The Reason Why.

After settling in at Chez Maurit, the next excitement was getting to Angouleme to see what was going on. Friday was billed as a bit of a special day and much was made of the Concourse de Elegance in the evening but, if I went to the races again, I would probably give Friday a miss. There was quite a lot of hanging around and by the time the party got going, it was time to get going – so we missed it.


As we did one of the bends on the way home. It was dark and the lights, although good for a vintage car, didn’t illuminate the tightness of the left-hander. Fortunately, there was a straight-on option – which I took!


Before we left the city, we took the opportunity to roar around as much of the circuit as possible. It’s very short and tight and heaving the Hillman round at speed would have been testing. I’d had to patch up a bit of the silencer before we left England but the repair hadn’t lasted which made our lap a bit of a head-turner.

Grand Tour

The following day, we positioned ourselves in the small town of Aubeterre in order to catch the procession of classic and vintage vehicles passing through. We got the timing a bit wrong so decided we’d go on to Chalais where the vehicles had gathered for lunch. When we got there, we were ushered in to the parking especially reserved for the top cars. I wasn’t about to disabuse anyone of their notions regarding our status and happily joined the tour which took us back through cheering crowds to Aubeterre.

Two things which made distinct impressions on The Ambassador’s Daughter and me were firstly, the quality of the French roads which must be the best in the world – silent, smooth and largely empty – and secondly, the enthusiasm and delight the French – old and young – have for vintage cars. Passing through tiny villages in the middle of nowhere, old folk would rise from their seats, clap and call ‘Bravo!’ Where we parked, we found it hard to get away, such was people’s interest. It was all very heart-warming and we never for a moment thought twice about leaving the car unattended for the day in a car park or a back street – we knew it would be safe.

The Pits

Sunday was the big day and the practicing started early. It was exciting stuff and the competitors were not behind the door considering the nature of the circuit. There were a couple of prangs and a few cars probably went home with less bodywork than they started with but I can only imagine that a good time was had by all.


Inevitably, there was a good showing of Bugatti’s but, come to think of it, I’d never seen so many Renault Alpine’s in one place either.

Jowett Jupiter

The sole representative of the Jowett marque was parked in one of the main squares in the town. It looked very original and well used. I would have liked to have seen under the bonnet but the owner wasn’t in evidence. But all this fun had to come to an end and on Monday morning we set off back to England. Once again, our hosts for the two stops we made were charming, accommodating and we ate very well.

Wednesday morning

The first sign of any inclement weather for the whole of our time in France came on Wednesday morning. We’d stayed at a small manoir about 50 miles South of Rouen and fortunately, the owners had made available a small motor house for the car overnight….

Manoir de Bouvry

… so the car was dry to start our dash to Calais for the 1.20pm train. It was a bit of a long haul but the car is comfortable and despite the wind, noise and the horrendous traffic in England ….


… the 9 hour trip back to Suffolk wasn’t at all onerous.

So, both sadly and happily, that really winds up this particular adventure and I was expecting to settle down to a moment’s peace and quiet but …

The next project

… hello, what’s this turned up in my workshop?



The First 170 Miles….

… went without a problem (apart from the utterly and completely incomprehensible French road numbering system leading us astray on more than one occasion) and we arrived at La Ferme en Ville, Bernay. As it was a Sunday evening we were expecting to have recourse to bread and scrape and in Abbeville, we’d stocked up with fruit, bread and cheese. Our hosts though, couldn’t have been more accommodating and delightful and we were treated to an excellent dinner – all home-grown salad and vegetables and locally sourced meat. That Robert and his wife were both classic car enthusiasts with a Mini and a Triumph Spitfire in the family was an unexpected bonus.


Following a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs and croissant, we set out to our next stop in Airvault, taking in Le Mans along the way. Some of the Monaco Dasher’s had been together at the Le Mans Classic a couple of years ago and the centre of the town was a bit of a building site. Not so now. We found a parking place in a quiet square behind the cathedral and went for a wander round. One of the things that has been so charming about our reception in France is the extraordinary enthusiasm and interest in the Hillman that people have expressed along the way. Sometimes it’s been difficult to get out of the car park but it’s been a real pleasure to chat away with people from all walks of life.

Le Mans

Having dawdled along the way somewhat…


… an impromptu lunch stop at a wayside cafe with 2 Sunbeam 90 dhc’s, a TR6 and the owner’s Triumph Spitfire couldn’t be ignored – we were a bit late at Le Vieux Chateau, Airvault. An interesting evening dining with all the other guests at a long banqueting table, kept us on our toes as none of the 10 spoke a word of English (which was nice).

