An M.G. Locost Build
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February 10, 2014
Brakes & Lights

Things are happening fast. We got a call last week from our California Smog referee informing us that our request for a permanent smog exemption under SB100 was approved. The next day we drove up to Fairfield and collected our exemption certificate and another sticker for the car. And then just this morning we drove down to our local Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) station for the final step in the lengthy and complicated Locost registration process, our brake and light inspection. We passed, barely, and from the outset it was never a sure thing.

  Exempt for life
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When we first drove into the BAR station, the technician had us stay in the car so we could test the lights. One by one we hit all of the various switches, pedals and gears, and everything worked until we got to the headlights, which didn't. No high beams, no low beams. Since the day we first installed those headlights, we must've flipped them on a million times, and never once did they fail to light. Until now. As the tech rattled off a list of possible causes for the problem, we pulled the switch out of the dash. The lights immediately came on. The tech frowned.

Light switch and wires still look like new  
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We protested that this had never happened before, and it hadn't, although I'm not sure we sounded all that believable. Fortunately the tech didn't send us packing, and we walked instead into his shop where we had a lengthy discussion about the car's model year. He asked us about the donor vehicle, what he called the "running gear", and we told him it was a 1972 MGB. Big mistake. He immediately started telling us the car would need a brake warning light, side marker lights, and a whole host of safety features that were all required in 1972.

We remained calm, and quietly explained to the technician that our Locost was not actually a 1972 vehicle. The great state of California, in all its wisdom, had designated the car as a 1960 model, and we had a smog exemption certificate to prove it. The tech frowned again, but after studying our paperwork for a couple of minutes and noting the exemption sticker on the car, he finally relented and agreed to finish the inspection. Although he couldn't do it right away, so we reluctantly left the car in his care and headed for home.

The tehcnician kept the car for most of the day, and when we finally got a call that the car was ready, he gave us no indication of whether we'd passed or failed. It wasn't until we returned to collect the car that he relayed the good news, and we think it's only because he charged us an arm and a leg for the test procedure that he agreed to confer upon us an official brake and light certificate. As with all of our previous close calls, we didn't argue about the price, and just took our certificate and slowly backed out of there.

But that was it, and we're finally done. All the hurdles have been cleared, the state's massive bureaucracy defeated. It only took four months from the time we first called the CHP to let them know we'd built a car and needed a VIN, until our final victory today. We now only need to present our volumes of documentation the good folks at the DMV, and convince them to hand over license plates, or at least a promise that the plates are in the mail, and we can put an end once and for all to this long and bizarre journey into the world of homebuilt cars.

Except for the driving part. We'll keep doing that as long as we can. And actually, we still have a list of things we want to do to the car. It's not a short list, but it used to be a lot longer, so we're making progress, and we expect to have everything on the list knocked out before the end of the year. 2014. Yes, that's quite a long time from now, but like we said, it's not a short list. And in any case there isn't anything on the list that should take longer than a weekend to complete, except possibly for the new exhaust hanger.

  Latest exhaust hanger technology
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Yes, that's right, our brand new and recently installed exhaust hanger broke. We hate to admit when we're wrong about something, and we're certainly not going to buck that trend now, but it seems to us that these book-style exhaust hangers are a joke. The new hanger split in the exact same place as the old one, and it didn't even last as long. So we're all done with those stupid bobbin mounts, and this time we're going to make a mount that'll support a modern-day exhaust hanger. One that actually hangs. Of course that means we'll have to tear the car apart again.

Cheap exhaust repair  
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Right now we're driving around with a hose clamp on the broken mount, and a foot of piano wire tied between the mount and the muffler bracket. It's kind of crude and a little noisy, but it actually looks much worse. So what we plan to do, once the car is apart and the interior is out, is drill a new hole in the side of the car about 2" above the old one, and then bolt on a real exhaust hanger mounting pin, like the ones on real cars. We can then just bolt another pin to the muffler bracket, and slip a generic exhaust hanger from O'Reilley Auto Parts over both pins.

It's likely that the new hanger will be quite a bit more visible than the old one, but it'll have the advantage of being about a hundred times stronger. Or maybe even a thousand. And the new hanger will pivot on the pins, which means exhaust pipe heat expansion will no longer be an issue. At least in theory. Until we try it out we won't know for sure, and ordinarily this is the point in our log where we'd tell you that we'll let you know. But the thing is, we may be just days away from getting our license plates, and this could be our penultimate log entry. So maybe not.


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