As I haven’t yet put my car through the Individual Vehicle Approval test yet I asked a member of the cobra club who had recently passed the IVA to pass on his experiences, so a big thank you from me to Richard Porter for the following article, which I hope will be of benefit to you all.

It doesn’t matter what kind of kit your building, how much you spend or how mechanically minded you are – at some point you have to face the IVA. Each of these factors will, inevitably, have an effect on your stress levels but they will not stop your kit car having to face the VOSA man and his probes before it’s allowed on the road.

I bought my Pilgrim Sumo part built. While this certainly aided me with the mechanical stuff, sped the process up and did help (a little) with the cost it didn’t help much with my overall stress levels during my various IVA experiences. Overall I had been pretty meticulous about doing the parts of the build I finished with the IVA manual close to hand. My main worries stemmed from the work I had not done myself and this turned out to be where my main failures cropped up.

But let’s take a step back for a moment and describe the history of my car as this will put a bit more context on how my IVA unfolded. As I have already said I bought the car part built, with the understanding that is was just about ready for the IVA – all that I needed to do was fit a hydraulic clutch and I’d be good to go.  It wasn’t IVA ready and I know now that no one sells a kit car “ready for IVA”, if it was IVA ready they would put the car through the test and sell it after it was registered.

The clutch was actually fairly easy I got Tony to do the conversion on the pedal box and it worked a treat after I fixed a couple of leaks and bled it though properly. Other bits were not so simple - admittedly I made matters more difficult for myself by swapping out the interior for a one that I preferred.  But there were far more problems than just the clutch.

It turns out I was the third owner of the car – the first owner had done a pretty good job, all the running gear was refurbished and the body was on. The receipts showed the paint job was four grand and the wheels and tires were another grand – this owner knew what they were doing. The second owner was not so professional.  When I got it home and started working through the IVA manual I found I needed to fit a reverse/fog light, redo the wiring, swap out a leaky fuel pump, sort out self centring on the steering, adjust the suspension, muffle the exhausts, fit a breather system and dipstick, make a heat shield for the brake servo and a whole load of other jobs which took forever.  The Cobra Replica Club was invaluable during all of my build and I’d advise any builder to get on the clubs forums before they even start a build.

The worst item was the 1986 Rover 3.5 V8 engine though – this only became apparent on my first IVA. I was not properly prepared for this, the day of the test was the first time I drove It. It was immediately obvious all was not well as I had to crawl it to the test centre at Gillingham not managing more than 50 mph. When we got to there it immediately stalled and would not start again. The chap running the test was good natured about this (apparently it happens all the time) . we pushed the car to the start of the test did the identity check and then managed to start it for the emissions test. After tinkering with the Holley carb, all was well on one bank of cylinders but the other was a total fail with HC’s over 4000 (they need to be below 1200 for that age engine). After the emissions test the engine stalled again and when we tried to start it again the starter motor burnt out – not good but the IVA man remained positive and let us bump start it. We moved onto the rolling road for the speedo tests here the oil pressure warning light came on and stayed on. This is where we abandoned the test and got the AA to tow us home. It’s fair to say I hated my cobra by the end of that day.

Moving on a couple of weeks I regrouped and decided that the engine was clearly totally boned and I needed to do something. I did some research and asked around on the forums, eventually I got in touch with Jim at JRV8 who I had supplied my breather system and dipstick (for less than 20 quid). Jim has a great reputation and specialises in rebuilding Rover V8s. He agreed to rebuild my engine and gearbox and get it shipped to and from his workshop in Northern Ireland for just over 2k. This was an offer too good to refuse. Jim stripped the engine the same day it arrived – the results were worse than even I had suspected - it had been though a total abortion of a rebuild.  One bank of pistons had been fitted the wrong way, one of the cam’s lobes was missing, a bolt holding on the oil pump didn’t fit properly so had been knocked over with a hammer to make it work, and the gearbox had been filled with engine oil.  I will not list the rest of the problems as it pains me too much. Jim reckoned that it was one of the worst rebuilds he had seen in 20 years in the trade. Needless to say this hiked the cost a bit as it needed a re-bore and new clutch – I also opted to ditch the Holly carb and get an Edelbrock fitted.

While the engine was with Jim I took the opportunity to completely redo my wiring and more generally bring the engine bay up to my standards. When the engine returned it looked like it was  brand new and once I had refitted, 4 months after my first test  I was ready to try the IVA again… which is what I am supposed to be writing about!

Before I went for this test I got an MOT – this was just to ensure that the stuff I could not check in the IVA manual would be ok. Brakes and emissions were fine so I was happy.

This time once I had the car running I opted to have the car trailered to the test – this really reduced my stress levels as I knew it would at least arrive. When I got to Gillingham the examiners remembered me straight way and we shared a few jokes about my first experience – this put me at ease again and we got started. This time the test went much better and engine was clearly going to be a winner. There was a bit of a problem with a bit of a coolant leak, or should I say deluge. A pipe from my water pump came off and pissed coolant everywhere, the examiner just laughed and went to get a can of water to refill the coolant system. Once the engine had cooled and we had refilled we got on with the test.

This time may fail list was only four items – the fog/reverse lights did not have E markings, the brake pipe had got kinked when I put the engine back in, a couple of wires not secured and I needed to reinforce the steering column mounts.  I could have fixed the wires on the day; I had the tools, but chose not to - the steering column, brake pipe and lights needed extra parts.

However, my decision to get the car trailered to the test paid off when I tried to drive home. I had over stuffed the exhausts with wadding and this got more and more compacted during the test. By the time I went to drive home it was so bad the engine was totally strangled. I got 500 yards from the test centre and the car died. At first I thought it was a fuelling issue and so did the AA man. When we were fiddling with the carb there was an enormous pop and the offside exhaust came away from the header – this seemed to alleviate the issue a bit so I drove the car up the road. At first there was not much improvement so I floored the accelerator, when I got to 20 mph then there was another huge pop the other exhaust came off, the wheels span and off I went. I had to drive home without any silencers. By the time I got home my head was ringing but I had a huge smile on my face.

All my fail points were all dead easy to fix over one weekend and I passed my re-test 2 weeks later.

Overall I think my IVA experience was slightly more harrowing than most but not as bad as some. Now my Cobra is on the road it all seems worth it.

My top tips are:

In terms of generalisations I think most Cobra owners seem to have similar fail points when going to IVA: