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Living with a GTR

Here you'll find an account of my experience of 'living' with the GTR. Running, driving, tweaking the car on the road and on track. This should help give an insight into the experience of actually having one of these cars, be it good or bad.

Monday 31st March

Let's backtrack a bit to last weekend where I got to drive her for the first time. It was with great car and trepidation, that I clamboured into the drivers seat ready for it's first road test. I showed Hels the best procedure for getting in (although she's a lot smaller than me!) which is basically feet on the seat (with protective towel!) and slide in. We both got strapped up which, fortunately, is something we're more than familiar with seeing as she's been racing for 10 years and me for 3. Unfortunately, the harnesses are a bit long so will need replacing, but as we were only going to pootle about it wasn't a great concern. Once comfortable, ignition was one and I prodded the starter button and the engine burst into life.

The motor span up and settled at good idle. A couple of blips on the throttle to clear her lungs, clutch depressed (which is surprisingly easy) and a solid 'snick' of the gear lever into 1st and we were away. Onto 2nd and 3rd before we reached the end of my road - so at least we had 3 of the full compliment so far ;) First job was to find some more open roads that would allow me to stretch her legs a bit. Luckily I live in a pretty rural area with some decent link roads and bypasses, so that's where we headed.

First impressions, well, the amazing thing about the GTR is just how damned civilised it is! The gears slot home easily, the clutch is very progressive and the engine, well, it's just got gobfulls and gobfulls of power. Not that I was using much of it. Given that this was it's first run (even the factory hadn't had time for a proper road test) I was taking it very steadily. Listening carefully for any sign of trouble, keeping an eye on the guages and stopping after short periods to check fluids/bolts etc.

We tried a variety of roads but stuck to fairly uncongested ones to avoid any snarly traffic. The car is amazingly docile - until provoked! - and will chug along in 5th if need be. The cam characteristics mean that lower speeds (read UK speed limits!) can give some lumpy running, but selection of a lower cog sorts that out. 65mph equates to about 2300rpm! We did about 50 odd miles, getting to grips with the car before a short stop in a local village to see some mates. Just as we entered the village and slowed for a speed bump, the engine note changed? We both looked at each other trying to figure out what had caused it? All the readings were fine, oil, water etc. but the engine was sounding distinctively different! We only had about 100 yards to go so trundled down to our destination which was fortunately a car workshop. After opening up the canopy, nothing presented itself as being obviously wrong? It sounded to me like the exhaust was blowing. I checked the manifold bolts and the clamps that held the silencers on, but upon restarting, things were the same? Knowing that it wasn't anything critical, we opted to travel back to my workshop to investigate further.

The one side effect of this issue was the tremendous overrun banging that could be produced :) Coming off the roundabout onto a good stretch of clear road, 3 bikers dropped in behind me to have a closer look. Well, being a biker myself I decided to show them that mental acceleration wasn't the preserve of superbikes! A half throttle 'blast' up the road had them reeling, at which point I had to slow for other traffic. This coincided with them hanging right onto the rear of the car. What they hadn't bet on was the enormous, overrun pops from the exhaust. It sounded like two stinger missiles being launched and from their reaction, must've looked like one too!!! :) Needless to say, they dropped back to a 'respectable' distance after that :)

Back in the workshop, we popped the canopy once more. I was convinced that the noise was from the right hand silencer but at first sight, couldn't see the problem. I asked Hels (I'm not stupid am I ;) ) to hold her hand near the junction of he silencer and header to see if it was blowing anywhere. She confirmed that this was the case and said that it felt like it was coming from behind the silencer clamp? Having shortened the silencer mounting flanges my initial concern was that I'd overdone the slots and they were blowing. However, the problem became immediately obvious when I discovered the sooty hole where the lambda sender plug had been! The plug must have worked loose and popped out when entering the village! Relieved that the problem was a minor one, we called it a day whilst I tried to source another blanking plug.

Which isn't easy! A call to the factory confirmed that it was an M18 with 1mm thread which is a big bugger!! There's an agricultural supplier by my mate's workshop (where we'd stopped ironically) that does this sort of stuff and would seem to be the best bet. So we jumped in the Trooper and shot down there to see if they had one. No such luck! Still, after a chat with my mate Martin, he kindly lent me a lambda sensor which would plug the hole. There's an exhaust place next door and I had a word with John who runs it, to find that he had loads the things! Result! We made our way back to the workshop and I fitted the plug. Sure enough, when I fired her up again all was well - phew!!! Amazingly, the day had disappeared and it was time for a celebratory pie and a nice long, cold beer :)

The next morning we were due to take a trip over to Wycombe for a car meet with the Pistonheads lot. After a leisurely lie-in, I didn't feel any great rush to get down to the workshop and we didn't need to be there until 12. Anyway, I finally trundled down there mainly to make sure that the workshop doors were clear (people park in front of the ALL the damn time) so I could get the car out. Whilst I busied myself moving cars around, Hels opened up the workshop.

'There's oil all over the floor' came the cry from the doors. Arse! Still, no point in panicking just yet. I parked up and joined her in the workshop to find a big puddle of oil that had managed to do its best to soak into both rear tyres where they sat on the flat floor. Bugger. Out with the inspection light to do some errr... inspection although, from the look and smell of the oil it looked as if the tranmission had dumped its load (if you'll pardon the expression).

At first, I couldn't see the problem, but, a telltale drip on the lower chassis rail showed that oil had leaked out from around the left had driveshaft. Double bugger. At first I though something disasterous had happened to the driveshaft flange but on closer inspection, it was obvious what the problem was! I'd removed the original Porsche speedo sensor and replaced with a plastic plug. This was held in place by a short bar. However, the bar was now nowhere to be seen and an oily hole was all that could be seen of the plug! Actually, it turned out that the plastic plug was in fact on the floor so at least I knew that I hadn't driven the car with no transmission oil in it! After we'd left the car the day before, the expanding oil (from heat soak I guess) must've just squeezed out the bung. This meant that about a litre of tranny oil leaked out overnight and now covered the floor and tyres - this was omen no.1

After I'd moved the car forward a bit, Hels set to work cleaning up the floor whilst I drained the rest of the gearbox oil. Fortunately, the factory had replaced the fully synthetic that I'd put in with semi-synth and had returned to me the original stuff. So, I had enough to refill it! This is bit of a bugger of a job, as access with the canopy on is very tight. Still, after much swearing and spilling, I got the 'box refilled. Phew! Time was getting tight now if we were to make the meet, but I thought a general fluid check would definitely be in order!

So, check the water - fine, check the oil - doh! The oil was at the end of the stick!!! Eh? Surely it can't use THAT much? Well, it hadn't. When I'd primed the system, it seems that the Accusump hadn't been fully charged, so after yesterday's run the oil was now at it's 'proper' level and therefore needed topping up. Only problem was - I had no more oil!! I'd lent the last of my Valvoline Racing to my brother and I won't mix oils (Omen no.2). So, frantic phone calls ensued and revealed that my brother did indeed have some more oil. But, it was miles away at his workshop. I decided to go and get it. A Schumacher like dash to his house (to get the keys), then the workshop (10 miles away) and back left the Trooper brakes smoking! Time ticking away, I set about topping the oil up. This is a real bitch when everything is stone cold as Valvoline is thick old stuff. After spilling about 1/4 litre over the rocker cover and having to clean it all up, I finally had the car ready to go. We were about 40 minutes late by now.

