After Breakfast….

.. I thought I’d stretch my legs,

Stretching legs

and have a look around the town. Halden, I learn, is the capital of the custom car world in this part of Norway and there was to be a meeting on Wednesday evening (there’s one every Wednesday evening throughout the summer months) before our return to England. Unfortunately, the heavens opened in the afternoon and it continued to rain very heavily until about 9.00pm by which time it was…

Halden at night

But, we awoke on Thursday to…

Halden harbour

…which was compensation enough. My wanderings took me down a few side roads where hidden away were some very charming houses.

Halden street

The younger buildings happily retained the style of the old and what was immediately noticeable about these scenes was the absence of cars cluttering the streets.

Halden street

But if you looked over a fence, this is a sight which might commonly greet you – an old car tucked away. This, I discover, is the result of new and second-hand cars being historically very expensive – often three times the price we might expect to pay in the UK. Most of the people I chatted to at the Nexans factory had an old Merc, a Volvo or some such, that they were either in the process of restoring or would, after a bit of fettling, be putting back on the road at some point in the not too distant future. This little Opel (I’m reasonably certain it’s a Rekord P1) would date from the late 50’s and whilst looking a bit scruffy, was not at all abandoned.


But to return briefly to what I mentioned in a previous post – the architecture and landscape reminding me of parts of North America, Minnesota and South Dakota in particular – I managed to get a snap going to Rygge airport that better demonstrates my thoughts. I’m not sure what the fence posts are doing – making a point about Einstein’s general theory I guess.

Norwegian farm

And these houses could easily change places; one is in Boston, Massachusetts, the other in Halden.


Anyway, after the week’s exertions, I’d earned a trip out in the Hillman to the Vintage Aircraft Club’s Daffodil Rally at Fenland Airfield in Lincolnshire where The Ambassador’s Daughter and I were pleased to meet John Wright – artist, engineer and inventor, owner of the airfield and Special builder.

photo 1

Two of his Specials were built on British Leyland lorry chassis’ – I think they were FG’s. This first one had a Leyland engine and this one, which we parked next to …

Gardner Special

.. had a huge Gardner engine under the bonnet and some very clever linkages to put the gear lever and the handbrake outside the now rearward cockpit.

photo 3

It looked and sounded the part as well. Obviously delighting in the business of Special building – something of a taboo in some circles – John was refreshingly enthusiastic and amusing about the fun to be had in creating something out of not much at all.

Which is what it’s all about – what you can get up to between here and breakfast.

Room With A View.

Or at least it would be if these big metal plates weren’t in the way.


Because on the other side of this wall is….

view 2

… which I’d have thought would have the edge as a selling point. I was looking forward to the breakfast run but a call came through and I was back in Norway as my fellow breakfasteers were sitting down to eggs, bacon and whatnot at Andrewsfield airfield café. The main purpose of the Sunday breakfast run was to try out the new heat shield on the Hillman’s carb and see if it made any difference so as I wasn’t going to make it, a quick trip to Framlingham on Saturday afternoon (to see a chap who’d built a wooden body in the manner of my Austin but on an Alvis 12/60 chassis) was squeezed into the schedule. I purposely came to a halt a couple of times with the engine hot and there was no sign of it fading on reapplying the throttle so, fingers crossed.

Hispano Suiza aero engine

My friend John Gaertner who builds Avro 504’s (and lots of other vintage aircraft) in Virginia is currently rebuilding a Hispano Suiza aero engine and I asked him for a picture of the tappet adjustment just to confirm the pedigree of the Morris Six and Wolseley 6/80 engines’ arrangements. The steel bar is part of a jig to assist in dismantling the mechanism.

A7 pistons

And news just in… Leon managed to lose a couple of piston skirts on the way to breakfast – young people today; I don’t know…. It’s lucky that the pins held on to the crowns which enabled him to limp home.

Apache II

The Apache II cable layer is this week’s marine interest. It’s more a floating factory than a ship; it even has a heli-pad. The cable laying end of things is quite different to the other ships I’ve been on and has the spool in the vertical plane rather than horizontal.

Apache II

I continue to be thoroughly impressed by the Health and Safety arrangements implemented by (in this case) Nexans – the cable manufacturer – and the ship’s crew; we even had to pass an exam before we got through the factory gate. I suppose I’m old enough to remember when there wasn’t (or if there was it wasn’t much in evidence) such a thing as H&S in the work environment.


