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Living with a Can-Am

Here you'll find an account of my experience of 'living' with the Can-Am. Running, driving, tweaking the car on the road and on track. This should help give an insight into the experience of actually having one of these cars, be it good or bad.

Sunday 30st July

Well, I'm starting this diary a bit late seeing as the Can-Am has been on the road for a while. So far, the experience has been absolutely great! The Can-Am is a far more flexible car than the GTR was, with impeccible road manners and driving comfort - will loads of power on tap when you need it. Have a look at the following video link for an idea of how devastating the car is on the road:

Road testing the Can-Am Play full screen for the best experience ;)

So it only seemed right that I extend my testing to the track, where I could really start to explore the potential of the car.

The first issue was to find a suitable trackday. The increasingly draconian (and frankly, ridiculous) noise levels at UK circuits means that the choice of a suitable venue is getting slimmer and slimmer. I originally booked a day at Donington, one of my favourite tracks that I've raced at, but it would have been touch and go on the noise limits as it's a 98db day (I tested the Can-Am and a figure in excess of 100db was more likely), so I managed to transfer it due to the great service from the guys at Bookatrack.

We awoke on Sunday to find, to my relief, fine weather. I've still got no roof on the Can-Am (though it's sat in the workshop awaiting fitment) so I didn't fancy a bath on the way up! So we set off, with Hels following with Charlie in the pickup, with my mates Martin and Karl who came along for the ride. The trip up was a joy and only took and hour and 40 mins. The Can-Am is a great GT car and I got out feeling just as fresh as when I got it. The trip up was ably guided by the Sat-Nav which proved to be fantastic :) Clear voice instructions and a choice of mapping views mean that finding a location is as easy as typing in the postcode.

So we arrived at Rockingham and parked up in the garage I'd reserved (again, no roof, so I was taking no chances with the rain). I unloaded all the crap that was kicking around in the sidepods and Hels and I went off for the drivers briefing. Hels was especially excited as I'd promised to let her drive the Can-Am. There are very few drivers I'd feel comfortable with driving the car, especially on the track, but in truth, Hels has far more racing experience than I do having raced Porsches long before we met racing the Sevens :)

Rockingham is a new circuit (literally) to us both, having never driven there before. o be honest, I wasn't expecting it to be anywhere near as good as it turned out to be! My belief was that it was basically an oval, banked circuit with some infield. Well, whilst this is basically the case, the infield is actually pretty damn good! Ok, you haven't got the ups and downs of Cadwell, Oulton or Donington, but there's plenty to challenge you with some of the hardest braking points I've ever encountered on a UK circuit. We were using the National 'Long' circuit, which is the longest version available at Rockingham at 2.6miles. The technical infield was to prove great fun and I was amazed at just how quickly you could circulate the track.

So briefing done, we donned our helmets and joined the circuit for some sighting laps. The first thing that struck me was how good the track surface was - very grippy. The second thing was that you need to use the brakes - well! There are two (well, 4 actually) hairpins on the infield and they require a strong press of the brake pedal to scrub off enough speed to take them well. I did find that the rears were occasionally locking, but that's easily sorted by adjusting the brake bias bar. Now, I could bore you by describing a lap, but I'm sure you're prefer to join me in the car instead ;) So with that in mind, have a look at the following video:

Take a spin in the Can-Am at Rockingham. Play full screen for the best experience ;)

As you can see from the video, we were flying. The car was simply stunning on track, a complete revelation. I say this because I found it BETTER to drive than the GTR! :-o That seems very odd seeing as I'd built the GTR as a track biased car, but there you go? There are a few factors that I strongly believe made this the case.

So needless to say, we were having a fantastic time :) The Can-Am just gobbled up and spit out almost everything on track (bar those weighing about 600kgs or shod with slicks), not just on the straights, but in the corners too. The Can-Am is easily as good on track as it is on the road - if not better. What a combination!

I always get Charlie to give the car a check-over before driving ;) Not a sniff of understeer Can-Am looks completely at home at Rockingham Rumbling on
Gorgeous car, gorgeous day My - Day of Thunder! Can-Am beautifully fluid on track Turn in is sublime, then it just digs in and goes!
Glad I polished it! :)

But the day wasn't all roses :( Shortly before lunch, I was out for a session with Karl and on an upchange coming out of a corner there was a 'bang' and the engine died. Oddly, the GTR had done exactly the same at Snetterton so I didn't panic just yet. We coasted off the circuit to stop in a safe place (just by the pits fortunately) to see if we could see what had happened. Karl had already spotted the smoke via the canopy louvres (good job I had them in!). Opening up the rear canopy showed smoke coming from the air filter! I pesumed that a carb backflash had killed the engine, so decided to let it cool down before re-starting. After pushing it for a few metres, the smoke continued to appear from the air filter so thought it best to remove it. Ah, that'll be the carb and filter on fire then!!! Confirming my backflash theory, the carb bowl was aflame. The air bleeds were fuelling the fire with fuel bubbling up into the bowl (I assume because it was almost boiling the fuel). I removed the filter and smothered the flame with errr... Hels jacket! (sorry babe!). Still, it saved smothering the whole thing in dry powder from the extinguisher (and I'd already waved off the marshal who was eager to let rip with his!!). We got a tow back into the pit at this point when the marshal realised that there was a bit of flame, so we let the car cool right down to try and ascertain the problem.

