Scimitar Continues

The new gearbox went into the Scimitar this evening after attending to a few odds and ends prior to fitting.  The new clutch proved to be slightly less than straightforward: This particular car has a 10.625 inch pitch circle for the clutch cover mounting bolts although the more common circle diameter for the 9.5 inch clutch is 10.75 inches.  The good news about this is that the clutch cover is still in production and the bad news is that in order to make the same component compatible with different vehicles it is now slightly shallower than its original specification.  It would in fact have been possible to ignore the difference because the clutch release has enough travel to accomodate it – a fact of which I’m sure the manufacturer is aware. However one of the secrets to a light clutch with a nice feel is to get the geometry of the linkage correct so with this in mind I have manufactured a new release bearing carrier from phosphor bronze which restores the angle of the clutch fork so that it goes “over centre” at the same point as does the cover assembly.

Part of the reason for using a thin adaptor plate was to make assembly easier so that the new unit has about the same clearance compared to the old one when engaging the clutch spines ie: only just enough.  The gearlever lines up nicely with the hole in the tunnel and crossmember aligns nicely with the bolt holes, although the different height of the rear mounting will neccesitate a packing in order to maintain the same gearbox height.

Next on the list of jobs  is the setting of the gearlever to bring it to the original angle, the speedo cable and the propshaft. Once these are attended to the assembly can be completed ready for road testing.


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The Correct Settings

I had a visit from a Bristol 403 today (not forgetting its owner) for the fitting of new rear shock absorbers – or to use the more technically correct term: dampers.  One of the things we discussed was the intital setting of the new units, the answer to which is – at least in theory – simple:

The theoretical and precisely accurate amount of damping required is critical damping as shown in the graph:  If you press a car down on it’s springs it will describe one of the shapes shown in the graph above.

As it happens few of the settings to do with driver experience ever seem to be best left at the theoretically correct, and this is largely because we have expectations of them which are very much human and  we use terms such as “handling” , “feel” and “character” to describe them.  Consequently there are plenty of sports car drivers who set their cars up to be very much overdamped and at the other extreme plenty of American luxury car drivers who drive around in an underdamped condition (not to mention that of their cars).  The choice seems to come down partly to what suits the type of car and its intended use, and partly to the preferences of the driver.  It often takes me at least a week of driving before I’m absolutely sure that the settings are the most appropriate, but that may say more about my personality than it does about damper settings…

There are plenty of instances where automotive engineering becomes tailored to human experience rather than to theoretical perfection and another such example is steering geometry: Most people who design steering modifications – particularly rack and pinion conversions – take great care to calculate a geometry which will avoid any bump steer, and I am no exception to this rule. Bump steer is a condition caused by alteration of wheel track as the front suspension deflects, and as it happens many modern cars are deliberately not devoid of the phenomenon.  The idea is that if a car is designed to give a moderately increased toe in at extremes of driving then it will be easier to handle by less experienced drivers:  It serves as a sort of early warning system when the car is getting “near its limit”.  In this case most enthusiasts prefer the theoretically perfect setting of zero bump steer and have no desire for the handling to be compromised in order  to reduce the neccesity for driver skill.  Interestingly both Jowett and Riley used to provide a height adjustment for the steering tie rod ends so that one could set the car up with precisely zero bump steer.

Personal preference is a huge determining factor: Many enthusiasts over the years have told me that vintage cars “handle better” than later designs although clearly modern cars go round corners an awful lot quicker.  I suspect the truth of this is that to these individuals the cars just feel nicer – and I can quite understand why. A good vintage car is incredibly predictable on the road, it gives plenty of warning when it is about to slide and when it does do so it is very easy indeed to control.

Which conveniently brings me back to the issue of damper settings:  When, years ago, I used to compete in an Alvis 12/50 I treated the car to a long overdue overhaul of it’s Hartford shock absorbers in time for my entry in the winter driving tests at Enstone airfield.  The car was one which I believed I knew back to front but the newly re-conditioned and carefully set up shock absorbers had altered things quite significantly so that the panache which I intended to display in a controlled rear end drift was quite destroyed by the resulting 4 wheel slide into a bunch of cones. Come to think of it I should be waiting for people to forget about incidents like this instead of blogging about them….