There’s something oddly reminiscent of Minnesota in the architecture and to a certain extent, the landscape in this part of Norway – I haven’t been able to get quite the shot I wanted to illustrate this because I’ve always been speeding by in a taxi going to the dock – and, coincidentally, the Norwegians seem to be very keen on 50’s American cars – at least half-a-dozen were cruisin’ the town on Sunday afternoon. I asked about this and it seems they have a huge following here in Halden and there’s a meeting of 50’s and 60’s classics just about every week in the summer months.

I’ve just read that there’s nearly 1 million people of Norwegian descent in Minnesota.




Not Good.

That’ll be the third time that I’ve found myself approaching the back door of my house and pressing the car key remote. But the good news is…

Spelt loaf

My experiments with Spelt had until now always produced a loaf the shape and density of a Tudor brick but, this is the third Spelt loaf I’ve made in the last couple of weeks and my efforts have been rewarded with what I can only describe as perfection! And the secret to this success? Vitamin C powder. In the instructions (which I finally got round to glancing at) there was mention of crushing a vitamin C tablet and adding that to the mix. I’d never heard of this before and was interested to try it out. I have vitamin C powder in the house so I sprinkled 1/2 a teaspoon in to the mix and hey presto!

Heat shield

In an attempt to cure the engine fading problem on the Hillman, I made up a heat shield to slip between the manifold and the Paxolin spacer on the carb mounting. I’ve also replaced the thin oil in the damper with 20/50. This Sunday’s proposed breakfast run – a good 100 mile round trip – should put the new additions through their paces.

Torque tube coupling

For the Riley racing car, I learn that the ‘silent third’ box I’ve got, needs a different rear coupling to run an open propshaft. The coupling in the picture is for a torque tube shaft. Luckily, Mr Riley, who I visited last Monday, may have one somewhere; it’s just a question of him finding it.

engine mount

I also needed another engine mounting clamp. I’m toying with the idea of lowering the engine – to get the CG as low as possible – but to jury rig that I’m going to have to mate up the block and the gearbox and bell housing and see if the propshaft will have an uninterrupted run to the diff. I’m not too worried about the angle as I’ve got a Triumph Vitesse propshaft with a sliding joint that I can adapt. I’ll also have to sort out a new clutch arrangement and put a modern Borg & Beck type plate on the flywheel instead of the Riley one which works backwards (I’m told). I haven’t got to grips with the nitty-gritty of all that yet; I’m more interested in the layout working for the time being.

Oil painting

The painting’s coming along – I’ve added a tyre and some odds and ends over the last couple of evenings.


The biggest challenge with this scene is the over-exposure of the light coming through the main door. It lends the photograph a great deal of atmosphere but I’ve yet to see if I can successfully reproduce that drama in the painting. Initially, I thought I could avoid it and just fill in a few details but, without that burst of light, the painting’s a bit dead. I can tell that I’m out of practice because I’ve fallen into the usual trap of putting things in places where I think they are instead of where they actually are – witness the buttress brickwork between the two windows. There’s no excuse, it’s just sloppy observation.

Not good.




Passed Fit.

Having given myself the all-clear, The Ambassador’s Daughter and I took off to Ufford in the Hillman for the first serious meet of the year. A damp start and a chilly Northerly did nothing to quell everyone’s enthusiasm and there must have been a good 70 – 80 cars on the field by 2.00pm at the White Lion.


To get a bit of a leg up on the way, I elected to do the first 10 or so miles on the A14 dual carriageway – just to blow out the cobwebs. That was fine but when we got onto the smaller roads the temperature under the bonnet rose pretty sharply (despite the electric fan) and the engine died at some traffic lights not far from our destination. I’ve got to get to the bottom of this. The Paxolin gasket alone hasn’t worked so I’m going to add an aluminium heat shield and put a duct in the bonnet to wash cold air over the carb. I could also, by way of experiment, disconnect the air cleaner which makes a contribution to the heat in the carb body as it pulls in warm air from inside the engine compartment.

