|Mark Thornton's Locust - The Story So Far Part 1
all began in November 2003 having got a buyer my fully prepared
autotest mini and the search started for a seven type kit car to
replace it with. I had about £3500 to play with and out of that I had
to buy the car, and fit it with an LSD if it did not have one.
the problem was I am nearly 6ft 5ins and 16stone so quite a large frame
to squeeze into a car. I did the usual looking on Ebay and having a
look through the ads in kit car magazine, but everything was so far
away, and it was an awful long journey to find out if I would fit in it.
November I spotted an advert with the Whiterose Locust advertised for
sale, unfinished rebuild project for £1650 and in Richmond, North
Yorkshire. Well at that time I worked in Richmond and having spoke to
the chap about it on the phone and explaining what I wanted to do with
it he thought that it may not be the right machine for the job…i.e. a
As I literally passed his
door every day I decided to call in for a look anyway, it would not
hurt after all and so after work nipped to his house. Upon seeing it I
loved the look of it. It was as it stated an ‘unfinished project’ but
looked not to far away, needed the cycle wings fitting, painting and
daft things like front indicators and other bits & pieces, but it
ran and drove.
I said that I was
interested and would like to call back with a friend to have another
look. That Sunday I returned with Phil, who is a fellow autotest
competitor, but knows a thing or two about kit cars, and would be
helping me in finishing it off and preparing it to race. Unfortunately
what Phil did not realise was what he was letting himself in for!!!!!
when we arrived Phil started looking around the car…..mmm 5 link back
axle with some coilover type suspension….and not horrible leaf springs.
The work that had been carried out was to a very good standard, which
pleased him, and being a body shop manager for a large rental company
he knew good workmanship when he saw it. So the checking of the car
continued, the engine and its twin 40’s burst into life when asked, and
the engine transpired to be a tuned xflow out of a Mk2 Escort rally
car, but more on this later.
To the front
the suspension was the usual Cortina wishbone setup, and we knew that
could be changed anyway. So after a few quiet words with Phil I
had a chat with the owner and the deal was struck at £1550.
collected the car one evening and as loading onto the trailer
noticed that the wheels turned more to the right than to the
left….oh well I thought that will need sorting, and brought the car to
what was going to be its new home.
really the first thing was to see how it went and what I had bought.
Some work was required to enable me to do this and I promptly set about
getting this underway. First thing was I needed an LSD (limited slip
diff) to enable the car to donut round the cone. With it having the
Escort or Capri back axle the diff I needed was a common one, but even
still finding one for the right money was proving troublesome. Ones on
Ebay were making strong money and you did not know how worn they were.
In the end I bought a brand new one at £485…ouch.
with that one sorted the steering needed looking at, the reason was the
rack was not centred with the car, and there was not enough adjustment
on the track rod ends to take this up. Now I don’t know if this is a
Locust build problem but in the mini I had a quick rack fitted. 2.2
turns lock to lock and it was worth the while, so I thought I would do
the same to the Locust and ordered one, but with it modified so the
wheels would have the same lock left to right. This totalled nearly
£200. Worth the money……..? I don’t know yet.
original bonnet had a hole in the top where an air filter would have
poked out. This was no good, so a new one needed to be sourced. After
doing some research (I was naive with locusts at this point) came
across that I needed to speak to Bev at BWE. Now the previous owners
had tried to get a bonnet made before, but for some reason encountered
problems. I found Bev great to deal with, and he even came and met me
half way to save me a long journey…now that’s above and beyond the call
The final job was a rolling
road session. I did not know if the engine had been set up and carbs
balanced so in it went. The phone call came and the news was not
inspiring. There was leakage on the valves, the manifold was
restrictive, loads of backpressure which threw engine oil everywhere,
bad compression on no 4 piston…….oh no I thought.
the news as it was, I contemplated not attending the practice day, but
thought well it runs and took it anyway. The car was blisteringly quick
in a straight line; my driving was rusty in RWD but eventually sorted
As the day went on, gremlins
and faults appeared, but that was what this was all about. The cam
appeared to be a spec for rallying; kicking in at 3000rpm so that was
no good. I knew the engine was not great, and realised work was going
to have to be done. It tramped badly when reversing and the handbrake
was not really as good as I would have liked.
