So much to do…

As much as I don’t want to rush the creation of our car, sometimes the enormity of the construction work is over whelming. Fabrication of components takes absolutely ages as does the making decisions on where things would be best placed for aesthetics and function. Of course there is also no manual advising on which parts to fit first so sometimes you can fabricate something then realise that once it is done, you cant fit it because something else has to be fitted first.

I had pretty much made my mind up that i was going to get the engine running in stages. I.e. connect the minimum amount of fuel and ignition components as possible to check they worked before expanding down the line. Fuel wise, the pump is fitted but not connected to the fuel tank, the pump can suck petrol out of a temporary can. The starter motor doesn’t need the battery to be in its final position, it can simply be connected via an old cable etc.  If when connecting the battery to the starter motor, it turns the engine over, then I will know that part works. If when connecting 12v to the petrol pump it pushes petrol to the carburetors, then I will know that part works. \

The problem is that life is not as easy as that – the temperature gauge that i fitted I now remember has to be inserted through the front of the instrument panel so I had to remove that and work out where the sensor tube will run through the engine bay, through both firewalls to the instrument panel. Skip on a few hours and that is mostly done – except I then remember that the instrument panel isn’t anywhere close to being finished yet so I can the gauge yet.

The oil pressure gauge likewise – work out where the copper capillary tube needs to go, fabricate a complex series of bends into it (get it wrong and start again) until likewise you realise that this gauge too is inserted through the front of the instrument panel. Skip on a few hours and the pipe work is now complete.

The Ignition coil needs to be kept cool so I want to keep that out of the hot engine bay and mount it behind the first firewall. Easy enough, except that the main high tension cable now has to go through, over or round that firewall. Skip on a few hours and the coil is fitted with suitable cutouts made and (forward thinking), some protective covering so the cable cant short out to earth on the bodywork. Fabricate the rest of the ignition leads. Skip on a few hours and this is now done.

Ah but if I fit the instrument panel, it is going to be really hard to mount the two tiny windscreens which need bolting down *behind* the instrument panel. Think about how to make the windscreen mounts. I think some 12mm aluminum rod, welded to a plate specifically contoured to match the bodywork and at the top weld it to a machined 25mm spacer with a 20mm hole through the middle that the main windscreen mounting bar can slide into. Yuh that should work. Problem, the machining I can do but i dont know how to weld aluminium. Skip on a few hours and I have taught myself aluminium brazing which it appears is plenty strong enough. Below is my first successful attempt at ‘brazing’ 12mm bar to some 3mm thick plate. This is just a test piece and it is unfinished. Once cool i put the bar piece in the vice and tried to hammer off the plate, it didnt move. I then tried to lever off the plate with some very large pliers and the 3mm plate bent. The joint was completely fine! Bingo. I can now fabricate aluminium components and add a new skill to the portfolio.


Next onto the machining of the 25mm spacer which needs a 20mm hole through the middle. The lathe can drill up to a 10mm hole through the 27mm round bar, that means I have to machine out the inside of the hole until it is 20mm. I have never done this before and it took some time reading up and then getting the hang of ‘how’ to do that. Skip on several hours and I am still doing that… it is taking ages because you can only machine off a tiny amount at a time. Funny thing is I might not actually use the solution if it doesn’t look nice and I may change mind as I have another idea that would be easier.

We shall see… did I mention all this is time consuming? Fun though.


Instrument Panel

Being generally happy with the mockup version of the instrument panel I transferred the outline onto a sheet of 3mm thick aluminium. Not too surprisingly this is a lot harder to work into shape than the low density fibre board version plus it had to have an even gap around the edge so that at a later date I can place a thin piece of trim around the edge to match the interior of the car. 

