The weather has remained unseasonably warm so I've been getting plenty of use out of the car - it's just comming up to its first thousand miles now. Mostly just driving around locally, still getting used to things. I've sorted the pedal layout now so that it's just right, and it's just a joy to be in.
I was getting a bit of a delay in pick up when blipping for a downshift - if it dropped onto the overrun, it cut the fueling and it would sometimes splutter a bit or even backfire when blipping the throttle. I daresay that there's a clever way of tuning this sort of transient area in, but I simply turned off the "overrun fuel cutoff" setting in the ECU. So now it's still injecting fuel on the overrun with a closed throttle. This has made it much nicer to drive actually, it's made the transition onto overrun much less sudden, it's reduced some of the kangarooing at low speed, as well as sorting my blipping issue. Alas it's not made it crackle and spit flames on the overrun but you can't have everything!
I'm still very wary of the throttle on corners, but I am gradually finding where it comes unstuck...and I do mean gradually! The last thing I want is to stick it through a hedge. But when it does start to go, it's so far been very, very civilised and controlled about it, with no drama at all. A credit to the chassis design.
I finally got around to getting a video camera (an SJ4000, which is a GoPro rip off and rather cheaper). I made a mount to go on the rollbar which works pretty well. Because wind noise is always a problem, I also bought a cheap sound recorder from ebay, this sits in the glovebox to avoid any direct wind. Here's a short vid I put together from a short blast while I was testing the setup. It was 1080p HD but for some reason Youtube has dropped the resolution, I might reupload it at some point; anyway, it gives a taste of the thing:
So everything was going rather well, with about 600 trouble-free miles under my belt since IVA. Accordingly, I booked a trackday at Oulton Park on the 9th September, gave it all a good inspection to check for loose bolts or anything else, and headed off at 6:30 in the morning. After an hour stuck in traffic on the M6 (how novel), I got about 5 miles from the circuit when I noticed a burning smell. I looked over at the passenger seat to see a massive smoke cloud. (I had my helmet on so it didn't get through to me immediately). Fearing the worst, I pulled it over and opened the bonnet. Fortunately, no fire, but a shedload of oil everywhere, quite a lot of which was on the hot exhaust. A quick inspection and it was clear that it was leaking from one or more of the spark plug wells; with the rocker cover being sealed with silicone, there was nothing I could do at the roadside, any repair would need hours to set, so I mopped up and limped to a more suitable location (a pub carpark) to call the RAC. Big arse.
So, no trackday which was rather gutting. Anyway, back home I removed the rocker cover and found the problem. I'd removed the covers so many times that the gaskets had got rather tatty. And since you have to silicone seal the whole end around the camshafts, I eventually just gave up on the gasket and siliconed the whole lot. It works for the sump after all. However I'd left the rubber seals on top of the plug wells; because these are thicker than a layer of sealant, they were under too much pressure and split:
All three were split, and all three wells were overflowing with oil. It didn't affect the sparks at all, which surprised me. Anyway, I simply removed them, cleaned everything up, and resealed the lot. This is one of those, "if I'd have known..." things; I found out that the later models of the engine (post about '96 I think) have a groove milled in the head and rocker cover to take a much more substantial rubber gasket which goes around the whole lot and needs no sealing. Almost as if there was a problem with the design I have...ah well. I'll be keeping a close eye on it over the next few runs to make sure there are no leaks as I really don't want that happening again. Hopefully I'll make a trackday in October to make up for it. In the meantime, the oil which pooled in various places in the car is gradually dripping its way out onto the (newly repainted) garage floor, over a week later.
Aside from that, I've had a few small things fail on me which are a bit disappointing. One of the LED side repeaters has burnt out half of its lights, and one of the button LED sidelights is now very dim for some reason; I'll have to replace both. I know they're only cheap stuff from the far east but I'd have hoped for a bit more life than that! Nothing major, just annoying. And finally, the tracking has slipped a bit, as the steering wheel is not quite straight anymore. Can't find anything loose so I guess it's just "bedding in" ? I've booked back into the local motorsport place to get it re-adjusted.
Well apparently, finishing the car hasn't ended the frustration. I tried a few times to silicone seal the lot, but one or other of the plug wells always starts to leak after 50 miles or so. I guess there just isn't the clamping force in the middle of the cover, and they vibrate just enough to break the seal. Annoying as I thought that was going to be nice and simple. So while I've had some use from the car, I've been having to stay fairly close to home just in case.
I thought I'd buy a new set of gaskets anyway, back in September, just in case. The first supplier told me after a week that they didn't have any. So I managed to find another. Nothing after a week, oh it must be lost in the post they said. We'll send another. Same again, oh we'll send another. Until finally, ONE MONTH after I ordered, I just get a refund and a "sorry, we're out of stock". So that's 5 weeks pissed up the wall for a poxy gasket.
They are getting rather thin on the ground now; I've just hopefully sourced some from Italy, we shall see how that gets on. Main dealers have them but 64 quid each seems rather steep.
Failing that, I think that the best answer is going to be to get the ends of the plug wells machined slightly shorter; say by a mm or so. Then I'll be able to silicone the outside, without crushing the rubber plug seals on the inside. That'll be a nice permanent fix, BUT it will be a bit of an educated guess as to how much crush I need; so I will hold off if I possibly can.
I did finally get some gaskets, NOS from Italy in about 4 days flat. They did the job nicely, but would you believe it , I noticed that there was still a slight leak, albeit only a very slow single drip. There's a tiny hairline fracture in the passenger side cover and it's juuuuuust seeping out. Good grief!
Pretty fed up of this; the best thing is to take it off and lumiweld it like I did the other one, but I really, really didn't fancy pulling it off again. I tried some metal araldite first, on account of it being easy and me having some to hand. I was very careful to clean and rough up the area first, and so far it's held, though I've not put many miles on it yet as the weather has finally closed in. We shall see how it goes.
It was fixed just in time for a visit by a few friends, fortunately, so I was able to give everyone a quick blast one afternoon. This mostly seemed to result in grins and general windswept-ness, and it was great fun just to play/show the car off for a change rather than troubleshoot.
That was about it though...cold and rain has been the order of the day since so it's just sitting there. I'm currently busy rebuilding the lathe, when that's done, it'll be time to fit the new differential and sort out my "1000 mile snagging list":