In October 2015 I started my six month internship at Briggs Automotive Company (BAC) in Liverpool. BAC was founded in 2009 by the brothers Neil and Ian Briggs and is the manufacturer of the BAC Mono, a single seater road legal sports car, inspired to bring the Formula 1 experience to the road.
The Mono is lightweight, under 600kg, due to the tubular space frame chassis and carbon composite body panels. The sequential Hewland gearbox, directly derived from Formula 3, is a structural component, bearing all rear suspension loads. The 2,5L four cylinder Mountune engine delivers over 300bhp, making the Mono both quick (0-60mph in 2,8s) and fast (top speed of 170mph). This all combined with the central seating location and low center of gravity makes for a unique experience. This experience is further brought to the customers by delivering fully bespoke liveries and a seat and steering wheel molded to the driver’s posture, ensuring each Mono is truly ‘one of a kind’.
My role at BAC was as a junior design engineer. The description stated in my contract was very open: to be involved in future mod- el year options meaning my work at BAC was varied. This was one of the main reasons to choose BAC as an internship location. The size of the company was another reason. From the start of my internship, I was treated as an integral member of the team of 25 people. Of these 25, only four were working fulltime in engineering, including Pablo and myself.
Pablo is a Spanish TU Delft master student in the Spaceflight track and we were working at BAC simultaneously. The small company and limited number of people in engineering meant the focus was mostly on incremental upgrades of the Mono instead of research and development: evolution versus revolution. Being part of a small engineering team meant my responsibilities went beyond the technical aspect of things. I was expected to design prototypes, contact suppliers and test my proposed solutions. Personally I enjoyed this side of my work as much as the technical design for Mono. It was very satisfying to be involved in and responsible for a project from conceptual design to implementation.
BAC upgraded the Mono to include a 2.5L engine shortly before my internship commenced. The change from 2.3L to 2.5L involved more than a simple engine swap as multiple subsystems had to be revised as well. Most of the revisions had been implemented, however, there were still some unfinished projects. In my first week I worked on a return spring system for the throttle cable. The 2.5L featured a drive-by-wire system instead of the mechanical system used on 2.3L Mono. The result was an unsatisfactory throttle pedal feedback due to the absence of mechanical friction, which was resolved by designing the spring back system. This small assignment made me familiar with the CAD software used at BAC and the process of design and implementation mentioned before.
During the subsequent weeks I was mostly occupied with updating the ‘Bills-of-Materials’ (BOM) for the 2.5L Mono. This list includes every single part on the Mono, from bodywork panels to single bolts and nuts. Updating this list to reflect the current builds provided me with in-depth knowledge of the composition and assembly of the car, which proved to be very useful during the remainder of the internship. The BOM updates familiarized me with automotive terminology and the interaction of components on a high-end sports car. The end result, an actual list of parts for Mono, is not only used by engineering but is also used by purchasing and manufacturing and will aid the company in transitioning to an online product lifecycle management system. This system is intended to be implemented this year and will allow BAC to continue growing as a sustainable business.
During the second half of the internship, my focus was on the support of the 2017 model Mono, planned to be presented in July 2016. The main update for the 2017 model is a modified chassis which provides more space for the driver. Updating the chassis is not as straight-forward as it seems, as most systems present on the car are directly connected or related to the chassis geometry in one way or another. The wide chassis was the main engineering development project during my time at BAC and it showed me the impact such a project has on all levels of a business. It also showed me what a small company can achieve when the employees are motivated, capable and willing to go the extra mile.
Parallel to the work on the BOM and product design for the 2017 model, was the support for manufacturing of the Mono at BAC. The Mono is a low volume sports car with a total of fifty complete builds as of February 2016. The low volume production combined with the customizability of Mono meant that every car faces its own issues from time to time. During my time in Liverpool I have experienced inconsistency in quality from suppliers, unavailability of off-the-shelf components and unreleased part revisions. Each of these issues required the input from engineers in one way or another.
An example was related to the BAC bespoke exhaust system. The exhaust manifold was touching a chassis tube for a newly manufactured exhaust set. In order to keep up with the manufacturing schedule I visited the supplier to discuss possible solutions to prevent future production inconsistencies. In the end I designed a steel jig for the supplier to ensure the clearance between chassis and exhaust. Other issues arose from the availability of off-the-shelf components. As the Mono was designed several years ago, some components will be harder to come by as time progresses. Replacement parts are not always identical in dimension or quality and thus require engineering to assess replacement solutions. Contacting suppliers for information, investigating and proposing solutions and then implementing these solutions was a nice change of pace compared to some of my larger assignments and it taught me to be concise, clear and correct in my way of working.
LIFE IN THE UK
The city of Liverpool surprised me in a positive way. Admittedly, apart from the history in music and the professional football teams, I was unfamiliar with the city beforehand. Liverpool and its residents were as welcoming and the Liverpool city center is always alive and vibrant. During daytime the people like to enjoy themselves in one of many pubs, usually accompanied by live football and music. At night the public shifts to clubs and outdoor bars (yes, even in winter) to party until the sun rises. The area where Pablo and I lived, next to Penny Lane, was populated with plenty of takeaway restaurants and pubs, making it a lively area to be. Going out for food or having an indoor karting session with the BAC team were nice breaks from the workweek that encouraged and motivated me to give my best.
In conclusion, I am very satisfied with my internship experience in Liverpool at BAC. The company is welcoming and the small team means you are immediately seen as a full member of the team. My responsibilities and assignments were varied which made for a satisfying work experience. The approachability of colleagues and their enthusiasm regarding everything on wheels was also a pleasant introduction to the automotive in- dustry. Discovering Liverpool with friends, family and colleagues left me with some great memories. I am definitely planning on revisiting this wonderful city in the future again.
– Tom Schouten, Student Aerospace Engineering, TU Delft