Racing Jowett

There was an interesting Jupiter (one I’d seen at Silverstone a year ago) to have a look at and I learnt from its new owner that it was now only a few miles from Learned Counsel; no doubt we shall ask to visit and swap notes. The other thing I thought about whilst trying to fathom out the fading problem was that it might be too thin an oil in the SU dashpot. When the engine and carb get hot, the oil might thin still further and on depressing the throttle, the vacuum could get ahead of itself and the choke body might momentarily pull in too much air and not enough fuel (this wouldn’t explain fading at the traffic lights but might make a contribution to a hesitant pick-up when the engine’s hot). It’s a possibility so I asked the question of Mr Wolseley and he recommended 20/50 to keep the mixture rich – modern fuels being part of the problem.


I was still feeling a bit rubbish earlier in the week so to cheer myself up I perched the rear part of the body on the racing car – just for larks and to see how it was taking shape – and started to think out a frame arrangement for the shell to sit on. This threw up a couple of questions that I can put to Mr Riley next week. The first was, can I run an open propshaft on a torque tube gearbox (I can’t think why I shouldn’t) and secondly, is there any point in using the big and heavy pre-war rear axle if we’re not going to be messing about with the gearing.

Rear body shell

That looks about right – a touch low at the moment but the new frame will take care of that.


So whilst everyone was gorging themselves on chocolate, I got on with my painting. A whole day went past and before I knew it, it was time for supper. I’m a bit out of practice – it must be 2 years since I last picked up my brushes – so some of the draftsmanship wouldn’t bear too close an examination at the moment but, I daresay that as things progress, it’ll pass muster.


Four days in a van with someone full of cold and who coughed and sneezed from here to breakfast produced the usual results – I went down with whatever it was. What was really irritating was that I’d got through from last year without even a hint of a sniffle and I thought I was home free. Never mind; a few jobs around the house and some simple servicing work kept me out of mischief during my convalescence.


I’d always had mixed results from my wood burner and had attributed its lack-lustre performance to wind direction, atmospheric pressure, the price of fish – anything but the actual cause which, I discover, is all about getting the doors to seal properly. A week or two ago I’d replaced the rope door seal and found that it was too thin – 6mm instead of the recommended 9mm. Knowing how the rope compresses with use quite quickly, I elected to slap on some 12mm rope and replace also the rather thin rope seal around the glass with ceramic tape.

New door handle

Warming to my task, I next tackled the door handle by extending the shaft an inch or so, turning up a top-hat section to retain a spring and reassembling the mechanism so that when the door was closed, the whole was pulled against the seal and made air-tight. I can’t begin to tell you what a difference it’s made. I’d always noticed other people’s wood-burners having that hypnotically lazy type of flame, the sort that seems almost half asleep but my burn pattern was always either on the frantic side or I couldn’t get the thing going at all. Now my flame is also rather relaxed and, what’s more, the fire stays in overnight. Perfect.

Learned Counsel

Learned Counsel dug out another picture of his racing days (he’s in front as usual) and explained to me that this was at a time when you could almost get away with every trick in the book. This is a 2-seater and with close examination the canvas cover on the nearside of the car is where the second seat was – as long as the seat was there, it passed scrutineering. The body had moveable skirts fitted and in combination with the airfoil on the back, the down-force and consequently the grip produced was apparently phenomenal. Funnily enough, it was only the other day I had cause to mention the TV production, ‘Gentlemen, Lift Your Skirts’ which described the development and subsequent banning in 1981 of that particular modification.

Artist's Corner

And as part of my convalescence, I thought I’d start a painting off. I’d been meaning to get cracking again with the brushes for quite a while and wanted a record of the Hillman to hang on the wall.


Working from a photograph which I took whilst George was welding the mudguard sections together, I knocked up a quick sketch which, now the donkey work’s done, I can advance at my leisure. I used to paint in acrylics which was good training as they demand speed and accuracy but oils, my now favoured medium, allow a more casual approach.

They’re a bit of a skive in comparison.


In My Dreams.

As it was my turn to do the night shift at Cuxhaven, I left the ship at about midday and went back to the hotel to try to get some shut-eye before getting back for supper and kick-off at 6.00pm. Drifting in and out of sleep, I was thinking about the fact that I couldn’t remember the pin number of my credit card and was wondering how I was going to cough up for the hotel (I’m a bit of an ace plongeur with many years experience but trying to get that over in German could have been tricky). In trying to remember the ‘shape’ of my pin….. X I stumbled on an interesting phenomenon that I’m sure everyone in the world knew about already but, just in case you didn’t….   if you take an ordinary number pad on a keyboard (it doesn’t matter which way round it is – 1,2,3 at the top or bottom) and observe the numbers arranged at the points of an ‘X’, you’ll see that when added and subtracted in a certain order, the result is always the last figure in the pattern. Clever or what?! I’m not very good with numbers (and rulers) so holding the image of the pad in my head and performing the mental gymnastics without forgetting the number I’d first thought of was quite tough, in fact I had to check and re-check my calculations several times befzzzzzzzzzzzz

