Bits and pieces.

September 17th, 2014

Right, no major progress but I am trying to get small bits and pieces done. I cleaned up the White Lady sign and that’s looking good now.


And I started stripping down my carb for rebuilding. The outside of it looked clean but the internals are a mess. One of the throttle disc screws was stripped so I had to drill it out to remove the spindle. I found it was badly worn.


When worn like that the carbs leak around the spindle and you can never get them set up right. Once I had everything apart I discovered the rebuild kit the SU people sent is the wrong one. It has a 1 1/8 disc and spindle whereas my carb is a 1 1/4. I also had a wee accident and the carb body fell off the bench and I broke off a lug on the body.


One of those lugs is used for the choke lever pivot and the other for the return spring. You can flip over the lever as it works the same on either side. To fix it I drilled the body and inserted a small brass loop then I built up around the wire with JB Weld epoxy. I didn’t get a picture of the brass wire unfortunately.

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I then sanded back the epoxy and drilled a new hole. For added strength I inserted a small brass tube as a sleeve which is epoxied in place. Once that dries I can sand everything smooth and it should all be good again. I have ordered a new disc and spindle but not from the Burlen people. They were slow and I find their web site is really hard to navigate. It works great if you know the exact number of your particular carb. If you don’t think it is really hard to find parts on the site. So instead I am getting them from Joe Curto in the states, well known as the best SU rebuilding place in the states.

I came to the conclusion that trying to drill the body to fit the new bushes (the ones in the kit were correct teflon lined ones) at home is asking for trouble so I will get the local carb building people at CSL to do that bit for me.

One other small job was removing the cam shaft centre bearing outer ring. It’s a press fit in so I heated up the crankcase around the bearing with the oxy torch then used a suitably sized socket and long extension to carefully tap the ring out.


I also cleaned up the oil pressure gauge I got off Eddie in the VAR. That was the last gauge I was missing.


Once I got it apart it was easy to clean things then reassemble it. Since it is lit from the back as are most of the gauges I decided to modify my tachometer to make that backlit also. I cut a strip of thin perspex on the scroll saw then used the hot air gun to soften the plastic and I formed that around a glass jar. I scuffed the plastic a bit with a scotch pad to make it a bit more diffuse.

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Bulbs behind the instrument panel should now light up the gauges. I tried an experiment with a bulb and battery and it should work (but was damn hard to photograph).

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I also realised that I get a better view of the gauges with the steering wheel oriented with one spoke point up and two down. It also looks better on the car that way. All I need to do now is make a hole and mount the lighting switch then I can look at painting the instrument panel in crackle black. The back of it is painted gloss white, a trick I used on my MG. With a white back it is much easier to see what you’re doing if you ever find upside down head under the dash trying to see something.

I also looked at the long stud mod to the crankcase. I machined a point on the 5/16ths rod Glenn gave me and also machined up an old aluminum knob so I could pass the rod through the crankcase and ensure it was square to the top face.

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The idea being that with the rod square to the crankcase top I could then see where it would pass through the bottom flange where the oil strainer would usually go. The mode involves bolting a large aluminium bar on that lip that these long studs then screw into. This spreads the load across the bottom of the crankcase rather than having two short studs pulling on the rather thin top part. What I found though is the rod would actually come out into the side of the case itself. I put that aside for a bit so I could ask Ian what he thought about it.

In the weekend, on Sunday afternoon, I went over to Ian’s. There was a North Shore branch VAR club run that finished at Ian’s garage to see his projects. I didn’t go on the run but did go to the end part at Ian’s house. There were quite a few people there and quite a few interesting cars. Mostly Austins of course (being the vintage Austin register) but a couple of Morris’ too! The little blue Chummy replica is nice. I like the paperclip holding the throttle linkage in place.

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Ian took a look at my stud mod and he thinks that maybe the top face isn’t flat so the rod might not actually be square to the top of the crankcase. I need to flatten the top by grinding it on a flat glass surface. This will ensure it is flat and also make it much easier to get an oil tight seal there. He also thinks that milling a small amount off the crankcase where the aluminium bar fits will make things much easier. I can’t do that myself at home so I contacted a local engineer and will go see him to get his opinion. This is someone other Austin people have used so he understands what we’re trying to do. He’s fixed up front bearing lips and done other things for people. I will get him to look at my crankcase and also my blower drive setup which will require a few mods.

So tonight I looked at the blower drive setup and how that will work. I need to modify a front cover to provide the extra mounting lugs the Grasshopper drive has. I had a few to choose from and this one seems about right. Everything is just loosely in place for now.

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With the Grasshopper drive the blower will be much further forward that I originally planned. In fact a rear mounting lug on the blower would hit the water inlet on the front of the head. But I think I can remove that and mount the blower on a plate mounted to the proper mounting points on the drive (the two holes seen in the middle photo above).

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I also looked at the fan mount. There is just enough clearance to run a fan (the wood block is about the same thickness as the radiator) but I think I will not run a fan (since I have an electric water pump) and instead I will probably make a new fan mounting that has my idler pulley on it. To see how that would work I temporarily removed the original fan pulled and slid my V belt one on the drive. You can see how the fan spindle is mounted to block that has a shaft that’s mounted to the blower drive. It’s a bit like half a crank pin. That is how you can adjust the belt tension by rotating the fan spindle.

