I’d like to say I rewired the Chummy, fixed it rear shocks and replaced the radius arm mounting bush. But I did none of that. I did mount a fuse holder to the firewall for when I do rewire it though!
Then I had to take it off and remount it since as you can see in the photos I forgot the little wire thing that holds to cover on! The lack of progress is because I’ve been too busy getting ready for my new job, trying to finish my railway table (as I need that to work at!) and messing about with my Orwell computer. I’ve been on a roll with that and didn’t want to stop. He’s now ready to have a case made. Crackle black painted steel. Timber ends. I am inspired by the look of the original Enigma machines (I am hoping to code one on Orwell – in BASIC!).
I still need to clean the garage so I have space and start sorting out my special again. Especially the engine. When I am in my new role I will have much more time to go see the engineer and get that all sorted so I am not really rushing until then.
I am also doing a little sewing class. Mainly to make booster cushions for the railway table chairs as the increased table height makes them a little low. But I am hoping the skills I learn could then be applied to learning how to do some simple upholstery type things. Like a simple tonneau cover for the Chummy that covers the hood and the back seats giving me some secure (well…) storage space on it.
I also got apart the little torch I got at the swap meet a few weekends ago. The lens cover was well stuck. I left it soaking for days then used the same trick I use for stuck glass jar tops. I just held it under the hot tap for a minute then it came right off!
I really must get on with rewiring the Chummy as it’s due it’s WOF and registration in a few weeks. With this in mind I rushed home and did something else entirely. I finished my little Brooklands mounting plinth thing.
This is just a little wooden base and engraved plate to hold the small pebble I borrowed on my visit to Brooklands earlier this year. The base is made from oak that was cut and glued and sanded to resemble (roughly!) the members banking on the track.
Tonight I fine sanded it with 320 grit then started coating it in linseed oil. I have loads of that left over from my railway dining table I made.
I really like how oiled oak looks. It reminds me of old, solid things. I made a little cage to hold the stone from brass tube that I hammered flat then sanded. It’s just bent into a cross type shape and the arms then bent around the stone to hold it in place. I soldered on another piece of brass rod to support everything.
Next, after oiling the base AND my railway table some more, I worked on the brass plate for the front. I used the same etching technique I used on my tachometer face.
The brass is of course far too shiny at the moment but it will dull down quickly. I rubbed a little black paint into the etched letters but I don’t want them too dark so it looks old. You can also see I very carefully made sure that the lettering is every so slightly off-centre just to give it that hand crafted look.
Well, that’s my excuse.
After more oiling I simply had to screw the plate to the front and drill a hole in the ‘banking’ to hold the piece of track in place. I really like how it came out. A fun little distraction and a permanent reminder of my visit.
It should look better still once the brass tarnished and it’s covered in dust. Won’t take long in my house!
Oh, I almost forgot, when I was working on it I had the Chummy parked outside and a random, old, magician appeared and started talking to me about it! Apparently he had one once. This is him, Jon Zealando. I am really not making this up. The most random people stop and want to talk about the Chummy when they see it.
Right, after talking about my trip I need to get back onto the special really. First though the chummy. Joss borrowed it over the break and there was a slight incident where the wiring somehow shorted out and the entire loom melted down. The car has been hotwired since but I am slowly repairing it all. I started with the battery cables and the cut out switch. I luckily had a terminal mounted switch (since being hotwired disconnecting the battery is the only way to stop the engine). I don’t like those screw down terminals though so I fitted instead a key type switch. I still need to replace the horrible earth wire. I had a new battery to starter cable made up and when looking through my old MG bits I found a short battery cable I could use for the earth. I also found a 12 volt coil which will be useful on the special.
Since the car is hotwired I also went and bought a nice battery charger from Supercheap. It will do 6/12/24 volt batteries and SLA as well as Lead Acid and Calcium batteries. It uses a stepped charge so it will go into trickle charge meaning you can keep it connected all the time (I don’t). I figured with a 6 volt Chummy and a 12 volt special (as well as the MGB) a good battery charger is a useful investment. I also use SLA batteries for various thing so it’s handy for that too. I ran the starter cable though a grommeted hole in the panel in the front of the seat as it should be. Before it was just looped over the top.
The Chummy also got a bath and I touched up the paint on the wings. That made a huge difference to the appearance of the car.
I also fitted the new, non leaking, fuel tap. Next I will redo the wiring. I did start repairing the original switch panel (the one I replaced it with is somewhat burnt out now).
