Report by John Jones (taken from
the Spring 2000 newsletter)
When I began
my Locust build in 1996 it was intended to be a conventional Ford
based car, but not far into the construction the spectre of the
SVA test rued its head. I had serious doubts that it would be possible
to get the Locust type construction through the test. I've since
been proved very wrong of course but at the time I didn't have enough
confidence to progress my build any further then the bodytub stage.
I was still keen to own a Locust and was intending to buy a second
hand model however the couple of cars viewed in my price range were
very poorly built. The "Ruby"
article had just appeared in Locust Position when I saw a Triumph
Spitfire based Locust at the Stafford show. Although built on a
T&J chassis it used the standard rear swing axle. this made
me think of doing the sum thing using an original chassis and running
gear. The reasoning being that I had helped to build a Burlington
Arrow many years earlier which is still in regular use and the plans
were available from a friend who is a Triumph Sport Six Club member
and who also knew of an unfinished 'restoration project' which was
available both locally and cheap. After a bit of haggling I became
the owner of 1974 Mark 4 Spitfire which had been off the road for
several years I reasoned that by the time the build was complete
the tax exemption would apply. 'Johnny Two Jags' killed this plan
off by halting the scheme, it now applies only to pre 74 cars. The
original 1300cc engine was seized but it came with a 1500cc Dolomite
TC unit as a spare which turned out to be in excellent condition.
I registered the Spitfire in my name with the new engine details;
the DVLA will only consider retention of the original registration
number if they already have the details on file. I managed to sell
off all the bits I didn't need and so ended up with a rolling chassis,
engine, gearbox and registration document. The Burlington plans
detail how to modify the chassis to the necessary wheelbase and
in the case of a Spitfire donor chassis, the dimensions for new
radius arm mountings. These are found on the body tub of the Spitfire
which I wouldn't be using of course.
I'm lucky enough
to work for on engineering company so the modifications were fairly
easily accomplished but you do need space to work and to be a proficient
welder. At this point I refurbished the suspension components and
relocated the engine and gearbox mountings as far forward as possible
to bring the gearstick closer to hand. Once the engine position
was finalised I could modify the propshaft which I cut,sleeved and
extended at work using thick wall steel tube. It was then balanced
by a local specialist.
remote shift was extended as in the White Rose build manual but
I fitted additional support, a mini exhaust rubber bobbin, to carry
the extra weight when bolted to a transmission tunnel mounted bracket
later. A trial fit of the bodytub on the chassis revealed that I
would need to provide some additional support for the rear sloping
riser of the body tub and carry the rollover bar. This was done
using 2" square tube welded to the chassis rails forward of the
rear axle and extending up and back to the shock absorber mounting
on the rear of the chassis. making it similar in appearance to the
White Rose item. Additional ladder rails were installed between
the new radius arm mounts at the rear to two original body mounts
forwards to provide secure fixings for the body tub.
Removal of the
front bumper/bonnet mounting completed the chassis modifications,
which was then painted and new brake lines installed. The rest of
the build up has followed similar lines to the Escort based Locust,
apart from using Triumph components instead of Ford.
The main points
are as follows:
- mounted vertically the engine driven fan appears to cool well
column - extended with the addition of a universal joint sourced
from a local bearing company
- the filler neck was moved and the Spitfire chrome flip cap re-used
sender unit and gauge are standard.
- second hand alloys (I really wanted minilites or similar) for
Triumphs seem to he at a premium but I found a set of Dolomite Sprint
alloys with excellent tyres complete with sleeve nuts at the Harrogate
show, unfortunately the nuts were 7/16"WJF. I needed 3/8*UNF. Special
nuts were available but won more expensive than the wheels and tyres;
a friend come to the rescue, and made a set on a CNC machine from
stainless steel. The cost Several pints and a curry. well worth
- only slight alteration needed to drive cable and guide tubes the
White Rose GRP bulkhead made mounting these very easy. you can just
turn the whole thing upside down for access.
- standard. they also look right.
-originally from an XJS, a combination of rear dual backrest and
front seat squabs all were narrowed and mounted on 1/2' ply, they
aren't adjustable but are comfortable enough and I'm pleased with
the way they have turned out.
- home made from a collection of bends, a length of tube and a silencer
all in stainless steel bought, again at the Harrogate show which
has consistently been the cheapest venuee I have visited. Tack welded
together on the car then removed and finish welded with an arc welder
using 316L rods. Total cost £35.
- re-wired using all new components but based on the Spitfire diagram
and colour code, I wasn't keen to do this job but it turned out
to be easier than expected.
of 1999 the car was nearing completion I contacted the DVLA and
told them of my build. They referred me to my Local Vehicle Registration
Office who turned out to be very helpful. They required to inspect
the car before issuing a new chassis number which I stamped on the
chassis in their car park. Insurance was arranged through Footman
James (the least expensive plus knowledgeable about kitcars in general).
I then booked the MOT test which luckily the Locust passed first
time. Returning to the LVRO to complete the registration procedure,
they validated the MOT certificate with the original registration
number and after relieving me of a load of readies issued a road
fund licence within two weeks I had received my new V5 document
describing the car correctly as a Locust Sports.
The choice of
donor may not be to everyone's taste. Some may see it as a backwards
step certainly the rear swing axle set-up is not ideal making ride
height setting difficult. I'm still not satisfied with the way the
wheel arch to tyre clearance looks but I will get it right eventually,
even if I have to resort to converting to a Dolomite live axle.
Something that would be possible now that the registration is completed
but I intend to put some summer motoring miles on the clock to see
how everything performs before I attempt anything too radical. The
main work still to do is the paintwork and final trimming. I wouldn't
say the build has been easy but I doubt that overall it was much
more difficult than a "standard" build so if anybody is considering
doing something similar. (I have seen a spitfire chassis with V5
advertised in the newsletter so I guess the same thought has occurred
to other Locust enthusiasts) just have a go if I can do it, it can't