This weekend I put the Chummy back together. Saturday was wet and miserable.
I went to help Joss with his modern and to see how the special was coming on. The back edge is wired now.
I also got an old scuttle tank that’s been dented somewhat but is sound. I will try to get that back into shape to replace the home made one in the chummy.
I cleaned up and fitted the switch panel I have and retaped some of the wires. That works well now. The black paint has been worn or cleaned off it but I won’t worry about that for now.
I also had a look at the non functioning reverse gear lockout. These wear out so it’s possible to hit reverse when wobbling the gear lever about (and due to wear it wobbles alot!). Joss gave me a highly detailed drawing (on a scrap of steel) showing what an original looks like so I found some scrap brass, silver soldered it to the existing piece then filed it to shape.
Unfortunately it still doesn’t work. There is so much wear everything is a sloppy fit and I suspect the little stop on the gearbox top casting is worn too so after all that effort the thing doesn’t work.
I refitted the front and refilled the coolant and also reset the timing. This I find confusing. Apparently you set the maximum advance by looking at a mark on the flywheel and setting the point so they are opening when that mark is reached. But I can’t work out how to even see the flywheel! I guess you have to remove the bacon slicer (starter motor). For now I just set it so that with number 1 cylinder at TDC on the compression stroke the points are just opening with the advance lever in the fully retarded position. To find the compression stroke you remove the spark plug and put your thumb over the hole then turn the engine round on the crank handle until you feel compression. When the piston reaches the top thats TDC, or top dead centre. I used a bamboo skewer in the hole resting on the piston top to see when I was at TDC.
One thing I noticed with the plug out was a small depression in the piston top!
Obviously it doesn’t go right through the crown or there would be no compression. But some time I really must take the head off to see what horrors lurk underneath. I really don’t want to look too closely. As soon as you start opening up engines things can start getting costly. I just want to keep the car mobile for now. With the timing set that way the car starts easily without breaking my wrist and seems to run ok although I think I can give it a little more advance.
I also fitted a fuel filter so I can drive without clogging carb jets I hope. That gives me much more confidence in the car. The olive joint at the fuel tap was dripping ever so slightly. That a worry as it drips right onto the hot exhaust pipe! I used little teflon jointing around the olive and that seems to have fixed it for now. When it took it off there was some there too so obviously that was the solution used in the past.
I also decided I better work out how to put the roof and side screens up. It’s easily enough. I did that then drove outside. When I went to drive back into the garage I realised there is zero rear visibility! Like my MG I doubt the top will ever be up. I decided not to bother carting the side screens about with me everywhere. On a real Chummy there is space behind the rear seat back to store the screens. Mine doesn’t have that so there is no where to keep them. I’ll keep them in the garage!
With the top back down and the screens off I waited until it was after 6 or so and went for a drive to the bottle shop. Everytime I drive this car I feel like I need a stiff drink. The car went fine. I am slowly getting the hang of the down shifts. You really need a lot of revs to go from 3rd to 2nd and the other thing is a quick throttle blip isn’t enough. You have to boot the throttle then wait a second for the engine to actually pick up speed! I found doing that helped a lot. The Austin 7 engine has a massive flywheel and clutch assembly for the size of the engine so there is a lot of inertia there. Nothing seems to happen fast. I guess that’s why the racing ones all have lightened flywheels (my special does too). Oh, the not working reverse lockout doesn’t really matter since I have progressed onto changing gear without looking at the gate and I seem to now remember where reverse is and to avoid it!
The car is still so much fun to drive. Totally unlike anything else. The back end is so light it just bounces over things. It twitches about over bumps and things but not in an alarming way. The steering is, well, hard to describe. It’s very direct but it’s not sharp. It’s about 1 and 1/4 turns lock to lock. But it’s sort of like when you steer you politely suggest to the car which direction you want to go and it sort of goes there. I’ve never ridden a horse, I wonder if it’s somewhat like that? I think fixing the rear dampers so they actually do something might help with the lively rear end a little.
My every day car is my MGB which is very tight and very direct to drive. When I first got it on the road I ended up having to sell my Japanese car with it’s power steering and power brakes because it just felt so horrible and mushy to drive. Like all the controls were via rubber bands. The Austin isn’t like that even though it’s not a sports car at all. I think it’s because it’s purely mechanical so you can still feel everything that happening even if it’s not as tight as a 60s sports car. I still prefer driving it to a modern just because you feel in touch with the machine. Modern cars you drive in touch with the software and as a software engineer that scares me!
