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Dave James and the lighter side of building a Locust - Built 1995

After seeing the series called ‘The Prisoner’ on TV and like other people back in the 60s, not understanding it but admiring the Lotus 7 car driven by Patrick Mcgoohan and dreaming perhaps one day.... I took the plunge and purchased the Locust kit, and manual.

Working in the motor industry for most of my life and being familiar with manuals, I thought the manual for this car was not that good. In fact I thought it would have made a brilliant script for the Mr Bean series.

Like all good ideas, things start to go wrong (even with stars in your eyes) from the beginning, such as, how to get the chassis past the lawn mower, kids bikes, freezer etc. The answer was to purchase a shed for these “non-important kit car parts”. This went down a storm with the wife who kept reminding me how I’d severely under-estimated the space required for my project. OK score so far 1-0.

After countless boxes of plasters, an ice pack on my black eye and an aching back, I finally had a 1600cc engine, gear box and axle installed. After checking alignments, bushes, bearings etc, and using stainless steel bolts (metric) I finished off by painting and under sealing everything in sight finally sitting down to a well earned beer or three about 1.15am.

Next came the building of the body tub. Many a joke about sailors and Rear Admirals were launched at me by the staff at the local D.I.Y. store. The biggest mistake I made was to tell a so call friend who worked at the D.I.Y. store what I was making. After buying three to four sheets of 3/4 inch marine ply they said my periscope was to short and how long have your legs got to be to get in the crows nest, yes yes heard it all before. On a serious note cutting the paper templates seemed quite straight forward as I did possess a good jig saw. All joints were sealed, screwed and glued and wood treated with extra sealer just in case a “quick launch” was required. Needless to say the kids joined in with a piece rope attached to a lemonade bottle shouting there she blows Jim lad.

Skinning the body tub seemed as difficult and as frustrating as getting painted wood chip paper off a wall with a blunt scraper. After making one or two mistakes with the instant bonding glue and trying to get the aluminium back off the wood tub, it was another trip down to the D.I.Y. shop, with yet another comment, ahoy ship mates!

At this stage it started to look like a car, what a surprise all suspension shocks and springs were now fitted front and rear. Next was fitting a Mini Estate fuel tank and sender, after moving the filler neck to the side and welding the old filler hole the tank was fitted upright between the rear panel and suspension frame. Trying to reduce the tank flange to fit between the sides and frame nearly made me a nervous wreck ho ho.

All wiring, instruments and hoses were now fitted into the cockpit and engine compartment. Only one small fault occurred in the wiring (thank god), on pressing the brake pedal the wiper motor operated one wipe. This was over-come by fitting an extra earth to the motor unit. I fitted a good fire extinguisher that makes you feel a lot more secure in the cockpit. With all this work done, it was time to fire up the engine and check everything was in order, this I did very nervously and was pleased to find no major faults present. Time for another long beer.

I now turned to thinking about some sort of roll over bar. Gas fitters were replacing pipes at work, I wonder. After showing a photo to one of the guys, he took up the challenge with a piece of scaffolding bar, bending it to fit and welding two upright struts as well as mounting plates. It fitted a treat and crossed his palm with the appropriate thank you. Being made of stainless steel The roll over bar looked great.

It must be about time I had something else to sit on other than a cut down deck chair. This proved to be more difficult than meets the eye, as the narrow space between the sides and the prop shaft tunnel denotes the seat size. After shopping around and after trying to make seats, only one supplier had the correct size, hence the price was higher £200.00 each. Expensive or what, but the car does certainly look the part with them fitted. Previously the carpet which I bought from a car boot sale for £5.00, what a find, had been used in the cockpit.

A set of Wolfrace wheels where bought for £50.00, including tyres and locking nuts, yet another good find. These have now been refurbished and polished and they look the biz. After looking at some other Locusts I decided to use square head lamps from a Citroen 2CV fitted to port and starboard this looked the biz especially when chromed. All I needed now was a fog horn and Ore Arrr Jim lad.

The dreaded registration of the car was next, knowing where to start would be a help. After talking to staff at the local G.P.O office and filling in countless forms, I finally had a visit from a vehicle test inspector. This chap looked the spitting image of Blakey from the TV series ‘On the Buses’ complete with cap and long coat. This brought an instant fixed smirk from me all the time he was looking at my car. After a while I noticed that he was giving me an extra a wide birth, this made me worse I had to say it... I hate you Butler! After this I could not see my car on the road ever, but he took it all in good spirit. ‘Can’t find anything wrong mate’ he said straight faced then chipped in with “ go on get this bus out” After filling in more forms I could finally get my registration number, tax, MOT and insurance phew, what a game. Q plate of course for quality!

The road test was a nerve-racking event every bump, knock and twang reminded me of one of those cars that blow up and falls apart at a circus, with all the effort I had put in I was sure this would not be the case. Yep all OK just a few adjustments hear and there and fluids to top up.

Time to go back to the D.I.Y centre and show what had been archived also to give the staff a bit of stick for their comments. A gallon bottle of coins to pay for paint and wall paper gets em going especially on a Saturday! Also try walking about inside with fish and chips after all that’s the only way you can catch them with a boat.

Now I’ve joined those elite people called Locust owners, long may they go forth to eat, hop, fly and multiply.

Dave James

 

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