What tools, skills and resources will I need?
I decided to provide some basic information here in response to emails from potential Locost Clubman builders who are finding the project a bit daunting. Based on my experience, a competent home handyman with reasonable mechanical knowledge and an aptitude for this type of project could build a Locost Clubman at home. Naturally the more experience, knowledge and skill that you possess then the more realistic the home based build becomes and the less you will need to rely on outside help which adds extra cost.
This is just a guide based on my personal experience and obviously requirements will vary greatly between builders. However, I can confirm that you will not need to own a lathe, plasma cutter, milling machine or other expensive specialist equipment to build your own Locost and if you do require these specialist services then they are readily available at reasonable cost.
Building the chassis can be a challenge for someone with little or no welding and metal working experience and either you learn these skills or consider taking the “Kit Car” option which provides a ready made Clubman Kit, including a chassis. The welding required on a Locost Clubman chassis is rather basic and it should be relatively easy for a new welder to learn to produce welds of sufficient quality for this project. There are a lot of welds on the chassis so you have plenty of opportunity to hone your welding skills as you progress. I would recommend investing in at least a reasonable quality MIG welder as the cheap units are just not good enough for a large amount of consistent quality welding. I would avoid the gasless type MIG if you can, but if your budget is tight then they are an option. A good quality auto darkening welding helmet is also essential and they are not expensive.
I believe its a good idea to use 2mm wall thickness tube on the chassis rather than the standard 1.6mm as it’s easier to weld and the car will be stronger, although heavier. The best way for new welders to gain confidence is to practice on scrap material, cut it open and try to break the welds. Practice makes perfect and it shouldn't take long to gain confidence. Constructing the table to build your Locost on can be a practical way to practice your welding before you start the chassis.
Garage space is an issue for some people. I have heard of projects being built in small single car garages or carports, and even a couple in open areas and backyards, but I consider a good size work and storage area an important asset for building a Locost. A good size workbench, with a steel plate top if you can arrange it and a solid engineers vice is invaluable, as is enough space around the car to let you work without bumping into things. As the Locost grows so will your need for storage space. When the components are not on the car where will you store them, especially the bulky items (eg engine, gearbox, rear end, wheels, seats, bonnet, nosecone etc)?
While a shed full of exotic and expensive tools and machinery is not required to build a Locost it's quite obvious that the better equipped you are the easier the project will be. Basic mechanics hand tools (spanners, screwdrivers, pliers, hammers, hacksaw, files, clamps etc) are essential and tools can be purchased as you progress. A small angle grinder (125mm), air compressor, spray gun, welder (MIG), power drill, hydraulic floor jack & stands and an engineers bench vice are all essential. Some tools can be quite inexpensive to buy and I have found that some of the cheap tools are of satisfactory quality for these small projects, so there is no need to buy the best quality tools if budget is a concern, however don’t expect them to last as long or perform as well as the more expensive items. EBay, Gumtree, Amazon, Supercheap Auto, Bunnings and many other similar stores are a good source of economical hand and electrical tools.
I found a metal cut off saw to be really helpful (they can be purchased from around $200). You can cut your steel tubing with a hacksaw or angle grinder but there are a LOT of cuts to be made and the cut-off saw makes it so much easier, especially when cutting angles. If I started another such project I would invest in a basic metal cutting bandsaw as it would make building a Locost chassis so much easier. I purchased a couple of inexpensive 125mm angle grinders (less than $30 each) and I used them extensively when building the chassis. I had one fitted with a cut off wheel and the other fitted for grinding/sanding. Thin metal cut off discs (1mm) are great for cutting and trimming and “Zirconia Flap Disks” are excellent for sanding/grinding.
I had a pedestal drill (16mm chuck) with a cross slide compound vice fitted to it and I put that to great use during my build. Again, not essential, but recommended, as it really helped with some of the more difficult and repetitious drilling jobs and saved a lot of time and frustration.