The Rules


Rule 0 -The Rules

If you are knowledgeable of the rules, you must not by action, or through inaction, allow another builder to remain ignorant of the rules. You must follow the rules, except where the rules cause you to come into conflict with other rules. You must protect the rules and add to them except when it causes you to violate the already pre-existing rules.

Rule 1: Your environment is sacrosanct.

Your workshop is your man-cave. It is the place in which you conjur your engineering marvels in the dark of night when no-one is watching. It is the place where you have your complex-hydrocarbon induced vision quests. It is your centre. It is not a massive junk-drawer for the rest of the family to store stuff in. They have the rest of the house.

Rule 2: Defend your sanctum

If something weirdly turns up in your workshop and isn’t car, tool or booze related then it is your responsibility to get rid of it. It is not your responsibility to report to any person with which you share a dwelling that you want the strange arrival removed. You can just dispose of it. If it turned up by magic, then surely you can report to any inquiring mind that it also vanished by magic.  If you destroy it, be sure to do with in a spectacular and visible fashion. It’s not unnecessary violence, it’s just a liberal application of the correct tool, for instance a chainsaw to destroy a sofa.

Corollary. Certain non-builders in your household may mistake applying rule 2 to be a sure fire way to get rid of their junk. This is a mistake, because they will surely run out of possessions before the true builder runs out of destructive force and ingenuity.

Rule 3: Tidy your workshop

Tidiness is relative, and to an outsider, doubly so. They see hazards where you see convenience. If every tool is in its rightful place, it’s impossible to know where they all are. If they are all over the floor, car, workbench, or large pet then you will know exactly where everything is, even though to a casual observer it may seem impossible to know where they are. This is the essence of tidyiess.

Rule 4: In the workshop, wear what thou wilt, and that shall be the whole of the law

Apart from a kilt.

Rule 5: Your inner strength guides your tool choice

Tools solve problems. You will face a lot of problems. As such, you need a lot of tools. You need to be strong in the face of skepticism when challenged about just why you need another set of sockets that look similar to the other set, but mysteriously cost a lot more. Resist the urge to be influenced by the non-builder for you have right and experience on your side. Only you skinned that finger because the socket wasn’t the correct length. Only you can decide just how many 17mm spanners you need, only you.

A good test for deciding if you have enough of a tool is if you can find it in less than 60s. If you can’t find that 17mm spanner in 60s, then you blatantly don’t have enough 17mm spanners. The act of going out and buying another one will immediately flush out the one you’ve lost which will have been there all along.

Rule 6: Household utensils are just tools in waiting

If it exists in the house but wasn’t originally designated a workshop tool, it is yours to liberate or reappropriate. Sharp knives and scissors are appropriate examples of small tools that realistically belong to the builder in the workshop. Similarly a dishwasher is just a cylinder-head cleaning tank that hasn’t yet learned it’s true purpose.

Rule 7: The migration of tools is one-way

In accordance with rule 6, potential tools may migrate to the workshop and become tools. However, non builders may not in any way assume tools in the workshop may ever be used in the house. See Rule 2.

Rule 8: Measure in metric, or risk the end of the world

Use metric. There is no debate. If you have to import parts from a backwards region that doesn’t use metric, keep it quiet and don’t tell anyone. Just remember the scale of the carnage when people are foolish enough to ignore rule 8. When this happens, telescopes are blurry and probes smash into planets. There is one exception to rule 8; it is permissible to buy suspension components in 1/2″ size. Only 1/2 inch. So, realistically you can have any metric size you want, and 1/2″ rose joints and bolts. No exceptions. Well, apart from this one special case.

Followell’s corollary: speed is measured in Miles Per Hour. Suspension travel isn’t.

Rule 9: With great tools comes great storage opportunities

It isn’t enough to have the right tools, but you need the right storage. You need drawers, you need linings, you need cut-out shapes for every tool, including that odd one that you only get out to scare the neighbors. You aren’t obsessing with your storage requirements: you are just being tidy. Even your collection of hammers need a drawer of their own to be warm and cosy of a winter’s evening.

Rule 10: Be selectively noisy

The noises from a good builder’s workshop should be a cross between a piano destruction competition and the death-screams of a new life-form created by Dr Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker. If your neighbours aren’t thinking “What is he building in there?” then you’re doing it wrong. Repeated exposure to your noises will desensitise them to the times when you are setting the timing on your race engine at 9pm at 5000RPM, because anything lower down the rev-range is just wrong. Remember: if they mow the grass at 8am on a Sunday, you are allowed by The Rules to angle-grind or run your compressor at 9pm Sunday night.

Rule 11: Know how to refer to your tools

Refer to your tools wisely. Is that hammer a hammer, or a knock-o-meter, a nudger, a percussive force transduction instrument, or evidence?

Rule 12: Red is the only colour

If it’s red and spurting or dripping, pay attention to it; it may stain your upholstory. Any other damage you do to yourself should just be tolerated. Remember, being a builder already makes you a rufty-tufty engineer, so there’s no need to man-up.