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I can use the same arrangement but since I am using a seal bearing on the idler pulley I don’t need the greasing point the original has. The idler is even on the right side of the belt (the slack side). I am still working out the details but I think I can see how it all works. One thing I am not sure of is what you do with the end of the cam shaft. Normally the big pulley for the fan belt drive goes there but with the Grasshopper drive there is no room for that of course. I wonder what they did on the original cars? There is some fiddling to be done with cam shaft end float so I need to work out how all that works before I go and see Brian the engineer.

And tonight, when fiddling around with nose cones, I went and found the crank handle that came with the car. That always had a horrible bend in it for some reason so I got out the oxy/acetylene again and heated up the shaft and straightened it a bit. It might still need tweaking but at least it’s not got an S bend now!

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And finally I got a new tool today. My old vernier calipers got dropped and they then never ever returned to zero the same every time you used them. So I bought some new ones. I was looking about for a while and finally found out that surprisingly RS components locally had a pretty good deal.


These aren’t fancy expensive ones like Mitutoyo but they are good enough for an amateur like me. These are dual metric and imperial (which I didn’t actually know existed) and they seem very solid. Better than my last ones (which lasted 10 or 15 years). I prefer the dial kind to the digital ones since 1. no batteries and 2. when I am mucking about on the lathe I like to see how much actual difference a cut makes. With a digital set (and digital gauges in general) you only get an indication of the actual reading at that time. Analogue gauges and dials not only give you the actual reading, you can see the difference between readings by how far the needles move. It’s why I prefer dial calipers and why I also prefer analogue clocks and watches. The changing position of the needles tell you something as well as the number they point at. I always liked how old fighter aircraft and race cars have their instrument panels arranged so all the needles point up (some gauges are rotated even so this happens) when everything is running right. You can tell at a glance is anything is out of place.

So now I have those  I can machine up the oil gallery plug in the crankcase. All these little jobs add up it seems!







Yes, I am slack.

September 14th, 2014

I know. But working again really buggers up car working. Not least because they seem to think we should work weekends. Last weekend though I said bugger that and Joss and I went for a nice drive 1.5 hours up north to visit Glenn, a thoroughly nice chap with a lot of interesting things. The weather was great so it was top down on the MG for a thoroughly great day.

Glenn (and his lovely wife who gave me some very interesting Lemonade fruit to try) have a nice house in the wop wops with a massive garage full (absolutely packed) with interesting stuff.

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Lathes and cars and parts all over the place. The big Harrison lathe could probably chuck and turn my entire mini lathe! The car top right is a PD tourer which will hopefully be restored soon.

The interior of the Porsche I found particularly interesting.

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Obviously though his interest is more in Austins and he has many interesting things there. Including a jig he has made to bend axles.

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That’s extremely handy to know. He uses oxy-LPG to heat the axle then a press type thing to carefully bend it based on stations marked on the base. Because the ends are held in place firmly the axle is stretched so the track doesn’t narrow.

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And these remains are of great interest to me for a future project that will hopefully come about. I’ll post more on that later. These are original (with numbers) chummy remains. The floors need some work obviously(!) but the firewall is very intact and usable.

The other very, very important thing I got was a length of 5/16 high tensile rod to make my long studs from! That’s proved impossible to find in New Zealand. No one imports it. But I have enough now to make the two long studs I need.

Finally one interesting thing we pulled out of a pile was this old sign. Glenn was going to paint over it!


It was actually a sandwich board so we unscrewed the hinges and I got half and Joss took the other. Presumably it is from THE White Lady famous to anyone who has staggered around the bottom part of Auckland late after a nights drinking. Tons of overspray on it but that’s cleaned off it now and it will go on the garage wall. We have an agreement that if either of us wants to pass the sign on we’ll reassemble it again so it can go off whole again but I think it’ll be on my garage wall for years to come. Joss has his indoors but it suits his decor better. It doesn’t really go with my TARDIS/old railway table theme.

After a lot of time with Glenn we went home and dropped in on Ian on the way. His projects are coming along well.

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We gave him a hand to get the engine back into the Nippy. The firewall looks much better now it’s been restored and painted. And Ian has done a mock assembly of another project he is going to work on for a very early car (all XL parts).

He also had a few interesting curios.

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That is apparently a genuine Ulster torque tube mount. And the fan is an interesting two part design.

Will go visit Ian again this afternoon. There is a club (North Shore branch) run today and a meetup at Ian’s to hopefully discuss some things of interest to us special builders.


August 27th, 2014

Haven’t posted in a while since not much is happening on the car and I have to go to work again these days! But a few small things have happened. First I welded up the redrilled the holes in the valances. They now fit better. Not perfect but the rubber strip takes care of that.

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I’ve also been trying to get the materials I need to do the block mounting mod where you use two long studs right through the crankcase attached to a hefty aluminium bar across the bottom where the oil strainer gauze bolts on. I got the aluminium from RS no problem. It’s a 1 inch by 1 inch by 24 inch bar. More than I need but I need some ali for other things.