Christmas & New Year there was a proper event, so along went the
car again in a largely unchanged format. The day was cold and it had
The venue was some
industrial factory and out of the two tests that were on one was
covered in snow and the other was full of dirty silty water. The day
was hard to enjoy as with the car having no grip on one test and
getting pitted with crap on the other because of no arches to the front
I was getting fed up, and to cap it off the window wipers gave up….pah
the car back at home I had to decide what to do. The car needed to be
painted, and the cycle wings fitting. Then there was the question
of the engine.
along came Phil again. At the time I did not have a garage and the car
was kept on the trailer at my parent’s house under a tarpaulin. This
was not the best scenario in the world for working on it. Phil however
had access to a major vehicle leasing workshop. Light, heat, space and
got the clearance needed to do some work on the car and also for me to
be onsite as well.
job was to remove the engine from the car, and was easily done in an
evening, and then work began to prep the car to be painted. Phil worked
hard, getting the cycle wings to fit and doing all the other jobs on
the bodywork which that was needed, the car was stripped in no
time and then it was a case of Phil painting the car, all I got to see
was some pictures emailed to me. The pictures were great, and just
could not wait to start to rebuild the car again.
second plan of attack was to sort the engine. Another cam was purchased
from piper which was more like what I needed and following the valve
problems discovered at the rolling road session we tackled that too.
in Phil’s own garage this time the engine was stripped down. The new
cam was fitted and the valves reground into the head. It looked like
the bottom half of the engine was recently built with the shiny pistons
we could see. Apparently when the guy who was doing the rebuild of the
kit car the engine was In a mk 2 escort and it took off like a bullet
from a gun, so things looked pretty good in that department.
the engine was finished being tinkered with it went back into the car,
and one sunny afternoon the rest of the car was rebuilt. It sat on his
drive as we fitted all the arches and so forth, with Phil’s son and
mate been lured in too. Everyone who walked past commented on it and we
even got one guy screech to a halt to come and question us about it. He
knew exactly what it was. After a couple of hours there she was all
gleaming looking very different as to how she set out. Then on the
trailer and back to my parent’s house.
to the rolling road again and it was still blowing oil everywhere, the
timing was out which was easily corrected by them. It also was getting
very warm which was strange as it never did that before. So home it
came ready for its next outing at an autotest. We put on a breather
system into a catch tank to hopefully resolve the back pressure, and
things seemed sweeter with that fitted.
we trundled to York…well Rufforth air field for the day, the car went
through scrutineering ok and on to the test we went. It was ok, but the
handbrake was still not to my liking and to get the car to slide and
spin was hard work on the grippy surface. As the day wore on problems
crept in. The oil was pressurising still in the engine, and forcing it
out of the sump gasket, leaving a trail of oil. The water system was
pressurising and boiling up which was odd as the car was fine
previously. Phil retired half way through the day the save the car and
I soldiered on. We finished the day and headed home…..some more work to
I was beginning to think I had bought
a lemon….really down hearted about the car and just kept thinking of
the money I had invested into it. We toyed with many ideas and looked
for another head for the engine, but I was not happy with it, that back
pressure thing was still worrying me. I was leaning towards a full
transplant of something a bit more modern, and after many discussions
with Phil we decided to go for a Zetec and then the search started for
an engine…..but it had to be a good one. I was bidding on a couple of
complete cars on eBay but lost out on them, and did a deal on a focus
engine which had been shunted from behind, the deal was done and we
awaited the arrival of the engine. It did not arrive. After an irate
phone call he apologised and said would organise another delivery,
after all it was coming from the south coast. On the second delivery
day it did not arrive, and I just ended up getting my money back…the
search started again.
While at work one
day my phone rang, it was Lee a fellow competitor who was a mechanic
from Newcastle. He knew of an Escort going which was an MOT failure but
Zetec powered and with 50k miles. So the deal was struck at £200 and
off I trundled to go and collect it with the trusty trailer.
with the Escort back home the crossflow was placed on the internet for
sale along with the Webbers and ancillaries. A price was finalised at
£205, so that was the Zetec paid for!!!!!
was removed from the car for the last time and was not sorry to see the
back of it, but did not realise what was going to be involved in the
fitting of the new engine.
