Page 1

Sept Aries:Sept Aries

13/10/09

10:37

Page 146

M A R THE

T C E F EF

146

KIT-CAR


Sept Aries:Sept Aries

13/10/09

10:37

Page 147

ape of ng sleek sh the low-slu es -screen lik ro lly ae a e th Steve re uated by nt ce ac e, lad effective. the Locob ple is very ough sim which, alth

RT, O P S TOR IRST O M EF ES I H T R A E DER 7, TH OR F N U S 200 . ME BORN A L I N D LE RE APR VERE E B I T W O S S ISC N1 POS WIFE D O E E D H S YN ME T T ND HI H R S O I IAN GF O L BY A T S N I A E 4 R E F A UCKE ANY B OK O J NO ETS EVE H COMP E S I H T S H S E THE DUCES WO T T O B RO PIT P S OOK D AS E T Y N ,D E IT ND OMPA AM A N C IGN SO S HE T R STA BLADE O KIT-CAR 147 LOC


Sept Aries:Sept Aries

13/10/09

M

10:37

Page 148

any people hold the view that cars in the Lotus Seven mould adhere to a pretty rigid hierarchy with Caterham at the top, closely followed by Westfield, Dax and Raw, with the rest arranged in order of the length of time they have been in production and with cars developed from the Ron Champion Locost book occupying the bottom slots. And there’s a logic to that view. Caterham, being the direct descendant the original Lotus Seven, has been in production for over fifty years while Westfield has been around for half that time. It therefore follows that Caterham learned many of the lessons involved in perfecting the design a long time before Westfield twigged and it’s the same all the way down the line. But it’s a slightly flawed argument as if it were unerringly true, there’s no way that Ross Brawn could have designed the new Brawn GP car and taken to the track to decimate the competition that had a great advantage in development time. And it’s one of those flaws that accounts for the Aries Motorsport Locoblade being such an excellent car and achieving a status far higher than many would feel is its allotted station in automotive life. The Locoblade story started with Ian Gray’s Stuart Taylor Motorsport. Ian started by taking advantage of the fact that many enthusiasts attracted by the idea of the Locost would lack the skills and facilities to create the car from scratch so he, among others, came up with a chassis, suspension and body

panels to allow Locost enthusiasts to buy the parts that were beyond their ability to make, and then construct the car according to their own personal requirements. From there, it was a short hop to producing a dedicated kit, the Locoblade name coming from the car’s later adoption of the Honda Fireblade engine. But Ian didn’t just make the bits and sit back. He continually developed the car effectively such that the majority of cars running in the 750 Motor Club championship are Locoblades. Steve Huckerby’s involvement began slowly. An ex-Army, REME trained engineer, Steve originally met Ian through a local car club when both were running MGBs. From there, Steve’s career has been within the automotive sector and he next met Ian when he was running a scrap yard and Ian came to him for parts. Thereafter, Steve spent two stints working for Ian during which he got to know the product inside out and when Ian wanted to sell the project to pursue other ideas, Steve immediately bought it as he really liked the car. That was in 2007, since when Steve’s methodical approach has attended to all the small details that Ian’s high-speed enthusiasm often missed and while the car itself is little different from the Locoblade that has now accounted for over 500 kits, as ever, it’s the little things that make the difference. In terms of its specification, there’s little mystery. The 16-gauge steel tube chassis is mainly in square section but there’s a bit of round in there too. The front suspension employs double roundtube wishbones mounted on metallastic bushes, one of Steve’s minute improvements being to widen the jaws of

well car’s quality as y illustrates the ba e on gin cti tru en e ns Th ch to its co tidious approa rmance. rfo pe its as Steve’s fas for ll s we of which bode and finish all

