Sunday 10 November 2013

Getting the car back

Finally got the car back on Friday the 1st November so this post is long overdue. A few things had to happen before I could go and collect the car though. This post aims to cover some of that and of course the day I'd been waiting ages for - Collection Day!

Post Build Check Remedial Work 

The car went back to Caterham at the start of October. Unfortunately, due to an unfortunate accident with one of their members of staff, looking the car over got delayed by a week. This meant that we'd already gone past the anticipated IVA date that I'd asked VOSA for.

The car got looked over the following week as planned but unfortunately a few things came up at the PBC that needed to be put right. My experience with Caterham to date had been quite positive but I have to admit to being less than pleased when I got the schedule of works through from the Service Department detailing what needed to be looked at and how long it was going to take them to do it all. I appreciate that all of the things did need to be done but there was some slightly suspect tasks on the list where I never did get to the bottom of what exactly was done. The primary bone of contention being what exactly was done under the heading 'wire tidying' given the 3.25hrs of labour time I was charged for. Furthermore, there were some tasks that needed to be performed largely because the Assembly Guide doesn't tell you the proper way to fit things and so, unsurprisingly, you then fit them incorrectly. The heater panel in my case being a good case in point. I'd fitted it upside down. Apparently lots of other owners have also made the same mistake. Why is it then that the Assembly guide has not been updated in this area. They've been fitting the same heater panels for years!!!!

The other tricky area concerned the gearbox and bellhousing attachment. It transpired that I'd incorrectly bolted the gearbox to the bellhousing rather than doing it the correct way which should have been to bolt the bellhousing to the gearbox. I'd also used the wrong bolts. The only way to remedy this issue necessitating removal of the engine and gearbox from the car, changing the bolts before refitting the whole thing. 5hrs was the quoted figure to do this job which I actually thought pretty good given the amount of work involved. The only issue I really had was that in my opinion, the only reason I'd got it wrong was because of the lack of detail in the Assembly guide around correct fitment. There are no exploded diagrams showing the positioning of the bolts for instance, something that would be very simple to add and would be much better than the textual description they currently have at this point in the guide.To their credit, having discussed the point with Caterham, they agreed to meet me half way on the labour costs for this particular job. 

Having now picked the car up, I discussed this particular issue with the technician who had worked on it throughout. I mentioned to him that what had thrown me was the fact that the duratec engine had come with the bellhousing pre-attached and that, having read the guide, it made most sense to simply insert the gearbox spline into the end and bolt the gearbox to the housing. I was then told that the reason Caterham pre-attach the bellhousing is because up until the SuperSport R model being released, all Duratec cars were fitted with the 6-speed box and indeed had it been a 6 speed box I was fitting, the approach I'd taken would have been correct. As it was, I was fitting the 5 speed and as such, the bellhousing should have come off the engine so I could have fitted it the correct way. Apparently Caterham are to be updating the Assembly Guide to make this clearer now that I've highlighted this particular issue.

So all in all then, more work at the PBC than I was anticipating with a bill totaling over £700. Given that some of these were, in my opinion, more the result of a lack of detail in the Assembly Guide rather than me being stupid and not fitting things correctly, it did sour the post build experience a bit for me. I think Caterham really need to have a long hard look at the Guide and update it properly rather than expecting their clients to pay for their lack of due diligence.

The IVA & Vehicle Registration
With the car finally sorted, it was off to the IVA. The first available date being some 2 weeks later than originally planned (17th October). Unfortunately, the news later that day from Caterham was not good, the car having failed on a few bits not all of which could be remedied at the test center.

There had been a problem with the speedo giving up over 60mph when the car was placed on the rolling road and there was also a problem with one of the rear brake calipers binding. The car therefore had to be returned to Dartford to put these further things right. The speedo issue was solved by replacing a resistor somewhere whilst the rear caliper was swapped out completely for a new unit. Unfortunately we then had to wait a further week before the car could be retested. In actual fact I got a bit lucky as there had been a cancellation. Without that, I may well have had to wait even longer. Fortunately there were no further problems and the car finally made it through - yippee!

At this stage, the paperwork was then submitted to the DVLA for me by Caterham with a warning that it could take up to a further 21 days for the DVLA to sort out the paperwork (booooo!). Luckily for me though, this seems to be a worst case scenario figure as in actual fact the DVLA kindly turned it around for me within a week. The paperwork was with us by the 24th and Caterham kindly had some number plates made up within 24hrs. The car would be ready for collection as early as the 25th November. You can imagine my delight therefore when I realised the earliest I'd be able to get a day off work was the following Friday (1st November). Still at least the car was ready whenever I could get down there.

