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

Friday, 27 October 2017

0027 Starting to put things back together

27th October 2017
Now my job starts !

It's starting to look like a car again
When Ashton kindly invited me to join him as co-driver / navigator on this great Mongolian adventure, I understood my work to be "fettling" of the car - Things like polishing, locktighting or wirelocking bolts, fitting new seats, putting a few electrical accessories in, and maybe even changing a wheel bearing or suspension bushing. A few spare parts might be needed out of the UK, but, with my International Logistics background, I didn't see a problem with that.  Looking back 6 months, I now realise how much I (and I think Ashton too) underestimated what would be required, mainly because the car would turn out to be in somewhat poorer condition than we anticipated, but also because in fact we realise now that the ONLY way to REALLY prepare properly for such extreme events is to take the car totally to pieces and rebuild it.  It is no good making the chassis stronger if you do not also beef up the wheels / dampers / wiring / bodywork etc etc.  A car is only as strong as it's weakest part.............   Having spent most of the last 6 months taking the car totally apart, we are now almost at the stage where we can start putting it all back together.  Painting of the engine bay and other internal sections (in the original Coronet Cream) should be completed next week, and then re-construction begins in earnest.  It is still our target to have the car running and on the road by Christmas Day 2017, 55 days from now !!

Rear axle goes in
A borrowed hub extension
But there was still a bit of welding to do.  First job was to get the new 5 stud axle in place in the car so Andrew could weld the new uprated spring hangers in place correctly.  The new, strong, 8 leaf springs made this difficult to start with because there was now weight in the car to compress them to "normal" ride height, and as a result the up and down movement of the axle didn't run through its correct arc.  This was solved by bringing in just the long leaf of the original springs which had by now been dismantled, and once this was fitted it was easy to push the axle up and down through its proper arc, and get the hangers all welded in there.  Embarrassingly I realised that I was intending to use the original splined wheel hubs, so I hadn't ordered new ones. But when I went to fit them, I realised our old ones were 4 stud and the new uprated axle is 5 stud - Whoops !  Luckily we were able to borrow hubs off the white Healey so we could continue our set up.

Great power socket
On the drive over to CCC from my house (about 20 minutes) I often stop by Jaycar or other electrical or car parts distributors and wander around looking for inspiration and ideas.  This time I found a great triple power socket along with 4 USB ports, 2 x 2.4 amp, and 2 x 1 amp which will be absolutely perfect for what we will need to charge cameras, phones etc while the Monit rally meter will be wired up direct.  Once over at CCC I found them adding paint stripper all over the front of the chassis in an attempt to clear away all the old paint so they could see the exact condition of all the existing welds.  With the rear wheels now attached we were able to check the internal clearnaces of the big wheels and tyres, and it was with much relief that we found sufficient room
Nuts used to replicate brake drums
all round, even at full droop or full compression.  That was a BIG relief for me as, despite our best efforts and measurements, the wheels and tyres were really a leap of faith when we decided on them. We fitted nuts between the half shafts and the wheel hubs to simulate the space that would eventually be taken by the brake drums, and once we got the brake drums in there, we still had enough space around the wheel.

Section to be reshaped
Although, having said that, the front of the outer rear guard does foul a little at full droop, so Andrew will cut a slice out of the wing, retaining the wired edge for strength, and then swing that wired edge forward so that the final panel integrity is maintained.  In the photo, he will cut out the small central piece between the felt tip pen line on the left and the left hand side of the blacked out section on the right, and then swing the blacked out section forwards as this is the piece that is wired where it is rolled over at the edge.  The earlier Healeys like ours actually had smaller wheel arches than later cars, and as we are now running essentially later suspension and axle parts, as well as MUCH bigger tyres, it is not surprising that clearances are tight !  But I think the 72 spoke wire wheel with the spinner fitted and the big chunky tyres looks really good !

With so many small parts in pieces everywhere, I find myself referring almost daily to the white
Brake mechanism on white car
Healey that is also being rebuilt in CCC, and in this case spent some time looking at (and photographing) the handbrake mechanism on the rear axle.  Many of the photos I take are for my benefit so that I know how to put things back together again later !!   Meanwhile Andrew was pressure washing the chassis again, this time to remove all the paint stripper and residual paint.

On Monday our long awaited dampers arrived from the USA.  Peter Caldwell at World Wide Auto Imports in Madison Wisconsin.  We had ordered these back in May, because Peter is one of the few people in the world who removes a bushing in the original dampers and machines in a full bearing, thus removing the issue of them permanently leaking ! We have been advised that the quality of his work is superb, thus our
decision to order from him.  Some 6 weeks ago Peter told us he had
3 variations of damper
found some MGB dampers that being slightly larger and newer might suit our purposes better, and he offered to fit them with Austin Healey arms which, being shorter than MGB ones, were required in order to maintain our front suspension geometry.  The photo clearly shows the difference between the original Healey units, our new MGB units with Healey arms, and standard MGB units.   We wtill intend to add heat sink fins to them where possible to aid in the cooling, and can now start looking at this.  Off back to Jaycar this week !

