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Stripping the undercoating
Preparing the shell with the "death ray"

F4 Rallysport > Skye's Rally Journal > 2003
Dec 23, 2003
Merry Xmas! Went on a much-needed vacation for a week around Thanksgiving, and when I got back the underside was painted, also the Cos T3 exhaust flanges are ready to go and last but not least Supra LSD adapters for mating to either the stock XR halfshafts or the Cos 3dr shafts are all flame-cut and ready for drilling. Got a big sheet of 4x8 lexan ready to cut out the windows, deposit for front springs, and rear beam mods are in the works at JVAB for fitting the Supra diff. The transmission is almost done being "refreshed" and ready to be shipped back, we're going to put in an output flange so the Cosworth driveshaft mates right up with no modifications. Off for the Xmas holidays tomorrow, so no work until the new year - then its full steam ahead!! If the rear beam mod is done by the time I get back, then the car can be dropped on the ground for the last time and final assembly can start. The flywheels are back from being resurfaced, so all I need to get is the clutch and the engine and transmission can be dropped in!

Nov 9, 2003
Minor detour lately working my street car. Hey, have to have one car that works! Got the XR back in the rotisserie this weekend though, and checked the engine to see if any rust was forming on the cam from sitting outside in a crate. Looked OK so smeared it with oil and wrapped it in plastic. Rebuilt transmission (3dr geared T5) should be back sometime soon, and plastic window material will hopefully be sourced this week.

Sept 28, 2003
Painty painty Took delivery of the car this weekend!! It looks quite fabulous in "refrigerator white". The bumpers and hood vents aren't painted yet though, they will be arriving next weekend (in black), along with a bit of colour sanding and a bit of touch up (the roof vent didn't get painted). I should put it back up in the rotisserie and finish wire brushing off the undercoat and paint the bottom with some POR-15 before we get too into putting it back together - it's hard not to start bolting things on straight away though!! Oh yes, and we still have to cut a few holes and install the quick-jack points. Then the chassis will finally be done. Looks nice sitting next to the white GrpA Sapphire Cosworth at any rate.

Here are a few more pictures from the back, engine bay (ooh look at those engine mounts), front, top and front quarter. Now to just finish all the repairs on my new (used) street car so I can focus on the XR. Hey, I've gotta have one car that works...

Just realized this is the 1-year anniversary, to the day, since I bought the car. Not quite my original 6 month estimate, but that's largely due to other people's screwups, not mine. Everything would be much easier if you didn't have to depend on anyone wouldn't it?

Sept 14, 2003
Went down to Puyallup today to see the work that's being (slowly) done, the bodywork is about 80% done, so we put the front suspension back on the car so it can be rolled around and aligned the doors. Will be finished, painted, and delivered by the end of the month. At least, that's the plan, I'll believe it when I see it. Since Summer is over and reassembly is going to take place in the wonderful cold November rain again, I have dibs on a metal framed temporary garage which should work quite a bit better than the PVC pipe version I made last winter, which had a tendancy to fall over in high winds. No new pics of the car because, well, other than a lot of fiddly bodywork it still looks pretty much the same as it did in the July 13 entry. Happy birthday to me...

Sept 12, 2003
Got this funny email the other day titled "SCCA Internal Guiding Priciples"

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from generation to generation, says that "When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount."

However, in modern business, education and government, and our beloved SCCA, a whole range of far more advanced strategies are often employed, such as:

1. Buying a stronger whip.
2. Changing riders.
3. Threatening the horse with termination.
4. Appointing a committee to study the horse.
5. Arranging to visit other countries to see how others ride dead horses.
6. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.
7. Reclassifying the dead horse as "living impaired".
8. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.
9. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase the speed.
10. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase the dead horse's performance.
11. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse's performance.
12. Declaring that as the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overhead and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy than do some other horses.
13. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses.
14. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.

Don't forget #15, "Try adding a 34mm restrictor to the horse's orifice"

Sept 10, 2003
Engine intake side Engine is back together and ready to go. Well, except that might not be the turbo that ends up in the car from the get-go. Might do some work on the accessories, doing a bit of replumbing, while its still out of the car. It doesn't look that rusty in person, must be the flash. Anyway, transmission is shipped off to to a T5 specialist for a going over as well. Isn't that colour cooooool? Look for the minty fresh engine at the next parc expose...

