Another Great Day to remember…

It wasn’t without its moments. The first go saw a rather interesting flame-throwing demonstration from the carbs and it was decided that either the valve or the ignition timing was some way off the mark. These were checked, double checked and then checked again to confirm that all was well. We then discussed the numbering of the cylinders vis-a-vis the firing order. Frustratingly, there was nowhere an illustration confirming what the arrangement of the crank was telling us so, to check, I consulted my Lycoming manual – flat-fours were all going to be the same surely? Yes, they were. Right, we’ll just go through the allocation of the plug-leads-to-the-cylinders routine again; ‘Having established Number 1. cylinder, proceed anti-clockwise around the distributor cap…..  ‘ ‘Aha! We’ll just swap numbers 3 and 4 leads (and put that man on a charge) and that should do the trick.

Handbrake lever extension

Less excitingly, I’ve been fiddling on with some detail work – the handbrake lever needs extending by 8 inches and,  to preserve the knuckles, just slightly canting out from the body . An old, rather mangled lever is providing the necessary.

I’ve measured up and created a cutting list for the ash body framework – I’m not quite sure what I’m doing here but I’ve got a few photo’s of other people’s work to use as reference; I’m sure it’ll be an absorbing exercise – I’m certainly looking forward to it.

I cast about for phosphor-bronze TIG rods but none of my chums had any so I’ve had to bite the bullet – and they ain’t cheap. They don’t arrive until next week so the brazing of the brake pedal to the cross shaft will have to wait. I’ve taken the pedal assembly out of the car (to do this I had to undo one of the cable splices) and pinned the brake pedal at the angle I want it. The angle is pure guess-work but a glance at the tourer gave me a rough idea. I haven’t even begun to address the linking of the cable system to the hydraulics; I need the master cylinder in place first and then I can cook up a couple of ideas.


The clutch I’ve decided to operate by cable – it’s the simplest solution. The clutch lever on the bell-housing is only 4 inches away from the bottom of the clutch pedal but the engine mount goes straight through the gap. A couple of brackets to hold each end of the cable is all it should take (he imagined).

The rest of the time available was taken up playing with The Great Collector’s Darracq which will have its first official outing next weekend – if the weather turns up trumps. One of the interesting features of the drive train is that when the handbrake is applied it partially disengages the clutch – I’m not sure to what advantage but it obviously needs careful adjustment. It’s a funny thing to drive but, for a 2 cylinder, it pulls like a good ‘un and has a surprising turn of speed.

So that’s that really.

Splendid. Let’s see what happens this week….


Sacrifices Have To Be Made….

…. and so, despite the promise of sunshine, the temperature clawing its way up into double figures and a slap-up trough to boot, I declined an invitation to go on last Sunday’s Valentine’s run. I had the seats, the bits to fabricate the steering column and a few bits of strip wood to check the body line. I had to concentrate and not be distracted. I checked the look of the car first.


It was a bit of a heave (thank goodness I’ve gone for 6 cylinders) pushing it up the yard and round the corner to the wall I used to photograph the Austin at a similar stage in its creation about 5 years ago…

Austin 7 Special

Then, when turning the car around for the other side to be snapped, I was reminded of its rubbish turning circle – I must remember to see if I can’t shave a swire off the stops without causing a problem with the drag link.


And following the photo-opportunity, I got down to business with the steering column. After taking the plunge and disc-cutting the inner columns to length, the bottom half turned out quite neatly. Although this part is all Ford V8, surprisingly, the Hillman outer column tube was exactly the same diameter and wall-thickness as the Ford one. I think I mentioned that the top part of the column was going to be the original Hillman part because its got very useful control levers already fitted.

Ford bottom half

Then the universal joint from a Suzuki Jeep

Suzuki UJ

… and finally the original Hillman parts to make up the top.

