Thursday, 25 January 2007

Concertina Doors - some thoughts

Concertina doors are a novel feature of the milk-float special but I don't like three aspects of the way these were coachbuilt: Firstly, the necessary central pillar in the door creates a blind spot in the middle of the driver's window. Secondly, the top of the door window does not line up with the top of the quarterlight, which is rather ugly. I am going to raise the height of the doors to correct this. Thirdly, the way the doors open inwards meant that the coachbuilder could not include the moulding line, visible on the scuttle, as it would snarl up the hinge. I need to find a hinge which expands as it opens - to accommodate the moulding, which is a distinctive aestheic feature of the J-Type.

Nb, I have subsequently played with the doors and think that a mould line could actually be included after all and was probably not done originally just to save time.

I had considered reversing the hinges and having the doors concertina outwards, which would have the added advantage of giving greater room within the cab; a passenger will find this cab extremely cramped as, unlike a van, this cab does not open back into a cargo area, and as the engine takes up lots of cab-space. The doors could then have been secured back against the rear of the cab...and would have stuck out less far even than the wings, thus making them safe. But I want greater authenticity than that. I need doors which open inwards but can still accommodate the protruding moulding lines. Suggestions would be appreciated.

Click here for more about my plans for the 101

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

10) Removing the kingpins and reaming the bushes for new ones (March and May '06)

Part 21 (above) is the kingpin. These needed removing from each of the stub ends on the front axle and replacing, together with the bushes (3) as they will have become worn with use. Before that, however, my cotter pins (2) were utter buggers to is often the way. I remember having this problem working on bike cranks. In the end I was forced to drill them out. I then attempted to remove the kingpins with a hydraulic puller, but there was no movement at all. I needed a press.
Eventually, I had the cheek to ask a local garage whose manager is keen on Morris Minors (and who I confidently hoped would be sympathetic) if I could use his 30 Ton press....and he agreed. I had wondered if he'd say that for insurance purposes, one of his blokes would have to do it...but he just let me get on with it. Good man.

When the rust finally gave in under 15 tons of pressure it did so with a hell of a bang and I did wonder if my casting had shattered.....but the kingpin just slid nicely out; same for the other. That was a great day. Very encouraging.
The ease with which a press solved the problem encouraged me to get one of my own....which I did very cheaply for a little over a hundred quid....the design being a clever compromise: it is basically a load of H channel steel bolted together and a bottle jack turned upside-down, fixed by its base to a top beam and forcing another beam downwards; simple but effective.

I got replacement kingpins, bushes and force washers from John Davis of Vintage & Collectors Car Spares for £44 and researched reaming. John advised me to leave an old bush in at one end as a guide for lining up the reamer into the new bush so as to ensure that the two new ones, once reamed, lined up, when the kingpin was slid in. I then found an Osprey book by Roy Berry (12, Suspension and Steering) and followed Berry's instructions pretty closely. I am a bookish kind of person. I wish there was a complete guide to J type restoration; it would save a lot of time.

I got my reamer on ebay...and the micrometer, from Hong Kong cost something like a penny and several pounds postage! The operation was complicated by the fact that my reaming tool may have been shorter than average so that I had to press the bushes closer together than normal in the stub ends. What follows are notes I wrote at the time.

Notes on reaming 1st May 2006

The reamer is tapered, with the narrower end at the bottom, furthest from the handle…so as to pilot the hole. But it is important to pass the top of the cutter all the way through, as this is the widest point in the cut, and the part measured to ¾” (0.75”).

It took a bit of practice measuring the cut, even with the accuracy of my digital vernier scale because the measurement could change so easily by just altering the calliper slightly against the edges of the blades which, like helicopter rotors, are not symmetrical (except in rotation)

As the long shaft on my reamer is at the handle end and the cutter at the bottom, I passed the blades through the old bush (as a guide) and down into the new bush below, then cut clockwise all the way through using lots of lubrication...[and reversing the cut periodically, I seem to remember, so as not to put the job under too much pressure]. This meant forcing the bushes closer together in the stub end than they normally sit, because my reamer is not very long. As the widest part of the cut is at the part of the cutter nearest the handle, it was sometimes necessary to turn the piece over to widen the bush.

I had marked the old bush by putting it in one stub-end hole and marking it with a piece of plastic coated wire wrapped around a near-by lug, so that I would always widen the new bush and use the old one as a guide.

9) Dismantling wheels (July 2005)

In July 2005 I borrowed two pieces of kit from the mechanic who services my car (sometimes it is worth being a little cheeky and just asking): a large socket wrench and an ex-RR hydraulic puller set. I was set on taking the wheels apart but because I had removed the axles from the van I had to customise the tools.
The problem was that the crown nuts at the centres of the wheels were so badly corroded that when I tried to remove them, the entire axle tried to rotate out of my make-shift axle stands when force was applied. So I took a long bit of scrap wood, mounted some metal plate on it with holes cut in it to accommodate the nuts etc and used this as a counter-lever. I found that the socket wrench had to be reinforced at the head to stop it swivelling. It also had to be lengthened to give it extra welly.

