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Graham Barker's Locust

The Building Of Ruby....Graham Barker

Ruby started life as a 1967 Triumph Spitfire Mk II. In 1988 a Mr Ireland of Maidstone purchased a Locust chassis (then made by J.C.) with a Marina back axle mounted in the usual five point way. Ruby became the willing donor for a Locust chassis, so engine, gearbox, prop shaft, front suspension complete, tank, instruments and switches were taken from the dying spitfire, to be given a new life in the Locust.
At first a local farmer gave a barn to Mr Ireland to build the Locust. Unfortunately the farm changed hands and the new owner wanted the barn back, so Ruby and Locust were taken back to Mr Ireland's garage (a bit small though). It was soon realised that the garage was much too small for all the bits and pieces required to make the car, bearing in mind there are 3 sheets of ply and 3 sheets of aluminium to buy yet. At this point Mr Ireland decided to call it a day and sell.
I happened to be looking through the free adds and saw the Locust, it was love at first sight. Money changed hands and with the aid of a friends trailer and a trip with the Company transit, Ruby and Locust were in my grubby mitts. Locust came with a full set of body plans, so after ordering the exterior grade ply I set about putting the engine gearbox into the already rolling chassis.
The engine mountings did not line up, so new ones were made and welded on, the gearbox mounting had to be extended and the panhard rod chassis fixing had to be lowered, apart from that the chassis looked okay.
I then cut the prop shaft down and everything looked right. I had by now three sheets of ply. I enjoyed making the body and I would advise anyone building a Locust to build the body around a rolling chassis with engine gearbox in situ. That way you can see what clearances you have and where you can put ancillaries.

I tried to be clever with the plans and copied them at work thinking I would keep the Page 7 originals and use the copies for the cutting. Everyone knows (except me) that when you copy anything in a photocopier - yes - it distorts and my copies were quite a bit different to the original plans. Luckily I found this out before I had gone too far.
I built the body dry first, just screwed (oh what a lovely word) but not glued. This way when you start fitting pedal assemblies etc you can take the part off the car that you need to drill, cut, or shape on to the bench where it is a lot easier. I only did three mods to the original plans, I didn't like the gussets on the top of the back corners so I replaced these with " wide steel and when I fitted the rear wings, I did a Dave Chalk (tips special Summer 96) and cut the body radius to match the wing and I also used a piece of 1/8" aluminium in place of the gearbox side (drivers side) to give me more size 10 room.
I did not like the original wooden dash , plus I wanted to retain the light and indicator stalks on the steering column, so I made an aluminium dash and set it back a little. All the bits and pieces from Ruby, instruments and switches came in handy. The new dash was covered in padded vinyl and looked a treat.
I am a mechanical engineer by trade, not an electrician, so when it came to the wiring loom my electrical friends got an ear bashing, but it worked out well. Again, it handy having the body on the chassis and engine installed so that you can make the wiring harness as neat as possible. Now was the time to finish the body. It all came apart, then back together with glue, screws and dowels and brackets, to make the finished strong tub. Having fitted the finished body to the chassis and drilled all the bolting down holes, it's time now for skinning. The body came off the chassis and onto woodworking trestles at a nice working height.
Skinning the wood with aluminium I suspected to be a b------d of a job, but when I was invited to help Dave Gower skin his 'Larry', I found it was not as daunting a job as I had expected, in fact I eventually did my skinning on my own.
It was about this time that SVA was rearing its ugly head, don't get me wrong - I think it Page 8 might be a good thing (when its sorted out) but it was a threat to me, I only had a single braking system, I had no heater so demisting would be awkward etc etc. The SVA date was moved to 1st January 1998 Ah! I might do it if things go well. Things did go well, but in an unusual way. I had been on the waiting list to have a heart by-pass operation for over a year. The body (Locust that is) was nearly ready to go away for spraying. I was at work on the Wednesday and had a phone call, "we have a cancellation, can you come in tomorrow". When I got up off the floor I obviously said yes but then Locust and Rub
would have to take a back seat.


The operation done, the new me - a little scared and sore - had a few weeks off, but as soon as possible my lovely wife gave me the garage key she had hidden and work started, albeit slowly at first, on the final steps to completion. The body went away to have its Nightfire red paintwork (Peter Lathrope is jealous), the chassis was stripped and painted, the engine and gearbox had already been overhauled and everything put back into the chassis for the final time and ready to receive the body.
Once the body was on, it was a case of putting wiring etc in and connecting up, bleeding the brakes and clutch, adjusting handbrake and generally tightening up. To my amazement the engine fired up first time and all the electric's worked. I had previously registered the chassis with the local DVLA and they had given me a chassis number. This was put on the car and I had Ruby's log book so that I hoped I could retain her original registration number. All I had to do now was to get Locust ready for her first MOT.


Having just driven Ruby Locust up and down my forty foot driveway, I decided s--t or bust. I booked the MOT for 09:00 hrs and booked the DVLA inspection for 11:00 hrs on the same day (lucky). On the day itself I drove to Dave Gowers (which is on the way) to be greeted by Ray Clark with his car, so in convey we went to the pre-arranged MOT at 09:00. It was comforting to have back-up as it were for that journey.
There was only one minor snag - but the MOT was issued, so on to our next appointment 'registration'! I had to put more petrol in on the journey to Maidstone, that's when I found my first problem - I had a fuel leak from the sender unit of all places. As I couldn't do anything about it there and then, we carried on. With a strong smell of petrol and a little puddle under the car the gentleman from DVLA came out and asked to see the engine number and chassis number and had no hesitation in giving Ruby Locust the original 1967 number (tax exempt) and why is she called RUBY???

 

Well she's red and has a RuBY 117E registration plate. .......... Graham Barker.

 

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