So, running around like idiots we set about cleaning up the tyres etc. whilst time dragged on. Well, it rapidly became apparent that we were'nt going to make the meeting (and oil soaked tyres on an Ultima are not a good idea), so we called it a day.

So, onto the next weekend. With the car thoroughly checked over and ready to go, a trip to see fellow GTR owner Guy Thompson was in order. I was on my own today, so treated myself to some proper 'posing' through the local towns on my way to Guy's place. The attention the car generates is amazing. Children shout and point, jaws drop open and knickers.... well, being engaged to Hels I can't comment further, but there were distinctive 'snapping' sounds as I drove around :)

Anyway, now that I felt a bit more comfortable with the car, it was time to open her up a bit. Not to much mind, as I want to put about 1000 miles on her before really letting rip, but enough to give a taster of what's to come. The 'test' track was to be a local bypass which had relatively light traffic and is wide and safe. Making sure that everything was up to temperature and running well, I eased the car onto the sliproad and joined the carriageway. Target no. 1 was sighted and I gave the gas pedal a squeeze, the GTRs response is absolutely linear. No fuss, no drama, it justs leaps towards the horizon at exactly the same rate as you depress the throttle. It makes no difference what speed you're doing either, 8mph or 80 the result is the same - BBBRRRAAAAWWWWWPPPPPP!!!! You don't have to (within reason of course) consider overtaking spaces, the 630hp go-kart just devours the road and you've overtaken almost as quickly as just considering it. Remember, and I kid you not, I have still to use more than 1/2 throttle in the car! The engine note rises and the 'growl' of that fat V8 gives way to a banshee 'wail' - this is more Ferrari or Zonda than American Iron! The supercharger starts to really wail above 4k revs and from then on it's absolutely mental :) :) :) The thrust seems endless and the road disappears beneath you like you're viewing bumper cam in Grand Turismo on a Playstation - this truly is, a racecar for the road.

I won't bore you with the details of the rest of the day. Guy and I caused enough of a stir filling up with Optimax just outside of Henley not to mention the reaction as we rumbled through town sounding like a tank invasion. Nope, my only gripe was that I kept on snatching 5th from 2nd which is just because I'm not used to the 'box yet. Further blasts above and beyond xxx mph (insert your own figure :) just scratched the surface of this massively capable car. One thing's for sure though, I'm itching to get it on track and see how she really handles!!!

Anyway, that's enough for now. I'm so sorry there's no video or more photo's yet, but I've been concentrating on ironing out the initial minor niggles. Now that it's settling in, be prepared for some decent 'action' footage!

Saturday 5th April

Another beautiful spring day here in the UK. It's a truism of this country that it's either too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry, there's no pleasing the British public! Well, except for one ;) Fine weather and dry roads mean that the Ultima is out terrorising the traffic once again!

Eager to get some more miles under the car's belt, I carried out the usual spanner checks which was just as well. One of the aircon hoses had slipped down onto the gear linkage UJ (the one just behind the bulkhead) and the rollpin was chafing it!! Fortunately, it hadn't done much damage otherwise I'd have had a floor covered in aircon coolant. A couple of cable ties secured the pipe back in place which made the gearchange a lot smoother I can tell you!

The fluid levels were all spot on despite the previous weekend's hassles. So, without any more delay, we got strapped in and set off up the road. Upon firing it up, the car seemed to be misfiring on one cylinder. I pulled over a few hundred yards up the road just to check that all the HT leads were secure, confident that the misfire was just because the car was cold and I have no choke on it. Sure enough, once we restarted the AS engine soon cleared it's lungs and off we went.

I take great care to warm the car up properly before going into 'hoon' mode. Not only the oil/water, but the brakes, tyres, transmission all need to get up to operating temperature before they should be given any sort of abuse. Remember YOU have to warm up to. The Ultima is a car that should be treated with respect when you drive it. It's no good jumping in and flying up the road only to find yourself reversing through a hedge half a mile away! Still, there were plently of numpties on the road to allow the car to come up to temperature.

We made our way along our usual test route, going through Henley and over to Marlow before coming back to Henley, then Nettlebed, Wallingford, Oxford and then back home again. It's not worth straying too far before all the teething troubles are sorted. However, today things were going well and the car was really settling down. With only 250 miles on the clock, the ride feels more compliant and the overall driving experience, steering, braking, gearchanges are much more fluid. The gearchange was especially noticable and I didn't make the 2nd to 5th mistake again! I could change gear with just 2 fingers on the lever whereas before, I had it in a vice-like grip! Those hoses made a hell of a difference.

Trundling through Henley is always a laugh. The onlookers and dropped jaws are becoming a familiar sight and I must say, I enjoy it (and Hels LOVES it!). Funniest moment was a guy in a Paradise Purple Chimaera, top down, tunes up burbling along by the river on the one-way. I think we deflated his ego somewhat when I pulled alongside and gave it a bootfull :)

Posing done for the day, we headed out towards the Marlow bypass which is good for a higher speed run (within the legal limits of course - cough!). Joining the dual carriageway and snicking it into 4th the Ultima has a habit of making time slow down. Cars that were doing 70mph look as if they'd stopped! You have to keep a close eye on the speedo as you're doing 3 figure speeds before you can blink. As we thundered down to the roundabout, I decided to carry out a little test that I've been trying for a few years. Basically, the idea is to accelerate to xxxmph and see how quickly the car gets there. Well, the record holder so far was a 5 litre TVR Griffith that I had, which could do it comfortably before the bridge railing. The Ultima however, is a different story. The thing is, there's no such thing a perceptable 'powerband' in the Ultima, you just depress the throttle pedal with your foot and it headbutts the horizon at the relevant speed. Remember, I'm still only giving it about 2/3 throttle but by 'eck, it flies! 0-100 is no longer measured in seconds in this car, it's in feet and by my reckoning, I know taller people than this car takes to get up to steam ;) It really is bloody fast!

To avoid the attention of the boys in blue, we diverted through Marlow only to be met by a wall of traffic. I decided to give it a miss and came back up the bypass towards Henley. After all, I needed more than one run to verify the test didn't I :)

All was well as we continued over to Nettlebed, rapidly dispatching several 'sports' cars up the Fairmile. However, whilst flicking through the displays on the Stack (great bit of kit) I noticed that the battery level had dropped? I had been registering about 14.3 volts but was now hovering at around 11 :( My first guess was that it had thrown a belt. We were only about 15 miles from home and not wishing to risk stopping it and not being able to restart, we headed back.

Sure enough, when I killed the engine in the workshop, it wouldn't crank. A quick test with a multimeter confirmed that the alternator wasn't feeding any charge back to the battery. Bum! Still, better to have it fail now than on the way to Le Mans or something. So that was that for today. With 280 miles on the clock, there's a fair way to go before it's fully run in. A.S. are shipping me another alternator under warranty (great service Gail) so hopefully the road bully will be out to play again at the weekend.

PS. Once again, apologies for the lack of pics. I've just ordered a DV Camera though so expect to see some extended roadtest footage coming soon as well as a first hand experience of the glorious noise in the cockpit (from the engine, not the driver!). Cheers.

