… is undoubtedly bracing at this time of year – that came as no surprise – but what was rather disarming was the charm of the place. I’d never before been to Skegness and knew of it only from the famous Great Northern Railway Company poster that put the resort on the map in the first decade of the 20th C. In my occasional travels to Lincoln I’d often thought about taking it in, and Boston come to think of it, but had never really felt the urge.

Skegness Pier

The beach, a short walk from all the razzmatazz associated with a popular seaside resort, was magnificent – sand as far as the eye could see. I’d somehow imagined it would be one of those rather disagreeable pebble affairs that guarantees tar on your trousers however carefully you select your spot to sit.  Anyway, despite the sun, it was a bit sharp so The Ambassador’s Daughter and I wandered in to town passing on the way this entrance to the late Victorian pier,

Skegness Pier entrance

… before coming across this delightful park behind the Grand Parade.

Tower Gardens

A splendid lunch of fish and chips – the fish was perfectly fresh – saw us on our way to our next stop, Boston, where once again it was difficult not to be impressed by the town’s many layers of architecture and the huge tower of St Botolph’s church dominating the scene.


The Tiramisu in Prezza was only a squeak behind my sister’s for quality.

Tractor headlights

And then it was time to get back to work. A frame for the headlights of a tractor kept me out of mischief for a while and Learned Counsel rang to say that he’d spotted an air planishing tool on the web. That would be very useful for when I come to do the wings for the Austin. I’ve read that you can, with a planishing hammer, do pretty much anything that you can do with a wheeling machine. Obviously you’d need a variety of heads but I shall definitely encourage its acquisition; let’s hope I have more success than when I was encouraging him to get a sandblasting cabinet – I’m still waiting to see that.

artist's impression

A quick doodle on a napkin (I ran out of room for the nearside front wheel) is always helpful as it keeps the end in sight. It looks a bit like one of those Schuco clockwork racing cars at the moment but it’s a start. I like to draw in Biro starting with the bones and working outwards. Pencil is okay but the mistakes you make can be erased – obviously – and that, for me, defeats the object of a preliminary sketch; what you get wrong is probably more important than what you get right. Overlaying is always an interesting process because you end up with a sort of see-through model – a cut-away drawing – though a great deal less precise than those the Eagle comic used to enthral us with.

Riley Sketch

It’s the sort of thing that you can do to pass the time of day at the beach.




The Riley axle I managed to get hold of for the racing car showed signs of having been used, at some point in its life, as a trailer axle. There was evidence of welding around the tops of the stub axles and someone had used a grinder to bring it back into service as a steerable axle. Fortunately they’d taken great care over the job and the damage was cosmetic though I wondered if the welding had contributed to the difficulty in removing the kingpins.

Riley Front axle

A good clean up and visual check for cracks revealed nothing untoward. I’ve got another complete axle, although less robust in design, which has all the steering arms and whatnot in place so, once I’ve got the new kingpin bushes (the pins themselves are fine as far as I can see but it may be prudent to renew them) I can transfer the lot over.

Spring clamp plateTo clamp the front axle and the springs together, I’ve drawn up and ordered from the laser people, two 8mm steel plates which I hope to collect at the same time as the radius arms. I don’t suppose that it’s going to be too long before the car is standing on its feet. The only things that I’m short of at the moment are a couple of half-shafts but I’m hoping they won’t be too difficult to source.

Jowett windscreen

I was minding my own business the other day when Learned Counsel thrust into my hands all the parts that make up the Jowett Jobcentre’s windscreen. ‘That’ll keep you out of trouble for a bit’ he said, rapidly departing the fix. He was right; what a blinkin’ fiddle that was. It was only a case of making up a couple of brackets, drilling and tapping and hunting around for some 4BA brass countersunk screws but that took the best part of the morning. I must have done a good job because I notice there’s another frame appeared on my bench.

Jowett engine

I went round to inspect the installation and grabbed a couple of snaps of stuff lying around the workshop. Pictured above is the beginnings of the engine that’ll go in the Jowett racer (that’s the bonnet behind) and, on the floor was something rather interesting – a Jupiter gearbox with close-ratio gears that was prepared for John Surtees. I alerted Learned Counsel to its presence on eBay and after his winning the auction, picked it up on the round trip to see the ‘barn find’ Lea Francis I wrote about a few months ago. It’ll be interesting to see what difference the box will make in comparison to Learned Counsel’s road car.