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Scimitar Taking Shape

Type 9 Gearbox for SE5ASE5A Bell HousingThe bellhousing conversion for the Ford Type 9 Gearbox in the Scimitar SE5A is now finished and pictured here as a trial assembly.



Also pictured is the new cover assembly for the selector rail which has to protrude through the original bellhousing.





First job today was to set up the Scimitar bellhousing on the turret mill and produce spot faces for 4 of the bolts which now pass through it and thread in to the new adaptor plate. The remaining 2 bolts pass through the adaptor plate into the original threads in the bellhousing.

The Type 9 gearbox, unlike the original SE5A unit, has only one selector rail but when 2nd or 4th gear are engaged this protrudes much further from the gearcasing than did the rails in the original box.  In order to accomodate this I have bored a hole in the bellhousing which breaks through to the clutch area. Not wishing to soak a nice new clutch in oil I have made up the “top hat” cover in the bottom picture which attaches with three 2BA set screws into the newly machined surface inside the housing. Ford have thoughtfully provided flats on the end of the selector rail so it won’t hydraulic inside the cover plate – oh and the top hat section isn’t strictly neccesary but it looks so much more workmanlike than a plain lump of steel bar!

All that remains to be done now is to machine the guide tube for the clutch release bearing carrier so that it is of compatible size with the Scimitar clutch assembly and to machine the heads of some high tensile bolts for attaching the plate; the ones fitted now are “stock” bolts for trial assembly. The bellhousing can then be finally assembled with gaskets in place, and the whole thing will be ready to fit to the vehicle.

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I needed to pick up a new bandsaw blade on Friday afternoon and it seemed the perfect excuse to take out the MK2.  Although I ordered the blade when I was getting ready to manufacture the Scimitar adapter plate, the old one has somehow managed to get the job done anyway: Never throw anything away until it is well and truly worn out!

I spotted a late model TR7 in Evesham and also a TR2 restoration project being trailered somewhere near Upton Upon Severn, but apart from this the Jag seemed to be the only classic car on the road.  I’m quite convinced that there has never (in theory) been a better time to use a vintage or classic car as regular transport: Even in the current hard times, people seem to have more disposable income than they did decades ago, parts availability for the cars has never been so good, and the average condition of  these sorts of cars has (even in my lifetime) improved beyond measure. Despite this there seem to be fewer classics in frequent use than ever.

I had originally intended to further support my case by proving how even the cost of fuel is more easily afforded than in years past,  however that which stands intuitively to reason isn’t always the case!  I managed to find some statistics online for the average UK income in 1965, and the AA helpfully publish fuel prices by year from the 1920s onwards.  After a few quick calculations – and a somewhat less quick trawl of google – I came up with the following figures:  In 1965 the average salary would have purchased around 80 gallons of petrol per week.  Today the average salary will purchase around 60 gallons per week.

Being an optimist (or should that be opportunist) I am prepared to turn this initial setback of my argument to my advantage:  Modern cars use so much less fuel than those made prior to 1965 that their owners can drive much further on the average salary than would have been possible in the 60s or 70s.  This does seem to prove that fueling a vintage or classic car is now less affordable than ever – particularly if you drive a Jaguar at around 22 mpg.  The enjoyment of the drive of course is priceless, and how many modern car users receive all that for their money?  Nevertheless I’m glad that I accepted that fuel loyalty card from the local filling station….

