The Rebuild - Winter 2007/Spring 2008

In July 2007 I was unfortunately 'rear-ended' and the 7 sustained reasonable damage and I duly went through the process of obtaining the necessary estimate from Caterham Cars. The 7, being nearly 15 years old, was looking 'tired' and I had been beginning to think about rebuilding it, but the overall cost was too prohibitive. However, armed with a quote I then liaised directly with the third party's insurance company and explained that there would be little point in repairing the car for me to take it all apart and rebuild it within a year or so. At this point they agreed a cash in lieu settlement. I now had a substantial fund to start the rebuild. Luckily, although the damage was substantial in cost, the 7 was not structurally compromised in any way and so I was able to complete a 1,700 mile trip to Perigueux and a track day at Brands Hatch before starting the rebuild. On 27 September I SORNed the 7 and on the following Saturday set about the car with spanners etc....

The following photos show the rebuild from beginning to end.

By the end of the first weekend (Sunday 30 September) the following work had been completed: battery disconnected, Brooklands & mirrors, boot cover, SIB, seats & harnesses, silencer, rear no. plate & light, carpets, scuttle, oil filter, nose cone & bonnet and shift lights removed, engine oil drained.

By the end of the second weekend (Sunday 7 October) the following work had been completed: Drained cooling system, disconnected heater hoses, removed header tank, radiator, exhaust primaries, fan guard, rear bulkhead, sill protectors, dashboard, rear internal panels, battery, alternator, starter motor, rear wings, headlamps, indicators & stays, horns and fan, rear panel, petrol tank, boot floor, pedals, heater, battery master switch, clutch & accelerator cables, handbrake, petrol filler cap, rev limiter, gear lever, fog light, heater control valve and tagged all wires.

By the end of the third weekend (Sunday 14 October) the following work had been completed: Removed floor panels, internal side & honeycomb panels, front bulkhead, FIA bar, wiring loom & fuse box, cycle wings, coil, handbrake cable, Dzus fasteners, fuel line, distributor & HT leads, engine & gear box, front & rear suspension, diff & drive shafts, propshaft, innermost side panel & tunnel, steering column, rear & front brakes, master cylinder & brake pipes.

The 7 was now completely stripped and back to its original starting point; the spaceframe chassis. Despite it being nearly 15 years old, it was in surprisingly good condition for its age. The last photo above shows the chassis and all components boxed up and ready to be delivered to Arch Motors. Time taken to this point; just 36 hours.

On Saturday 3 November the chassis was taken to Arch for Bruce to carry out the necessary repair work. Whilst the chassis was at Arch, I invested in a Parts Washer and used this over the next few months to clean the various components in readiness for the rebuild, arranging for the gear box and propshaft to be overhauled, and purchasing new components such as wings & nosecone etc.....

On Saturday 8 December I visited Arch Motors to review the work that had been done, to collect the newly powdercoated components, oversee the cutting of the hole in the sideskin for the exhaust and agree the transportation of the chassis to TSK for painting.

The chassis was delivered by Arch to TSK, but as Arch were out of stock of front bulkhead panels this meant that TSK were unwilling to start the job of respraying the 7 as I would be having stripes along the nosecone, bonnet and scuttle. Tony was concerned that as the scuttle was not 'fixed' there may ultimately be a problem in that the stripes may not line up once the bulkhead was in place. Tony, therefore, agreed to deliver the tub back to me in order that I could work on it whilst awaiting delivery of the bulkhead.

During the wait I managed to drill holes for the petrol filler cap, Brooklands stanchion, rear wings, battery master switch and rear light wiring. It has to be said that it is far less stressful drilling holes on unpainted panels! I also managed to fit the wiring loom, dashboard and brake pipes during this period.

Whilst the engine is out it is an ideal time to remove all of the ancillaries and thoroughly clean them and the block is degreased and repainted with POR-15 engine enamel.

Friday 8 February, the tub is returned by TSK in its new colour scheme; diamond white with azure blue stripes. Quite a departure from the original BRG/yellow combination. Now the rebuild process can really begin in earnest!

Saturday 9 February, front suspension and steering rack fitted

By Saturday 23 February the diff and propshaft have been fitted and the ancillaries have been attached to the block. The under-dash handbrake has been fitted and the races, bearings and seals have been replaced in the rear hubs. The rear suspension has been completed and the fuel line has been inserted into the tunnel. The bellhousing, spacer, CRB and clutch release fork have been re-assembled and connected to the engine and everything refitted to the engine bay. I have taken this opportunity to fit some heatshield material to the passenger footwell in an attempt to prevent heat soak from the engine and exhaust primaries for Maggie May.

Now things are beginning to gather pace and I have to stop for a holiday! Mustn't complain though as we're off to Bahrain and I'll be taking on the Bahrain International GP circuit in a Porsche GT3 RS.

