No More Excuses.

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.

Bawdsey Manor

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.

Spring removal

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.

Leaf removal

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.

Replacing lower leaf

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.


6 comments on “No More Excuses.

  1. Paul Needham says:


    Can I ask a question , loosely to do with your Hillman special ?

    I would like a big impressive tourer like that and so went to view an Alvis TA14 the body was so butchered it could be made into a special without loosing a valid old car.

    The car have laid dormant for 30 years however it was rescued in 2008 and has passed it’s MOT’s till they were abolished for pre 1960’s cars.

    When I asked to drive it I was told the brakes work however they need a lot of force and room to stop it , and the steering can be vague and it does wander as speed builds up.

    When asked what is a comfortable cruise speed I was told 45 mph due to the steering ?

    Now I have no knowledge of 1940’s cars so are they all like this or does this particular one have problems that could be rectified ?

    regards Paul

    ps it was 100 miles away in the Peak district , not the sort of roads to tackle in a car with these short comings

    • Hello Paul,

      No, they’re not all like this. It sounds like your TA14 needs quite a lot of work; there’s nothing more frightening than a car that wanders excessively (even at 30mph) and won’t stop. Everything can be put right with time and money and if you’ve got both, go for it!

      Good luck,


  2. Paul Needham says:


    More time than money !

    I did notice two things

    When started and ticking over from cold it shook a little and this could be seen at the steering wheel with it noticeably moving from side to side a few inches.

    Also could the tyres be to blame it was shod with almost new Excelsior brand , some sites claim the Michelin X will cure your wander for a mere £155 a corner !

    It was impossible to drive it more than a few yards and I never got it out of second so I did not experience the wander myself.

    thanks for your prompt reply Paul

  3. There’s no easy fix here Paul and whatever some sites may claim, new tyres won’t cure a worn out steering box or any other duff component. Excessive shaking may point to a combination of fundamental rot somewhere and a suspect engine but, as I said, time and money will sort it out. Think of a figure and treble it – you won’t be far out!

  4. James Roberts says:

    Nigel, nothing to do with this post, or any that recently, just saw this & thought you might be interested to see

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