A Suitable Book.

I mentioned that I was in Norfolk last weekend. This was to attend the christening of my niece’s daughter. It’s the custom to celebrate these events with a touching gift that will in time, give cause to the youngster to remember their generous benefactor. Those with a bit of dosh will have lobbed out on a piece of silver – a child’s cutlery set or an intricately patterned bon-bon dish; both popular choices. I opted for the Improving Volume but couldn’t decide between ‘The Secret Garden’, ‘Wind in the Willows’ or ‘Gulliver’s Travels’. Of course, the only one in which vintage motoring plays a part is Grahame’s classic. Job done.

Clutch & brake plate

The brake and clutch part of the pedal box has continued to occupy me and the parts were tacked together to see if everything worked. It did but, I got the centre mounting hole in the wrong place and had to apply the file – which should teach me to measure a bit more carefully as it’s a bit of a sweat filing 6mm steel plate.

Pedal box

However, it’s all gone together pretty much how I wanted it to but the real test will be to see if I’ve managed to get the dimensions right when it’s assembled in the car. I’m looking forward to that moment because I really want to get on with the firewall and scuttle, get the engine started and whizz round the yard in it. But for that, I’ll need to complete the radiator installation and, as it happens, progress has been made in that direction too.


I soft soldered the brass strip to the inside rim of the shell and instead of epoxying the grille to the strip, I’ve drilled the brass every inch or two and, with locking wire, secured the grille – altogether a neater and less messy solution – the locking wire is barely visible. I’ve also ditched the idea of the stainless steel wire to finish off the front; it looks perfectly ok without it, thus saving another messy job. The next thing was to do a final fit on the actual radiator and for this I’ve riveted to the inner rim of the shell, 2BA captive nuts. Six cheese-head screws will hold the radiator and shell together. I’ve yet to do the mountings which will secure the whole assembly to the chassis as I’m still looking for some suitably sized vulcanised mountings. They don’t need to be particularly substantial because, like the Austin, the hoses will take part of the load and contribute to its general suspension.

Radiator assembly

It doesn’t look great at the moment but since this picture, the core has been painted black and I’ve amused myself with some doodles apropros the grille decorations…

Hillman sketches

I’m not quite there yet. Perhaps a big white ’14’? Perhaps not; that would look too much like a racing number. It definitely needs something to take the eye away from the modern core. I could do ‘Hillman Special’ in the style of ‘Hispano Suiza’? I’ll think of something.

I never found the pictures of The Great Collector’s Darracq but today an opportunity arose to take some more..

Wind in The Willows

‘The motor-car went Poop, poop, poop as it raced along the road….’

Yes, a particularly suitable book.


A Good Game….

…played slowly.

On the way back from Norfolk last Sunday, I called in to see More Learned Counsel who had volunteered his set of bush inserting tools for the friction dampers. With a sly grin he also gave me a spare rubber bush saying that I’d probably need an extra one. Nonsense; this isn’t brain surgery for goodness sake!

Bush insertion tools

No, it isn’t. It’s probably more difficult. With plenty of washing-up liquid over everything so that you’re constantly looking under the bench for the bit that just shot across to the other side of the workshop, the rubber – with the aid of the tapered ring – slips easily into the damper end. Yup, do well. Then, with a steel bush placed on the end of the bullet shaped plug, the jaws of the vice are eased together and the plug happily pushes the rubber bush out of the other side of the damper end and the bullet becomes firmly wedged in the middle. To recover from this, you push the bullet and the steel bush back from whence it came and wedge them and the rubber even more tightly in the part of the damper end from which all the washing-up liquid has now been squeezed aside. Then you drop the other mandrel on the floor and clang your head on the vice handle coming back up.

Bushes inserted

In order to prevent the rubber from coming out of the damper end when the bullet and steel bush were inserted, I turned up a special mandrel that blocked its egress. Which it did but,  if you looked very carefully what was then happening was that the damper end was travelling back along the bush as the rubber expanded lengthways to accommodate the steel bush. In the end, I jammed everything in and cut off the 3/32″ surplus rubber which didn’t want to behave.