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More Ford Type 9 Conversion

Type 9 Adapter PlateI finished off the adapter plate for fitting the Type 9 gearbox into the Scimitar SE5A today – and managed to get a decent workout into the bargain when it came to finishing the profiled edges! The finished plate bolts to the new gearbox with the four counterbored holes which are large enough to accept a thin 19mm socket and will leave the bolt heads below the surface of the plate. The original Scimitar bellhousing will then bolt on to the other six holes and the slightly bigger hole in the top of the plate (which is actually on the right of the photo) gives clearance for the selector rail.  The adapter plate is made as thin as possible in order to use the shorter of the available first motion shafts and to bring the position of the gearbox as near to original as possible.  Because of this I decided to maximise strength by using a really good quality bit of steel.  The workshop machinery all coped well with the task although the swarf was coming off the big Willson lathe in rather an interesting shade of blue.  The plate was profiled to external shape with a bandsaw and then finished with a file before polishing with emery, and it was the latter two operations which also made me turn a rather interesting shade in the summer heat!

The next job will be to spot face the original bellhousing so that the bolts (some of which now face rearwards instead of forwards) will have a good surface on which to tighten.  One extra job had been unforseen until the new gearbox arrived:  The single rail selector has to pass through a newly bored hole in the bellhousing and it will need a cover making for it in order to seal oil.  I shall be producing a spot facing for this also when the bellhousing is set up on the milling machine.

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Scimitar Gearbox to Type 9 Conversion

Just as many other children did in the 1970’s, I looked forward to my weekly helping of The Professionals on Sunday night.  Unlike many children, however, a good deal of my thoughts were devoted to making things on lathes and milling machines and so it was with some bewilderment that I witnessed Bodie reflect (in a not remotely camp manner) with Doyle that the risks of their job were “better than standing by a lathe all day”. Adulthood of course brings with it entirely new perspectives and I discover that I have no wish to stand by one of my lathes all day, watching it carve chunks out of a large lump of steel plate which is becoming a Type 9 gearbox adapter.  One of the best aspects of producing a bellhousing register at one corner of  a 10 inch square plate is that one can hear when the cut is nearly through when the lathe tool starts removing metal for the whole revolution of the job. This happily has enabled me to get on with a few other jobs in the workshop while the lathe keeps busy by itself.

The Ford Motor Company can usually be relied upon to come up with some good standards of its own and to adhere to them infallibly. Thus it happens that the position of the gear lever on a Type 9 gearbox is in just the same relative location as that on the Scimitar box; likewise that of the rear mounting.  Even more happily the first motion shaft of the new gearbox is 11.5 mm longer than that of the one belonging to the Scimitar so this is going to be the finsished thickness of the adaptor plate, meaning that the position of the gear lever and rear mounting will be the same amount futher back. This variation is going to be easily accommodated.  The bearing housing on the Type 9 gearbox is smaller than that of the original box which also saves a lot of machining because I can simply produce a one piece plate with a bore which locates on the housing. The plate is being machined with a register of larger diameter which will engage with the Scimitar bellhousing and keep it concentric with the first motion shaft.

My first experience with the type 9 gearbox was during the modifications of a then new XR 4x4i which was being fitted with a turbocharger.  Having fitted the engine and box over the inspection pit I moved the car to a 4 post lift in order to complete assembly and was alarmed to notice how notchy the gear selection felt compared with how the car came in.  The solution was to refit the rubber boot around the gear lever upon which this box apparently relies to give it a nice smooth feel.  I’m hoping to put this experience to good use when designing the gear lever boot fitment on the Scimitar.

More on the conversion is to follow as it all takes shape ready to give the sort of sterling service which it did in the 2.8 Capris which were driven (in a not at all camp way) by Messrs. Bodie and Doyle.

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Another Mixed Day

Today has been one of some variety:  First job was to replace the flat belting on one of the lathes and on the bandsaw.  The fact that these machines use flat belting should give you some idea of their age:  The youngster of the two is a South Bend lathe which was supplied new to the US army during the War, and since it was never used, Mr. Thetford senior became the first person to put it to work; it has given sterling service ever since.  The bandsaw was made in Malvern in the early 1920s and uses Hickory spoked wheels with solid tyres to mount the blade together with a Ford Model T epicyclic train for reduction gearing; it was orginally driven by overhead shafting and now has an electric motor. I can trace the history of this machine back to its manufacture and am fairly sure that I have just become the first person ever to replace the secondary drive belt. I purchased the new one on ebay and if it lasts as well as the one I took off then it will see me out!

