More Rush ‘n’ Tear.

I got back the other day to find Learned Counsel and The Racing Driver manoeuvring the MX-5 engine into the Locost chassis.

It appeared to be quite tight and at one point it looked as though one of the cooling castings was going to arrive bang opposite a frame member – it couldn’t have been placed more perfectly. Fortunately, the casting in question can probably be made redundant; that’s lucky. The remote control extension from the gearbox was also a bit of a squeeze to get into the tunnel but some judicious cutting here and there, sorted that out.

The Coffee Run to Leon and Awkward’s workshop found both of them contemplating the A7 Special’s diff and drive shafts. With the wheels up in the air and turning them by hand, there was a slight grinding heard coming from the diff and, as is their custom, in less than an hour everything was out and ready for inspection. All seemed to be fine and there was no positive ID on the problem before I left to make a start on taking apart the Cushman Husky engine.

With the fuel tank out of the way, I could get the gearbox and clutch cover off.  The clutch is an enclosed multiplate system located behind the smaller twin gear wheel. The horizontal bar is the clutch actuating fork – that disengages the twin wheel from the drive and the large wheel (also a twin gear – there’s another smaller gear behind which isn’t visible) is moved in and out by the lever sticking out of the case at top left. I didn’t go any further as Awkward was coming by the next day to give me a hand and to see if we could get the engine running.

There are two speeds and a neutral – confirmed by the indents on the splined shaft which accept the spring-loaded ball bearings; that’ll be fun reassembling those! The problem was that nothing seemed to work properly. Only one of the gears could be engaged and the clutch didn’t seem to want to compress as much as you might expect. As soon as the bigger gear came off, all was revealed. There was a piece of aluminium floating about – the shiny bit in the tray – and a ball bearing in the bottom of the casing. Removing the clutch shaft was a bit of a Chinese puzzle – both arms were keyed so the shaft had to be knocked outwards to get the first key out and then back in to get at the second.

Removing the clutch showed that disc alignment was the problem. Three of the discs were able to run on the splines but the other three had got their tabs out of line and prevented full disengagement. So, with all that stuff out of the way, it was time to see if it still had The Vital Spark!

As you can see, it did. I apologise for not being able to rotate the video but thanks to the clever people at Microsoft who no longer support Media Player, I don’t know how to do it. However, what we didn’t know about the Husky, (though by the state of the crankshaft taper, we should have known) was that someone had been at it in the distant past and we didn’t notice a crack in the flywheel.

That’s going to slow us up.


The Brakes Progress II

Whilst I was off having fun in Kent over the Christmas break, Chumley had his nose to the grindstone and has done a splendid job on the caliper mounting blocks.

I didn’t realise it would be quite so difficult to get hold of M10 x 1mm cap head Allen screws; I’ve located them now, but it took a bit of trawling on the net to find them. In the meantime, a Jodel prop bolt and what I think is an NSU Quickly engine mounting bolt, are doing service for the jury-rig.

I specified 1mm thread thinking that the vibration set up by the application of the brakes would probably be a very high frequency and the greater surface area of thread and the steeper the pitch, the less susceptible the whole malarkey would be to working loose and falling off. A good thread locking fluid will be applied on final assembly.

One of the things that I got wrong in the design of the block was the allowance for the hub carrier to block, mounting bolts. I’ll counter-bore the three holes to accept cap screws which won’t foul the disc. I had hopes that replacing the drum brakes with discs, might be a relatively simple job where I would remove the drum, shoes and the operating mechanism and just bolt on the new arrangements – not surprisingly, not so. The flange on the hub carriers where the caliper mounting blocks will be attached, are not machined surfaces. The mounting blocks need to be accurately placed, parallel to the hub flanges and perpendicular to the stub axle. I’ll have to build up the carrier’s flange with MIG weld (as near as needs be to cast steel rods) and then get Chumley to machine it true. That’s a lot of sausages.

Awkward’s Christmas project was to get his Cyclemaster running. Successive attempts over the year had failed to see more than a cough and a splutter – just enough to keep him interested. He had laboriously rewound the coil, temporarily replaced the old condenser with a modern equivalent, checked this, measured that and all to no avail, until this week. A reworking of the centre of the coil where the high voltage line is linked and replacement of the HT lead, has done the trick.

