In 2019 I wrote my first Taffia Fish and Chip blog entry on the return ferry to the Isle of Man. Once again I’m on a ferry returning to the Isle of Man, this time it’s 2021 and we’re again returning from a trip down to Chepstow to attend the Lotus 7 Taffia Fish and Chip run. This year, things didn’t go so well. Our blat was cut short by a mechanical problem, and while the problem wasn’t catastrophic, I opted for safety and left the route just outside of Brecon. We might have been able to continue, but at best our pace would have been slow, and we’d have likely been an annoying obstacle to everyone else.
Unfortunately, my efforts preparing the 420R and chasing perfection before we left for the UK was likely a contributing factor to the aforementioned mechanical problem. This has made the outcome a bitter pill to swallow, nevertheless, my blog is about the pros, cons, successes and failures of ownership, including those that are self-inflicted.
You may recall in an earlier blog post I’d cleaned and detailed the 420R, after which I’d discovered my radiator had failed. Having managed to resolve that challenge I continued to prepare the 420R. This included replacing the Lifeline quick release steering boss and column. I wasn’t happy with a minor amount of play in the steering wheel, and as I say, perfection was the goal. I ordered a new part from Caterham Cars and installed the boss and column.
Installing the new Lifeline quick release column required separating the steering top clamp between the steering column and quick release column. Once the new quick-release column had been inserted through the dash and various bushes, the clamp needed to be reinstalled. All good? Not quite!
So what happened.
Well, let’s turn our attention to the run itself. The wife and I travelled down to Chepstow the day before with a fellow club member. We used the A49 south out of Cheshire down the edge of Wales.
It wasn't the best of drives with heavy Friday afternoon traffic, and what seemed to be a relentless stream of tractors on the roads. I guess the harvest period has started as each farmer was transporting his spuds to market. We travelled down in convoy with a fellow club member, he'd travelled over from Yorkshire, so we stop mid-route for lunch and a chat. Doing so provided a great opportunity to socialize, talk about all things Seven, along with a much-needed break from the traffic.
We stayed overnight in Chepstow, just a few miles from the start at the Piercefield pub in St Arvans. On Saturday morning we got up early and went to the pub in good time, I knew from 2019 there would be plenty of opportunities to talk to club members and catch up with those I’d met during 2019. I wasn’t disappointed, everyone was super nice and approachable, the Lotus 7 Club truly is a fantastic organisation and has built a great base of members. I’m not going to mention everyone I spoke to, like I say it was great to catch up with those I’d met before.
Below is a quick video from the car park on the morning.
I do think it’s worth mentioning a chap and his wife I’ve been talking to over Instagram for many months. They’d just got married, so a massive shout out to the both of them. Congrats!!! What makes them so special however is their honeymoon, 11-days of blatting around the UK in a Superlight, taking in the likes of Cornwall, Croft and of course the Taffia Fish and Chip run, their mutual commitment to Seven life is truly amazing. Brilliant work, hope to see you again!
Back to our chippy run. We decided to be one of the first out from the pub. In 2019 we were one of the last, and so decided this year to do it differently, and be one of the first. Things were going well until we hit the infamous Black Mountain road, made famous by Top Gear, Chris Harris and the likes. The pass is the first opportunity to really open the taps and enjoy an amazing Welsh road, which we did. I took a sharp left-hand bend which dropped away, requiring quite a lot of lock. The car felt amazing, the ZZS were working hard, however, something in the turn didn’t feel totally right, in the moment I couldn’t put my finger on it. When the road finally straighten I quickly identified what was wrong, the steering had moved from the dead centre and had become off centred from about 12 noon to 1am, possibly 2am. Quite concerning! We cleared the pass and found a quiet location in Brecon to park and assess the situation.
My assessment at the side of the road was that the column had been able to rotate in the steering UJ, essentially skipping splines. I’d taken some tools with me and so was able to hang on the UJ nut and bolt. I was able to torque it further. It didn’t occur to me that it might be the top clamp which upon inspection appeared tight.
At this point confidence in the car was low. We had a decision to make, carry on and hope everything was fine, just an offset steering wheel. Or carry on at a greatly reduced pace. I knew we’d be very unpopular if we did. Given we were one of the first cars out, the majority of the field, around 100 cars, would need to pass our sedentary Seven. Not a good look. We therefore opted to go with safety, leave the route and return to Cheshire using arterial routes.
Thankfully we were able to return to our holiday location in Cheshire without anything unexpected happening. Clearly spirits were low, we’d missed out on our Fish and Chips and an additional opportunity to socialise on the seafront. I guess being able to return to Cheshire without further incident should be considered a blessing.
During our remaining days in Cheshire I started to post about our woes on BlatChat. With support from members, we identified the UJ and column wasn’t the root cause of the shift in steering position. The movement was in fact present between the Lifeline column and steering column. For some reason a small amount of rotation is possible between the two, the movement while small is clearly amplified by the larger diameter of the steering wheel. At this time it’s unclear why the movement is present, the clamp bolt appears tight, nevertheless the movement is visible. Under excess torque through very hard-driving or dry steering, the steering position will shift a set distance and no further. If you apply the same force in the opposite direction, the play reoccurs again in that direction by the same distance and no further.
An investigation is on the cards. Clearly there’s an issue either with my installation or with the tolerances present in the new column. It’s more likely my install. I’ll be posting further updates as the investigation progresses. With respect to the Taffia, I’m afraid that’s the extent of our adventure. Certainly not what we had intended, but no harm done, the aim now is to learn and understand what went wrong.
First up, another clean and detail. After 543 miles, the 420R needs a good detail, it's carrying a fair amount of squashed insects and general dirt from the mileage. I'll be eagerly trying out some new detailing products available from Just Add Lightness. Check back to see how I get on with those.
If you’re a regular reader, then you’re also probably aware I’ve not included my radiator fix. Don’t worry a dedicated post related to that topic is due also.
Lastly, I'm planning a full Winter teardown of the 420R. After 5000 miles, I'm installing a new Titan LSD, removing my old one and assessing the wear. This is going to be an interesting topic, given how controversial the Titan differential has become within the current Caterham lineup. What I find is likely going to be of interest to many owners.