The Hupmobile left today after some final fettling and I have been continuing work on longer term projects before finishing the day with a Saab convertible from the early nineties.  This particular Saab has recently returned from a holiday in Portugal where an amateur Portugese locksmith in search of easily – carried valuables has removed all the exterior locks from the car with remarkable efficiency, considering the basic tools which he evidently must have used…..

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Finishing Touches

Today I have been carrying out a few rather rewarding odd jobs on a MK6 Bentley. The owner and I rebuilt the engine some years ago and since then we have never got around to making it run quite as well as it should. When it first went back on the road we had to confront some rather unfortunate carburettor problems due to an unusual sequence of component faults: One of the new floats let in petrol and after we had replaced it with a good secondhand item the engine was still running so rich that it fouled spark plugs. Further investigation revealed that the new carburettor jets were oversized and that the needles were in places several ‘thou’ smaller than they should have been. At the time I machined out some worn .090″ jets to .100″ and we re-fitted the original needles which made the engine run acceptably well.
More recently we have had the time to fit new jets and needles which do conform to specification and the car has started to run really rather well although cold starting has been poor and the combustion witness on the plugs looked rather rich. Today we fitted a new set of plugs which allowed the mixture to be weakened by a flat or so on the adjustment nuts and all of a sudden things are working as they should: The engine is completely smooth with an even exhaust beat, power is excellent and the combustion witness on the plugs is just right.
I have often found that when spark plugs have had a hard life the best thing is to replace them and this seems particularly to be the case now we are using unleaded fuel. It’s also worth noting that spark plugs are made in Japan. Also available are various ignition devices with a gap between the electrodes and which come from British manufacturers; I have a few in stock and on the odd occasion on which I supply them, they come free of charge and without warranty…..

Having sorted out the combustion issues with the MK6 the last item on the list was an engine oil change in case unburned fuel had previously found its way into the sump. This particular example was built in 1946 and like all cars of its day would have been expected to use a little oil. These days it uses no measurable quantity and this is due to the advances which have been made in the design of pistons and rings. It is interesting to note that at one of the first meetings of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders after the Second World War, Capt. G.T. Smith Clarke delivered a paper which called for a change in the practise of producing big end bearing assemblies with narrow side clearance. This practise was intended to limit the amount of oil thrown from the crankshaft journals onto the cylinder bores in order to reduce oil consumption. Smith Clarke instead proposed wide big end side clearance and the development of better oil control rings for the pistons. This, he believed, would better lubricate the cylinder bores and extend engine life. History has proved him to be corrrect and the better manufacturers of pistons for older vehicles have appropriately used modern design to give lower oil consumption and longer piston life.

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The Ethanol Chronicles

I think that the subject of Ethanol in fuel is going to become the topic of the moment in the next few years and in view of the frequency of my posts on the subject am beginning to wonder whether I should have called this “The Ethanol Blog”.
In brief the current situation is this: The fuel currently available in the UK may contain up to 5% Bio – Ethanol without it being explicitly declared, and this will rise to 10% in 2013.

The best information available on the subject comes from the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs without whom we would probably have been unable to continue with unrestricted enjoyment of our old cars. I would wholeheartedly advise anyone who has an interest in driving vintage and classic cars to google ‘FBHVC’ and to have a good look at their website.

The FBHVC in their press release of 16th June 2011 identify “Three C’s”: Corrosion, Compatibility and Combustion. The effects of alcohol based fuels on brass components has been known for decades to anyone who runs Methanol as a racing fuel. In the last month I have seen two vehicles which have a long history of continous reliable use which have suffered from recent, substantial and unusual corrosion to brass fuel system components. Now this most certainly is not scientific evidence of the effects of ethanol in fuel but it is extraordinary and worthy of further attention.