Aug 14, 2003
Nice clean crank Finished taking the engine part last night, the pistons, crank, bearings, cam and valves all look great. I think I might have lucked out and picked up a fairly low mileage engine; all that needs to be done is to clean it really well and put it back together with a fresh coat of paint. And of course slap a flywheel on, as it used to be bolted to an automatic.

I'm less than impressed with the progress on the paint and bodywork front, the job was supposed to take 3 weeks and Joe at VIP Restorations has now had the car for 3 months and has not been returning my calls. Time to drop by unannounced and see what this joker does all day... it sure isn't working on my car! Summer is running out!!

July 13, 2003
Spraying sealer Finally, paint is being applied to the car now. I cleaned (3rd time), then painted sealer in the hard to reach nooks and crannies with a brush, and Joe shot the engine bay, inner fenders, and forward cabin with sealer on Sunday. Topcoat has to go on in 72 hours over the sealer, and he's going to finish up the bodywork and paint the rest of the car over the next 2 weeks. Then I go back down and lay out and paint the black stripes.

More bad news in the world of North American rallying, last weekend Mark Lovell and co-driver Roger Freeman were fatally injured at the Oregon Trail ProRally. What can you say, really. I've had a poster of Mark sliding his Subaru through a corner in his 2001 championship year up at the office for a long time, it gets me through the day when I think about what I have to look forward to on the weekends. He was a real professional in a land of pretenders, and he will be missed.

June 9, 2003
Markko Martin Congratulations to Markko Märtin on winning his first WRC event at Acropolis this weekend, amazing drive through adverse conditions. Memorable moments when the bonnet flipped up into the windshield, blocking the view and fresh air vents, but with nearly no visibility and climbing temps inside the car he drove on for 20km and only lost 6 seconds! Well deserved for the young Estonian who led from the start and has so much bad luck lately.

In other news once again outsourcing work has proved to not go according to plan, the bodywork and painting schedule has now slipped to maybe being done the weekend of June 28th. Originally it was only supposed to take 2 weeks and now it looks more like 6 weeks. This puts the July TSD in BC into serious jeopardy. I really wish I had the facilities to do all the work myself because everyone else seems to be pretty bad at making estimates as to how long things will take to get done, even though I am never late paying for the work... certainly gives support to the argument that you should just buy a car someone else has built and just go have fun. I can't say I've had a whole lot of fun yet, but I still have hope.

June 3, 2003
Turbo drain Sourced a turbo oil drain adapter from Turbonetics today (pn 20259) which allows a 1/2" pipe fitting on the back of the T3, to match the same on the block. When we put the engine back in we can now replace the turbo oil feed and return lines with braided silicone or teflon hoses instead of the weenie stock lines. If either of these lines broke on a stage (and they do tend to break, even on street cars), the turbo would self-destruct pretty quickly and maybe the rest of the engine too. Also found a used T5 bellhousing with hydraulic clutch components, which we might fit later to replace the somewhat fiddly cable clutch mechanism that came on on stock XR's and 3dr Cossies.

May 31, 2003
Almost ready for paint In the run up to painting, I went down to Puyallup and wire brushed the whole car and got to work cleaning with wax & grease remover to get the chassis sparkling clean. The car looks great with the 3dr style rear window but both of the rear quarterpanels have turned out to be seriously dented and bondo'd, which is in the process of being fixed. Also the sunroof patch is getting final welding with as close of a "bow" as possible to the rest of the roof. Joe's welding late into the night so it won't be long now, should be finished painting everything on the weekend of June 21th.

I'm also working on tracking down some competition wheels, 15" for gravel and 17" for street/tarmac. Hopefully some cheap, used, straight Compomotive or Speedline rims. I will likely go with GrpA fitment which means special "sleeved" studs. Any normal wheel can be converted to GrpA style, you just have to drill out the normal tapered lug seat. Also, my Bilstein "quick jacks" have arrived, originally they are for the VW Bug but with a little modification and special holes in the sills will be used to change a flat on the rally car in less than 120 seconds (with practice).

May 19, 2003
Joe has the hood louvres cut in and fake C pillar cut out and mocked up to look like the 3dr Sierra Cosworth already (but not welded in).

