Could Do Better.

But, the fact is that I’ve had so much to do at work and so much to do at home for work that I didn’t get round to the welding of the mountings until yesterday and I still haven’t finished them tonight. Actually, it’s not me that’s doing the welding – I just tack with TIG and Learned Counsel finishes off with the MIG. I’ve never done MIG welding – it looks relatively straightforward. I like TIG – that’s the only one I’ve been taught – especially when it goes well but sometimes if there’s a bit of a flap on, you don’t prepare properly, it all goes to nonsense. I made a jig for the punch on a job I’m doing at work (building a 32 metre table for hand-printing fabric) and that went well:

And, on the way home I called into a local garage to see some friends and was moaning about broken exhaust studs when they produced a very handy tool:

There’s an offset knurled thingy on the other side which engages with the stud and gives you a fighting chance of getting what’s left of the stud out of the block. Broken manifold studs are a chap’s worst nightmare – especially on a side-valve when it could mean engine out to put it right. The last one I was involved with was a case of making up an accurate drilling jig and luckily all went smoothly but it was touch and go as always.

Anyway, the progress this week has been slow. I’ve set myself the goal of finishing all the immediate chassis stuff before the end of next week. So, I’ve got to bolt the front engine mount to the chassis so that I can de-rivet and insert the new radiator mount. Then I need to make up the rear gearbox mount and finally fit that and the middle engine mount. I’ve got all the nuts and bolts from the aircraft parts shop – I use only aircraft nuts and bolts when the originals are either missing or past it, mainly because I can specify the exact shank length. There’s nothing worse than finding a bolt with thread right up to the head in a place where it shouldn’t be.

This is the radiator mount under construction. I’ve inserted the uprights to set the correct taper on the upper and lower panels to match the chassis rails. They also provide a bit of extra rigidity. Yes, that all sounds plausible, as if I know what’s what, when the truth of the matter is that I cocked up and should have used 4mm plate for the upper and lower panels – not 2mm. Then, all I would have needed was a couple of spacers to take the radiator mounting bolts. Still, if I’m going to beat the Jowett to Monaco, I must add lightness. Talking of which, I had sight of that ol’ Jowetty Jollity today; reminded me of that cartoon it did.


A Schedule of Works….

….. I’d like to have the rolling chassis finished and the steering column mounted before the end of the summer. Once the structural alterations to the chassis to accomodate the new engine are complete, then the work should progress quite rapidly until I get to the bodywork. The engine is a relatively straightforward unit which is quite within my capabilities – unlike white metalling for older engines – and is something I aim to complete over the next winter. Then I’ll have just over a year to complete the bodywork, jump through the hoops with the DVLA and do a bit of tweaking before beating the Jowett to Monaco.

But, back to the present. I’ve been bending up the plates for the radiator mount. The laser people omitted a radius on the vertical plate which caused me a few problems as bending plate without a bending contraption is always difficult – it’s  so awkward to clamp anything down firmly enough so you don’t lose the bend allowance you spent ages calculating.

The application of heat is always a big help. I shall do all the welding tomorrow and then address the rear gearbox mounting. This is going to be a very simple tubular beam with a strap and rubber packing:

As long as it’s relatively stiff all should be well as most of the weight of the engine is being taken by the middle and front mountings. I imagine that this rear mount will be taking some torque loads so it doesn’t want to be too flimsy. I’ve got some 1″ tube with a reasonably thick wall which will do the trick.

Then it’s on to mounting the steering column – a problem I’m looking forward to as it’s a bit of a poser. The turning circle of the ’29 Tourer is….. well it’s complete pants. I’m wondering if I can improve on it somehow – I’ve spotted the cast steering stops and reckon I could skim an 1/8th off each one; maybe that would help or is there some other way? I’ll have to look more carefully at the Tourer because it might just be a case of having to stop the tyre banging up against the wing. I can probably get round that with the new wing design. I’m sure it’ll be more complicated than that – I’ve got a spare steering box, I’ll have a look inside and see what if any restrictions there are in its operation.

