,
Improved seat belt mounting points,
Seat frames mounted to chassis rather than to fiberglass floor,
Improved front and rear bumper mountings,
Improvements to body - chassis mountings.

All these changes needed to be included in the component drawings so much planning was required at an early stage.

The next task was finding a sheet metal works that are obliging to my needs, and can produce the metal shapes accurately as per my drawings. I eventually found a small one man engineering works that has folded all the pieces required and I have been thoroughly pleased with his work.

The construction started with making the two mainframe rails. I made the crush tubes inside the box section far more substantial than the originals and tapped a thread in them to do away with nuts. These crush tubes are welded inside the box section and do not protrude outside rails as per the factory system. I also added a cage around each set of crush tubes inside the box section for better load distribution. This mounting system is immensely strong and a far better system than original. I decided to bolt each outrigger with four bolts to the chassis rather than weld them, so extra crush tubes where added as required.

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The front lower control arm mounts on the Coupe places the mounts inside windows cut into the chassis, unfortunately these windows weaken this area of the chassis so strengthening is needed; in the early stages I decided to keep the original wheel track width on this car, so the windows are necessary. I followed the same practice with windows and after much thought come up with a better way than originally used to strengthen this area.

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Next I made the center cross member with the round window for the driveshaft as per original so now some parts can start to go together.

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More to come in next installment.
Victor Pace



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Re: Coupe Build From Australia

Post by scimjim » Sat Jun 18, 2011 12:55 pm

fantastic work - what stage are you at today, after 3 years on the project?


Jim King

Current: SE5 (8Ball), TI SS1 (snotty), 1600 SS1 (G97), 1600 SS1 (C686CCR), 2.5TD SE5a (diesel 5a), 6 x random other SS1s.
Previous: SE5, 3 x SE5a, 2 x SE6a, 3 x SE6b, GTC, 2.9i GTC, 3 x 1600 SS1, 1300 SS1, Mk1 Ti Sabre, Mk1.5 CVH Sabre
Chief mechanic for: 1400 K series SS1 (Megan3), 1400 CVH EFi SS1 (Grawpy), Sabre/MX5 auto (The Flying Broomstick),
1300 SS1 (Number One) & Sarah's coupe.
CURE THE FAULT - NOT THE SYMPTOMS

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Re: Coupe Build From Australia

Post by Roger Pennington » Sat Jun 18, 2011 5:36 pm

I'm almost speechless! that's an amazing project, by the time it's finished you'll almost have the facilities to set up a production line. :D


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Re: Coupe Build From Australia

Post by lozzzzzz » Sat Jun 18, 2011 6:18 pm

I can't believe what I'm seeing, this is just amazing, I am in awe of your work :shock:


loz

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Re: Coupe Build From Australia

Post by franko14 » Sat Jun 18, 2011 6:28 pm

WOW!!
amazing work!!

and i too are jelous of your workshop, and in awe of how clean it is, must be a joy to work in it.


cheers,
Frank

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Re: Coupe Build From Australia

Post by swoakes » Sat Jun 18, 2011 6:30 pm

Amazing work which makes me feel very inadequate :oops: Steve


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Re: Coupe Build From Australia

Post by mermar74 » Mon Jun 20, 2011 12:03 am

scimjim wrote:fantastic work - what stage are you at today, after 3 years on the project?
Again, thanks all for kind comments.

Jim
To answer your question, I am now at the tail end of chassis fabrication, have all front suspension and steering parts ready for final fittment, have built and run the engine I am using, built the gearbox ready for use, had a new radiator made, and am working on a replacement rear axle assembly to replace the original. I had to take a long break from this project as I have built another car for someone in between, but I am now back to working on it.



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Re: Coupe Build From Australia

Post by mermar74 » Thu Jun 23, 2011 1:45 pm

Next Installment;


The next stage was to start mating some of these chassis parts together. Left and right mainframe outer C sections, front tubular cross member and center cross member where aligned in the jig and tack weld together ready for final welding. All the other associated sheet metal parts from center cross member forward where then fabricated and tailored to suit, tacked in, and eventually all parts finished welded.

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A lot of care is necessary to minimize heat distortion during welding, I found it best to tack weld as many components as possible to add strength to the structure before final welding (this is how Reliant did it as well). The two parts of the long C sections that make up the mainframes are welded the full length along the edges to create a box shape, welding these narrow edges with the mig was going to be very untidy and unsatisfactory so a better alternative was needed. For a long time I have wanted a tig welder and this was the last excuse I needed to purchase such a machine. I finally settled on an AC – DC machine which is capable of welding most materials including aluminium, and after much practice got the hang of it pretty well. I now love using the tig, and have found it very handy. The mainframe edges and many other chassis brackets have since been welded nicely with this machine.


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My next focus was the front suspension towers, and before I could start on these all the front suspension mechanical components needed to be made ready for reasons explained later. I checked the condition of these parts removed from the old chassis but quickly learned that not one single part was usable due to wear or severe rust, so all new parts where required. These Triumph based parts are available in Australia but at great cost, and after some research decided to purchase these parts from the UK and the US, but mostly from the US. I found parts to be cheaper from the US due to currency rates being more favorable, and shipping from there is also cheaper. It was a long wait before all parts where sourced and shipped to me, so I had to take a break for some time.