Shaping the panel took a number of hours and I have no idea how many times I trial fitted it. Eventually I was happy and then worked out where the 5 brass mounting screws would be. I had planned ahead and the bodywork team had welded in thick tabs in perpetration for drilling and tapping. So all I had to do was drill a 3mm hole through the panel and the mounting tab to be sure the hole was in the same place on both parts. Next the tab on the car was drilled out to 4.25mm and tapped to take the 3BA brass bolts. The Instrument panel holes were drilled out to 6mm giving me about 1mm of clearance. 

The panel was bolted in with the protective film still in place. That will provide 2 functions: protection from damage whilst I drill sand and finish all the holes for the guages and the old switch etc, plus also it allows me to use it as a surface i can write in to mark out where all those switches and gauges will eventually be placed.

In the picture below you can see the new panel and the accurately placed guage images, the battery on-off switch and the klaxon button. I quite like the layout and think it should look quite nice once the aluminium has been semi polished. 

Next task is to cut all those holes out and a cutout for the steering column when it is raised back into position. 

Pipe Runs

Making fuel lines is a little frustrating but ultimately satisfying. Frustrating because when you bend pipe you only get one shot at it. Any one bend in the wrong place or at the wrong angle means throwing that piece away because you can’t un-bend it. Satisfying because whilst you know that no one will ever appreciate the work it took, YOU know that no one noticing it means you got it right…

Putting pipe runs to one side for a minute, having managed to get all the engine cooling elements fabricated,  sealed and holding water – I shifted my attention to the electricals and I have I *think* put the distributor into a position where it should be close enough to allow the engine to start, it can be adjusted once the engine is running.  There are no ignition timing marks on these cars plus I have updated the internals of the distributor to be electronic (and not need the unreliable points) so it is now impossible to tell visually or otherwise when the high voltage surge would be sent to a spark plug.

The carburetors have been setup based on experience in what I will call a ‘default’ position which again should be close enough to allow the engine to breathe but will need adjustment for maximum power (coughs theatrically). I have adjusted all the throttle linkages so that both carburetors open together and adjusted all the linkages from the throttle pedal to the carburetors taking out the loose play. I also had the foresight to fabricate a solid pedal stop in order to prevent a heavy right foot bending the carburetor linkages but all of that is now in place and ready to go

So back to the title of this post – pipe runs, more specifically – fuel.

In early motoring history fuel was fed to the engine using gravity requiring the fuel tank to be above the engine, technology moved on and by the 1920’s cars commonly had a hand-operated pump on the dashboard which pressurised the fuel tank with air. (yes seriously) following pneumatic principles, the compressed air pushed the fuel out of the tank towards the engine. When you stop the engine there is a manually operated tap on the fuel tank to let the pressurised air out again. The fundamental flaw in that design is that you needed to rebuild the air pressure over a surprisingly short distance. One of the jobs of a riding mechanic was to operate that pump throughout the journey. Luckily Riley’s were always on the forefront of design and in the 30’s it was common to have an electric fuel pump mounted onto the bulkhead in the engine bay. Thank you Percy.

Where the pump is mounted is not an aesthetic decision – these pumps are not able to ‘suck’ fuel up to a great height and they also need to be close to the carburetors to keep the pipe run short.

In my car, there are not actually many places the pump can be mounted. Once a decision was made, I then had to work out how to route the copper pipe from the pump to the carburetors making sure it would not be in the way of any moving parts such as the gearbox linkage.  I also have to factor in how the pipe from the fuel tank gets to the pump. 5/16 copper pipe doesn’t bend at acute angles so the shape of the pipe run also needs to consider those bend angles. Back to the first paragraph – get the angles wrong and you throw away the pipe. A challenge – I like it.

I first worked out how the pipe needs to route to get to the bulkhead, it had to go up and over the gearbox linkage but not obstruct the fuel mixture adjustment nut on the rear carburetor. Now I had to work out where the pump could sit giving me enough room for the inlet pipe and the outlet pipe. It was soon apparent that this was going to be a complex piece of pipe bending.