Getting back to the actual mounting of the box; you’ll recall that it was bolted to the engine in the original configuration – obviously I can’t do that – and it looks like the upside down ‘U’ bracket is the favourite for now. I’m getting quite good at bending plate so I’m confident of that scheme’s success but I’m just going to spend a bit of time looking at the box hanging in mid-air before I make my move. I may have a brain-wave; you never know…..

Tappet Adjustment….

… or more accurately, cam follower adjustment, on the Morris Six engine (and one or two others) is rather clever. I’ve never come across this system before and it seems, in principle, to be an absolute delight (anything would be compared to a side valve).

I haven’t taken the head or the camshaft off yet so I’m not entirely sure what goes on underneath the pot and what the valve actually looks like but, the basic principle is that the 2 slotted rings (A and B) each accept a ‘C’ spanner. One holds the pot still and the other clicks the top ring round and – brilliantly – 1 click is equivalent to 1 thou. How clever is that? And, how clever would it be if I actually possessed a set of these essential ‘C’ spanners? Well, I didn’t have them and no amount of looking for them produced a result until I stumped up to join the Wolseley Owners Club and rented a set. You’ll remember that I have connections in the laser-cutting industry so you’ll know exactly what I did next.

I just had to do a little bit of milling:

and I have a set of the correct tools for the job. I now need to make the special tool that removes the middle bit of the distributor drive thingy and I can then proceed with whipping the head off.  I borrowed a boroscope ….. and had a shufty down the bores. Not pretty. But then I’m getting ahead of myself again.

Along with the tappet tools, I collected the front engine mount brackets to complete and secure the assembly to the chassis and also the bits for the new lowered radiator mount.

Just the front plate is shown here – I’ve got a couple of bits of 2mm plate to weld to the top and bottom edge to complete the channel. The 2 plates will then be shaped and riveted to the frame like the old one I’m replacing:

I nearly forgot, a trip down to London to collect the springs from the forge was yesterday’s excitement:

and that Jowett Jupity’s acomin’ on….

Don’t Buy Cheap Socks.

….. I discover it’s like walking around with porridge in your shoes.

I’ve done the milling on the engine mount and introduced a couple of bushes to the pedal shaft. I ran out of brass after those so the brake shaft will have to wait.

This is how the top of the offside mount looks – I’ll have to plate the recess to re-establish the integrity of the box.

From the other side:

The whole palaver (minus the chassis blocks and plates) looks like this:

And slots neatly into the chassis like so:

This has been the most difficult bit up to now and has taken more time than I imagined (the detail work has still to be finished).

A cheery call from the chaps at the forge to tell me that the springs are ready was yesterday’s good news and I shall whizz down to London on Monday to collect. On the way home from work I looked in on the laser cutting people and collected a couple of brackets that need to be welded to the ends of the front engine mount. The radiator support and front crossbeam pieces are still work in progress but should be ready on Friday. I need to speed on with the last engine mount – at the output end of the gearbox – and then I should be ready for the blacksmith to do the riveting and then it’s off to the blasting and powder-coating shop.

The one thing that’s nagging away at me at the moment is the cost of the wheels. For 21″ spoked wheels complete with tyres, (I’m supplying the centres) I’m looking at about £700 each! I’ve phoned around and that seems to be the going rate. If I just buy the rims and spokes and get them to do the dimpling and drilling for the correct offset, then I assemble them, then get them trued up locally, there’s not a lot in it.  The thing is is that if the wheels don’t look right, the whole car is going to look silly. I’ve never really liked the look of the Model A’s when Ford introduced the 19″ wheel in about 1930 – the lines were spoilt; that extra 2″ is the difference between not noticing it (because it’s right) and a cheap do. Like the socks.

But, I Digress……

….with a flying story.

It’s about 20 years ago now that I received a call one Sunday morning from Jean Salis asking if I’d like to attend his airshow with my Avro 504k at La Ferte-Alais? ‘Gosh, yes, I’d love to’.