Radiator work

I had better luck with the brass insert for the radiator which needed to be bent to fit inside the rim.  Every bend went absolutely perfectly until I came to the last one which contrived to be 1/4″ out. However, it was easily rectified and I’ve just got to polish up the shell before I soft solder the brass to the nickel and then epoxy the stainless steel rod to the brass. That finishes the front of the radiator. The mesh will sit in the back of the shell.

Clutch cable fixing

I’ve solved the fixing of the other end of the clutch cable fandango with a piece of slotted square tube that I can weld directly to the bottom of the centre engine mount. The laser-cut plates for the other end of the clutch cable and the brake master cylinder arrived today so I’ve got a mass of things to do over the Easter break and I should see some concrete progress by next Tuesday.

I’ve also had second thoughts about the business of the new Hillman badge – partly because I want to get on and not have to dismantle the cooling system when I eventually get the new badge; there’s an 8 month lead time! Anyway, I spotted some Humbrol enamels in the hardware shop today and, with a jar of acetone brought from work to make sure everything’s clean, I think I’m going to start building up layers of enamel in the damaged areas of the original badge and then finish off with some clear nail varnish.

It’ll take a bit of time but, it’s a good game…

That Should Do It!

I was still thinking of mounting the brake master cylinder aft of the pedal but the actual bracketry was going to be too far away from the chassis to be rigid enough without a massively complicated structure. Bearing in mind that I envisaged hanging one end of the clutch cable from the same mounting, it was all getting a bit out of hand. So the next thing I thought about was mounting the cylinder in front of the brake pedal so that the pedal acted directly on the piston; sensible enough. So I devised a mounting using a couple of bolts on the bell-housing and one from the starter motor. Then Learned Counsel popped his head round the door, saw what I was up to and told me to think of something else. The bracket had to be attached not to the engine but to the chassis – like the rest of the pedal arrangement. So it was back to the drawing board.

And I’m glad I did go back and think again because I’ve now got what I think is a very simple and effective set-up. It was difficult fitting everything in and a bit of a palaver working out the angles but…

Pedal arrangement

This is just the mock-up to prove the idea; the actual bracket will be 6mm steel to give it some rigidity. I’ll put gussets in the corners for further stiffness and it’ll be bolted to the engine mounting – the chassis in effect. I’ll knock up a couple of bits to take the fork of the brake rod and the eye of the clutch cable and when their relative positions have been exactly established, I’ll weld them to the pedal shafts.

Brake & Clutch arrangement

I drew up the plate (the most difficult part of the operation) for the laser-cutting people and sent it off. The bits will be back by the Easter weekend so there’ll be plenty to keep me going. Then all I’ve got to do is fix the other end of the clutch cable to the bottom of the centre engine mount, make up an extension to the clutch lever on the bell-housing and we should be in business.

I’m a bit disappointed that the 1/8th brass strip for finishing off the mesh fixing on the radiator shell hasn’t arrived yet but I’ve plenty to get on with really. As has Learned Counsel…

Jupiter bulkhead

Feeling pleased with my weekend’s work, I glanced into his shop looking forward to commenting on his lack of progress and saw that he’d taken the Jowett Jack-in-the-Box’s front bulkhead out – it looked like it had been used for target practice – and had bent up, swaged and welded in a new one.

Jowett bulkhead

And he’d whistled up a couple of side panels and was busy tacking those in as well; a very nice job he’d made of them too.

Jowett body frame

I’ll have to keep an eye on him – he doesn’t need to get too far ahead and be roaring round the yard lookin’ all superior-like while I’m still trying to sort out my wiring. I must get him more involved in some of my engineering problems or tell him he looks a bit jaded and needs a week or two in Spain. Yes, that should do it.

