Built in suspension jacks

Yesterday i conducted my annual pilgrimage to the Beaulieu International Auto-jumble. Whilst this is a huge event with people attending from all round the world, it can be a bit of a mixed bag. This time there were a lot of 60’s items but I was looking for vintage parts so not quite so great. There isn’t really anything on my must have list, but i do have a vision of what i want the car to look like – the type of lights, the type of number plate, the type of wheel guards etc. I know I want twin spare wheels so i need to find a hub that i can bolt to a fabricated frame etc. I also need 2 more 18″ wheels or preferably a set of six 19″.

But i didnt find any of what i was looking for… what i did find was the special handle that operates the built in jacks on the rear suspension (at sometime in history a previous owner had removed the front one(s) and a pre WW2 flying helmet. The jack handle was pretty exciting to find, i have only ever seen one in pictures so with fingers crossed that the jacks actually worked and were not seized solid, i passed over £15 and the rather rare item was mine…

I actually stumbled across three genuine old flying hats, two looked like they were made for children so either people had small heads in the 30’s or children were allowed to fly aircraft… but the last one was perfect, it is a very close fit but i suspect being leather it will shape itself to my head over time. Now i need to find a genuine pair of flying goggles although I may actually buy a new pair at some point (or a birthday/Christmas present perhaps)

Thats it – thats all i bought, apart from a Cornish pasties and a pint of old thumper 🙂

Naturally – i drove all the way home in the flying helmet… and with a slight trepidation, tried the jack handle on the rear suspension. It took me a few moments to work out how to use it.. i soon discovered that it extended given you  a lever of about half a meter but the part of the end seemed to rotate when you pushed or pulled the handle. OK so not a ratchet – so how did it work? after a bit of head scratching, i put a spanner on the end by the handle and pulled on the handle without allowing the spanner to rotate – there was a squeal from the jack but i saw it move! lifting the handle up meant it went loose but rotating the spanner very lightly meant it re-gripped the jack, pushing the handle down again (whilst holding the spanner) and the jack opened some more. Aha! copious amounts of releasing fluid later and i had another go… yep that’s it… that’s how it works and the jack wound down, albeit reluctantly and…up went the suspension lifting the wheel with it. Hurrah! Luckily the jack for the other side was the same – reluctant but working. I suspect there is a special handle that is supposed to fit to the end of the jack, probably with a nice oak knob that you hold and turn.

IMG_2444  IMG_2445


Mocking up

I am reaching the stage where I think i need to work out where everything will go, seats, steering wheel height, elbow room on drivers side panel, dashboard, length of bonnet, windscreen height etc. Its one thing having a vision of what you want the car to look like, but its another thing if you can’t achieve that look because of xyz being the wrong size…

So this weekend, whilst MrsC was doing her bit for charity  in the marathon distance Moon-Walk and the musician was doing her homework, i thought i would shirk a few of my parental duties and mock up the floor panel on the Falcon.

I am still a little undecided whether to make the floor from 5mm aluminium or use 12mm marine plywood. Both are in-period, but I think I want to extend the body slightly outside of the chassis rails which will require a small amount of cantilever support. But i am getting ahead of myself, first i have to learn (the hard way) how to build the bodywork. As a temporary floor, I have some roofing board which is definitely not up to the ‘real’ job but it is good enough for me to be introduced to some of the challenges in the forthcoming task for which I have absolutely no skills or actually any real idea how to do. Deep breath MrC you can do it.

I dragged the old roof board from behind the garage noticing that the along one edge the sheet had some rot present – hopefully the 6×4 sheet was still big enough for me to use though.

Challenge one, the gearbox sits slightly higher than the chassis rail and the handbrake sticks up vertically in the middle of the floor. So logically I have to make a cutout in the wooden sheet so that it can drop around the stickie-up bits.


Careful measuring showed me I had slightly more wood available than i needed which was good news. I have absolutely no idea what to do at the rear seating area of the car yet so I am allowing the panel to be too long for a moment.


Who would have guessed that a vintage car makes a decent saw bench and all the saw dust can be used on the recently spilled oil <coughs theatrically>. The first pass in the picture above got me close and merely needed a few small nibbles to fit around bolts that stick out etc, the handbrake lever, gearbox links that kind of thing. One thing i have realised that if i am fairly careful at the mocking up, if it works then i have a decent template to use on the far more expensive aluminium or marine play sheet.

I want, I think, about 3″ of overhand for the body which hopefully will mean that the front passenger isn’t constantly in my elbow space although to be fair it will still be pretty intimate. Next problem – the chassis rails curve upwards just behind the front seats but my floor panel is flat and overhangs the chassis rails. Temporary solution then – a coulee of slots in the floor panel so that the chassis rail can come through the floor. Clearly that won’t be good for the final solution but right now I can’t envisage the rear area so one step at a time.


If you have eagle eyes – you may notice that the brake pedal is resting on the floor panel, thats less than ideal as its quite tricky to use the brake with only your heel so at some stage I will have to work out how to lower the floor in that area by nearly 3″. More obviously, at the front of the floor, the panel is far too wide. This is on purpose so that I can think about how I want the bonnet sides to flow into the sides of the car. A graceful curve when seen from above is where my mind is. Now that i have a basic floor – I can work out where the seats need to be so that both MrsC and I can reach the pedals AND see over the steering wheel. The bonnet will be almost at eye level so this is important.

Fast forward an hour or two and I have popped the original bonnet onto a temporary support frame which enables me to play with steering wheel height, bolted both seats in and propped some hardboard into a very rough model of the bodywork merely to see if I am heading in the right direction.


And all of a sudden it looks like a car again… you know what? I think i can do this…