Close-ratio Jupiter box

So, what with one thing and another we’ve all been rather busy of late but no-one as busy as Leon whose front mudguards for his A7 Special, made their debut last week.

Leon's front mudguards

I looked in at Leon’s workshop halfway through their production and it didn’t look that easy a job – perhaps that’s why I’m flunking doing my front wings at the moment (they were meant to be done 3 years ago).

I think we can all sit back for a bit.

A Quiet Evening In.

I was in the middle of milling some Wolseley and Morris OHC tappet spanners ….

Tappet Spanner

…. when I remembered that I had a chocolate mould. On the face of it, that may sound an odd train of thought but there was a connection, albeit tenuous. Wolseley, under license, made Hispano Suiza aero engines in the 1st World War and later borrowed some aspects of the aero engine’s design for its motor cars – the last manifestations of which were the 4 and 6 cylinder OHC engines made by Morris before Lord Nuffield called a halt to their development. It was the early aviation side of things that prompted the image of my chocolate mould to float into my mind.

Chocolate mould

This rather splendid piece of work by the famous Parisienne company Letang Fils was given to me some years ago – in my Avro days – and I’d never thought to try it out. It was in a bit of a sorry state when I finally found it so a good polish and sterilization was essential (it looked like it may have originally been nickel-plated so I might restore that finish one day). By the time I’d finished messing about it was close to 9.00pm and I was short of some good quality chocolate to melt down for my experiments.

Slow Down 30

On my route into town I pass through a village which sports a reminder to motorists to keep to the speed limit. Often, half of the bulbs don’t work and I always think the resulting ‘SLO DO 3′ would be a suitable title for a science fiction novel; it’s the sort of thing I imagine might appeal to Walter Mitty.

melting chocolate

With 1/2 a bar of Green & Black’s dark chocolate melting in the bowl, I gave the mould a light coating of olive oil which hopefully would act as a release agent.

Filled mould

After filling the mould, a wait of about 15 minutes for things to firm up a bit before a quick trim with a knife tidied the edges and separated each piece. Following roughly an hour in the fridge, the point of a knife under a corner of each piece lifted the finished chocolates from the mould. Success!

Finished chocolate

And whilst I was doing all this, I realised that I’d got the drawing of the radius arm a bit wrong and the doubler which holds the bush at the front needed to be altered so that the load was carried more evenly along the length of the arm.

Radius arm 2

The ‘V’ shaped end of the doubler plate will work better than a straight drop from top to bottom – with any luck the boys and girls down at the laser-cutting works won’t have started on the job yet. And on the subject of axles and fixings, I should also draw up the plates for the front axle clamp bolts. Some Rileys use a plate for each pair of bolts but I favour a single plate for all four. It’s a bit more work but it make things a lot firmer and also easier for assembly.

Unless I’m distracted, I’ll sort that out one quiet evening in.

A Better Deal.

Like everyone else, when dealing with the utilities, I’ve been on the phone for what seemed hours on end either waiting to have my call answered or, once in, being cut off during a transfer to the ‘right’ department and having to start all over again. Well, lately I’ve discovered a new (to me) and much better way of communicating with vast organisations – the ‘live chat’ facility.

For forty years I’ve been a customer of British Telecom (BT). I’ve always stuck with them because, historically, the phone line down my lane has been a bit squiffy. Rather than go through a third-party provider when something goes wrong I would, I’d been told by the various engineers who’d visited over the years, get things done more swiftly by remaining loyal to BT.

In the last few months, I’d been receiving regular emails from BT telling me that I was close to using up my monthly broadband allowance and, hot on those email’s heels would follow an announcement that I had indeed exceeded my allowance. Further, attached to this would be an invitation to upgrade or pay an extra however-much-it-cost for my transgression. It’s when I’m on the receiving end of this sort of corporate bullying that I begin to think twice about my continuing loyalty. In the past, I’d argued quite successfully that BT had no right to charge me for not using my phone (I couldn’t believe that they had the nerve to try it at the time) so, with a measly 10Gb monthly broadband limit (it seemed a couple of hours of iPlayer plus some clips from YouTube and I was stuffed) I resolved to have another pop at them and see where it got me.