La Rochelle

After a similarly communal breakfast (late again) we pressed on to the charming port of La Rochelle. It was a bit out of our way but I’d wanted to visit while I had the chance. The detour was worth it – a splendid lunch in a bustling little town with lots of history.

Chez Maurit

The Armstrong Siddeley Hurricane beat us to our destination and everyone, thankfully, arrived in one piece. The only real drama was that the Hurricane blew out an inner tube – fortunately only 20 yards from their chosen hotel – and that involved getting two more tyres and tubes flown out from Longstone Tyres in the UK.

The Golf Club

Our first entertainment was a couple of lemonades with the local car club. An Aero Morgan in very original condition, an XK and an Austin 7 were some of the cars to look at before we motored off to Aubeterre for lunch.


Aubeterre boasts an extraordinary church cut into the rock. It’s quite the most fantastic structure and, without thinking, I’d imagined that the excavations would have begun at the bottom. Not so – they started at the top and worked their way down; a fact that wasn’t at first obvious to me because you walk in at the bottom.

If that doesn’t make a lot of sense I can be excused after 170 brain-rattling miles in a vintage special…..

The Monaco Dash.

The Ford RS2000 clutch cable I’d put in place instead of the original rod arrangement had probably stretched a bit and a small amount of adjustment was needed before we set off. I also drained and refilled the gearbox; took the exhaust off and cured another rattle that had appeared, ran round with the grease gun, made up some headlight shrouds and cleaned the windscreen.There was nothing else to do but pack all our stuff into the space behind the seats and go.

Fan switch

Or so I imagined. The ambient temperature had dropped over the last few days and I’d noticed that when driving around, the engine water temperature had dropped correspondingly. The new Pro Alloy radiator is so efficient that I could run into problems in the winter. I had an old dynamo switch that was looking for a home and I wired it in so that the fan could be isolated. On the road, I don’t think I’m going to be needing the fan but, when I do need it, I don’t want it to be burnt out through over work. The switch is also a nice addition to the dash.

AA Badge

And talking of additions, a period AA badge has started the collection on the badge bar. When I get back I’ll fit the ‘Independent Union of Special Builders’ badge – not a lot of people have one of those.

Big Sister

The Ambassador’s Daughter and I set off  to Kent to stay with my Big Sister. This would break the trip and, as the Channel Tunnel is only half an hour away from her door, getting the early train would not be such an effort. Big Sister is also a master cake-maker and general all round chef par excellence – so we would set off in fine trim!

Dartford crossing

Before we got to this point, the car had started to miss-fire – a heart-sinking moment – as we passed Colchester on the A12 but the application of choke solved the problem. I’d left the fan switched off and was monitoring how hot the engine would get without it. The fan is now permanently on as fuel evaporation is clearly an issue.


The next little snag – one which dogged a good part of the trip down to Angouleme – was a sticking rear brake, I think brought on by sitting on the ramp to the train with the brakes hard on. The continuous loop brake cable is good in theory but in practice leaves something to be desired. The cable takes up a set around the pulleys and the self-balancing effect is lost. We stopped at a supermarket and bought some gardening wire and plastic clips and in the car park, we cobbled together a fix.


It was a relief to know that the Hillman could drive into the train without a problem – the turning circle is not great. In half an hour we were in France and then spent the next hour trying to get out of Calais on one of the little green roads instead of the motorway. We managed in the end and headed off to our first stop at La Ferme en Ville, Bernay.


Last Minute Adjustments…

… will continue, in all likelihood, right up to the last minute.

Drip tray

Despite giving my best attention to the rear crankcase seal – a weakness in the design of the Morris Six engine – deposited at intervals, small spots of oil  have charted our progress around East Anglia for the last 600 miles. This incontinence is no longer acceptable to the public at large and a permanently mounted drip tray needed to be devised.

Drip tray installed

The bolt holes are slotted so you need only loosen the bolts to slide the tray out for emptying. One further refinement will be a small hole to indicate when the tray is getting full.

Fuel pump

The fuel pump had continued to give trouble by interfering with the left hand indicators. After an iron core thingamajig, then a couple of capacitors fitted between the feed and ground, I tried resistors in an attempt to alter the frequency of the signal being produced…. still no luck. So what about a Faraday Cage? What about it? It didn’t work. Angus the Electric popped his head round the door again and suggested I tried running the pump directly from the battery thus avoiding all the miles of wiring. Bingo!