With the aid of some French motoring maps, I was able to establish the whereabouts of La Ferte-Alais – about 40 miles south of Paris. So, from the farm in Suffolk, I would pop down to Headcorn and stay with my sister overnight. At first light I would slip across the Channel to Calais and turn right for the first stop at Abbeville. Then Compiegne or Meaux (where an old friend Jaques Petit would be on hand) and finally on to La Ferte, landing by about 5 ish. Piece of cake.

Not quite.  Headcorn to Abbeville via Calais was beyond the Avro’s range and I couldn’t stop at Calais because I needed grass in all directions as there’s no brakes or steering on the Avro (so landing and taking-off is always into wind). Abbeville was the nearest field to Headcorn with grass in all directions. To reach Abbeville and still have some fuel in the tank, I would have to strike out across the Channel at Lydd and head for Boulogne. At 60 knots indicated, this would be a long crossing. Time spent over water in a single engined aircraft is always fraught with imagined noises and fluctuating engine gauges.

From Boulogne, I would follow the coast south until I hit the mouth of the Somme, turn left and Abbeville would appear on the nose. Leaving Abbeville, a course for Amiens and Paris then, round the east side of Paris (giving me the run-for-cover Compiegne option) and after Disney World, turn south again for La Ferte.

A week or two before I was due to go, a great friend and fellow aviator, Karen, rang to volunteer for the trip. This was good news for not only was Karen excellent company but, as the fuel was used up, someone in the front seat would keep the CG more or less in limits.

A few days before the airshow, the forecast promised if not ideal conditions, certainly flyable weather. As is customary, ‘winds light and variable’ pitched up as 20 kts gusting 35 but, the die was cast and as I flew down past Rochester and over the Downs, the winds eased up. They returned with a vengeance in the morning. Karen and I took off for France in 20 kts with a 70% risk of heavy showers by midday.

The showers arrived a bit early and by the time we were over Boulogne Harbour, we were down to 500ft in the pouring rain as we met lines of black clouds steam-rollering their way up from Dieppe. As we passed Le Touquet and Berck, the rain began to recede and Abbeville was all puffy white clouds and sunshine. That was good then.

We left Abbeville and floated off towards Amiens.

Just past Amiens, I felt a sharp judder through the airframe and suddenly we were pointing in the wrong direction. Just a bit of turbulence. An aircraft like the 504 is, with its huge wings, very lightly loaded and you only need someone on the ground underneath you to sneeze and all hell lets loose. Trenches and cemeteries passed under our wings and I wondered who might have last passed this way in an Avro 504k?

Things were going well and we elected to skip Compiegne and duck round the corner of Paris to Meaux. As we rounded the east side of the city, things became really rather rough and as the Avro began to get caught in up-drafts, down-drafts and every other sort of draft, she was only just controllable with very coarse use of stick and throttle. I realised that it was time to get down – anywhere – and to get down as quickly as possible. We were only about 5 kms from Meaux but the whole landscape had whited-out in a wall of rain and we could see only downwards. On the approach along a shallow valley to the first field I selected, I suddenly caught sight of horses sheltering under a group of trees. No good. Opening the throttle, a helpful up-draft whisked us up over the ridge where the next option presented itself – a sugar beet field with telephone and power lines ranged across it. Karen knew that this was where we were going to land; ‘Mind the wires! 50 yards, Mind the wires!’ she shouted. Thirty yards from my aiming point I turned off the fuel and flicked the mag switches to off. Committed, we swept under the wires and touched down in a shower of mud as the wheels picked up and dug in.

It turned out that we had landed at St Fiacre and, what’s more, we were the 3rd aircraft to land in this field in the last 10 years. What! You’re kidding! No, I’m not. And if we thought that the worst bit was over, we hadn’t allowed for dealing with the French police at ‘going home’ time. They don’t like their routines upset.

