Do We Need a New Locost Forum?
LocostUSA is a great forum. It's been around almost from the beginning, and it's been essential in getting probably half the running Locosts in this country completed. I was the 56th member to join (out of over 5000 now), and I'm one of the more frequent posters. I've always found the forum to be full of excellent information, advice, and inspiration that you can't get anywhere else. It's helped me tremendously with building my own Locost. And LocostUSA forum users are among the best on the Internet--friendly, funny, knowlegable, and always willing to help.
But the website is not so much about Locosts anymore. It's about anyone building any kind of car. More than half the builds in the "Traditional Builds" section are not Locosts, and there are far more going on in the "Non-traditional Builds" section. This is great if you like to see other cars getting built, but if you're building a Locost, you want to see other people building Locosts. That's where the biggest help is. Most of the advice given by someone building a trike, for example, just won't apply to Locost builders.
The arrangement of forum categories isn't the best, either. LocostUSA was set up back when everyone was thinking about building a Locost, and very few were actually building one. Now, almost everyone on the forum is either building a car or has one completed, and you see build threads popping up in all sections of the forum. Which makes it harder to keep track, especially when a lot of "build threads"--even those in the actual build thread forums--have been started by people who aren't building, but are still in the planning stages.
The forum has become a marketplace for specialty car parts vendors, a sandbox for suspension engineers, and a showcase for completed builds of any type of car. It's disappointing to excitedly open a thread about a first drive and find out it's for some single-seat, Hayabusa-powered autocross machine that's not even a street-legal sports car, let alone a Locost. I get it that specialty car building is about innovation and advancing automotive technology, and that's a very worthwhile pursuit. But it's not what building a Locost is about.
LocostUSA needs to continue, but it needs to expand its market. It needs to move forward and better position itself to support all of its many users, no matter what they're building, and to pursue the latest in automotive innovation. And then call it something like Specialty Car Builders. And then we could have a Locost forum for Locost builders.
I'd want to see categories on the new Locost forum arranged more like the whole build process. Build threads would start in the "Planning a Build" category. When you start the actual build, you'd move to the "Starting a Build" category. When you had a roller, you'd move into "Advanced Builds". From there you'd move to "First Drives", "Registering", and finally "Mods and Maintenance", "Motorsports", or "Meets". You could keep the reference categories, but make them more specific by system, e.g. "Engines", "Gearboxes", "Brakes", "Cooling", "Exhaust", "Fuel Systems", "Steering", "Suspension", "Pedals", "Electrical", and "Bodywork".
Build threads on the forum would be restricted to members building actual Locosts. LocostUSA got in trouble because it allowed modifications to the original Locost concept, and then never drew the line. The new Locost forum would draw the line from the start. No plus frames, no 6 or 8 cylinder engines, no inboard shocks, no alternate materials, no IRS. And minimal engineering, only what you might need to adapt your donor, for example. Anyone upset by these restrictions would of course be free to start a build thread on SpecialtyCarBuilders.com.
There could be some resentment over starting another Locost forum. Members of the new forum might be called "elitists" or "Locost snobs" by those not building book Locosts. Of course you can't control what people think, but you can ignore the naysayers. Far from being elitist, the new forum could limit builders to a maximum build budget, reinforcing the original Locost concept and attracting those of lesser means who still want to build a cheap sports car, but might be turned off by all the high-dollar builds at SpecialtyCarBuilders.com.
So rather than thinking of the new Locost forum members as elitists, I'd like to think of them as purists. I think there's a lot of them out there. I think they'd support a forum that was commercial-free and more in touch with the grass-roots Locost builder. A forum that embraces the original Locost concept. The Locost is a brilliant car for what it is and what it does. Staying within the spirit of Ron Champion's book still allows for thousands of modifications that challenge the builder. It also assures that while no two Locosts will be alike, they'll all be Locosts.
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