Panel work

As you can see, I set about installing 2 core shielded cable between the switch, the pump and the battery and the problem was solved – Yahoo! We did speculate that the problem with the rev counter might be caused by the same electrical interference as well but a road test showed that, although slightly changed, it’s still reading roughly double. That’ll have to do for now.


Another 100 or so miles round trip took in the charming town of Thaxted in Essex where there happened to be a convenient spot for a photo opportunity. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find somewhere not ruined by yellow lines or signs announcing some restriction or other. Speed bumps are another of life’s irritations and we stumbled across a particular pernicious set on our way to the rolling road….

Rolling road

The last time I was at Mr Baldwin’s rolling road, I was with a friend and his racing car. It was a new experience for me and I have to admit that I hid behind a very large tool box for most of the proceedings for fear of something letting go! I was better prepared this time and whilst I was doing 70mph, Mr Baldwin and Learned Counsel busied themselves making adjustments to the mixture and ignition. The book says that 70 BHP is achieved at 4400rpm. After Mr Baldwin’s attentions, 80 BHP flagged up at 4200rpm and the Lamda readings indicated that the car would pass easily the current MOT emissions test.


The car was quite happy at 75mph and the back axle was still in one piece at the end of the exercise. It was interesting also to note that the water temperature at idle was around 55° and under load went up to 65 -70°. That’s apparently about right for an engine of this vintage. So, barring any last minute adjustments, I think we’re good to go.



I Vaguely Remembered….

… there being some sort of felt or rubber-like washer whose purpose was to discourage the egress of diff oil along the rear axle cases. There was nothing to it but to see if I could remove the nearside casing, complete with back plate and sundries, leaving the half shaft in place and see if I could do something to fix the leak.

Broken spring

The first discovery was that the handbrake shoe return spring had broken again but this time I’ve worked out why; I’m adjusting the circuit at the wrong end allowing the cam to go nearly vertical which is too much for the spring. Another saddle on the operating cam will bring the shoe closer to the drum and if I shorten the cable at the cockpit end of the circuit, the stop will be reached sooner and all will be well…

Axle casing removal

So I wasn’t dreaming; the felt washer was there but it was absolutely soaked with oil and had probably shrunk over time. I measured the distance from where it might sit in the casing and be effective and added another felt spacer about 1/4″ thick on the diff side. Most of the leak would have been going through the centre of the washer so the extra spacer was made to be a reasonably tight fit.

Wire-locking diff bolts

The casing had to come off to do this and I was very nervous about the bolts dropping into the bottom of the diff – hence the wire-locking! As it turned out, they couldn’t go all the way in but I didn’t know that at the time. If the extra washer works for the trip to France, I can at least (now I know what to do) on my return, dream up a scheme for a more permanent fix.

Spraying the Jowett

I haven’t quite worked out what all the mystery’s about but this is the only view of the Jowett Jumble Sale that I’ve been allowed of late. This is the spray shop and in there are the wings. I’m assured that the car will be finished – the upholstery was done last week in great secrecy – by the appointed time and I’m hoping that it may turn up at our local get-together in a few days.


No such cloak-and-dagger stuff with The Great Collector. The Darracq’s magneto decided to play up a few days ago and Counsel and I were drafted in to sort it out. I vaguely remembered that about a year ago, we discovered one of the carbon contact breaker points had come adrift so, in the absence of a new part, we mixed up some Araldite and glued it back on – as a temporary measure of course. Well, we forgot about it and The Great Collector was the other day, just going out of his gate when the car faded and died (at least it had the decency to fail at home rather than at a busy junction in town). As a get-you-home measure, I suppose you might be able to go a short distance on the trembler coil (the Darracq has two ignition systems) but I wouldn’t have thought it was good for it. It was discovered that our repair had departed the fix – so to speak – so a new bit was sourced, the magneto remagnetised and now there’s enough spark to light up Blackpool Tower.


What A Chump!

Talk about dopey! The fuel consumption of the Hillman rose from 16.2mpg to 19.8mpg by the simple expedient of changing the app on my phone that I was using for the calcs, from Galls (US) to Galls (Imp)! Even so, another 4 miles to the gallon would be nice and I’m hoping that as the engine loosens up a bit, 24mpg might yet be achieved.

Flypast 2

A round trip to the Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden put a useful 125 miles on the clock. The sun was out and we bowled along the road at a steady 50mph without the slightest hiccup. A look round the museum – there were a lot of changes since I was last there with the Avro – and an excellent lunch saw us ready to depart when we heard that the only two airworthy Lancasters were due to do a couple of circuits over the field. It was a once in a lifetime event, not be missed and which was captured perfectly by The Ambassador’s Daughter’s camera.