Except they always take longer than you think! This weekend I removed the fuel tank so I could clean it and fit a fuel filter. That should prevent any more blocked jets I hope.
Like most bits on this car it is home made. The main part is galvanised but the end is normal steel so there was a little surface rust. I also tipped out one very large lump and many smaller lumps of solder. The cap on it is actually a radiator car wit a hole punched in it.
I shoved the hose in the tank and flushed it out for half an hour or so to dislodge any loose bits hopefully. The tank was dried in the hot sun then finally I swilled about half a bottle of meths about inside it to remove any remaining moisture.
I also decided to take the steering box out and since the floor isn’t removable as in my special it had to come out downwards. Joss suggested taking the whole front off to give access to everything. You unbolt the valance panels and the bonnet hinge piece, disconnect the radiator hoses, remove the starting handle and pull off the whole front. I also had to cut the wires to the lamps as they were hard wired through.
First I drained the coolant. I put a tub under it to catch the water and completely missed.
The water was quite rusty. I then realised there is actually a drain plug of some sort in the bottom of the radiator so I didn’t have to drain it by removing the hose. Then I had issues with rounded off bolt heads. The guards were held on with 10mm bolts. I got new ones to replace the rounded one. One day I will replace all the non standard bolts with the correct ones but for now I will go with what’s on there and what fits!
But eventually the front came off.
That allowed me to get the steering column out. It was pretty grubby and there were no lock washers at all. One of the cover nuts was half off. Inside was some pretty nasty old grease.
It was in pretty bad shape. It’s been repaired in the past, you can see the welding on it. And none of the cover studs were tight at all. Each of their threaded holes was cracked. The gear itself was in really good shape once I removed all the old grease but the worm gear has chips and pitting on it.
While that was out I flushed the radiator (and back flushed it) a number of times until the water ran clear. I also flushed the block in the car by rolling the whole thing outside and shoving the hose into the water outlet.
While the car was outside I gave the engine and front end a good degrease and clean. I put plastic bags and tape over any sensitive bits so no water could get in.
One thing I might do is the same trick I did on the special and make up slightly longer front damper arms. You make them about 1/4 inch or so longer and at the ends braze in a short length of tube into which you can insert a rubber bush. That end then goes straight over the axle mounting pin instead of into the shackle. This works like a panhard rod and stops the side movement of the front axle in relation to the body.
I also fitted bullet connectors temporarily to the headlight wiring so I can attach and remove the front easily easily later. We will need to do an engine out at some point to get to the clutch and rear crank bearing (which rumbles) and it is so much easier if the whole front of the car is removed. The special is designed so that can easily be done. I also fitted rubber grommets in the holes in the valance panels so the wires weren’t just rubbing on steel which would be bad if they rub through as I haven’t found any fuses on the car so a short would probably end in a fire!
This morning I went to see Joss and saw how his special is coming on. It’s looking good now and the body should be ready for painting soon. There are still some tweaks to be made and the boot end to be finished, new firewall made and so on. Joss has designed this body to be easy to make more of so if anyone is looking at building a special and they want a body get in touch!
I also got from him another steering box. One assembled from parts itself. I took that home and took it apart and cleaned it up and was able to assemble one good one from all the bits I had. I set it all up and put it back in the car. I am using good steering grease in the box now. The steering still has quite a bit of play but apparently on a Chummy that’s a good thing.
The mag wheel cleaner again worked great for cleaning up the casting. I didn’t go mad painting anything as I am not doing a full restoration on this car. The idea is to just maintain it as a running vehicle. It doesn’t have to be pretty, just be drivable. Joss popped in late this afternoon to see how I was doing and was able to give me a hand refitting the steering control levers. The advance one moves the whole distributor body. Mine is a later distributor modified to have manual advance. The advance lever at the bottom of the column seems hand carved from a solid block of brass. The throttle lever is an original early XL part.
The levers are in place but I forgot I will need to reset the ignition timing. I will have to ask Ian what that should be.
I still need to replace the SM5 switch panel with my better one. I will do that while the scuttle tank is out so it is easier to get behind the instrument panel. Looking behind there you can see the wiring and the odd speedo which seems to be some home made conversion.