Saturday 26th April

Blimey, three weeks since the last update! Better fill you in on the details then. Firstly, sure enoughm a brand new alternator arrived from American Speed ready to replace the old one. However, I decided that it might be a good idea to have a 'spare' lying around and seeing as the chrome one would effectively be junk unless I repaired it, I sent it off to have it rebuilt. It cost about 100 quid to replace the bearings, rebuild and test, but it's a lot cheaper than buying a spare! I'd guessed that it had been the bearing that were shot and this was indeed the case. We'd noticed when building the car that the alternator sat at a bit of an angle on the billet hanging brackets that had come with the AS engine. With the alternator removed from the engine, I decided to have a closer look at the brackets to see if I could do anything with them. It turned out that there's a bit of play in the mounts and you can effectively slacken off the bolts which hold them to the engine and adjust the 'attitude' of them in relation to the block. I set them artificially forward (so the alternator tilts down towards the road), so that once the belt was back on and tensioned it would sit true to the pulley. This seems to have done the trick and it now sits a lot squarer than it did before. A subsequent chat with Ted at the factory open day highlighted this problem. It appears that whilst the supplier that AS send the alternators to be chromed to are great at chroming, they're no experts when it comes to stripping and rebuilding alternators! The nett result of all this is that AS no longer supply chromed alternators as they are proving to be too much trouble. My replacement is a nice matt racing job although I've got the chrome one on for the time being.

Anyway, work commitments have meant that I've had precious little time in the car but, I flew back from working in Brussels to attend the factory open day. I mean, you can't miss is can you! Anyway, a bit of work needed to be done before I was ready to embark on a 'long' journey with the car.

Whilst my quick-release steering wheel umbillical cable had worked great for the first few hundred miles, prolonged used showed the fragility of the mini-DIN PS2 connector. Even with the curly cable the strain on the DIN was sufficient for the contacts to become a bit intermittent and it's not very safe to indicate for junctions/overtaking whilst having to hold the connector on! So, I decided to upgrade the system for a lockable multi-in connector with a hefty cable clamp. These are available from Maplin Electronics (in the UK) as part numbers FK26D (6-way lockable socket) and FM54J (6-way lockable plug) along with a heavier guage of multicore cable as the keyboard curly extender was extremely fragile with very thin wire cores. Curly cable with more than 2 cores is a swine to get hold of, especially in small quantities, so I ended up with a 7 core standard cable. Much stripping, soldering, heat shrinking and swearing later and my new cable and connector was ready to install in the car.

6-way lockable multiway connectorNew lockable connector and cable ready to fit

The new lockable multiway connector is a fair bit larger than the old mini-DIN, so I had to enlarge the hole in the dash to 16mm. This had to be done very carefully to avoid damaging the alcontara. I used a stepped drillbit to enlarge the hole and trimmed the excess alcontara with a new scalpel blade. Fitting and rewiring the socket into the dash required the hands of a 5 year old surgeon! Talk about keyhole surgery. Still, patience paid off and it wasn't too long before the whole lot was mated up to the relevant connectors on the dash loom. A quick test showed that all systems were go and with an oil and fluid check, the car was ready to make the trip up to Hinckley for the first time under it's own steam!

Sunday 27th April

We'd planned to meet up with a few other Ultima owners on the M40 for a bit of a convoy. This meant a rather unwelcomed early start as I'd been working 18 hour days for the last fortnight. Still, the weather was looking reasonable if a little showery, so off we went. After topping up one of the tanks with Optimax (I didn't think we had enough to get us to the nearest Shell), we got the car out of the workshop with no drama and were ready for the off. Hels saw me onto the road and I reversed back. She got in and I had to pull out to avoid a parked car - the next think 'TWANG', the bloody umbillical cable had got caught around one of the wheel mounted switches and had ripped the new multiway connector out of the dash socket - AARRGGHHH!!! I was mightily pissed off I can tell you. In fact, I was so annoyed we just turned straight around and put the car back in the workshop. I was fuming! However, once back in the garage, Hels noticed that I'd managed to leave of the damn filler cap from the tank that I'd topped up!! So maybe it was fate not to go? I would have looked an even bigger pillock if we'd got caught in the rain and a nice load of water had ended up in the tank (it did in fact rain later on). I had a look at the connector but it was well and truly mullered. So, deciding that fate was lending a hand, we put it away and went back to bed!!

Some breakfast later, we found ourselves at a bit of a loose end. Thinking about it at home, I realised that I could jury-rig the original indicator switch so that we could at least show where we were going. The horn I could do without, as the exhausts are plenty loud enough to warn other road users of your presence. Anyway, we decided to have another go. Within 5 minutes I'd rigged up a makeshift system and after a thorough check around the rest of the car, we set off again up towards Hinckley....

Well, I'm pleased to report that the car behaved fantastically, despite the rain, and we arrived in Hinckley to join the ranks of GTRs, Can-Ams, Sports and Spiders that were already parked up. It was great to put some faces to names at last, having shared many an email with quite a few fellow Ultima owners. Met the infamous Nigel 'Detail' Dean of Which Kit - lovely bloke - who took some shots of MY03GTR. Nigel had contacted me through this site earlier in his build and it was great to finally meet him and see his car progressing nicely. After the trip up in the rain mine looked far from shiny! Unfortunately we could only spend a short time there as I had to get back to Heathrow in order to fly back out to Brussels. Still, it was well worth the visit. I took some shots for the rogues gallery with my new DV Cam which finally turned up (the day before as it happens), so once I've pulled them off it I'll post them up.

The return journey was, again, thankfully uneventful. I did decide to see how far I could get on one full tank of fuel so that I could get a rough idea of range and 'economy'. The result, well, at a steady 85mph or so we managed to squeeze 80 miles out of a tank! That's about 9mpg!!!! :( Still, power comes at a price and in this case, it's 98RON Optimax!

More work abroad beckons, so no more driving until the 2nd weekend in May. More news as it happens - cheers!

Saturday 17th May

Crikey, almost a month since my last update! Still, in fairness I've been abroad working so I've not ahad a chance to use the car.

So, what's new. Well, with the upcoming trip to Le Mans, I thought it best to thoroughly check the car's behaviour to avoid any surprises on the way down. There were two issues to be resolved today, firstly, the tickover which was running mega-rich and then I wanted to test to see if the car would overheat in traffic (which I suspected). Having been caught in a 2 hour traffic jam in a TVR Griffith in ambient temperatures almost in the 80's, I wanted to resolve any cooling problems before I had a GTR with steam billowing out of the canopy!

So first up, the tickover. So why did I think it was rich? Well, not only did the car belch out a fair amount of soot on tickover, but the smell was acrid! It would only take a fe seconds with the car running for your eyes to be streaming, not to mention the hideous taste of unburnt hydrocarbons! Anyway, with a bit of help from Guy T who had popped round to drop of my alignment kit, we set about leaning off the mix and setting a decent tickover of about 700-750 rpm (below this the oil pressure drops a bit too far for my liking). The Demon carb which I use with the supercharger has 4 idle mix screws and the idea is to balance these to match each other without leaning off the mixture too much (which would be v.bad from an overheating perspective). In addition to these, you also need to balance the throttle butterfly openings so that an equal amount of fuel is passing through all 4 barrels of the carb. It's a question of trial and error, test and test again because the mixture screws can affect the idle too. Still, after about half an hour I had a smooth running engine which didn't make you cry like a baby everytime you fired it up! I'll get a gas tester on it to double check, but I've now got a very smooth idle of about 700rpm and the engine continues to run even with the A/C on.

