The Special Builders’ Breakfast Club….

…. broke with tradition and went for lunch.


The White Horse at Sweffling provided an excellent cheese toasty – homemade bread, local cheese and chutney – and a selection of real ales. Don’t go if you’re a lager drinker because there isn’t any. Then on to Aldburgh for walk along the beach in unseasonably warm weather. I’m not a fan of public art but Maggi Hambling’s ‘Scallop’ is in a league of its own. Its success for me is that I don’t need to know anything about Benjamin Britten or his opera ‘Peter Grimes’, to enjoy the sculpture. It’s impressive and completely accessible.

Morris Minor flywheel

And equally accessible was the Minor’s gearbox. You may recall that I rebuilt a 4-speed box to replace the 3-speeder in a chum’s Minor saloon. We put the job off until we ran out of excuses and I was surprised how easily everything came apart. Fitting the 4-speed box will be another story and is not as straightforward as we were led to believe. Firstly, the handbrake bracket had to have a piece inserted so that the mounting holes could be repositioned to fit the 4-speed casting and I suspect there might be some jiggery-pokery with the cross-shaft as well. We have a shortened propshaft ready and waiting and we’ll probably replace the fabric couplings for good measure.

Jowett diff

The Jowett racer’s diff looks to be in good shape with practically no wear on the crown wheel and almost no backlash. I haven’t started on the dashboard yet – that’s a winter job and should come after the Austin’s front wings……

1914 Crossley

My car to take home this month was this very pretty 1914 Crossley. In fact, the local VSCC monthly meeting was very well attended with no less than four Triumph Gloria’s in various guises.


Two new toys have been added to the landscape in recent weeks. This Talbot came from France and was being given the once-over on The Great Collector’s ramp and…

1949 Morgan

Awkward has bought a Morgan….

Standard Avon Special

to go with his Avon – seen here amongst this nursery (?) of Minors.


I quite like the little Minor drop-head; it’s a bigger car than the Austin 7 and the later ones have refinements such as hydraulic brakes – not that cables and rods properly set up are any less good. I should perhaps have paid a bit more attention to the design of ‘Sunita’; long journeys are a bit of a trial as I’m over 6′.


This week I’ve escorted my big sister to Kerteminde in Denmark. We’re here to visit her English Bull Terrier. Don’t ask! Of more interest to me is a nearby castle with a collection of cars and aeroplanes and, Kerteminde was the home of Johannes Larsen – a painter known best for his studies of birds in land and seascapes. There’s a small museum and gallery in his former home, just around the corner from our B&B. I’ve asked around about my Aage Schad painting but have so far drawn a blank. I’m rather hoping that the wise ones at the Museet will know all about him and go all dreamy-eyed at the mere mention of his name.

I’ll slip over there after a spot of breakfast.

No More Excuses.

As road-mending seems to have taken a back seat in this neck of the woods, after a trip to Bawdsey (which gained fame as the site of the first Chain Home Radar Station) along some pretty rough country lanes, I realised that it was silly to further put off the job of taking some leaves out of the rear springs to soften the ride on the Hillman.

Bawdsey Manor

Each of the rear leaf springs has nine leaves in it and if you bounce about on the back of the car, there’s only about 1/2″ travel – not great. I thought initially that at least four of the leaves would have to come out before there’d be any noticeable difference but that was the least of my concerns. The last time I’d dismantled a leaf spring, the centre retaining nut had whizzed past my ear as it came off the last thread and put a hole in the workshop ceiling. This time I’d be a bit more careful.

Spring removal

After 4000 miles over the course of a year, it wasn’t a bad time to give the springs a bit of a spring clean anyway. I had to think about the jacking and supporting procedure before I started undoing things (I got it a bit wrong when we removed the gearbox from the Bayliss Thomas and after undoing the spring retaining U-bolt nuts there was a big twang). So I jacked up the car, supported the chassis rails and put another couple of axle stands under the axle. Undoing the U-bolt nuts allowed the spring to pull away from the static axle and it was just a case of getting the spring in its relaxed position with a couple of threads showing past the plate to make it easy to reassemble. I had to readjust the stands on the axle before I got it right.

Leaf removal

Then came the slightly scary bit. I clamped up the spring both in the vice and with a couple of G-clamps further out; if the spring slipped in the vice, I’d have some back up. Once the centre nut was off, I slowly wound out the vice until the pressure was relieved and then removed three leaves – well, three leaves fell off because the rest were riveted together.

Replacing lower leaf

Rather than mess about with the integrity of the rest of the spring, I decided to take just two leaves out and put back the lower leaf to help spread the load. The next side took half the time of the first and that was it; a job I was rather dreading turned out to be the work of a morning and the test run showed an extraordinary improvement (and just lowered the back by about an inch giving the car a bit more of a racy posture). I’m glad I took out only two leaves, more might have been too many. The steering has improved – it’s less of a handful pulling the car round corners and my lane (the worst road in Suffolk) is considerably smoothed out.


The Great Collector’s Swift wasn’t idling very well so Counsel and I went over one evening to give the Solex carb a clean out. It didn’t make any difference and as it was dark and I hadn’t got all my English spanners with me, we didn’t stay long. It was really an excuse to go for a beer in any case.

Whilst Good Folk Were Abed…

… my fellow magneteer and I were on our way to Oslo.


Over the North Sea, the clouds thickened up and we landed at Oslo in heavy rain.

Sunrise North Sea

From there, a short connecting flight to Bodo took us over some very dramatic scenery. The further north we went, the more the skies cleared to reveal glaciers, green lakes…

Glacier Norway

and a beach!

Beach Norway

It’s the most extraordinary landscape, one which, living in Suffolk, I’m obviously quite unused to….


… and with this, the view from my table at breakfast, I’ve no complaints. One of the strange things I’ve noticed is that it seems to be very difficult to judge long distances. Every morning at about 6.30, a ship (some sort of dredger) comes down the fjord and moors just along from the hotel. As it comes round the corner, it looks in the distance like a small fishing boat only a few hundred yards away which, by the time it gets here, it clearly isn’t. There’s something in the way that I’m used to calculating scale and distance which is at odds with the reference points in this landscape.

Harbour buildings Rognan

Our final destination, Rognan (pronounced wrongnan) was once a thriving boat-building town; every building along the front (except the hotel – a modern addition) had some connection to the trade and some continue with repairs to the small wooden-hulled fishing boats and pleasure craft that occupy the harbour.

Rognan Harbour

Unseasonably high temperatures (we were inside the Arctic Circle after all) of 18 and 19 degrees and dropping only to about 12 degrees at night, made for a very pleasant few days at the Nexans cable factory. It’s always a pleasure to work with the Scandinavians. It’s been my experience that in the factories, the management seem to have a very hands-off approach to their workforce. You rarely see one of the big hats on the shop floor and you don’t see anyone skulking about trying to look busy. Everyone seems to be cheerfully motivated and enthusiastic about what they’re required to do, each team arranging their schedule to suit. Our work at the factory finished three days later and just too late to get the same day’s flights back to London so we had a bit of time to explore.

Mushroom hunting

My fellow magneteer is a keen mushroom spotter so, to be frank, as one fjord was going to be much like another within the limited sphere of our operations, we decided to devote some of our time off to foraging for mushrooms – a mission in which we were entirely unsuccessful. But our ramblings were not without surprises because in the woods we came across both German and Yugoslavian War Grave cemeteries. As autumn was on its way, the colours were beginning to turn…


… and this landscape lent itself to the panoramic shot. It wasn’t difficult to find a suitable view. In fact there’s almost too much choice; every corner we went round presented some ever more inspiring spectacle.


If the sun had given us a look it would have been even more fabulous. Sadly, I’ve not been able to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights – described rather wonderfully by one of our Norwegian colleagues as ‘a bucket of light poured across the sky’.

Like all good folk, I was probably asleep.

The Road To Le Mans III

My next bit of Jowett fun is going to be replicating the dashboard…

Le Mans cockpit

… from this car.

Le Mans Jowett

I can’t quite tell from the photo but it looks like some blighter is lifting fuel from the tank while chap’s got his head under the bonnet; sort of thing Sir Cuthbert would get Perkins involved in.

Le Mans Jowett

Learned Counsel is pressing ahead on the Le Mans Jowett (the new sand blasting cabinet has set a cracking pace). The chassis in matt black with the contrasting silver-grey fittings looks really good.

Nearside front hub

Like the Hillman and my Austin, Nyloc’s (or Stiffnut’s) will be used throughout. Talking of which reminds me of that on the Hillman, there’s a machine screw which, however hard you tighten – even with Threadloc applied – it always comes undone. It’s not critical as it holds one of the rear body trim panels in place but it’s indicative of a resonance or harmonic problem that’s not being dissipated to the rest of the chassis. I notice also that one of the – again, non-critical – fuel tank brackets has become de-soldered on that side so there’s something not quite right somewhere. I wonder if, when I get round to it this winter, the altering of the road springs will make a difference; with a softer ride it may do something to help.

Pedal box detail

The two Jowetts differ in some details and on this Le Mans car the brake pedal is adjustable so that it can line up with the slot in the scuttle. A spring on the shaft allows the lever to be set exactly in line so filing the scuttle is avoided. As most of the front of the scuttle was in poor condition, Learned Counsel has fabricated a new one to let in to the original outer panel.  That seems to be a weak spot on the Jupiter as he had to do the same for the road car. The silver bit with the nut shape on the end is part of the torsion bar assembly.

Southwold Harbour Cafe

The Southwold harbour cafe, a popular Special Builders Breakfast Club venue, kicked off the weekend’s entertainments and on the way home, a classic car show in Stradbroke broke the journey. The Hillman is running very sweetly and I’m pleased to report, is starting on the button, hot or cold. What a blinkin’ relief that is!


The half-round black shrouds in the headlamps are not the most elegant looking addition to the Marchal’s but I’ve found that they’re essential to stop dazzling on-coming drivers at night. Because the single filament bulb faces backwards in the body of the lamp, the lower half of the bowl projects the light upwards – not much use in any case. By covering the lower half, only the road is lit by the light projecting downwards from the top of the bowl. I don’t drive a lot at night but I don’t avoid it either so it was essential to do something about it.

Anyway, it’s Rognan in Norway this week where I might get to see a different but equally dazzling light show if I wangle the night shift.



… is not yet upon us. I know this because the butter in my butter dish is still perfectly spreadable. I don’t keep it in the fridge because there’s nothing worse than when you’re dying for a quick sandwich, you rip the bread to shreds trying to get the butter to spread. So despite the dewy mornings and the donning of hats for the weekly jolly in the Hillman, according to my butter, summer’s still with us.


The good news is that following the trials and tribulations of fading out and not starting when hot, the Hillman has been transformed by the fitting of a new coil. After all the fuss and palaver fitting heat sinks for the carb and whatnot, it was nice to get to the bottom of the problem and now I’m not nervous about even a simple trip to the garage (it was getting that bad).

Jowett grille

The grilles for the front of the Jowett Jolly-boat that I plated a couple of weeks ago have now been fitted. I know they’re supposed to be chrome but nickel is so much nicer. I’m sure they’ll end up chrome plated in time but for now they set the front of the car off very nicely.


For the weekly run we were joined by The Great Collector’s latest acquisition, a 1925 Star. Counsel had had it on the ramp to give it the once over and make sure everything was working as advertised. Our trip out was interrupted several times by what appeared to be an air lock in the Star’s fuel system. The cure was to turn the fuel off at the tap below the scuttle tank, take the fuel filter bowl off, switch the fuel back on, replace the bowl and let the flow push the air all the way through the system until the float bowl refilled itself and there were no more bubbles coming past the float. I think the non-standard filter bowl may be messing up the levels but we’ll spend an afternoon putting that right at some point. There was also evidence of a small leak in the petrol tank so there’s some work to be done there. Otherwise it performed very well.


This month’s most desirable motor was this Sunbeam. It reminded me of the Hillman Tourer I used to have and had the great benefit of wire wheels. It was also a bit bigger (engine and body) than the Hillman but in essence much the same. I saw a Hillman tourer with wire wheels a few weeks ago when I collected the set of road springs to play with – the wires make all the difference.


After my weeks of uninterrupted sunshine in Sweden and Germany, it was a bit of a come down to return to leaden skies and cold northerlies so as the sun made a surprise appearance over the weekend, The Ambassador’s Daughter and I went off to Happisburgh by the Norfolk Broads. Boats have always had a certain appeal but it was interesting to note in the marina we stopped at for lunch, how many of the boats we saw looked rather sad and neglected. Thinking about it, the price of a boat is a lot of day rentals and if you owned one, when is it you’d be scraping off the barnacles?

In the winter. No thanks.

Whilst I Was Away….

Learned Counsel got the Austin started..

Before I went to Sweden, I’d dismantled and cleaned the carb (I’d made up a set of jet tools for Zenith and Solex carbs in an earlier life) and also taken apart the SU fuel pump to get that cleaned up and working. A couple of weeks had passed with a quantity of diesel down the bores to help free off any seized rings and with fresh petrol introduced at every point along the fuel line (and in the plug holes for good measure) the engine sprang into life on the first turn of the key. There was no smoke and it sounded very sweet.

Riley Special

And Chap’s Riley Special was the second start-up I missed. Progress on the Le Mans Jowett is gathering pace; the chassis has been cleaned and powder-coated….

Jowett chassis

The body has been assessed for the strong points for the roll cage and seat belts,

Le Mans Jowett

and work has started on the suspension parts.

Jowett wishbone

I suspect this spurt of enthusiasm is in no small way associated with the (at last) purchase of a sandblasting cabinet. What’s more, I know where it is although my keys to the workshop have been borrowed back with the excuse of Learned Counsel’s set being broken. Hmmm.

Jowett grille

I finally got round to finishing the plating of the Jowett grilles. They’re not great but then they weren’t that great to start with. Successful plating depends on two things; the condition of the surface to be plated and its cleanliness throughout the process. The grilles on the Jowett are sheet brass. Over the years they’d become pitted and polishing those pits out might have weakened or even gone through the metal completely – I remember my Ariel VB’s front brake plate coming back from the chroming plant with a hole in it – so I polished as much as I dared and put them in the copper tank first. The coat of copper is a good indication that your cleaning regime is up to speed; if the copper don’t stick, start again. It’s been a while since I did any plating so getting the resistance and the solution temperature right was a bit of a lark.

Lotus Europa chassis

And whilst they were doing the Jowett chassis, the Europa chassis went into the pot as well. For my own part, I’ve got to fit a new coil to the Hillman (the spark is very weak at the plugs) and replace the thermostat (I removed it to see if it made any difference to the engine bay temperature – it didn’t) before the weekend’s outing to the local VSCC bash. I’ve also set a definite date to go and get my medical for the racing license and do the ARDS test – next January. It transpires that I’ll need six signatures (six races completed) before I can apply for a Historic racing license and as Learned Counsel is pushing ahead with the Le Mans Jowett, everything should dovetail neatly into place.

That’s what everyone’s been up to whilst I’ve been much engaged elsewhere!

All Rush ‘n’ Tear

The trip to Nordenham was slightly more convoluted than at first anticipated. Instead of being dropped off on the way past from Sweden, we carried on to the Hook of Holland as there was some uncertainty about when the German job might begin (by the time we’d got to the Hook, the confirmation had come through). We docked in Harwich at 5.00am, I dropped my colleague off and went to the works to collect a different set of magnetising equipment, then picked up another magneteer and was back in Calais (we had to go back the long way round as the Harwich ferry was fully booked) by 5.00pm.


The trip home wasn’t without interest though as we took in the gliding club at Terlet, near Arnhem. The club house was set on higher ground and right on the approach to the landing area – good for pictures – and there was an interesting mix of old and new gliders popping in and out.


When we arrived in the early evening to board the ferry home, this platform was being towed down the estuary by a couple of tugs. It’s quite difficult to grasp that these leviathans can actually float.


After a night stop in Ghent, we arrived in Nordenham late afternoon the following day and set up shop. Our tin hut at the end of the gantry, out over the River Weser, looked at first rather uninviting and with wall-to-wall sunshine had every prospect of turning into an oven. However, a good 10kt breeze and a lowering sky kept us comfortable and although everything swayed about a bit, it was a good vantage point to watch the river traffic.

Tall ship. Copyright C. Rayner

Our Works Manager, in Nordenham the week before us, had the good fortune to see and take pictures of the Tall Ships as they went by on his watch.


And while I was wondering where this railway went, it dawned on me that the whole point of being posted to Germany is so that you can buy a sensible bicycle. My father bought his first bicycle, a Rudge-Whitworth, in 1934 and it’s still in use today at my brother’s factory in Norfolk. It’s a proper job; you sit up straight – no hunching over the handlebars with all your weight on your wrists, and the rake on the steering is perfect for no-hands, free-wheeling. There’s also an old and very comfortable Brooks saddle; a far cry from the dangerous looking affairs on modern equipment.

I don’t know why it is that you don’t see many old-fashioned bicycles anymore. On a Sunday breakfast run in the Specials, we might pass several groups out for a bit of supposedly healthy exercise, all of them heads down, sweating away over dropped handlebars with their backs and necks contorted in an effort to see where they’re going. It looks pretty torturous to me. Many years ago I read that the collective noun for a group of cyclists is, ‘bottom’. If the current a la mode is anything to go by, that’s unfortunate.

Cycle shop

There are two cycle shops in Nordenham and I popped into the smaller one to check the stock. To my delight, a bicycle that exactly suited my requirements was in the window and at half the cost of an identical machine in the UK.


It’s so comfortable to ride, it’s not the sort of thing you want to tear about on.