Rule 13: Hand tools are only backups for power tools

Whenever you consider any job, start your tool selection with the most powerful tool and mentally work your way down to a tool you can tolerate for the job. There’s no reason why you cant attempt to put that self-tapper in with an air-wrench, or scratch your face with your jig-saw, but you may scratch the paintwork or invoke rule 12.

Rule 14: Important holes are reamed, not drilled

Drills do not cut round holes: reamers do. If you’re mounting suspension, drill to one between 1 and 0.5mm less and ream it out.

Rule 15: The normal laws of space and time do not apply to the builder

It is acceptable that “just popping into the garage” can mean losing yourself there for 6 hours, or a quoted 400 hour build time is actually 3 years, or “I’ll have that ready by Tuesday” is fine as long as you don’t specify the year. By all means install a clock because it won’t do you any good. When you cross your hallowed threshold, you will cease to care about the time so having a clock just gives you one more thing not to check.

Rule 16: Don’t de-glove yourself.

For your fingers, think carefully about wearing a ring in the workshop. If you get it caught and you de-glove your finger, there’s nothing they can do but amputate it. It’s not as if the NHS will then supply you with a perspex setting kit for putting the bones on display. If you’re up to anything more than building your masterpiece, then see Rule 4.

Rule 17: Use the right gloves

Oil is cancerous. Most of the crap that drips off your engine is bad for you. You should only protect your hands with nitrile gloves. Latex gloves are no use. So remember: latex is only for the bedroom.

Rule 18: Design for minimalism but compromise

Let’s face it, you’re building a racing car but compromising for the road. Your car needs to be the minimal expression of the racing car for the road. However, you are allowed to add dashboard bits if you have an engineering and/or scientific explanation for what you’re adding to the car. If for instance you have two fuel tanks, then yes you can have two fuel gauges. If you have a mainly production car and you add a boost gauge when there’s a perfectly good engine management system doing the work for you and it already knows the boost thankyouverymuch, that’s not in the true essence of the rules.

Whatever you do, don’t make your car look like you’ve covered it in glue and simultaneously ram-raided halfords and the ikea lighting department.

Rule 19: Dress appropriately for the road

Yes, you can wear a helmet for the road. None of this is a problem. Equally if you don’t wear a helmet for the road, it is appropriate to wear ear-defenders. After all, if you can hear all the bangs and rattles as you drive, that’s a second a lap lost. If you don’t need ear protection, you are violating rule 20.

Rule 20: There is no such thing as too much power

If you feel this rule needs elucidation, you need to start again at the beginning of the rules.

Rule 20a: More power than traction is the correct way around

Taking rule 24 into account, you should always have more power than available traction, and you should moderate the power using your right foot. If you don’t have this, you can’t have flamboyance. Any builder who decides to listen to the nagging non-builder voice that thinks there is too much power does not deserve the accolade “Balls the size of space hoppers”(3). This was first awarded to the head of Bugatti when I imagine he said to his design team: “no, really, 1000 bhp. I mean it. That’s what we should have. Now, off you fuck and make it happen”

Rule 21: With great welding power, comes a need for new breakers

If you’re welding be sure to power your welder properly. Get an electrician in. If you really observe the spirit and not just the law of being a builder then go and and get qualified as an electrician first. If the appliances in your house start behaving weirdly, then odds are you’re inducting current into the household wiring(1) which is bad. If you keep tripping your breaker then you need to get a different class of breaker designed to hold the surge current longer. Ideally, get your electrician to fit you a 45A socket to the wall; it looks very professional and is designed for the current.

Rule 22: Spend your money wisely – observe the law of diminishing returns

Just as Rule 18 tells you to not cover your car in adhesive and crash it through Halfords, and rule 20 tells you to get all the power you can, rule 21 tells you that you can get faster without throwing loads of money at the wrong problem. For instance: a days tuition will cost you £200 and a dry-sump kit will cost you £1000 (minimum). Which will make you faster and more confident? That’s right – 5 days of track time with a tutor rather than some nice alloy fittings. Of course, if you have a BEC and need a dry sump, this comes under required shiny.

Rule 23: The Law of Shiny

There’s no reason why what you do shouldn’t look really good. If you’re joining hose A onto thing B, then do it with Aeroquip fittings; you will look like you know what you’re doing, and one never knows, you actually may know what you’re doing. Rule 5 tells you when you may need a new tool, but The Law of Shiny means you shouldn’t just go out and buy one new spanner if there’s a nice 86 piece professional set available. If a big set doesn’t suit you then the temporary loss of one spanner is the gateway you need to buy those five ratchet spanners you have been hankering after.

Rule 24 – Cat Litter isn’t just for Cats

I am always amazed at just how much 2 litres of blood can cover a wall and somehow attract the attention of the authorities. Similarly, 3 litres of engine oil really covers the floor and gets everywhere. The only way to realistically get all this oil up without rolling a cat in it is to soak it up with cat litter. Use the clay fullers earth type, not the wood type. Give it a while and then brush it up. Any remaining oil either gets fresh litter or use something like jizer to rinse it away. Interestingly, you have to be careful how you apply Rule 6. Using a Dyson to get the litter-dust up just means you need to buy a new Dyson.