However, this constant running also gave me the opportunity to check for overheating. The fans come in at 85 degrees but, once they're on, they don't stop! The temperature rises slowly but it soon became clear (at 105 degs) that the cooling system couldn't remove enough heat fast enough to cool the engine. Admittedly it was a pretty harsh test as the car didn't move an inch to force air into the radiator and it was fairly warm in the workshop, but, this situation is pretty likely when we make our pilgrimage to France. So, what to do. Well, firstly I tried running the car with the canopy open to see how under-cooled the car was. Well, sure enough the temperature started to drop. It levelled out at 94 degrees and would go no lower so the fans continued to run :(

So, potential causes and rectification. Well, if the idle mix was lean then it would run hot, but I reckon that's OK, the same goes for the timing. I could try some Water Wetter to see if it can help keep the temperature in check. Or, I could strip off the pipe lagging that I placed around the coolant pipes in the sidepods. Well, as you can imagine, the last option is a bit of a pig at this stage as everything is in place. My concern is, that if the cooling system is dependent on these to radiate heat aswell then the cooling must be pretty marginal to start with!! I don't know what the pump rate is from the standard mechanical pump, but struggle to believe that those pipes are going to account for a drop of 10 degrees in engine temperature (and that's with the canopy open!). Still, best to try the simple things first, so I bought a couple of bottles of Water Wetter to see if they would do any good.

Well, basically they didn't. The may have brought the overall temperature down a bit but the fans still run constantly and the temperature creeps up (again, it holds steady with the canopy open), meaning that they're maxing out their cooling efficiency. I need to speak to some other owners to see if this is commonplace, but if not, well - it's time to remove the pipe lagging! That's it for now.

Saturday 24th May

Well, sorting out these little problems gives me something to tell you lot about! Rather than bore you with the details here, have a look at the build diary to see how I got on trying to get the car to run a little cooler.

Wednesday 11th June

With the cooling issues seemingly resolved (see build diary), finally, the car was ready for it's longest run to date - to Le Mans!

Probably, the finest motoring website in the world :)

First job was to get the car loaded up and apply some Pistonheads livery to help 'spread the word'. The car looked excellent and I was amazed just how much we managed to squeeze into it. That said, most of the stuff that I took in the car was for roadside repair! Not that I'm paranoid or anything, but from experience, if you take it with you - you won't need it :) As we were going in convoy with some mates, fortunately we had a support truck in the shape of Martin's pickup so we dumped the tent, sleeping bags, clothes etc. into that.

The usual pre-flight checks done, we got strapped in and set off. As I mentioned in the build diary, the bloody heater fan had seized meaning that we had no air-con! Actually, I did manage to free it off but it sounds pretty ill and when it seizes, it takes out the fan override! I decided that being able to run the fans at will was a better option than my own comfort :) That said, the helicopter vents do a great job (if a little noisy from the wind blast) and we were comfortable enough in the cockpit. The plan was to travel to Dover to stay overnight in a hotel as the ferry was due to set sail at 09:15 the following morning. The trip down was thankfully uneventful and the car was well behaved. It did get a little hot (the ambient temperatures were VERY high for the UK - sod's law!!) when we inadvertantly took a trip into Dover town centre, but nothing dramatic happened and we managed to find the hotel.

John Coxon was the only other Ultima to have arrived in his freshly delivered Can-Am. The Coxon brothers are quite, quite mad :) John had only picked up his car the Friday before and his brother, Glynn, had only got his GTR on the Monday!!! Talk about a confident shakedown! As it happened, both brother had some problems with the cars, Glynn's blew a rocker cover breather out and shredded the rubber insert and John managed to spin a main bearing as well as having trouble with his clutch fork pin coming adrift. The joy of newly built cars :) Still, hat's off to both of them who made the trip there and back all the way from Preston.

One by one the others drifted in and parked up. It made for quite an impressive array of machinery I can tell you! The following day we hung about for what seemed like hours (because it was) waiting for some stragglers - who never showed! The trip down to the ferry was fine, but surprising how quickly the GTR got up to temperature?!? After a brief fuel stop (where it was suprising how quicly the GTR loses temperature?!?!) it was on to the ferry. This was made a little more interesting as P&O had cocked up the bookings meaning that half the party ended up having to pay again for the crossing!!!! I'm reliably informed that P&O are making refunds - but we'll wait and see! Dave Robinson had the very unfortunate experience of snapping a wishbone on the way to the ferry!! :( Fortunately the factory support Landie was soon in attendence and it wasn't long before the car was on it's way once again. Despite all sorts of exotica being loaded onto the ferry the Ultima's cause an amazing amount of attention (weel, they're not exactly subtle are they!!). It's nice seeing people who've spent 3 times or more the amount of money on their so-called 'supercars', not getting a second glance as people push past in order to get a closer look at our little convoy :) Anyway, once we'd manage to pry the onlookers off the cars we boarded the ferry (and didn't ground out!) ready for the next leg.

The buddies convoyIf you see this in your mirrors - better get out the way, fast! ;)Nice

Things started off pretty well for the convoy as we made our way out of Calais and onto the motorway down towards Rouen. It's fun to see the various exotica on their way down and of course, you have to have a little play don't you (to remind them who's boss ;). We were only about 15 minutes out of Calais when I spied a familiar set of carbon fibre surrounded headlamps in a pointy nose, yup, it was a Pagani Zonda. Obviously 'pushing on' this 320k supercar was sat in my mirrors. I decided to move over as I didn't want to blast off and leave my buddies behind (especially as the support truck had all the spares!). The Pagani went past with the 'banana' 4 pipes sounding pretty cool. Well, the racer in me instantly thinks 'who gives a fcuk about the convoy' and I hit the loud pedal (not too hard as I'm still running in at this point). The world goes backwards and in what seems an instant, we are right up his ar$e =:) Sanity in the form of my fiancee, Hels, takes over and I back off again. David McDonald in the factory 'track spec' demonstrator and Nick Meurice in his Red Sports don't follow suit and chase him off into the distance. Ah, the joys of being in a convoy :) Still, there was a long way to go and I wanted to at least get there!

So fate lent a hend when we came over the brow of a hill to find a stricken Ultima Sports with the factory demo in attendence :( Whilst chasing the Pagani, Nick's car had made a short series of backfires, then died. A roadside inspection quickly revealed that the car wasn't going to start easily, so Mart and his pickup to the rescue and they towed Nick to the next services where we were waiting for them. The next three and a half hours were spent trying to get Nick going again. After trying umpteen electrical checks I wondered whether the distributor was turning. Cap off and the problem was revealed - the distributor shaft drive gear had been eaten away :( Luckily, there was a replacement in the factory supplied spares, but once we'd got that working (after sorting out the bloody firing order with no timing info!) and the car fired back into life, Nick's jubilation was cut short when I pointed out that he had no oil pressure :( :( Nick had recently replaced the cams and these drive the oil pump and distributor so I guess that something is very fubar inside. No option for Nick but to call for recovery. Damn. Not an auspicious start. Still, I have to say that I was grateful for not keeping chase myself! The car was running well although, the idle speed was impossible to control as I think that the high engine bay temperatures are making the throttle butterflies stick open a bit. I also noticed that I got fuel pressure warnings when running at hot idle, probably caused by fuel evapourisation? Still, nothing too bad.

