In house manufacturing opens up new horizons for sports car specialist
A move to bring in-house the manufacture of key components needed for assembling one of the UK’s most popular kit cars has resulted in the manufacturer expanding into a new range of O/E components now increasingly used in motor sport. As a result of the popularity of its ‘Zero’ family of sports and recreational kit cars, Boughton, Newark based Great British Sports Cars Limited has expanded its in-house manufacturing operations with the acquisition of two Hardinge Bridgeport machining centres. The most recent – a Bridgeport GX 1000 vertical machining centre – has been supplied by the Engineering Technology Group and like the earlier Hardinge GS52 horizontal turning centre, it has rapidly established itself as an integral part of GBSC’s operations.
“We were too reliant on outside sub-contractors for component supply and because of the nature of our products – some supplied as kits, others as fully assembled cars – about three years ago we took the decision to bring as much manufacturing as possible in-house,” explains GBSC director Richard Hall. “It was a big move for us as we had little experience of manufacturing as such. But very soon we were reaping the benefits by controlling at first hand our supply chain and enabling us to fine tune and even re-design components for the benefit of the car quality.” The original Hardinge GS machine features the unique collet ready spindle allowing better part accuracy and surface finish to be obtained. This machine is available with a range of options to suit many types of manufacturing – 3 jaw chuck, part probe, tool probe, parts catcher, C-axis/live tooling and fully a programmable tailstock.
However, the acquisition of the Bridgeport 40-taper spindle GX 1000 VMC has brought another dimension the GBSC’s manufacturing operations and one they have been quick to exploit. GX 1000 VMC’s include a stiff and thermally-stable spindle, a rigid C-frame fixed column design and fixed pre-tensioned double-nut ball screws on all axes. The unique Bridgeport-designed linear guide and guide truck configuration provides added stiffness, damping and surface contact area. The machine is configured with three guideways and five guide trucks on both the X- and Y-axis; two guideways and six guide trucks on the Z-axis. These features on GBSC’s machine opened up further opportunities for another range of ‘Zero’ components to be manufactured – initially dampers and throttles. And such has been the success of these that GBSC has now diversified part of its manufacturing into producing and marketing its own range of dampers and throttles for specialist vehicles which are now sold under its ATR brand name. Further, this past summer the dampers they have been promoted as the official brand to be used on stock cars racing in the BRISCA FI UK championships. All dampers on every competitor’s car have to be identical under BRISCA rules and ATR products are the preferred make.
GBSC is also now manufacturing a range of throttle mechanisms under its ATR brand and these are commercially available as well as being fitted to all its ‘Zero’ kit cars. “In effect our investment in the Hardinge/Bridgeport machines has given us the best of both worlds,” Richard Hall explains. “We have addressed the supply chain problems for the ‘Zero’ which is going from strength to strength and have opened up a whole new market with our ATR products which we intend to considerably expand. “Although early days with the Bridgeport, if it makes as significant contribution to our business plans as the GS52 has we will be very well pleased,” Richard Hall adds.