Not So Easy.

I’d wired successfully by hand the edge of the cockpit on the Hillman so I didn’t think it would be that much more difficult to whizz round the edges of the new wings and slap them on ready for the next breakfast run. I don’t know why I kid myself about these things but, as usual, a job I thought would be fairly straightforward needed a lot more thought and the help of some generous friends before it could be completed.


I measured carefully the recommended 2.5 times the diameter of the wire and set up the Jenny to score a line to begin the turning of the edge. I’d forgotten the lessons I’d learnt when I first used the Jenny on bits of the Hillman – if you over-work the metal, it’ll split – but after a couple of false starts I managed to get something approaching what I was looking for.

1st attempt

It was a bit short one end so I had a go at 3 times the diameter and it still wasn’t right. My over-enthusiasm with the hammer was also making a mess of the edge so I wandered off to the computer to see if I could pick up a few hints and tips from YouTube. I did. Either make up some new wheels for the Jenny or borrow a better swaging machine.


I first took the Jenny apart thinking that I’d pop and see Chumley in the week and get him to knock up a couple of new wheels – handy things to have for the future – then remembered that Very Learned Counsel had a swaging machine with a bunch of bead rollers and a quick phone call would probably save me a lot of time. It would be a 2-man job and Counsel (equally Learned but about different stuff) happily volunteered his services.

Bead rolling

I knew that the whole malarky would be thrown out of kilter by the swaging and I’d be going back to the wheeling machine after I’d put the wire in. It was great fun but definitely not something that I would want to try without assistance. I scribed a line 13mm in, all around the edge of the wing and with 3 passes through the bead roller, had an acceptable result. It was then just a case of working the bead round to as near a right angle as we could in readiness for the final fold, without splitting the metal.


It would have been nice to have finished off with a special set of wheels to close off the wire but we didn’t have those so I’ll anneal and tap over the last bit by hand. That’ll be quite a slow job as there’s one or two tricky bits to try to shrink especially round the tighter curves. I haven’t quite worked out where the brackets are going to go but I thought it might be simpler to make the wings and get them to fit rather than try to fit them to set points at this stage of my wheeling experience.

The view

With summer on the way, maybe things will get easier.





I don’t know what inspired me to at last extractum digitum but the sun was out and I found myself with a bit of cardboard in my hand.

Austin wings

I’ve yet to decide on the mixing of styles but I can attend to the rear guards if the combination isn’t so easy on the eye. I had a bit of 1mm aluminium and whizzed out a couple of shapes with a bit extra round the sides to accommodate the wiring of the edges. There’s always plenty of fencing wire in odd corners round the farm so I had everything I needed bar the wheeling machine.

Austin wings

Very Learned Counsel had kindly offered me the use of his wheel but I’d discovered another whose owner was equally generous and not far from both the laser cutting people and (importantly) the Norfolk butcher.

First attempt

I’d never used an English Wheel before and was looking forward to the fun. ‘The work’s done on the back stroke – you’ll get the hang of it’, was the extent of my instruction and, like the advice I was given before I went for helicopter lessons – ‘don’t look in the cockpit, just keep your eyes on the furthest horizon’, this seemed to do the trick.

Austin wings

Of course, wise words don’t preclude you from getting in a muddle but the man who never made a mistake, never made nothin’. In my enthusiasm I over-worked one of the panels but managed to sort of pull it back and called it a day before I got myself in a real jam.

Jury rig

I quite like the look because it gives the front of the car a bit of width – something it had always lacked. Still, I’ve yet to get the fitting right and then wire the edges which will throw the whole lot out of kilter again if I don’t pay attention.

Austin wings

In a bid to pick up a few more handy hints and tips I’ve ordered an American publication, ‘Learning the English Wheel’. In it are pictures of the author’s work on the replica Hughes H-1 racer and he seems to have made a decent fist of that so I’m in good hands.

Coventry Climax

Leon’s Coventry Climax installation is nearing completion as he fabricates the manifolds in stainless steel. That should give the exhaust note a pleasing ring.

Brands Hatch

A day’s racing at Brands Hatch with Learned Counsel provided plenty of entertainment and was a reminder that if I don’t hurry up and go for my racing driving test, I’m going to miss out on the Le Mans Classic in 2018. Luckily, Snetterton is practically on my doorstep and there’s an organisation there which is affiliated to the Motor Sports Association (MSA) and who can conduct the test.

It’ll be back to bread and scrape for the foreseeable; not an entirely welcome development.


Pronounced ‘barscht’ in Polish which is why when I asked in the Polish shop for ‘borscht’, it drew some blank looks. Anyway, it’s beetroot soup to us and although not to everyone’s taste, if you add fried lardons, chopped Savoy cabbage, organic carrots and potatoes, it’s a feast – worlds away from the borscht I remember being dished up in Moscow back in the 70’s.

A7 gearbox attachment

Leon’s A7 gearbox has been mated to the Coventry Climax for a couple of weeks now; a very neat and tidy job and then the other day, this came through..