The rest of the trip was OK, if a bit tedious towards the end. The Rouen tunnel was closed so we opted to drive up towards Caen, then down towards Le Mans. This was definitely a GOOD MOVE! I heard later that the traffic jams were 3 hours long in Rouen and loads of cars had overheated - phew! Still, this did mean that we had to rely on the maps for navigation. It wasn't long before the convoy got split up and we were all over the place!! We were in 3 groups at one point with my brother being lost, without a map! Once we'd found him, got ourselves un-lost and at last, to the campsite, Hels and I were more than a little stressed. Still, at least the tent was up and 10 pints of strong lager later - all was well with the world :)

The next day, despite a very fuggy head, things seemed a lot better. Nick turned up late morning having made it back to the UK, then back to France in a backup vehicle - good man :) The day was spent lazing about, drinking and talking bollox. The highlight was to be the 'Supercar Evening' which consisted of a quiz, a concours d'elegance competition and sound off (the engine variety) with drinks and dinner. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my car was one of only 20 to be selected for the competition so out came the chamois for a little spit and polish.

We lined up in two rows in front of the lovely chateau that was the campsite centrepiece. It's the first time I've stayed off-site for Le Mans and I have to say - I'll never go back to Bleu again!!!! Excellent facilites, clean toilets and showers (sometimes with hot water) made for a very comfortable stay, despite being under canvas in hot/humid weather. I lined up the car for the pre-show gawp by the punters and had a surprisingly nervous beer whilst we waited for the off. At first, I was just happy to have been asked to enter but it's surprising how competitive you feel when the thing actually starts. Anyway, with a Daytona, 2 E-Types, various Ferrari's, TVRs an Aston and other exotica on show, I felt that my chances were slim against the historics. However, the crowds were definitely concentrated around the GTR (or was that my imagination?). After what seemed an age, the judging started. We were asked to re-join our vehicles then one-by-one, drive in front of the judges and give the throttle a bit of large so that they could hear what 630+ ponies sounds like :) It was hard to hear how mine compared to the others but the buddies certainly seemed to think that it was the horniest - although, they're pretty biased! Guy Thompson was also selected, so being up against another Ultima was going to be interesting. Anyway, I did my bit and parked up again. After seeing the last of the cars being 'tested' the Aston was by far the most disappointing. I mean, even Karl's Elise was louder!! :) All done, the judges disappeared to give their verdict.....

The GTR up against some stiff competitionCar was looking good despite the nose picking ;)Guy and Nick have a closer look (and try to nobble the car ;)

At this stage I'd convinced myself that I didn't have a chance, so set about the real task of getting pissed :) It was a shame as the trophy on offer was pretty impressive, not to mention the Jereboam of bubbly ;) The judges, in traditional style, announced the prizes - a runner up and the winner. The runner up went to..... the black 4.5l Cerbera! I was surprised by this as the Cerbie is pretty modern and I thought they'd go for the classics? Still, it was nicely turned out with blacked out side windows (bit Max Power) and 18 inch spiders and sports exhaust. The runner-up took his prize and it was time for the winner to be announced. Hmmmm... I may be in with a chance after all seeing as they went for something new. Still, maybe they were going to choose one new, one old? Who knows, I supped my beer instead or worrying about it. So, finally, they were ready to announce the winner, who is....

The winning car at Le Mans - WOOHOOO!!!!Let the celebrations commence ;)

...the Ultima! Eh?? But WHICH Ultima we shouted, THE BLUE ONE came the reply!!! Blimey! I have to say, I was pretty gobsmacked and VERY proud that the car won in the face of some pretty stiff competition. With all the recent trials and tribulations with the car, this really made it all worthwhile especially after the stressed out trip down to the site. I was well chuffed and more so to find that so many people congratulated me afterwards, complimenting me on the car and the quality of the build. So, Ultima win in Le Mans - what a great start to the weekend!!

The rest of the weekend was the usual heady mix of booze, racing, glowing brake disks and more booze. Some video's of the race will appear soon below.

Some pics. of the Le Mans trip courtesy of Martin (and some pissed buddies)

Chantelloup concoursChantelloup concoursChantelloup concours
Chantelloup concoursChantelloup concoursChantelloup concours winner :)
In convoyOne pissed buddyBloody traffic
My brother - a picture of healthNoddy and BigearsOuttatheway!!!

The journey back was uneventful and we went in a smaller convoy which was much easier to control. We left the campsite at 07:15 and rolled into the drive about 17:00. The car behaved fantastically with only a few niggles to sort out. We'd covered about 900 miles in all, using a fair bit of Super-U, but all in all, it was a great trip. Thanks to Dave McDonald for organising it, Mart, Karl, Stu, Mark and Gary for making it a laugh, special thanks to Hels for putting up with me in the car and for everyone else for providing such a friendly atmosphere. Roll on next year!

More pics. of the Le Mans trip courtesy of Nick Meurice - and a broken Sports :(

Chantelloup concoursWaiting for the others at the ferry terminalPagani chasing!
Pagani chasing!Pagani chasing!Pagani chasing!
Guy enjoying the roadsGuy in the concours

Saturday 28th June

It's certainly a month for motoring related events! After recovering from our trip to Le Mans, Pistonheads set out to recreate the alcohol fuelled atmosphere at Pistonfest. Held at the Shakespeare County Raceway near Stratford, Pistonfest was run alongside the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) nostalgic drag meet. With entries limited to the historics, there wasn't an opportunity to get the Ultima on the strip, but there was plenty to do, see and more importantly, drink over the course of the weekend. The car behaved faultlessly and always had a crowd of onlookers around it. That said, some of the drag machinery in the paddock was just awesome to behold. I'd never been to a drag meet before and was totally impressed by the dedication these guys (and gals) put into the car preparation. Hats off to ya! Anyway, we had a fantastic weekend and proved that not only is the Ultima great on the road, it's practical for camping too! We managed to get a 3 man tent, 2 sleeping bags, an airbed, clothes, food/drink and 20 cans of stella in the car :) And you know what, all that insulation in the sidepods was totally worthwhile as the beer was still cool when we got to the site despite the ambient temperatures being in the 80s!!!! Anyway, I won't bore you with any more details, just have a gander at the pics and movies.

In built beer cooler ;)Who says GTRs aren't practical?An untidy rabble
Pill and Hhxx - chillin - Bog is having a hissy fit ;)Buzz having a Kodak momentKickmydog becomes Drink my Evian
4WD twin turbo Cortina - madness!!!Makes the GTR rubber look a bit emasculated ;)Hels finds a Rod built for her :)
Mad Dutton Phaeton with Chevy 350One word - PHAT!Could be the next Bitza project withour Malaga B+?
Shoehorned Chevy .350The Dut ran 10.5's on the strip!Says it all really ;)
V8 powered Fiat getting a push (no change there)A 'lightly' modified Sierra CosworthThat's just taking the piss ;)
BA and the A-Team try a new colour schemeExcellent finish and went like stink too!Funky old Cortina
Beautiful Dodge Charger for you Dukes of Hazzard fansChargers give me the horn! ;)Don't mess with those good 'ol boys!
Racers doing their bit for the environmentTo think, I GAVE UP SMOKING!!Foggy 'innit
Getting sideways off the lineMy all-time favourite muscle car, the SS CamaroThis Chevy looked about as aerodynamic as an aircraft carrier - bloody quick though!
The bloke who was running the rod on the left thought it was a good idea to let his girlfriend drive. She managed to reverse into the two rods behind!!! 2 very pissed off rodders :(These rodders start them early!47mp of lawnmower powered madness
The Stella starts to take effectThe evening becomes a blurThe infamous PetrolTed
akes a change from the Dil ChadIt's all going horribly wrongTed gives his approval
Don't ask!