Time is advancing. It is now 5 April and for some reason I've been neglecting to take photos. But since returning from holiday I have fitted the pedals, gear lever, starter motor, alternator, coil, horns, 12v socket, immobiliser, sill protectors and put rivnuts in for the rear wings. I've also started to tidy up the cockpit and have rivetted in the internal panels, fitted new switches, horn, ignition switch and starter button to the dashboard. I've finalised the fitting of all the brake lines and the front and rear brake assemblies. Handbrake and speedo cable also fitted. Brooklands screens and mirrors have been attached to scuttle. Steering column assembly completed and chassis plate re-attached to driver's footwell.

By the end of Sunday 27 April I have now fitted the instrument dials & new LED warning lights, battery tray, cooling fan, radiator, oil cooler, map pocket, heater, inlet manifold & carbs, accelerator & clutch cables, silicone hoses, fuel lines, expansion tank, tunnel carpet & top, rear bulkhead carpet, gear knob, 6-point harnesses, nosecone badge, bonnet springs, tax disc and wheels. In addition to the above I also replaced the old silver poppers on the tonneau and side doors with new black ones.

Also note the seat supports in one of the photos above. These were made by Brent Chiswick to give additional support rather than have the seat bolted directly to the floor.

During this period I have my one and only mishap; a little too much enthusiasm on tightening a bolt on the fuel filler and the result is a scratch across the cap and, worse still, a scratch in the paintwork underneath!!! (See below). Although the scratch on the rear panel is not obvious in the photo, I'll always be reminded of it every time I fill up with petrol.

It is now 12 May and the following has been achieved: fitted front bulkhead, heater & fuse box, fog and reversing lights (using new brackets welded to underside of petrol tank supports), rear no. plate light, rear and top honeycomb protection for fuel tank, petrol tank, boot cover and FIA bar. Exhaust primaries have been polished and attached to manifold. Stone protectors fitted to rear wings. 7 grille and mesh fitted to nosecone. Fan override switch and rev limiter fitted. All wiring finalised.

At this stage I'm obviously getting side-tracked into finishing the rebuild (no surprise there!) and I neglect to keep up to date with the photos.

On Tuesday 13 May the engine is started for the first time and after what is a long time the mechanical fuel pump finally primes the carbs and the engine splutters into life. The beginning of the end draws near.

Over the next few days the remaining work is completed: Scuttle, rear wings & rear lights, SIB and oil catch tank are fitted, front and rear suspension is torqued, carbs balanced, timing checked etc.

The MOT is booked for 22 May and work continues on various odds and sods, tidying up loose ends and, of course, a final nut and bolt check.

Meanwhile, a trip to Biggin Hill Airport is arranged for a photoshoot and I take the opportunity for a small blat to ensure everything is OK for the MOT.

Success! MOT passed, car re-taxed and I'm back on the road after 8 months. I've owned C7CAT since February 1999 and this is, by far, the longest period during which I've not driven the 7. I have to say it was strange blatting again, but it just reminded me of the day I drove away from Woodcote Sportscars for my first blat.

C7CAT used to look like this in April 1999, changed to this around July 2004 and finally has ended up looking like the photos above.

So, what’s new other than the paint scheme? Well, the major differences are:

       Chassis and all ancillaries have been re-powdercoated
       All new aluminium panels (exterior & interior); only the original bonnet remains
       New wiring loom
       Honeycomb protection (in part) for the fuel tank
       New GRP gelcoat front & rear wings and nosecone
       Refurbed gearbox and propshaft
       New Willans harnesses
       Keyless ignition (immobiliser now fitted)
       Widetrack suspension
       New Freestyle AVO adjustable dampers and springs with adjustable platforms
       New dashboard/switches
       Silicone and stainless steel braided hoses
       New Pacet cooling fan
       New SVC 5 ¾” polished stainless steel headlamps, reversing and fog lamps
       New style headlamp brackets and indicator pods
       Caterham 8-spoke anthracite wheels
       Aluminium oil catch tank
       New boot cover and tunnel carpet
       New Caterham 5-speed aluminium gear knob
       Plus all new sundry fittings, fasteners etc

At this point I have to say a huge public thank you to Nick ‘Bluenose’ Westbrook, Brent Chiswick, Steve ‘Tango Tart’ Walker, Richard ‘Crudders’ Brunero and Clive Levett who have been extremely willing and helpful in providing assistance, knowledge and the relevant specialist tools when required. It would be more than fair to say that without their help I could not possibly have undertaken this task on my own. Furthermore a big thanks to Maggie May for being a ‘rebuild widow’ and for keeping us all fed and watered at appropriate times .

In particular many thanks to Nick who has single-handedly stripped down the old wiring loom and rebuilt it over many, many hours at his home and re-fitted to the 7 in my garage .

So having purchased ‘Mark I’ in February 1999 at 17,300 miles and driven her for nearly 42,500 miles over the last 9 years, I’m really looking forward to seeing in the 60,000 mile mark, and many more miles after that, in ‘Mark II’.