Time out :(
Investigating the cause of the stoppage One rather crispy air filter! Knackered dizzy :( May revise the coil position to move it away from the exhaust headers

Well, the good news was that oil pressure was fine (phew!). But I had no spark :( Tried everything from the coil but no joy, so I assumed it had failed, perhaps due to heat wash from the exhaust headers? We took a trip to a local town to try and source a temporary replacement coil - but couldn't find one. Asking round the pits didn't turn one up either, but thanks to one of the Radical runners who tried to help with a bike coil - cheers mate whoever you were :) So the sad truth dawned at last, the car was going no-where :(

So it was a rather red-faced journey back on a flatbed for the car. But hey, at least I saved on the fuel for the trip home ;)

Further investigation at home (and after replacing the coil), showed that it wasn't the coil that was the problem at all - it was the distributor! Unsure whether it's the magentic pickup or something else inside (the coil is an electronic replacement for the old points style dizzy), but it's fubar. Frustrating as it's the open day next weekend :( Added to that the fact that the air filter is toast - literally! So I've ordered replacements for both from the US. Buying the dizzy alone in the UK costs more than 300 quid! Gail at American Speed is going to try and get the faulty dizzy done under warranty, so at least I'll have a spare in future. I've got a spare coil now too, but it's always useful to have this stuff around.

So the first trackday was still a great experience and I can't wait to get back out there and play some more! Cheers

Saturday 12th August

Well, it took almost 2 weeks to get hold of the replacement bits from Summit (so I missed the open day which was a pain), but they've finally arrived, so time to get busy!

Summit delivery took a while, but lovely shiny new stuff :)

First job was to carefully mark the position of the old distributor housing and rotor. I rolled the car in-gear, to align the TDC marks on the crank, with the dizzy rotor pointing to no. 1 cylinder. Once done, I taped up a couple of metal strips to the carb - one pointing to a fixed point on the distributor housing (the edge of the vacuum blanking plate) and the other to the rotor tip. Then I removed the dizzy clamp and carefully removed it from the engine. The first thing I checked was the condition of the drive gear as I've known them to fail, but it was unworn. I'd already checked that it was turning OK, so I knew that it wasn't going to be the problem itself, but it's good practice to see if your going to get any problems later on.

Time spent marking the old dizzy positions is time well spent Vacuum advance on the new dizzy removed and replaced with a blanking plate Locknut hides replacable bush which affects the advance Centrifugal springs are replaced to affect the advance curve

So with the distributor removed, I just needed to match up the setup of the replacement. The 8360 Ready-to-Run distributor comes with a removable vacuum advance and a selection of bushes/springs to adjust the advance curve. Replacing the old one was a simple case of matching these elements and re-installing in the car. It was a little bit fiddly (and you'll need some circlip pliers - luckily I had a pair at home), but not too onerous. So once ready, it was back to the car to fit it.

Fitting the new distributor was made about a million times easier as I knew exactly the right orientation of the body and rotor as I'd marked them with the metal strips. The only slight fiddle was to align the oil pump drive shaft which has a slot in the top which is driven by the dizzy shaft. It can turn out of alignment when removing the old dizzy, so you have to 'tweak' it back into place so that the dizzy can drop onto it as it twists on the helical gear. It took a few tries, but I got there in the end.

New dizzy and filter in and running - even better than before!

The dizzy base clamp and nut were replaced and lightly tightened to allow me to adjust the timing once it was running, but at least I knew it was pretty much in the right place. And so it proved when I turned her over and she fired right up, sounding very sweet indeed! :) This gave me the opportunity to play with my new digital timing light too, so once it was up to temperature, I checked the idle advance and set to 17 degrees, with max advance of 37 degrees at 3000rpm - which was as it was then the engine was built and dyno'd. With the engine back in rude health, I replaced the K&N filter element and Z-Stream flow top (in a bling polished ally this time) with new ones - the old ones were rather singed ;). What struck me was how much better the engine seemed to be breathing? The old ones did look rather grubby, so who knows, probably my imagination :) What wasn't my imagination though was how well the car was idling. I'd fiddled with the float levels and idle mix before, which had got the idle speed down, but now I found myself having to wind IN the idle screws! That's a first!! The car now idles perfectly at anything as low at 550 rpm, but I set it to a more comfortable (and recommended) 850 which still gives good oil pressure and is enough so that when you run the aircon it doesn't stall.

I test drove the car and she's running perfectly. I had more opportunities to drive later on when some potential buyers came at various points during the day. Yup, that's right, the car is up for sale (but I guess you'd know that from the front page!). SO why am I selling? Well, as much as I'd love to keep the Can-Am, the reality of having a young family to keep amused (as well as myself), means that I've got to look for something with 4 seats :( It's just too hard to drive off and leave Hels and Charlie, when I know that she'd love to be out with me. As great as the car is and as selfish as I'd like to be, the family is simply more important. I'm in no particular hurry to sell and as we don't 'need' to sell it, I'll continue to use it for the time being. But if someone is looking for a perfect specimen, that's ready to go, well - details in the advert here http://www.pistonheads.com/sales/92706.htm

Wednesday 13th December

Well, and so I draw to a close another website because sadly, today I bid farewell to the Can-Am as it went to its new owner. The project, like the GTR before it, was a great challenge and fun to do. I hope my ramblings help future owners in their quest to build their 'Ultimate' car. For me, well, family life takes precedence so something with 4 seats beckons.

Hope you enjoyed the sites, but it will be a while before I build another car.....

...however, modifying cars... now there's a thing - Stay 'tuned' :)