May 18, 2003
Nice mounts no? Spent the better part of the day welding up the GrpA engine mounts which look wicked and are stronger than a brick sh*thouse. The arms are a custom job for the stock 2.3t "Lima" engine. This setup is great, makes replacing the engine or the steering/suspension a lot easier, its much stronger, gets rid of the stupid "hydraulic" stock engine mounts and looks like the business. Close-up.

After filling in some holes in the floor with the welder and throwing in a few more gussets off the roll cage, we loaded up the car and it was hauled to Joe at VIP Auto Restorations in Puyallup, WA for final bodywork and paint. Here are the "before" pictures, from the front and from the back (sorry about the picture quality it was rather dark out by this time).

To say I'm excited & relieved to finally have it ready for paint would be a major understatement. It has been a lot of blood, sweat & tears but we have really prepared a world-class shell here, and the final result is going to kick ass.

May 14, 2003
It was announced today that the SCCA is cancelling all ClubRallies that are not part of a ProRally until further notice. This must be the result of the two spectators that were fatally hit at the Ski-Sawmill ClubRally in Morris, Pennsylvania last weekend. Why the SCCA has chosen to do this though is hard to understand. The accidents that have happened (and will inevitably happen, it is a dangerous sport) have all happened in ClubRally so I think the insurance companies might have pulled the plug on the SCCA's ClubRally events, which makes sense if ClubRallies that are part of a ProRally are run under separate (ProRally) insurance. However the (unfortunatly the norm) complete lack of communication by the SCCA means nobody knows for sure what is going on, least of all the club members. The fact is that the competitors involved in the accident were former SCCA champions and Seed 3, not beginners, makes you wonder why Club events are cancelled and Pro events are not, especially since in almost all cases they are run to the same standards and by the same people.

This is a terrible knee-jerk reaction and will hurt the sport quite a lot in the USA especially at the grassroots level, unless the ban is lifted very quickly. This might be the death knell for SCCA rally as several organizers have already made comments about changing to another sanctioning body. I think that might be a good thing, because from what I've seen the SCCA doesn't make life very easy for the "foundation" of the sport, the independant privateer. Also their decision process is completely opaque and there is no accountability, voting, recall, or checks and balances in their decision making or oversight processes. In short, its a mess.

Anyway this pretty much throws my schedule out the window. We will likely be only attending events in BC this year. Perhaps we can get some rallysprints going at the ORV under some different insurance in the meantime. Dryad/Shitepoke is in the can for sure, so I won't be doing any volunteering either. More time to work on the car, I guess...

May 11, 2003
Yay seats Test fit the seats in the car - they fit perfectly. When we drill out some aluminum L-bar to convert them from bottom to side mount (much easier to adjust that way), it should move it up 3-4cm and it will have the desired line of sight out of the car. They are super comfortable too, and quite wide but still snug. I think I can handle long drives in these without my butt falling asleep. The OMP 6-bolt hub adapter for my used MOMO steering wheel also arrived, so I bolted that on. I'm probably going to unbolt it again though as I've decided to go with a Sparco external horn button, to get it as close to my thumb as possible. The steering wheel has under-thumb buttons already in it but my DMM shows the connection is erratic at best when you press on them so they're pretty much useless.

Also finished designing the new engine mounts and fabricated the first pair out of sheet metal. The new hole-puncher was put to use to open up a few spaces for the wiring loom to pass though, paint to get in, moisture to get out, etc. The lip is turned down so the strength is the same as without the hole. Once they are welded in we can position an empty 2.3t block and weld up some bar stock to our cut up standard engine mounts.

Just for kicks I also compiled a table of rally car wheelbases this morning. As you can see, not many cars less than about 245cm. My XR clocks in at a nice steady 261cm so it should be quite stable, which is a good thing considering the roads used around here are fast and not very twisty.

May 05, 2003
Corbeau Forza seats, brake master cylinders, balance bar assembly, and Momo steering 6-bolt hub adapter arrived today!

May 04, 2003
Hot Wings Went down to Centralia today for the PNWMON Merkur club meeting, and picked up a used bi-wing for my car. That's about it for today... weather is horrible. We're almost ready to weld in the chassis engine mounts, which will inch us ever closer to painting time. Need to weld in some quick jacking holes too. That's about it.