148

KIT-CAR

ely works suprem ift gearchange ult res the The paddle-sh it’s d instea t due to luck; sitive, fast well but it’s no po a ers liv R&D that de of painstaking ge. accurate chan ly ing err un d an

the wishbone mounting brackets by 1.5 mm to stop the steel inserts binding on the brackets and causing detrimental wear. The uprights are Ford Cortina and though they are becoming harder to find, Steve has a decent supply of them. The coilspring dampers are Pro-Tech aluminium units with 250 lb springs and there’s no anti-roll bar. At the back it’s pretty much the same set-up with double round-tube wishbones, Pro-Tech coilspring damper units and Aries’ fabricated steel uprights, although a liveaxle version remains available for those who like their on road thrills a bit more basic. The steering rack is from the Ford Escort with 2.5 turns lock to lock while the column is from an early Sierra with a collapsible facility. The pedals are Aries units with a floor-mounted brake and clutch and a pendulum throttle. The brakes are solid discs all round clamped by Wilwood four-pot callipers at the front and Ford at the back, the system being operated by twin master-cylinders and a balance bar. The engine is a Honda Fireblade unit but it’s an 893 cc unit from an early model and develops just 120 bhp @ 10,500 rpm with 64 lbs ft @ 8,500. It’s not a great deal of power by any standards, car or bike engine, but it works supremely well and endows the car with truly exciting performance. The engine has been rebuilt by Steve but is pretty well standard save for an uprated EBC Street Racer clutch. The six-speed sequential box drives a one-piece propshaft (reverse is electric) to a Sierra 7”, 3.62:1 differential with shortened driveshafts driving 14” Minilite replica wheels fitted with 185/60 Toyo Proxy tyres inflated to 18 psi all round. You can


Sept Aries:Sept Aries

13/10/09

10:37

Page 149

fit an LSD but Steve has tried both and doesn’t really think the LSD has much to contribute to taming around 100 bhp at the back wheels compared to the cost of its inclusion. Finally, the gearchange is an Aries developed paddle-shift system that is among the best I have used. It’s simple, positive, has good feel and won’t let you down. Anything Steve’s not happy about? As ever when you’re so close to a project, there is inevitably a list of things Steve would like to find time to attend to but there’s nothing customers will readily spot. However, one area of concern is the reverse system which Steve doesn’t like. Yes it’s very cheap and easy to do but he has in mind a much better solution that will fit any bike-engined car and once tested on the Locoblade and perfected,

attending to current development projects, the spares and repair requirements of Locost racers, and jobs he undertakes on behalf of other customers, one of whom was present on the day of my visit looking at the final stages of the conversion of his Westfield from a Crossflow engine and Rocket box to a Yamaha R1. Whilst on the subject, though the Locoblade name was originally selected to denote the adoption of the Fireblade engine with a few other equally inventive monikers dreamed up to apply to cars using a variety of bike engines, it seems to now apply to the model itself no matter what engine is fitted. On that front, the list is long and varied and covers the Ford crossflow and now the Zetec, the Toyota 4AGE, Mazda MX5

forwards to reach the wheel comfortably. In addition, it was also perfectly comfortable for me at over 6’ as well as for Steve who is a good few inches shorter. There’s quality here too; nothing flashy or in your face but just nicely made components, well put together. The chassis is neatly welded, with all joints dressed and professionally finished, the body panels are simple but fit well and the aluminium side panels just accentuate the car’s low-slung look. Inside, the theme of simplicity and neatness continues. The dashboard is a plain gloss black GRP moulding fixed to the scuttle panel with dome-headed setscrews all militarily equidistant. Centrally mounted is the ETB Digidash with a row of rocker switches below while

ned and ically well desig pit is ergonom ly, the long ge an The long cock Str ts. rs of all heigh ive orter. dr for le tab a good bit sh comfor Steve who is d an me th bo column suits

ortable cockpit is comf y simple, the all necessary Although utterl d an ion sit nt driving po t. with an excelle lly well laid ou fitted and equa ll we nt me equip

he hopes many other owners of bikeengined cars will agree, especially as it’s a lot cheaper than a Quaife 1:1 reverse box that splits the propshaft. There’s also the question of the clutch. To be honest, I found no problem with it but as Steve points out, on a bike, the rider only needs to pull the clutch lever a fraction of an inch to effect a gear change while a footoperated system moves much further when operated by the body’s largest and strongest muscle. He has partially addressed the point by putting two cable mounting moles on the clutch pedal to allow for a different mechanical advantage and distance the clutch travels according to whether a car of bike engine is being used. However, he has in mind a further refinement that will both speed and enhance gearchanges so he’s got plenty to keep him busy when not