Rule 25 – Know Your Definitions

It is crucial you can understand your technical terms at a fundamental level. For instance, understeer is when you go through the wall frontwards. Oversteer is when you go through the wall facing backwards. Power is how fast you go through the wall, and torque is how much of the wall you take with you (2).

Rule 26 – Choose Your Tyres Carefully

With a front drive car and careful tyre selection it is possible to fill the cabin with creamy white tyre smoke, credibility is given to a cabin so full that side windows need to be dropped slightly to allow the escape of just enough smoke to enable forward vision. I have found that Michelin Pilot Sports are the tyre of choice here as the level of smoke is high, colour white and consistency is thick. Rear drive cars are a different matter. Pungency is much less of an issue as the smoke trails behind the car so removing passenger participation.

Rule 27 – Choose the right fuel

Unfortunately, you aren’t just allowed to buy avgas to chuck into your pride and joy, so you must seek alternatives. The better the fuel, the more power (see rule 20). The best you can buy from the forecourt is Shell Optimax but a true builder doesn’t settle there. He looks to improve it again. At this point, you should be looking at an octane booster. Let’s face it, anything you’re allowed to buy but is so toxic that it can’t be sent through the post must be good. Only then do you have fuel. If you’re thinking of going for diesel, just throw your keys away and walk. Go and have a good look at yourself. If you choose this path, you’ll wash and wash and never feel clean.

Rule 28 – It’s OK to go “Brum Brum”

If you buy a new seat, steering wheel, gear knob or any part that another part of your body interacts with in the car, it’s OK to sit there in your living room testing the part, pretending it’s part of the car.

To the uninitiated observer, you look like you’re playing cars and making “brum brum” noises. What they don’t see is what’s in your mind’s eye. This isn’t the slaughter of innocents, but you being sure that every part of the user interaction with the car is ergonomically optimised which will reduce fitting time, and make the overall driving experience that much the better.

These are the rules to build your kit car by. I have developed, distilled and derived them based on my experience and misshaps. They should aid you in everything you do to build your car. I have some structure for this article:  workshop, tools, building, driving, interacting with others, interacting with muggles

Rule 29 – Tightening things

These are the official levels of tightness for any nut or bolt:

  • Loose
  • Tight
  • Tight-Tight
  • Grunt Tight
  • Fucking Tight
  • Sheared



(1) Strontium Dog, Locost Builders Forum

(2) This quote seems to be kicking around the net, and I’d love to find out who to attribute it to.

(3)Credit to Jon in the comments section for this one.

Copyright is asserted on this work by the owner of this site.

6 thoughts on “The Rules

  1. Personally, on the subject of power, I have found many people try to reason that there is a limit to how much power one should have. These people generally rationalise their belief by way of questioning how much power can be ‘put on the road’. Hmmm, a fair point you may think. STOP. You have to stop thinking so negatively. If their thoughts were correct then Bugatti would not have built the Veyron! A massively expensive car to design and build, limited in numbers, and it is reported that they as a company lost money on every single one sold. Now there is a company that must be run by a man with gonads the size of space hoppers. I would have loved to be in the many boardroom meetings where it was ultimately decided that the project would go ahead. Q- Have we got the capacity to build this car A- No Q- Does the car need 1001bhp to achieve the projected top speed/acceleration figures A- No Q- Will this project at least make us some money A- No Q- How do we justify the cost of this project A- Who gives a turkey? It’s going to have 1001bhp!!!! Sense played no part in that project. Sense also dictates that more than 200bhp in a front wheel drive car is stupid as the associated torque is too high and therefore when accelerating from rest excessive wheelspin is normally the result. This is wrong, sense again is not correct. With a front wheel drive you cannot have enough power. What needs to happen here is the choice of tyre needs to be investigated and chosen upon it’s strengths, in this particular instance level of pungency. With a front drive car and careful tyre selection it is possible to fill the cabin with creamy white tyre smoke, credibility is given to a cabin so full that side windows need to be dropped slightly to allow the escape of just enough smoke to enable forward vision. I have found that Michelin Pilot Sports are the tyre of choice here as the level of smoke is high, colour white and consistency is thick. Rear drive cars are a different matter. Pungency is much less of an issue as the smoke trails behind the car so removing passenger participation. Females seem to prefer this, again only in my experience. With a rear drive car you cannot have enough power. Some may argue that once again traction is forfeited at the expense of high speed acceleration as low speed and acceleration from rest is compromised due to wheelspin. Again these people are stupid and have missed the point. Excessively high bhp and torque gives the more astute driver the option of allowing the traditional driving style of changing vehicle direction with the steering wheel to become redundant, choosing instead the much more satisfying, noisy and visually stimulating method of ‘steering with the rear’. I could go on… and thats before one even starts to consider 4 wheel drive.

    • I think you have a great thread there for the difference between front, rear and all wheel drive. and I love your view on the Bugatti board – balls the size of space hoppers

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