May 01, 2003
Cut OK? Got another XR hatch that already has the glass broken out - no point in destroying my good one, I could sell it for something. Took off the gas struts and put it on the car. Eventually it will have a lexan window, just like the side windows, which will weigh a heck of a lot less (around 20 lbs?)

Yesterday I used my dremel to open up the hood louvres which I sourced for $5 off a Datsun 280zx, cutting away all the plastic between the fins for maximum airflow, especially on the turbo side of the engine. Tonight I made up templates and cut out holes in the hood for them, the fit is quite nice. The metal needs to be stepped down about 1cm for them to sit flush with the hood though, hopefully Joe can take care of that. Could have spent a couple hundred on a real 3dr Cossie hood, but why? I think it looks great.

Finished hood We should be taking the car for paint this weekend finally, but the welding rig is giving us problems and the van won't start... bad luck to say the least!! At least the M/C plate got installed.

I would also like to send my deepest condolences to the family and friends of New Zealand's Possum Bourne who recently passed on due to massive injuries he received in an accident while doing recce for a hillclimb in NZ. I never got a chance to meet him but from everything I've heard he was a really outstanding guy and his presence will be missed.

April 27, 2003
Cut OK? Phew... sick (again), or maybe its allergies, but hauled ass anyway this weekend. Weather was really beautiful, which was awfully nice (but makes me want to be doing things other than working on the car, too). Didn't quite make the goal of taking the car down to Joe for painting. But we're really close now, I can count what's left to do on one hand, and most will only take about 10 minutes or so each. First I "gently" removed the rear side windows with a 2x4 and after cleaning up the glass, used a heat gun and a gasket scraper to remove the rubber sealant and get it nice and clean. Joe is going to cut out this "fake C pillar", cut it in half lengthwise, and then cut it into the void to make it look like the 3dr Cosworth Sierra. I have no love for the 80's styling cues of the XR4Ti and while doing this work isn't really necessary, it will make me feel a lot better in public.

We also welded in the gussets I made the previous weekend, at the the top of the windsheild, main hoop to B-pillar, rear stays "X" and where the forward hoop meets the front stays behind the dash.

We also cut out the new holes for the dual brake master cylinders and firewall reinforcement plate. Since you don't use power brakes in a real rally car, we are installing slightly different sized MC's for the front and rear brakes with a balance bar between. May also install a bias adjuster in the cockpit. You want to be able to really stomp on the pedals hard, so the plate is about 1/4" thick on top of the already fairly sturdy stock firewall. It almost looked like John was having fun doing this part! Until the air drill quit, at least.

With a steady hand and careful measuring to avoid the cage diagonal, I used my (wonderful) variable speed jigsaw to cut out the roof vent hole. You can see the sunroof patch in place too. Then I riveted the vent in and it looks and works absolutely great. The vent itself is aluminum and cost about $30 from an RV supply store. The large handle makes it easy to open it either way and should keep us nice and cool.

Since the co-driver's seat is about 10cm further back than the driver's seat, to move as much weight as possible over the rear driven wheels (although it will restrict access behind the seat which is a bummer), I had to cut out a new hole to weld in a nut and washer to use as the co-driver's lap belt eye mount.

We finished up by starting to lay out the position of the engine mounts so that we can put in the 2.3t Lima engine now, but have the option of simply dropping in a 4wd Cosworth at some point.

Congrats to Ramana Lagemann for placing 10th in GrpN and 26th overall in his first WRC New Zealand. Better luck next time Pat!

April 20, 2003
Strut gusset Swaybar captive nuts were welded in more securely this week, before welding in the footwell reinforcements with a nice crease to increase the strength and some superstrut between the transmission tunnel and forward roll hoop pedestal. Also, we got the sunroof patch panel tack welded in, the first try wasn't a great fit but the second try was much better - thanks to Scott for helping out with that one. On Sunday I fabricated a whole bunch of gussets; two U-shaped gussets for attaching the main roll hoop to the B-pillar, two half-tacos for covering the diagonal gusset bar at the upper windshild corners, two "tacos" for covering the connection from the forward roll hoop to the front stay bars, two "shovel" shaped bussets for attaching the forward roll hoop to the A-pillar, and two more "tacos" to reinforce the big X in the rear stays.

