I’d Forgotten Completely….

… about this.


When I was playing about trying to get the Meadows in the Bayliss Thomas to have a bit more get-up-and-go, I hooked up a coil and distributor to the engine with a couple of blocks of wood and a few tie-wraps. It made not the slightest bit of difference but it did spark an idea (I was probably the zillionth person to think of it – but one of only a handful that actually produced a drawing).

MagnetorI called it ‘The Magnetor’ and like my solid state indicator system (the ‘Wrightway’) it was going to make my fortune. A miniature 6v coil, the innards of a modern distributor and a couple of gears were to be housed in a case closely replicating a vintage magneto and I knew exactly the right people (who had the CNC kit to make the case from solid aluminium) to do the job. That was at least 4 years ago and I happened to notice my box of bits and the drawings on the shelf the other day when I dropped off some Norfolk sausages at Chumley’s. I’m not bothered; these things happen and anyway, I’ve several other things on the go that I’m absolutely confident really will make my fortune.

Jupiter test engine

This is the Le Mans Jupiter test engine. It’s in extremely good condition but some clever-clogs has, on dismantling it at some point in its life, marked the conrods 1 – 4 (as you should) but by filing grooves in the webs..

Jupiter conrod marking

…. perfectly placed to develop a fracture 100 yards from the finishing line and, to tell you the truth, pushing anything bigger than an Austin 7 is just not funny anymore. Every now and again I move the Hillman around the corner to the workshop to make some adjustment or other and I think to myself that it’s silly to start the engine just for the sake of 30 yards or so (there’s a slight incline and then a ridge into the workshop that you have to take a run up at). Actually, even thinking about it’s exhausting!

Jowett quarter lights

There’s a little bit of detail work to do on the quarter lights of the Jowett Jumble Sale – the little brackets that I replaced on the windscreen are replicated on the side screens and subject also to the tin-worm.

Door handle shroud

Staying with the doors, the next job is a bit trickier but more fun to think out. These trims I’ll have to make in aluminium and a simple press tool carved out of beech should do the trick. Alternatively, very thin brass and then nickel plate – there’s a thought.

1906 Rover

And another little job is to make up by copying the bits in the picture, the handbrake and gearlever for a 1906 Rover. This is another poser. It would be nice to have a forge and whack them out on the anvil but I think I’ll get various bits laser cut, weld them all together and then machine and file to finish.

And by the time that lot’s finished I’ll have forgotten whatever it was I first started with.

Every Home…

.. should have one – at least, that was Henri’s intention.


But it wasn’t to be and instead, practically every home has a computer. Both the Flea and the computer are equally hazardous to health; one wants to kill you, the other makes you want to kill (I’ve been having computer problems which have contributed to my lack of posting). I was alerted to this Flea by a reader – thank you – and Counsel and I popped up to see it at Anglia Car Auctions. This example was built in 2001 at Shoreham and used as a promotional exhibit. I think it’s been re-engined somewhere along the line – I’m not quite sure why. Besides the Flea there was a surprising amount of classic cars to look at. An immaculate MkII Zephyr 6 caught my eye; I’ve always liked column change and a bench seat.

Borgward Isabella

But talking of looking at cars, the annual trip to the Classic Car show at the NEC also had some pretty and eye-catching cars to look at. As a child and living in Germany in the late 50’s and early 60’s, the Borgward Isabella Saloon was a fairly rare spot. It was even less often that a coupe or roadster appeared but it’s a car I’ve never forgotten and it’s always been on my list of things it would be fun to have.

Borgward cockpit

The cream and custard scheme is not really my thing; I’d much prefer a more subtle graphite grey but I’m not going to be too fussy if I trip over one.

Evanta GTZ

This was interesting; the Evanta GT. The Company build bespoke motorcars (we know about that sort of thing) and I preferred this coupe to their Barchetta which was also on display. The real looker was their TC R1 – unfortunately no longer available.

