Monday, 26 February 2007

4 J-Typers Meet

On Sunday I drove south in pouring rain to Truman's garage as I had promised to try and sort out a dent for him on his van. The only metalwork I have ever done has been on my own projects and I can cope with making a hash of those but it is a huge responsibility tackling someone else's, so I was pretty apprehensive. Truman's dent was just under the swageline, and the main difficulty was that ideally I would have bumped it from inside the van, but the dent is just behind one of the van's vertical bracing struts. Now, I'd have been very tempted to cut a 6inch length of the strut out with a thin cutting grinder and then butt-weld it back after tapping the dent out. In the end, however (as we didn't have power and my welder there.....and possibly not quite enough nerve either), Truman (above) slid the narrowest dolly behind the strut and I eased the dent out from the outside. I think we did a pretty decent job for now; the best in the circumstances, I think.
Then we had the treat of seeing Chris and Ilana draw up in their absolutely gorgeous Royal Mail van. This was the first van I had actually seen moving since I saw Harvey's at Gaydon two or three years ago (and that was the only one before). While Chris and Truman caught up, Ilana and I admired YLH 789. She showed me the various features of the van, particularly those which differ from non-mail or GPO detailed in Truman's blog recently. Then all four of us stood around chatting, comparing notes and posing for each other's photos........the ones of me are largely unpublishable but highlight the need for a diet! Here are some of the shots of the van.

Afterwards, we went in convoy to Truman's, where we met his family and had coffee and talked J-Type. Truman very kindly let me have some parts he had spare and when we all left, Chris and Ilana left first so that we could enjoy watching their van's departure. I got a poor film on my phone and Truman got a far better couple on his camera, which you must see.
All in all, a terrific day.....and it wasn't over because that evening I won an ebay auction for a 1964 Mk1 mini (one careful owner from new! - and with full MOT) to try and make one of my girlfriend's dreams come true (can't afford an E Type!). Her first car was a B-reg mini, so this is one project we can really share this summer. We will take the Prefect and Mini on runs...and I will probably sell the Prefect at the end of the things are starting to get out of hand!!! What is it about classics? Once you have one, they quickly accumulate!

See Truman's account (25th Feb), including his terrific films of the van in action.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Back in the workshop

Great news: I have been back in the workshop. Been working on that awkward corner inside the cab on the driver's side above the windscreen. Lousy pics, sorry. Didn't have my camera handy, so took them with my phone.

I have used my stretcher and shrinker to make some quarterlight angle-surround and am chuffed because it seems to fit quite well.

Been welding, grinding and adjusting the replacement part (below) and making sure it fits with the screen trim and will fit both inside the cab and outside the quarterlight.....tricky because there are about 4 areas which can be pushed out of position by another adjustment. Eeek.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

a Builder's J Type - inspiration

On the grapevine I have heard of the existence of this J Type, which may become available for sale and though I'd love to own it, I prefer to see it as inspiration for my 101. The chap who drew it to our attention thinks it should be left unrestored but made roadworthy and Truman's and I agree that this scheme has great appeal. It is something that my teacher friend, John, and I have discussed often too. At Gaydon some years ago we saw an unrestored and dilapidated 1930s Ford pick-up truck - rusty, covered in grease and dust, unrepaired dents etc.....and it looked absolutely lovely.

I especially love a commercial vehicle in its original livery. I like the lack of 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.

I would like to see this J Type "in the flesh" with a view to seeing its details, taking a few measurements and in particular to have a closer look at the construction of the cab and especially its roof.

Saturday, 10 February 2007

Geoff Duke's van

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

HOT TIP #101 Tinworm's Miracle Hand Cleaner

Here's a hot tip (I picked up from a mate) for anyone who frequently gets greasy, oily and generally "workshop" hands:

Don't invest in expensive garage hand cleaner like Swarfega. Achieve the same or better results with sugar and washing-up 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)

Goat Lady donor gives new life to my cab

Today I completed the reinforcing fillet in the dashboard channel which is crude to look at but you have to remember that it will be invisible when the channel replacement angle is welded in place.

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 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.

POR-15 and Por-Patch

3-part kit (plus applicators and gloves) is £9.79 and the tube of PorPatch is £9.36
(plus VAT and delivery)

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) 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 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

The engine and the Ally Pally show

Summer 2003

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.
Once the wheel was out of the way, reaching into the cab through the nearside door was a relatively straightforward business.....though, again, the chipboard floor wobbled somewhat and the hoist needed some steadying.
We lowered the engine into an engine trolley I had prepared for the purpose. The castors on this were very small and the engine very heavy, so trundling this was a bugger. Eventually I got it into my workshop and hoisted it into a bathtub, where I scrubbed it down with paraffin.

Alexander Palace
January 06
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.
I have been back and seen the progress, which is terrific. He has done the main lump and finished it in green paint but unfortunately the cylinder head is cracked and he has been trying to find a replacement. He did find one but that too had a crack. Eeek! He tells me he knows a guy who is a stuntman and does machining and owes him a they are talking about welding the crack in the head and machining it out. Crikey, that sounded expensive....but again I am told that it is nothing to worry about.
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.
Incidentally, the Goat Lady's van tip came from one of the members of the local branch of the COOC, when I attended the next pub-meet after Ally Pally last year. He rescued an A55 from the same site about fifteen years ago and the timing of the tip was incredible; a few short months after I salvaged parts, the land was cleared for development. Also, having just been up that hill to Ally Pally, it was interesting then to see it featured in a Dr Who, set in 1953, which also featured a J Type van. So, all told, it wasn't such a bad Classic Car show after all.
Nb. The lines between paras are a nuisance, I know, but using the Blockquote is sometimes the only way I can get the compiler to paragraph. Sometimes I will see paras in the preview, but when I publish it takes them out and pushes all the text into one ugly block.

Inner wing repairs

Autumn 2005

Part of the inner wing was also badly eaten away, so I fabricated replacement parts (welding them in 2006). First I worked out what needed to be replaced, then modelled it in cardboard to make a pattern, cut the steel and then shaped it.

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.

cab floor side support fabrication

Autumn 2005

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

Serious cab surgery

Originally I felt that I got very little in the way of salvage from the diabolically rusted Goat Lady's van but recently realised that some of the cab was actually in marginally better repair than mine, so I have spent the time after work, the last two days, measuring and cutting my cab with a view to welding in some better parts from the cannibalised cab. It is a bit of a tricky business but will be worth it.

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.
I have also been rubbing down all the windscreen surround and front panel frame ready to take POR preparation and filler/seam sealer, which is on order from Frost. I have also been in correspondence with the manufacturer in the US and am really investing quite a lot of hope in their claims for the products.
I will report back on the results.