My bodywork guru Joe Aros (who is restoring my 1966 MGB) come down on Sunday and had a look at the XRatti, there are several dents in the rear quarterpanels and a big smoosh behind the driver's side door (for which we have a patch panel, luckily). He agreed to take on the job, including pulling the little dents, fixing the driver's B-pillar, mudding in the sunroof panel and deleting the fake C-pillar to make the rear windows look like the 3dr Seirra Cosworth instead of the questionable styling cues of the Merkur. Then the whole car gets painted white, with black stripes just like the car Didier Auriol drove to win the Tour de Corse in 1988 (sorry Greg, first come first served!). Some of the work is being done in exchange for my help doing the mechanical teardown and buildup on another one of Joe's customer products, an Austin-Healy Bugeye Sprite. Building a network of people that you can help out and call on when you need help is essential. We will be towing the shell to Joe's shop in Puyallup next weekend - a major milestone!!

Placed another major parts order last night, some of which is being air mailed today so it can be welded on before the car goes out for painting:
  • LH drive Sierra Cos 3dr headlights (H1/H4 bulbs)
  • mounting brackets for "
  • Sierra Cos front grille
  • pedal firewall reinforcement plate
  • 2x master cyls (clutch, brake)
  • balance bar for MCs
  • Momo steering wheel hub adapter
  • Brantz Laser 3 rally computer
  • Brantz wheel probes (2x), probe switch, remote zero

April 10, 2003
Footwell template Quick recap of today's activities:
  • Made templates, cut out and prepped for welding footwell reinforcements
  • Busted out the heat gun and Goodwill bread knife and cut out the windscreen and removed a couple of the rear side windows
  • Designed, cut out and notched the sunroof hole patch out of a sheet of 20 ga sheet metal
  • Colin's been busy at the back of the car prepping for paint, and now that the car is covered again, the surface rust shouldn't come back.
  • John's nearly finished the struts, only the lower "ears" to weld on now. Then its time to source the 41mm Bilstein inserts!
That's it for this week, heading up to BC tomorrow for the WCRA TSD Novice Rally #1.. and a little soaking at Harrison Hot Springs!

April 8, 2003
Got a week off work (nice suprise!!) so getting lots done on the car. Since it was raining on Monday, I got to work inside and designed and laid out a whole bunch of replica engine mounts based on the factory GrpA Sapphire Cosworth engine mounts. This way, if I decied to get a 2wd or awd Cosworth engine, we can drop it right in. It's also and advantage during servicing, the stock configuration has the engine mounts on the steering/suspension crossmember; with the engine mounts on the chassis rails, the crossmember can be removed without disturbing the engine. While I did that, John laid out the aluminum transmission crossmembers which should be welded up fairly soon as well.

On Tuesday, I cleaned up the sunroof hole and measured for the patch. Fabricated a maplight bracket to be mounted on the cage above the co-driver's right shoulder. Cut out the old swiss-cheese rusted out battery tray area, fabricated a couple of patch panels, and welded them in. Designed, fabricated, and welded in the seat rails for mounting my future Corbeau Forsa race sets (got to try them out in Dave Dunn's 510 on Sunday, great fit and look good too!) while Colin cleaned the car up and made a template for the floorpan reinforcement plates.

We put the big blue insta-garage back up just in time for the rain to start again, its plenty rusty enough already and I'd like to keep the rain off until the sunroof hole is filled at least. Colin and I put the doors back on, and replaced the driver's side door (which had accident damage) with a spare, after swapping over the handles, mirror, etc. Some more dents need to be fixed, especially on the drivers side. I don't care too much about having perfectly pristine bodywork, but its smooshed in pretty bad behind the door and should be fixed to some degree. My friend Joe who is doing all the bodywork on my "daily driver" 1966 MGB might fix up those areas (if I can find the patch panels) in exchange for a little mechanical work on another customer's Bugeye Sprite. The barter system is great, and having a network of skilled friends really makes everything go much smoother (and much easier on the chequebook)

March 30, 2003
Roll cage The cage is done!! The rear stays go to the strut tops, just like in GrpA Escort Cosworths circa 1993 (diagonals to rear beam still to do). We even double skinned the strut tops, just to be safe. The strut towers, although relatively thin metal, will transmit forces along its length, and is very strong in that orientation. Small horizontal bars are the mounting point for the shoulder belts. Plenty of room inbetween for a fuel cell and spare tires. The front of the cage was completed as well, with two tubes going to the front strut towers.