Hillman column

The driving position is quite relaxed and my 6ft 1″ frame is well protected and comfortably out of the weather. The only thing which might be a bit awkward is the outside handbrake lever. At the moment I’d have to abseil down the side to get at it but I intend to insert a section from a spare lever (I deliberately left the cable long as I was suspicious of my measurements) to correct this shortcoming.

Driving position

One of the things that has come out of this mock-up; because of the nature of the strips of wood I used for the body outline, there’s the tiniest hint of the rear decking just kicking up in the last 6 inches. It’s very subtle and certainly isn’t noticeable in the heavily distorted photo’s above, but it’s there and it makes all the difference to the line. I flatter myself that this is the sort of thing that sets apart for instance, a genuine Bugatti body and a replica – you can’t put your finger on it but you know it aint right. Of course, Bugatti had the eye and could do it – he didn’t trip over a piece of bent wood and think, ‘Aha, c’est gentil, que je vais le garder’.

Three quarter front

Well, today marks the anniversary of the first entry to this blog. Exactly a year ago I began to explain to myself  – and one or two friends kind enough to indulge me – what it was I was doing. And, roughly 50,000 words later, I’m a bit wiser and a bit poorer – actually, quite a lot poorer but then, sacrifices and all that…

Ouch! Ouch!….Ouch!

Splicing steel rope can be a bloody and painful business.

Brake circuits

I’ve finished both the cable brake circuits and they work though I’ve yet to hook up the brake pedal. The original pedal was brazed to the pedal shaft and once I’ve worked out a scheme to get the shaft out – there’s almost no room for manoeuvre – with the pedal in situ, I shall do the same. I’m going to experiment and see if I can use the TIG welding set-up as the heat source for brazing. Looking on the net, I discover that phosphor bronze filler rods are essential and to steer clear of ordinary brass rods. Apparently the zinc content is too high and just makes for a big black messy splodge on the work  – which is exactly what happened when I tried it with a gas torch. Once I’ve got to grips with the brazing technique I can finish the friction dampers as well.

In the meantime, The Great Collector popped in and stayed for supper, during the course of which I discovered that he had a pair of Austin 8 seats surplus to requirements and would I like to try them for size for the Special. Well of course I would. And so I did, and they’re going to be perfect – with a bit of alteration. The rather utilitarian hoops will have to be removed from the bases as they make the seats too high and then all I need to is rake them back a bit for a more comfy driving position and, bob’s-your-uncle.

Austin 8 seat

They also have the great advantage of articulating at the base of the seat back…

Austin 8 seat

…to accommodate essential sundries for the discerning Grand Tourist – Miss X will no doubt appreciate this particular convenience.

The other night I finished rebuilding the carburettor and popped it on the manifold to keep it out of the way.

Rebuilt carb

The air cleaner has yet to be painted and attached. It’s a bit of a bore but I’ll have to rub down the body of the cleaner by hand. It’s, in effect, a sealed unit and it would be difficult to completely remove the glass bead substrate from the mesh inside. There were one or two odd things going on in the carb – the needle was at least 1/8″ deeper in the piston than it should have been and the float lever was way out, both of which discoveries indicated a very rich mixture. That’s a bit curious because the engine didn’t smoke at all in the short time that I had it running…. Still, I’d rather start from a known position with carbs so I’ve set everything back to standard and will tweek as required.

The other rather whizz news is that I’ve got my Austin’s con-rods back at last. I hope I can remember how everything goes – it’s been nearly a year since they went away. I’ve rather missed being able to zoom about in the Austin – as indeed have several other people who are always keen to take her out.


Which picture reminds me; the Austin 8 seats, of course they’ll need to be re-upholstered, probably in leather.


Get Fell In…

… went up the cry, so we did and found ourselves in some old garages in Birmingham.

Jowett Jupiter

To open the doors on some forgotten or neglected treasure never fails to excite. This Jupiter’s complete less the engine and seat and is destined to become the competition car. With the body panels lifted away, the chassis, despite a couple of the tyres being a bit flat one end, rolled up the ramps quite easily. The rest of the kit of parts went on the back of the truck and we set off home delighted with our day’s work.

