How to Build a Locost in 48 hours

Jan 8, 2004 update to the Kit Car & Replica Locost project car

This is the $1600 Miata we started with. Except for a missing window, ratty top, and general aura of moldiness, the car seemed to be in pretty good mechanical condition, which is what we were most concerned with. Had we been brave enough, it certainly would have made the 700 mile drive from Florida
Once we pulled it into the shop at CMC, the teardown began. In a little over two hours, we went from a running, driving Miata, to a stripped shell and a pile of parts. Most of the car came apart with little trouble, although disassembling the dash was probably as complex an operation as everything e
Though our Miata appeared to be in reasonable mechanical shape, it did seem to lack power, although the engine had decent compression. When we saw this section of the exhaust, we suspected that this may have had something to do with it.
The CMC 7 frame awaits the guts of the Miata.
Smurf blue fiberglass fenders
Lined up

You’d probably be shocked to learn how much of the assembly was completed with adjustable wrenches.

Admittedly, when we showed up at Champion Motorcars in Madison, Alabama, armed only with a ratty Miata, and faced the welded-up bundle of tubes we intended to turn into something resembling a Lotus 7, we were more than a little intimidated.

Stripping the Miata to a shell in a little over two hours eased our fears a bit, and when the real wrenching began, the light at the end of the tunnel began to glow brightly. In just over 48 hours from when we rolled the Miata into the shop, we drove out in a reasonably complete CMC 7, that could be autocrossed competitively this weekend with just a couple of hours of sorting.

Of course, the project wasn’t simply to build a car quickly, but the quick assembly did make the point of how well thought out the CMC Miata-Locost package is. A reasonably competent mechanic could complete this project on his or her own in a month or so of evenings and weekends. You don’t really even need many specialized tools—in fact, you’d probably be shocked to learn how much of the assembly was completed with adjustable wrenches.

With only a few exceptions, this is mostly a bolt-together project, with very little welding required. What welding is required does not require an expert, or even gorgeous welds (so long as they’re strong).

One tip: Having the frame at waist level on sawhorses greatly aided the assembly and saved our backs a lot of pain. If you have the means to raise the car this high, take advantage of it.

Right next door to the CMC fabrication shop (okay, actually two doors down—right next door is a guy who build robots. No, not the cool kind that fight, the kind that build stuff) is the fiberglass shop where our body panels were being prepared. CMC did a pretty good job at matching the Smurf Blue of our donor car, which we thought was a nice touch. The body panels were a nice fit, too, with no trimming of fiberglass required once they were installed.

What we brought home was pretty much a complete car. It needs its street equipment (lights, etc.) put in place and wired, a good nut-and-bolt once over, and some miscellaneous hardware installed, but apart from that, it’s a real car.

We’ve had it in our possession for about a week now, and it’s just starting to sink in. Actually, every time we walk into the garage we can still smell the fresh fiberglass curing, so our euphoria might be chemically induced.

Anyway, in our time with it, we’ve mostly been taking inventory, cleaning it up and getting it ready for the finishing touches, which mostly include the installation of the equipment to make it street legal. Front head and marker lights are mounted, and we have some cool-looking Caterham-style rear lights to complete the package.

We’re also exploring seating options. While the Miata seats fit nicely, and look appropriate, they are more suited to taller drivers because of their location. They use the rear firewall of the car for support, so there is little adjustability available save for extra padding. At any rate, we’re probably going to need more support for autocrossing than the stock seats will provide anyway, so we’ve been talking to Ultrashield about using one of their Spec Miata seats. These seats are designed for narrow environments, so they should work in our CMC. Now all we have to do is devise some simple, safe, adjustable mounting system. Suggestions and E-mailed diagrams are welcomed.

This weekend we plan on tackling most of the wiring duty for the lights.


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