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.
I’ve been doing more smaller jobs. The other night I went out to the garage abou 8pm to fix my shoes and for some reason got distracted making a petrol dipstick. I trimmed up an unused red fibre spacer I had (usually used under the front spring) and made a stick following the pattern in the green book. The top I made from a scrap of copper I had with a bit of a swage in it hammered over a piece of strap steel I had and a wooden former. It was more an experiment but it came out so well it’s quite useable. The long lines are supposedly gallon marks, the tank holding about 4 gallons (18L) when full.
In the weekend I finished flushing the radiator. I then sprayed that black.
The radiator shell I stripped of all the bolted on bits so I can clean that up. It’s in very good condition. Some scratches on the outside but no holes or splits or major dings.
I did have to drill off the badge since the bolts were so corroded.
The bits in the bottom corners are steel brackets riveted in place. I cleaned all rust off with oxalic acid since it wouldn’t harm the shell. I also used a scotch pad disc in the drill to remove the really stubborn rust. Tonight I painted the steel brackets black with my good anti rust paint. I want to do a little more tidying up on the shell (it needs minor bashing) then I will paint the inside of it satin black, over-painting the gloss black of the paint on the brackets.
I also drilled a hole in the radiator cap so I can fit my Boyce Motometer. That’s really for the special but until that’s done I can use it on the Chummy. Get a bit of real patina on it too, it look far too new now. I’ll take a picture when I assemble the radiator and shell again.
Since the front was off I removed the front shock to clean and paint and to make up longer arms (about 1/4 inch) on one side so I can lock the axle down. I found it needed a little bashing to get straight and that the star washer thing was cracked. I will try to find a better one but for now a little bit of weld on it should hold it. I had the gas out anyway to braze a tube in the end of the new shock arms for the rubber bush. Same as I did on my specials front shock here: http://www.asciimation.co.nz/austin7/?p=637
I then soaked everything in rust killer for a few days then tonight wire brushed it all then painted it. I’ll get a new centre bush for it I think. The friction discs are fine.
The idea is I can start restoring all this stuff now then eventually reuse it all on the van. Speaking of the van I am starting to collect bits already. I went to see Joss on Saturday morning and Glen was there collecting his new floor pan. Joss can now make these to order so if anyone wants one you can contact him through me. He can also make full aluminium skins as well.
Other small jobs were refitting the spare tyre on the rim Joss lent me and trying to fix my leaking petrol tap. It was dripping quite badly (right on the exhaust pipe!) and I discovered, after taking it apart, that it was badly scored. I tried polishing it with Brasso using a drill on the tap part while holding the body in a clamp. That helped but didn’t totally fix it so I will probably get a new one.
Glen had an old instrument panel that came with his Chummy but he is going to use a different one in his car so he gave me the one he didn’t need. It needs some work but that won’t be too hard to do. It’s currently in the molasses getting a good stink on it. Then I can unpick the glove boxes and start straightening the panel. Then you cut out and weld in any patches needed.
I also went to see Marcus over in Devonport after work last night and he has a chassis from Steve in Wellington that should be suitable as a base for the van. I’ll need to get it blasted and fix a few small pieces but it should work well.
I did nothing on the poor special although hopefully I will get some steel soon to start making up the rest of the seat.
I’ve been slack updating although I have been doing little bits and pieces. I can’t remember everything in the correct order!
A few weekends ago was the car club Chelsea hill climb. I went along for that to watch and took a few black and whites.
I am pleased with the contrast I got on the middle one. I think I’d let my previous film developer get too old so I got some new stuff and it is much better. The stuff doesn’t keep unfortunately. I’ll have to try printing those on proper paper although I imagine now my print developer has gone off too! I also pushed that 400 film to 800.
