The chaps at Bespoke Bodywork, henceforth known as ‘the Artisans’ have been hard at work over the Christmas period whilst waiting for delivery of all the sheet metal.
The floor is now fully cut to shape and bolted to the chassis. Based on a little forward thinking, by design, each side of the floor is removable once all the bodywork has been fitted theoretically making access to the transmission etc much easier should the need arise to require that much access. The drivers side footwell has been fabricated to be approx four inches lower than the rest of the floor – this is to give the driver a nicer foot position for the all important brake and throttle pedals. The gear select pedal itself (it has a pre-select semi automatic gearbox so there isn’t a clutch pedal) will be raised up 2.5 inches to make its use a little easier primarily because the left foot needs to be slightly above the gearbox (i.e. the gear select pedal is higher than the brake pedal). Although this sounds strange, it is actually quite comfortable and makes complete sense. The footwell will also be removable again for greater access to the gearbox and the many bronze bushes in the pedal assembly. My line of thinking is that this is an old car and things will go wrong with it – i can’t imagine the feeling of discovering later that i have to remove all the bodywork simply to get to a say a retaining bolt on the brake pedal.
In the photo below you can see a few things of note… A temporary gearbox cover has been roughly fabricated which will be shaped properly now that we know where the gear select pedal will be. Sadly this cover will hide the beautifully patina’d manufacturers brass plaques riveted onto the top of the gearbox but having a cover will make the car slightly more practical and will stop a gale (and water) blowing up through the gap in the floor, its just not what the race boys do. This cover must be easily removable because there is a technical need to change the gearbox oil every 5000 miles / every year. You may not know this but liquid lubricant has changed greatly in since its animal fat and horticultural origins – ‘oil’ is a misnomer, that only came about when people discovered mineral oil could be refined, ‘bio oil’ is therfore not new at all, multigrade is, but thats a story for another day because the history of oils and greases is quite interesting (oh yes it is!)
Back to topic – The handbrake has now been relocated to the outside of the car and works very smoothly, this will make getting into and out of the car a tad easier for the driver and frees up more leg room to the front passenger. At a later stage the handbrake lever will be removed and nickel (or possibly chrome) plated but thats a long way down the line and black paint is sufficient at this stage. In the photo below you can also see where the new handbrake shaft crosses the floor – this is no big deal and its quite common for vintage sport cars to have all sorts of brackets and cables in odd places.
All the seams in the footwell are being welded for strength and although there ‘appears’ to be a harsh angle from the wood floor into the footwell – there isn’t, there is a slope to match the angle of my lower leg. Designing this car is making me appreciate how much thought goes into creating a vehicle but hopefully this one won’t be in the ‘oh dear, i don’t like that’ category.
All four wheels now have wing supports AND wheel cover / mudguards constructed, these as mentioned are physically bolted to the backplate of the brake drums so will move up and down with the wheels which is a little better in the rain. They are designed to be removable because there is some friendly ‘discussion’ in the vintage car circles as to whether there is or is not a legal requirement for mud guards to be fitted. Up until the mid 30’s there were a few manufacturers (such as Bugatti) that still sold cars without said items. Granted in the rain the tyres would throw water in a 360 degree arc soaking everything and every body but technically (or so I am told) i don’t actually HAVE to have wheel covers. That would make the overall look more ‘racer’ but for now though they will be fitted and driven with.
When looking at the photo and in case you are wondering, they are placed specifically to keep the passengers dry (or at least to not make them wetter) – I am pretty sure in the rain they are going to throw a huge arc of water up in the air behind the car but thats not my problem… it will make people move back.
Above is the view of the rear tyres that people following me will see… these 35 year old remould tyres will be replaced with modern high performance but period racing tyres that look nothing like modern tyres so its jolly important the folks behind me can appreciate just how much tyres have evolved <coughs>
Above is a reasonable view of the progress sans front mud guards. Design feature: note each of the mudguards has a central ridge punched into the shape – i have appreciated the aesthetics of this on a small number of vintage cars so I had the Artisans create mine that way. Also in the picture above you can see the rough shape of the rear bodywork / rear seat area – it has a slight curve but not so much that you can’t make a rear seat to be reasonably comfortable. That space between the wooden floor and the chassis cross strut will be filled up with the petrol tank although the tank will then mostly be hidden by the rear mounted, stacked, spare wheels. But i did have a Eureka moment when I suddenly realised why vintage Bentleys had a wire mesh fitted to the ends of the petrol tank – it must be to protect the tank from stones thrown up by the rear wheels! I had never thought of this before so will have to fabricate something before such an evil event occurs.
Although not my car – Harry, the trainee artisan, has just finished making a pair of bucket seats for a Bentley. Mine will be basically similar in design, although I would like them to be less rounded and at the top, slightly reclined and slightly more pointy, they will be custom made to fit the car but hopefully have enough cushioning for a modern posterior. Pre-war people were clearly smaller and thinner than nowadays.
Thats it for this week – I now need to visit my drawing board to sketch the next stage – the firewall placement and the oh so important structural “instrument panel”. That panel also dictates the overall shape of the bonnet curvature. Getting it right is key to my vision of what the car is to look like. The Artisans are doing a great job of interpreting my drawings and ideas so far… but the next visit will most likely take most of a day whilst they mock up theoretical shapes of my vision and convert it to reality.
This is getting exciting now.