French Onion Soup…

… I’m quite fond of soup, especially if it’s home-made although the two least offensive commercially available canned soups, Tomato soup and Chicken Broth, will do at a pinch. I was in a shop the other day and noticed a new and different variety – French Onion Soup – on the shelves and the promotional price proved too tempting.

As a penniless art student and living in a squat in the centre of London, a real treat after a session of busking at Bond Street tube was a bowl of French Onion soup in a modestly priced restaurant at the bottom of Charlotte Street. Stacked with croutons and awash with cheese which stretched from plate to chin, the soup was a meal in itself and set you up for the remainder of the day. I regret to say that the same cannot be said of this newly discovered canned offering. No matter what I tried – adding some marmalade, a bit of stock, lemon, I couldn’t get rid of the bitter and grey taste of dried onion.

So that was lunch following a moderately successful morning shortening the capillary tube on the water temperature gauge. A quick look on the internet provided the method. The bowl contains ether and to stabilise the liquid, it has to be cooled. I filled a tin of water, put the bowl through a hole in the lid and left the whole lot, including the instrument, in the freezer overnight.

Frozen bowl

This is pictured when it was thawing out. I don’t know where the gauge came from but about 4′ of tube had to be removed from the middle. The two areas of the pipe that were to be cut were tinned along with the inside of a 2″ brass sleeve that I turned up on the lathe. The pipe was cut with a small pipe-cutter and each end soldered into the sleeve. A flame mustn’t be used for this operation as the ether is highly flammable. I remembered to slip a piece of heat shrink tube onto the job for a bit of extra protection.

Tube repair

There was the slightest whiff of ether – rather nice – at one point but I think that came from the surplus tube because the instrument still worked perfectly on test. So that was a success until I dropped the gauge into the sink and, after removing the glass to dry the face, all the numbers came off. Great. I conjured up a new face on the computer but I’ll have to do it again because I don’t like it; it’s too bright.

Water temp

And whilst I was playing with the instruments, I started to put them all in place.


This’ll help me with locating the electrics.

Rear of panel

I’ve also welded up the final part of the steering column and adjusted the box for the smoothest action with the least backlash. On the Ford V8 box, this is done with an eccentric cam on one of the mounting bolts which moves the worm in and out of mesh with the sector; very simple and effective.

I can’t imagine what part of their unspeakable soup they consider ‘French’.


3 comments on “French Onion Soup…

  1. Simon Jansen says:

    How exactly do you do they labels for your gauges? Are they printed on normal paper? I want to make a suitable tachometer probably by getting the guts of a modern electrical one and putting it in a suitable vintage housing. I guess I will need some kind of face for that.


    • I first draw the faces by hand so I can adjust the scale if required and add my own detail touches. I then scan and print them on either ordinary paper and stick it to the original metal disc if I’m replacing a face or, acetate if I’m using a recovered face where the base is in good condition but the numbers etc have either gone or I’ve removed them because they’re not quite what I want.
      The Austin oil pressure gauge face was printed on ordinary paper and stuck to the old face and that’s lasted 3 years without any sign of fading or deterioration.
      The Hillman’s rev counter is from a 1970’s 6 cylinder Rover, the donor instrument is a Cooper Stewart speedo from a Ford truck and the face is printed on acetate (thus retaining the base colour of the face) so the rev counter and the actual speedo (also a Cooper Stewart) look like a matched pair.
      It’s all a bit of a fiddle but worth it.

  2. Simon Jansen says:

    I recently got (well, am getting) a nice old Daimler rev counter that goes up to 6000. It might work for me although it’s off an 8 cylinder car so I would need to make a magic box to double the pulses from the A7 engine!

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