C Type Jag ......replica

One morning I walked into the CCC workshop and saw a rather special sight up on the hoist - a C Type Jaguar !!  It is actually a replica made in NZ, but very nice nonetheless.  The symmetry and sheer beauty of the lines and design of some of these older cars were just perfect, and have to be seen to be really appreciated.  I can't wait until it comes down off the hoist so I can inspect it a little closer !

A missing weld !
Chassis ready for welding
With the paint off the front of the chassis, the old welds and residual slag
left on there could be cleaned up, and the re-inforcing gussets welded around all the suspension pick up points.  These will be vital to ensure that the suspension stays attached to the car at all times in the Gobi Desert !   Additionally a couple of bad welds could be repaired, while one section was missing its weld altogether and was just an open seam !   Surely it couldn't have come from the factory like that ?

Windscreen wiper gearing
Back at home, I started work on the windscreen wiper motor and mechanism - Being 65 years old it may not be too efficient at cleaning the windscreen, but given the projected average weather on our route, it is obvious that we are going to get quite a lot of rain, so it is is important that they at least work !  It was covered in 2 or 3 layers of old paint overspray - some red, some black - and a lot of dirt and grease.  Before starting work on it, I wired the motor up to the battery and made sure it actually worked - Success !!  Then I stripped off all the paint and grime, and took
the little covers over the actual wiper spindles apart - And found old hard crusty "grease" in there.  So these all came apart and were cleaned up, and a light grease put in there to repack them.  I then repainted the motor cover and the spindle covers, and worked out how everything operates so that if there are any issues during the rally I will know (roughly !) how it works.  Once again the wires to the motor were the old original brittle wires, so these have all been changed to new wires.

Holes too small !!!
Size of the bolt above, and size of hole below
This week we received another box of parts from Denis Welch in the UK, 
and I have to say that normally the quality of both the parts and service is excellent considering these cars are so old.  But this time, they sent us U bolts for the chassis, plus spring plates to which the U bolts clamp to, but unfortunately the holes in the plate was some 1.5 mm smaller than the bolts that had to go through them.  Living in Australia we
are so remote and shipping is so expensive, we cannot believe
that people just do not check the parts they send to us before shipping them.  It is just a Quality Control issue in their distribution process, and not difficult to avoid - But it happens so often with many different suppliers.  Grrrrr.

Engine mount for reinforcing

There are still a few welds to do in the engine bay, particularly on the engine mounts, which on one side have only a small connection with the chassis that looks very susceptible to damage.  Andrew will weld in a triangular section in the top which will considerably increase the contact area with the chassis, and hopefully strengthen it a lot.  Having moved the crankshaft and head around separately this week, I can fully understand just how heavy this big engine is when it is all together !  It is going to need every possible strengthening in order to make sure it stays in its correct place in the engine bay !

New steering box
We also installed the new steering column and box plus the idler box in order to make sure there was enough clearances when installing the suspension gussets for the front arms, and also to check on the clearances for the new stronger radiator support section, which will also enable us to mount the radiator slightly further forward, again providing a litle more clearance between the radiator and the fan.  Then it was back on with the front shroud so the radiator positioning could be finalised, and the new rubber mounts located correctly.  There will be two firm rubber
mounts underneath the radiator so it is supported fully on rubber bushes, and then two further rubber mounts at the top, one on each side.  There will then be the original metal straps which tie the radiator across to each inside front guard, and these will have a "Z" bent into them so while they provide support, they are also slightly flexible. 

I was hoping that all the welding would be finished by Friday 27th October,
and it may well be but I had to leave fairly early to go and do some other things.  If it wasn't quite finished today, then it will be on Monday, and then the bare chassis can go across to the paint shop so all the interior can be given a coat of 2 pack Coronet Cream.  Once that is done, then reconstruction will commence in earnest.....

As I was leaving CCC, Dave Godwin pulled up in RIP, his infamous MGA - He had just collected it from Brisbane Port after its shipment home from Europe.  This car has been all over the world, and I met up with Dave and his group of 7 other MGB's in Argentiina in 2014 when they were driving from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska, and I was heading in the opposite direction. 2 years later I met up with them again at Niagara Falls in Canada - This time
they were heading West to East across the continental USA, and I was heading East to West !   So to see RIP safely back on Australian soil was a treat - I have now met up with the car 3 times, and each time on a different continent !!   How often does THAT happen ?

Argentina 2014
Niagara 2016

RIP at Horseshoe Falls, Niagara

Looking forward to turning Gidget back into a mobile car soon !

Rest of the pics are here :-  https://photos.app.goo.gl/bJ95Ws5kQ30uF0rD2

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