Karen, ever resourceful and able to make herself understood in French, trudged off to find a phone. We needed to call Jaques Petit at Meaux and tell him of our predicament. Not long after Karen had left, a number of the villagers turned up to view the spectacle from a safe distance. Soon the whole village had turned out and it was all rather sociable  and light-hearted. The farmer wasn’t in the least bit bothered about his crop and all he wanted was a ride in the Avro – which I was able to give him the following day. Meanwhile, the Orly airport police had turned up and began to throw their weight around regarding getting the Avro out of the field. Jaques, who’d pitched up at the same time, wasn’t having any of it and explained to them that the only person who was going to fly the Avro out of the field was me; their chosen pilot wouldn’t have the first clue. Happily, Jaques prevailed and we pushed the Avro back to a corner of the field to get the best run.

About 3 hours after we’d landed, I ploughed my way across the beet and heaved the old girl into the air. Meaux was only 10 minutes away and by the time I’d got the Avro bedded down for the night, Karen and the police had arrived and Jaques had produced a bottle of whisky – he knew the form.

We opened with trebles all round. ‘Alors, Monsieur, nous voudrions voir votre radio license please’. Yup, straight for the jugular – they were good at this. About the only person in the world to carry a radio license for their aircraft was Captain Speaking; most not bothering and the rest never having heard of one.  Clouseau was wise to this rather casual attitude to paperwork amongst the English flyers and impounding an aircraft for lack of attention to detail was considered good sport. I reckoned that my best strategy was to play it dumb. Karen translated with charm and wit (some of the French got quite technical) and I produced my CAA paperwork which allowed the Avro to carry military markings. It took  about 20 minutes to convince les grands chapeaux that this exemption extended to the radio license. Whether they swallowed it or just gave up as the lemonade took effect, I’ll never know. The main thing was that after about an hour we all parted the best of friends and wasn’t it all a frightfully jolly adventure and all the English had mad-cow disease. But of course.

We made the front page of the weekly blah:

I’m going to do some milling on the middle engine mount now – I’ll tell you about that later.

Remembering that I’d Forgotten…..

….is a good sign.

I rang the chaps at the forge yesterday to say that I’d forgotten to mention that I’m putting a 6 cylinder engine in the chassis instead of the original 4 and would they recommend an extra leaf in the springs at the front to help with the weight? No, not really. Instead, they would put an extra 3/4″ of set in the springs and they then went on to explain something that I wasn’t aware of vis-a-vis the actual leaves themselves. It turns out that one or two of the leaves, depending on the vehicle type, will be mounted so that the set is in opposition to the general curvature of the spring when seen as a unit. This helps dampen any tendency to continue to oscillate indefinitely and goes some way to explaining why, if you’re daft enough to dismantle a leaf spring without this fore-knowledge, you’ll end up with a hole in the plasterboard ceiling of your workshop the exact size of the centre pin nut.

I learn something most days and today I’ve learned another 2 things, the second being that if you go to undo a particularly recalcitrant nut and it’s at head height, keep your nose out of the way because when the end of the spanner hits it, it jolly well makes your eyes water. The first is something I learned a long time ago and today was just a bit of a refresher – a sort of  ‘heads-up-dopey-we’ve-been-here-before’……. not only are adjustable spanners fundamentally dangerous but they always adjust themselves the wrong way first.

Still, despite the assault, some progress has been made and the middle engine mount is coming along nicely. I offered it up for a photo opportunity and then set it on the bench to get the pedal shaft sorted out. The rear brake operating shaft which occupies the lower holes in the mounting plates will need a couple of bushes as will the pedal shaft but, I can’t do the latter until I’ve got the brake pedal off the pedal shaft. I’ve drilled out the pin but it seems to be brazed as well whereas on my ’29 model, the brake pedal is simply keyed and clamped. I’ve hunted around for another Hillman brake pedal and I found one but it’s a different design again and much heavier in construction. I may end up cutting the shaft either side of the pedal boss and boring out what’s left. I’ll lose the shaft but the pedal’s in the wrong position on the shaft in any case (which is why I’m trying to remove it).


This is the complete mounting less the end plates.