Inching Forward.

Tra la!

I remember spending hours in the shed cutting out parts for my Currie Wot with an Abrafile and, a bit later on, for a Pietenpol Aircamper (sold on before completion). I just couldn’t contemplate it nowadays. Laser cut parts – provided the drawings are right – are fantastic and frankly, I couldn’t do it by hand for the price. I grant you that the sense of achievement is diminished but I’m prepared to trade a bit of glory for the time saved.

Here’s the offside plate in place (with annotations). This weekend I’m going to tack the tubes to the plates and offer them up to the chassis for drilling the pilot holes. Like the original engine mounts, a block of wood will act as a washer in the chassis rail.

I forgot to mention that I took the leaf springs down to London last Monday to have them re-set. I thought they were beyond redemption but the chaps at the forge said that they’re so well made that they’re probably rescueable. That’ll be a saving then. I drove from the forge up through Camden Lock and on to Hampstead for lunch with a chum; London in the sunshine is always vibrant and endlessly fascinating. A walk to the top of Parliament Hill to see the panorama of the city spread out before us was a great treat.

I shall collect the springs in a couple of week’s time and then address the shackle pins.

The rear engine mount – strictly speaking, the gearbox mount – I imagined was going to be the simplest of the 3 mounting points. I haven’t hit upon a neat and tidy solution as yet. I’m thinking of some sort of rubber doughnut affair, split and held in a lightweight clamp – a bit like an exhaust clamp – which is supported by tubes to the chassis.  It’s quite a long way from the end of the gearbox to the chassis rail and I may have to triangulate the support somehow. I’ll most likely see what Learned Counsel has to say.

I’m eager to get these engine mounts out of the way. Similarly, the radiator mount. Once these are complete I can whip the chassis down to our local blacksmith and have the riveting done (the front spring hanger and the radiator mount) and then it’s off to the sand-blast and powder-coating shop. There are various schools of thought on powder-coating but in my experience, if it’s properly prepared, it can’t be beat. You can throw hammers at my Austin chassis with impunity. That’s going to see me out.

The next step will be to work up the necessary to have the spoked wheels built. I’ve got the centres but they need new rims, spokes (60 per wheel), tapes, tubes and tyres. That’ll work out at around £500 a corner plus a spare.



Well, here’s a thing….

Whilst rooting around in one of the seat squabs which came with the remains of the Hillman, I found a lady’s handkerchief. This had a name tag sewn into one corner, ‘Joan Baldry’.  I had already done a bit of research and found out that the first owners of the Hillman, a family in Penrith, still lived at the address where the car was originally registered in 1927. I washed the handkerchief and sent it off with a cheery note describing how I’d found their old car and what I was about to do with it. A few weeks later a letter arrived – an equally cheery note – along with a cutting from ‘Old Motor’ which showed the car in its agricultural role.

This is a really important piece of the car’s history and I’m delighted the Baldry’s were interested enough to keep the record.

The now defunct magazine ‘Old Motor’ was edited by the late Prince Marshall and Nick Baldwin whose collection of motoring photographs and literature resides at the British Motor Heritage Trust at Gaydon – at least I think it does; their website hasn’t been updated since 2006. Whoever wrote the article accompanying the picture apparently first tripped over the Hillman in the 50’s and went back in the 70’s to find it still in the barn, though now with the broken chassis. The story behind this is that an inquisitive cow had contrived to release the handbrake whereupon the Hillman had rolled off and whacked into a dry-stone wall. The car must have been going some because the axle is bent to nearly 15 degrees on the offside. Luckily, I have a straight one in store.

Talking of Gaydon, the one time I became ‘uncertain of my position’ (flying-speak for completely lost) was when I mistook Gaydon for  somewhere else and was happily flying into some military manoeuvres over at Upper Heyford. The military weren’t too taken with this turn of events and kindly ushered me away from the games. They then invited me to resume my own navigation – the very thing that had got me into the fix in the first place. I called the Distress  & Divergence cell at Drayton and, I don’t know if you recall the popular television programme ‘Treasure Hunt’ but, that’s what it was like – ‘Can you see a bridge with a little road and a wood……..?’ They soon got me back on track. I laugh about it now but if you ever find yourself lost in the air, don’t hesitate, call the boys and girls at D & D; they’re the tops.

It was always nice to be back home.

How fast d’you reckon we’re going then?