Jowett Jupiter Chassis

A couple of days later and Learned Counsel had roughly assembled the major components to make it easier to store.

Jowett body

It reminds me of the discovery last year, albeit in a more complete state, of the other Jowett.

Jowett Jupiter

So he’s got plenty to get on with. As indeed have I.

New friction damper

All the parts for the new friction dampers have been assembled and I just need to braze the bush retainers to the arms before bending to shape and boring for the centre bushes – which I still need to turn up but I’ve got the material. I’ve finally put the front hubs to bed – the removal of the steering arm wasn’t as onerous as I imagined although it made me wonder how some of these nuts were done up originally as there’s almost no room to get a spanner in; you couldn’t get near with a socket. The next move is to get a suitable master cylinder, connect it up and see if the brakes work. And talking of brakes, I’ve started to complete the rear brake circuits. Both systems – the handbrake and service brakes are cable operated to the rear so I’m splicing the cable ends to avoid using cable clamps. It’s a bit tricky getting the length right and I’m a little out of practice but once I’d got past the first one, I was off at a canter.

Handbrake cable end

The handbrake and the service brake cables go around some fairly tight bends so instead of the original 7×7 strand cable, I’ve used a 7×19 strand cable which is a lot more flexible. The downside is that the strands can more easily separate in the splicing operation but insulating tape is a great help in keeping things together. Here’s the handbrake circuit…

Handbrake cable circuit

… and the attachment plates employed. I’ve made new ones of these – bending them so that the holes lined up was a bit of a lark!

Brake cable attachment plate

And as soon as I’ve got a new key for the nearside hub, that’ll be the rear hubs put to bed and I can get on with the details of the seating and controls. The steering box is in position but I’m wondering whether or not to get a new sector shaft. There’s a few quite serious looking grooves in the actual shaft caused by neglect and, I don’t mind losing the brakes so much – I’ve got 3 systems to play with – but losing the steering?

Best get fell out!

Design And Build.

This week, the final assembly on the front hubs and the knocking-in of the kingpins would see a major part of the chassis schedule put to bed. That all went without a hitch and I was happy to see that there was almost no play present in either side. Then I put the nearside kingpin cap on – fine – and the offside cap…. Blast! That wouldn’t go on because the root of the steering arm fouls the cap and to get the steering arm out of the way, I have to dismantle everything again. I remember thinking that it was a dopey bit of design and that I should remember this little ‘gotcha’ when I was re-assembling the hubs; I should have written it down.

Nearside hub and brake cylinder

This is the nearside front hub which demonstrates the brake cylinder set-up. The cylinder itself has a capacity of just over 20cc so, although I’ve yet to read up on the form, I’m guessing that a master cylinder of about 50cc should be adequate to operate both cylinders with a bit to spare. It’ll be interesting to see how they behave because, as they’re clutch slave cylinders, they have a larger capacity than a normal brake cylinder and so might be a little be slower – or softer perhaps – in operation; pure speculation, I haven’t a clue but I’ll find out soon enough.

And, still on the subject of wheels, I’ve been wondering what to do with the spare. Originally I imagined that I might be able to tuck it out of sight behind the seats somewhere or, failing that, the more traditional position – hang it on the back. The former takes up too much room in the cockpit – the hood mechanism and Miss X’s wardrobe take priority, and the latter spoils the line so it looks like I’ll be strapping it to the side – the nearside in this case because the handbrake is the feature on the offside. I did this on the Austin Special by constructing a pillar with a hub welded in the centre and then secured the top and bottom of the pillar to the floor and upper longeron with one-piece brackets. I carried the load to the opposite longeron by means of a tube running across the cockpit. It was a rather neat solution and I think I’ll do something similar on the Hillman.

Austin spare wheel carrier

I think it’s one of the best bits on the Austin.

