TheRD86...Build Story!

Thread in 'Project Cars and Builds Threads' started by RD86, Dec 31, 2021.

  1. RD86

    RD86 Member

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    Having finished the car in the Autumn of 2021, and with a photoshoot and a shakedown completed, I thought it was about time to do a retrospective build thread of my AE86 race/track/show car.

    So here goes…(the back story first)

    A few years ago, I had a pretty decent but relatively standard AE86 road car. It was a JDM car, black over white, it had the usual stripped out rear interior, a basic bolt in roll cage and some low suspension. Although in pretty strong shape and a solid little car, it was a long way from any sort of the competition car I wanted to build. The goal was a fun, useable, high-quality car with no real restrictions on any of the build details and parts used. This was going to take a lot of work to get it there.

    Obviously cost would play a part, when does it not? But in my mind, spreading it over a time was the best way to create what I wanted to build.

    AE86 edit.


    Having grown up driving MK2 Escorts on farms and around fields, I really wanted to build an ‘anything goes’ Escort. But with so many amazing cars already out there, and with their popularity so high and so many crazy builds already complete, it would have been highly likely to have just gone down an already well-trodden path. An Escort was off the list.

    In all honesty, my AE86 road car hardly got used. I opened the garage one day and the decision hit me square in the face. Build a cool Corolla.

    Commence step 1 of the new build; decide on the main parts required, and source them!

    Some years before, around 2008 in fact, I had already been involved with putting a Honda S2000 engine in a Mk2 Escort rally car, and instantly I knew that was the choice. With 9000rpm available as standard, a couple of ‘off the shelf’ throttle body kits to choose from, and complete engines still available at reasonable prices (this was around 2018), I just had to go for it.

    Fast forward a few weeks and I pushed the button on the first of the big ticket items. A Honda F20C, complete with 6speed gearbox and all ancillaries including wiring harness, ECU, gear linkage, prop shaft flange and even some home made engine mounts, arrived on a pallet. I had found a very helpful seller who needed to take the Honda engine from his recently built race car and change to a Ford engine, as the regulations of the championship he was intending to compete in had changed.

    Had I heard it running? No. Did I know the seller? No. Did I have any idea the engine would run, or even be delivered? Not really. Had I broken every rule in the ‘second hand car parts buyers guide’? Absolutely.

    It would be some time before I had any idea if my money was well spent or not….!

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    At this point, I had already decided on one other thing. The car wouldn’t have a sequential gearbox, at least for now. I knew the Honda gearbox would be easy enough to fit in the car and be plenty strong enough as it was designed for that engine and by the Japanese. It would be fine.

    It also saved a big chunk of money which I knew would be needed elsewhere pretty quickly, and the Honda ‘box wouldn’t need rebuilding every ten minutes. It was an easy decision.

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  2. RD86

    RD86 Member

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    One more engine related purchase remained at this stage. It had to have throttle bodies and they would sound incredible, just as I remembered. We had used the Jenvey throttles with the Escort all those years ago and I was pleased to see that although their kit had had some minor updates over the years, it was still available to order. A couple of conversations back and forth, and a large box saying ‘Jenvey’ landed at the door.

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    A few months prior, I had found a used Motec M880 ECU for sale. It had been a spare for a race team that had since moved to a different system, and it had most of the optional upgrades already enabled. I knew Motec already had a base map for the Honda engine using the standard cam and crank sensors, and the M880 ECU although now getting on in years, is an exceptionally powerful and flexible ECU. For the price it was listed for, it was another easy decision. Combined with a PDM I had from a previous project, the car would use Motec Electronics.

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  3. RD86

    RD86 Member

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    At this point things were going pretty well, I was busy planning the build and collecting a few other odds and sods as they came along. My AE86 would have Honda power and an amazing soundtrack in no time. Or so I thought.

    Around this time, maybe late Summer 2019, a message popped up on my phone reading something like “You should see this, it would be perfect for you!”. Excitement and dread built up, as it often does when this happens (it happens a lot) and I opened the link. It was for a highly modified, painted, AE86 bodyshell. Complete with lights, glass and panels and it was rolling. It was ready to be assembled into a full race or rally car to any spec you could want. I instantly knew my project had taken a turn, for the better.

    The bodyshell happened to be in Poland, it also happened to be LHD. But it also happened to be owned by a Polish chap who spoke English extremely well and knew the project inside out, but he had also come to the realisation that he didn’t have the time or the space for another build.