The ideal solution to running our cars on modern fuels would be to replace all incompatible materials (which are listed on the Federation’s website) with compatible ones. This is not likely to happen in the near future because of the difficulty of setting up manufacture of so many disparate components so the next best thing is perhaps to treat the fuel in order to counter its effects. There are, so far as I am aware, two additives currently available to treat petrol containing ethanol in order to make it suitable for our cars. I am not aware of any independent tests which might confirm the efficacy of these additives although the FBHVC will, I understand be conducting such tests in the future.

Of the two available additives one is produced by a manufacturer who has already produced an FBHVC approved lead substitute and is available over the counter at Halfords; it works out as an expensive option, requiring one bottle at around £8 to treat 40 litres of fuel. The other available additive seems so far only to be available by mail order and at around £12 per bottle to treat 250 litres.

I don’t of course have the facilities to carry out proper testing of these sorts of products, but I shall be giving them a try to see if they make any difference to the situation.

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Stripping back the memories

I’ve been looking for some paintstripper recently since I can no longer buy it at local DIY stores. At least not the stuff with Dichloromethane in it and, having tried the alternatives, I have come to the conclusion that paint stripper without Dichloromethane is some sort of oxymoron. Not only have I found what I wanted but I have also found a proper paint supplier within half an hour’s drive from whom I can buy it.
Proper paint suppliers – as in those who don’t believe that supplying all paint systems means just the water based ones – are similarly hard to find as is proper paint stripper so I’m feeling rather buoyed up by the discovery.

It reminds me how much has changed since I started doing this 25 years ago: I used to do most of my shopping for vintage and classic spares and consumables in Worcester. Bancrofts in Little London did a pretty nifty job of matching any colour you could think of in Cellulose or 2K and Blunt Taylor who sadly were shortly to close, could supply bearings from stock going back to applications from the 1920s. Opposite Blunt Taylor was P.J Wilde who still had Ruby Wilde’s original Austin 7 Ruby displayed in the 1930s style glass front. Most of the “serious” motor – factor purchases came from K.A. Long who could supply Cupro Nickel tubing, tube nuts, and ancient brake linings from stock.

As it happens there is a much greater range of products available by phone or internet these days, but there was a great satisfaction to be had from driving into town and picking up everything you needed off the shelf. A Worcester garage owner of my acquaintance remembers Blunt Taylor too, so he tells me. His foremost memory seems to revolve around the rather attractive young lady who served behind the trade counter and he recalls volunteering for all the trips to collect spares. I rather gather from his tone that he obtained some satisfaction from the way things were in those days too…

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Driving at the Limit

The Hupmobile passed its MOT with flying colours today – although the two wheel brakes caused the brake rollers to spit the car out before anything like a full reading could be obtained.  The car has a 3 litre 4 cylinder side valve engine breathing in through a tiny updraught carburettor and out through a small tailpipe. It cruises along nicely at 45 to 50 mph up hills and down dales, and this is how I proceeded in the morning sun along the A44 from Malvern.  During all the time I had for casual thought as I cruised along I was wondering for a while why people consider it so important and indeed seem to insist upon all the acceleration and top speed which is a feature of modern cars.  As soon as I caught up with the next line of traffic I was considerately afforded yet more time to ponder the question, as all the high tech moderns with 90 years of technology to their advantage lowered my cruising speed along the broad A road by a good 5mph.  Nonetheless it would have been a fabulous advertisment for the brothers Hupp if they could have forseen the future and adopted the slogan, “Hupmobile – keeping up with modern traffic for the next millennium”.


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More Ethanol?

I have been servicing and checking a Hupmobile Model R prior to its MOT test tomorrow. Many of these cars were supplied new to Australia and New Zealand which was where this car came from, giving it the advantage of Right hand drive. There don’t seem to be that many of these in regular use now – perhaps because the Dural conrods with which they were fitted are all well beyond their fatigue life. This particular Model R has benefitted from new Phoenix rods during an overhaul a few years ago as well as new brake drums and linings. The few things which require testing at MOT time (which do not include luxuries such as indicators and brake lights of course) are all in fine order.

