Category Archives: Building

Scenes on Sunday ~ Cars

most women would rather cry in a jaguar than on a bus 

V12 E-Type Jaguar

Jaguar XJ S V-12 Convertible

Series One Land Rover

Caterham 7 de Dion

Caterham 7 with a girl riding shotgun

Ford Mustang

my other Ford Mustang

Triumph TR5

jack collier

Triumph GT6

a miniature Aston Martin


I’ve owned, rented, or just driven examples of all of the above.

Hobbies for Health

for me, saving the world and everyone in it is only a hobby

Now that I’m recovering from a bloody awful mental affliction, a good friend has suggested that I take up a hobby.  You know what?  After a moments reflection I decided that was a brilliant idea.  So I will take up a hobby.

But what is a hobby anyway?  Where do other ordinary normal day-to-day pursuits become hobbies?  And does a proper hobby have to be mostly harmless, inefficient, laborious, and useless?  I confess I googled hobbies and found a few incredibly long lists of hobbies, some of which activities I would have just taken to be everyday pursuits; like watching television.  No!

But I have a first stab at a short list of potential hobbies which may occupy my time, give me pleasure, be relaxing, and stop me having suicidal thoughts;

  • Art, and I mean doing it, most probably painting.  Thus far in my life the only things I’ve painted were walls, doors, cars, and boats.
  • Angling / Fishing.  I used to fish and gave it up because I felt sorry for anything I caught.
  • Calligraphy.  As it goes I have very good classical penmanship ~ but calligraphy takes that to a whole new level where writing in pen and ink becomes art.
  • Model making, although this seems a bit of a kids pastime.
  • Photography, which I already do a lot of but I could do more and do it better.
  • Reading.  I do a hell of a lot of that, but I’m certain there’s a way to turn casual reading into a constructive hobby.
  • Survivalist.  Not that I live in an earthquake zone, but add some of the other hobbies I’ve already thought about and I’m already a fair way to being a survivalist
  • Travel.  I love to travel, but is it a hobby for me, and could I turn it into one?  Maybe by mixing it with photography and writing.
  • Walking.  On average I walk 5 miles a day, but that’s not serious hobbyist walking.  More serious walking includes hiking, backpacking, and trekking.  So I have joined our local Ramblers Club, (how very English), who meet a couple of times a month and do some serious miles in all weathers.
  • Writing, and I already do some of that too, including being in a local writers group.

I’ve already realised that if you want your normal everyday activity to become a hobby you have to add a lot of time, money, and obsessiveness into the mix.  I can’t even turn my 5 miles a day walk into a hobby without buying a lot more expensive kit.

But, if you have any other ideas for a healthy, relaxing, challenging, difficult, self-improving activity, then please just tell me.


jack collier

also, I do like making practical things; such as this planter

Living a Really Great Life

it’s cool to be confident and happy being just who you are

building a very cool car is part of living a great life

I tell people that I’m a very cool guy, living a really great life ~ and some of that is actually true.  I am old enough and wealthy enough that I have no need to work for a living, and having a reasonable amount of money I can pretty much do what I want, go where I want, buy whatever I like…..

But, there was a fly in my soup.  For as long as I remember I had a terrible feeling that I didn’t fit in, that I didn’t belong, that everyone was out to get me.  I was always afraid, angry, envious, jealous, paranoid, suicidal, and often the worse for drink.  Each and every day I struggled to keep it all together, and sometimes the chaotic shit that was going on inside my mind would spill over and I would become a really nasty, destructive, resentful jerk.  That was always followed by deep remorse, regret, apologies, and promises never to do that again ~ until the next time.

I didn’t learn that the only way to deal with negative and unhealthy beliefs and emotions is to allow yourself to feel them, let them pass through you, and then let them go and move on.  For no reason I can find, a few days ago I learned the lesson that I don’t need to react to negative, destructive, fearful, paranoid, resentful, jealous feelings and beliefs.  I made one small change ~ no matter how bad I feel, on the outside I will always seem to be a very cool guy, living a really great life.