I also fixed the rear wheel. One of my wheels was a thin spoke type with a spoke completely broken. I used some tyre irons borrowed from Joss and removed the tyre from that wheel and the spare on the back. The spare rim is a thick spoke one but it also had a spoke missing. I found that the thin spoke one had a few replacement thick spokes in it so I removed one of those and fitted it to the spare. Then, after much struggling and an injury to my back that made me come in and lie on an ice pack for an hour, I got the tyre back on. I gave up trying to fit the spare tyre in the end. Joss lent me a good rim but I just haven’t managed to get the tyre fitted back on it. The old tyres are rather hard. So I just don’t carry the spare for now. I also tightened any loose spokes. Turns out I have the perfect tiny spanner to fit! The good thing about and Austin 7 is to fiddle with the back wheels you don’t need a jack. You can literally just lift the back of the car up and onto the axle stands.
New tyres should arrive at some point as a bunch of us have done a big order through Marcus who kindly organised all of that. I have been driving the Chummy about. I drove it into work one day last week and managed not to break down or stall anywhere on Queen Street! Everyone looks at you in a car like that. And people want to stop and ask you about it everywhere. I also drove it up Mt Eden.
Probably a good thing I did as it sounds like they will soon ban cars from going up there at all!
I have used the car any excuse I can get really. I went shopping with it last weekend. In the rain. But it didn’t matter. A little water doesn’t hurt and it all dries out. That little windscreen wiper actually does work!
After one trip I did find my rear light had lost it’s little plastic lens. So I made a new one by machining up a piece of translucent red perspex I have. I carefully opened up the top of the body so that the plastic will fit in there then I can carefully tap the edge back down to hold it in place. A flange I machined on the edge of the disc should help. To fix it I had to remove the light. Since I removed it I decided to clean it up and paint it too.
The bracket holding the light to the car and number plate was rather lame so I am replacing that with a little metal bracket I made that the lamp can bolt to.
Also a few weekends ago Joss and Richard popped in in the H-car.
It now has something very interesting going on under the bonnet, a nice alloy head.
Under the bonnet of the Chummy is looking rather sad as the top water branch was leaking so there were puddles around my spark plugs. Tonight I took that off, cleaned up the surfaces then reassembled with a oil paper gasket with some Loctite 515 smeared on either side. I still need to get a fibre washer to go under the nut holding it in place.
To fix that I had to drain the radiator. There is a plug underneath and I opened that to drain it. Actually the brass plug was so corroded it actually fell out as soon as the socket touched it. The water was being held in by a thick layer of hard crud. Once I poked through that with a screwdriver the water drained.
Joss popped in just then, probably to check up on my lack of updates, and he helped me pull the front of the car apart. I cleaned up the hole for the bung with a 1/4 BSP tap. And I broke out most fo the hard crap in the base of the radiator.
I’ll properly flush it all out again soon. And since it’s off the car probably give it a coat of black paint. The core is in near perfect condition.
Then some ducks came to visit. One tried drinking from my parts washing bowl (filled with kerosene!) and it didn’t like that so it crapped on my driveway.
I’ve also been working on the special, the car this blog is meant to be about! I am basically waiting till after christmas and my trip then when I will get back I will start building the engine. In the mean time I started on making a seat. I borrowed an original pattern seat base as a start and, being lazy, copied that with whatever bits of wood I had lying about.
After gluing on the thin ply top I was worried the base wasn’t going to be strong enough given this seat has to be stood on to get in and out of the car so I added an extra brace underneath.
That will have on top of it some kind of air cushion made from an inner tube probably. Joss suggests putting that in a canvas bag to hold it then on top of that will go the leather cover. The valve will protrude into the bottom of the seat so you can pump it up to whatever softness you like.
This is just the seat cushion really. Next I need to make the frame that bolts into the car and has the back on it. Below is what the Chummy ones look like with their cushions removed.
These are obviously home made and not quite the right shape. For the special I can make whatever shape I like so I will have a thin seat back and make the sides a but more hip hugging I think. The base is all just thin steel folded up. The back is part of it and will have a wired edge probably and some swages in it for stiffness.
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!