The owner has recently had a couple of occasions to attend to a recalcitrant “Autovac” – or more correctly on this American car – “Stewart Vacuum Fuel Feed System”. Because of this I thought that I had better check it over and found the float to be half full of petrol. Boiling the float in water revealed several areas in the top where the plating and the brass underneath had corroded into holes; further and yet further boiling was not sufficient to empty the float so I drilled two no. 60 gauge holes in order to drain the petol. The petrol inside was quite fresh as it poured out and leads me to believe that the perforation of the float is quite recent – more Ethanol woes perhaps? I think that the sensible answer will be to start using Ethomix and to monitor the condition of the fuel system carefully. The float has now been repaired with solder and is nicely fuel – tight. I’m not a great enthusiast for soldering carburettor floats due to the effect on the instrument of the mass of solder. Large Autovac floats which operate a less sensitive device are happily a little more tolerant of a suitable amount of soldered repairs.

Punctured floats more often leak at the soldered seams rather than in the brass plate from which they are made, and this happened to me some years ago when I took a recently recomissioned Alvis 12/50 to the local “noggin and natter”. The kindly landlord took the offending item to the kitchen in order to boil it dry so that I could drive the 10 or so miles back home; what I hadn’t realised was that he had left the gourmet creation simmering on a gas hob in the empty hotel kitchen and not content with setting fire to the pan he left it burning so that I could come and see what had happened. The ceiling looked as though someone had fired up a showman’s engine in the kitchen, but I’m happy to recount that he never sent a bill….

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The Best of British

The series 1 Land Rover arrived on Friday as planned and we decided to go ahead with the brake master cylinder conversion.  The original Girling cylinder has had it’s share of trouble over the last year or two:  It had been sleeved and assembled with a new kit set but after a while the brakes started to stick on. The culprit was the recuperating valve which relies on a wavy washer to allow the line pressure to reduce. Said wavy washer had become almost flat, allowing it to seal against the recuperating valve rubber even when the pedal was released.  Over the course of time we have exhausted the Thetford supplies of secondhand wavy washers (some re-formed with fine nosed pliers) and eventually they have all flattened and whenever the ambient temperature is high enough to soften the rubber seal, the brakes stick on despite having plenty of pedal free play. These cylinders were not well loved in the trade when new and were soon superceded by the later Girling design with no recuperating valve and this is the type used in the conversion.  Although the new design uses two mounting holes at 180 degrees compared to the original design of 3 holes at 120 degrees, making an adaptor plate was feasible since the pitch circle of the mounting centres is identical thereby aligning the bottom hole of the new cylinder conveniently with the bottom chassis bracket hole.  A typical and welcome bit of early postwar design standardisation!  The Land Rover brakes are now not only nice and powerful as they always were but should also be a little more reliable.

I’ve been fettling the MK2 Jag on Friday evening and we have had a lot of fun putting a few hundred miles on the clock over the weekend.  It was time to replace the old Lucas flasher unit which (as this car ably demonstrates) needs to be done every 50 years or so.  Except that the new unit which came out of it’s lovely retro – styled packaging, was worse than the old one and is now in the skip where it belongs.  The Jag is now flashing happily with an excellent unbranded unit probably made in the Middle East.

We are fortunate to have had such good parts availabilty for so many older cars in recent years although in many cases economies of scale have meant that quality is not always up to the standards of the original manufacturer.  The situation is, however continually improving both  with the increasing ease of manufacture offered by modern techniques and with increasing interest in classic cars.  Jaguar are now once again able to offer many genuine new spares for the MK2 and they have so far been of superb quality at a very affordable price.

Full marks also to the current manufacturer of the S.U. range of products:  The amount of fuel shifted in just one weekend by the Jaguar petrol pump is truly impressive!