Collection Day (1st November)

It was a Friday, I had the day off and I was about to go and collect my new car with the wife. Life couldn't have been much better. The weather certainly could though. The forecast the day beforehand was for overcast skies with a very good chance of showers and high winds.  In a word, shite!

The drive over there wasn't so bad, just the odd shower to contend with. Most of the journey between Guildford and Dartford consisting of a combination of the A3 and the M25. We made good time, getting to Caterham just after 11am to find the car ready and waiting out front.

Roof on - absolutely the right decision

We settled our final bill (oh god, my poor credit card) and decided it would probably be wise to turn around and head straight back whilst the weather and the daylight held out. I needn't have worried though, it took less than 30 minutes before the rain started to fall and the light started to fade. On went the headlights and I was very thankful to have a roof over my head. It did give me a good chance to fully test the integrity of the roof and the rest of the weather gear and I have to say that it's really rather good. The seal around doors and the roof being particularly novel but effective. I was also wearing a coat which proved to be a bit of a mistake as even with the heater off, the heat given off from the transmission in general is enough to keep things rather toasty inside. Unfortunately there's no real way of getting any fresh air into the car but never mind, I was dry after all.

The worst part of the journey was not so much to do with the bad weather though. With it being a Friday and with the stretch of M25 between kent and surrey being largely a 50mph limit due to road works, I soon found myself hemmed in between huge lorries kicking up large amounts of spray. The traffic was also terrible so I was barely crawling along and I spent the whole time questioning whether I thought the various lorries knew whether I was actually there or not.

After about 2hrs I was fed up and so we decided to pull off the M25 at the new Chobham services for a bite to eat. 30 minutes later we were refueled and decided to head for home on the final leg of the journey. I jumped into the front seat, turned the key and.... nothing. The car would not restart - shit. The battery appeared not to have enough power to turn the engine over. If my diagnosis was correct then at least all I needed to get going again was a jump start. As luck would have it, an RAC van was parked some 20 meters away. The only snag I could see with approaching him for help though was that I am in fact an AA member - oh well I thought, what have I got to loose.

After some quite funny banter whereupon he ribbed me for having sided with the enemy, he did eventually agree to help me out sticking the car onto a jump pack to get it going again. He then kindly did some basic diagnosis on it for me, eventually concluding that at idle, with the headlights on, there appears to be a net drain on the battery with the alternator not making enough to keep the battery charging. Oh dear. Still, the car was running again now so I quickly thanked the RAC man for his help, gave him some beer tokens for his trouble and headed off on my way again. The traffic had begun to clear a bit by this stage so I managed to keep the car moving and the revs up to reduce the chances of me running out of juice before I got it home. I needn't have worried, I got back safe and sound in the end. Certainly not the most relaxing of drives nor one I'd choose to do again but I was glad the car was finally home. 

First proper drives (3rd & 10th November)

The weather on the Friday may have been terrible but by Sunday it had cleared through to leave us with a lovely blustery sunny day and I had a chance to take the car out properly for the first time on some more suitable roads and with much less traffic.

All I can say is it's been worth the wait. The car is fabulous to drive, oodles of power and torque everywhere in the rev range. The biggest problem I had was trying to drive within the speed limit as it just begs to be thrashed. Although I haven't been nannying too much, I am conscious that the engine has still only done 300 miles so I'm driving it hard(ish) but not to within an inch of its life just yet.

Harriet also had her first chance to drive the car and I was really pleased to see her get to grips with it really quickly and she doesn't seem at all intimidated driving it. Bring on those long trips to the back and beyond next summer then! 

I've had a few requests for some more photos so here are some of the best ones taken over the last couple of outings. Our trip to Newlands corner earlier today was a particular highlight and well worth a visit. 

Getting ready for first launch with both of my ladies

Still no boot cover nearly 3 months after the kits delivery!
Love the front - needs some clear indicators though I think
Hood up in anticipation of an evening outing
Brace for departure!

Newlands Corner looking mighty fine but a bit chilly

Good shades, crap hat!

Getting to grips with it

Yeah I know, I tend not to mess with her either


  1. Looks great Tom. I did have a look for my clear indicator lenses and they seem to have gone.....sorry! I have one amber bulb you are welcome to!

  2. Looking good, enjoy.