Look Over There!

No, don’t look over there; this is a hand signal and I’m turning right.

When someone’s on the phone and right up your 6 o’clock, it can be difficult to get their attention without indicators and brake lights so, on the Model A, I stumped up for a set of LED indicators to resolve the problem.

IndicatorsThey were absolutely fantastic; neat, unobtrusive and a piece of cake to fit. The operations side was a magnet-backed box of tricks in the cockpit with 2 small buttons – one for left, one for right and both together for hazards; couldn’t be beat. However, apart from being a not inexpensive import, the one small snag was that indication was accompanied by the squawk of a strangled parrot and at traffic lights it always attracted odd looks from passers-by. You never forgot to cancel the indication but, something had to be done.

Indicator box

I gave the box to Sparks and he opened it up to find a real rats nest of stuff, most of it designed to prevent anyone understanding what was going on. He gave it back in disgust. Anyway, at my request, Sparks designed a whole new wildlife friendly system and all I had to do was source compatible indicators. It took me almost a year on and off until I finally tripped over what I was looking for. So in the end, the new system will be as neat as the one I had on the Ford and equally simple to fit – the control box will be half the size, hidden under the dash somewhere and silent. The operation will be by 2 small ‘push-on, push-off’ buttons which won’t look out-of-place on a vintage dash. On the Hillman I’m going to use the advance and retard lever (now redundant) to push the buttons.

The other distraction this week was prompted by the advancement of the radiator construction. The original Hillman badge that was on the radiator shell is showing its age and some of the enamelling has chipped off.

Hillman radiator badge

It seems that I can have the badge restored or a new one made. After some thought, it occurred to me that if I have a new one made then the artwork will exist for a replacement if the new one gets damaged. I’ll do that and just put the original away for the time being.

The next batch of powder-coating – the friction dampers and a few sundry items have gone down to the yard to be dealt with.


It was a bit difficult dealing with the friction dampers because I needed to get in between the leaves to prepare the surfaces after the bush retainers were braised in. The bead-blasting outfit at work came up trumps for this and I hope the powder will be able to get into the tight bits.

New plugs and plug leads have been purchased and I’m gathering together all the materials to complete the radiator installation, the brake and clutch arrangements and finish the engine mounting. This is in readiness for the long Easter weekend when everything closes down and that vital part that I forgot to order takes another week to arrive.

Engine additions

Returning to the subject of hand signals, I remember that when I first had the Ford, as a left-hand-drive, hand-signalling was a bit of a game and sometimes I had to shift across to the passenger seat to flap my arm about to make sure dopey behind was on the ball and not looking over there.

Pause And Consider.

Like with reconnaissance, time is seldom wasted when pausing to consider. And whilst I’ve been pausing to consider what to do with the brake and clutch mechanisms – they’re now going to share the same brace addition to the pedal box  (more anon) – I’ve been busy with the handbrake, radiator and friction dampers.

Handbrake extension

As I mentioned before, the handbrake was a bit short one end and needed 8″ inserted in the middle to get it within reach of the cockpit. I TIG’d the new bit in using stainless steel filler (I’ve taken to using S/S almost exclusively as I find it flows more easily and is less susceptible to contamination and inclusions) and then – because I’m not yet an expert – I filled in the odd irregularity with the phosphor bronze. The result is excellent and the 2 welds going across the lever look like casting marks and give the alteration a look of authenticity. The new rod for the ratchet catch is piano wire which I heated to just a dull red to soften the 2 ends. One end was to be bent at right angles and drilled for a split pin and the other end was for cutting a 3/16 BSW thread. I haven’t bothered to re-temper the wire as it’s non-critical.

Then I moved on to the radiator.

Bonnet flanges

Making an allowance for the bonnet material and the woven strip, I soft soldered the brass angle to the shell exactly where the original flange was. When I got the radiator, there was only about 6″ of the flange left but I was careful to make a note of its position before removing it. I was thinking about cutting holes in the flange so I could weave the bonnet strip through – as it would have been – but without a fly press it would be a bit of a fag so I’ve elected to drill and use bifurcated rivets. Then the next job was to size up the grille.

