See Truman's account (25th Feb), including his terrific films of the van in action.
Monday, 26 February 2007
See Truman's account (25th Feb), including his terrific films of the van in action.
Tuesday, 20 February 2007
I have used my stretcher and shrinker to make some quarterlight angle-surround and am chuffed because it seems to fit quite well.
Tuesday, 13 February 2007
I especially love a commercial vehicle in its original livery. I like the lack of pretension....as compared to so-called concours condition, which always strikes me as fundamentally implausible in a commercial....which would almost invariably have been rough and ready vehicles. A commercial should look used, not new. And if it is going to look used, how much better to see it in its original, if tired, livery, than to see it as a replica of its former self.
I'd love to own this vehicle but I am unlikely to do so. I can only hope that whoever does come to own it and put it back on the road, preserves it in something like its present form.
Saturday, 10 February 2007
Here's a really nice picture of Geoff Duke's J Type van, provided by Uncle Joe on the Old Classic Car Forum, via Rick, whose site it is; and a bloody fine site too. When he retired from racing bikes, Geoff Duke was very successful in business and this is presumably one of his early company vehicles. I have no idea what business he was in. Does anyone else know?
I believe he is still alive (?). He was born in 1923 and raced Nortons in the early 1950s, winning three World Championships before, controversially, racing for Italian motorcycle manufacturer Gilera from 1953. His final race was on a Norton in 1959. Altogether he won 6 Grand Prix/ world championships and 5 Isle of Man TTs. He got an OBE in 1953.
I associate him very much with my childhood, even though I was born in 1963. There was an old geezer in my sister's church called Geoff (or Jeff) Duke (or Juke) and I often wondered if he was the old racing biker himself. I don't know why I never asked. Maybe I just preferred not to have my bubble burst.
That's Duke in front, on a Gilera.
I'd love to know what line of business he was in with that van. Anyone?
Wednesday, 7 February 2007
Don't invest in expensive garage hand cleaner like Swarfega. Achieve the same or better results with sugar and washing-up liquid....at an infinitessimally lower cost.
Use a blob of washing-up liquid and tea-spoon of sugar and rub your hands just as if you are washing....but without water. The sugar acts as an abrasive. In less than a minute you will be ready to wash the stuff off - and if you don't have hot water, cold will work just fine too. Incredible but true.
(Now, how can package that as a product and make a mint? There must be mugs all over the place who will buy the stuff)
Then I trimmed and cleaned up the driver's side top-right corner of the cab, where the metal on my cab was riddled with rust...as can be seen in the bottom part in this picture. The replacement comes from the Goat Lady's van and it is encouraging that the salvage will give my van life.
Below is the part - only held in with swarf, cut to size and roughly filed. But I need to file the cab ready to take the part. I am pleased with the result so far. It will be welded along the inside radius of the windscreen and at the obvious joins, top and bottom...and with proper finishing I see no reason why you should notice the join, especially as the windscreen will have glass-retaining aluminium strips covering the weld.
It is far too cold in my workshop to use the POR-15, which I was hoping to test out today. The small print says that it must be applied in temperatures of between 50-90degrees F (or 10-38 deg C)....and my fridge thermometer shows it well under 10degC ("Well don't do it in the fridge then, you plonker", said John). I don't want to use my halogen heater to raise the temperature because I don't want to reduce the humidity (good for curing the preparation) and am not sure I'd want to leave the heater on unattended for 5 hours (minimum)....so I will need to wait for warmer weather.
What I have done is bought a starter kit from Frost - I'll buy more if the stuff is as good as I hope. My van has a lot of small areas where metal has been eaten by tinworm...in sills etc....where a bit of POR-15/Porpatch could work wonders. POR-15 is a rust-preventative paint designed for application directly on rusted areas, which dries rock-hard and prevents rust from re-occurring; PorPatch is a waterproof filler (a thicker version of the same stuff) which fills, adds strength and prevents rust.
I plan on using the application, principally, in the guttering around the front panel, beneath the winscreens. Tinworm has eaten along the base of the nose below the windscreens so I cut access holes in the channel inside the cab and welded reinforcing fillets and tacks behind this area.
I also intend using it in the crack which runs down the sides of the front panel frame.
Today I shall brave the cold and put the last of the weld reinforcement behind the nose panel - those rectangles under the windscreens-, where they meet the gutter radius (tucked out of view under the red line). Then I shall start prepping the metal from the Goat Lady's van ready for welding around the windscreen inside the cab.
Sunday, 4 February 2007
One of the first jobs I did on the van was get the engine out, but as these were the early days of the project I was then still working on grass under a tarpaulin, which was fraught with difficulty. I had to put chipboard down so that I could roll my hydraulic hoist around. But inevitably the shifting weight made this a precarious business. I had already removed the gearbox and propped the engine up at the rear with a block of wood.