March 23, 2003
Assembled controls Still feeling the lingering effects of that flu, but I finished cutting out the holes in the control panels at home (taking over the dinner table in the process, to the delight of my girlfriend) and painting them semi-flat black (yay for fast-dry Krylon!). Then I assembled all the switches and knobs, and lo and behold my measurements were OK and it all fit with a tiny bit of room to spare for future expansion. If I had to do it again, I would definately cut out the stock heater switch and just use a low/off/high 3 position switch, just for the extra room, or maybe do away with the plastic lower console shroud altogether like in this Escort. Back at the Asylum, Colin and John finished off the rear strut tower reinforcement and got most of the suspension back on, so it should be towed back up to North Bend today or tomorrow. I also received my VDO M10X1 oil temperature and pressure senders today, which only leaves the fuel pressure sender, which is going to be tricky to find and fit. Fabrication of the navigator control panel will need to be done too, as well as cutting some holes in the beautiful dash to clear the roll cage tubes.

March 20, 2003
Not much happening this week. The suspension needs to go back on the car so it can be towed back to Cascade for additional work on the roll cage, but I'm still quite sick so that might not happen this weekend. Unfortunately this means the schedule is slipping by at least 2 weeks. I did receive some used and very cheap step drill bits (Unibits) from eBay today though, so at least I can start drilling out all the holes in my custom control panels at home, between tea and vitamin C breaks. In other news the war on Iraq started today, which is pretty depressing.

March 16, 2003
Fitting Cossie 3dr headlights Had a touch of the flu on Saturday, but got some progress in and even had a bit of sunshine on Sunday. Seam welding is complete on the whole car now! I got to work and drilled out all 51 welds holding the LH fender on (I counted them this time), while John hit a few seams we missed in the interior and touched up the sill reinforcements. Then I busted out the Sawzall and "gently" removed the stock headlight brackets. Future F4 Rallysport co-driver superstar "Haulin" Colin Street stopped by, and wasted no time in picking up some tools and pitching in (gooood sign) and listening patiently while we bitched about the challenges facing the poor unworthy Clubman and explained Hitchhiker's Guide references.

The great thing about the headlights is that the slam panel stamping is identical to the Cossie 3dr Sierra in the UK, with the exception of a pair of reinforcements which are easy to get and cheap, so the very bright and very nice Cosworth 3dr headlights line right up with already formed mount holes and adjustment access holes! The stock lights are truly awful, and get all yellowish, inadequate for decent street driving not to mention any nighttime rally action.

The car goes in for some major roll cage modifications on Monday or Tuesday, including running the stays to the front strut towers, and we need to mock up the proper motor mounts soon. The suspension parts are coming along nicely as well, the strut tubes have been threaded and the brass bushings are pressed in. A Cosworth spec T5 transmission with close ratio gearset is also on order from the UK via JVAB Imports. Gear ratios are extremely important in rally, in Sweden the mantra is "70kph in 1st" which gives you an idea how tall 1st can be.

March 10, 2003
Another big push this weekend, seam welding is done under the car, and the interior is 95% seam welded. RH front fender is off, after drilling out the million spot welds holding it on (LH still to do but now we can't find the spot weld drill bit grrrr!). Exhausted, but getting very close to starting reassembly. Unfortunately some hold ups mean painting can be done at the earliest the weekend of March 22. Looks like I might be able to get a good deal on another 2.3 turbo engine with T5 transmission from a known-good car (which was in an accident), so we might be yanking that next weekend. Always nice to have a spare engine around, mentally you might be a little more inclinded to flog it when needed. Would be great to have a spare shell too, but that's not going to happen in the short term.

In suspension news, the strut tubes have been milled and threaded, now the bronze bushings are being pressed in. This is the part of the construction of the car where the big bills start rolling in (cage weld, seam weld, suspension parts...) but I'm managing to stay close to budget.