Finally, there was a bang like a rifle shot.....and the wrench turned. It was a good method for a difficult situation, but to avoid that leverage problem, I'd recommend anyone dismantling any vehicle, getting the wheels apart before removing the axles from the vehicle (rather as you loosen nuts on a car wheel before jacking up the car to change a tyre)

Once the wheel centres had been loosened , using the hydraulic puller was a straightforward matter; goodness knows how it could be done without a piece of kit like this.

Removing and replacing kingpins

Sunday, 21 January 2007

Windscreen surround surgery

In the last ten days, or so, I have been doing some serious surgery on the front of the cab around the windscreen. The front skin of the cab, below the windscreen has corroded along the seam and is brittle. Eventually it will be strengthened with POR15 filler, pressed into the seam, but before then the whole structure needs welded fillets internally.

Here you can see a replacement channel which I have made up to fit internally on the driver's side.

I bought a hole cutter set cheaply at Aldi and cut holes in the channel across the dashboard area. These are necessay because I need to weld reinforcing fillets inside the channel...but they also make it possible to fix capture nuts in the channel. Lining these up will be tricky but necessary as the old ones were useless because of rust.

Circles cut in the channel provide access without compromising the integrity of the structure

On the left hand side of the dash a section of the channel about a foot long had to be surgically removed. This will be easier to replace than the right hand channel, and as the latter was not too hard to make, this is not a major job......and of course all this surgery will be covered with panels in the end anyway.

Below you can just see a patch in the front of the cab below the widscreen, where the original metal had rusted away completely.

A closer view (left hand side of picture) of the panel patch and the filleting plate. This gap in the channel will be covered by my replacement channel shown at the start of this post. Smaller holes drilled in other inaccessible sections will make it possible to squirt Dinitrol into channels etc.

The near-side screen pillar has a horrendous tinworm infestation and will need surgery. I have cut a section from the Gislingham salvaged van to provide a replacement.

Once this surgery is complete I will feel that a very substantial obstacle has been overcome. It need only be a month before this stage is out of the way.

Click to read about surgery to replace badly rusted channels with parts cannibalised from the Goat Lady's van.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

School colleagues paid for brake re-lining

At the end of a two year contract, when I was due to leave, the staff had a whip-around and asked me what I wanted to spend the 70-odd quid on. The traditional options (mostly female teachers, of course) are flowers, china ornaments, jewellery etc.
I asked for brake re-linings for my 101.
A speech therapist who fell in love with my 1959 Ford Prefect, seen frequently in the staff carpark, baked me this fabulous cake, which really made my day.
The reason I look such a gumbie is that I was in the middle of saying something (though some will tell you I look like that all the time)

Thursday, 11 January 2007

8) Mission Possible -wings bolted up rather than up on bricks

When I first saw the van on eBay, the wings were propped up on bricks. As the inner wing sills to which they bolted had rusted away, I hadn't been able to bolt them in place and had consequently never seen my 101 with its front wings in place. So after welding the sills to the scuttle I couldn't wait to bolt the wings to it and see them in place for the first time.

Here's how I repaired that inner wing you can see, above

It felt fantastic to see the wings on and the ex-stock 101 panel fitted. I was particularly glad to see that I had lined the bottom of the wings up with the valance level properly. Incidentally, I removed the valance with a view to repairing its many shunt distortions...but I think this is a part I shall get Iain McKenzie at Fairmile to make.

Here is a close-up on a 101 front
(taken from a 1957 brochure)

Dismantling the wheels

7) Welding the inner arches into the cab

These annotated pictures won't all be clear on the blog, but I hope you will get a sense from them of what I achieved. I am completely new to welding and this was my most frightening task so far because the steel on the scuttle of the cab is very thin and it would be so easy to blow holes in it. Originally I asked the professional welder who sold me my MIG welder second hand whether he'd do the job and he said he would. But then I got a rush to the head and tried it myself....and succeeding makes me feel that now anything will be possible.

6) Iain McKenzie's Masterclass

In the late Summer of 2005, while the concrete was drying on my workshop, I took some photos of my de-mounted cab, an audit as I called it in my notebook at the time, detailing all the rust and trying to work out what to surgically remove and what to replace. It was incredibly daunting. I took pictures which I annotated in PAINT with a view to taking them on a disc to Iain McKenzie to discuss.

Soon afterwards I went up to Iain’s Fairmile Restorations workshop in Worcestershire, stayed at a B+B for a few nights and spent the days with Iain, picking up tips, taking pictures and joining in as much as possible in the construction of some replacement inner arches to replace the metal under the scuttle (picture above). I learnt about shrinking and stretching metal and spot welding.

There isn’t an official name for the inner arches because originally they were part of the pressing that makes the side of the cab’s scuttle over the wheels and the wings were bolted up into them. On mine, as you can see in the picture, these were beyond repair. Iain came up with the idea of putting a flange on the side of a replacement inner arch so that it could be welded to the inside of the cab wall in place of the rusted-away one.
Here I am giving stretching a go.

1 click here to read about the tricky business of welding the inner arches to the cab sides.