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Comment Spam and Cars

One of the first discoveries with a new blog is comment spam. We all get used to email spam which tries to grab our attention in the hope that we might spend some money, but comment spam works a little differently: This is spam which the perpetrators hope will not grab your attention so the hapless blogger allows it through moderation thus allowing it to appear on the blog.  Usually the idea is to get a link on someone else’s blog back to your own website so that it will improve its google ranking. Today’s comment spam has been different and is in response to my blogs about the Porsche: I have been receiving offers for “cheap generic Viagra”. Can it be that the word “Porsche” triggers something amongst the purveyors of Viagra? What on earth, I wonder, can their logic be?  I look forward to offers of bargain pipes and slippers whenever I blog about Rovers and for cheap moustache wax in response to my posts about Bentleys.

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One life… live it!

Or as one Land Rover owner has it: “One wife: Livid!”

I’ve been finishing off the Porsche 944 today which now looks lovely and rust free underneath and runs somewhat sweeter courtesy of new rotor arm, plugs and leads and a good clean of the throttle body.

I’m expecting a visit tomorrow from a longstanding petrol – head friend in a series 1 Landrover so before I locked up for the night I have been making parts in readiness. There’s possibility of a conversion in the pipeline to a later Girling brake master cylinder, so if you are reading this blog, Carl then you can rest assured that the old girl will grind to a halt in yet more spectacular fashion than that in which it reached its heady speed in the first place!

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Porsching it – is there an alternative?

I have spent the greater part of today with someone’s rather nice new acquisition: A Porsche 944 in suitably good condition. This is a car which really needs to be included in the debate about “what constitutes a classic car”  – at 20 years of age this really does ‘feel’ like a classic and ticks all the right boxes for a very modest cost.  And having the advantage of being made in Stuttgart (technically speaking in Neckarsulm for most cars) it’s still feasible to find one in sound order.  The owner has been painstakingly working under the car cleaning all areas of surface rust to bare metal for phospate treatment and painting. A good treatment with Dinitrol will see the car fit to withstand the elements for a good long time.

While all this has been going on I have been attending to a few mechanical odds and ends. The clutch fluid looked like it hadn’t been changed for a decade or two and since slave cylinder problems aren’t unheard of on this model we decided that replacement was a good precaution.  Although the old cylinder didn’t look too bad the new one makes a big difference: The clutch pedal has an over-centre booster spring which barely made its presence felt before but which now operates lightly with a satisfying snap into  postion.  A new set of plugs and leads and a good sort through the fuel injection should see the car ready for some enjoyable use.

If anyone knows of a good solvent for POR15 paint I’m sure that the owner would love some for his hands…

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A Dart in France

The SP250 is now motoring it’s way 800 or so miles down into France and regular updates are reaching me from its intrepid driver’s iPhone. With this post is a picture, not of the Dart in question but of my mother Sue Thetford c1964 enjoying a similar car in Singapore. Sue was a partner in Thetford Engineering and her lifelong enthusiasm for cars – not to mention her generosity in sharing them – has had very great influence on my own enthusiasm.

Publicity shots for these cars (of which this photo is one such example) often featured glamorous young ladies in exotic locations. Given that the standard SP250 steering was heavy enough to bring brawny men to their knees, the owner and I were wondering how on earth said young ladies had managed to get their Dart to the location in the first place.  Since my mother’s later transport was to become a 3.8 litre Jaguar without power steering, I think that in her case the question has already been answered!

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Ethanol in fuel

The Daimler SP250 left today for an 800 mile drive to its home in France.  I have also been attending to the S.U. carburettors belonging to the Daimler’s stablemate: A Rover 105R which has been running poorly and flooding.  It all seemed to be a straighforward job at first – the carbs were covered in light corrosion inside and the diaphragm jets and the float needles looked ancient (and in the case of one diaphragm, punctured). Clearly they hadn’t been attended to for “donkey’s years”.  Throttle spindles and butterflies were excellent so I cleaned everything up and removed all the surface corrosion before centreing some nice new jets and setting the float levels correctly with new float valves. The car should run much better now and I thought no more of it until the owner collected them today. It seems that the carbs have been to pieces quite recently and one of the jets has already been replaced.  I’m wondering now what happens to carburettors to make them look like restoration projects in such a short period of time and can’t help but turn my mind to the effects of high ethanol content in the French petrol.  It looks like it may be wise to start using Ethomix additive to protect the fuel system and to see what happens.