As they say in 12-step meetings; I will fake it to make it, I will act as if I am totally cool, that I’ve got my shit together, that I am utterly self-aware, self-confident, self-controlled, and self-disciplined.  And you know what?  The more I act like that, the truer and more real it becomes.

It turns out that I am a very cool guy, living a really great life.

In a few days I’m taking a vacation in Turkey, before that I’m going to do a couple of pretty outrageous things that I wouldn’t even have dreamed of doing just a few short days ago.  Later this year I’ll be taking a trip over the Christmas Holidays, and I’ve already got some great things in mind for next year.  How cool is all that?

Some say that we can never escape our past.  And that we will never be good enough, that we could always have done better, that we will never be able to hold onto a relationship, that we will always be a drunken jerk.  All I know is that the only person I need to compare myself with is the guy I was yesterday.


jack collier

Sedona, AZ, one of the really great places I’ve been to this year

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished~  Lao Tzu

the evening always happens in its own good time

What if all behaviour has a probability of both success and failure?  How would we increase the chances of our being successful, and decrease the probability of our failing?  Well the first thing we have to do is stop seeing everything in terms of Yes / No, Black / White, Angels / Demons, and instead begin to accept that the world and the people we meet exist in shades of grey.  Instead of our totally failing at something, we need to accept the premise that it is possible to be moderately successful.

This goes against everything I believe and live by.  I have a personality disorder, and one of the traits of this illness is called Splitting ~ seeing everything in black and white, being completely successful, or a total failure ~ with nothing in between.  Everything in me says there should be no shades of grey.

Real life is not like that.  You may have a pretty good marriage without it being perfect.  Or, you might have a decent job without it being your ideal career.  And, you might be reasonably healthy without looking like a Greek God with a hell of an adonis belt.  To be more successful we need to accept that life is what it is, and then work fucking very hard to get more of what we like, want, need, and desire, and less of the things that annoy us, make us angry, depress us, and make us feel like crap.

One way to do the hard work to achieve greater success is to get away from our black and white thinking need to make immediate changes, our need for instant gratification, our need to make things happen Now!  Instead we should learn to use patience and time in our favour.

I do things fast.  I think fast, I read fast, I solve problems quickly, I jump to conclusions, I am impulsive, I have vicious mood swings, and they happen Fast!  This is all part of the borderline personality disorder I suffer from, and I know I need to control this.  The wiser man takes his time to think before he acts.

A man who is a master of patience is master of everything else.  ~  George Savile

Charging off at the far horizon is all very well ~ it’s exhilarating and exciting.  But what if it’s the wrong horizon, what if you’re going in the wrong direction?  The wiser man takes time to prepare, to make certain he is ready, to ensure that he’s going in the right direction.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.  ~  Abraham Lincoln

When there is time, the wise man uses that time to his best advantage.  Only when there is something truly urgent and immediate does a wise man act fast.  And, in an emergency all the good stuff he has done in the past, because he was patient enough to always do the very best he could, all that good stuff will come to his aid and strengthen his arm to help him to do the right thing, even when he has to do it fast.

In the long run we shall do more by sometimes doing less.  ~  Charles Spurgeon


jack collier


you just know who is going to win this one


Become a Renaissance Being

The heart and soul of a Renaissance Man is creativity.

Creativity, curiosity, honesty, openness, kindness, understanding ~ these things and honour are what separates a truly superior Renaissance Man from the common herd.  There are a couple of other important attributes a superior man should possess in abundance; confidence and self-control ~ a Renaissance Man does not want, desire, nor need instant gratification to bolster his self-confidence.  The confidence of a Renaissance Man is assured and will brook no criticisms.

part-finished teardrop trailer kit

A superior man is creative and innovative, and creativity means to actually create something, if there is no physical end-product then all you are doing is daydreaming.  Almost everyone can daydream and come up with an idea or two, but few will go on to get those ideas down on paper, make a plan, and go on to create / build / make whatever it is the plan calls for, be it writing a book, creating a work of art, a boat, car, a tiny trailer, a kitchen, bathroom, or even a whole home.  Almost everyone goes no further than having an idea, they never follow through and do something tangible.  They are held back by a lack of confidence in themselves, laziness, fear, and the pressures of coping with a partner, family, friends, and coworkers.  These are excuses, not reasons.

