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.

It’s Got to Be Done.

As our family name is Wright, my brother’s visit with his wife on New Year’s Day reminded me of my flight to celebrate the 100th Anniversary on Dec 17th 2003, of Orville and Wilbur’s triumph at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.


It was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and, as evidenced by the long shadows, the sun was low in the sky. The strip was orientated NE/SW and I took off in the north-easterly direction for a quick 10 minute trip up to 1000′ or so and home again, just so that I’d done it on the famous day and besides which, it was too blinkin’ cold to be hanging about upstairs in an open cockpit.

VP1 100th anniversary flight

All went according to plan until I turned round to come back to the field. Then, as I was flying directly into the low sun I couldn’t see anything at all. I could see immediately below me and that was it. I established myself on a reciprocal course and as there wasn’t a breath of wind I was confident that I could probably set the throttle for a gentle descent of about 200′ a minute and have another look down to see where I was in a couple of minutes. At about 500′ and roughly a mile from where I thought the strip might be, I suddenly caught a flash of light on the ground – something was reflecting in the sunlight and I realised (and hoped) that it was probably the sunroof of my father’s car which he’d driven to the end of the runway so that he could capture the moment on film. I aimed for the reflection, landed completely blind and didn’t see anything in front of me until I’d touched down and was half way up the strip and in the shadow of the hangar. You don’t forget those moments!


Anyway, back to New Year’s Day and off we went to the local VSCC meeting and my car of the month was this RR. There was lots of other nice stuff and an especially desirable Bull Nose race-about but the Rolls 20/25 with coachwork by Freestone & Webb, clinched it – a very handsome car.

Jowett interior

The Jowett Jellybean is coming on – in fact there’s almost nothing to do now except get the bloke who’s meant to be doing the door catch surrounds to extractum digitum and I see that…

Jowett rear

.. Learned Counsel has even put the GB badge on in anticipation of a trip to Pau in the Spring.

Jupiter grille

Now the grilles are all finished and the proper headlights are in, things are looking good. And talking of things looking good, I’m a regular visitor to the website and amongst its articles and features I tripped over some stuff about those absolutely drop-dead gorgeous Italian speedboats that you used to see in the 50’s and 60’s films, in particular the 1958 Riva Tritone. That article led me to another site – – and it turns out you can buy the plans for these types of boats relatively cheaply and some of the boring stuff can be C-in-C cut so you can get on to the good bits a bit more quickly.

Hmmm. I’ve got a couple of Morris Six engines; hook those up to make a 12….. I think it’s got to be done.


One For The Record.

I was sneaking about in Counsel’s garage the other day (I heard he’d been to the auctions and come back with something unusual) but at a glance, couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary except, hang on, what’s going on here?

4 seat MGB Roadster

A 4-seat MGB Roadster! There’s about 6″ added to both the doors and the panels in front of the rear wheels and, just like my Austin, the lengthened wheel base has reportedly smoothed out the ride considerably. I stood back and looked to see if anything was ‘wrong’ with the lines but I couldn’t fault it – with the roof down. I understand that the roof would benefit from some re-styling or perhaps best not mentioned at all. For further reading there’s a discussion of Befour Conversions Ltd at and the original sales literature is reproduced.


And this I couldn’t resist. I was in an antique shop on the way home from servicing a digger up in Norfolk and this Etain pewter and glass decanter hit the spot. Some of the duck decanters are more obviously a duck but if you’re unfamiliar with this sort of thing (as I am) it took a second glance to get the joke. I haven’t put anything in it yet as there’s some sort of – well, I’m not quite sure what it is but it looks a bit life-threatening – something lurking in the bottom of the glass. It’s probably just a bit of mildew but better safe than being violently indisposed.


The last time I tried to play chess was in the Chess Club at school. I think I must have been about 13 and all I can remember is that I didn’t stay the distance and lasted probably only half of the first term. I couldn’t grasp the strategy bit and have never since been much good with draughts either. But, as I’m not yet an old dog, new tricks are an option and over Christmas at Big Sister’s, I was given a refresher course by a young Chinese girl, Shi Yao, only a year older than I was when I first encountered the game. I thoroughly enjoyed our match stretching as it did over two days and resulting (probably more by luck than any judgement of mine) in a draw.


And then to Hastings for an excellent lunch in a Turkish restaurant (the Isabella) with ex-college chums before driving back to Norwich for a family party and then home to continue work on my secret projects. The next outing will be the local VSCC on New Year’s Day. I had to do a double take at the Hillman’s diary as I saw that I hadn’t been out in it since 5th December – the longest period of inaction since its records began.

A very Happy and Prosperous 2016 to everyone who’s been kind enough to read, comment and enjoy ‘A Special Builder’s Notes’. Come the New Year I’m looking forward to getting back on track with the Riley racing car – watch this space.







I Hadn’t Noticed…

… that The Great Collector had slipped another gem into his stable – I think I must have sneezed or blinked – but when I popped by the other week, there stood a 1914 Humber.

1914 Humber

Standing behind the Humber is a 1914 Darracq and the difference in quality is immediately apparent. The Darracq, built in Paris, is certainly a car of quality but the Humber takes it to the next level.

1914 Humber engine

I noticed also that the radiator for the Vulcan has emerged from hiding – the Vulcan currently sports a Straker-Squire component, put on to get the car running. The Vulcan radiator is a handsome piece of equipment – very Bentley in style and size. The plan is to rebuild the front of the car to accommodate it – the Straker-Squire is much lower and doesn’t help the body line. The original bonnet sides are in store so there’s plenty to get started with.

Vulcan radiator

I, meanwhile, remembered that two years ago I’d promised Very Learned Council a sign for his workshop. It was about time I delivered.


I mention this not because of the sign but because I remembered also (I’m doing a lot of remembering since I started eating more fresh fruit and vegetables) that 25 years ago a very clever and distinguished gentleman, the late John Derbyshire, gave me an invention of his to help me draw accurate ellipses. I was sandblasting wood and glass signs at the time (one of my fortune-making ideas that I have on occasion) so JD’s drawing aid was a real bonus when it came to elliptical boards and glass panels.

Elipse machine

It’s a simple idea and can be adjusted to draw in two segments, any size ellipse. I think JD took it round to the major stationery companies but computers and CAD were beginning to make their mark and nobody was interested. But, if you’ve got a sign board in front of you and you want to cut an ellipse, drawing the cut-line couldn’t be simpler.


At the last monthly meet, I was able to get a snap of The Great Collector’s Crossley – it had always been tucked in a garage and difficult to photograph. Another quality car that goes extremely well…

Crossley engine

.. with a 3.7 litre engine and reputed 60-65mph when new. The big surprise is that there are no brakes on the front wheels. The foot brake works on the transmission and the handbrake acts on the rear wheels. Careful application of the two systems is needed if you find yourself in a muddle.

Project X

The frequency of my posting has reduced in the last couple of months because I’m working on a couple of projects (holding up progress on the Riley racing car) Project X (above) and Project Y. The latter is commercially sensitive so all a bit hush-hush at the moment though I’ll be able to write about it when it’s done. Project X is less sensitive but I don’t want to give too much away just now – my fortune-making ideas don’t come as fast as they used to.

I hadn’t noticed, but there’s something of Sydney Nolan’s ‘Ned Kelly’ paintings about the scene; black and white squares, bits of thick plate….




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.