This is the first time I’ve seen the possible effects of Ethanol and if that’s what it proves to be, then those effects are quite dramatic and could have quite some significance to UK petrol in time to come.

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Surgical Procedures

It has been a mixed day in the workshop today:  The 5 speed gearbox conversion for the Scimitar has proved to be a good solution and I have been doing the preliminary design work on the adaptor plate as well as liasing with the transmission supplier and the propshaft supplier in order to start collecting all the right bits.  There are two input shafts available for the type 9 transmission and the shorter one of the two should allow an adapter plate to be made which is a straight fit with no modifications to the box.

I’ve also been attending to a stricken Land Rover Discovery which came home on a transporter with no drive.  The propshafts and final drive assemblies are evidently fine so the problem is either with the clutch, the gearbox or the transfer box.  Not wanting to commit to large expenditure on an old vehicle the owner would very much like to know which before he starts spending any more money.  We decided that the solution was to insert an endoscope into the gearbox and have a look at what is happening on the screen of a laptop.  To which end I have been working in the owner’s driveway with my old work laptop in the vehicle and a portable generator assisting the tired old laptop battery to get the job done.

I should add an aside at this point:  You know for certain that you are in a mature and stable relationship when your better half buys you a petrol generator for Christmas and not only is it just what you wanted but it’s also a “proper present”.

It’s not easy to find a way in to a Discovery gearbox with an endoscope – particularly since working on the driveway, I could find neither the strength nor the leverage to move the gearbox drain plug which (albeit in a confined space) seems tight enough to have been welded in place.  Maybe it has – I noticed whilst working under the vehicle that the front propshaft has previously been loose at the flange and some kind technician has indeed welded it into place.  The solution for inserting the endoscope proved to be the gear lever hole: Centre console removed, rubber gaiters at one side and with the laptop balanced precariously, the poor old Disco barely winced as I inserted the surgical – looking instrument before starting it’s engine.

It’s a good thing that I know what the inside of a gearbox looks like because suspension of disbelief is a certainty when looking at one at the other end of an endoscope but with a little patience the mainshaft cluster hove into view; or should I say “the remains of the mainshaft cluster”.  It’s the gearbox which is the problem I’d say.

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Classic Reading

I picked up a weekly classic car publication from the newsagents today. I was on my way to an appointment and looking for something more interesting than “Horse and Hound” to read in the waiting room.  It occurs to me that the people who write about old cars these days are changing:  I read a road test of an Alvis Speed 20 SC (the writer didn’t seem to know that it was an SC but I could see that it was.) Although the Alvis independent front suspension and Marles steering box was amongst the best of the day, the writer considered vague steering to be a feature of the design rather than a fault with the car.  Another reviewer of a car for sale considered it worthy of comment that a Daimler V8 saloon with a type 35 Borg Warner box was “slow to change down”, and earlier in the publication another 1960s Daimler was referred to as “Vintage”.

I’m sure that there was a time when the minimum qualification for becoming editor of a respected motoring publication was a degree in engineering, but I’d settle for a basic knowledge of the subject and a genuine love of  the cars.  I must be becoming a grumpy old man and should have stuck with Horse and Hound.

There seems to be much discussion in letters sections as ever, about what constitutes a classic car.  This is a debate which has been continuing for a long while now and will probably never reach a universally agreed conclusion.  I’d taken the Eunos Roadster with me in order to enjoy the little bit of summer sun and it occurs to me that although this car is over 20 years old, there is a reason why show organisers don’t yet seem overly enthusiastic about them: I saw three others in the course of my 4 mile journey. Perhaps there are just too many of them on the road for people to perceive them as classics?

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