When all parts finally arrived I started in earnest on the towers again. I fitted grease nipples to the new lower control arms and silver soldered the trunnion end caps. I decided to use plastic composition bushes rather than urethane on upper control arms. This type of bushing material is available in round bar form and is quite expensive, but has the advantages of machining up very well, is very durable, self lubricating, and has a low coefficient of friction. These bushes where machined and made ready, it will be interesting to see how they work in service. I am using urethane bushing on lower control arms and purchased these locally. I also made a new set of lower control arm to chassis mounting brackets as per original. To make these brackets required making a custom jig to be able to achieve uniformity and accuracy with all four brackets.

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I then started fabricating the towers from 3mm sheet steel, a duplicate of the factory towers.

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The placement of each tower to chassis rail is crucial and has to be an exacting job as this dictates the camber and caster of the front suspension. Viewing from front, the towers mount to the chassis rails at a 5 degrees outer tilt from vertical, and from a side view at 90 degrees to chassis rails.

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This part of the job was painstaking, as before the towers could be welded in place for good, the complete front suspension needs to be fitted and an accurate front end alignment carried out to place the towers in a position where all alignment figures are correct. At this stage the towers where only held in place with clamps and tack welds, allowing for tower adjustment as required. I fitted all the front suspension components to the towers and carried out an alignment check,when satisfied that the towers were perfectly positioned all welding was carried out. I am pleased to report that the alignment figures after welding are spot on.


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Next job was mounting the steering rack; I dismantled the steering rack, fitted a new rack pinion shaft, new tie rods, new tie rod boots etc. before correcting all preload and mesh adjustments. I fabricated new rack mounting brackets of my own design to weld on chassis. Each bracket accepts four mounting bolts rather than the original two for more secure attachment. I also machined new alloy housings to except urethane bushes for mounting the rack to chassis.

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Again mounting these brackets to chassis was painstaking, as before welding permanently a check for bump steer was required to insure that these brackets are positioned correctly. It is imperative to get the steering rack at the correct height in relation to the suspension arms otherwise undesirable bump steer will be introduced. I have found that even a few thou higher or lower than ideal will make a discernable change to bump steer. This job entailed fitting all front suspension and steering components, placing suspension at exact ride height, carry out a full front end alignment, and then use a bump steer gauge to check readings and correct bump steer by moving rack mounting brackets up or down as required.

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When satisfactory readings where achieved the brackets where finish welded.

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The alignment checks all had to be carried out while the incomplete chassis is attached to jig and frame stand. Luckily I have a portable Dunlop front end alignment kit (as shown in factory Coupe workshop manual) and a bump steer gauge to make this job possible.

I also purchased new Triumph Mk2 Saloon steering column universals and shaft to replace the old worn ones; these are a perfect fit apart from the shaft being too long. I will cut the required amount from the end of the shaft and have it resplined. I also made a new lower column bush assembly and bracket to weld to chassis. This new bush assembly is far superior to the factory type and includes a steel housing with replaceable inner plastic bush.

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The lower shocks mounting plates where also rusted out (like most other metal parts on this car) so I made a new pair as per original. Also made new top shock mount brackets, which are welded to towers.

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Next job was the anti roll bar and attachment hardware. The original bar had a lot of corrosion (never seen this much rust on an anti roll bar before) and not usable. I eventually decided to have a new one made, which also gave me the choice of a different diameter bar. I settled for 22mm bar diameter and after making a detailed drawing of it, had it made by a firm the only specializes in manufacturing anti roll bars. To compliment the bar new aluminium mount housings were machined to replace rusty originals and urethane bushing was sourced. Grease nipples have been fitted to housings so urethane bushes can be lubed. I also made new anti roll bar links which incorporate swivel joints at one end and urethane bushing on other, and new link to roll bar attaching brackets.


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It turned out to be a fiddly job getting the geometry correct so that no bind was present on pivoting links through full suspension travel.

More to come in next installment.
Victor Pace



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Re: Coupe Build From Australia

Post by scimjim » Thu Jun 23, 2011 3:17 pm

now you're just showing off!

seriously - that's some great welding and no doubt hours and hours of planning, positioning and aligning.

This needs to be serialised in Slice?


Jim King

Current: SE5 (8Ball), TI SS1 (snotty), 1600 SS1 (G97), 1600 SS1 (C686CCR), 2.5TD SE5a (diesel 5a), 6 x random other SS1s.
Previous: SE5, 3 x SE5a, 2 x SE6a, 3 x SE6b, GTC, 2.9i GTC, 3 x 1600 SS1, 1300 SS1, Mk1 Ti Sabre, Mk1.5 CVH Sabre
Chief mechanic for: 1400 K series SS1 (Megan3), 1400 CVH EFi SS1 (Grawpy), Sabre/MX5 auto (The Flying Broomstick),
1300 SS1 (Number One) & Sarah's coupe.
CURE THE FAULT - NOT THE SYMPTOMS

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Re: Coupe Build From Australia

Post by Roger Pennington » Thu Jun 23, 2011 5:08 pm

Awesome is a much over-used word, but in this case it doesn't even come close! :D The level of precision that you've achieved must exceed by a long way, what they achieved in the factory.

As for publication in Slice, I'd agree with Jim. I've sent you a PM.


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