Beast of Turin

The Beast of Turin was pretty impressive though it was difficult to get a decent picture there being so many people around it. It looks the sort of thing that might easily run away with you! One of the highlights of the show was meeting a chap called Martin who had just completed the restoration of a ’66 Mustang Coupe. I’d followed his blog (One Man and his Mustang) for the last couple of years and I’d been impressed from the outset by not only the care Martin (and Mustang Maniac) took, but also his incredibly detailed commentary and photographic record of the build. If you ever want to restore a Mustang, Martin’s blog is your first stop.

Air tool

It’s difficult not to come away from shows without having something to play with on the way home and I happened to spot this little air tool on offer for a modest £25. The grinding bits would probably be a waste of space (I find the Dremel bits are not man enough for anything but the lightest work) but a right-angled miniature grinder ticked all the boxes. As luck would have it, the next day as I was struggling with a seized countersunk locking screw in an almost inaccessible place in the depths of a digger, I realized that the tool for the job was the grinder and, I take back what I said about the bits; they came up trumps.

Henri would have liked one of these.


The Alarum!

I have to admit to a Pooterish self-congratulation when I can deliver a snappy one-liner. As I was on the night-shift in Rognan, I leapt from my  hotel bed the other afternoon and scrambled down stairs to the muster point with fire bells and sirens wailing all about. The receptionist was concerned that I might be in a state of shock…. ‘No, it’s just the way I do my hair’, I replied smoothly, generating a very satisfying response from the assembled guests. I’d used the line before at Silverstone when I was asked if I was a (visiting) helicopter; having moderately wayward hair helps things along – in fact it’s been known to raise a smile without any comment from me.


The weather had changed in Rognan; the temperature had dropped considerably since I was last there a few weeks ago.


All those spectacular reds, oranges and shades of green and gold have disappeared….


… and the snow is back on the mountains. Fortunately, our hire car was equipped with snow tyres which were a complete revelation. Driving on ice and snow over the mountains on our way back to Bodo Airport; the car was incredibly sure-footed without a hint of instability. We don’t have harsh enough conditions for them to be mandatory here in the UK but, if I lived anywhere where snow was annually guaranteed, I wouldn’t hesitate to invest.

Snow tyres

Just before the airport at Bodo is the Luftfartsmuseum. I was happy to see an Avro 504k with a Sunbeam Dyak engine and it now seems eons away when I was flying up and down the country in my Scarab powered 504. It’s funny how little things come back to you – the wear on the steel aileron cable runners which I cured by covering with model aircraft fuel tubing, the tailskid which I beefed up with a Stellite blade and throwing out the Palmer Cords and replacing them with motorcycle tyres.

Avro 504K Dyak

The Maelstrom at Saltstraumen was another attraction. Reputed to be one of the strongest in the world, my fellow Magnetiser and I made a brief excursion to the top of a bridge to look down on this wonder of nature.

Maelstrom Saltstraumen

We were not there long because it was -3° and with the wind at a modest 10kts, it felt more like -9°. My camera doesn’t convey the drama or speed of the currents and certainly doesn’t show up the whirlpools that formed with voids at least a couple of metres deep. When they really get going, you can take a ride in a boat and get up close…brrr!

Orford outing

Back in England it was time to get up a posse for a breakfast run so, in order to get an early start and beat everyone to the Pump House Bakery in Orford, I thought it would be a smart move to fill the tank. On the way back from the garage, alarm bells sounded as a great clattering arose from under the bonnet.

Petrol engines don’t run terribly well on diesel.




Any Complaints?

Well, since you ask, yes.

Hotel bathrooms

Hotel bathroom designers might like to take note. It’s all very well having a handy shelf in the bathroom but don’t put it over the basin because your guests, in attempting to wash their faces, will both knock everything off the shelf as they bend forward and then throw most of the water onto the floor; guaranteed to get you off to a good start in the morning.


My last trip to Sweden presented an interesting range of dining rooms starting with the Greco-Roman-Art-Deco-Ikea period,

Star Trek

… then on to the Retro-Futurist age, before ending with




Anyway, probably of more interest was that whilst I was rummaging around in The Great Collector’s shed, I noticed this chassis standing against the wall. Some simple but clever engineering for the rear wheel suspension…

Rear wheel

… but what took my eye was the steering wheel which, on closer examination, turned out to be the control column from a Boeing B17.