with its box, plus a wide variety of bike engines with either carburettors or injection, all of which fit completely beneath the bonnet with no need to cut holes. But back to this car. One of the things Steve particularly liked about the Locoblade was the shape. To the casual observer, it doesn’t look much different to many of its direct competitors but to Steve, it just captures that low, squat, sleek shape that conveys its ability way before you climb aboard and press the button. Although the Locost’s wheelbase is on a par with its rivals, its low-slung looks are partly due to the length of the cockpit which is a major blessing for tall drivers who have bags of leg-room and, due the manner in which the column extends further into the cockpit than is the norm, they don’t have to bend

slightly to the right is a column of ignition, two toggle switches and the horn button. With the gear change on the column, all that remains is the reverse lever and the handbrake on the tunnel-top. There’s more of the same under the bonnet where Steve has indulged his fastidious approach to remove everything possible from the bulkhead to achieve a neat and orderly engine bay with the Fireblade nestling purposefully towards the passenger side of the car. Even now Steve points out aspects of the installation that he would ideally like to change but they’re all aspects of the construction of this particular car rather than alterations that would have any beneficial effect on future kits other than impressing people enough to place orders. Thus in summary, the Locoblade demonstrator is

KIT-CAR

149


Sept Aries:Sept Aries

13/10/09

10:37

Page 150

a pretty basic car fitted with a significantly less powerful engine than the majority of its ilk but built to an excellent standard that shows great potential and to find out just how great, you need to climb aboard. After two days of glorious weather, it’s raining today; nothing torrential, just a persistent drizzle that shows no sign of abating. But it’s not at all cold so I don the helmet Steve kindly lends me and decide to give it a whirl. Driving a strange car in the wet is never the best way to get to know it, especially as you need to push it to have anything to write about, but the Locoblade immediately impresses. The ride is excellent and the whole car feels very well screwed together, grippy, capable and confidence inspiring. More than that, the gearing is excellent and though I’ve driven plenty of Fireblade engined cars with 14” wheels, 185/60 tyres and a Sierra 3.62:1 differential, I conclude that the ratios in the six-speed sequential box fitted to the smaller, 893 cc early Fireblade engine must differ slightly from those fitted to the later, more powerful 919 cc models as the engine is never screaming and exhibits good torque characteristics. Also immediately impressive is the paddle-shift gear

150

KIT-CAR

change. As it’s a solid lever, you can either pull on one side to change up and t’other to change down, or you can operate it on one side pulling to go up and pushing to go down but it’s not just a simple matter of a cable fitted between the paddles and the gear change on the box. Steve has laboured long and hard to find exactly the right diameter and construction of cable to give such feel and precision to the system and though I’ve always maintained that the Dax cowhorn paddle-shift is the best I’ve used, this Lococblade change is pretty well on a par with it. As I become more familiar with the car, it continues to impress, especially when I up the tempo. The engine may be pretty mild in terms of its 120 bhp power output but this Locoblade hits the scales at an SVA confirmed 460 kgs equating to a power to weight ratio of 256 bhp per ton. The weight is slightly misleading as SVA / IVA weigh each axle and combine the weights to calculate the overall weight and the maths isn’t always foolproof but whatever, the Locoblade is certainly significantly under 500 kgs. And that combined with the Fireblade’s revhappy personality creates the potential for huge enjoyment, brilliantly backed up by the Loco’s handling, grip and balance.

t as ve started ou blade may ha lopment The Aries Loco ve de ted ec st but well dir a simple Loco s created an rformance ha pe d an rts of pa r. ca d capable entertaining an

As the rain slackens and the roads begin to dry out, I can start to push. Press the throttle and the car really starts to reel in the horizon as the needle swings enthusiastically towards 10,000 rpm but there’s a price to pay as the car begins to feel a little light at the front as well as bouncing about on bumpy surfaces. It’s nothing alarming but just something that takes the edge off my appetite to push it harder. It’s also something that often affects other hyper-light cars on bumpy or undulating surfaces. Even so, 120 bhp