March 2, 2003
Seam welding Seam welding well under way now, took advantage of the nice weather on Saturday to get a LOT done. Dropped the front and rear suspenion and put it up in the stands. Note I've got the ZF steering rack (identifiable by the half-waffle pattern) which has a much faster steering ratio (around 2.6 turns lock-to-lock) than the earlier TRW rack (about 4.1). Still nowhere near GrpA ratios (1.9), but should be good enough for now.

Everything goes so much faster with two people working simultaneously! My job was working the liquid nitrogen, freezing and chipping off the rubberized undercoating while John would seam weld behind me. Hard work, but very much worth it, seam welding stiffens the shell an incredible amount. Ford Motorsport wouldn't list it as the very first thing to do, in bold underline, in "Preparing the Sierra for Motorsport" if it wasn't important. Not only will it make the handling more predictable, but it's safer in case of accident and generally results in less damage to the shell in minor off-road excursions. After a while we switched off and I drilled out the profusion of spot welds holding the RH fender on. The fenders will be pulled off for better access for seam welding, and also to convert them to bolt-on so they will be much easier to change if (when) they kiss a tree, rock, etc.

Unfortunately the weather on Sunday didn't cooperate, we perservered anyway and ended up a little over 1/2 finished seam welding the bottom of the car.

The pseudo-GrpA suspension pieces are coming along nicely too, we stopped by the machinist's and watched him turn down some of our WAY cool and strong strut tubes with threaded bodies from 4130 CrMo DOM stock. Lower spring perches will also be done soon, so everything's coming along quite nicely! Would have loved to have made it to DooWops this weekend though. Did spend a little time hanging out with fellow CCCP'ers Scott (Spokane) and Neal after the work was done, you can't forget to put down the tools and enjoy a little comraderie! Rally is about having fun after all...

Feb 17, 2003
Got boost? Got back to work on the car finally, saw the first revision of the roll cage and the welding is beautiful, just need a few minor tweaks to finish it off. Since it was cold and rainy all I got done was stripping out the remainder of the sunroof assembly (drilling out spot welds is always fun). I've picked up nearly all the wiring supplies I need to satisfy my massive rewiring plans, and the dash is nearly ready to be fitted. The most important task of all, picking out a beeechin' steering wheel, has also been taken care of! Actually it will probably be one of the last things fitted to the car. The next major task is seam welding the car.

Feb 1, 2003
Roll cage is welded in, car is ready for pickup. Now I have to haul the car back to the shop, strip off the remainder of the suspension, brake lines, etc and prep it for stitch welding. The dash is coming along nicely, although I'm stuck at the moment waiting for an XR Wiring Manual to arrive in the mail. I have been keeping busy selling all the parts I won't be using on eBay, to put back into the budget. I picked up some nice Hella twin air horns, and have some VDO gauges on the way. I've also got a nice Avanti navigator's light, and an adjustable cockpit light for the interior light, both off eBay.

My shipment of nine half-used gravel tires arrived recently from Michigan, these will be my "test tires" for getting the car set up and developing my sideways driving ability. I figure you can buy a lot of tires for the cost of one of the rally driving schools, and there's no replacement for seat time. After shipping, it worked out to $39 each. The Michelins (7x FB-71 and 2x FB-87) will be mounted on inexpensive but effective Saab rims, no point giving big $$ to Compomotive right now. Snow and ice tires are still TBD.

I also covered my dash with felt at a cost of less than $10, important to keep glare down. Did a very good job I think, looks professional. Removed all vents etc from the dash before laying on the felt with contact cement, then trimmed and re-fitted all the components. Fabrications of custom control & gauge panels to be completed a little later.

Jan 1, 2003
Happy New Year! Today the bumpers came off and the XR went up in the stands ready for the liquid nitrogen treatment to clean off the seam sealer and undercoating for cage and seam welding. Might go back this weekend and pull off a few more parts, the gas tank and side cladding is still on the car. In the mean time, I hauled the dashboard back and have it sitting in the living room (much to my girlfriend's delight), where I can glue on some anti-glare material and start designing the control panels. I'll be modelling my controls after a rally prepared Sierra Sapphire Cosworth at JVAB's, and picking up the switches down the road at Radar. T-bird target will be a bit of a stretch but its still possible.

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