Ok, I’m not typing this story because the topic hails from Kolkata, my half-home town, but this involves some serious feels. This is the story of ‘Necromancy’, an open wheeled sports car, hand built by three young lads from Kolkata out of a ramshackle garage, with funds as little as Tiger Shroff’s facial hair. Inspiration comes from the Ariel Atom, and eventually ends up being somewhat of a skewed replica, but that’s fine, given the limited resources on offer.
Here’s how its brainchild introduces his bold project, “Yes, we started this project ‘Necromancy’ with the picture of a Caterham 7 in our minds. I am Riddhi Guha, better known by my nickname, Ezio. Back in December, 2013, I was introduced to a skinny yet stout kid with glasses on his eyes – Shubharup Sadhukhan, who was a friend of my old college mate, Prasun Mandal.
Fifteen minutes of conversation, while sitting on the stairs of an almost abandoned foot over bridge at Ultadanga, we decided to proceed with this project.”
With the project given the green light, it was time to hunt for a donor vehicle. Not much of a car was needed to build what they had in mind, so the trio started looking for junked cars their owners were willing to let go off at dirt cheap prices. A healthy drive-train and a chassis is all that they were seeking for, and finally, after scouring for irreparable junk, they stumbled upon a dilapidated 1998 Maruti Suzuki Esteem VXI which came with an expired insurance, expired tax token, no pollution certificate & the fitness was valid for merely one more year. It had been lying unused for over two years, half submerged on the streets, left out to die.
Ezio, as Riddhi’s sobriquet goes, took the Esteem in, after having paid a few pennies, because this is the guy who had earlier refused to buy a Honda City i-VTEC engine, only for INR 30,000. With the donor car issue sorted, work on the project began. The team got hold of a new battery, and managed to start the Esteem up with a few drops of oil and some patience. Much to their amuse, the gearbox worked perfectly as well.
Work began on a February afternoon in 2014, at a garage nestled in an unused 60 year old petrol pump owned by Shubharup’s father. The garage, as Ezio recalls, didn’t even have a clean floor, and they had to literally scan the whole floor for ages if nuts or bolts went missing. The first project meeting involved Shubharup showing off a boat like frame designed in CATIA, with the measurement synchronized with the wheel base of a standard Esteem. And that’s how references to the manic Ariel Atom were drawn.
The Esteem was dismantled in two days flat, but when it came to getting the engine out and dismantling it, the trio ran into some trouble as they couldn’t afford to rent a portable crane. Here’s how they ingeniously solved the problem – “We just borrowed a 40 years old mechanical jack, which was a gem of an old instrument, used to dismantle the gearbox and engines of trucks. We separated the engine from the car, rested the engine on bricks and tiles covered with the carpet from the same car, lifted the car and pushed it off. Phew!”
The frame was woven out of mild steel rods, with a 65 millimeter inner diameter & 67 millimeter outer diameter. It was fabricated by men who make goal posts, yes, you read that right – goal posts used in football. They were equally bewildered as you are right now after reading this, when the trio approached them with this offer. Rest assured, they agreed to do it, as the trio drew chalk lines on the footpath and the goal post guys bent 22 metres of rods close to the lines, by filling the rods with sand and applying measured heat and measured pressure.
The simple cage was fixed around the engine, and care was taken to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible. The seats were optimally positioned after days of head scratching and the track width was increased without altering the steering geometry. 20 feet of MS pipe, got cut & edges got honed into measured angles to be welded as cross members.
Before the trio reached the point where brakes and suspension needed to be developed, the third boy from the group – Prasun Mandal decided to call it quits for reasons unexplained. The duo continued, unfazed by the dwindling funds and suspicious family members, and completed developing the suspension and brakes, mixing the Esteem bits like the wishbones with other components from motorcycles, and a brake booster air feed line played by a 3 meter long LPG gas cylinder rubber pipe from the domestic kitchen.
Like the Atom, the Necromancer features a double-wishbone suspension front and rear. The front shocks came from the ‘Baja’ team of MCKVIE, a local engineering college, while the rear shock absorbers were snatched from a Maruti Wagon R.
The Necromancer runs a rear engined, rear-wheel drive lay-out, and is essentially the Esteem’s drive-train running in reverse. Operating the gear lever became an issue with this kind of a layout, but it was resolved with a simple ‘J’ bend.
With the mechanicals almost in place, it was time to fabricate the body panels. Work for the same was assigned to Rahamat, “a body shop mechanic by profession, but with a real artist dwelling in him”. He carefully starting concocting the body panels, which, as you can see, cries out to the Ariel Atom. While Rahmat continued his witchcraft with the bodywork, the duo weren’t resting.
Ezio says “While the panels were being built, we were counting and fixing all the holes, and brackets, nuts & bolts and washers, making sure they would hold the suspensions, seats, canister, coil, lamps, harness, fuel tank, radiator, cluster, ABC pedals, steering tight, while running with her skirt held up in her hand. We were sure, there was no way of using the 45-litre gas tank and the same was replaced with a custom 11-litre one, concealed in a way that nobody could locate quick.”
The very first draft representing Necromancer was ready by September 2014 when the car got out of garage for the very first time – “a rust bucket, but adorable”. Final welds were given to front extension, steering member position, suspension mountings, brake booster & master cylinder mounting, headlamp & tail lamp mountings, while the fuel tank position and radiator position were adjusted.
The final touches included fixing the wiring harness, refurbishing the electronics and making sure every component worked like a dream. Sheet metal was fixed under the body, and the floors were made out of plywood, which could withstand more than 100 Kgs without creaking. Finally, after days of testing, Necromancer was ready, donning a black and yellow paint-job over Rahmat’s lovingly crafted panels.
The ending takes the cake, as Ezio says “Shubharup’s father felt so enthusiastic, he finally got everything for her, which she needed badly to grab eyeballs – new set of 13-inch alloy wheel wrapped in Apollo tubeless tyres, new seat covers, a MOMO steering with MOMO pedal covers & and a new battery. Cool father! Isn’t he?” It was February 2015, when the Necromancer finally hit the streets, and according to Ezio, “It is still running with quick dodgy movements, and never fails to draw attention!”
Ariel Atom replica at a glance:
• Overall length: 3,745 mm
• Overall width: 1,580 mm
• Overall height: 1,230 mm
• Wheelbase: 2,450 mm
• Track width (Front): 1,375 mm
• Track width (Rear): 1,370 mm
• Ground clearance: 132 mm
• Kerb weight: 540 kg
• Carrying capacity: 2 persons
• Min turning radius: 5.5 m
• Engine: 1,298cc Maruti Esteem engine (1998 carburetor model)
• Max power- 70 BHP @ 6,000 rpm
• Max torque- 100 Nm @ 4,500 rpm
• Engine displacement: Transverse rear
• Power to weight ratio: 129.6 BHP/ton
• Acceleration: 0-100 kmph in 12.7 seconds
• Cooling system: Liquid cooled
• Brakes: Solid discs at front & rear
• Suspension: Front and rear- double wishbone, pushrod operated dampers.
• Transmission: 5-speed manual
• Steering: Manual
• Rim: 13-inch alloy wheels (114.3 mm P.C.D.)
• Tires: Apollo Acelere (185/60 R 13)
Source – Team-BHP