Phil took the
Escort away and promptly brought it back with its nose pointing into
the air, minus an engine, and the empty space in the engine bay of the
kit car called.
The next job was to find
out how the engine was to be linked to the type 9 gearbox. The first
intention was to put an MT75 gearbox in but the physical dimensions of
the gearbox would not allow the installation without a major
reconstruction of the transmission tunnel, not a job we wanted to
So with the engine being the
1.6 16v 90bhp motor it was deemed the type 9 would be able to cope with
it. Upon surfing the net one night an invaluable website was found
which stated exactly what needed to be done to mate the two together.
(More on this in a separate link to follow)
a new clutch purchased (the new one in the crossflow would have been
suitable) the job started to install the engine into the Locust. This
fell within the domain of Phil and with the car at his works, and a
change in management policy much to my frustration I was not allowed to
be onsite, so Phil kept me up to date with progress and worked towards
getting the engine mounted within the confines of the engine bay of the
Locust. After a phone call to Phil he confessed to having ‘the bit
between his teeth’ to get the engine mounted and in. True to his word
he did it, and later that weekend the car was returned with its engine
finishing off of the engine took quite some time with projects being
embarked upon by myself and Phil, so the forthcoming descriptions may
not appear to have happened as seamlessly as they are written
always had the opinion that the physical mounting of the engine was the
easy bit and everything else was going to be harder, but that came onto
me….to a certain extent.
With the engine
mounted now I had to add the ancillaries, first off was the alternator,
the standard item was retained as it located itself perfectly with the
pulley for the water pump and tensioning pulley. The wishbone had to be
ground away a bit to give a clearance of 4 -5mm and the mounting for
the flexi hose for the brake calliper had to be lowered, other than
that it was in.
We also fitted a
hydraulic handbrake, with a vertical lever. This proved to be a pain
with certain parts of the piping weeping sometimes, blood sweat and
tears with a few swear words thrown in it was finally in and working,
that should solve the handbrake problem. The mechanical handbrake has
been retained for the MOT as it is going on the road.
original header tank was not to my liking mainly because the return
pipe had been chopped and blanked, so from a fiesta which had been
purchased to fill an autotest gap and fulfilled its purpose (which
donated its engine to a friend’s Suzuki SJ for off- roading) donated
its header tank to the kit and was fitted utilising the original header
Next was to get a belt to join
all of the aforementioned pulleys together and spinning in the right
directions, a trip to my local Partco with an approximate size soon
came up with a belt suitable, this was then fitted.
job was the oil filter. The one on the Zetec is at the right hand side
of the engine towards the front so it coincided with the steering
column. Oh joy. Again back to Partco with a maximum length it could be,
and returned home with a Renault one that was the perfect length as not
to interfere with the column, but alas the threads were wrong
it was not to be. So the solution rested with a remote filter, with a
fitting being screwed in place of the oil filter with off takes that
enable you to pipe to the filter housing which is fitted wherever you
want it. This was purchased from Burton Performance at a cost of about
up was to mount the coil pack, this was rather close to the drivers
foot well, but with some careful grinding of the mounting bracket the
original mounting was retained and fixed in place.
of Phil’s Job was to fabricate an exhaust manifold. I bought a flange
and collector pot, while Phil got some exhaust tubing. He had access to
a pipe bending machine at work and promptly set about making the
manifold. The initial results were heart wrenching for Phil, as getting
the required radius on the pipes was proving difficult with the pipe
kinking, however perseverance paid off and he managed to fabricate the
mother of exhaust manifolds that would lend itself to the overall look
of the car.
on the agenda was cooling. Again thanks to the tinternet a diagram was
found illustrating how the system had to be plumbed in. As my Locust
was not running a heater I modified it slightly, but utilising existing
pipes I had, got the bulk of it plumbed in. But was lacking one or two
fitments. These were sourced from a ford dealer and a scrap yard, only
because the originals were worn or damaged. My wife’s dad supplied me
with some aluminium tube which was the perfect diameter for the piping,
and in all the whole of the cooling system cost me about £15.
