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!
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!