Trawling through their website for a number to ring for my specific complaint, I discovered hidden away in the depths, a ‘live chat’ facility. Yahoo! No hours wasted on the phone. I set about typing and was soon in conversation with someone, somewhere in the ether. Our chat started well with all the customary ‘how are you’s, but it wasn’t long before the representative, who was unable to concentrate on the core issue of explaining to me why it should cost me more to download 100Gb than it would 10Gb, passed me on to the Awkward Customer Department. That’s always a step in the right direction.

10 minutes later I had unlimited broadband, a box of tricks to hook up to the TV which gave me iPlayer, Catch-up, On-demand and a zillion other must-have facilities I’d never use and all for £5 a month less than I was paying (though they continued to evade my initial question).

More interestingly:

Radius arm sketch

This is the new sketch of the nearside radius arm. The extra plate at the far end is to create a box to support the bush where the arm is bolted to the chassis. In cross-section it’ll look something like this:

Cross section

And on Learned Counsel’s advice I’ve added the folded (instead of welded) flanges which will make it a better deal altogether.


That Looks About Right.

I find it quite difficult to think things out when it’s cold so, a good fire going in the log burner and a glass of stout at room temperature are the basic requirements for a couple of hours thinking and sketching on a cold winter evening.

radius arm

One of the things that occurred to me was that perhaps I should design in enough material for the attachment of some sort of shock absorber or friction damper; I’ll run that past Learned Counsel who’s due to drop in this week. In the meantime I thought it best to draw up the arm more accurately before adding more metal – there’s always a weight consideration with a racing car.

Rear axle radius arm

It looks very different dimensionally from the sketch but the idea’s the same. I think that 3mm steel plate with a 2 x 10mm flange welded along the edges will be plenty stiff enough and I’ve drawn in a couple of doublers where the arm picks up the axle mounts and one at the chassis mount end. I can lose a bit of weight with the lightening holes.

Draining the blocks

In anticipation of an extended cold spell, I remembered today to drain the water from both the Hillman and the Austin. I hadn’t put anti-freeze in either of them – the Austin because I was testing out the electric water pump and forgot to replenish it once it was working and the Hillman because I’m still trying to stop the leaks. The main culprit is the copper pipe running the length of the engine that carries the water from the bottom of the radiator back to the block. I think the pipe gets distorted when the Jubilee’s are wound up. I might try a bit of sealant before I replace the pipe with an aluminium one of a stiffer grade. It would be a shame to lose the copper pipe as it adds a bit of interest and looks nice and vintage but, I’d rather lose the pipe than the engine.

Bayliss Thomas block

And here is one of the problems that you might associate with not using anti-freeze. The Meadows 4EB engine in the Bayliss Thomas, always got very hot, very quickly and lost power as a result. It wasn’t until I came to rebuild the engine that I found out why; over half of the volume of the water jacket in the block was silted up. I’d delayed taking the block cover off to investigate the cause of the over-heating because there was a huge area of corrosion in the aluminium casting and I didn’t want it to disintegrate in my hands. When it came to it, I was able to repair the casting and polish it back into shape for reassembly.

Bayliss Thomas

It was a nice looking engine; lots of shiny bits but still very compact and business-like. Shame then that it never seemed to really go very well – it lacked spirit somehow which, being an OHV with a lightish body, it should have had.

Just goes to show; if it looks about right, it don’t always fly right.




It’s A Start.

It was my father’s habit to call the first cup of tea of the day, ‘gunfire’. I’d never really thought about it – this and one or two less savoury bits of military slang were part of the family vocabulary – until I happened past this:


…. suggesting that you wouldn’t have to wait too long before Bloggs sprang forth with a cup of rosy. Wizard!

Riley Merlin diff

To make the job of taking the brackets off the rear axle casings a bit easier and to lighten the load, I unbolted the diff. A cursory examination showed it to be in good order – a bit lumpy when turned but all the crown wheel teeth were good so I think the bearings are just gummed up. I’ll dump the lot in a bucket of diesel for a couple of weeks – that should free it up before I take it apart – or not.

Bracket removed

Cutting the brackets off was quite simple as they’d been welded only around their edges. The more difficult and lengthier task was to grind off the surplus and polish the axle casing down to fit the axle clamps.