….. well, I happened to have the Hillman back axle to hand and, with the help of an assistant, I was able to answer this question. First we took a piece of chalk and made a mark on the tyre and the floor so we could see when the wheel had turned 1 complete revolution and make a second mark at that point Then we measured the distance between the 2 marks. That’s the easy bit and it turned out to be a squeak under 8 ft with the 20″ wheels provided for this experiment. As I’m using 21″ wheels on the car, I can safely assume a swire over 8ft – so we called it 8ft to keep things simple.

As I was wheeling the axle along the ground, I noticed that the yoke for the propshaft on the diff wasn’t turning so (and this is where an able assistant comes in handy) we heaved the axle into the vertical so as to stop one wheel from revolving. Turning the uppermost wheel – still with the chalk mark on the tyre, I was able to count the revolutions of the yolk – 2 .5 as it turned out – for one revolution of the wheel. We then returned to the workshop and got out the calculator. After some misleading information about the value of pi threw our calcs awry, we arrived at the conclusion that we were doing 36mph at 1000 rpm in top with the Hillman diff hooked up to the Morris 6 gearbox. That was really quite economical and, as part of the purpose of this project is to race a friend in his Jowett Jupiter to Monaco, I think I’m going to be leaving him at the first petrol station. I imagine he’ll be unamused at this revelation.

So, pleased with this new and winning information (and with the assumption that it was entirely correct) I set about drawing up the proposed radiator mounting illustrated in an earlier post. With a couple of revisions and a full size sketch to make sure all was as it should be and that the ruler was behaving itself, I sent the plans off to the laser-cutting people. Again, it’s going to be a fabricated channel like the front engine mount.The ‘Detail A’ is just another drawing with the particular dimensions for the ends. The 2 x 36″ plates I’ve asked for will be welded to the top and bottom edges of the plate shown above, to form a channel. They’re over-length to give me a bit of purchase on the bends and also so that I can trim them to the 2 degree angle of the chassis rails. The lightening holes will make it look a bit racy.

Here’s the Jupiter but, don’t be deceived by its looks; he’s got a bit to do on it yet…..

Just get on with it.

I woke up this morning determined to settle the middle engine mount once and for all. This would also require me to finalise the design for the pedal shaft and rear brake shaft plate and at the same time, tie it all in together with the mounting that carries through to the chassis rail. I promised myself that I should have it all drawn up and sent off to the laser-cutters by the end of the day (I’m still not going to faff on with sawing up plate metal – it’s too time consuming unless you’ve got the right kit).

First things first; if I’m going to be locked in my shed all day, I’m going to need a flask and a drawing board of sorts….

Having quickly sketched out the side-view to scale, I then started dropping in the various components according to my latest theory (Time spent….). It didn’t take too long to realise that that was all complete twaddle and I would have to start again but, this time, I would have to be a little less casual in my approach to the ruler. It’s not easy trying to hold a wayward pedal cluster in one hand and having to deal with an ill-disciplined retractable tape measure in the other but, after a while a set of dimensions began to emerge that, once checked and re-checked, couldn’t be far wrong.

It seems that the drawing I produced a few days ago, whilst hopelessly inaccurate, was at least on the right lines. I’ve decided that incorporating the pedal shaft into the engine mount assembly is the sensible path. It’ll be rigidly held and, now I’ve paid more detailed attention to the relative pedal, seat and firewall positions on the ’29 tourer, will afford the same levels of driver comfort in the leg department. (My Bayliss Thomas was terrible – until I moved it, the accelerator pedal was positioned in absolutely the right spot for max cramp after 2 miles).

For the mount itself, I’ll be using a 2″ box section welded between 2 plates – one attached to the chassis, the other to the existing engine mount with the pedal shaft plate sandwiched inbetween. The box will be drilled to allow the shaft to pass from the inner pedal plate, through to a bronze bush set into the chassis plate. All I need to do is make sure that I get everything lined up and securely clamped before I tack it together.

Oh, and I altered the master drawing by moving the cockpit back 6″ – it looks great (although the camera makes it go a bit squidgy).

I’ve sent the drawings off to the laser-cutting people so I’m back on track. (Yes, I’ll be glad when this middle engine mount’s finished as well).

Time Spent in Reconnaissance…..

….. is seldom wasted but you can spend a long time going around in circles and every time I go round again, something I’ve missed or not spent enough time on, makes its presence known.