Grille mesh and frame

I found a couple of bits of S/S wire to make up a frame and then cut out the S/S mesh to size with a disc cutter – what a brilliant tool – following which I attached the grille to the frame with locking wire…

Locking wire

.. with a view to just putting a dab of weld every now and again to hold everything in place. But it was not to be. Either I’m not good enough (quite likely) or it might be pretty impossible to do the job without a spot welder (a distinct possibility). No matter what amps, down slope, basic or peak current combination I used, I just couldn’t get it right and I was not prepared to risk the mesh if I could do it another way – epoxy, for instance. The problem appeared to be the differing grades of S/S. The mesh is not a particularly hard grade but, the frame must have a bit of chrome or something in it so whilst it was easy to start the weld with the bias to the frame, the mesh vanished in a puff of smoke in the twinkling of an eye. I tried the phosphor bronze rods – they were better but I was down to 5 amps and no down slope. There must be something I don’t yet know about – I’ll run it by Learned Counsel; he knows a thing or two.

Last week I borrowed a 3/4″ drill to fit my drill press to be used for boring out the friction damper centres for the bronze bushes. The drill turned out to be slightly bent so I slipped along to Chumley’s to straighten the shank in his grown-up lathe. Well, we gave it an encouraging tap and the shank dropped into the swarf; bust right orf your honour it did. Luckily, I’d thought to take along my 3/4″ drill (with a taper shank) and we did the job on the mill instead – wasting an hour of Chumley’s time. However, the promise of Norfolk sausages…..

To return to the radiator; the mesh is not going to work as I’d hoped..

Radiator mesh

.. because I can’t find a suitable way of fixing it to the frame. And while I was wondering how to resolve this dilemma, Counsel came by for a cup of tea and suggested that I might put the mesh on the inside of the shell.

Hmm; time to pause and consider.

That’s Enough To Drive You…

…no, I won’t say it.


That was my Sunday morning taken care of. Whilst I was in the swing of things, I knocked up the manifold nuts and spent the afternoon timing the engine and putting a few extras on that had been in the paint bay (sitting room). The distributor cap came up nicely after showing it the polishing wheel, as did the plug lead tube. I toyed with the idea of a piece of copper tube but I thought that would be over-egging it; I’ll stick with the original Bakelite which has only a small bit of damage on the side facing the block and won’t be noticed by the casual observer. I must order up some of that smart braided plug lead and turn up some brass plug nuts.

The Great Collectors Darracq had its first official outing last Saturday. It was about 4 degrees going on -10 so I rather archly suggested that it would be wise to take along a support vehicle – just in case – and I would be happy to forego a seat in the Darracq on this special occassion…blah, blah, blah. Anyway, I was the only one not suffering from mild exposure at the end of the day so all-in-all a smart move. I did take some pictures with the intention of posting one but they seem to have got lost in the system somewhere. Perhaps I’ll find them by next post – so to speak.

Then Chap came along who wanted his Riley Special windscreen putting together – that was a fiddle; cutting mitres in the brass channel and tapping for 1/8 BSW. You only get one chance and luckily the job went smoothly.

I’ve also been thinking about the mounting of the brake master cylinder. I’ve decided to mount it on the cockpit side of the pedal so 1. it won’t interfere with the scuttle construction and 2. it won’t be on view. I also revisited my aircraft manuals to confirm that, provided the fluid reservoir is remote from the cylinder, the cylinder’s orientation is largely immaterial. So I’ll mount it on its side and the brake pipes will be well away from the floorboards.

master cylinder layoutAnd whilst I was putting it all together and eyeing up the job, I cut the handbrake lever – hopefully in the right place – ready for the insertion of the extension. Once I’ve welded the 3 bits back together again there’ll be quite a lot of trimming and fettling; it’s almost as if the 2 levers I’ve used have come from different foundries because the thickness of the forgings is quite different. Then a new rod for the ratchet mechanism and that’ll be another job out of the way. I still haven’t got a new sector shaft for the steering box but I’ll have to bite the bullet sooner or later;  then that’ll finish the steering.