Polished axle casing

I took about a half a millimetre from the circumference and then polished for the final fit to smooth everything off. Where I’d marked the casings with the cutting disc, I’d initially filled with weld but in the end this wasn’t really necessary as the marks I hadn’t filled (or overlooked) disappeared with the polishing and grinding in any case.

axle clamp

There’s a little bit of work to do to finish but the bulk of it’s done. Next thing will be to sort out the radius arms and I’ve spotted a convenient bushing on the chassis about 12″ from the axle.

Radius arm

It’s just an idea at the moment; I’ll have to work out the angles and make sure that the arms are fixed to the axle in the right places as the axle, when deflected, should describe a small arc. If the radius arms were attached to the chassis with some sort of rubber bushing – a bit like the bushes for the friction dampers on the Hillman, they’d allow for any compression or tension as the axle deflects. The correct positioning of the radius arms should minimise the effect.

axle clamp

Anyway, a good days work and I’m glad to have got back into it again.

Flat Nose Morris

As, I note, has The Great Collector. Another Flat Nose Morris has appeared out of the blue. It was sitting on a four-post ramp, so he bought that as well. There’s no stopping him…..

Stacking on the M20

… unlike these poor souls. My work took me to Kent the other day and on my way down, everyone was encouraged to avoid the M20 as it was now a lorry park stretching from Maidstone to Dover. The announcements on the electronic boards over the M25 told us that junctions 8-9 on the M20 were closed. Fine; that’s very kind of the traffic people to let us know but, where are junctions 8 and 9 – this end.. that end… in the middle? I know at least that the M25 junctions start on the south side of the Dartford crossing; that the M4 junction is number 15 and there’s 31 junctions in total but, to tell me that there’s a 3 mile tailback between junctions 22 and 25 gives me only half the picture. Better to announce that there’s a queue between the A1 and the A10; I know where that is and can plan accordingly.

I’ve often thought that I should put a map of the M25’s junction numbers in the glove box. That’d be a start.

Swallowing Pride.

Drat and double drat!

Wing Mirror

It was my own fault; I was reversing out of my drive and clanged into The Ambassador’s Daughter’s car (for the second time). You might think that given the complication of these mirrors, the manufacturers would make them just a bit more flexible in the wrong direction – so to speak. Anyway, I got a replacement from a breaker’s yard and then addressed the more interesting business of sorting out the Hillman.

Road salt damage

Following the New Year’s Day run when the car came home wet and covered in road salt, the plan was that The Ambassador’s Daughter and I would spend an afternoon cleaning the car down and removing the salt. I left it a bit too long and despite having given all the aluminium a thin coating of WD 40, some areas had been missed and corrosion had set in. The little white spots are where the ali has been attacked by the road salt. I think I’ll have to give the car a bit of a buff up with polish and then cut it back again with Scotchbrite to get it back to how it was.

Brake maintenance

After the clean up, we went out for a road test – which also proved the new carb arrangement was working as I’d hoped – and I managed to lock the right front wheel up without trying. Something was seriously amiss. You’ll recall that over time, the amount of compensating left rudder when applying the brakes had steadily increased but it was time to take the wheels and hubs off to see what was going on. I’d thought initially that it was a simple case of air in the system but, as Learned Council pointed out in the pre-going-out-in-the-freezing-workshop briefing, if it was air in the system, it wouldn’t prevent the left brake from coming on – it would be just a nano-second late – and there’d be a spongy feel to the pedal. His money was on a loss of mechanical advantage somewhere.

Well of course, he was right. Now the shoes had bedded in a bit, the imbalance was being caused by uneven wear on the operating cams. I’d tried to compensate for this by adding different thicknesses of saddle to each of the cams but, probably because I hadn’t quite thought it all out properly, the cam on the left wasn’t operating through its full range. Basically, I’d not properly understood the geometry of the set-up. The cure was to remove the saddle from the right hand cam and put a thin gauge one on the left. The car now stops in a perfectly straight line. In time, both cams will have to come out and I’ll build up the surfaces and mill them flat again.


Maybe it’s just me but I happened to notice on one of the aircraft tracking sites that as the sun went down (you can see night approaching from the East) there appeared to be a mass exodus to the West and interestingly, it seemed to take the shape of a bird.

A Swallow perhaps.