Lancs over Old Warden

Our trip will have ensured that the Hillman will have clocked up over 500 miles by the time it gets to the rolling road – the total stands at 487 at the moment and there’s another week or two to go. I’ve fitted a 1″ bore brake master cylinder and, with Learned Counsel’s help, got the brakes bled and balanced again. The pedal travel has been halved and the effort required to apply them has increased but the fact that the pedal doesn’t go anywhere close to the floor inspires a certain confidence. The downside was that the reduction in travel meant alterations to the rear brake adjustment, involving some surgery on the brake and clutch pedals’ mounting bracket. I couldn’t get it off the car completely – well, I could have done but it would have been a long job – so I did the work in situ. Angle grinders with cutting discs are not nice to use in confined spaces but setting everything up and clamping the bracket down solidly was the secret. I took 1/4″ from one side of the 6mm plate so the rear brake fine adjustment knob doesn’t now foul the chassis.

Brake plate alterations

A check of all the vital fluids revealed that the gearbox needed topping up and the diff leak from along the halfshaft casing had shown signs of re-appearing. Fortunately, the oil doesn’t reach the brakes. On the dipstick, the engine had used about 1 litre of oil in the first 300 miles – that’s to be expected – and no water. Having said that, the only time the hoses leak is as they’re cooling down; I usually find a small puddle of water under the car in the morning but nothing of any significance.

Headlamp Grill

And then I set about the headlamp grilles. making up a 10″ diameter stainless steel ring took a bit of head-scratching until I hit upon the idea of a jig. The ring was wire-locked to the pattern, welded and afterwards tidied up. Then the mesh was welded to the ring and offered up.

Headlamp grille

It completely ruined the look of the headlamp so that idea’s been shelved. As I had a free moment, I thought I would arrange all the tools for The Monaco Dash in a tool box and see if I could fit everything in.

Tool box

The only thing I couldn’t manage was the bottle jack but I’ll magic up some space for that somewhere.


A Curious Conundrum.

With the ignition switched on, the indicators work perfectly. Add the lights – no snags. Switch on the fuel pump and the right hand indicators flash away merrily but the timing on the left indicators slows to zero and they stay on or off depending on which instant the indicator was applied. The fuel pump is obviously the culprit and I understand from my researches that they can generate considerable amounts of electrical noise, thus interfering with the electronics in a car. What makes the problem more curious is the fact that the wiring for both left and right indicator circuits runs past the fuel pump but the left indicator only is affected. I’m now reading up on ferrite core sleeves. In similar vein, the rev counter continues to indicate twice the revs the engine’s doing. It was from a Rover P5 – 6 cylinder, negative earth – so I would have thought it would work correctly. But it doesn’t and the addition of a ballast resistor was a complete red herring. The only good thing about the rev counter mis-reading is that about 3000rpm indicated, happens to coincide with roughly 30mph (the speedo’s reading double as well and needs a 2:1 reduction gearbox in the cable).


A trip to my local garage for what amounted to an MOT, found everything in order except a bit of play in one of the track rod ends that I shall address. It was very nice to get under the car, have a good tug at a few bits and pieces and check for leaks around the engine. And, when we got home, I remembered that the Austin and the Hillman had never been formally introduced…

Specials 2

The Austin looks a bit naked without its wings…


And on reflection…


The Hillman is still running very rich. At the local garage we once again put it on the exhaust gas analyser and the hydrocarbons were again very high. I’ve booked the car into Wilshers Garages’ rolling road but meanwhile I’m going to swop the standard needle for the weak one and see what happens. Weakening the mixture by screwing up the jet nut does help with the emissions but I can tell that the mixture’s too weak and that’s as bad as too rich – possibly worse. To eliminate all my shooting in the dark, the rolling road should be the answer.

Horn Bracket

A few small jobs that dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s continue to occupy me  – the horn trumpet bracket and re-torquing the cylinder head nuts. Whilst the cam cover was off, I checked and re-set the valve clearances, all of which were between 4 and 5 thou too tight. The Hispano valve adjustment is an absolute delight; it’s simplicity itself – one spanner to stop the valve from turning, a second spanner to wind the clearance in or out , 1 click either way equalling 1 thou. The worst bit of the job was turning the engine over with a box spanner and tommy bar on the crankshaft nut. There’s not a lot of room between the radiator and the front of the engine but, on the other hand, using a starting handle you wouldn’t be able to see the cam lobes because the radiator’s in the way, presenting something of a conundrum, what?