I really need to start working on the special again. I need to rebuild the carb (and get it off my dining room table so I can work on the railway!) and start making a seat. I borrowed a wooden seat inner as a template and will copy that I think. Then I can make the outer in steel and make a suitable back shaped to fit the car (and me). The chummy will hopefully be running again early this week. I still have to save money for my trip and my elbow is still buggered and I am meant to rest it (oops) so progress is slow!
Today was the annual hill climb for the club so I went off to that this morning. Was a bit quieter than last year but this great Bentley made up for it. I always loved those cars. When I was younger and someone said vintage car that’s what I would think of. The blower on it is bigger than the whole engine in my Austin 7! I think I like them because the engineering on it is very railway.
Joss found a oil plug for me so on the way home I went to grab that off him and went to buy some oil. Luckily it was 2 for $54 dollars although the guy tried to charge me full price (about $75) until I questioned the price and pointed out teh display right inside the front door with the price on it! I am just running Castrol GTX 20W50 in the engine and gearbox. It’s what I use in the MGB too so that’s handy. It’s cheap and you can get it anywhere and it says on it it works in older cars. I don’t go by mileage, I just change the engine oil every year.
So the oil is all now filled up and the car running again. I am still cleaning my old switch panel but I will wire that in soon. The one in the Chummy is a bit dodgy.
On the special I touched up the white paint on the back of the instrument panel. It’s not perfect but then again it’s the back of an instrument panel so perfection is not required! The wrinkle finish on the front came out brilliantly though.
If I get brave and the weather is good I might drive the Chummy to work this week. My boss cycles so his parking space is usually free.
Today I got up extra early and went for a drive to Bunnings. After a mis-start when I forgot 2nd gear isn’t up and to the right I got going OK. I avoided the motorway and went down Hillsborough road instead. The car went fine. The gear ratios are a bit odd. The jump between 2nd and 3rd is large so going up hills I would have to change down to second to avoid labouring the engine. But then it seemed to be revving a lot. I was doing about 40mph and only later realised that is actually about 65kph, a little quick for 50kph roads! I did wonder why the other cars seems slow. At Bunnings I bought a small fire extinguisher to keep in the car.
The steering is very direct but also odd. It’s hard to describe. You can feel the oversteer when you corner fast. The rear springs bend as the car rolls and since they have a positive arch the outer spring flattens which makes it longer. That pushes the axle back which effectively makes the back axle steer into the corner even more! I also experience the liveliness they are well know for when I went over a bump and the back end jumped sideways! It didn’t feel unsafe though. No synchros on the gearbox so double clutching is needed up and down. Up si no trouble, can do that fine. You just take it out of gear, off the clutch, pause a bit, back on the clutch then into the next gear. Down shifts are trickier though. You have to do that and blip the throttle in the middle. I am used to doing that in the MG so I know the technique. Just getting the revs right in the Austin is tricky, you really have to rev it a lot to drop from 3rd to 2nd due to the long ratios. Practice will help.
On the way back the car started losing power and actually stalled a few times at lights. Most embarassing! When I got home I only just made it into the garage. I had a pretty good idea what it was having been warned about it by Joss and Ian. The problem is the jet in the carb blocks so you have no fuel going into the engine. The jet is a little screw in piece under a small brass cap. You can see the thread it goes into to the left of the paperclip. Of course that’s right above the exhaust pipe and when you undo the jet a little fuel will spill out. Hence me thinking a fire extinguisher might be a wise accessory! A rag catches most of the fuel.
Above you can see how it blocks up. To clear it you blow through it hard. I should probably take the fuel tank out and give it a good clean. A filter might be a good idea too. I carry a small box spanner and a screwdriver now so I can unblock it when needed.
Today I did some small jobs on the car. I drained the engine, gearbox and diff oils. They were all filthy. I had a hard time getting the gearbox plug removed as it’s totally rounded. In the end I had to use vice grips. No sockets or spanners would fit. I want to replace that before refilling the box. I really hate buggered sump plugs. They are a real pain, especially for something you need to access fairly often. I found I couldn’t refill the engine or gearbox anyway. I thought I had a 4L thing of oil but when I went to use it realised I had used most of it up the other week in the MG. I can use the same oil, Castrol 20W50. Can get it anywhere and it’s fairly cheap and will work fine in the Austin.