When I first came to Suffolk and began flying the old L4 Cub, the 1:500,000 aeronautical chart which covered most of my sphere of operations, fitted on my knee pad and looked pretty innocuous; I think this one was an edition from the early 80’s. For trips further afield, floating about in the club house there was always a bigger, more up-to-date map that I could borrow.

I was looking at the other Wright brother’s chart a few days ago and noticed that things had become a bit more complicated in my absence from the aviation world. Now it’s a serious international airport, there’s a whole big deal around Norwich sprung up, and Stansted’s airspace has got very flabby as well. Apparently, Stansted is one of the busiest airports in Europe so, yes, it’s a good idea to keep Bloggs from blundering into the picture unannounced. As far as the flying bit goes, there’s further complication in a requirement to understand how to fly VOR radials.

I’ve never used a VOR; I thought they’d put the brakes on those back in the 90’s.

Happy New Year!



Christmas Quiz.

As I was filling the bath, I couldn’t help noticing an interesting inconsistency in the direction of travel of the bubbles.

There’s plenty of material on the subject of which way water flows going down the plug hole, but not a lot on how water behaves as a vessel is filled. Photo ‘A’, dated 9/12/2017, shows the water circling clockwise.

Photo ‘B’, dated 22/12/2017 (one day after the Winter Solstice) shows the water flowing anti-clockwise. Answers and conspiracy theories on a postcard to the usual address.

Learned Counsel has dropped off the Locost chassis ready to shoe-horn in the MX-5 engine and gearbox; it’s likely that the longer diagonal braces on each side of the top rail may have to be adjusted, or one of them made removable.

I’m about to start the restoration of a three-wheeler built by some Canadian servicemen for a local boy who had polio. You may recall that the body is a drop-tank (from either a Mustang or a Thunderbolt) and the steering wheel is the yoke from a B-17. I’ll begin by sorting out the Cushman Husky engine. It turns over and there’s a satisfying burble from the exhaust, so all seems well inside. I haven’t had time to do anything but put it on the bench so far but, I think the flat bar behind the home-made exhaust might be the gear lever.

Awkward has the engine out of the Avon Special for rebuild….

… Leon is doing some winter jobs….

…. Mr Summers is getting his Morris Minor ready for, er, the Summer…

… and this year I’ve remembered to put in some anti-freeze. It took a few tries to get the engine running because, as usual, when I haven’t driven the car for a while, I forget to turn the fuel on. The penny drops after a couple of minutes. There are a couple of interesting projects to consider in the New Year; I’ve got the plans for a Chris-Craft SRB 19 ( are to blame for this diversion) and there may be another bespoke process machine to design and build. The racing car body will need my attention as will the completion of the 1908 Rover control quadrant.

The disc brakes for the Hillman are work in progress and stainless steel fabrications will keep my hand in with TIG welding. In the evenings, I have a Russian children’s book to translate (from a translation into readable English) for a Chinese publisher. I haven’t yet got my schedule for the rest of January but I’m sure there’ll be something turn up!

For all this, I’ll need plenty of energy so I’m making a start with Big Sister’s Christmas pies!

Once again, a massive thank you to everyone who’s kept up with this blog; your comments and encouragement are hugely motivating. I know I’ve been side-tracked every now and again and the motoring has content suffered, but there’s lots of interesting stuff out there and I’m always very happily distracted!

A very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2018.





Chaos is the usual outcome of a flurry of snow in the UK and last Sunday’s wintery blast didn’t disappoint. I was rostered for a trip to Finland, with a short stop in Oslo before continuing to Helsinki. A taxi came for me at 7:00 to catch the 11:35 from Gatwick; under normal circs, bags of time.

At Stansted we found that the M11 had been closed – a lorry fire apparently, so we broke off east to catch the A12 at Chelmsford and then continue south for the M25. 4″ of snow had by now accumulated on the already frozen overnight rain and, at one roundabout, we went off down a slip road we weren’t even pointing at! Well, if we were all over the road, the chances of the rest of our day going smoothly were not good. Sure enough, we were soon watching the snow creep up the side windows as we sat for an hour or two on the A12. Some strangely parked lorries a few miles ahead and through which we eventually had to weave, was the only sign of incident. Once over the Dartford Crossing – clear as a bell; you wouldn’t have known it had been snowing at all. I got to Gatwick at lunchtime and checked in to a hotel to catch the next day’s flight.

