So the idea was to build a car under Streetrod regulations which seemed to give the leeway to do pretty much whatever the hell we wanted, unfortunately that wasn’t to be the case however the seed was sown that the car would be hotrod styled but front wheel drive.
So what else could we do?, we’d build a Citroen 2CV hotrod!
Talking to the builder of my Yamaha Tmax sidecar we’d decided to use a front wheel drive doner, cut it at the firewall and mate a full chassis to build the passenger compartment up from.
Scouring the auctions for a couple of months I found a 8 month old Hyundai i45 for a good price that seemed to fit the bill, written off from the rear so the front was still straight, the i45 is a 2.4l 4 cyl, 6 speed automatic with hydraulic power steering that I thought would be necessary when we came to lightening the steering (still not sure if that is necessary, can electric power steering be lightened?)
With the car purchased the project got serious, taking a couple of years of Saturdays to build the chaises. Ground clearance was kept to a minimum to reduce the angle of the access ramp and keep my eyesight at normal car level. this in turn would impose constraints on things like exhaust and fuel tank location.
With the wheelchair entering from the rear ramp, suspension for the rear wheels would need to be narrow and independent. Hunting around for a couple of months, we eventually settled on, and tracked down, a pair of new trailing arms from a thing called a RazerBack, The RazorBack was a chassis that dropped to the ground allowing a pallet to be forklifted straight on. The arms we located in Melbourne and purchased were stock bought as a job lot when the business was sold several years ago.
This image shows the trailing arm, overbuilt for its original use in a 2 (>) ton truck, it had the advantage of been fully approved and certified for purpose. With clever fabrication, the original Hyundai hub was fitted to the trailing arm allowing the disc brakes, including ABS, and handbrake drum to be utilised.
Locating the fuel tank(s) with the minimal clearance we had was a challenge overcome by fabricating two saddle tanks that fit on the internal side of the suspension and hold approximately 25l each.
In this figure the two fuel tanks are just visible on the inside of each real wheel. Filer will be on the left tank and fuel pump and gauge on the right.
Box for the chassis is 100 x 100 mm for the main longitudinal rails and 50 x 75 mm for the cross rails and uprights.
Where possible we were determined to use recycled parts and towards that end the windscreen was picked up at a swap meet from a FJ40 Toyota.
Ok, not a great photo of the windscreen but on this day we were checking the eye level, ended up sitting the base of the screen on a piece of 50 by 50 box to increase its height. An advantage of the Toyotas screen was the integrated wipers, motor and linkages. A disadvantage was the 40 year age. After shaking out a few spiders, adding grease and new wiper blades all was good.
The chair i’m in is a Q6 Edge, a compact mid-wheel drive chair, to get under the wheel we had to raise the steering linkages by about 25 mm. With only one useful wrist on my RHS we relocated the transmission shift to the right and the foot operated hand-brake is now a hand operated handbrake / chair release also on the right.
As the reason for building a car was to seat more than the two of us that my sidecar can take, seating was going to be critical. Front passenger is easy, the donor cars front seat, the rear was hard. I’d hoped to have fixed seats to avoid stuffing about but even the narrowest legal size were to wide hence fold down they are. These came from a Nissan Patrol. In hindsight we may have been able to get a similar seat that met in the middle to take 3 and a retrofit would be easy enough. A removable cross-brace supports the rear seats when they are lowered.
To make the Hyundai look not-like-a-Hyundai we spent probably a year on the nose, shaving the corners of the bonnet and generally styling the front along the lines of the 2CV image. This was a frustrating monumental pain in the ass and not recommended. Shaping thin sheet metal is for the birds.
So after three years or so of viewing the car from a fixed point at 45 deg 3 meters from the front, we pulled it out of the shed for a better look…. Ugh, abit long in the nose, abit boxey, maybe there is a reason designers build near full size clay models!
For my first drive several things were immediately obvious, for one the push/pat hand controls work, this amazed me as the logic seems all wrong however in practice they are brilliant. On my weak, near useless LHS the controls give easy acceleration and far far better breaking than I’ve ever experienced on the sidecar. On the other hand and not unexpectedly, the steering was way to heavy for me. This is quite daunting as it is a show stopper, if the steering is not going to be satisfactory then the whole effort is in the toilet. From my readings i’d expected to need to get the steering lightened however listening to every “expect” feel the standard light steering saying it would be ok had me disappointed when, surprise, surprise, the weight was too much for me.
Steering “experts” number 1 were pretty hopeless, adding a heaver spring to the relief valve gave us some boost but not enough and becoming dangerous and noisy at high revs, we were lucky to get out of that without destroying the hydraulic pump. In contrast to the first mob the outfit recommended by a mate were brilliant, knowing just what needed to be done and having the interest and skill to do it. What is done involves shaving the steering torsion bar, a delicate and highly skillful job. With this done I can turn lock-to-lock when stationary with my low strength, non-triceps arm.
So that’s it, how to build a car, not for the faint hearted.