2Iain sold me some steel and I fabricated some parts in the Autumn

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

The Goat Lady's van

Apologies for the formating. I don't know why,
but it reformated itself a year or two
ago and cannot be brought back under control

Easter '06

The wreck of the Morris had been driven into the ground and abandoned at the back of
“the Goat Lady’s” farm
in Gislingham in 1964, where it had been seen by members of the
Cambridge-Oxford Owners Club about 15 years ago,
when they had rescued a similarly ditched A55. What this tipster in the pub thought was a
J had last been seen there about eight years ago and on the strength of this alone,
I went to hunt for it in north Suffolk.
The postmaster at Gislingham was very helpful and filled me in on the detail. The Goat Lady, as she was known by locals died in the last eighteen months and had been in her nineties. The land now belongs to her neighbours. I was given directions.

When I eventually found the old lady’s property it was derelict with the hulks of various uninteresting seventies cars beyond hope in the front yard and throughout areas of copse and overgrowth peppered with goat huts. I gave up hope; there appeared to be nothing desirable here.

But as I drove out of the village I saw a Bedford RL peeping out above a garden wall and thought that if anyone would know of a local J type, this lorry’s owner would. I was in luck. He told me of a pathway following a stream which would take me to the woods at the back of the old lady’s property. Following these directions I eventually saw the familiar and extremely exciting sight of a J Type split screen through the trees.

I jumped the stream and nosed around between the hulks of two Bedford CAs an A55 and picked my way
to the J which, to my joy was not a J at all, but my type, an Austin 101. It was in a diabolical condition…
.with its back broken and almost nothing apparently
worth saving on her. It did however have the front grille panel,
which is this poor man’s Holy Grail because my 101, curiously, has a Morris panel.

I wrote the landowner a letter telling him how delighted
I was to find that he had the wreck on his land and telling
him that members of the owners’ club would be interested and asking if it would be at
all possible to salvage some parts. And then I waited a couple of days,
jumping every time the phone rang.

When he did get in touch, Ted (name changed) was an absolutely charming chap and only
too pleased to help. He invited me to have anything I wanted. He said that it was nice to know that
there was someone out there madder than him. A couple of days later I went back and Ted and I
inspected the van more closely. He kept chuckling! It was incredibly sad. If someone had only
rescued it a couple of years ago, it might have been saveable. I cleaned up the wreck,
making two piles, one of interesting bits, the other of everything else.

Infuriatingly, having expressed my interest in the wreck, local yobs went on a wrecking
spree that night smashing every pane of glass on a vehicle which had been otherwise undisturbed
for 40 years.

I came back with a friend and we worked for a few hours removing the few useful bits.
On Harvey Pitcher’s advice I took the instruments and the casting between the air filter and the
carbs and a few other bits. Then we were invited to have a cuppa with Ted and his wife Mary and
their cat, Big Dick! They are a lovely couple, both retired teachers and we really hit it off; they are
probably the best find of the whole adventure.
I returned a few days later on a whim and took the cab scuttle,
without any clear idea why because it disintigrated as I lifted it, but it has since yielded sections of salvable
channel to replace rusted sections around my windscreen.

Top right of the cab in this picture, for instance, is a useful section. (See this link on cab surgery).
The Goat Lady, Ted told me, was Miss Beatrice Journet, a rather eccentric goat farmer,
latterly, who had been descended from French Hugenots. Miss Journet had at one time
been a draughtswoman, evidenced by rolls of drawings found in the back of the van with her
name on them in stencilled letters. I also found a dress maker’s dummy and piles of mouse-nibbled
Practical Housekeeping magazines from the ‘50s and ‘60s and, very spookily, a shoe sitting
on the accelerator pedal. In the back of the neighbouring Bedford CA I found about two hundred
pairs of ladies’ shoes!


The 101’s bodywork had collapsed. The roof had an interesting roof-rack, which we rescued
and which a nice chap called Brian will put on his GPO van. Trumans came up with me last time
and we got him some pieces he’d wanted. It was good to meet him at last, because we have been
talking and writing for a little while now. We are agreed that it is important to help each other out.
Funnily enough, the day I found the wreck, he offered me an ex-stock front panel which has never
been used….and therein lies another amazing tale.



It is very sad indeed that this Austin 101 will never be saved, but it has been a useful donor and
just having found it has been a great adventure. I didn’t find its registration or its chassis number,
but its engine number was 15JD-U-L 2046. I found the remains of its tax disc with only the year
visible. Utterly typical that my “barn find” should be such a no-hoper, but that’s life and even a
terrible wreck can be a lot of fun. Also, it is encouraging to see an Austin 101 in even worse
condition than the one I am very slowly restoring.


I first wrote the above for the J-Type owners club magazine and sadly,
since then Ted has written to say that the land has been cleared for development
and what was left of the 101 is no more.


( Why the bloody hell doesn't this compiler retain the formatting, indents, line-spaces I put in!? )

March 4th
Just got off the phone to Ted, who tells me that now, less than a whole year since I discovered the derelict van, which had stood there all those years, 4 houses stand on that land! It seems incredible. What timing!