Still, I got a ring-side seat at Sofitel and, now acquainted with the management of the 737, was able to get a picture in my mind of the landing attitude (it’s all about attitude) – I didn’t touch-down at Heathrow and Luton because (taking my eye off the Flight Director) I’d started the round-out too early. Too high and too fast, I’d just kept on flying and over-shot.

By the time we got to Oslo – another delay made us 45 minutes late – I’d missed my connecting flight and had a further four hour wait for the last flight of the day to Helsinki. At the appointed time, I sauntered off to Gate E11 and somehow contrived to go through Gate F14, which, I discovered, was a sort of no-man’s land; nobody was about, all the doors were locked and I couldn’t get back as everything had closed behind me. I found a button labelled ‘Poliisi’. That got some attention and I was quickly surrounded. After a kit inspection and a little chat – I was clearly just a simple soul, blundering about in a fog – they escorted me back to Norwegian territory; I’d no idea where I’d been but there was a lot of sucking of teeth and talk about the Schengen Area. Anyway, it turned out that the girl at passport control should have asked me where I was travelling to and re-directed me, but my remarking on the delicious looking contents of her packed lunch had distracted her. I only just got to the aeroplane (Go to Security. Go directly to Security. Do not pass comment on anyone’s lunch) and arrived at the hotel in Pikkala at 1:00am.

Then up again at 5.00am and to work, where the outlook from the tent was bleak to say the least…

Photo: Sue Saunders

…. and in sharp contrast to mesdames adventures in Sri Lanka, I notice.

504 To 737.

.. is quite a big jump. But it was great fun!

In the olden days, it was always the idea that if I’d got oil pressure, I’d got an engine and, if I’d got airspeed, I’d got an aeroplane. Then things got a bit more sophisticated (though the same rules applied) with a few more instruments to tell me where I was and how things were going, generally.

I’ve always had trouble with artificial horizons. The black lines that stay still are the aeroplane; the coloured bit that doesn’t stay still is the bit outside the window. There’s something in my brain that doesn’t register this properly (a bit like my ruler problem) and I really had to concentrate to get it right on the 737. A glass cockpit seemed to make things a bit easier, especially after I’d adjusted the seat so I could see the Flight Director without the column blocking the view.

My route was Gatwick to Stansted, with a touch-and-go at Heathrow and Luton respectively. After a bit of a wobbly start down the runway (the rudder’s quite a long way back and by the time you think it’s not working and push a bit harder, it suddenly bites) we got off and did a few orbits at 5000ft just to get a hang of the general handling. Following the Flight Director down to Heathrow’s runway, I got within 40ft of touchdown, looked up and instinctively started to fly it like a light aircraft – mistake. We floated down the runway and I had to throw it away, open the taps and head for Luton where – I did the same trick again though this time, I got down to about 20ft before running out of tarmac and binning it. We were getting light on fuel by the time Stansted was on the nose so I nailed the dot to the cross hairs, picked up the ILS and didn’t look up until we’d crossed the threshold. It didn’t get us down on the numbers, but I turned off at the last exit without scrubbing the tyres. Not bad for a teenager!

I collected the jury-rig bits for the disc assembly and had a few hours working out fits and clearances and then getting to grips with how to mount the caliper.

I’d thought initially that I’d use the bolts on the hub carrier to attach a plate with a block drilled for the radial mount caliper but, I’m not confident of its rigidity. It wasn’t a giant leap to realise that, utilising the hub as a base and bolting to it a block, machined to take the caliper, would make a better job of it.

I’m trying to avoid any alteration to the existing casting – other than drilling a couple of holes in it. In order to get things to fit and make sure that the edge of the disc is in line with the edge of the disc pads, I’ll have to add a bit to the disc diameter – 280 to 300mm.



Smukt Og Tort.

Well, this barometer set into an outside wall in Skudeneshavn had a bit of catching up to do; it was definitely fine and dry (and what a difference that made!). I noticed two things. Firstly, although the instrument was made in Stavanger, Norway, the language is a mix of Norwegian and Danish. Secondly, there’s a curious inverted circumflex on the ‘o’ of Tort which I couldn’t find any reference to and made me a bit unsure of my translation. It could be a stylised tilde or a local variation on the umlaut. In Danish, diacritic marks can alter completely the meaning of a sentence: jeg stód op (‘I was standing’), jeg stod óp (‘I got out of bed’). Tricky.

Winter is the time to come to this little port on the southernmost tip of Karmøy because there’s no one about and photographs are happily devoid of distraction.