    Plenty of discussion was had about the original car (a low mileage, rust free European spec AE86), he sent me hundreds of photos of the car from day 1 to how it sat now, explaining that the project had got a little out of hand(!)

    The pictures of the fabrication of the shell told that same story…When I asked how out of hand had it got, he told me they had removed the whole rear floor and rebuilt it to house Nissan S14 rear suspension and diff. Gone was the old Toyota live axle and four link bars, to be replaced with fully independent rear suspension, coil over dampers, Nissan driveshafts, knuckles, brakes and so on. A similar theme appeared up front, with the Nissan S14 sub frame replacing the Corolla version. This instantly meant an S14 steering rack, front suspension arms, knuckles, brakes etc to match the rear. Of course a full roll cage picking up the new rear turrets and rear cradle was created and then the shell was painted in Honda Championship white, what else.

    Here are a few pics of the original shell build, completed in 2019 by Dytko Sport in Poland, makers of some very special cars!


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  4. RD86

    RD86 Member

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    Further discussion about actually getting it to the UK, the various parts that were with the car, and finally agreeing on a price, saw me very quickly double the number of AE86’s I had. And just a week or so later, a truck arrived. Just in time for Christmas as it happened.

    A few more pictures of the shell coming together, long before I knew anything about it!

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  5. RD86

    RD86 Member

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    The car arrived with me, delivered as you see pictured here, around December 2019

    The seller had been very careful to wrap the whole car in a protective plastic covering, and had send a few standard parts with it that I might need such as a LHD dash board, a prop shaft, some steering column joints, heater box and so on. Turns out we didn’t need much of it in the end!

    Small.


    I was lucky with this, the car had a brand new AE86 windscreen just fitted after paint, it was complete with panels, lights, a pretty rare front optional front spoiler/splitter, Perspex rear 1/4 glass, arches and so on. All parts I was later to find were getting harder (and more expensive) to find.

    Once unloaded, two things became instantly clear to me.

    1; I could just assemble the car now and it would be fine.
    2; If I did that, I wouldn’t be happy with the final outcome & fine was nowhere near good enough.

    This is how is arrived, looking very nice!

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  6. RD86

    RD86 Member

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    As I had no clear idea what the car was to be used for once it was finished, I knew it had to be fairly multi purpose. Tarmac rallying was likely to be on the horizon for this car, so that made the list of things to do pretty easy.

    It needed things like; two set of latest specification seat rails, strengthening of the front turrets, places to mount a sump guard and mud flaps (even if they never get fitted), full FIA specification fire system, FIA specification fuel cell and so on and so on. Building a car to do a rally makes converting it to almost any other type of competition very easy. Doing it the other way? Not so much..

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    More to follow as I go through all the pictures and try and tell this story in some sort of order!
     
  7. RD86

    RD86 Member

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    A list of things I wanted to do on the shell was quickly drawn up and I got in touch with a friend who happens to be a rather good fabricator and based locally, at Bicester Heritage. Ollie runs a fabrication business called Olliminium and is rather good at what he does.

    He came to look at the car and we talked it over, he had some ideas and I explained what I wanted to achieve.

    After about 20 minutes I had one question. When can I bring it down?

    Olly set to work, cutting out and fabricating a new gearbox tunnel so that the Honda gearbox had a nice place to live, making some strengthening plates for the front turrets, cutting out and remaking the fuel tank mountings to suit the new fuel cell, making engine mounts to support the F20C from the Nissan subframe and so on.

    The list never seemed to get any smaller as is often the way, but sure enough the time came to pick up the shell and start the next phase.

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    AE86 Tunnel cut out,

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    Honda gearbox in place....ish

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    New Tunnel fabricated and welded in!

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    Turret strengthening plates, dummy dampers/top mounts of course

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    New tunnel and beautifully made gear lever surround, so the OEM Honda boot clips into place.... one of my favourite parts of the car...!

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    New tank mountings to support the FIA spec, bag tank

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    One of a large number of trial fits, as always!

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    Ollie built these lovely engine mounts to get it just right

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    A small clearance trim needed in the Nissan sub frame to get the F20C to sit low enough in the car
     
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  8. RD86

    RD86 Member

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    Having picked it up from Ollie and feeling very pleased that it was now coming along something like I had imagined in my head, it was now down to me to come up with the layout of the interior.

