An M.G. Locost Build
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February 15, 2014
30 Months Later

We got our license plates yesterday, and we bolted them onto the Locost this morning. In the face of overwhelming documentation proving that our car was both legal and safe, the DMV failed to put up a fight and simply handed them over. Bolting the plates onto the car marks the completion of a goal we set for ourselves all the way back in July of 2011, a goal we had only the vaguest notion of ever achieving. We've been waiting two and a half years to write this log entry, and for us the wait was more than worth it. We hope it was worth it for you.

  Last step in any build: License plates
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There are a couple of experiences in life that words can't quite convey to anyone who hasn't been there. It turns out that building a car from scratch is one of them. We've tried through this log to share the ups and downs, the good and the bad, the fun and not-so-fun details. Along the way we also tried to describe the major milestones, like getting the car on its wheels for the first time, and starting the engine after installing it in the completed chassis. We hope some of the excitement we felt on those days came through.

First step in any build: Drawings and dreams  
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When you're just starting out, building a car sounds like fun. Building anything is fun, but an actual car is something that you can use when you're done. Plus, you'll end up with something that's uniquely yours. You get to pick the seats, the dashboard layout, even the suspension geometry. You can paint it any color you want. Any thoughts you may have about starting a project like this are therefore pretty exciting, and full of dreams about what the car's going to look like, how fast it'll be, and how much fun it'll be to drive.

There are several caveats, however. First of all, building a car from scratch will take some time. Estimates range from 500 hours to over 2000, although starting out we were pretty sure we'd be close to the low end of that range, because we wanted to be. So maybe a year, tops. We realized there would probably be a few tasks we wouldn't really enjoy, like wiring, or plumbing the brakes, or fabricating body panels. But those were really the only downsides, so actually just two caveats. Everything else would be a blast.

  First idea that you might have a car
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These were our thoughts thirty months ago. Of course we understood at the time that building a whole car would be a challenge. Or at least we thought we understood it. Our only experience with building anything even remotely as complex was a few radio-controlled airplanes. Our biggest RC project was a quarter-scale biplane, which took 500 hours to build, or about six months. That was a little bit of a challenge, but at the time we had already built several RC airplanes, and we knew what we were facing going in.

That wasn't the case on this project. The thing is, if you've never done it before, trying to think about every task needed to complete a car all at once is impossible. You can think about a lot of them at the same time, or many of them in rapid succession, and you might even be able to write them all down. But you can't think about all of them all at once. So at first blush building a car doesn't appear to be all that difficult, because you never see the whole picture of what lies ahead. That comes later.

Starting to realize the amount of work involved  
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We remember one time early on in our build, when we had the chassis mostly framed up, and we were staring at it late one night, and suddenly the enormity of all the tasks ahead seemed overwhelming. With the physical presence of the steel frame resting there on the build table, most of the chassis tubes welded in place, it was finally possible to imagine the hundreds of things that had to be attached to the frame, and it just looked impossible, or if not impossible then extremely daunting, which for us was the same thing.

  Unwarranted confidence growing
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Two things kept us going. The first was not worrying about it. Not even thinking about it. Even if completing the car was impossible, the next few tasks weren't, so we might as well do them, and then take it from there. The second thing that kept us going was remembering the dream we had before we started, about what the car's going to look like, how fast it'll be, and how much fun it'll be to drive. As with most impossible things, the odds were definitely against us, but what if it actually happened?

Warranted confidence growing  
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It's almost funny, but if we look back now at pages in our build log from long ago, back to days when we were merrily working on some odd component of the car, and later commenting or complaining about it in our usual flippant manner, we wonder now how we could've possibly been so happy, with the car so far from completion, and with so unbelievably much more work left to do. We must've been oblivious. We had no idea, even then, weeks and even months into the process, what lay ahead. We only thought we did.

  What you never quite believed would happen
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But now we've done it, we built a car from scratch, and we're pretty sure we could do it again. We had to figure out a whole bunch of things on this project that we wouldn't have to figure out next time. We faced many tasks that we thought were impossible, that wouldn't look quite so difficult the second time around. We also made a lot of mistakes we probably wouldn't make again, although we certainly wouldn't discount the possibility of making new ones. Of course right now we wouldn't even begin to entertain the idea of building another car.

But time has a way of distilling out the bad memories and leaving the good behind. We might forget about the incredible mess in the garage, the long nights, the burned fingers, and the disappointing results from a task or two or three that we weren't really qualified to do. So it's not inconceivable that someday, a few years from now, we might grow a little nostalgic about our Locost build and consider doing it again. Because in the end, all of those dreams you had about how amazing it'll be when you've finished building your car? They're all true.

See you down the road!

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Comments:  
posted February 17, 2014 at 17:27:44  
I was fortunate enough to be the passenger on yet another inaugural run- this time the first one with license plates. A beautiful run on a perfectly crisp beautiful day on Lucas Valley Road through the forest over to Inverness, finding the spot to take the honorary completion photos. Nick as usual does not realize how special his talent is in creating this car. I just enjoy seeing his face when he drives it- truly someone who has realized a long wished for dream, come true. Congratulations, sweetheart!!  
posted February 18, 2014 at 16:25:29  
Reading this blog since almost the beginning, and I'm really going to miss your updates Nick. You've a easy-to-digest writing style full of wit but never leaving out the important things. This blog is very valuable to the car community and could really help other like minded people in their future car building endeavours.

I wish you and the MG Locost many miles of smiles. Looking forward to seeing it at motorsport events. Oh, and one final thing - that scoop is badass!
-Tony
 
posted March 2, 2014 at 03:24:42  
Congratulations Nick..! Finally caught up with your updates. Your blog was was very enjoyable and informative. What an amazing build...
-Murat
 
posted March 4, 2014 at 23:16:38  
Great finish to the build (although it's never really finished). Maybe one day I'll get up in your area to see your Locost. Have enjoyed following your build here and on LocostUSA.

Roy Challberg
RoyzMG
Livermore, Ca.
 
posted August 21, 2014 at 14:34:44  
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posted August 22, 2014 at 05:57:49  
Very nice site!