Skudeneshavn has a strange feel to it; 225 wooden houses and a population of just over 3000. If there was a Norwegian version of ‘The Prisoner’, this is where it would be set. The Skudefestivalen – a gathering of around 600 boats, especially vintage types, is an annual event, as is the Skudeneshavn International Literature and Culture Festival. Unfortunately, I missed that by only 2 weeks.

Back in Haugesund, I paid a visit to the Billedgalleri.

It was quite small, unpretentious (the one Munch print was not given special wall space but displayed in amongst other less well-known artists’ work) and represented artists from only Norway. An exhibition of Norwegian paintings and prints dating from the early 1800’s to the present day made up the gallery’s permanent collection.

Naturally, seascapes figured prominently, and interiors were also strongly represented.

This austere group was painted in 1904 by Ola Frøvig; 1 year after the Wright Brother’s first flight. It hardly seems possible that these two events belong to the same century, never mind decade!

Much cosier was ‘Red Interior’ by Fredrik Kolstø, painted around 1912. There was also an exhibition of contemporary local artists’ work, most notable of which were the woodcuts carved straight into the floor of the lower gallery…

… and from which prints were subsequently taken.

Thomas Kilpper was the man responsible for this novel idea.

As the moon rose over Vestre Bokn on the last day of November, I watched the Havila Phoenix sail up the Karmsundet; that was my cue to pack up the kit and make my way home.

An early flight the following morning from Haugesund to Oslo in a Scandinavian Airlines Bombardier CRJ 900 was a real treat. Not only did I have 2 seats to myself, but the weather was perfect and we flew along just underneath the inversion – the greyish  line in the picture above – which gave us a really clear view of the landscape.

And, back in the workshop the following morning, I made good progress with the mock-up of the Hillman disc brake arrangement. What I propose to do next is to get the laser cutting people to make up a dummy disc, a hub plate (the green bit) and a number of rings 10mm wide and in various thicknesses so I can build up an accurate pattern using the rings as shims. I’ll also get them to cut a couple of the caliper mounting brackets in 1.5mm mild steel so I can bend them to shape and fabricate the pattern for the final dimensions.

There’s no stopping me (so to speak).





A Fine View.

As I’d hoped, I had a couple of hours free every day between visits to the two cable connection sites. Sometimes I took the scenic route back to the hotel to get a feel for the landscape. As you leapfrog from island to island, each one seems to have its own character.

One minute you could be up in the Pyrenees, the next on Dartmoor, and then on the Isle of Wight; it’s ever-changing.

There was something of the mythological about parts of the landscape – quite eerie in places.

This apple tree (the clue was windfalls) sported both foliose and fruiticose lichens. I learn also that lichens in general are excellent indicators of air quality. As they’re rootless, they draw all their nutrients from the air around them; if it’s polluted, they die or don’t grow in the first place.

So I took a few deep breaths next to this rock and felt a whole lot better for it. There are surprises around every corner.

I took a wrong turn – always fun – that turned out to be a 10km cul-de-sac, almost at the end of which was this little hamlet.

One of the hazards of going to work along these roads is meeting lorries – not just ordinary lorries, articulated ones as well. There are few passing places and going off the road will get you well and truly stuck in the oggin or in a ditch. Looking as far ahead as you can is your best insurance.

There are bonuses though. The landscape is truly remarkable…

… and never ceases to amaze and delight at every turn. Haugesund itself is full of charm, especially down on the waterfront where old and new wooden residences and boathouses line the dockside.

It has a lively arts culture….

… and, something the Norwegians are necessarily very good at, a fine bridge spanning the Smedasundet.

As I was on my way to the art gallery, I thought I’d do a bit of an arty shot, just to get in the mood. Nestling in the shadow of the bridge, I found what I was looking for; the statue of Marilyn Monroe, by Nils Aas.

The sun was in completely the wrong place to get the right picture and I found this side of the work slightly troublesome because of the shoe on the plinth. Once I realised that the shoe was just cast aside, it worked, but it tripped me up initially.

And on further examination, there was evidence that some wag had been at work.

My hotel is about 100m from the Karmsundet water’s edge. I’m on the fifth floor but, during the night I’m sometimes woken up by a very gentle but deep pulsing sound. If I look out, it’s a ship passing by….

… like the Havila Phoenix – the one I’m working with; she slipped past my hotel window a couple of days ago on her way to the cable site. She looked ‘in fine trum’ as Para Handy would say.