Tuesday 5th August

Once again, long time - no updates! That's work for you. However, today is a different matter altogether. A while back, I was in contact with CCC magazine which is THE publication in the UK for serious roadgoing/track cars, as opposed to the bolt-on-boyz type of mag that proliferate the UK newsagent shelves. Anyway, CCC showed interest in doing a technically based article (rather than a full on thrash as the car hasn't even seen a track yet!), for which Dave Walker, who acts as their technical guru was put forward. The plan was to get Dave out in the car for a few laps and do a shoot/technical feature on the car. A suitable day was booked with Bookatrack at Snetterton (106db drive-by limit to play it safe) and here's what happened....

I travelled up on the Monday night and stayed at Breckland Lodge which is a mile or so away from the circuit. I met up with a few other chaps that I knew, 2 of which with Radical SR3's (running slicks) and the infamous 'Pikey' with his S2000 in which AlexR had blagged a ride. The ride up was uneventful but proved a great test for the new steering wheel mounted remote system (see the modifications page for details). It worked flawlessly the whole way. The only niggle was that I still needed to change the lockable switches for momentary ones so you had to switch on-off to turn the indicators on and then on-off again to cancel. Still, that's sorted now. With the car tucked away in the car park, it was time for a couple of beers and for the Radical drivers to get over-confident ;)

Lying in wait Hope this all stays in one piece! Must get some extra ventilation in here Need to scrub these suckers in!

Up bright and early(ish) the next day, a quick trip to the local Shell station filled the car with Optimax 98RON fuel and we were ready to rock. The organisation of the day was to the usual high Bookatrack standard, with the exception of the amount of full-on race cars which were using it as a test day :( This is definitely becoming a problem and I hope they regulate it a bit more as the driving by some of the racers was far too race for the newbies out there. I'm used to it and twice I was almost run into by some RGB powered dickhead who outbraked an overtake into Russell - knob.

Anyway, enough moaning. I signed on for the advanced group session and got the car ready to roll. Out came the detritus of the overnight stay, spare tools/parts and dozens of other bits that I'd stowed in the car. It's amazing how much you can squeeze into it! Fluid levels/tyre pressures were checked and I was good to go. At this point, an old Locost racing mate turned up who thankfully accomodated all my gear in the back of his estate - so cheers for that Ged! Another surprise was the appearance of my fiancee Hels, who'd managed to get off work at the last minute and cadged a lift up with my brother in my old wedge. They'd had a bit of a scare when the roof popped off it at 130mph :-o Still, they managed to get it back with, surprisingly, only a bit of mud on the roof fabric to show for the experience. It was a great surprise, a nice one that is, to have her there as she's been very much a part of the build. Well, mainly patience for the amount of time I spent in the workshop!

Small hands, fat tyres! Read it and weep Max Power boyz Is that a switch out of place??? - No :) These are off to be Cermakromed soon

Before I knew it, it was our turn to go out. Hels and I got strapped in, I set the video camera up and away we went!! The damn throttle idle was playing up again, getting stuck at about 1500rpm - annoying, but useful when it comes to avoiding lift off oversteer. I know Snetterton pretty well as I've raced there several times, still, it takes a lap or two for the grey matter to recall the lines properly, not to mention getting the tyres/engine up to temperature. A lap or two later and it was time to 'push on' a bit =:) The run up Senna Straight, past the pits to Riches had me pulling off the throttle a lot earlier than I would in the race, but no prizes for binning this baby! Out of Riches with a hint of understeer into the run up to Sear, a bit harder on the brakes for the 90 degree right hander, too much speed in had the car understeering like a whale! Need to sort that out. Just clipping the new tarmac and hard on the power - Jeeeeezzzzzz, that blower sounds mint! Dispatch a couple of Caterhams on the Revett Straight and into the Esses, again, hard on the brakes to scrub some speed from the 150mph entry, swing into the first part, a bit of extra brake for the 90 right up to the Bomb hole. Now I'm having FUN! Clip the drain through the bomb hole and again, a little understeer as I round the corner towards Coram. Taking it easy as falling off here would be pretty fast and would probably involve a trip into the tyres! On the brakes again after Coram for the Russel chicane, boom-boom, two huge gouts of flame burst from the back of the car - watch out if you're behind ;) The car is amazingly go-kart like through Russel and runs the kerbs well, in fact, it's a little soft which isn't helping the understeer either, still, back on the throttle has the tail squirming and a nice little slide gets me on the right line to blitz past the pits with the blower screaming!!!! Judging by the look on the pit lane spectators faces, it was something to behold. So, on for another lap....

Still, after half a dozen laps, the oil temp warning light came on. Damn! Still, that's what this session is for. To identify problems and fix them. The mega-high (by UK standards) ambient temperatures weren't helping with the glorious sun pushing the temperatures into the 90s. A lap of cooling down knocked about 10 degrees off, but as soon as you started to gun it again, the alarm would come on. Plenty more sessions in the day, so we pulled in for a rest.

Ready to go at the track Trying to figure out how to shoot that monster Snapper with eye for detail Gratuitous engine shot

So this was the basic format for the morning. Dave Walker turned up with the snapper and a mate, I was happy for him to take the next session but he decided to wait until after lunch as they'd planned to take the shots during the break. So, I picked up another passenger and went out for some more fun. Things were going well until the car cut out under full load going up Senna Straight!! The whole thing just died - no idea why, no warning, nothing. Looking at the in-car video footage, I had got it on the rev-limiter just before, but changed up twice before it cut. Maybe fuel starvation? Dunno, but will be investigating. We cruised to a halt out of the way. I popped up the rear canopy dreading what I might find, but nothign seemed untoward? No fluid leaking, no belts broken, no holes in the block - weird? I tried restarting it, but being so hot the battery struggled to crank it over. The recovery truck arrived and, not having a damn towing eye, I opted to push the car back to the paddock to avoid any damage to it as we weren't far away and there's an access road just at the end of Riches that leads back to the medical centre. Poor Alex almost had a heart attack as he's a 20 a day man. I told him that it was for his own good ;) I changed my mind after about 200 yards in sweltering heat in fireproof overalls!!! Once back in the paddock I cursed myself for not giving Dave the session as a busted car would mean no pics and no feature. It was with some trepidation that I lifted the canopy but a more detailed inspection still didn't show anything odd? I tried to fire it up again and voila - it burst back into life with a healthy idle - go figure! Relieved that at least we could do what we had intended regarding the CCC feature, I decided to give it a rest until after lunch so they could get their stuff in the can.

But, the plans for a lunchtime shoot were shot as an F3 team had booked it for testing! That meant that we'd have to wait until the end of the day to get the shots done. I decided to keep the afternoon sessions short, get Dave out post haste and keep everything in one piece so we could go home, mission accomplished.