Austin spare wheel carrier 2

Fortunately, on the Hillman, just eyeballing where everything might fall, it looks like I’ll be able to utilise the bracing between the firewall and the windscreen pillar post to anchor some sort of fandango that’ll do the job. It’ll have to be a fairly robust affair as a wheel weighs a ton. I’m hoping that the cross-brace falls in the right position and that the line of the wing won’t be compromised – if it is, I’ll just have to design and fabricate something to get the wheel in the right place.

Spare wheel position

And you’ll notice I’ve drawn in the seat position. I wasn’t able to get hold of the actual Avro drawing for the bucket seat but, I have in my paperwork a copy of the relevant page of the Schedule of Parts for the 504k. The seat is illustrated and I’ve been able to source enough basic dimensions to work up a sketch.

Avro seat dim's

The high sides of the seat made me feel very secure, especially when in the height of summer, I had to get across the country in the middle of the day and we were being shoved from pillar to post by the thermals. The sides are probably a bit too high for a car seat but a compromise between this and the Bentley seat, I think, is going to be just the ticket.

Maybe ‘Design and Build’ is a bit high-falutin’. ‘Cut and Fit’ is probably nearer the truth.

To Travel Hopefully…..

and comfortably …. is a better thing than to arrive.

Needing to work up a seat to get everything in the cockpit area to fall to hand (and feets) and, also check that the body line is how I want it, I popped in to see a Bentley chum and took a picture of a period style bucket seat, just to use as a starting point.

Bentley racing seat

This seat – I can safely say without having sat in it – is going to be incredibly uncomfortable. Back in the mid-90’s when I was invited with the Avro to the Farnborough Airshow, all the visiting early aircraft were allocated an overnight hangar about 1/2 a mile away from the action and every morning we had to trundle the machines down to the flight line. The Shuttleworth Avro 504K was part of the display and, as someone had to sit in the cockpit whilst everyone else pushed, being the highest time 504 pilot present, I pulled rank and hopped aboard. I’d rather have pushed; the seat-back was just like the Bentley one in the picture above and by the time I’d gone 100 yards, it was very painfully squeezing my ribs together. I wouldn’t have liked to have gone any distance in the air in it. The seats in my Avro were very comfy – a couple of hours flying was no trouble at all. I’ve measured up the Bentley seat and worked up a sketch to take out the pointy bits and broaden the radius at the back.

Seat dimensions

I’ll add runners to the driver’s seat so there’s some latitude in the driving position. I’ll also have a look at the Avro seat drawing and check the dim’s on that. In fact, I’ll be sitting in the car in more or less the same position as I was in the Avro and, A.V. Roe & Co very helpfully supplied a drawing for that as well which I used for the cover of my book ‘A Standard Pilot’s Notes’ (available on Kindle if anyone’s interested).

Standard Pilot

So whilst I’m waiting for the Avro seat drawing to arrive, I’ve busied myself with a. fitting the brake shoes to the rear hubs and b. the business of extending the threads on the wheel studs to accommodate the wire wheels – the existing studs were for artillery wheels. The newly lined shoes went on a treat (although I put the handbrake shoes in the service brake position first before grasping that the heels are of different thicknesses) and I’m pleased to see that the retaining-cum-return springs still have some life left in them.

Rear brake shoes

Then, with the hubs sporting the new threads,

Rear hub

I popped a wheel on to determine the length of the wheel nut.

Rear wheel

To cut the threads, I made up a box spanner and with a 7/8 BSF die-nut, ran the thread down to a measured distance so that the shaped part of the nuts will be a snug fit in the dished recesses in the wheel centre. I’ve taken the thread down only far enough to ensure that if a nut or a number of nuts on any one wheel come loose, the wheel centre won’t chatter up against the threaded portion, causing it to shear. Once I’ve made the nuts I can cut the studs to length.

And hopefully, with all the wheel nuts nice and tight, we should, like Mr Stevenson said, arrive.