stopped on the car at this point for some considerable time, due to
myself installing a garage and sorting the garden out so it did not
resemble a Somme anymore and Phil went all light headed and bought a
Marlin that needed an engine transplant, so his time was largely taken
up with that……Phil’s Mrs recons the Marlin is prettier but I don’t
think the shape of a seven can be beaten. Mind you the camera would not
let me get a picture of the Marlin…….cant imagine why
up was the wiring……ha ha. As I was keeping it on injection this was out
of my hands (even if I was on carb's would still have been) so in came
Tony, another friend. We originally thought that the ‘red’ key was
going to have to be retained, and placed in the reader which is located
around the ignition of the ford, but after he had loosely wired
everything up (after removing the loom from the stricken Escort about 6
months ago) got it turning over bit that was it. What we needed was the
clock from the escort to show us that the immobiliser was disarmed, but
it went with the car to the scrap yard. By a stroke of luck we got it
sparking, only for him to return to find it would not. By a stroke of
luck he was looking into the loom to see what the problem was and
discovered how ford were immobilising it, he promptly ripped this bit
out (which turned out to be quite a lot) and we junked the whole
immobiliser thing to be left with the bare requirement. Bish bash bosh
and it was sparking, but the fuel pump I had bought was not working so
he said he would need to return when I had sourced another.
fuel pump (off and injection car) so it had the right pressure was
sourced from a local breakers yard and promptly tested before I parted
with hard cash. Back at home a make shift petrol supply was fixed up
and Tony informed so we could do the initial start up. Once the petrol
had made its way through everything it started straight away, albeit
not sounding so healthy, but it was running. This was deemed a
So from that point Tony hard
wired everything, and wrapped everything up in insulating tape so it
all looked neat and tidy, running of the car at this point was done by
balancing a gallon petrol canister on the top with the feed and return
poked into the top, and tugging on the accelerator cable
was lumpy and reluctant to rev so blanking the vacuums off helped a bit
as this was unmetered air, but it was all going to have to come off as
it stuck up too high for the bonnet.
stopped again as I had no electric in the garage and the dark nights of
2005 were creeping in, oh and the better half wanted the bathroom
redoing…….a mans work is never done.
before Christmas 2005 the miracle happened and the garage had power and
light, the festivities came and went and then the plan was hatched.
at the Christmas autotest my absence was noted, I had arranged to
borrow a friends Nova but the snow that had graced us at that time did
not agree with my BMW, so I decided not to risk bringing the car out,
anyway it was New Years Eve and an evening of drinking was planned!!!!!!
made the bold statement that the car would be out by March, and with
Christmas and New Year out of the way we had the bit between our teeth
big time. The car was removed from the trailer and placed alongside it
in the garage (spoilt bugger I am with a big garage) and chocked up on
axel stands. A list was compiled of every mortal job that we could see
that needed to be attended to, and it also allowed us the plan and
job was to mount the fuel pump and filter, and the finish off the
fuelling to the engine, not a hard job with the car sat in the air.
Then all of the pipes were clipped into place, and the wiring routed to
it and tidied.
My other friend Mark
whipped out the petrol tank ready to give to Phil so he could braise a
return on. With it running on injection it needed this, so that was
carted away by Phil one evening.
the major jobs that needed to be done was the new inlet manifold. Way
beyond my capabilities this was, but had acquired a spare inlet
manifold for Phil to do with as he pleased. Buried away in the depths
of his workplace he forgot about the outside world……his wife…..the
price of petrol and set about fabricating this major component. He got
some materials together and made a flange, and just got some pieces cut
then popped back through to mine so we could see what had to be done.
the components consisted of a former prop shaft from a transit, and the
leftover exhaust tubing. It was all offered up to the zetec, discussed,
chopped and tacked into place then removed for him to weld up properly
Another flange was made to go
on the end to mount the throttle body, and then we discovered that the
air bypass valve had to go in, and in such a way that it kind of
scuppered the original plans, but Phil was not phased by this setback,
and designed a solution by mounting it at the opposite end of the
manifold to where it really needed to be, but ran a pipe through the
middle of the inlet manifold to link the bypass valve and throttle body
together, this will allow it to tick over.
messing on with the inlet manifold, we knew that the air flow meter had
to go in somewhere, and realistically needed to be towards the nose
cone area to draw in cooler air rather than hot air from the engine.
