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Unofficial P.B.C. and what we found! (day-1)

Friday 15th March 2019 marked the start of an important couple of days in the project. My 7 was due to be shipped to a local performance car specialist for the equivalent of a PBC. The specialist selected to carry out the work was Southcoast Performance Cars (SPC) based here on the Isle of Man. I've known the proprietor (Paul) since around 2004 when he first assisted me in sorting a squeaky gearbox on a Subaru Forrester XT. Since then Paul has worked on many of my cars including coming to the rescue to fix a botched swap of my lower wishbones on my Evolution 8 MR FQ340. SPC provide specialist services for most performance marques on the Isle of Man including Porsche, Subaru, Aston Martin, BMW and of course Caterham. In fact, Paul is well known on the island for his own lurid fluorescent green 7 carrying the mark R600. It's quite the beast, with fancy adjustable front ARBs, rear carbon diffuser and sequential box.

As well as being hugely experienced Paul is incredibly approachable, so when I'd arranged the checkup I asked Paul if he would permit me to work alongside him correcting any issues and in doing so continue the build and also continue to learn. Paul was totally happy with the idea, and so permitted me to roll my sleeves up while the car was at his premises.

I'd booked a local recovery company to collect my 7 on their tilting flat bed recovery truck and deliver it to SPC Friday morning.

Caterham 7 Build Blog self-assembly
Caterham 7 420R being collected for it's unofficial PBC

Paul and I agreed to start reviewing the car around 2pm. Paul's first impressions seemed very favourable and continued to be throughout the time he was attending to the car, he commented on numerous occasions that I'd done an excellent job of the build.

There was of course a few small items we addressed.

Firstly Paul found a few weeping brake unions which were causing the brake pedal to be spongy. Most were easily nipped up and were caused through me being overly cautious when torquing up. Unfortunately Paul identified the nearside front union on the inside of the bodywork was weeping slightly. We therefore set about attempting to gain access to the union, which wasn't possible with the catch can in place. Yep you guessed it, the radiator top hose had to come off first, deja vu!. Having now experienced this multiple times I wasn't phased by it, and in fact Paul and I laugh about us making a mess on his workshop floor with coolant. Once we'd got access through removing the catch can torquing the union was completed quickly and we had everything back together in no time.

Caterham 7 Build Blog self-assembly
Caterham 7 420R on ramps for inspection

Next Paul checked the front hubs and identified there was too much friction present when rotating the discs by hand. He asked if I'd assembled them, paying specific focus to the hub nut. I confirmed the upright, calliper, brake disc and stub axle were all supplied pre-assembled from Caterham ready to be installed onto the wishbones. Paul felt further inspection of one hub was therefore necessary to identify what the root cause might be. We removed the calliper retaining bolts from the calliper, these had been secured with excessive amounts of Loctite and made an awful squeak when being removed. Once the bolts were out we removed the calliper from around the disc and safely hung it to one side. Next the split pin was removed from the hub nut followed by the hub nut itself. The disc assembly was then moved forward and backwards which revealed a washer and spacer (I maybe incorrect with their exact description). Once removed the outer bearing race was visible. This was removed and examined, Paul concluded insufficient greased had been added at the factory. The race had little grease and the upright housing was devoid of grease. We removed the disc itself to reveal the inner race and it too was the same. Both sides were then packed appropriately with grease and the assembly was put back together. Rotational movement was then checked first without calliper, the axle ran freely and then with the calliper, again a marked improvement was observed. The process was then repeated on the other axle.

Once we'd completed work on the front axle we then checked the gearbox fill plug, as Paul wasn't confident in Caterham's quality control based prior experience and also the grease in the front axle.

As it happens the plug wasn't tight, I hadn't done anything to it, so it was good we checked. Paul removed the plug to check the level and oil poured out. He felt the oil level had been overfilled and so let the oil drain to the fill plug before adding it back,

Before finishing for the day a few other bits were picked up,

  • Use of P-Clips to secure the handbrake cable rather than cable ties,.

  • Add heat shrink to the steering arms.

  • Increase the gap between the steering column and exhaust.

  • Push the silencer further home by a couple of mm onto the cat.

Dealing with the front axle had eaten into our time and so we called it a day and planned to pick up the above list along with the geometry on the following day Saturday 16th March 2018.

That evening I passed comment on an existing BlatChat thread regarding the axle issue and the lack of grease. Feedback from experienced fellow owners confirmed this was a known quality issues with Caterham that has been occurring for some time and shows no sign of improvement.

I'll blog day 2 in an upcoming post, so check back soon. The 7 gets on the scales and weighed along with an alignment and road test.

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