Lights, oil, all sorts…

Quiet I have been on the blogging front but not so quiet on the do-ing front. I have found that the lovely Lucas 9″ King of the Road – long range headlamps that i have were never fitted by the factory on ‘my’ Riley – they should have been made by Rotax. However they are the right size, the right period and I am keeping them because they are not as expensive to replace as the far rarer Rotax ones – which is probably why my ones are the wrong type (my car was used for spares)

However saying this – a previous owner had also replaced the headlamp lenses with plain glass – whilst this looked okay, it wont be doing anything at all for focusing the already poor light output so I have been looking for a pair of lenses for quite a while. They are not cheap and not that common either. Rather surprisingly I found a jolly nice fellow who said he had a pair that he didnt need and would let me have them for a small donation to a charity of my choice. I am now the proud owner of a pair of lenses.

My custom built headlamp supports now look rather puny with the lamps in place but they are far more solid than they look, so I will swap the word ‘puny’ for… ‘elegant’.


The car as mentioned is up on high lift ramps so I had access to and dropped the engine sump and took a look at the inside of the engine. Draining the oil was simple as was undoing the 20 odd retaining nuts as was removing the sump itself. It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to undo fastenings that have probably not moved in 80 years – that never happens with 60’s machinery. I digress… Boy was the sump filled with a lot of horrible sludge of the kind that a swamp monster would be proud of.

It is a fact that vintage oils work differently to modern oils – they are of a single grade, usually SAE30 which means that the oil is thick when cold and thin when hot, modern oils are multigrade and have a consistent viscosity through out a much wider temperature range. The big difference with older oils is that they are designed for waste carbon etc to ‘fall’ to the bottom of the sump and not be carried within the oil to be filtered out – this is why old oil is nearly always a deep black colour . Vintage oil filters did little more than hold back larger lumps of carbon etc.

This means that the sump is a horrible place – its full of thick sticky sludge. The oil was tired and will be replaced very regularly and certainly in less than 5000 miles of use but I didnt want to pour new oil on top of what i assumed would be nasty old oil sludge hence the sump removal. I was still surprised – I can honestly say there was 5-10mm of sludge to scrape out of the sump, I used a chisel because my scraper kept bending, some of it had fine metal filings in it. I suspect the sump had not been cleaned out in a very long time. It is now much cleaner although it will get a jet wash this weekend


What else…. On quieter evenings I took the time to revisit the water pump, repairing part of the inner casing and replacing the internals with new parts. It is old technology and it is never going to be a great distributor of water BUT my car never had a water pump so it has to be an improvement. Said water pump is now fully restored and fitted to the car – now where did i store the pipes that go with it…

What else… bodywork fettling of course, that is ongoing, adjustment of the handbrake lever and I now see I have to work my way through ALL the brake linkages because there is play in a lot of places… wish I had a lathe to make some of the components… casual eye on ebay….IMG_3086

Oh and I am trying to work out what looks nice as an instrument panel. Vintage sports cars were absolutely covered with dials, switches, lamps and other exciting ‘stuff’. This design still looks a bit bare but being blue tacked pieces of paper I can move the gauges around till i find a look i like. This is much cheaper than making a whole series of new panels out of 10mm plywood…IMG_3087

What else to catch-up on…. ah yes, adjusting the gearbox controls, I am told by the experts that this is trial and error. Great! Thanks for that. Right now I can have reverse, 1,2& 3  *OR* 1,2,3&4 but no reverse. Do I need to drive backwards? I think the excitement is probably overrated… but hey-ho I will keep adjusting all the linkages until it works….


Progress has naturally slowed down now that i back at work and the work that i have done since it arrived home is not too exciting because pretty much all i am doing is taking the body apart and smoothing away all the sharp edges. Coach-builders must have hands made of sterner stuff than my mine are, it didnt take long before i had quite a few slices taken out of my hands. I am getting there but it is taking time to ‘finish’ all the panels and converting self tapping screws to brass roundhead setscrews as I go.

The car is now up as high as i can get it in order to finish the underside and to plan out where the fuel pipe will run, where the battery will go, I need to take the sump off to look at the engine internals, drain the gearbox.. there are a million jobs to do the hard part is deciding what to do first…

Trial fitting the headlamps was the chosen quick win. The new mounting arms have been made from tubular steel formed into a pleasing swan neck shape and welded to substantial steel plate shaped to fit onto the chassis rail. At the bottom of the headlamps is a ball shape about 75mm in diameter which fits into a reciprocal shaped cup washer and the whole thing is then clamped down tight using the tubular bolt that fits through the cup washer and the mounting arm. Naturally I didnt have said cup washers but eventually found a pair on ebay for a couple of pounds. I need to finish the shaping of that cup washer so it fits flush onto the supporting arm but that’s not a big job.

Design wise these supports needed careful thought : they had to be placed so they didn’t block the radiator, they had to project slightly outwards so that on coming traffic saw 2 lights and knew it was a car, but they can’t be too far towards the outside otherwise the wheels would hit them AND they had to be sited so that the bonnet could open! I am pleased to say they fit and are in the right place. Phew.

Also ‘in production’ is a custom built aluminium pipe running from the top of the engine into the radiator. The chaps at bespoke bodywork produced the ‘S’ shaped pipe out of sections of aluminium neatly tig welded together. My job is to sand all those welds down so that the pipe is aesthetically more pleasing and looks like it is supposed to be like that. The task is task consuming and most people will not even notice the pipe. I will post a picture when it is good enough to fit.

The search goes on for 2 more wheels to be the spares mounted on the back. I refuse to buy new ones…