    The ECU, battery, extinguishers, washer bottle and handbrake all needed a home, as did numerous other components. One of the hardest things to get right was the seat position, I had already sourced a set of Atech wrap around competition seats, and the car was going to have a bulkhead pedal box.

    Once the gear lever position was set (thanks to Ollie), the seat basically had to go as far back as possible, whilst allowing the pedals and the gear lever to be reached. The steering wheel position could be set later but the seat position had to be fixed now.

    The only person I knew who had recently done a set of the new ‘2020’ spec seat rails into a coupe style bodyshell was Elliot at EDM, again based locally to me. With the very oddly shaped floor in an AE86 and the installation of these critical to the quality of the build, I took the car to EDM knowing it was in good hands.

    Once again, the quality of the work was spot on, with the rails lowered into the floor and tied in to meet the latest requirements of Motorsport UK. EDM also added numerous weld nuts and fabricated mountings for components that I had by now positioned so that everything else could be tackled during the build of the car, with no other external services required, bar paint and engine mapping.

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    Removal of old bracketry

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    Positioning the new rails

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    Committed now! Sinking into the floor is the only way to get the seats low enough, I dont want to be anywhere near the roof if I dont have to be!

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    Luckily Elliot can drive his welder far better than I ever could!

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    Mount for handbrake fabricated and welded in place. Also seatbelt anchor points going in

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    Bracket to hold the rear brake pressure adjuster, and weld nuts for the ECU brackets installed
     
  9. RD86

    RD86 Member

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    Ok, that really is it for now, Happy New Year all and I hope you like my car and the build !
     
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  10. crazyae86

    crazyae86 Well-Known Member

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    i read all this article is really nice
    well done mate
    keep on nice work
     
  11. RD86

    RD86 Member

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    Thanks, i'll add more updates soon, I have lots of pictures of the complete build!
     
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  12. RD86

    RD86 Member

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    The car came home and we began to create what would be its home for however long it was going to take to put this thing together.

    As far as I was concerned the car had to be almost completely dry built, everything that needed a bracket or a mount had to be located, and any last welding and cutting needed to be complete before we went to paint. Things like the radiator, wiring junction boxes, fuel filter and pressure regulator, power steering pump, co-driver foot rest, heater blower, pedal box, clutch rest etc all had to be created then mounted to the car before being removed again prior to paint.

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    Just about ready to come back from Ollie, car was rolling but on crappy dampers etc so it could be easily moved. There was still so much more to do at this point, but the work Ollie had done was a real step forward

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    Back at home. We began to put together something resembling a space we could build a car in

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    First few parts bolted in for the first time, moving things around now wouldnt be a disaster, doing it after paint would have made me very sad!


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  13. RD86

    RD86 Member

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    At this point, I must introduce the best couple of people you could ever want to help put a car together. Without these two people, the car could never have turned out this well.

    Nick, AKA Dobby is Motorsport through and through, having worked in rally and rallycross for factory teams and a huge number of smaller, private outfits, he knows how to put a car together. And more importantly, if I have an idea or sketch of what I want to create, he brings in to life to a high standard. Also, he fits in small spaces and has lots of tools and equipment....

    Next up is Swampy, another Motorsport veteran of F1, FE and numerous touring car, endurance car and single seater teams.

    Swampy is an organizer, he gets things done and he knows how things should be. You need a special fastening? He'll find it. You need parts zink plating? He knows where to take them. Any tools Dobby doesnt have, Swampy probably has. He also happens to be rather good at wrapping cars, more of that later

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    Here is Dobby getting the dry build underway. Wiper motor, fuel regulator and some lines, all need places to live

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    Another trick up Swampy's sleeve, cameras.
     
  14. RD86

    RD86 Member

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    We also made some other changes to the engine bay during this time. The forward part of the original wheel well was cut out, and new parts fabricated and stitched in to help with front wheel clearance, and to clean up the engine bay.

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    Original sections being removed,

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    One side gone!

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    Both sides gone! Another 'fully committed' moment, of which there were quite a few!