Climax A7

Job done; breakfast run here we come. Meanwhile, The Ambassador’s Daughter and I took a quick run out in the Hillman on the first official day of Spring – it seems eons ago now – in preparation for the annual run to Ufford.


I think it was probably the best turnout ever – I would guess over 200 cars – and over the years the weather has got steadily warmer and sunnier for this early April event. I remember the first one I went to in The Great Collector’s Rolls; I sat in the back holding picnic mugs to catch the rain pouring through the rails of the sun roof.


Awkward was there having prepared his Avon for a trip abroad – confusion about his country of origin is unlikely…. and my car of the day was this Invicta. It’s not often you see an Invicta of this size and style.


Project ‘X’ is now in full swing so these trips out and car stuff in general have taken a back seat. The front wings for the Austin 7 are still waiting to be done; the Riley racing car I haven’t even thought about for what seems an age, I’ve got a suspension piece to make for a Hurtu, a Mercedes hood to repair and I’ve still got to fit in the dhobi and hoovering.

Good job the evenings are drawing out – Na Zdorovie!

For My Sin….

… well, it wasn’t actually a sin, more accurately an act of awareness and self-preservation. In fact, like my fellow attendees, all of whom given the opportunity, might protest convincingly their innocence, the extenuating circumstances which led to my apprehension would, unfairly, never be taken into account – at least not unless I risked going up before the beak.

The beakIn 40 years of driving, this was my first speeding ticket – I’m usually very good with speed limits but, being behind an erratic driver in the centre of Norwich one day, I decided that rather than be involved in the accident that was clearly about to happen, the sensible thing would be to get past. Click! 38mph. The Speed Awareness Course was a 4 hour appreciation of the possible consequences of such folly and was £12 cheaper than the otherwise damning fine and points. It was a long afternoon, though by way of entertainment, there was one clown who was obviously more innocent than the rest of us having driven perfectly safely in every corner of the globe for the last 50 years and this affront to his experience was not going to go unchallenged.

Rover progress

The difficult bit of the 1906 Rover handbrake and gear lever assembly has been dealt with ably by Chumley and his grown-up mill and lathe. We had to turn up a special bit of tooling for the slot to be cut in the gear lever sleeve but it all went well. The threads in the block and spring adjuster had to be cut by hand with a tap and die because unless you’re lucky, the quality of a lot of steel doesn’t always make for a clean thread on a threading machine.

Vulcan bonnet

The Great Collector’s Vulcan proceeds apace – the new bonnet is largely complete and since I found the wiring diagram, armoured cable has started to emerge from the bulkhead like something out of Indiana Jones.

Post knocker

One of my projects, ‘Y’, has come to fruition and the Nokasorus Senior is now in production. For a simple machine like a post-driver it was a time-consuming experience getting to grips with all the EU regulations that surround the manufacture of machinery in general; it paves the way for the more complex Project ‘X’.

Super Cub

A phone call from a chum took me to a little airfield in Norfolk to view a Piper Super Cub that he was thinking of buying. Some of my happiest and most valuable flying hours were gained on the Piper L4 – the 65hp military version – ducking in and out of fields in and around Norfolk and Suffolk in the days when you could and with just an oil pressure gauge and an Air Speed Indicator for company. I also did several hours on a 90hp Cub though it wasn’t as nice. This 160hp version, complete with every bell and whistle you could think of and tundra tyres to boot, is a different kettle of fish. I haven’t stirred the stick as yet but it’s something I’m definitely looking forward to.

I shall count that as some recompense for my failings.




Projects ‘X’ & ‘Y’….

… have continued to take up most of my time so car stuff that’s involved me – even going out for a spin – has been a bit thin on the ground. Fortunately, not everyone has been so unproductive.

Climax?Austin gearbox adaptor plate

Leon has fashioned this adapter plate so that his Coventry Climax engine will take an Austin 7 starter motor…

Austin 7 starter motor

.. and gearbox.

Coventry Climax/A7 gearbox

I’m not sure of all the technical details but I know a new flange had to be welded onto the flywheel and the assembly balanced. I believe the final version of the adapter plate will be a bit thicker than the one shown. I don’t know what’s had to be done to the bell-housing but, watch this space.


The Great Collector is busy with the bonnet of his Vulcan at the moment and you’d have thought that was enough to keep a chap happy, but you’d be wrong. A 1928 Alvis TG 12/50 has appeared on the ramp…

Alvis 12/60

… and someone’s going round with a sheepish grin on his face!

1906 Rover gearlever

My efforts have been concentrated on replicating the gear lever for a chum’s 1906 Rover. I’ve got to apply a bit of heat to bend the stick in the right places and then fabricate the handbrake and some of the bits that make up the quadrant.

Rover quadrant

The main bit of the quadrant is going to be re-cast from an original which is in very good condition..

Rover quadrant.. and I’ve worked out that these are the bits I need to fabricate to complete the assembly along with the spring-loaded twink that is the ratchet on the handbrake. That should keep me occupied for the next few evenings and distract me from the other projects. I’ve been using a very simple CAD programme to draw up various general arrangements but, unless you’re doing that sort of thing on a daily basis, I find it’s always a lot quicker to pick up a pencil and paper – I couldn’t even begin to generate a drawing with a CAD system like the one above.