My baby during the stills shoot Fantastic weather - excellent pics Evil, pure evil =:) Variant on the shot

Dave suited up and got in the car. I got him settled and he psyched himself up. Later, I found that he'd been pretty intimidated by the thought of having all those ponies (630hp on the bench dyno) under his right foot! Before long, the session was called and away he went....

You go through a bizarre mix of emotions seeing someone else drive your car. I went from "for $*(&s sake don't bin it/break it" to "Give it large you pansy!!!" :) Still, to Dave's credit, he seemed to be taking it easy and for that (and for the sake of the mechanicals) I thank him! I managed to get to a fair position at Russell and caught a couple of laps on video from outside the car. It was the first time I'd seen my car in full (well, half ;) flight and bugger me - what a beast! The blower really HOWLS as you get the power on - awesome!

I was wary of the high temperatures and warned Dave to this. Sure enough, after a few laps the oil temp had risen again and despite backing off for a bit (which brought it down), as soon as he powered on again it would rise - quickly! Half the problem I think is the position of the oil cooler in the side pod. Air tends to pass over the grill rather than through it. Still, I've got a solution for this courtesy of AndyCanAm. Watch this space. After pulling into the paddock and extracting himself from the car, it was time to get some feedback.

GTR and the Snetterton paddock Alex poses next to the not-so-locost That's Hels lid :) Dave Walker getting psyched

Dave couldn't believe that the car was that powerful. Not 'couldn't believe' as in 'WOW - unreal', more 'Oh, it only feels like it's got 300-350bhp!!!'. Eh? Pardon? 350bhp!?!?! Given that the car has a 6.3 litre displacement and a ruddy great supercharger on top you'd really have to try to get the power DOWN to that sort of figure? We chatted about it and I could only reason that either a) He was driving like a wuss or b) the power delivery of the supercharger deceives you into thinking that it's now as powerful as it is. The thing is, with a turbo charged car for example, or even a high power normally aspirated car, the power is really all-or-nothing. Or maybe that should be nothing-then-all? You get lag with a turbo, then a big wallop of power and normally aspirated motors have to get on-cam to really start motoring. The supercharger does its stuff from 0rpm to the redline. No fuss, no drama, just endless, linear power. We chatted about it, and being a man requiring scientific proof before he's convinced, we took the opportunity to nip round to his workshop (about 20mins away from the circuit), to strap the car to his rolling road. Besides, we couldn't take the running shots until the trackday had ended.

So off on the backroads we went until we finally arrived at his new workshop. Very nice they are too! A far cry from his place near Brixton, maybe Dave is getting old after all (his words, not mine ;). I carefully backed the car onto the rollers and we strapped it down. With 4 big blokes on the car and ratchet straps on the front wheels, with Dave at the controls, we carefully started the first run. We'd got up to about 3rd gear when the car tried to leave the rollers! Dave looked at me and said 'Its never done that before!' - which boded well :) More ratchet straps were attacehd until we were confident that we weren't going to achieve 'lift-off' during the run.

So, onto run no. 2. We already knew that the max bhp that the road could record would be about 380bhp, so a breakthrough here would show that it must be Dave and not the car ;) 1st, 2nd, 3rd - the blower was really starting to whine - 4th....5th bloody hell, let me off this thing!!! It sounded manic and I though the world was gonna end! Still, Dave kept his foot planted and after a second or so at almost max revs, he wound it down.

Now for the results. Well, my expectation were such that I was going to be happy with anything above 350bhp (but we all know that you want a LOT more). Well, there was the line on the graph, 50, 100, 150, 250, 350, 380 - then flatline! The car had easily maxed out the road. I was happy. But that's not he end of the story. By using the torque curve as a guide, Dave can calculate approximately how much power we 'would' have got had the road been able to record it. It's a bit tricky with the supercharger as teh high under canopy temps would distort the picture somewhat (with a negative effect), but, he conservatively calculated that the car was pumping out a whopping 510+bhp - needless to say, I was WELL happy. Dave seemed a bit surprised but it was there on the PC screen as a 'scientific' test. This is with the car totally unfettled and running the jets it came with. With a bit of tuning, more charge cooling then who knows what she'll do!

Happy with the result, we trundled back to the circuit for the photoshoot on track. Most amusing watching Dave running kerbs at about 10mph to get a good 'action' shot :) That done, we packed up, said our goodbyes and set off home. What a day! Roll on October when I get to see the article. I just hope that they show the 'whole' story! :)

Tuesday 9th September

Well, as you now know the car is due to be in CCC magazine, however, some sad news borke this week that CCC is to be no more. What a crying shame after 40 years of quality material iPC in their wisdom have considered it economically unviable :( Still, the good news is that my car is on the cover of the final ever issue. To see what sort of fun we had, I've put together a brief video of the car in full-on action. Just click the link below, crank up the volume and enjoy! (my nickname is Stig by the way in case you get confused by the intro!!)

Alex sums up the GTR and the vid will do the rest
Click on this link to view the Snetterton video

Monday 1st March 2004

My goodness, has it really been 6 months since my last update??!? Unreal how time flies. So, what have I been up to in that time. Well, I got married and used the GTR as the wedding car and err.... that's the last time I used it! A combination of honeymoon, work, more work, crap weather, even more work has meant that I've had precious little free time in which to tinker with the car. In the run up to the wedding it was all DIY at home to accomodate the in(out)laws, then, our complete (*&"$$$% of a landlord served notice on the workshop! With only a few weeks to vacate, we had a stroke of luck with my brother who was looking for some premises. It turned out that a local unit had become available at the right price so we came up with a rent deal between us and now have about 3000 square foot of workshop for the cars :) One of the major factors keeping me off the road in the GTR was the complete pain of getting it in and out of the old workshop. Cars were constantly parked in front of the doors and it was a tight squeeze to get in and out. Now, we've got a huge metal shutter door which you could get a bus through!! Hopefully, this will encourage me to make more trips in the Ult once the weather improves.

Anyway, you'd think that all this 'lay-up' time would mean that I'd have done plenty to the car. Well, in short - no! For starters, there wasn't anything that really needed doing. It all works and other than an oil change and minor service it's good to go! Still, even the best can be improved ;)

If you remember from my last track outing, that old spectre 'cooling' was still an issue. I'd made it much better than it was, but I still wasn't 100% happy with it. So, how could I bring the temperatures down even further? I still maintain that half the problem is that too much heat gets trapped under the rear canopy, with this in mind, I looked for ways to combat it. The most obvious source of the problem is the exhaust system. Those big pipes may sound great but they're also damn big radiators of heat! I knew of a ceramic coating process that would help dramatically reduce the exhaust temperatures, whilst still looking great. It seemed a shame to cover up the polished stainless, but this process can also be polished to give a chromed appearance. There seemed to be quite a bit of interest from other owners, so I negotiated with the supplier to secure a bulk-buy deal on a race-spec finish which was internally and externally coated in 3 layers. In the end, we had about 9 exhaust systems that were up for coating!