The picture below shows you just how complex it needed to be and the tool that pulls the pipe around a mandrel and into shape:

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The full 360 degree bend (which was quite interesting to achieve!) is to allow the pipe to have some flexibility – the engine will move when it is running – the fuel pump is bolted to a non moving surface. If the pipe was rigid; over time the to and fro movement would cause a fracture in the pipe and the fuel pump would happily provide a pressurised spray of fuel all over a hot engine. This is something I am fairly keen to avoid.

In the picture below you can see the pump-to-carburettor pipe in its final position. I am rather proud to say this was achieved on my second attempt. The only reason had to reject the first try was because I wasnt paying sufficient attention and kinked one bend because the pipe fed into tool incorrectly. But I am rather pleased with only needing two tries. I suspect the experience gained restoring my Etype Jaguar (that blog is at which had a LOT of pipes that needed complex shaping, had given me sufficient knowledge to progress with confidence.

Out of the left side of the pump will be another pipe that will run straight down, back under the car along the inside of the chassis rail to the fuel tank – I have that excitement to look forward to another day – thats a 6 foot pipe to play with…

Once both pipes are finished I will solder the connections on and then antique the pipe work so that it matches my earlier brass work that can be seen below.
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Oh how I laughed… i thought i had fitted all the parts i need to in order for the engine to hold water, sadly I found that was not the case. The hoses needed clamps, the pipe from the waterpump to the side of the engine was loose but most annoyingly – the exhaust manifold studs are it transpires drilled into the water jacket. Naturally when I filled up the radiator – i had 4 nice waterfalls…

Oh. I would normally just put a few drops of stud sealer onto the threads or more often as not seal the threads with PTFE tape but this is the exhaust manifold and it will get jolly hot. Much pondering later and many conversations with other Vintage car owners i opted for both PTFE tape and thread sealer. So the exhaust manifold is now fully bolted into place. I have jumped over the joys of making the exhaust manifold gaskets after the many hours of filing the holes of the 10mm thick stainless steel manifold.

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So here are all the completed components of the cooling…

The non standard (but period) waterpump complete with a brass bung (crafted on the lathe) to fill in another inlet hole that i have no use for.
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The non standard pipe work from the waterpump to the radiator and the one into the side of the engine
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The non standard alloy pipe from the top of the engine up to the radiator – also fitted with the sender for the temperature guage
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So now in theory I have a thermo-syphoning cooling system assisted by a mechanically driven water pump.

Spare Wheel(s) carrier

This week I finished off the fabrication and machining of the mounting that will hang 2 spare wheels at the rear of the car. This is a classic vintage car look but having TWO spare wheels is a little more unusual. The challenge was to make a mounting that looked like it was always supposed to be there. You may recall that back In November I started mocking up a wood template which looked like this:
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The wooden template was then transferred to a sheet of 5mm steel, cut to shape, welded together and then welded to the rather substantial cross tube handily placed at the rear of the chassis.
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Next I need something to secure the wheel to the bracket – that took the form of a rear axle splined hub which was then bolted to the bracket. The spare wheel then slides onto the hub in the same way as it would fit to the axle. But there is nothing stopping the wheel working its way off that hub and bouncing into traffic so I needed something to secure it into place. A normal wheel spinner would have worked except that i also need to use this mounting for the rear number plate and rear lights so I needed an engineering solution. My chosen solution is a 10mm steel bar secured to the rear plate with a spin on securing handle to lock the wheel into place
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A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that i was making a component on the lathe – well this is where *that* component is fitted. I had a nice chrome fitment that I *think* may well have been used to secure the spare wheel in the boot of the car (I dont actually know what it was for – it came with the car) but the central hole is about twice the size of my 10mm bar. So I machined a spacer to take up that difference which slides onto the bar and is held in place by the spin on handle.
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The spin on handle now clamps the whole thing together and I think looks pretty nice.
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Or it could fit on this way round which is not ‘normal’ but is pedestrian friendly.
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Ah I hear you say, what about the 2nd spare wheel…