Other reasons for not actually doing something real, for going no further than daydreaming, are; lack of money, time pressures, lack of space, not knowing how to do whatever it is they think they want to do…..  All of these are also just fucking pathetic excuses.  And then there are some other reasons people don’t do creative stuff; they drink too much, smoke too much, smoke pot, do street drugs, take too many unnecessary prescription and over-the-counter medications, gamble, spend too much time looking for cheap sex in bars……

Perhaps to be truly creative you first have to put your life in order.  It’s a fallacy that booze and drugs will help your creativity ~ all those things will do is help you daydream, right up to the point where you pass out.

Creative living and creativity is available to all of us  But how do we energise our creative abilities?

  • Do something, even if it’s just baby steps.  Make a start on your project, even if it’s just writing down your ideas. Get out of your comfort zone.  Pick up whatever tools you need to work on your project, from a hammer, to a brush, to a tablet.
  • Mindfullness.  Be aware of ourselves, be aware of our environment, be in the moment.
  • Fresh air, exercise, sunshine, movement in nature.  Get off your ass and take some physical activity to energise your body.  Most office workers do not move nearly enough during the day, and then they go home, sit on the sofa, and drink some booze in front of the TV.
  • Stop taking yourself too seriously.  Reawaken the inner child.  Be prepared to make mistakes. Be playful.

Some say that serious people don’t have time to waste on being creative.  And, that being mindful is just a ‘new-age’ gimmick.  All I know is that a really cool Renaissance Man creates his own reality.


jack collier

get out into nature

School Bus Camper

I’d like to sit back and take in the grandeur of nature.

There’s this long-term plan for me to buy an old school bus and convert the thing into a camper / RV.  It’s a pretty vague plan right now because I have a lot of other things on my mind.  However, I’m thinking of doing the conversion in Southern California, which obviously means buying the used bus somewhere in SoCal.

I’ve looked into how much it would cost to buy a used bus in the 12 to 18 seat range from somewhere around LA, and you can trust me on this, they are practically giving the things away.  (I’ve seen one I like the look of for $2,500 plus taxes.)

There are a couple of caveats there, the look I want means an old bus, and that means lots and lots of miles, (100,000 or more), but as they are built to last with huge diesel engines, (7 litres or so), that shouldn’t matter so much.

The second caveat is that an old bus is going to need specialist rebuilding and servicing for the chassis and engine, before I start on the fun part of the conversion.  There are plenty of companies who are set up to rebuild and service the chassis / brakes / engine / gearbox / exhaust on this kind of vehicle, but I know that’s going to be hideously expensive ~ (maybe).

Still, I don’t think I need a vast budget for this kind of project.  I can work that out in detail over the next few months.

(There is also the option of buying something that actually started life as a camper van.)

The really fun part is thinking about the places I’d like to take my bus, (like Big Bear Lake) ~ and who I’d like to take along with me.  (Marmy and I need a girl riding shotgun.)

Life is a journey, enjoy the ride.

Sponsored by:

10% discount on everything if you quote code C7SYDV6B


jack collier

Advanced DIY

Really successful engineering is all about understanding how something will break or fail.

For some strange reason I am blessed with the ability to fix almost anything, install almost anything, make almost anything, and build almost anything.

I built myself a Caterham / Lotus 7 sports-racing car, which I then drove all over Europe on long road trips.  The trip I enjoyed most in this little car was driving down the entire Loire Valley in France.  (Or maybe it was the Stelvio Pass.)

