This year we have put two cars through the IVA test and it has been quite an eye opener especially as the vehicles were opposite ends of the scale.
Along with a friend I undertook a kit car produced by MEV called the Exocet which is based on the Mazda MX5, it took 5 years to get it to the point of testing.
Generally a kit car takes the engine, suspension running gear and fuel tank from the donor car which should be mechanically sound. The kit is a tubular frame with fibreglass panels for the arches, bonnet and rear tub. There is an option for screen and fibre glass seats if required.
Kit manufacturers will low ball how long it takes to build the car so do some research on forums for a realistic estimate and if possible talk to someone who has completed the project. We opted to refurbish as many of the components as we could In fact the only 2 items we did not pull apart was the rear diff and gearbox. The end result is great to look at and drive and has given us a platform to further modify in the future.
Having seen the Exocet in progress a customer of ours introduced one of his relatives for Herts Auto Tek to take on finishing a kit car he had been building since 1999. The kit car called a Blitz 2 was based on a classic mini engine and suspension, but had the engine mounted in the rear. Unlike the Exocet it was never designed to be used on the road rather an off road buggy. Always up for a challenge I agreed to finish the project as a road legal car. The owner was more confident in Herts Autotek to achieve this ambitious objective.
We agreed on a plan to do the initial check on the basics such as the brakes and lights, after which it seemed a better option to take the car for a test and then work from the test report which we did. The current cost of the test (as at Dec 2017) is £450.00 and an initial slot of 4 hours is allocated, re test can be done up to 6 months of the test date at a cost of £90 per visit. We came away from the test centre with the report, some issues were readily resolved others not so.
Example of this was ‘knees to close to the steering wheel make car difficult to drive’, solution in the end was to replace the column meaning the position could be set higher, and moving forward the pedal box dropping the knees down.
We booked in for a retest and managed to clear all items bar two – brakes and identifying the engine. As the owner had bought the engine from a breakers 18 years earlier with no log book information, so there was no proof of the age of the engine.
A call to Rover Heritage drew a blank as there are no engine number records from that time, I managed to resolve it in the end by producing information from the internet and samples of Rover Metros fitted with engines using the same engine code prefix.
We are currently working on the brake issue which we have established is a load balancing problem with the engine being rear mounted.
With regard to the brakes we still to date haven’t managed to resolve, partly due to the IVA brake test being more stringent than an MOT. The design (engine in the back) doesn’t give enough weight on the front and causes the wheels to lock early on the rollers, giving a lower than required reading. Options would be to increase weight on the front which would also benefit the handling, having driven the car to the IVA centre for retest, the owner reported an issue with the steering. Under acceleration the weight transfer works in reverse and making the steering feel vague
Making a decision to put a car on the road is not just about the height and position of the lights, it is about keeping the owner and other road users safe. Driving this car to the test centre highlighted a concern with the steering of the vehicle and the test highlighted a brake problem which turned out to both be connected with the vehicle design, namely insufficient nose weight. It is legal to drive a car to and from the test centre with only a chassis number, but if the vehicle fails and deemed to be unsafe to drive, they will prevent you from driving it home.
Back to the Exocet, we eventually tested this a couple months after the first test on the Blitz. As we were the first test in the morning we made the tactical decision to unload the car and disappear for a while so the tester could enjoy is first cuppa of the day in peace. I’m pleased to say it passed with only needing a few tweaks which the examiner allowed us to do while there.
The IVA test is to ensure that ‘home built’ vehicles are safe to be on the road. The information you submit also can make a big difference to the success of passing the test, this includes the ‘build diary’. A vehicle such as the MEV Exocet that has a strong following, this gives you a wealth of knowledge to assist you through the forums. A less commonly tested vehicle may well present you with more hurdles to overcome, and as we found without being able to prove the age of the engine can bring you to a grinding halt. It is worth noting that I had contacted the helpline when we run into problems proving the age of the engine, they weren’t happy with the information proved the exact age of the engine to carry out the appropriate emissions test. As we had already booked the retest we presented on the day the information we had, much to our surprise the examiner went against the decision of the helpline and was happy we had proved the age of the engine.
To summarise the IVA process is unavoidable if you planning to use your creation on the roads. Make sure you keep all of the information and proof of the origin of the parts and keep your build diary as you go. A well taken image of the Exocet fuel tank satisfied the examiner we had used an earth strap to connect it to the chassis and avoided us having to access and show him the tank on the test day.
If you are tempted by an unfinished project on eBay it may be worth seeing what following there is as the larger the following the more information there will be available to help you. If the parts used have come from one single donor this will help not only with the IVA test but also with the V627/1 form which will need to be filled out and sent with your IVA pass certificate when applying for a V5.
Emissions are never far away from the news these days, proving the age of the engine as we
found out isn’t something you can get round, without proof it will be subject to the emissions test of a brand new car.
Ultimately building a kit car is brilliant fun and extremely rewarding, hopefully this blog will give you an oversight on the process and give you an idea on what will be required.
Enjoy and thank you for reading!