Early on I discovered that in order to get the hoist in close enough to the side of the cab I'd have to remove a wheel, which necessitated hoisting the propped up part of the engine through the windscreen aperture, then jacking up the cab and and removing the wheel.
Helping me in all this was my mate John (below), who can always be counted on when a job calls for two men or when technical wisdom is needed.
Having received a complimentary ticket through my Practical Classics subscription, my girlfriend and I went to a classic car show at Alexander Palace, London, which I have to say I thought at the time was poor value for money (even though I had only paid for one ticket), mostly because it felt less like a gathering of classic car enthusiasts than a cynical attempt by commercial outfits to sell them polish etc. When I go round a show I want to feel people's enthusiasm.....and when even the guy with an E Type Jag doesn't seem too bothered one way or the other, you know something is wrong......and that was the bit that disappointed my girlfriend, an E Type fan; she says the E guy was just rude and off-hand towards her (which angered me for two reasons: firstly, because she was paying him the compliment of admiring his car and secondly because enthusiasts owe it to people showing what may be first glimmerings of interest to give some encouragement. - Dickhead!).
Eventually, however (and this is the reason why I mention Ally Pally at all), we came across the stand of the Cambridge-Oxford Owners' Club and they were doing a mickey-take of Pimp My Ride by taking an A55 and putting exaggeratedly huge fins on it and remodelling the entire car with cardboard and sticky tape. I warmed to these guys immediately and got talking to them because their marque has B series engines too.
The up-shot was that they said that the chap most likely to be able to help me find an engine in decent shape lived in East Anglia (right near me!). I had been working on the idea of not bothering to restore my engine but to get a replacement from a car which was running and I had in fact won an auction on ebay for a Morris Marina but had aborted the purchase when the guy's claims about the mileage and an alleged rebuild did not add up. It seemed to me that instead of restoring the engine, when every type of spare would have to be sourced and every problem and tolerance would be a mystery requiring research and specialist tools, it might be best just to concentrate on the vehicle and get round the engine problem by replacing it. And of course, B series engined cars are common and cheap, even in running order.
I could then run my van with a replacement engine and restore the original one at leisure later, swapping the two over when done.
When I contacted my local branch of the COOC I was put in touch with Colin Smith, who lives about half an hour away who has a whole bunch of B series engines, though his are 1600s, generally. I went to see him and his car collection...and his garage is a veritable Aladdin's cave of parts. You literally can't see the walls or ceiling for stuff. Anyway, he invited me to let him take my engine away and get it going. Naturally I was very nervous about price as he said it was "nothing to worry about"...which made me even more nervous because my mate "Truman's" engine cost him around a thousand. This situation required tact. Certainly there would be expenses and I certainly needed to assume that some of them would be costly and would need budgeting for....and I would need to gently ask along the way what sort of expenses I had incurred but in a way that did not offend this good man who is ostensibly doing this because he loves the engine type and regards it as a challenge and as an occupation in his retirement.
My girlfriend says, "You always bloody fall on your feet!" And she is right. My mate John has been a tower of strength, Carl, my neighbour, put power in my shed for a song, Paul, another neighbour, felted my workshop roof in return for a negligible favour and so it goes on. I can't explain it but I think it is something about the way blokes love the chance to share a project. Take my mate restoring the "Truman's" van for instance. We keep in regular contact via email and reading each other's blogs and contributions to discussion forums (another place where people help each other out). When I salvaged parts off the Gislingham van he came up and got some bits he needed too. I am going down to his next weekend to help him get a dent out and he is very generously giving me an ammeter and a replacement for a part I shagged up trying to forcibly remove it when it had rusted solid.
I have done quite a lot on it since, now that I have welding kit, including welding a patch which fills that dark triangle you can see an inch or so away from the clamp. Here you can see it in place.
Iain McKenzie sold me some sheet steel (can't remember what gauge; 19 possibly) and as soon as I got home I set about fabricating a replacement cab floor support to replace my badly rusted one. Initially the joints were done with pop rivets...and these were later done properly with a MIG welder, once I had one. All the bends were done manually, using angle iron clamped on either side of the sheet to provide shape...hammered over. It doesn't matter that the finish is course because it will be covered by the floor. I only need to weld in captive nuts to finish the piece.
Friday, 2 February 2007
What you can see here is the driver's side, top corner, which is in a horrible state. The part that will replace it is actually not at all bad, which is surprising when you consider that it has been sitting in a field for over 40 years, where mine has spent a lot of that time indoors.