Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Your locost library

Nearly every person who builds a locost starts in the same place. Ron Champion's book Build a Sports Car for £250...and Race It! is the read for the aspiring locost builder. Back in the day, it was the only book available. Thankfully, that is no longer the case.

Several books have come about to update or expand upon the classic locost builder's manual. Through my obsessive research (and using my ample free time), I've acquired and read most of them. Keep in mind that nothing is wrong with Champion's book. It's a really good place to start, if nothing else to learn the origin of the design. Besides, the book makes building a car sound so simple that even I can make one.

Build Your Own Sports Car on a Budget by Chris Gibbs - This book gets my pick for best overall. The chassis drawings are top-notch (the chassis and drawings were all modeled in Solidworks CAD software), and in my opinion the chassis design strikes the right balance between the "awe-shucks" garage tech of Champion's book and the impossible-to-build-at-home Caterham frame.

Of course, the biggest deal with this book (for me) is that it incorporates an independent rear suspension, and makes a few nods to incorporating Miata guts. In any case, if there was one "must get" book I think this one takes the cake.

How to Build a Cheap Sports Car by Keith Tanner - You should get this book if for no other reason that it was written with the North American builder in mind. Keith, a major guru of everything Miata, bought his frame and then turned it into the poster child for American locosters.

While Tanner didn't construct his own chassis, his book covers a lot of detail not mentioned in the other two books. This is especially true with regards to suspension setup, bodywork and exhaust header construction.

The Car Builder's Manual by Lionel Baxter - I tore through the previous three books, but this book didn't drive me so nuts. It's a good reference to have on hand, but the information is so general that it is more of a top-level book than a dedicated locost manual. If you started getting into cars late in life (like me), this will be a good overview of the process. Still, 30% of the references in the book are of the Lotus 7/locost variety, so there is some targeted info if you know what to look for.

There are a whole host of other books that look like valuable reads (Engineer to Win, Competition Car Suspension and the Kimini book all look awesome), but I haven't gotten to those yet. In the end no book is perfect, but a collection of books (complimented by the internet) should cover nearly every aspect of car design from start to finish.

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