Well… ages ago I saw on Ebay a fellow selling what he called an extended wheel spinner for very few pennies. I rather suspect he didn’t know what it was and he only had one hence the incredibly low price. I saw the potential for it to be used to mount a second spare wheel so I grabbed it. I have not seen another one ever!!!
What this extended hub does is spin onto the end of the splined axle hub just like a normal wheel spinner does and therefore clamps the spare wheel down tight. I had the thought that the extended part was sufficiently long enough to support another wheel but now i needed a longer 10mm bar for the securing handle. Making one was a thing of moments.
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The second wheel slides onto the extended hub and the whole caboodle is clamped down as before. When the 2nd wheel has a Tyre they are both realistically clamped together. You now know why the bracket had to be welded on – its carrying quite a bit of weight.
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Voila – i can now mount 1 or 2 spare tyres on the back of the car. As a design feature the exhaust pipe is designed to slightly curve towards the edge of the 2nd tyre, no one will ever notice this feature but it looks really nice 🙂 oh and the Bentley petrol cap is easily accessible with either one or two tyres fitted. This is something else that had to be thought about when the fuel tank was made.

I am now realising that restoring cars as they came out of the factory is easy in comparison to having to design everything way in advance of getting around to fitting it. So far I am doing okay with the advance thinking – fingers crossed / knock on wood etc.
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Why is nothing ever easy?

I am conscious I haven’t reported in recently…

This is not due to lack of effort, in reality I have been working on the car in a number of areas: primarily working towards getting the Engine up and running. Sadly I keep discovering that I cant do something because something else needs to be done first. Naturally I only discover this after working on the original something for a number of hours.

To get the engine running, all I basically need to do is

New oil
The Engine has been drained and all the filter system sludge literally scraped out – fixed the drain plug and wired it into place as per competition regs. New gasket made for the internal filter housing because it didn’t have one (no wonder it leaked oil)

Gearbox drained and all the filter system cleaned out (not as sludgy as the engine) – New gasket made for the internal filter housing as that too didn’t have one (no wonder that too leaked oil)

A barrel of vintage type oil ordered and received. The gearbox oil is replaced every 5000 miles as is the engine oil but initially the engine oil will be changed a LOT more frequently which hopefully will clean out all the internals.

A Battery
Sounds easy, but where does that get fitted (starts investigations into size / power), then there is the physical positioning (a standard battery definitely wont fit below the rear seats) – I also discovered the battery tray I had made for the purpose hits the rear suspension which had not been fitted when I made the battery box… also the battery needs a fat copper cable to transfer power the length of the car – further investigations into cable sizing / cost / terminals but how should I fix the cable to the chassis in a vintage style / where does it route into the car to feed the dashboard mounted kill switch? The starter solenoid will need a switch to operate it which also needs power (and a switch). All this prompts me to think about how to fuse the wiring etc…

Apart from the battery, where should I fit the ignition coil? Probably on the new firewall – but how then does the ignition cable route to the distributor at the front of the car without dropping a lot of energy? The ignition obviously needs a key switch (more wiring to work out). Then there is the distributor timing which I still havnt worked out how to do accuratly…

The fuel tank is in place but needs a pipe to be fabricated to feed the fuel to the fuel pump which sends it on to the engine – where does the fuel pump get fitted? Somewhere on the engine side of the bulkhead makes sense and is in keeping with other vintage sports car i have looled at. But what size pipe do I need to buy then bend into shape to run along the chassis and up into the engine bay to the fuel pump? How do I fix the pipe to the chassis that is in period? The fuel pump also needs electrical power / fuse / isolation switch.

