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

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

0012 Slowly coming together

19th July 2017
Buying parts, and fixing body problems

Andrew at work on the bodywork
Now I am back from my trip, I find that things haven't moved quite as fast as I expected in my absence.  Unfortunately, every time they dug a little deeper, they found more issues, which unfortunately is often the case with a 63 year old car !  The photos in the previous posts tell the story - Now it is more a question of trying to save what we can, and then get the panels to line up again once the prior accident damage in the side and rear has been fixed.  Luckily, in Mark and Andrew at Classic Car Clinic, we have got two of the best, and while it is painstaking work, I am starting to get a warm feeling inside about it all !!

Bracing bars inside the chassis rail
Most of the time so far has been spent straightening the boot area, and working on the driver's side floor and sills.  Unfortunately, with all the floor and sills in place, it then showed up how badly the panels had suffered - The matched the bent chassis, but now the chassis is straight, the panels all need to be realigned.  It is painstaking work.  But on the bright side, while inserting the inner sills, Andrew had the idea of putting bracing inside the two sill panels before he welded them together, and this is a brilliant idea as it not only strengthens everything, but also give us stronger mounting points for seat belts and jacks.

Our Mercedes jack
I have been toying with jacking options for some time.  Scissor jacks and bottle jacks are not only heavy and space consuming, but if we are bogged up to the chassis rails in sand in the Gobi desert, it will be hard to get them underneath the car.   Solution ?  A hi-lift style jack that attaches to the putside of the sills.  But normal hi-lift jacks are too big and heavy, and lightweight alloy ones are horrendously expensive, but one night I remembered the jack on my old VW Beetle when I was a youth.  That might work.  Then someone mentioned that Mercedes used to have a similar (but better quailty) jack.  A visit to my local Mercedes wrecker ensued, and he had a pile of them !  Result, one Mercedes Jack for free !!  Thank you Gull Wings !!   Andrew then welded a piece of tube into the newly strengthened  sill, and bingo - We have a light, small, external mounting jack !  One problem solved.

72 spoke painted wire wheels
Next issue has been tyres and wheels.  Steel, alloy, or wire wheels ?  It all depends on who you talk to.  We tried to find steel wheels but they are very rare, and as a result, expensive.  Alloys we don't like because they can't be easily fixed in the bush if they get damaged, so after many days of discussions, we returned to our original favourites, 72 spoke wire wheels.  Then, interestingly, you find that most wire wheels are all manufactured in India, and are put together in the UK and distributed by MWS.  But the prices from suppliers seem to vary by up to $200 per wheel !  Anyway, we are buying just one wheel to start with to make sure everything fits OK, and we will buy the other 4 once we are happy with it.

Ypkohama Geolandar ATS tyres
Tyres are a major component.  They have to be durable enough to last 15,000 kms of dirt, puncture resistant, good on dirt and tarmac, and lastly and most importantly on the Healey, they need to be high profile so as to provide us with as much height increase as possible, to improve our clearance.  There are a number of possible tyres but few seem to suit all our requirements - Most of them are Light Truck Tyres, while rally-style tyres are too soft and too low a profile.  Then I saw some Yokohama Geolandar on a Rally Mercedes at Classic Car Clinic, and my friend and long time local tyre man Matt Kingsley at Action Tyres & More in Southport managed to find 4 in the size we wanted - 195 / 80 / 15.   Perfect.  They are quite hard to come by in that size, but 4 will enable us to try them out, and we can order 6 new ones to fit just before we leave for China.

With a tyre and wheel, we can now start to design our bigger fuel tank for the boot, which is to be
Design plan for fuel tank in boot
shaped around the spare wheel - a design we have copied from a UK Rally Healey. We are going to keep the original shape 12 gallon / 45 litre tank (although fitting a new lightweight alloy unit that saves us some 6 kg), and then add another 8 galls / 36 litres which, at 15 mpg, should then give us a minimum range of 300 miles / 482 kms.  Hopefully we will do better than 15 mpg !!  By having the additional tank as a separate unit, we hope that if we have any issues with bad fuel, we can always dump one of the tanks, and be able to use the other.  Thats the plan, anyway !!

Rear lever arm damper on the car
Meanwhile, while Mark and Andrew continue with the body work, I have sent the carburettors off to Midel in Sydney for refurbishing.  Being a second hand car with a questionable history, we do not know the condition of any of these parts, so full reconditioning is the only solution.   I have taken the lever arm dampers off the car and am cleaning them up before we have them checked over.  We have "new" dampers coming from the US shortly, but will be using our existing dampers as spares. The uprated 5 stud axle that we aquired is being reworked - It seems the diff is in good shape, but there are some issues on some of the bearing faces which will need to be addressed.

Rusting repairs on front wing
Side exhaust on a works Healey
The front wings are in pretty poor shape - Lots of rust has already been cut out of them, but even the reworked units are rusting again.  We looked at buying new wings, but as we are going to be cutting the passenger side wing to allow the side exhaust to fit, hopefully most of the rust can be replaced by the side grills !
We now have the headers and exhaust, and once Andrew has managed to finish the driver's side of the car, he can then start work on the passenger side and the installation of the side exhaust.

Interestingly, the half shafts that were removed from the axle that was in the car were not even a matched pair !  One had a round end, and the
Non matching half shafts !
other was pentagon shaped !   Together with some of the other issues it is quite surprising that the car was even drivable before !! Meanwhile we continue to order parts from the UK, and the stock in my garage is growing all the time - Springs, stub axles, brake fittings, and a multitude of smaller but no less iportant tiems.  Once Classic Car Clinic has the bodywork complete, it will be my task to start fitting all the new parts so we can get back on the road and start testing by the end of the year.

Roo Shoos
Radiator and block sealant
We have also started considering the kind of spare parts we will take.  Apart from car parts, we also need to look at the kind of tools and repair options we will take to enable us to deal with any breakages.  We have Silverseal for radiator leakages (because it is small and light), and are looking at all the new types of glue, sealants, patches and bandages (fibreglass etc) so that when things break, we have a way of fixing them.  Roo Shoos are another necessary item - They may not work, but at $5.99 I consider them cheap insurance !  I fitted them to the Lotus when I went to Alaska in 2012, and didn't hit any of the wildlife, and I fitted them again to the Toyota in 2014, and despite all the wild llamas and goats etc in S America, I never had one jump out in fron of me.  For me, Roo Shoos work !!

Corbeau seats
Finally for now we have the seats and harnesses on their way, due in
the next week or so.  The original seats in the car were not only 63 years old, but also very flimsy and uncomfortable.  So we have sourced some "classic style" Corbeau seats through our Lotus friends at Simply Sports Cars in Sydney, and we hope these will provide us with the comfort and support we will need for surviving 36 days on rough roads !   We have also order Luke harnesses in order to keep us in place in our seats !

So..........Progress is being made - Maybe not as fast as we would have liked, but it is still progress ! Hopefully our next post will see the bodywork nearing completion, and the running gear starting to be installed.

Rest of the photos are here :-  https://goo.gl/photos/QK8JkKk5pchnUVNH8

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