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    Swampy building up a corner to check clearance at full lock and full bump

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    New inner arches fabricated and plug welded in,

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    Both sides being attacked,

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    Plates made to support bonnet pins, this took lots of careful working out to ensure we made plates just big enough, but not too big

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    Engine bay coming along well. Various weld nuts have been added, holes blanked off, strengthening plates added, holes for fuel fittings drilled and so on

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    This is the power steering bracket, the car would have Electro-Hydraulic PAS, from an A-Class Mercedes. The boss with nylon insert ends up getting welded into the chassis where the cutout has been started. The pin on the botton of the PAS pump then locates into this boss
     
  15. RD86

    RD86 Member

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    As I really wanted as many of the parts made and fitted as possible before the car went to paint, we spent rather a long time thinking about foot rests(!) It needed a clutch rest and it had to be in the right place, and it needed a co-driver foot plate. Again this was another part that needed to be removable if the car wasn't going rallying.

    After hunting around, and having a number of WRC parts to trial fit, I ended up with a co-driver footrest from (I think) a Mini WRC car. We had to trim it here and there to get it to fit the AE86 shell, but it was one of the few parts that didn't need much work. (relatively speaking, it was still a good half day to get this mounted properly!)

    To make it easy to fit & remove as and when needed, we made a bar that braced between the gearbox tunnel and the A-pillar, this bar has inserts welded in to take slide latches, then bolts into the car either end with weld nuts in the tunnel and in the A-pillar. Its another part of the car that i'm really pleased with, as its a simple, elegant solution.

    Driver clutch and heel rests were made from scratch, again by Dobby, and again with more anchor nuts welded into the car to position these parts.

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    Various WRC foot rests I had borrowed, none of which were quite right

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    So of course, we made our own ! (well, Dobby did...)

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    Again, really pleased with these, they would later be anodised black, as the black and white theme inside took shape

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    Locating plate made and welded into the car, to sit the co-driver foot plate on

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    You can see the horizonal bar that will support the foot plate once finished, the cut out in the lower right is where the washer pump will sit

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    Interior starting to come together. One big unknown at this stage was the dash. With the location of the horizontal cage bar, an OEM AE86 dash was a long way from fitting. More about this later!
     
  16. RD86

    RD86 Member

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    I wanted to brace between the front turrets but didn’t really want a removable strut brace.

    So after many different ideas we ended up with adding a plate to the bulkhead, then bracing each turret to the plate. We measured and measured and ending up with just enough room to drop the engine in and also for clearance to the airbox/filter.

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    The best kind of mock-up......

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    Perfect fit! You can also see the small bracket for the fire extinguisher nozzle....


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    Lots of hours, but these two made the time fly

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    Was I pleased with this? Just a bit!

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    A little out of sequence, but here is the shell pretty close to going to paint

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    Seriously steady hand required here, luckily Swampy has done a few of these before!

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  17. RD86

    RD86 Member

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    You'll notice that much of the work we were doing at this point was in the engine bay. This was mainly because we already had weld nuts in the back for the battery and the fire bottle (thanks to Elliot). We also had the tank installation done thanks to Ollie. All the panels and bodywork already fitted so there wasnt much metal work required.

    With this car being so bespoke, and much of the good stuff being inside and in the engine bay, this is where our time was spent at this stage.

    One of the final tasks in the engine bay was to locate the 'engine cassette'. As I built wiring harnesses for a living, the electrical system on the car had to be pretty special. I didn't want to have an engine loom, as such. I wanted each sensor/coil/injector to have a flying lead and connect direcly to a 'cassette' that would in itself have a single connection to the car harness.

    Here comes the clever part, the engine cassette connector would go through the bulkhead. So the engine stuff would connect under the bonnet near the back of the block, and the main harness would connect inside the car...!

    Also, I had a carbon cassette from an old dyno harness that I stripped and rebuilt to my design,

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    The bare cassette in place

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    The back of the cassette comes through the bulkhead

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    By this point, I had wired the cassette to my own design, it was no longer a mock up part!
     
  18. RD86

    RD86 Member

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    By this time, I had been amassing various parts for a good while, most were useful like the fuel collector from Nuke Performance and the upper rad mounts from JSP fabrication. Some were going to be no longer required, and in the case of the front suspension, this was a bit of a disappointment!

    Back at the beginning, I had found a set of AE86 Bilstein Gp4 front struts, complete with springs, inserts and top mounts. It was a familier story, someone had bought them brand new for their project, and the project never happened. I bought them at a bit of a discount and put them to one side.