Minor pieces of carpentry are child’s play for me ~ which is why I could rip out the old kitchen in my garret and replace it with something that I liked and suited my needs.

(With help from my friend Marmaduke of course.)

I’ve also erected log cabins and built vacation homes from plywood.  (This is a stock picture, not one of mine)

Sometimes, half way through a project, I’ve wondered why I started, and if the thing would ever be finished.  The picture above shows this kind of ‘why am I doing this’ project. Although, this wreck of an Austin-Healey Sprite turned into a really beautiful little car, finished in British Racing Green as a frog-eye.  (the almost completed little car, I like that I did the white stripes)

For my next project I’m thinking about finding an old school bus, rebuilding it as an RV, (Recreational Vehicle), and then spending an entire year in the thing, touring as much of the USA as I can, on the longest road trip ever.

Something you need, if you want to tackle advanced DIY projects, is a really, really comprehensive tool kit.  And, take my advice, always buy the very best tools you can afford.  (You may need a hard hat.)

This post is sponsored by:


jack collier

some power tools are a must have

click on the power tools picture

Caterham Seven Sprint


Caterham has launched a ‘new’ Seven, the ‘Sprint’ with retro ‘swinging sixties’ styling reminiscent of Colin Chapman’s original Lotus Seven, clamshell wings, steel wheels, chrome hubcaps and all.

The Caterham Seven Sprint is largely based on the entry level Caterham Seven 160, and uses the same little 660cc, 3 cylinder Suzuki engine, albeit with dohc, 4 vales per cylinder, and fitted with a turbocharger to give 80bhp and 79 foot pounds of torque.  That’s a lot more power than the 39bhp of the very first Lotus Seven, but in today’s terms, it’s pretty puny.  It isn’t a good looking engine bay.


The Seven Sprint is also fitted with a live axle, which is fine in its way, but there is such a thing as taking nostalgia too far.  The last Caterham I owned used a very sophisticated de Dion rear end, and even that was very prone to power oversteer.  Every live axle car I’ve ever driven has had ‘interesting’ roadholding and handling ~ I’ve no reason to suppose the new Caterham Seven is any different in that respect.  Still, it all adds to the terrifying fun.

It could have been worse, Caterham could have gone right back to the 1957 Lotus Seven with a side valve enginedrum brakes and a three speed gearbox with no synchromesh on first.

I have built, owned, and driven a Caterham Seven with clamshell wings, and they are a mixed blessing.  On the upside they are so much better looking than cycle wings, on the downside clamshell wings have the aerodynamics of a box-kite.  Given a couple of Sevens with otherwise identical specifications, a car with flared clamshell wings will have a lower top speed and much worse acceleration at higher speeds, than a Seven with close-fitting cycle wings.


However, there is no doubt that the new Seven Sprint is a pretty little car in those retro colours, flared wings, and with a brilliant red leather interior.  As a driver’s car it will be utterly brilliant too ~ you haven’t driven a sports car until you’ve driven a Seven.  But in comparison with other Lotus / Caterham Sevens available, it’s sort of the runt of the litter.  Pretty but lacking in spirit.

There is one huge problem with the Caterham Seven Sprint ~ prices start at £27,995, which is a stupid amount of money to pay for this particular little car.  Mind you, Caterham Cars aren’t the remotest interested in what I think of the Seven Sprint, the limited production run of  60 cars sold out in a week.

I have a sneaking suspicion that not many of the 60 people signed up to buy a Caterham Seven Sprint will be driving it much, if at all.  It seems to me this is a Summer Sunday afternoon car to take for a short drive to the country / beach / pub.  Or even worse, a lot of the buyers could be ‘collectors’ who will stick this Seven in their heated Motor House under a dust cover, and mostly leave it there.

