Early January

- Choosing the chassis -

Well, not so much choosing the chassis, as choosing what modifications to have. Having chosen the Freelander diff, it was clear to me that I was either going to have to ask STM to adapt the standard chassis to take it, or to use some sort of adaptor plates like Westfield do - these are horribly heavy, and not, to my mind, a very elegant solution to the problem. BECs need to be light, and throwing a few kilos of steel into the mix just doesn't seem the right way to go.

The other adaptation, or addition, that I wanted was to have a permanent rollcage. This would stiffen up the chassis; protect me if I rolled, or drove off another cliff ; and, most importantly of all would provide me somewhere secure to attach my mountain bike . A final benefit is that it would provide somewhere to bolt some driving lights - I really hate not being able to see properly at night.

Then - a miracle! I noticed on the website that the new '04 race chassis was being developed to use the Freelander diff, and had a permanent rollcage. Not only that, but the chassis are to be built from round tube to reduce weight, and the rollcage and side impact protection are to be built from T45 to further reduce their weight. Whether or not I ended up with that particular chassis (it seemed unlikley that I'd be able to afford it) then at least STM now had some experience of the adaptations necessary to accomplice both my goals.

- Choosing the Engine -

The first thing I did was read Rich Miles' website in detail, as he has documented there an assesment of the current favourite choices of engine for BECs. It didn't take my long to settle on the same engine that Rich had, the R1. It is light, powerful engine at 60kg and 150hp, doesn't need a dry sump conversion, and models after 2002 are fuel injected. (I don't understand carbs, I don't want to, I don't need to, don't try and explain them to me - they seem overly complicated and fiddly. Let's leave it at that.)

But then I hit a snag. I noticed that the 2004 R1 was due for release. It has an all new engine - very much more powerful at 180hp than the '02 and '03 versions, revs higher, lighter, more compact... It sounded perfect. Except that, as an all new engine, no-one, anywhere, knew whether or not it needed a dry sump conversion; If it did, no-one would have such a conversion kit available; it wasn't going to be available until March '04 earliest; Mark (who had bought the 21 off me) had already nabbed the first one due into the country for his new race car; and it was going to be (relatively) expensive at £2500, and that's even before the dry sump kit.

So, with some regret, I figured the '02/3 version would have to do. For now

But then, Stuart Taylor started posting details on their website of their '04 race cars. They'd chosen a GSX-R1000 engine for 2 out of the 4 of their cars. This is an engine that Rich hadn't writen very much about. It seemed good on paper - well at 160hp it did . The gearing was good as well, but aside from little snippets on websites, I knew nothing else about it.

The big attaction for me now, despite the unknowns, was that STM were using it, and would therefore hopefully be ironing out any installation and running difficulties in their own cars long before I had to start worrying about it.

The obvious thing to do was to go up to STM and ask Ian why they'd chosen it.

- Choosing the Diff -

There are 2 common choices for BECs - the Ford Sierra and the Landrover Freelander. The Sierra diff is readily available in both open and limited slip types, a variety of ratios, and there are a range of options for after market upgrades; but it's quite heavy. The Freelander diff is less easy to get hold of, and after market upgrades are extremely limited. However it is significantly lighter than the Sierra diff, and the only available ratio, 3.21:1 is a very good match for the GSX-R1000 engine. With sensible tyres on, top speed will be limited to about 140mph in 6th gear, and that just about matches the top speed as limited by the available power as well.

STM also offer a chassis which can take a Mazda MX5 diff, which also has good availability. However, its most common ration is 4.41:1, which would be hopeless for the GSX-R1000 engine.

By chance, Dan Bromilow had a new Freelander diff for sale, and never one to make my life intentionally more difficult than it needs to be, I bought it.

- Choosing the Brakes -

HiSpec! Everyone, everywhere said HiSpec Motorsport are the dog's danglies for BEC cars: light, affordable, well made, and soon a proper handbrake version of the rears, to help with getting through those pesky SVA and MOT inspections.

But there was always the proviso - "If you can actually get hold of them". It seems that HiSpec are somewhat better at making brakes than actually delivering them. Still, it seemed that Martin at The Kitcar Workshop, as a distributor, was able to get hold of them with a reasonable degree of success, so I thought I'd try them

- Choosing the Fuel Tank -

I want to be able to drive to my parent's house in Devon without re-fuelling, which is 240 miles. If I can get the same sort of mpg out of the Phoenix as I got out of the 21, which is to say poor, but not terrible, at 32mpg, then I'm going to need a tank that's at least 7.5 gallons.

At this point, the only other thoughts I have about the fuel system are that I want to avoid the surge problem that DH2 gets with his Megabird going round left-hand bends (he has a surge pot, but it's located in such a way that if the tank is less than half full and he goes left, then the pot, once empty, can't refill)

- Choosing the wheels -

My current favorite choices at this stage are Compomotive CX-Rs and the new Caterham 8 spokes. Neither are a very cheap option. Other than that, I'm open to suggestion. I think I'd like 13" wheels, as that's what Hoopy Poopy says are best. I like the fact that they are likely to be lighter than a larger wheel, cheaper, and they tyres will be cheaper too - the 205/45R16s on the 21 were very expensive for the better tyres.

- Choosing the Steering -

Not much to choose here. I want a quick rack, and a steering wheel about the same size as the 21 had. As for quick release or not? I'm not fussed, but I'll get one if it makes getting in and out of the car easier. Plus, it's always funny when Adam and Alex, to name just 2, leave the pub to get in their Caterhams and come back 2 minutes later because they've forgotten their steering wheel, and I feel sure that I'd like to be as funny as them.

- Choosing the suspension -

This bit was easy - rather than try and figure out the best spring rates and correct damper lengths, I just bought the ones offered by STM - 2.25"AVO Adjustable Shocks and Springs.

As for the hubs - STM's price for alloy hubs is very reasonable at £50 each, so I picked those - I'd really like to keep the unsprung mass as low as possible, as this car is so light that it'll be difficult to keep the wheels on the ground if they are not proportionately light

- Choosing the seats -

Absolutely no idea what to choose at the moment, as I don't know the size of the Phoenix's cockpit. STM offer some GFRP ones that must fit, and other possible choices are a CFRP or GFRP Tillet from Caterham, a Tillet from Tillet, a Kirkey aluminium or a foam seat. I'm not so keen on foam seats - all those I know that have them swear they are the comfiest seats they've every used, but I think they look a bit untidy. Chrispy G has offered to skin one in CFRP for me if I do make one, so that could solve that particular problem.


This page last updated on: Thursday, Aug 24 2006