    Fast forward to the new car, and the Nissan suspension layout, subframes, steering rack etc, and it was worrying times for my shiny Bilsteins that had been waiting patiently. After much head scratching and trying to figure out the best solution, I decided they wouldn't get used. Partly as my car would run much lower than these dampers were really designed for, and partly as they would need so much modification to make them useable it just wasn't worth it.

    So, back up for sale they went. The suspension decision would have to wait for another option to present itself. In actual fact, I kept the Gp4 aluminium top mounts, with the sphreical bearings, as the top mounts were drilled off for AE86 fitment and I could adapt a future damper to work with them. And, they were shiny....

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    The front suspension I was planning from the beginning

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    The Nuke performance collector/tank top. Designed to work with the Pryotec FIA fuel cell and supplied along side an impressive product line up from Nuke. Although to be honest, I wasn't that impressed with this part. The finish and quality was nice, but a few things annoyed me about the kit they supply.

    1) I'm a wiring guy, and the posts/bolts to get the wiring through the top plate were a bit amateurish for a professional product.
    2) When filling the tank, you have to do so really slowly as you cant get fuel past the nylon anti-spill/roll plate very quickly.
    3) They ask that you jubilee clip the fuel pumps to the mounting poles supplied, not a nice solution

    I think a few of these issues have been addressed in subsequent versions of this. But I bought what was available at the time, and although they were super helpful as a company, I felt a little short changed with this.

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    JSP seemed to supply quite a few F20C/AE86 parts, although mine wasn't that straightforward, of course!

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    This is my version of a part to get the column through the bulkhead. The orange part is a separate bush that sits on the column, and it spins within its outer housing as its a convex/concave fit. The outer part is bolted to the bulkhead.

    The inspiration came from an Impreza WRC, as they have something like this in nylon, that works really well.

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    This is an original part I had a template. We didnt go this route in the end, but I did 3D print a useable version. It just didnt work with the position of the column and the bulkhead on my car. Much to my sadness!

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    Oh yes, our little boy arrived on almost day 1 of this project too! I had a damper upgrade lined up for the pram....

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    Various parts Id been collecting. Who says Golf R's arent useful!

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  19. RD86

    RD86 Member

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    More parts shown here, mostly machined bits that were drawn up and required along the way. Some of this was my handywork, and some was using a local machinist to do things that needed to be done properly....!!

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    Badly turned spacers.....used to mock up part of the pedal box I think

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    Adding AN fittings to one of the OEM housings. This would mean we could make heater hoses with AN fittings either end, then if the heater wasnt used, we remove the hoses and fit blanks to the engine

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    I drew up these bosses and had them machined locally. They were welded into the front chassis rails and had a course M10 thread in the bottom to mount a sump guard to if needed, they also have an M8 thread in the top which would be used for the earth points for the engine bay harness.

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    The other heater hose goes here

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    Parts off to Zink coating. Fuel tank straps, engine mounts, replacement S14 front knuckles (as the one I already had were modified to give crazy steering angle, they were put to one side and later sold)

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    We modified some AN bulkhead fittings to go with the heater system. As the heater had barbed style fitting and there was no clear way to adapt to AN, we had to have a barbed fitting both ends of the heater in and heater out hose. Creating this smooth section means a clip can be tightened onto it and makes a good seal.
     
  20. RD86

    RD86 Member

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    From almost the day the shell landed with me in the UK, I knew it would need to see a paint shop again, sooner or later.

    As I mentioned earlier on, most of the work we needed to do was in the engine bay and inside, with just the new tank mounts and some weld nuts in the back.

    By this point the car was ready to be painted to make good all the modifications we had carried out since it landed in the UK. It had to be someone used to painting motorsport shells and getting the white mixed correctly, then blended into the existing paint was not going to be easy.

    We had been careful not to modify (or damage!) any of the external surfaces, so they would all remain as they were. And we didnt need to paint any of the roll cage or anywhere above around dash board height inside the shell.

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    Shell was completely stripped and readied for transport to the paint shop. (we had plenty to be getting on with in the mean time!)

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    We borrowed a trolley and that would be the new wheels for the AE86 for a little while

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    Fast forward to all the paint remove in the floor and bulkhead

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    Starting to mask and protect the parts to be left alone

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    As we left it! Fingers crossed I had remembered everything....!

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    Old paint removed and the process can begin

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    Fast forward to a freshly painted engine bay!! And a perfect colour match.

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    Much better!!!

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