An M.G. Locost Build

Locost FAQ
Last updated May 17, 2013

Every Locost website needs an FAQ. If you're thinking about building a Locost, you should try to read as many of them as possible. There's a lot of stuff you need to know and need to consider before you start. It'll affect a lot of your decisions. Our FAQ is shorter than most, but we think it's more to the point. You be the judge.

How much does a Locost cost?

$7,280.51. That's how much we spent on materials, including the donor and all the other parts we needed, like the nose cone and fuel tank. We spent another $1,610.43 on consumables, like sanding disks and welding wire, and $1,114.62 on tools. We still have a lot of those tools, so we're not really considering that part of the cost.

You may spend a few dollars more or less. You can spend a lot more, but unfortunately not a lot less, unless you're extremely good at scrounging and you get lucky. You might think you can save money by building parts like the nose cone and fuel tank, instead of buying them. Don't kid yourself. Building a one-time part usually costs more than what a manufacturer who mass-produces them can sell them for.

How long does it take to build one?

Two years, two months, and four days. That's how long it took us, working just under 20 hours a week. The total number of hours was 2228, so you can divide that by the number of hours a week you think you'll be able to work on it, and calculate your own build time.

You may take a few hours more or less. You can take a lot more, but unfortunately not a lot less, unless you start with a partially-built car. If you look at a hundred build logs, you'll find that 2-3 years is the mean build time. We've seen Locosts built by one person in 12 months, but it was a full-time job, about 40 hours per week. We've also seen many Locosts take five years or more.

It's important to completely ignore any vendor claims of short build times. They may have videos, and testimonials, and even sworn affidavits confirming the build was completed in 500 hours. Or 100 hours. Or three days. But it's a scam. Regardless of what their marketing department claims, it will take you 2000 hours or more to build your Locost, at least if you want one that won't fall apart when you drive it out of your garage.

Besides welding, what other skills do I need?

Patience. During the first year, you'll be pleased with how the project is going and you won't give much thought to how much longer it's going to take. During the second year, it'll start to bother you that the thing isn't done yet. Day after day, week after week, month after month you go out into the garage to work on the car, and no matter what you do it's never done. That's not normal, and it gets to you. You need to achieve something akin to a Zen-like state to keep working on the thing.

If you know which way to turn a wrench to tighten a bolt, you have enough basic automotive skill to build a car. Like everything else, experience makes you faster, and when you're done with your Locost you'll have as much experience as a lot of journeyman mechanics. In the meantime, if something doesn't work out right the first time, just do it again.

There are little skills that are useful to have, like soldering and painting. Most people already know how to do these things, but if not you can learn them well enough to get by.

What if I'm not a great welder?

You will be. Or if not great then at least adequate. You'll make more than 2000 welds on your Locost, so you'll get lots of practice. Early on, don't worry so much about how your welds look as how much of the base metal is melted. Don't be afraid to grind away a bad weld or two and start over. In fact, plan on doing that at least 50 times, that way you won't have to second-guess the strength of a weld. If it looks suspect, do it again, at least until you've met your quota of 50.

If you're new to welding, obviously watch all the videos you can, but pay particular attention to learning how to control the puddle, how to make it bigger and smaller, and most importantly how to make sure it involves both pieces of the base metal. A joint can look fully welded even though one of the pieces hardly melted at all. This is way more common than you might think.

Any special tools?

Yes. Get as many of them as you can afford. If you can't afford an angle grinder, add another 1000 hours to your build time. If you can't afford a drill press, add another 100 hours. Similar for things like a bench vise, a bench grinder, a tap-and-die set, and a few dozen clamps. On the other hand, if you have a lathe, take 50 hours off your build time. And another 50 for a metal brake.

Having the right tool will always save you time, and will usually save you a lot of aggravation. But that's not really the Locost way. You can get a lot of satisfaction out of building parts for a Locost with something less than the perfect tool for the job.

What are the odds I'll finish it?

Not good. Sorry, but that's just how it is. Of the 409 build logs started on over the past eight years, 45 Locosts were completed.

You may want to know the reasons for that low completion rate, so that you can dismiss those reasons as inapplicable to you, thereby dramatically increasing your odds. The problem is, there were 364 reasons for those 364 builds that weren't completed. Yours will be different.

We can categorize most of those 364 reasons into a couple of groups. The first group is your lack-of-interest reasons. This includes the not insignificant subcategory of people who totally underestimated the amount of work it takes to build a car from scratch. And actually, we all underestimated it, because it's beyond the estimation capabilities of anyone who's never done it before.

The second category is the life-changing event. This includes things like marriages, divorces, children, graduation, and moving. Locost projects tend to be heavy and immobile. Easier to sell off the project at pennies on the dollar rather than haul the thing into your next life.

The third category is the change in financial status. This usually afflicts the I-can-build-it-for-$2000 crowd. It always costs more, and if you don't have more, you have to stop building. The flip side is the lottery winners, who can now go out and buy that factory-assembled Caterham and a four-car garage to go with it. Who needs a Locost?

Is it worth it?

Ask the lottery winner with his $60,000 Caterham. Of course $60,000 may be chump change to a lottery winner, but $60,000 is still $60,000, and that should give you some idea how much fun these cars are.

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