Sept Aries:Sept Aries

13/10/09

10:37

Page 151

CH U M K O O L T N DOES T I , R E V R S BUT E R S O B T O I T L E A P U M S O A C C RECT I D TO THE S T I F O Y N UAT, A Q M S , O T W O T L N E T R A E H F DIF E RES T R U O T F P E A B C Y T A S W U J Y TO STEVE, IT THAT CONVEYS ITS ABILIT ON SLEEK SHAPE OARD AND PRESS THE BUTT YOU CLIMB AB KIT-CAR

151


Sept Aries:Sept Aries

13/10/09

10:37

Page 152

is more than enough for some real fun and there’s not much on the road that’ll pose much of a problem. Many will match its speed but few will stand up to its acceleration and sheer agility especially out of the corners. In my experience, the Fireblade has always had a bit of an agricultural gear change that’s only smoothed out by really using the revs but this one has a silken swap provided it’s kept spinning above 6,000 rpm and that’s a magic figure since, when the traffic slows you down, 6,000 in top equals 70 mph which is handy from a practical point of view but these cars are about firing them across country and devouring the corners that separate A from B and in that application, the Locoblade’s a cracker. Keeping it on the boil in the revcounter sector between 6,000 and 10,500, the motor really sings and the gears are beautifully spaced in a way that always lets you know which one to go for. On the straight, it’s soild and stable, if a little light one-up but hit the brakes and the front end firms up for the turn in to corners. On the approach, the floormounted brake and pendulum throttle are well set for lightning fast heel-andtoe changes down the box and with only 120 bhp to play with, you can get back on the throttle really early to punch it out of the corners without the back going too wild. The brakes are effective whether you use the standard Ford discs and callipers or go for lighter, aluminium front callipers and the steering using the eternally effective Escort Mk 2 rack and pinion, delivers both feel and precision. Overall, there’s little to fault on the car and when two-up, the front end achieves the level of grip that overcomes the slight reluctance I had to push when one-up. I was truly impressed with this car. To many people, cars built along the tightly controlled budget lines adopted by many Locost constructors, tend to be

152

KIT-CAR

pretty basic and cheaply built cars. They may well be but that doesn’t necessarily detract from their competence and ability and having closely followed the development of the Locoblade, several of which have been tested for Kit Car over the years, as well as following their fortunes in the 750 MC Locost Championship, I knew these cars were a cut above and this one rammed the message home. So what’s the bottom line? In true Locost tradition, builders can buy as little as they want starting with a bare chassis at £575 followed by all parts individually from a bush to a body, as and when required. Alternatively, Aries offer two starter kits for the live-axle and IRS models at £1,300 and £1,418 respectively and those kit prices are inclusive of VAT and comprise the

chassis, wishbones, bushes, aluminium panel set and for the live-axle model, the axle conversion for attachment via four trailing-arms and a Panhard rod. Those prices are very appealing but Steve Huckerby doesn’t sell the Locoblade on the basis that it can be more cheaply built than other cars. Instead, he is very realistic and tells customers that they need to realistically budget £8,000 for the project and on that basis, I don’t think he will have any complaints. Quite apart from the manufacture and sale of Aries Locoblade kits, Steve’s is also a very handy number for your little black book as he is happy to undertake specialist jobs that can defeat average enthusiast. Whether it’s wiring a car, engine swaps, kit completion or anything else that’s currently representing a kitbuilding brick wall, Steve’s your man.


Sept Aries:Sept Aries

13/10/09

10:38

Page 153

THE . S E S S E Y R R P E V M I S Y L L E FE IATE R D A E C M E L M I O H DE W A L E LE B H B O T A C P D O A N L C A E , TH ENT PPY L I L R E G C , X R E E RIDE IS REWED TOGETH NG. FURTHER INFORMATION: WELL SC FIDENCE INSPIRI AND CON torsport Aries Mo Block 7 Unit 1A oad Eagle R ial Estate ill Industr H y rr a u Q

Ilkeston 4RB. ire DE7 Derbysh 89 9 3234 Tel: 0115 456 7 8 940 2 o.uk. Mob: 07 torsport.c o m s e ri .a w Web: ww

KIT-CAR

153

Kit Car November '09  

Aries feature

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you