X block When I got home I put Wright’s General Theory of ‘X’ through a more rigorous testing regime and blow me if it didn’t still come up trumps. I’ve made up a cut-out-n-keep block of numbers for readers interested in pursuing further experiments in sleep inducing activities. Steering box position It’s the time of year when the grass starts to get out of hand so a quick whizz round the lawn on the mower would start the day and then I could get on with the Riley racing car. That was the plan but, before breakfast I had to take the lavatory cistern apart because it decided it wasn’t going to stop filling and then a tyre fell off the lawnmower on a particularly tight turn around a Laburnum tree. It was well after midday before I got into the workshop to address the steering column on the Riley.

Column and dash On this car I’m going to get everything in place and then take it all apart again before restoring and repainting. As there are so many unknowns, it’s the only way I’ll make progress in reasonable time. Now I’ve got an idea of where the pilot’s going to sit, I can think about positioning the engine and gearbox.

Riley block I’ve got to turn up a couple of wooden blocks to get the engine mounting bar in the right place and I’ve got a spare timing chest to slap on the front. The gearbox will no doubt have to be attached to the block to get a sort of three-point fixing to the chassis but that should be clearer once I can get hold of an illustrated Riley spares list. And if it’s not, I’m sure I can dream up some sort of scheme.

The Road To Le Mans.

Whilst everything else is going on, I’ve got to find the time and let’s face it, the funds, to get my Racing Driver’s License so I can take part with Learned Counsel in the Le Mans Classic. Fortunately, as Learned Counsel is an old hand at this sort of caper, I have the benefit of his 40 years’ experience to draw on.


You may recall that we collected a second Jowett Jukebox from a lock-up in Birmingham last year and Learned Counsel has already amassed a sizeable collection of engine parts – certainly enough to make a racing engine with all the good bits and a spare to have in the back of the van, just in case. The engine for the racing car will have a newly made crank and, of course, the special close-ratio gearbox that was built for John Surtees.

Jowett engine

First on my list of things-to-do is print off the Motor Sports Association (MSA) medical form and pop down to the doc’s to see if I’m fit for purpose. Then stump up the folding for the license and, after reading the MSA yearbook and watching the CD a few times, toddle off to Snetterton for the Association of Racing Drivers Schools (ARDS) test. This involves a couple of written papers, the first of which requires 100% to pass (a complete knowledge of the various coloured flags and the way they’re deployed is essential) and the second – I think one wrong answer is allowed. I don’t mind tests – I always think they’re rather interesting – but I’m of the view that to go in to a test unprepared and think that you can somehow wing it is a risky strategy.

Siddis Mariner

So it’s fortunate that I was sent this week to Germany to do some undersea cable magnetising. Cuxhaven is on the Northern coast of Lower Saxony at the mouth of the River Elbe. It’s quite a long drive from Calais (the overnight Harwich – Hook of Holland ferry was out of action on the night we had to leave) so a stop in Eindhoven made the journey less arduous. The Siddis Mariner hadn’t yet arrived by the time we pulled into the dock at Cuxhaven but there wasn’t a long wait and the magnetising kit was set up on deck by 10.00pm ready for an early start the following morning.

Riley Axle

I collected last weekend, a couple of bits for the Riley racing car; a block and another rear axle and half shafts that the owner had forgotten he had. I began to think that I’d wasted rather a lot of time altering the Merlin rear axle but perhaps not.

Riley axle fitting

The second axle, although complete and the casing already turned to fit the retaining clamps, weighs almost as much as the rest of the car. And I think it’s a torque tube type so that makes it even heavier.

New bread machine

A new bread-maker has provided the inspiration for further experiments in home baking. Wheatgerm (the good stuff they extract from flour in the milling process) is now a regular ingredient, as is oatmeal. Dried dates are flavour of the month and that accolade might be extended also to dried apricots though The Ambassador’s Daughter tells me that the sulphur dioxide that’s used to retain their yellowy-orange colour in the packet, is very bad news – dried apricots should be a more yucky brown.

The road to Le Mans could be fraught with all manner of peril.