As road-mending seems to have taken a back seat in this neck of the woods, after a trip to Bawdsey (which gained fame as the site of the first Chain Home Radar Station) along some pretty rough country lanes, I realised that it was silly to further put off the job of taking some leaves out of the rear springs to soften the ride on the Hillman.
Each of the rear leaf springs has nine leaves in it and if you bounce about on the back of the car, there’s only about 1/2″ travel – not great. I thought initially that at least four of the leaves would have to come out before there’d be any noticeable difference but that was the least of my concerns. The last time I’d dismantled a leaf spring, the centre retaining nut had whizzed past my ear as it came off the last thread and put a hole in the workshop ceiling. This time I’d be a bit more careful.
After 4000 miles over the course of a year, it wasn’t a bad time to give the springs a bit of a spring clean anyway. I had to think about the jacking and supporting procedure before I started undoing things (I got it a bit wrong when we removed the gearbox from the Bayliss Thomas and after undoing the spring retaining U-bolt nuts there was a big twang). So I jacked up the car, supported the chassis rails and put another couple of axle stands under the axle. Undoing the U-bolt nuts allowed the spring to pull away from the static axle and it was just a case of getting the spring in its relaxed position with a couple of threads showing past the plate to make it easy to reassemble. I had to readjust the stands on the axle before I got it right.
Then came the slightly scary bit. I clamped up the spring both in the vice and with a couple of G-clamps further out; if the spring slipped in the vice, I’d have some back up. Once the centre nut was off, I slowly wound out the vice until the pressure was relieved and then removed three leaves – well, three leaves fell off because the rest were riveted together.
Rather than mess about with the integrity of the rest of the spring, I decided to take just two leaves out and put back the lower leaf to help spread the load. The next side took half the time of the first and that was it; a job I was rather dreading turned out to be the work of a morning and the test run showed an extraordinary improvement (and just lowered the back by about an inch giving the car a bit more of a racy posture). I’m glad I took out only two leaves, more might have been too many. The steering has improved – it’s less of a handful pulling the car round corners and my lane (the worst road in Suffolk) is considerably smoothed out.
The Great Collector’s Swift wasn’t idling very well so Counsel and I went over one evening to give the Solex carb a clean out. It didn’t make any difference and as it was dark and I hadn’t got all my English spanners with me, we didn’t stay long. It was really an excuse to go for a beer in any case.