This was not a real problem in itself as there was room for it but we
could not get the pipe past the radiator, so the radiator was moved
over 35mm to allow the clearance needed, just hoped my dodgy welding
Phil returned once
again one Saturday morning with petrol tank and what looked to be an
impressive looking manifold, which looked as though it had been bought
for the job.
tank went in, and all piped up….lovely job, and the inlet manifold was
fitted and it was the moment of truth. One problem was encountered in
the form of……(he is gonna kill me mentioning this) that when all of the
wires were removed from injectors and so forth Phil was stating “the
beauty of fords is that all the multi plugs are unique and you cant get
them muddled up, I got bitten once by a Peugeot that…….” And guess
what……yep they were not individual so we stuck out fingers in the air
to see which way the wind was blowing, and fitted them back as per
there length of wire and where they reached. The car started and
sounded ok so we were happy at that and left them alone.
Phil got home he was able to check the wires on a car that had been
untampered, and we had got one right, but no big issue to sort them and
Phil then bandaged his arm where the big bad locust had bit him!!!!!!
We were really motoring and the season started again on February 19th
and we were looking well on course to get it ready for then. A cradle
was made to mount the ECU under the dash, and a hole drilled in the
bulkhead to allow the loom through with the grommet and with that done
it was all fixed nicely in place.
end was in sight, the brake callipers were binding and Phil whipped
these off and took them away and stripped, cleaned and rebuilt them. We
offered them back up to the car bolted them on and bled the system; cor
we could now push the car….even with one hand.
were almost there now, some checker plate was acquired to line the
back, and my friend got the roll bar powder coated for me. We glossed
all the inside black and with the chequer fitted and roll bar done it
was all starting to look ‘bling’
of the blistering pace that the car had been finished off we were well
within our timescale, and when the car went out for the fist time we
wanted her to be as perfect in presentation and performance as we could
get her. Phil took 4 wheels away with him, and prepared them for
painting. Once they were prepared he painted them, put the tyres back
on and brought them back, and then took the other four wheels I had
away and did the same with them. I need spare wheels when autotesting
if the tyres that’s on ware out or worse case I hit something or
puncture them. So now I had 8 wheels that all matched and looked the
So with the car now as ready as we can get it, it was down to the professionals to just finish it off.
The car was booked into Teesside Motor Factors (incorporating tech tune) 01642 232222 for a rolling road set up session.
arrived at 8:30 on the morning dropped the car off, and put my trailer
into the car park which was promptly penned in and left it with them,
and set off to work. My stomach was churning because I wanted it all to
go so right, and every time the phone rang it was promptly pounced on
in case it was them. By lunch my nerves got the better of me and called
them. “Ah hello Mr Thornton…yes he’s just on with it now, he’s found
quite a bit so best off calling back a bit later when he can go through
it all with you…….” Oh bugger I thought.
I called back later, it was all laid bare for me. “Well there was
leakage on the inlet manifold so we have been trying to solve that one
really, and then when we get that sorted we can do the rest of the
What had happened was that when
the manifold was made the flange got very hot and distorted, also there
were tiny pin prick holes in the welds and all this was allowing
un-metered air into the system. They sealed the welds, and fabricated a
rubber sandwich gasket to go between the flange and head to seal any
leaks and allow for the distortion.
the other thing that came to light was the injector seals were leaking,
so new ones were needed, and another problem was that the fuelling was
very lean. I was told that if the car was driven hard it would hole a
piston….and that was the last thing I wanted. The fuelling aspect was
put down to the lack of a Lamba sensor in the exhaust; this monitors
the outlet gasses and tells the ECU to increase or decrease fuel etc.
Apparently when the car is started it searches for all the electrical
sensors and if one is not present or faulty it logs a fault code and
can put the engine into limp home mode which restricts it, and causes
loss of power.
