Driving a 1954 Austin-Healey 100/4 from Peking to Paris in the June 2019 ERA Rally.

Monday, 15 May 2017

0007 A weekend working on the car

13th/14th May 2017
Some ugly truths revealed ?  And a party !

Ashton & Joe getting serious
Ashton arranged his busy work / car schedule to allow time to come up to Queensland for the weekend so we could take a serious look at the car, and finalise our spare parts order so it gets on the way soonest.  On Friday evening we had a couple of hours to sit down and go through some of the stuff, but work started in earnest on Saturday morning.   Fortunately the weekend was quite poor weather, so we weren’t distracted to go surfing or anything silly !

P2P anyone ?
After some breakfast, Ashton and I headed out to catch up with a couple of people who have a bearing on our P2P challenge, and the first was a friend of mine, Lindsay, who happens to own an immaculate Austin Healey 100M – A factory approved Le Mans version of the standard Healey  - Lind of like a “Special Edition” model in today’s parlance, commemorating Healey’s successes at Le Mans.  There were several trim and engine bay things we wanted to compare to our car, and sure enough, several things were quite enlightening.  Overall the cars are very similar, and it will be very useful over the coming months to be able to run over to Lindsay’s garage to check things if I get stuck !

We were then going to run up to Mt Tambourine to meet fellow P2P entrant Rod, and to see his car, but unfortunately a friend of his had recently died and it wasn’t feasible.   So it was then back to the house to start work on the car.

Removing the front wing
We started by trying to get the left front wing off.  This has to come off so we can reposition the exhaust up into the side of the car, and I had managed to get all the bolts and trim off, except the panel just wouldn’t come off at the rear end beside the door.  I was sure I had found all the bolts, but it seemed to be hanging up around the door hinge area.  By this time, Lotus friend Joe had arrived for a look, and with his great mechanical aptitude (and brute muscle) he was able to undo the hinge screws that I think had been in place since 1954.  All I know is that a big lump hammer was used a lot, and I was very glad Ashton was here to supervise the work, seeing it is
Front wing removed
his car !  My more “gentle approach” (ie weaker !) would never have worked.   With a lot of effort, and a couple of blisters, Joe eventually got all the screws out, and we had the door off.   And to show my brilliant mechanical capability, when trying to undo some other recessed screws on the hinge which had a 6 sided female head, I tried every “special” connector I had – 4 side, 5 sided, even star shaped, but none fitted.  I thought we were stumped. Then Ashton had a look and said (with great restraint), “That’s a standard allen key, Giles” – And sure enough it was !   Whoops !!   Yes, it is good to have others over to help occasionally !

After getting rid of a couple of spot welds hidden behind the hinges, we quickly had the front panel off, and moved to the inside passenger side floor.

Pax floor with tin covering
The car spent its early life in California before moving to W Australia, so fortunately rust is not a major issue as it might have been if the car had lived in the UK for any time, but even so, it had had some major work done on it in WA when it was converted to RHD, and was looking a bit suspect in some areas.  A light tin floor covering had been screwed in with self tappers, and it was decided to remove this to investigate the actual floor panel below.  As we slowly removed this somewhat ugly covering, we revealed the original floor panels covered in a kind
Pax floor without tin covering
of underseal, and while many areas were fine, some of the edges and corners were looking a bit suss rust-wise.    To confirm our diagnosis, we turned to the driver’s side and did the same – First removing the wooden (!) seat supports that were bolted to the floor, and the seat it self that was only screwed into the supports with 6 wood screws !  Hmmm.  We then removed the same tin floor covering from this side, and found a similar situation below – Not a major disaster, but certainly several areas of rusted weakness which needed attention.

Drivers side floor
Once again, it was very opportune that Ashton was here to see this, and could make an executive decision on the spot.  The chassis rails looked fine – It was just the floor panels that were the problem, and fortunately these are available from AH Spares in the UK – One of the suppliers I had visited 2 weeks ago while I was in the UK.  We thus decided to immediately order 5 panels – 2 floor panels on each side, and one back panel behind the seats, get the existing panels cut out, and, once they arrive, get the new ones welded in.

Adding lightness to the boot
After Joe left to go home (having done the heavy work – Thanks Joe !!), Ashton and I went through the rest of the car, prodding and poking, looking at fuel tank space, electrics, gauges, and anything else we could think of.  The current fuel tank is 12 imperial gallon / 54.5 litres, which if we average 20 mpg is enough for 240 miles.  We will be covering some big daily mileages out in Mongolia and Kazakhstan, and we have to nominate in advance how much fuel we will buy so they can order it, so we have to be fairly accurate on this.  In addition, the likelihood of poor fuel is very real, so having a separate second tank does give up some flexibility if we get some duff fuel in one tank.   Add to this the
Possible aux fuel tank option
fact that fuel consumption of 20 mpg may sound good, but in soft sand or climbing mountain ranges, we may be nearer 10 mpg !!   So we are looking to add at least 8 more galls, and maybe 10, in order to increase our range.  The decision as to how and where to locate our extra tank is now the current discussion, and there are several options.

It was now time to clean up and have a bbq.  I had invited various car related people who would be interested in meeting Ashton and learning more about our P2P Adventure.  Interestingly, apart from Barry and Rob from Aussie Elises, and of course me, no one knew anyone else at the start of the evening !  We had a 4 WD guy who was an S1 Landrover fan (link to Ashton), a neighbour who runs a paint and panel shop, someone from the local Classic Car Clinic who is a Healey restoration expert, my dentist who is also (hopefully) rather good with electrics,  plus a couple of others who couldn’t be there who are either entrants on the P2P alongside us, and another (who owns the Healey 100M) who would like to  do the P2P.  In the end it was a fascinating evening, and after the first part was spent poring over the Healey in the garage, the rest was spent with everyone finding something in common with everyone else.  A fascinating evening to kick start our P2P properly.

Our panels prior to being modified
A modified side exhaust exit
On Sunday we spent the morning ripping out more carpeting and underfelt from the car, following in Colin Chapman’s footsteps by “adding lightness”.  I reckon we pulled out about 5 kg of ratty carpeting !  We then spent the morning on the computer, finalizing our spare parts orders, before heading off to a local Mexican place for some lunch before Ashton headed back to Sydney.  All in all, a very productive weekend, and I am so glad Ashton was there for the “unveiling” of the corroded floor pans so we could make an immediate decision regarding the best way forward.

We also agree that the original Healey seats are not really suitable for the journey, nor for the fitting of harness belts (it currently only has a sash belt), so we are looking for some suitable alternative – Maybe mini seats ?

Fan a bit close to the radiator ?
Over the next 2 weeks I will be continuing to work on smaller parts of the car, trying to sort out wiring and batteries and fuel tanks and a million and other things. It seems that every time we look at the car, 10 more things get added to our already lengthy “to do” list !!   Our plan is still to have the car back up and running in 12 months time – Hopefully we can stick to that schedule so we have plenty of “shakedown” time to make sure it all works.

Rest of the pics are here :-  

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Ashton & Giles welcome any visitors, support, and comments as we prepare for our Adventure !