November 5th 2013 - My Cabrio IVA Test Day
The day didn't start too well - at 5.30am it was wet, requiring us to fix a tarpaulin over the cabin:
Towing with an A-Frame is an absolute doddle - so much easier than a trailer. Highly recommended.
Despite leaving ourselves 45 minutes spare, the traffic into Nottingham was awful and we eventually arrived 10 minutes late - not a good way to start the test. However, I had phoned ahead, and Martin, our tester, made nothing of it.
Alan Hogg had kindly offered to come along to the test for moral support, along with David Sidall, and arrived in his very nicely prepared Cabrio - it really did make mine look bare, without paintwork.
As soon as we had removed the tarpaulin we were directed into the test bay, and the examination began:
Inside the car he looked for sharp edges - no comment about my gash dash. He used two aluminium half moon dumbells, one 165mm diameter, and one 100mm (representations of ones head and knee) to test for access to sharp edges.
All seemed OK.
Then he looked in the drivers footwell and produced my brake pedal clevis pin! It had jarred loose on our journey to the station, because I had either forgotten to fit the retaining clip, or at some point it had come off without me realising. What kind of initial impression did that create? I felt awful.
Martin however took it in his stride - he's seen plenty of lorries with similar faults where the star washer has fallen off - and accepted I could fit a bolt and nyloc to replace it.
The cabin passed, except for one item - a new one to me - the side window top edge failed the radius test. They had been ground, but not sufficiently to meet the 2.5mm radius test.
When I asked how I could remedy this with an electric window, Martin advised fitting rubber channel over the exposed edge with the window up - he is not bothered that they are electric and could go down - he tests the car as presented. So, what I thought was a show stopper was going to be easy to fix on the day.
He asked about my seats, and their anchorage, as I have attached the seatbelts to them, and was satisfied by my photos of the seats in an Audi A4, then out of the A4, showing the runners, and fixings, and that I had fitted them exactly the same in my car, and fitted spreader plates beneath them.
All the controls were checked, and then he told me the special Cartek Fog light switch (which cost me £40) is not compulsory! Thanks!
Martin was happy with almost all of the outside of the car - he was going to pull the washer jets for lack of radius, and took issue with the radius on the front bumper. He then passed the rear bumpers - made of the same 5mm stainless: but to be fair there was a section about 75mm long where the radiusing had not been prepared very well on the front bumper. My fault for not thoroughly checking, but I had my angle grinder with me, so could soon deal with that, and then re-polish it at home.
Then another issue - again my own fault: the old Sierra tyres I'd fitted were different. I knew that - I had deliberately fitted the 195 profiles at the rear and the 185s on the front, to try to help with self centring. What I did not notice was a 60 profile on one side, and a 65 profile on the other. Twit.
Unfortunately the spare I had taken along was one of my new wheels, which is a different size again - but it would have failed on a rim edge radius so that was ruled out as a replacement.
Alan then suggested we could borrow two wheels from his Cabrio, just to get through the test - Thanks Alan - very noble of you!
Before going up on the ramps he tested the speedometer, which was fine - I did well to set it up right with two different sized tyres on the back axle!
The emissions were tested for a 1993 engine, and were well inside the limits.
It then went up on the ramps with me in it, being directed to press the brake pedal, or turn the steering wheel, or flick switches.
There then seemed to be a delay, but Dad advised the issue was the engine number. I had explained earlier I had a letter from BMW confirming the year of manufacture, which Martin was pleased to note. By this stage the test was going much better, and Martin was clearly warming to my Cabrio. He took some time to find the engine number, using emery paper, and yellow chalk until he could read it. This was well beyond his obligation to test what he could see, but we were close now.
Next came the lights test. Martin checked the basic functions, then without prompting adjusted the headlights to give the required settings.
The penultimate test was the brake test. Foot brake - both front and rear were good.
But then the show stopper................the hand brake failed, not generating sufficient force. The test reading figure must equate 18% of the vehicle Design Weight, but did not reached it. But, maybe we could come back to it?
The final test was the noise - and it read 96db, just as my own cheap meter, and well inside the 99bd limit.
So, my initial test was a technical fail, but maybe we could address the small items for a pass on the day.
The Design Weight figures that I had submitted were made up, in the abscence of any meaningful figures from Marlin, and were too high at 1600kg.
My car's self weight with a tank full of fuel was weighed at 960kg on the day.
Allowing 150kgs for passengers they calculated a gross weight of 1,110kg. Martin advised a Design Weight of 1300kg was more realistic. Perhaps if I "re-submitted" my figures the hand brake would be acceptable? Martin did the calculations, but they were only good for 880kg.
So we went back up on the ramp, to adjust the hand brake cable, to generate more force. At this point the examiner was willing us to pass, and it was him adjusting the hand brake nylon nut, but despite his best efforts the cable would not tighten - the outer cable just kept slipping through the nylon nut.
This was a show stopper.
There was no way I could change the hand brake cable, as the standard Sierra inner cable for a disc brake car, has to be shortened, before it can be fitted.
So, despite Alan very kindly offering to loan me his wheels, there would be no point.
My Cabrio was officially recorded as failing the test.
Two sharp edges, one incorrect tyre, the brake clevis pin and a failed handbrake adjuster. (the washer jets were not recorded on the final document).
How do I feel about it?
The test itself is thorough, and I found the examiner (Martin) totally fair, and towards the end, very clearly wanted us to pass. He spent quite a while cleaning the engine block, to determine the number, and longer still trying to adjust the Sierra handbrake cable. When it became clear the nut had failed he even gave me the name of a local one man garage with a lift that I could go and change the cable.............and I would have done, were it not for the need to shorten the inner cable, but this is not a quick job.
From a personal perspective, I'll be honest, there is a large part of me that is very disappointed. Peter Edwards had encouraged me to aim high, and he was right: why plan to fail? I aimed for a first time pass, and a new (sub) standard Ford component has let me down.
My car was not perfect - the unequal tyres, and the brake clevis pin were embarassing, but they, and the two sharp edges could have been resolved in less than an hour, and a pass on the day would have been possible.
On the bright side, I have an afternoons work changing the handbrake cable, and 10 minutes pressing some rubber edging onto the windows, and front bumper, to be able to go back for an assured pass.
Before signing off, and despite not quite passing, may I take this opportunity to thank everyone on the Madabout site who has helped me along the way. I know people say it, but it is true: without you this would not have been possible. This is going to sound like a BAFTA awards night and it may be unfair to single individuals out for praise, but I do want to thank : Chris Cunliffe, Simon Gregory, Peter Edwards, and Nigel Beats particuarly for their technical help and advice with my build. Chris Cunliffe, who built the first BMW M50 Cabrio, and drove 150 miles to meet me half way (between Lincoln and Exeter!) to allow me to try his Cabrio before deciding to buy an M50 based Cabrio kit: Simon will see one or two of his ideas blatantly copied into my car: Peter has been a great role model with his Sportster build, and offering encouragement, and Nigel who, quite literally, got my engine going!
For those of you too numerous to mention who have had a real input in to my car, and you know who you are - may I wish you all a very big thank you.
Last but not least - how do I say a big enough thank you to my wife, Sue, who has put up with me taking 8 years to build my car? In the usual way of course - we're going away for a 3 day weekend with friends tomorrow!
Many thanks to all: not far to go now!