This is the case with the middle engine mount. Why have I not considered the fact that the offside mount cuts straight across the pedal shaft? And why have I not considered incorporating the two? Come to that, why is the pedal box so far into the engine bay thus making the foot-wells more like a modern car than a vintage one? Perhaps I need that chassis extension after all…. it’s only 6 or 7″ and would make all the difference because this would enable me to move the seats and the pedals back, have a conventional vintage cockpit and preserve the length and shape of the back of the car as in the original drawing.

There is a practical consideration to be taken into account in carrying this idea through – one that becomes obvious in the small hours,  (I knew something wasn’t right but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it) and that is, that in order to maintain the chassis width at the back – so there’s no snags mounting the rear axle – the chassis extension needs to be joggled. It also subtley alters the pedal shaft plate and takes the pedal shaft away from the centre line of the engine mounting – good news because then the shaft no longer interfers with the mount.

But, just before I get out the cutting disc out and do irreparable damage, I’ll take a moment to jury rig a firewall and see what happens with the pedals and seats moved back.

….. well, that was a good idea because I’ve found out what’s been foxing me – the seats on the drawing are 23″ from front to back and the seats I’ve been using to jury rig and from which I’ve been taking measurements (the ’29 tourer seats which are rather sumptuous) are 30″. There’s my lost 7″!

So all of the above which refers to extending the chassis is, thankfully, a lot of hot air but it is clearly true that time spent……

And some good’s come out of it because I now know that I need to make the seats for the new car and not pinch the tourer ones which, as I said before, are rather comfy and as such, are best left where they are.

I wonder what the next diversion will be?

Today, I ‘ave Mostly Thunked…

….about brakes. I’ve come full circle and hydraulics at the front are back (so to speak) on the table. The back plates will take the brake pistons with very little machining and the shoes themselves are meaty enough to alter to suit. I’ll have to read up on a few do’s and don’ts before I start cutting and bending but, on the face of it, it all looks pretty straightforward – if a bit grubby at the moment.

The question raised the last time this motion was tabled was how was I going to balance the 2 systems if I keep the cables to the rear drums? Well, I’m definitely keeping the cable system to the rear because I can see that it would be a complete faff to work around the second (handbrake) shoe and balancing the systems will be just a case of fiddling with the lever-arms until I get it right. It can’t be beyond the wit of man; that’s how I see it anyway.

The car’s going to be quite light at the back so I don’t want the rear brakes locking up at the slightest provocation in any case.

So, having thunked about that I moved on to the middle engine mounting and the location of the steering box. Lots of measuring has produced a couple of drawings that I’ll send off to the laser cutting people; the scheme I sketched the other day seems to work well. Then, for encouragement, I perched the steering column on a stool in more or less the right place to take a picture.

There was one other part that required a redesign today and that was the front cross-member – him of the 16 rivets if you recall. With reference to the ’29 tourer, I noticed that this piece has undergone a complete revision and allowed for the later and taller radiator to be set lower in the frame whilst preserving the original bonnet line. As I’m lowering the bonnet line, I’ll copy the later type joggled beam and replace the one in the picture above to accommodate the earlier and shorter radiator.

‘s gettin’ right technical this..

The First Addition

After the application of a small amount of heat, the 4mm top plate settled into the radius close enough to tack it in place ready for the next radius to be attempted. This second stage will be more difficult because there’s not much metal left to get the leverage required. A more generous amount of heat, possibly getting the top plate to almost red-hot, will have to be administered.

The threaded rods are temporary, just to get the right distance between the 2 uprights. I’ll have to trim off the excess material – about a couple of inches – from each end of the top plate to finish.

Then I add the 2 end brackets sketched earlier; bolt the assembly to the chassis, drill the holes in the top plate which accept the rubber mounts that attach to the engine and the first new piece of the Special is complete. I’m sure it will all be perfectly straightforward.

And it was. It’s always the setting up which counts and with the heat, the plate practically fell into place.

The almost completed mount with surplus trimmed off – the end brackets aren’t made yet.

Now a jury rig to check it all works; you’ll notice that the engine is temporarily unslung for proof of the pudding,

….and this will be your view if you’re a hedgehog.

There’s more ground clearance than there appears to be at first glance – I calculated it to be the same as a Model A, about 12″, but it’s ended up at 9″; it’s those rulers again.