Cermachromed System fitted and ready to rumble

It took a few weeks to get them done, but the results were worthwhile. The original stainless finish was shot blasted to give a good key for the ceramic. It's then coated and baked in an oven at over 500 degrees C. The headers are then polished to give a chrome-like finish. As you can see, they look great! I opted to have the entire system done, headers, silencers and tails whereas some other owners opted for headers only. In this case, I took the view that more is less - if you know what I mean ;) Re-fitting them was a bit of a pain as the manifold bolts are so short, that it's easy to cross thread them. One side went on no problem at all, but in doing the other I ended up having to re-seat 3 of the threads!! Anyway, after a lot of swearing and sweating (I did NOT want to bugger up a manifold thread) it went on fine. A quick test run showed no blowby despite using the original gaskets (only 2k miles on them!) which is in fact the first time the car has run since October! Now I'm looking forward to some warmer weather where I can finally enjoy the car some more :) Expect more updates soon!

Saturday 8th May 2004

Another monster gap between updates I'm afraid :(

So, what's new. Since my trip to Le Mans last year, I've noticed a problem with my throttle cable. Basically, when the engine gets warm, it struggles to drop to a low idle sitting at up to 2k revs sometimes. After some headscratching, I came to the conclusion that the cause was probably a 'sticky' throttle cable. Despite adding heavier return springs, the problem persisted. The throttle cable in an Ultima has a fairly tortuous run from the pedal box, up along the sidepod, into the engine bay and finally, to the carb. This, and the fact that it gets so hot in the engine bay led me to believe that the cable was sticking and stopping the carb butterflies from fully closing.

I recalled reading something on the Pistonheads forum about using teflon lined cables for some application or other and decided that it was worth a try to cure this problem. After some research, I found a suppiler (Venhill cables in Dorking) who could make up a cable to the required specifications, helped by the factory who kindly sent them a sample cable to copy. Venhill were very helpful and also suggested upping the cable sheath diameter from 6mm to 7mm in order to further reduce friction. I knew this would be a pain to thread through as the current cable was a pretty tight fit where it passes through the luggage pud, but if a job's worth doing etc....

After agreeing the specs (marine grade stainless steel cable in a teflon lined 7mm sheath) and arranging payment for the 'one-off' cable, it arrived a few days later. Initial inspection of the cable looked promising with a very slick 'feel' to it as it passed back and forth through the sheath.

So now the hard work and skimmed knuckles! After looking at the cable run, I decided that the only viable option for replacement was to use the old cable to draw the new one through the side pod. I detached the shackle from the carb and pedal and withdrew the inner cable. I was amazed at the difference in flex between the old galvanised cable and the new stainless braid. No wonder the old one was more prone to sticking!

New teflon lined accelerator cable flex comparison with old galvanised wire

After removing my coolant hose insulation from the luggage pod (the old cable was cable tied to is) I gaffer (Duck) taped the old and new sheathes end to end and carefully pulled them through. A bit nerve racking as I knew that if the two cables were to separate, I'd have the devil's own job to get the new one through! Still, patience paid off and after a while I got the new cable into place. I revised the routing at both ends to keep bends in the cable to a minimum, connected up the two ends to the carb and pedal and checked it for 'feel'. Initial impressions were of a lot smoother cable action. Whilst I haven't had a chance to check it whilst hot yet (as the weather has been poo), I'll update once I've given it a proper shake down. Still, it's definitely an improvement and for a change, quite an inexpensive one!

Sunday 20th June 2004

Well, went for a trundle in the old girl to the Gaydon Heritage Centre's 'Supercar Sunday'. We'd been invited to display the car and seeing as the weather looked reasonable, decided to give the car a bit of a polish and gun it up to Gaydon. Despite not having been run for a couple of weeks, the GTR fired on the button aided by one of my latest acquisitions - an Optimate battery conditioner. I'd thoroughly recommend these units if your car/bike sits around for any length of time as it keeps the battery in tip-top condition. Having been frustrated in the past by a distinct lack of battery juice and also, finding both of my bike batteries dead, I now have an Optimate on each. Trust me, it's the best 40 quid a pop you can spend. Anyway, back to the story. With a gleaming body and engine bay we set off early Sunday morning which made for a traffic free run. I'd been a bit concerned about a noise from what sounded like the clutch intill I squirted by a Lax Power Rover on the M40 at about ???mph there was a 'dddring' sound and voila - no more noise? I'm guessing that a small stone had got into the top of the housing and stuck in the basket. Whatever it was got cleared out by that little blat so no more worries.

The trip up was uneventful, actually, come to think of it this was the first time I'd ever driven the Ultima just like it was a 'normal' can. No having to look at temp. readings on the Stack, no high tickover when stopping for a junction, we didn't even have the aircon on as the cabin was comfortably cool even with the helicopter vents closed. This was the moment I'd been looking forward to, just enjoying driving the car without any niggling distractions. The buzz of winding up that supercharger never goes away, just gets better and better. The engine seems to have bedded in and I'm getting what seems like a lot smoother power delivery as well as better economy! The car is literally a joy to be in. It seems to be a joy to behold for onlookers too. There seems to be a chain reaction when you get behind another car. Driver checks rear view mirror and sees wide, low, menacing supercar - mouths the words 'what the f*%$' - immediately tells everyone else in the car to check out the beast behind - all heads swivel - several jaws drop and mouth 'oh my G*%' - everyone waves excitedly :) I've lost count of the number of times we've been snapped on the move by people with mobile phones. I swear someone is going to fall out of a passenger window one of these days ;)

Upon arrival at Gaydon we were directed into position alongside a mint De Tomaso Pantera that I'd seen there in previous years. We got there quite early so went to find a coffee whilst eyeing the fairly ominous clouds that had appeared despite bright sunshine on the way up. As the day wore on, a variety of exotica turned up, Ferrari, Porsche, Lotus, Ford GT40s, TVRs you name it. It wasn't as busy as it had been when we last visited two years ago but a good turnout nonetheless. During the day several judges were apparently making the rounds selecting 4 cars that would go head-to-head for the 'Supercar of the Year' award. We were pleasantly surprised when we heard that our car was one of those selected for the final :) We were up against a TVR Cerbera, a lovely Lamborghini Murcielago and a Porsche 911 convertible. After an interview about the cars with the erstwhile Steve Berry (who I've always found intensly irritating) With a combination of audience reaction and judges opinion the finalists were narrowed down to 2. So goodbye Porsche and TVR ;) It was always going to be tough going up against 170k's worth of Lambo, even if we were packing more performance, but we were more than pleased when we were finally awarded 2nd place (the organisers later told us that they'd selected us to win but the public opinion was in favour of the Lambo which was indeed, gorgeous) and a trip around the Aston Martin DB9 factory which is only normally available for DB9 owners. So that was nice ;)

So I'll leave you with a few pics that I took on the day. I'll leave it up to you to decide on your own 'Supercar of the Year 2004' :)

Gaydon Supercar Sunday 2004Gaydon Supercar Sunday 2004Gaydon Supercar Sunday 2004
Gaydon Supercar Sunday 2004Gaydon Supercar Sunday 2004Gaydon Supercar Sunday 2004
Gaydon Supercar Sunday 2004Gaydon Supercar Sunday 2004Gaydon Supercar Sunday 2004

Wednesday 8th September

Well, a sorry day today, a I've just sold the GTR. It has been one of the most fantastic projects of my life, but it's time to move on. I can say in all honestly that owning one of these cars should be a must for anyone who has petrol in their veins. THere really is no substitute.

So what now? I've built a Dutton, racing Locosts and now an Ultima? Well, the truth is I don't have a clue at the moment, but stay tuned in your a fan of my exploits as I won't be carless for long - that's a promise! :)