There’s so much to do before I even start the body (the exciting bit) and I notice that the blinkin’ garden’s starting to grow which means the lawn mower has to be attended to.

That’s enough to drive you nuts.

Last Time I Looked…

… I’m sure it said that phosphor-bronze filler rods were just the ticket for TIG brazing. Anyway, when the rods arrived I thought I’d get re-acquainted with the process and revisited a couple of welding forums. I was concerned to read that most people seemed to have problems with the phosphor-bronze filler and certainly wouldn’t use it on mild steel – except one chap, who wouldn’t use anything else and it was the answer to most of his prayers. I was beginning to envisage further delays whilst the rods were returned and I undertook further research but in the end I went with the chap who’d got the results and gave it a go.

TIG Brazing

As far as I’m concerned it did everything I wanted it to do. I’m a beginner when it comes to welding but I could see immediately that this process in the hands of an expert would produce superb results. I imagined that the braze would, like in gas-welding, flow around the joint, but it doesn’t – well, maybe it’s meant to but it didn’t for me. It looks exactly like a TIG weld but with a bronze finish. With a flame the heat would be distributed more widely and make it easier for the filler to flow perhaps? The TIG torch produces a much more localised heat so the filler moves very little. That’s actually the tricky bit; depending on the thickness of the metal and the surface area adjacent to the braze, the amps must be adjusted so that 1. there’s not enough heat for the parent metal to form a weld pool but just enough for it to fuse with the filler as the rod melts and 2. that the heat doesn’t dissipate before the filler has melted and formed the fillet. So there’s quite a lot going on in a very short space of time and plenty of scope for disaster. Half an hour on some practice pieces got me into the swing of things and established that between 22 and 35 amps was my range. I should really have attached the pedal control but I find that rather awkward for the small amounts of TIG that I do. Of course, the other thing about TIG is that if you’re not sitting or leaning or otherwise comfortably supported, don’t even begin.

And here’s the first of the friction dampers…

Friction damper

I’ve just got to bore the centres for the bronze bush….

Friction damper centre bush

…squeeze in the rubber inserts and drill a couple of holes in the chassis for the mounting bolts. By the time they’re powder-coated, I think they’ll look every bit the part – I must say I’m very pleased with the way they’ve turned out and the TIG brazing process is going to be extremely useful in the future. In fact, as soon as I’d finished the dampers, I got straight on with the brake pedal and shaft brazing so that’s all ready to go back in the car over the weekend and I can measure up for the extra bellcrank that will operate the front brakes’ master cylinder.

The other excitement this week was the collection of the ash for the body frame and Douglas Fir for the floorboards – courtesy of The Great Collector. In another aborted career, I used to build what I called a ‘Merchant’s Chest’. It was a 24 drawer piece of furniture that was going to take the world by storm – how could anyone live without one?

Merchant's Chest

With ease, it transpired. But the point of this digression is that I made these chests entirely from reclaimed Victorian factory floor joists – Douglas Fir. There wasn’t a knot to be seen anywhere in the planks; the grain was straight and it had a warm, pinkish hue. It was also incredibly hard-wearing though apt to splinter if too dry. The French light aircraft manufacturers, ‘Jodel’ (I had one of those) made use of Douglas Fir in their main spars, so it must be good stuff. Anyway, that’s what the floorboards will be made from; I knew you’d be interested.

And, as if that wasn’t enough for one week, yet more excitement came with the arrival of the stainless steel mesh…

Stainless steel mesh

It’s the same as the stuff on all the racy Astons and Bentleys, last time I looked.