I now have a working (in theory) water pump but I need pipes (that are non standard) to route cool water from the pump into the side of the engine block. I have a safely stored pipe for that (somewhere). Fabricating the pipe from the top of the cylinder head to the radiator has been completed but I now find I have to remove the bonnet in order to fit a rubber hose between the pipe and the radiator (what idiot designed that? Oh…. I will keep quiet)

I broke 3 of the 6 exhaust studs while trying to replace the original long ones with shorter ones. This annoyance resulted in more work careful drilling out the old stud and re-cutting of the threads so my special (smaller) fittings can be inserted. I now know the impact of not being 100% accurate in my drilling – the exhaust manifold doesn’t quite fit anymore – it needs the mounting holes adjusting to accommodate the very slightly off-centre fixings. I can advise that hand filing 10mm thick stainless steel plate is not only taking a while it is jolly boring… Once that is completed I need to make the exhaust gaskets from scratch because nothing is standard anymore.

Other stuff
I then looked at the minimum amount of things I needed on the dashboard to safely get the engine running and it occurred to me that if I made and fitted the dashboard now – I wouldn’t be able to fit the small wind deflectors (cant really call them windscreens) because all the gauges will be in the way. The wind deflectors need custom made support mounts (a fun job for the lathe) – oh and naturally I broke the glass for one of the wind deflectors and have to get another one made…

So bear with me when I am not blogging progress – I havnt ‘completed’ a task for a while and cant decide which item to part blog.

Progress is being made, i simply dont have a lot to show for it…


Ancient tools for ancient machinery

The last couple of weeks I have been playing with a new toy. Well its not ‘new’ to be honest, it has probably been owned by quite a few people. I mentioned a while back that I was going to keep an eye out for a old lathe. The Myford light engineering lathes are very popular which unfortunately means that they command an inflated price. I was looking at the Drummond lathes which were less popular, probably because they are older. I found a few Drummonds on Ebay, all looking a little rusty and unloved, then I found one that had been refurbished which I sniped in the last few seconds for less than half the cost of a Myford. Result. The downside? It was quite a way from me in Otley near Leeds and not just round the corner. Still even factoring in the cost of fuel, it was still good value. So I am now a proud owner of a working 1924 Drummond round bed lathe which will enable me to fabricate a lot of the fittings that would otherwise have cost good money.

Drummond were based in Guildford, Surrey and started making lathes in 1902 moving through a number of designs and versions until WW2. In 1942 Myford took over the manufacturing of the Drummond lathes enabling Drummond to concentrate on other tools critical to the war effort. Despite the age of these lathes, a surprising number of them are still in use. There is a 1/2 horsepower electrical motor driving the lathe through a number of pulley’s and belts. The choice of pulley alters the speed.


This lathe also came with a full set of gears enabling the cutting of threads to be made. They fit onto the left side of the lathe in various combinations and depending on the choice of gears you can cut threads from 2 teeth per inch up to 120. Naturally the threads this lathe cuts are the same as the threads used on the Riley! One day I will pluck up the courage to cut a thread but right now, I am learning to use a lathe from scratch. You tube is very helpful in this regard. The basics though are fairly straight forward so after sharpening the tools and setting them into the right position (thanks to YouTube) i had turned my first piece of steel. Next I tried some brass – also straight forward.

I have now made my first item – its not exciting. It is merely a short tubular section of steel with a grub screw threaded into it that will locate the main gear onto the drive shaft. The point is – I made it and didnt have to ask someone else to make one!

Back to the Riley. The sump was off and cleaned up. The sump plug was a very tatty brass plug that some idiot could not undo so he drove a chisel into the side of it and ‘loosened’ it that way. This of course thoroughly mangled it. Initially I had sanded it down so that it looked a little tidier then I thought… hey I have a lathe now. So the plug is now refaced and is usable again. I also took the opportunity to drill some locking wire holes into it because this is a requirement for Vintage cars used in competitions…


The refaced sump plug is not perfect although it IS now round again – there was far too much damage to it but it is now fully functional. The sump can now be refitted then I move onto cleaning out the gearbox…