Some three days later I
collected the car, and was told that the injector seals needed sorting
and the lamba sensor needed to go in, but the good side was that the
car was much sweeter than before.
provisionally booked back in for the next Wednesday (the event was the
following Sunday….despite our great progress this was going to be tight.
were fitted, and I decided to do them all, no point in just doing half
a job so that was all 12 of them, and sourced a lamba sensor complete
with loom from a scrap yard, ford wanted £110. Once I got home I
had a look for the plug in the car to just plug the lamba sensor in,
but it was not there. It was a good job I had the whole of the plug
from the one in the scrap yard. Tony the auto sparkie called back round
and delved into the loom and picked out the wires that were needed and
the plug reinstated. Phil mounted the sensor into the exhaust, and then
started the car, and it seemed a whole lot sweeter to our ears.
to the rolling road, same scenario as last time every time the phone
went I thought it was them. Anyway when I called the news this time was
more inspiring. They had found a couple more air leaks, changed a
pressure regulator in the fuel rail to increase fuel to 3bar and he
said he was very happy with it.
the wheels were only 13inch we could not get a reading off the dyno as
the chassis rails were hitting the ground and making the car jump all
over. But I was not worried about that as the thing took off from
nothing and just wants to light up the rear wheels.
Back on the trailer and homeward bound, ready for Sunday.
was so relieved that we had made it, god knows how many hours we had
spent on it but the end result was worth it, however it was in the lap
of the gods how it was going to go.
Witton Castle – 19/2/06
arrived at the test in good time, unloaded and signed on. There was a
perimeter road and could not resist a blast around the outside, tail
snaking it struggled to get the power down onto the wet surface but the
fun factor was great.
this was it, sat on the line ready to go and my memories of this car
from the last test were not great. “In your own time Mark” the
timekeeper stated and boom, I was off. The handbrake was crisp and the
power was there. It all seemed to work well, stop at the finish and I
thought excellent. Pulled off the line and it boiled and spat water on
the deck………oh no was this the way the day was going to go. The fan had
not cut in, so armed with a staple, bridged the fan switch, on the fan
came and that was that disaster dealt with.
go and when I crossed the finish and pulled off I heard Mark shouting
stop to me, I was leaving a trail of oil………upon investigation one of
the fittings on the remote filter was leaking. A spare jubilee clip was
found and that solved that one.
than that the day went without fault, Phil broke his Marlin so ended up
driving the Locust all afternoon and the car took two drivers no
It did begin to misfire, but not badly and the day was completed.
The end result was 5th overall out of 14, pipped by 4th by a mere 2 seconds, but I was happy with that.
At home some new leads were fitted, along with a new fan switch and an override switch installed, along with a new thermostat.
Hartlepool town centre – 26/2/06
the car going so well the week before I had high hopes for today.
Hartlepool event is wide open tests, very grippy tarmac and a real tyre
shredder, along with a car tester.
first test and just looping the last cone the car died and had to be
pushed off. We thought we traced it to a faulty connection on the
starter, and got it going for test two. It sputtered to a halt in the
same place again, but sounding more like fuel this time. We removed the
fuel pipe, and tried the pump. Some petrol trickled through but not at
the correct pressure. We found a cable tie on the return pipe that
looked to be squashing it so unclipped that one and it fired into life.
This happened once more as the day went on, and is something that will
have to be looked at with time.
doing a 360º donut another pipe blew off, this was most spectacular as
the oil just blasted out of the engine, all over the floor and down the
side of the car, quickly I turned off the car while marshals dealt with
the spillage we wheeled the car off to fix, it was done in 5 mins and
sorted after borrowing some oil, as on inspection I appeared to have
lost nearly all of mine!!!!!!!!
third last test of the day was mid flight on the test giving it big
licks, threw the line perfect, rear wheels over, but not the front and
was foot down to get away. But my foot hit the deck and that was the
end of my day, snapped throttle cable.
Sick of the problems, feeling full of man flu and freezing cold I went home. Stuck it in the garage and went to bed.
outing is 12/3/06 and have got a new throttle cable, engine oil as what
I put in was a bit thick and just need to prep it ready, let’s hope
this event is a bit better, but its all about development.
Has it all been worth it??
I think it has. The end result is good. The car has good power, and the
engine is much more modern, able to run on unleaded and just is much
This whole project could not have been done without the help of one person – Phil.
Phil, thanks for all your hard efforts…and to Mrs Phil for her patience
while he has spent all of his time on my car, lets get out there and
have some fun with it.
Big thanks to Mark as well who also committed his time to the project