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   The story of a home built mid-engined sports car......


     Visit the build diary for the latest news.......

     Welcome to the Meerkat project

The Meerkat is a two-seater mid-engined sports car, partly inspired by the Lotus 7 and its spin-offs. The concept of a very basic "drivers" car with a high power to weight ratio and track derived handling is one that appealed to Colin Chapman, and many others that followed. One recent development in the home built sports car field is the publishing of the book "Build your own sports car for as little as 250 pounds" by Ron Champion. The end product of the book is a car called the "Locost". To say it has stirred things up a little is an understatement. I have built several cars over the past 15 years or so but Ron's excellent book has got me motivated once more.

One problem, nowadays, with the traditional "7" configuration is the shortage of suitable front engine-rear drive donor vehicles. With this project I will try to eliminate that drawback by using a front wheel drive unit in a mid-mounted position, driving the rear wheels instead of the front. It was Colin Chapman who pioneered the mid-engine configuration in formula one cars, so it's also suitable for use in sports cars, if not the most practical set up. This project, along with many like it, is not about "practical", of course "practical" is fine as a by-product, it's just not high on the list!

The purpose of this web-site

The site is intended to record the progress of my project and hopefully inspire someone to do something similar, like I have been inspired by the work of others. If the end result is popular and desirable and there is a demand for some frames or parts then that would be OK too.

Mid-engine advantages

The usual arguments for a mid-engine layout still apply here, low polar moment of inertia, potential for small frontal area, compact drive train with low inertia etc. There is one main other reason which applies here though, the supply of front wheel drive donor vehicles is huge.

and disadvantages....

The usual arguments against, are lack of storage space, practicality, and access for maintenance. OK, we will deal or live with these problems, but there are few extra things to deal with : 1) The use of a front mounted drivetrain means we have no handbrake. 2) The use of a front mounted drivetrain also means we have a steering function that we no longer need. 3) We will have to get some new front end parts from a second donor. 4) When using a transverse (east/west) layout space for suspension is limited and reduces your options. Fortunately, we are not alone, the use of a FWD unit in the rear has been done before by the major manufactures e.g. Pontiac Fiero, Fiat X1/9, Toyota MR2 and so on, so there are ideas (if not actual parts) already out there.  

About me

I'm Alan Bertwistle and left England in 1994 to start my own mechanical engineering design consultancy in Florida. I specialize in the design of automated machinery and systems for test and assembly, mainly for the medical and automotive industries. I have competed in rallies, rallycrosses and autocrosses in England, and short course off-road racing in the US. I have built several one-off cars and chassis using a variety of donors.

Why Meerkat?

Meerkats are cute and can be tamed, but they are predators and can attack without warning. Well, OK all the really cool names have been taken, but Meerkats are cool in their own way! And to prove it click here for a great site to tell you all about these fascinating creatures.

Talk to me

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