On the special I fitted the new sports arm I bought back from England. This drops the steering drag link on a lowered car to keep it closer to horizontal as it should be. The difference between the two arms is very noticeable. The old one is painted red to remind me it’s a cracked one and not to be used on a road car. It was off the Chummy which got the new one that was originally on the special.
I have also been doing lots of little jobs on the special (which this blog is meant to be about!). I keep getting distracted on other things. Like finding by the side of the railway a Pandrol Clip I had to nab and clean up (it’s a railway geek thing).
Anyway, the special. Today we had a car event at the annual Galaxy of Cars show in Auckland. More on that later but the last few weeks have been sent getting the car ready to show at that as a work in progress. So lots of little things needed to be done. I replaced the ends of the bonnet hinge rail piece. There is one closed end and one half open end that the bonnet hinge fits into. I had repaired one end by making a new endpiece from steel and welding it in place then I was doing the other end and suddenly realised that the steel rail fits a particular way around so there is probably a proper way these things are meant to go. I don’t actually know what that is but I suspect I got it wrong! It doesn’t really matter. To me it makes sense the closed end is in the front so the front of the hinge couldn’t lift if the hinge worked loose and the straps and bonnet catches failed (not that it’s likely).
After putting the new ends on I cut a brass rod the right length (still need to make the hinge pieces) and painted the rail black. I had to reweld part of the skin near the firewall where it had cracked. I found my flux has absorbed water from the air and has turned from a powder into a liquid! But it was still useable. I do need to fix the valve on my welding torch. The O2 valve is really twitchy. I need to take it apart and see if it needs a new seal or O-Ring. Unfortunately BOC no longer sell that particular torch so getting parts might be hard.
I also finally reassembled my downdraft SU and fitted a needle to it and centred that. It should work well now.
I also looked at mounting the engine and radiator properly just for the show. I removed the front of the car and I put in the block and the correct engine mounts in place then put the valances and radiator surround in place. What I found was with the engine in place and everything bolted on the front was too low!
It turns out the way to fix this was to raise up the front horns. I did it temporarily with washers stacked underneath them. Doing this also fixed a problem I noticed earlier which was the valances weren’t sitting square with the body. Not they sit a lot better. That gap is hidden by the rubber strip but it is nice to know it’s correct underneath there now. The increase in height also makes the bonnet line a little flatter. It should be perfectly horizontal and doing this made it bloody close to that.
For the show I also fitted the steering column and instrument panel and gauges. The crackle black look great! I also added some engine components and Ian lent me a sump. I added spark plugs I found in my MG bits since I figure even if people don’t understand engines they at least recognise the spark plugs!
I also made up one of the little brackets that hold the bonnet hinge rail in place. This is just made from a piece of steel, appropriately hit with a hammer until it was the right shape. It’s temporarily bolted in place but will be properly attached once I paint it. I still need to make the bonnet end. The gap between the rail and the bracket is there the rubber strip fits.
I had time to go for a drive in the Chummy on Saturday morning to the Blockhouse Bay community where they always have a little second hand market. A chap is always there with random tools and hardware type things. I picked up a BSF/BSW spanner, some screwdriver, some brass catches, a very nice imperial steel rule and a little oil can for $7!
The large screwdriver is perfect for the gutter bolts used on the special. The catches I just got since they were cheap, are solid brass and could be useful one day. Maybe for van rear doors or something?
I also got distracted making a little oak plinth for the small piece of Brooklands I, errr, borrowed from a pothole in the members banking! Joss gave me some oak and had the brilliant idea of making it look like a piece of the banking. I glued together some bits, hacked it up with the jig saw and started sanding it to shape. A small brass plate will be attached to the front suitable etched and the whole thing will be finished in oil to bring out the oak grain after some more sanding with a fine grit paper. The small piece of the banking will be mounted just above the base with brass wire bent to just hold it in place a bit like a gemstone setting.
I managed to get the car mostly together for the show. Joss also did lot of work and long nights to get his ready too. John lent us his trailer. Fagan and Hannay also lent Joss a van to tow the trailer which proved to be very handy. The VAR wanted to show some cars being built. There were our two cars there and another finished special. The weather was a bit iffy in the morning we had to make two trips to transport both cars but they were fine letting us come in and out with the trailer. The galaxy of cars show is a lot more relaxed than the Ellerslie concourse which is actually on next weekend.