The great thing about a Chummy is the thing is so tall there is plenty of ground clearance. No need to jack it up! The rear axle plug was fine and came undone easily. It is hollow and was full of muck in the bottom of it. Looks like a lot of metal dust in there. And a gear tooth was stuck in the middle of the muck! I think it had been there a while. I literally had to dig it out of the plug.
I took the cover off the rear of the diff. This time there was a well rounded bolt to deal with (I replaced it) and amazingly enough the car was in just the right position to see the broken tooth on the crown wheel
I am not going to worry for now so I refilled the diff with 140 oil. Penrite stuff especially for vintage cars. You have to make sure you use an oil that won’t affect brass and bronze parts like some modern oils will.
I also replaced the steering arm with the one of the special. It is one of David Cochranes remade arms. I will get a new arm from David for the special later as I want to get a sports one that will better suit my lowered axle. Can get that sent to Jodi so I can collect it on my UK visit and bring it home with me. I wire brushed the old arm and I think it is cracked. I tried using my crack detection spray but I never seem to get that stuff to work well. I think there are two cracks in the existing arm. I put the old arm on the special for now, just so it can be wheeled about. I sprayed it bright red to remind me not to use it on the road!
Interestingly the old arm has had a flat ground on it for some reason.
I also had a look at the switch panel. I will clean up the nice one I have and replace the one in the car. I am also going to replace the advance/fuel controls and the horn button with a nicer set I have too. I need to resolder a wire on the horn first though. The wiring all needs redoing as well really. I did notice, when I disconnected the battery to work on the car, that it’s chassis negative. I am not sure that’s actually correct for this year of car. The wiring si non standard so needs some work.
The other thing I did since it was a nice day was try repainting the instrument panel for the special again. It was a little cloudy today but the sun came out now and then. I gave it several overlapping coats then just forgot about it. The paint looks very wet and smooth when you first spray it but over time it starts to wrinkle. It takes quite a while to get evenly wrinkled. In the past I have tried using a heat gun to speed things up but not think just leaving it in the sun for longer to naturally wrinkle is a much better way.
I really did forget about it for a few hours and it actually came out great. I need to redo the white on the back but the front came out perfect.
It’ll be a while before it goes in the car so the paint should get a chance to really harden first.
Tomorrow is the car clubs Chelsea hill climb so I will go over for that (in the MG as the Austin isn’t back in one piece). I can get more oil when I am out so I can refill the engine And I will order a new sump plug for the gearbox from the local spares. I can’t refill the gearbox until I have that. And there is no point putting the bad one back as you can’t replace it easily without losing some of the oil! I did look at the spare gearboxes I have on the special but they all has buggered plugs too.
I still need to adjust the brakes and look at the rear shocks (which don’t seem to be doing anything much). I also need to sort out a good set of wheels and make sure all the spokes are good. I noticed today that the spare, even though it has the thick spokes, was actually missing one altogether! I am also going to get a new set of tyres from the UK. Marcus in the club has kindly organised bringing in a large shipment of 19s so hopefully I can get some in that order too.
I’ve been doing a few small things to the new car and been practicing driving it. The weather has been rubbish lately but last night I got to go for a quick drive after rush hour just before it got dark (and rained). I sorted out insurance through the VCC so it is now safe for me to take it on the streets. First I practiced with the clutch on my expansive front lawn until it got a bit to slippery and the car would sit there with a back wheel just spinning not going anywhere.
But it gave me a good feel for the clutch bite without spinning the wheels on the concrete floor of the garage!
I also ripped out the horrible plastic floor stuff and have temporarily cables tied the wiring up a bit more neatly. That will all need redoing at some point.
In the picture above you can see the cover around the handbrake lever. That’s an example of the odd little inaccuracies with this car. Here is an original that I have so I can make a copy. I want to fit a battery disconnect switch so I can totally isolate the battery. One job I did was add some bolts to the front right hinge on the passenger seat and it was a bit fiddly with a spanner in there so close to the battery terminals.
The original has a tunnel on the side for the wiring to go under. Practicing with the clutch made me realise that a metal pedal gives you no grip and my foot kept slipping so I pulled the rubber pad from the parts box for the special and fitted that.
Here are a few of the other little details. The prop shaft tunnel cover and the fibreglass wings. The instrument panel looks homemade too.
The drivers seat on mine is moved back a few inches. I think I will reposition it forward again. At the moment I need to reach a bit for the brake lever. Having the seat in the proper position will be better and it won’t need a block of wood jambed under the rear of it for support anymore!