Front damper removal

This weeks work was getting a closer look at the side of the engine block where water could be seen weeping down the outside. On closer inspection the repair by the previous owner(s) was not as good as it might have been. Apparently this area was susceptible to cracking if the coolant freezes. Allegedly antifreeze wasn’t as good in  vintage days.

In the picture above you can see the weep. I have now removed the exhaust manifold so that it is a little easier to work on. The coolant in these cars is not under any pressure (unlike modern cars) so the fix simply needs to be water tight. Historically this was resolved using a 50/50 lead/tin mix with the engine block being heated up using oxy-acetylene sufficiently for the lead to flow into the crack. Thats a job for another day although I have picked up refilled gas bottles in readiness…

Next job, get those horrible  front shock absorbers off the car as they will be visible at all times and although they are ‘period’ they simply look wrong. Below is what they look like…

And below is what all the race boys used in the 1930’s – “Andre Hartford friction shock absorbers”. Basically they are circles of wood that are tightened onto brass or aluminium bracketry – seriously basic!

They are adjustable but not particularly effective as they create high friction initially then when they start slipping as they move there is less friction and hence less damping but hey thats what the car needs. Anyway the ones I took off are only fit for the bin as they have no damping whatsoever – although I bet someone out there wants them…. eBay…

Getting them off was reasonably simple except of course none of my usual spanners or sockets fit – whitworth nuts and bolts in those days you see (not AF and certainly not metric). Luckily my brother in law asked me a while back if I wanted his grandads tools? I said yes without having a use for them at the time but having sorted through them a tool box full of old spanners is proving to be a huge bonus.

Oh and boy – did I laugh when I dropped the retaining bolts inside the chassis rail imagining that meant a rattle for ever more, luckily I could get my little finger inside a mounting hole and push the bolt to where i could grab it with a pair of pliers.

So thats it, old dampers gone… old wheel arch supports gone…. radiator off…

and this is what we have left to clean up… what appears to be a 20mm cannon fitted in the front of the car just below the radiator – or it could be where the starting handle goes? I like the idea of a cannon as the brakes will be rubbish and i might need to clear the road…


Good news and bad news

The good news is that the radiator suprisingly holds water – I was expecting it to leak and now that i have formed some hoses to fit between the non standard water pump and the radiator, the engine now has cooling. Interestingly vintage cars dont have pressurised cooling systems and quite often dont have a water pump either, apparently the engine is cooled purely by convection, the hot water rises and feeds into the radiator and the cool water comes out the bottom. Even today people say they rarely have cooling issues. Mind you they are pretty big radiators.

Some more good news, I fitted a compression tester to the engine and checked the cylinders and all 4 have the same reading as near as dammit 90psi which is well within expected tolerances so the compression is pretty good.

Because the ignition system was pretty ratty – I have now replaced all the leads, spark plugs, connectors etc with period brass fittings and temporarily fitted the oil pressure gauge as i have no idea whether the oil pump is actually doing anything 🙂 If I can get some oil pressure then the engine is possibly in a reasonable running state at least for a while

And the bad news…. although the radiator and hoses etc do not leak….. the side of the engine block DOES and there isn’t supposed to be a hole there. I can see a previous owner has tried to weld up what was probably a split caused by freezing water which was not uncommon in the good ol days. Trouble is – they have not welded it up very well. I will try a temporary repair but I suspect i need to find a company who will stitch weld it properly but to do that the engine needs stripping down and if I do that…. then I may as well rebuild it whilst it is in bits. I dont have any plans to rebuild an engine right now as that is not on the financial calendar.

Its alive……

The Riley is now in the garage alongside the Etype with enough room to walk around both cars, get in and out of the Etype and be able to work on the car… phew!

Getting it into the garage wasn’t much of a problem, it just needed 3 people to push it and a smaller person to steer. Easy. Downside is that moving it in and out of the garage is not a one person job so I have been looking at electric winches on eBay. Its a solution to pulling the car up over the threshold ramp of the garage which is just that little bit too steep for a one man operation.

So next step I thought – lets get the engine running, not just “started”.

Step 1 – find that baked bean tin fuel feed and make it a little safer. Tick
Step 2 – battery charged and connected to the car. Tick
Step 3 – work out how to apply the choke when the cable is not connected and the linkages are all spring loaded. Engineering solution – A stick suitably inserted into the linkage seems to do the job. Tick
Step 4 – hotwire the ignition coil to the battery
Step 5 – move the manual advance -retard to the middle position (because I have no idea where it should be to start the car!)
Step 6 – press the button on the back of the starter motor (oh yeah). Tick

Hooooeeeeee – he’s alive check out the video

Link to video 🙂

Now how do I turn it off…..

Hmm… how to restore something thats rusty so that it doesn’t look new…

The trouble with shot blasting parts of old cars is that yes it removes all the surface rust but it also makes the item look new. If my aim is to build a 1930’s competition vehicle that looks like its been competed in for 80 years, then the various bits *can’t* look new they have to look…. well original but in suprisingly good condition 🙂

So tonight I am trying some alchemy – Oxalic acid. This is similar to stomach acid but a little stronger. Although not its primary purpose, it has the ability to dissolve rust, its really cheap and readily available, not particularly dangerous and all you have to do is soak bits and pieces in it over night. It doesn’t harm chrome or the base metal either. I will then soak the item in another chemical that gives it a very thin zinc coating which inhibits the part rusting again. If I then give it a coat of matt lacquer it should stay looking decent but old. We shall see, I have never done this before

Tomorrow I am trading the remains of the body shell for some parts that I need to get the engine up and running properly, namely water pump parts, hoses etc. Seeing as I dont actually want the remains of the body and was going to throw them away any parts in exchange are a positive step. I am now appreciating that everything on a vintage car has value to someone that is missing that bit. So i have carefully removed and stored all sorts of (to me) junk that will go on ebay.

I aint got no…… body….

Well thats it, the last of the bodywork has now been removed and I can finally see what I have to play with. I am pleased to say that apart from the small hole close to the nearside rear wheel the chassis is in surprisingly good shape. Filthy, greasy and covered in surface rust but solid.

Below is my faithful assistant seeing if it suits as her first car.

The steering wheel angle is highly adjustable so that has been brought lower, The seats will be approximately 8″ lower than original so that means the radiator has to be lowered about 4″. The majority of vintage race cars have a eye level slightly above the bonnet so thats what we will aim for

Now its time to see where the back seats can be place.

This is as far back as they can go, but she won’t be getting a door… in fact I dont think *anyone* will be getting a door… and I think the handbrake lever would look better on the outside of the car (Bentley style) but thats getting ahead of myself. NOW I can start cleaning everything up…. would you believe the car is actually drivable like this?