Basically we parked the cars in the VAR area (with all the other vintage Austins) and people came to look at them. And lots of people were looking. I think everyone found them quite fascinating and something quite different to just normal cars that everyone else was showing. There weren’t really any other cars there in progress.
In the morning is did rain quite a bit. A little water won’t hurt though. Car needed a wash anyway.
The show also had a swap meet attached with some interesting things. I got myself a couple of books, Mechanics – Theoretical, Applied and Experimental from 1902, and Famous Motor Races from 1963. I also got a nice little mains transformer in a Bakelite case (from 1934 according to the box) and a little (bicycle?) lamp thing I hope to modernise with a decent battery. It will make a nice little glove box or tool box torch. I also got an LP of the Muppet show! All that was $13.00.
Overall the show was a great success. Joss and I got our cars seen and everyone was really interested. I think the club was very pleased we got them out and in a good state to show too. Got to catch up with various other club people too which was good. We’re definitely staring to form a little circle of special builders and I think people are starting to appreciate what we’re trying to do which is build period correct Austin specials. Built using Austin parts and in the way they built them back in the 20s and 30s. Every so often we have to take certain liberties like my blower and the odd SU carb here and there (which IS part of Austin special building history) but the cars are essentially pure Austin. Apparently we even got a mention on the PA (which I totally missed) saying everyone should go looks at the little Austin race cars! Great for trying to drum up interest in the bodies Joss can now build to order.
Was definitely an enjoyable and worthwhile day.
One problem with owning Vintage Austin 7s is as soon as you get two of them along in the garage the bloody things start breeding when you’re not looking!
Nope, I am not dead. I’ve just been to England, sick and busy. In that order. First I went over to the UK for Christmas and New Year. It’s a long way to go. I had to overnight in South Korea on the way. It was -8C and snowing the night I was there. I went for a walk in the morning but where I was there wasn’t much around and nothing was open. There was snow though!
Was good to finally get to England. I love London. This was round the corner from where I was staying near the Barbican.
Actually I was born in London and I still tend to identify more with England that Auckland. Auckland seems to do it’s best to lose it’s history and doesn’t really even feel like part of New Zealand any more (probably why the rest of the country hate us JAFAs).
I feel at home in the UK so I had a great time there. Christmas day and boxing day were spent in Bramber, a small village near Brighton. Nothing there but a really old church, some castle remains and a pub. Was perfect! Brighton was interesting. Middle of winter it was quiet bleak. The beach isn’t a beach as we know them here. No sand at all, just pebbles!
The rest of the time was spent in London with day trips down to Brooklands and another to see Bletchley Park and the national computing museum. There were loads of things I wanted to do (Beaulieu, National Rail Museum, Tank Museum, and about 100 other places and people) but there just wasn’t time. Christmas is a bad time to go too. Everything was packed. I went to Hamleys and they had security guards directing people about it was so packed. Never been to a toy shop with security before. Most disappointingly they didn’t have any Wombles and the two staff I asked did even know what Wombles were! What is happening to the world? I was thinking I should send them a letter of complaint.
I did visit most of the museums in London I remember visiting nearly 18 years before. The Science Museum is still great. The floor with the aircraft engines is still the same as 18 years ago and is my favourite. I didn’t get to go into the Natural History Museum this time as the queues were massive. The Imperial War Museum has been ‘done up’ and wasn’t as good as I remembered. The Holocaust exhibition was new and very good though. I rushed off to find the engine from the Red Baron’s plane that was there last time I visited and found that whole area has been redone to ‘tell a story’ and it just wasn’t as good (and the engine wasn’t there). I prefer dusty cabinets stuffed with artifacts to these modern museums.
I did finally made it to the British Museum. When I was in the UK 18 years ago I went to go there and got confused and ended up at the Natural History Museum instead. It was good but again absolutely packed. Some places you couldn’t move due to people. I got a few pictures there.
The chair wasn’t an exhibit. I just liked it.
The best trips were the two day trips I did. One to Bletchley Park and one to Brooklands. As a computer geek Bletchley is just amazing. The atmosphere there is fantastic and they have done a good job capturing the spirit of the place. Anyone with any interest in computing and code breaking should go there. Unfortunately this is where I had my camera accident. I only took one camera with me on my trip (apart from my phone), a film Olympus OM4-Ti. I also only took one lens. A 35mm. For some reason that lens seems to lack sharpness (although to be fair it was usually dark so I had to have I wide open and couldn’t stop down) so all my photos have a slight fuzziness to them. I took a ton of photos at Bletchley of the Bombe and various Enigma machines and so on. Unfortunately for some reason that film didn’t wind on in the camera so the whole roll was actually unexposed and lost. Oh well, good excuse to go back!