Would I recommend a Caterham Seven 160 / Sprint to a friend?  No.



the BRG and yellow car is my last Caterham Seven

these opinions are mine and mine alone

Jack Collier



The MGB is a reliable, understated, practical, economical, and fun quintessentially English sports car.  It can also be a little boring and old-fashioned at times, which is another reason it’s quintessentially English.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve never fallen in love with the MGB in the way I have loved some other cars.  I can’t quite bring myself to believe the MGB is a cool car.  Yet the MGB is a huge success story, the biggest selling British sports car ever.

Introduced in 1962 the B is a two-door, two-seat, soft-top, sports car with the engine at the front, four-speed manual gearbox in the middle, (with optional overdrive), and a live axle at the back. In looks and construction it was modern for the time.    The monocoque construction was very modern for 1962 ~ strong, light and with built-in crash protection.  Yet, the monocoque still harks back to the old days because there large are longitudinal chassis rails welded to the bodyshell.  Belt and braces, very English.

The best I think I can say about the MGB’s appearance is ‘inoffensive.’  It was designed in-house, when an external car design studio may have had a lot to offer, and resulted in something a little less bland.

As far as the drive train is concerned, well it’s antediluvian.  The B series engine was lifted out of the 1955 MGA, and bored out to 1,798cc, which gave the MGB some 95 bhp at a leisurely 5,400 rpm.  USA specification cars came with a strangulated 65 bhp lump.

P1040654There were two major revisions to the MGB a potential owner needs to consider.  Firstly the engine.  That B series cast-iron lump originally came with only 3 main crankshaft-bearings, which is less than ideal.  In  a 5 main bearing block was introduced, and given a choice, this is what you want.  Then in late 1974 the grotesque, and very unpopular, rubber-bumpered version of the B was introduced in response to California’s Ralf Nader inspired road safety campaigns. Unless you want to do major work to lower the suspension and take off the ugly black appendages, do not buy one of these cars.

MGBGTThe MGB is a fairly practical car, but if you want real practicality and having a convertible isn’t at the top of your list, then you could seriously think about the MGB GT (what a great name for a car….???).  It’s better looking than the soft-top, has more luggage space, and was a hatchback before anyone came up with the term ‘hatchback’.  If you really must have sun and practicality, then try and find an MGB GT with a dealer-fitted full-length sunroof by someone like Webasto.  Around 125,000 MGB GT were sold.  I’ll publish a separate post on the MGB GT.

Right from the start it was obvious that the MGB could use more power, and someone had the ‘brilliant’ idea of sticking a big heavy iron six in the front to create the, inherently flawed, 2,912 cc MGC, (which was actually intended to replace the Austin~Healey 3000).  Only 8,999 of these nose-heavy brutes were ever made, so this is now a seriously expensive car.  You would have to be insane to try and drive one of these fast on an English country road.  I think you would have to be insane to buy one.

MG-RV8-2In 1970 a garage owner named Ken Costello stuck a Buick / Rover all aluminium 3,528 cc 137 bhp V8 in the front of an MGB GT, to create the legendary MGB GT V8.  Despite the clunky name this is a seriously desirable car.  Sadly only 2, 591 were produced by MG between 1973 and 1976.  A final development using the V8 engine was the MG RV8, (and for my American friends this was not a RV in your sense of the term).  Good luck finding an RV8, and congratulations if you can afford it.

Tuning and ‘personalising’ and MGB offers the keen mechanic endless opportunities.  There are a plethora of firms offering parts and specialist tuning services.  The MGB can be turned into a seriously fast car ~ it did well at Le Mans.  All one has to decide is how much you want / need originality, against how much you want a car that looks and drives really well.

mgb10From 1962 to 1980 some 387,000 MGB roadsters were made, so it isn’t exactly a rare car, even though 87% were exported.  You can expect to pay above £10,000  for a decent example.  And, you can consider an MGB as a pretty good investment.  If you’re considering buying an MGB, first join one of the owners’ clubs.  You want an example with all it’s paperwork intact.  Rubber bumpered versions may look OK, but beware of hidden crash damage and rust behind those black appendages.  Rubber bumpered cars are a lot cheaper than the chrome bumpered cars.  Look for bodged repairs and rust in the sills, which are structurally crucial, (beware of oversills, hiding rot underneath).  If you can see any bodywork rust at all, walk away unless you are prepared to do a major structural rebuild.  A good test is to jack up the car using the original jacking points, if the door gaps open up at the top, then the car is bending because it’s rotten underneath.  The suspension needs regular maintenance, and if this hasn’t been done it’s likely that much of it will need replacing.