B17 control column

On the right hand side of the yoke is a button with the label ‘microphone’ and the only thing missing is the Boeing centre horn-push – believe me, it’s jolly handy when there’s a lot of bicycles milling about the peri-track.

Cushman Husky

The engine for this little tricycle is a Cushman Husky – I haven’t looked at it very closely but it’s a side-valve of about 8hp and was the motive power of the Cushman range of scooters; rather odd looking things, the first of which was not too unkindly referred to as the ‘milking stool’. I imagine that the engine might have been acquired from some sort of military equipment – an ‘Airborne’ model perhaps – as the story goes that this machine was built at some time in the 40’s by American serviceman stationed at Mildenhall for a local village lad who had trouble walking.

Drop tank

The military connection was further confirmed by the body made from an aircraft drop tank. There’s a photograph somewhere, which The Great Collector hopes to find, showing the young lad in his then, new machine. It’s such a nice story that I might ask if I can get it back together again when all the other projects I have, have come to fruition – I’ve checked on the web and an engine manual is available from the USA – let’s hope it’s still in print by the time I get round to it!

Hook of Holland

Steaming past the breakwater as we left the Hook of Holland, I wondered where I might be posted next. I didn’t have to wait many days to learn that I was going back to Rognan where I might, this time, get the chance to see the Northern Lights.

Dining room

And this is the dining room in our hotel – sort of Gatsby-Cunard style. No complaints there then.




No. If I’d looked more carefully I would have counted ten leaves in each of the Hillman’s rear springs – not that it matters from a mechanical point of view but it would be nice to be able to think that I could still count up to ten without getting it wrong.


In Denmark, one thing that was to me instantly apparent and that contrasted starkly with the part of Northern Europe I’ve been visiting lately, was the amount of buildings surviving from antiquity. This may well have been a result of Denmark’s delicate relationship with Germany in the first years of WWII, and its relatively low importance strategically in comparison to other parts of Scandinavia at the outset of the conflict. But, whatever the reason, it’s a stroke of good luck for all of us.


Copenhagen, like Amsterdam, has a network of canals and associated marine traffic.


It also boasts an impressive Royal residence complete with changing of the guard, flags and whatnot.

Egeskov Castle

However, Egeskov castle, the home of Titania’s Palace, was the highlight of the trip. I wouldn’t normally enthuse about doll’s houses but this one is an exceptional example of the miniaturist’s art.

Titiana' Boudoir

Then there was the motor museum with an eclectic mix of cars, aeroplanes and motorcycles and associated bits and bobs.

Racing MG

This racing MG had faired headrests for driver and mechanic….

Pobjoy Niagara

…and now you know where to find the Pobjoy for the Comper Swift you promised yourself you’d build.

Flying Flea

Just as tricky to handle would be this Flying Flea (it would be wise to gen up on the flying characteristics before taking to the air).


And motorcycles as far as the eye could see.

Johannes Larsen

And lastly, the Johannes Larsen Museum in Kerteminde was worth a visit if only for the house of the artist and his family alone. I’m not a great fan of Larsen’s work but his illustrations for Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, The Ugly Duckling, were splendid and in the medium (ink and watercolour) I think he handled best. So there was lots to see and do when I was not paying close attention to my sister, our generous hosts and matters canine. The only regrettable part of our trip was the necessity to fly with Ryanair. The actual flying bit was fine – the cabin staff were attentive and efficient – but the booking, checking in (especially for the return trip), weighing in and everything else was just a nightmare. We’ll be driving next time.

Hook of Holland

Which is what I found myself doing not 12 hours after I got back. A call to return to Sweden saw me and my fellow Magneteer on the ferry bound for the Hook of Holland to begin the 850 mile journey (passing 15 minutes away from where I was the day before) to Karlskrona.


We stopped in Lübeck, famous for its wonderful city gates and marzipan and the next day got the ferry from Puttgarten across to Denmark. On the boat I bought a couple of packets of Maltesers just to keep me going.


I ration myself to nine at a time, taken at intervals throughout the day. Of course, my counting isn’t what it used to be.

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.