These are a few of the photos that I did get (on a different roll of film). I also popped next door to the National Museum of Computing and saw Colossus running. That museum seems to be less well funded and really reminded me a of our local MOTAT a bit. Unfortunately all my pictures of Colossus were lost. I actually prefer that kind of museum to the modern, sterile ones (like Te Papa – bleargh). The old, dusty, slightly run down ones have way more atmosphere to them.
Brooklands was another great trip. Another very atmospheric place if you know anything of the history there. Quite sad though when you see how little of the circuit is left and the state it is in. Basically falling to bits but then I don’t know how you could preserve it. Just walking on the banking was the highlight for me. I also borrowed a small bit of it. I have plans for that! The rest of the museum was a bonus. I went there on New Years day and there was a sort of open car club day so various cars were parked all over the place.
As well as the banking you can walk up the old test hill up to the bridge. At the top was a kind of workshop with a car body building company in there. I can’t remember the details but have their card somewhere. I think they do aluminium body work for various cars and it was interesting to see their tools were the same as I used. Basically wooden mallets! There were a number of Aston Martins there too. Wonder if they have any job openings?
This is the path leading to the bridge (which doesn’t go anywhere anymore).
The museum has lots of interesting things too. Like the Barnes Wallis stratosphere chamber.
I took various other photos.
The last one is of course an Austin 7.
One of the best things I got to do at Brookland was sit in a Harrier jet cockpit. That was very cool.
London was great and I had a very good but extremely busy time. I did get to go on one of the new Routemaster buses which are pretty nice. I jumped off that hoping to go to the Temple Church (which was shut) then the very next bus to come along was an original Routemaster on the heritage route so I got to ride on that too. I love the Underground. Love the railway network and trains that actually run and travel quickly (and have announcements in English you can understand). I know people in the UK complain about the railway there all the time but they haven’t seen what it’s like in Auckland. I don’t think Auckland Transport can competently spell ‘Railway’ let alone run one. I have a feeling when we get the new electric trains on the Western Line here (eventually) they won’t run any faster than the 50 year old diesel/electrics they are meant to replace.
It was a very long flight back and when I arrived I ended up getting a bad virus and was off work for nearly two weeks. I had lent the Chummy to Joss when I was away and unfortunately he had an incident where the wiring in it shorted out and basically totally melted down. Luckily the car didn’t burn (very lucky considering the petrol tap was leaking) and Joss found it and was able to prevent anything nasty happening.
So with the car back I had to fix that and start work on the special again. I have been busy with all that but that’s for the next post!
I’ve been working on getting the front back together. I am off to the UK for Christmas/New Year so I will lend the car to Joss to putter about it. I wanted to get the front shock done.
I finished painting everything up including the inside of the radiator shell.
I carefully reassembled everything, a bit of a struggle as you have to get the brackets in the base of the shell and get the core sitting on top of them. I got it all together and back on the car then realised I had forgotten something.
I’d left the flaming Austin winged badge off and you can’t bolt it in place without removing everything. I could have pop riveted it I guess but that would be wrong so I took it all apart again and fitted the badge.
I had to wait to reassemble the front shock as I had ordered new bushes and washers for it. I also dug in my old set of parts and found the original front shock I had uses the same sized star washers for the bit that holds the shock together. I cleaned that up and painted it.
Tonight I reassembled it all. I greased the wooden discs. That helps hold them in place when you assemble everything. It all went together easily so my new longer arms were exactly the right length.
I was pleased to be losing a shackle as the one on there was very worn (although I have spares). You can see how the arms lock straight to the axle via a rubber bush. Now the front axle can only move up and down in an arc and not swing from side to side.
I also in the weekend fitted the Boyce motometer. Joss said I should mention it’s a repro cap I drilled for that, not and original! I also refitted the tail light and tidied up the wiring. It is much more red in real life, the digital camera just messes up the colour!
The car is looking a lot tidier. Not having a rusty radiator helps.
That’s all till I get back from my trip early next year. Then I can start finishing off the special and start thinking about the van! A new set of tyres should be on the way from the UK soon so the first job will be cleaning up the wheels I have.