Simon's Clubman Site

Donor vehicles and Sourcing parts

One of the more challenging aspects of building a Locost is sourcing used parts at a good price. The cheapest and suggested way is to purchase a donor vehicle, from which you can source the majority of mechanical parts required.


Donor Vehicles

The Champion "bible" suggests using a Ford Mk 2 Escort, however in Australia this is not viable due to the age of Escorts. It's very difficult to get the one single donor in Australia, because we have to use modern engines, and virtually all modern fours are FWD. In fact, there are very few rear wheel drive vehicles still being produced these days. To my way of thinking, the best single donors are the Mazda MX-5 (Miata) , or the Nissan Silvia or 200SX. To purchase one of these vehicles secondhand in Australia, you would looking upward of Aus $10,000 (US$6,000), and unless you have an unlimited budget, it is not viable option to strip a vehicle of this value. However, there are a couple of ways you get there. One is to keep an eye on the local Auction houses, such as Pickles, and the other is to buy through an Auto Dismantler who imports accident damaged vehicles from Japan. The options here are to buy a front cut, a engine package, or to just buy the parts you need. I think a front cut is the best way to go, as you get the entire front half of the car. As well as getting things such as fluid bottles, wiring looms and relays, you end up with stacks of nuts and bolts which will be handy down the track. One such Dismantler is Adelaide Jap Dismantlers.

For many years, the Toyota 4AGE 16v motor has been the automatic selection for Lotus 7 clones and kitcars in Australia. This motor has been around since the early 1980s, and is becoming tired. It is also believed not to meet the ADR37-01 emissions standard. However, depending on your Engineer, he may be willing to pass the motor. If so, for the budget conscious, the Toyota AE70 / KE70 series Corolla would make an excellent choice of donor. Beware that the 5 speed KE70 gearbox will NOT match the 4AGE bellhousing, but the AE70 (T50) gearbox will.

For builders looking to match a new(ish) engine with old running gear, a good place to watch for cheap donors is the local council impound auctions. All the good cars are claimed, so there is only rubbish left, but again we don't care if the body is just rust and paint, or if the engine is a boat anchor. $20 will usually get you some kind of car, and the sort of rust buckets at these auctions are exactly what we want... old 70's and 80's RWD Geminis, Escorts, Toranas, Cortinas, etc. Darren Ponton can tell you a story or three, check out this early diaries.

Other places to watch are your local wreckers, the Trading Post, and keep an eye out for fire / water / hail damaged cars.

For my project, I chose the MX5 which I believe is "made" for a Locost. Whilst the engine is only 1600cc, it is a very nippy 16valve fuel injected motor, which fits the Locost chassis as if it was "made" for it. It also has an excellent 5 speed gearbox which Ben Chapman describes as "the sweetest gear shift around". If you are looking for more power, consider the Nissan SR20 in either fuel injected or blown mode. Many of these options are being used in builds around Australia at present.

Regardless of what major source of parts you select, there will be some parts required which offer little variation over what is suggested in the "book". These parts include the steering box and front stub axles, which are discussed below in more detail.

Engines

You are going to need an engine... and unless you are planning on running on LPG or paying huge $$$$ for an emissions test, you've got to get an engine that meets ADR37-01 (or its American equivalent). This basically means any engine manufactured for sale in Australia (not imported) after January 1997, or for sale in America after 1992, with all associated emissions gear, including the factory computer.
This list of current model Australian cars, courtesy of Carl Rouse, details which engines they use. Many modern 4 cylinder cars are FWD, the only exceptions being commercial vehicles, some people movers, big $$$$ luxury cars (BMW etc), and some sports cars. However some modern engines use the same bellhousing pattern as older RWD cars used, for example the Toyota A and S engines, some Ford engines, and a few others. This means that we can use a modern FWD engine, and older and cheaper RWD bellhousing, gearbox and diff.

Whilst the majority of vehicles mentioned here are FWD with seemingly no matching RWD bellhousing, I hope some people out there will know of a matching bellhousing. Adapter plates can be made by specialist Machine shops that fit between the bellhousing and the engine, to provide attachment points at the locations that they both expect. This way you can use any engine you like, but is considerably more work.

In addition to this site, check out the following builders web sites for examples:

MX5 - Ben Chapman

Nissan - Dick Lukoszek

Toyota - Darren Ponton

If any other builders out in Locost land are aware of other Web sites detailing builds using the above engines, please email me with the address.

Front Uprights

To keep things simple, most builders retain the suggested Coritna uprights. I have used the TE model uprights, and have found them a bit taller than the TC/TD suggested in the book. To accommodate this extra height, I have had to raise the mounting position of the front upper suspension brackets. I also found that the top mounting hole on the upright was too thick, which meant that the Transit drag link shaft was not long enough to go all the way through. I had to get the eyelet machined by 6mm on the underside, so that the lock nut would fit properly.

Steering Rack

The book suggests using a Ford Escort rack. For a standard width Locost, this is still the preferred option. However if you follow the trend of increasing the width 100mm, the Cortina rack is the common pick as it matches the width more or less without modification.

I know of Locosts being built using the Nissan 200SX rack, and according to Dave King, the Holden Gemini (TD) rack will fit Cortina uprights also.

Rear Axle

The most common axle setup is the live rear axle, and depending on the width of your Locost, the popular choices are either Escort or Cortina, though the subject often comes up of a different suitable donor. Other axles that have been successfully used are:

  • MX-5, has an independent rear suspension that can be used as a unit though it is wider than the standard Locost chassis, and will require a number of chassis modifications to use. Has been used by Ben Chapman.

  • Silvia or 200sx, also an independent rear suspension, has been used successfully.

  • Datsun 1600, another IRS setup, though this time it is not a self-contained unit. Requires chassis modifications to use. Tricky Hargraves can provide details of this setup.

  • For a standard width setup, the Gemini is also an option (although it may be a bit narrow).

Sourcing Bits

If you have to buy a part to repair something, then it's usually a good idea to buy it new. This especially applies to bushes, steering, brakes and other safety related components. Usually if it needs replacement, then it's a part that wears naturally and it's going to have to be replaced again later, so why only change it once ??? Secondhand bits are still usable, as long as you know what to look at to ensure that it's still a quality part. It's not much good getting gears that look all right, but lose half their teeth the first time you put your foot down (very unlikely but...).