The long studs are proving a real problem. The issue is you can’t get EN16T (or 4140) high tensile steel in 1/4 or 5/16ths of an inch anywhere in NZ that I have found. No one brings it in!  I’ve tried steel importers, engine rebuilders and nut and bolt type people. No one has it. I think for the long studs I will just get some 8mm and turn the ends down. Or else use two brake pedal rods, which should be HT steel.

I’ll also need some socket head screws to attach the aluminium bar inside the bottom of the crankcase. I can’t remember if they are 1/4 BSF or BSW. Either way they’ll be hard to find here I imagine so I will get them overseas too. I did find these clowns called Steelmasters. They aren’t worth linking to (except to show why I call them clowns in a second) who say on the first page of their web site they make fasteners and provide steel. So I emailed them only to be told they don’t sell steel. I replied to point out their web site was wrong but got no reply. Probably wise though when they sell things like this:

It’s a 1/4 by 1 inch BSF socket head screw. For $NZD28! For you UK guys that 14 quid. Each!

So if you’re in NZ and looking for nuts and bolts and things avoid Steelmasters!

So, I need to do an order to the UK for some parts very soon. I did receive some though recently.

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The first is my fancy Grasshopper style blower drive from Dave Dye. It’s a lovely piece of work and is the correct thing for making a proper Grasshopper style engine. The drive is a V belt that matches the one on my blower already. The ratio is correct for 5-6PSI of boost, right what I was aiming for, and it has mounting points for a plate to hold the blower. Tensioning is done (on the proper side) via the fan pulley.

I also finally received my SU carb rebuild kit and new spring and jets from Burlen in the UK. It took so long they’d actually refunded my payment so I had to pay them again. Now I can rebuild the carb properly though. New spindle, bushes, throttle disc and so on and so on.

As well as working I’ve been distracted by model railway dining  tables and other things (mainly work). I am visiting London for Christmas and New Years this year so if anyone knows of any interesting Austin 7 or old car things around there and then let me know. I definitely want to go see Brooklands as the only bit I have seen is a small chunk sitting on Joss’ mantlepiece! Funnily enough I was born less than 20 miles from there.

Brooklands, not Joss’ mantlepiece.

I also got this small device:


It’s a little sonar sensor. Way back in June you might remember I posted about the railway crossing light I restored and stuck on the wall of my garage.


I am going to make a little parking sensor with it and an Arduino. It will detect when a car is approaching the wall of the garage and either flash or come on when you drive the car in and are at the right point to stop. Seems like a worthy use of it.

I also stuck on the cardboard bonnet again to get some idea of the lines of the car.


So, I need to get moving again. I think I should maybe sort out the clutch/flywheel so I can then get the rotating bits balanced while I work on the crankcase.

Body on (temporarily).

August 5th, 2014

Joss popped in so we temporarily put the body on the chassis. First time since it’s all done. It looks good!

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A couple of things I have noticed. The brake cables touch the body – just. You can adjust the body to centralise it but the cables just brush the skin. It’s not affecting the brakes at all but the body would get scratched. I can either try to tweak the body at that point (with a big hammer maybe) or sheath the cables in plastic so they don’t rub through the back of the aluminium eventually.


The other thing is the holes in the valence panels are no longer in the right place. They are 1/2 an inch too high in the panel. So if I try to screw them on as they are the panel is crooked. I am not sure yet exactly what’s happened there. The floor is in the right place. I can only think that the firewall has moved slightly now that the aluminium skin is on.


It’s not a big deal if I need to weld up and redrill the holes. I just want to be sure that’s the solution first.

Chassis complete!

July 27th, 2014

Today is my last day of freedom before staring my new job tomorrow. And today I finally got the chassis complete!

I first attached my painted brake cable wheel covers so they are now in place. Then I finally filled the rear axle with oil. I am using Penriote Transoil 140 which is specially for vintage cars. The manuals all say the rear axle needs 7/8ths of a pint which is about 500mL but I think these days people say that’s too much and so recommend half a pint. That’s close to 300ml which is how much I put in. It’s actually a bit tricky getting it in there so I emptied my oil can of normal oil and used that to squirt in the axle oil.

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Lots of squirts but eventually you get there!

I also went and found the special rear shock bolts. They are dome headed a bit like coach bolts (without the square) but with a small bump that fits into a slot on the shock arm to stop the bolt turning. These were completely worn away on mine so I added a decent blog of MIG weld then carefully filed it down with hand files and a little diamond grinder on the Dremel.

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I was then able to finish bolting on the shock arms. It can be tricky pushing the bolts through the new rubber bushes so I used a clamp and a box spanner to pull them through.

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So now the chassis is done except for filling the steering box with grease. I need to get a big syringe for that I think so I can squirt that in. Bob popped in and noticed a small amount of movement up and down on the steering shaft when turning the wheel. That was easy to fix by screwing in the brass collar thing one more notch.

So, after five months of practice retirement I now have a body and a complete chassis!


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