The good news is that you can buy just about everything you need to make an MGB from scratch, including brand new bodyshells.  (about £10,000)  Personally, if I wanted an MGB, I’d look for a rubber bumpered heap of junk and rebuild the thing to my own standards and specification.  I would have £500 in my pocket and expect to have the thing trucked back to my workshop.

A long road trip in an MGB?  Magical, you can cruise or hustle along, but make certain to take your tool-kit along with you.





Lotus Elan + 2


Seen at a local car rally, one of my Top 10 cars of all time.  A very bright green example of the beautiful, dynamic, elegant, fragile, and inherently flawed Lotus Elan Plus 2.  This agile, fast, desirable little sports coupé is capable of breaking a man’s heart almost as badly as would falling hopelessly in love with the wrong woman.


Based on the equally desirable, but even smaller Elan, the plus 2 had a longer wheelbase, was a little wider and heavier, but came with two rear seats big enough for a briefcase / ladies purse, or small children.

lotusThe Plus 2 followed the basic Lotus layout of a backbone chassis, Lotus-Ford Twin Cam engine, mated to a Ford gearbox, putting the power down though Lotus’ idiosyncratic independent rear suspension, with brilliant independent front suspension and lightning fast steering, all clothed in a pretty closed coupé fibreglass body shell.

Any Lotus, from any era, should be a dynamically brilliant, blisteringly fast car, (on anything other than the freeway / motorway / autobahn, where its flaws will be most obvious), capable of putting a silly smile on your face every single time you drive it.  The secrets are a stiff chassis, compliant suspension, low weight, small size, fast steering, brilliant roadholding, and enough power.  Very simple really.

Simplify, then add lightness.  ~ Colin Chapman

DSCF0029The philosophy of Lotus follows that set by the genius Colin Chapman, and that philosophy is in every nut and bolt of the Elan +2.  This mantra of simplicity and lightness is what results in both the Elan’s brilliance and it’s flaws.  Lotus would never make one component do only one job on the car, not if they could make the same component do two or three different jobs.  To give you an example; on the Elan, the concealed headlamps are raised and lowered by a vacuum system that uses a front chassis cross member as the reservoir…  Clever, but crazy.  This philosophy of being as light as possible and then lighter than that, resulted in some spectacular fragility in Lotus Formula 1 cars.

In the Elan +2 this obsession with lightness and simplicity will result in breakages and breakdowns, on a depressingly regular basis.  I would caution anyone who is not either mechanically adept, or rich, (or insane), not to buy one of these heartbreakingly wonderful little cars.

lotus1Some say that LOTUS stands for;

Lots Of Trouble, Usually Serious.

Personally, given the time and money, I could rebuild an Elan +2 from the badge backwards.  Come to that, new backbone chassis and body shells are available, so I could build myself a brand new Elan plus 2, from the garage floor upwards.  Budget for that?  Using some reconditioned components, start at $20,000 and work towards double that, (not counting my time).  The benefit of building my own ‘Lotus’ would be I could re-engineer the basic car using more durable modern components ~ such as the Ford Zetec engine.

Would I buy, rebuild, or build an Elan plus 2, this infinitely desirable, dynamically wonderful little car.  The short answer is no.  The long answer is, no I still wouldn’t, and that’s broken my heart already.  If I really wanted a fast classic coupé, I’d look for the far more agricultural, but still pretty,  Reliant Scimitar GTE.  Whereas a decent Elan +2 would cost me £15,000, I could most likely get a decent Reliant Scimitar for around £5,000.  Of the two, which do you think would break first?



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