I can never remember which axis is ‘X’ or ‘Y’ for a start.

Printed Matter.

Electricity & The Motor Car. 4/6 Net. This early 1920’s volume has been sitting on my shelves for a while and, whilst doing something completely different, it just crossed my mind that I might have some information on the Smiths electrical system we were struggling with on The Great Collector’s Vulcan.

Smiths Wiring Diagram

Well, it couldn’t get any clearer than that! The actual instrument, switch gear and dynamo is illustrated both as a wiring diagram and a photo to make sure we’re all on the same page – so to speak.

3 speed gear train 1

Not quite so much luck with the 3-speed gearbox reassembly. I photographed the gear train in one of the boxes I was using to make one good one and when I came to put it all back together again, something wasn’t right. The 1st gear selector arm wouldn’t engage in its slot on the first gear wheel and the gearbox lid wouldn’t go down. Hmm. The only way I could get it to seat properly was if I reversed the 1st gear wheel (at the bottom of the picture) so that the recess for the arm was next to the rear bearing. Rather than mess the whole thing up, I sought advice and a very kind gentleman on the Pre-War Minor Network Forum, posted a picture of how it should be.

3 speed gear train

Thank you. Naturally, someone asked why I didn’t take a picture before I took it all apart… I did, but of the one that someone had, unbeknown to me, thrown together incorrectly.

Morris Engine

I did though have an alternative source of information in another book – although a bit flea-bitten – that showed the Morris Eight engine and gearbox and I reckoned that the arrangement of the 1st gear wheel was going to be much the same as in the Minor box.


Books – you can’t do without them. Not far from where Miss Whizzlong and I lived in Muswell Hill was a second-hand book shop where on almost a weekly basis we would buy and haul back home bags of Victorian and Edwardian books with handsomely decorated covers – all for practically nonepence.


Once our make-shift shelves were full, negotiating the resulting ziggurats that formed on the floors of our two rooms could be tricky but it was all very arty and colourful and as a bonus, the books lining the walls served as insulation. Some years later when we’d carted the books what felt like half way round the world, I called a local charity and a chap came along and filled an old Volvo estate with so many books that he could see only the road immediately ahead. I think there’s another four Volvo’s worth in the house but they’re staying put.

Rooms without books, like walls without pictures, are dead spaces in my book – so to speak.



If You Want A Job Done….

… ask a busy man. But it has its limits. What with Project ‘X’, Project ‘Y’, the magnetising (when it comes up), digger work and the Riley racing car, things are beginning to back up a bit. Nevertheless, The Great Collector’s Vulcan project is getting under way and a hand was needed with the electrics – not my line of country so Awkward came along with his box of tricks to sort things out.

Smiths Lightswitch

This handsome piece of equipment is the light switch with positions for ‘Side’, ‘Headlights’ and ‘All’. I trawled the internet for a wiring diagram because on the back of the switch….

Rear of Smiths lightswitch

… there’s rather a lot of terminals but it didn’t take long for Awkward to fathom it all out. It seems that the centre bus-bar is ‘no-volts’ – I nodded my head sagely but later had to ask what ‘no-volts’ meant: negative. We speculated that the chassis wouldn’t have been used as a common earth as all the lighting wiring had two wires going back to the switch. There’s no fuse box so I’ll knock up a period piece from some wood, metal pins, copper plates and fuse wire.

Lucas switch

With the car was this beauty – a Lucas rheostat for, at the moment, we’re not quite sure what but it’s such a fabulous bit of equipment, it’s got to do something and be part of the show on the dash.

Smiths type 3D dynamo

More of a poser was the dynamo. After a quick clean up of the commutator, we managed to get it to run as a motor on the bench but couldn’t get it to show an output as a dynamo when we popped it back on the car. I suspect that re-polarising might be something to do with it but I’m going to take it to clever chap with all the test gear to have a look at it.

Smiths cut-out

The regulation of the charging is taken care of by this Smiths Magnetic Cut-out. Again, the insides don’t look terribly good but we got the points to open and close with the application of a few volts. I’ll get clever chap to look at both this and the dynamo at the same time so they can be matched up.

New bonnet line

The bonnet line has been established and the original radiator (see ‘I Hadn’t Noticed’) is now a permanent fixture.

3-speed Morris box internals

Then it was time to get back to the Morris 3-speed box refurbishment. The 4-speed box I rebuilt a few months ago, didn’t fit on the car – there are two types of flywheel housing and we didn’t have the one to suit the new box but, in comparison to the synchromesh 4-speed box, the 3-speed crash box was a piece of cake to dismantle – the only tricky bit being removing one of the bearing-retaining circlips so that the main shaft could slide out. It was just difficult to get a purchase on the clip without a proper pair of right-angled circlip pliers. I’ve been given two 3-speed boxes and fortunately, the chewed up bits on one box correspond exactly to the good bits on the other so, with new bearings and careful reassembly, that’ll be another job done.