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

Sunday, 19 November 2017

0030 The rebuild begins.....

15th - 17th November 2017
We finally start putting pieces back on the car !!

First front damper is in place
Today was a momentous occasion - I finally sat down and bolted some pieces back ON to Gidget !!  It has been a long time coming, and a lot longer than we initially anticipated, but if any of you have ever been involved in the total rebuild of an old and damaged car, you will know that it usually takes a lot longer than planned or expected !  But it felt very special to finally be tightening some nuts on there, knowing that (hopefully) they won't have to be undone again for a very long time !!  First parts to be bolted on were the two front (larger MGB) dampers sourced from Peter Caldwell at World Wide Auto Parts in Madison Wisconsin. These have bearings instead of just seals, hopefully preventing the slow fluid leak of standard units.  Additionally, these are the slightly larger volume MGB units so they should remain slightly cooler, but with Austin Healey arms fitted so the suspension geometry is not changed.  And having tightened them all up, I then had to remove them again so I could fit the small rubber bump stop underneath the front corner !   I am sure that will happen a few times over the next few weeks !



Rusty rear view mirror
Of course I am still cleaning parts up.  The centrally mounted rear
Cleaned up rear mirror mount
view mirror was looking rather sad with rust and corrosion on the chrome, but judicious use of my Dremel and some AutoSol soon had it all gleaming again.  Somehow the mirror seems to have got cracked, but as this was getting a bit opaque, it needed replacing anyway, so will get one cut to size shortly.

Windscreen pillars
While the chassis was being painted last week, I had asked them to also paint the two alloy side pillars so I could get the new windscreen made up.  The painters did a good job of these, and I took them down to Glass 4 Classics in Nerang, where Nathan had just got back from his honeymoon and was getting back to work !  Perfect timing.  Nathan will put the frame all back together next week, and then I will be taking it to Max Buhner at Maxitint for application of the protective Clearplex film, which should minimise the chances of windscreen damage from flying stones.


Shackle for securing spare wheel
Prior to the chassi painting, Andrew at CCC had welded in two small shackles, one either side of the spare wheel housing.  We will then attach the ends of a 1 inch restraining strap to these shackles, so the buckle is in the centre at the back, and when tightened it will put the wheel firmly in against the locating posts, keeping it securely in place.  We may also need to fit a strap over the top of the wheel to stop any up and down movement.  The wheel only protrudes into the cabin area by 100 mm, and this is central so is between the seats and not obtrusive.  It will eventually be covered by a sleeve so the boot is separated from the cabin totally.

Access hole in floor panel
The holes in the floor panels on both driver's and passneger sides were already cut out prior to painting, so that now the panels just need to be fastened back into place with something like dzus fasteners or similar.  Not sure yet which will be the best method.  This space under the floor is
View from underneath
80 mm high on the inner side, and 50 mm high on the outher side, by 800 mm long, by 240 wide, so overall it is about 13 litres of space, or half a cubic foot.  I intend to make up foam inserts into which slots can be cut so heavier tools etc which hopefully will not be required too frequently can be stored in such a way that they are securely held in place and won't rattle around at all.  Additionally, this foam insert can be pulled forwards thus easily accessing the tools that are stored in the rear section of the compartment.  The location of this storage means all the weight of the contents will be kept low and central, while the forming of the box section in the chassis will help make the chassis more rigid.

Painted door hinges
The door hinges are all painted and ready to put on with the doors once they are painted.  And the exhaust has been fitted below the passenger door so the metal heat shielding could be shaped and fitted into place.  There will be more heat shielding inside the
Heat shield behind muffler
cabin, as well as outside around the passenger footwell, and hopefully this will help reduce the famous Healey exhaust heat issues.  Although having said that, we do not have a heater in the car, so if it is cold in the Gobi Desert, we might be pleased to have a lttle radiant heat from the exhaust.

Hole at base of boot bracket
While lying under the car today inspecting the storage area, I noticed that the lower end of the rear boot support bracket was open ended.  As this points forwards, it means that any water or dirt would get splashed up this hollow bracket, and maybe even into the boot.  At worst it could cause rapid corrosion in this imprtant structural bracket.  So we will have to just close up the end of that by welding a small plate over the end of it.  We are going to paint the underneath of the chassis with POR15 anyway, so some minor changes down there will not ruin our new paint job !!

Upper rubber radiator mount
The radiator is in place, supported vertically by two rubber bushes that are in compression, seated on a new bracket welded onto the frame by Andrew.  At the bottom of the sides of the radiator are two more rubber bushes that just locate the radiator fore and aft, so there is no major strain on these bushes. This means that while the radiator is firmly held in place, it is free to move relative to the
Lower rubber radiator mount
chassis itself, so that any twisting of the chassis will not be transferred to the radiator itself, causing damage.   Interestingly,  the lower radiator mounts are small Austin Healey Sprite exhaust mounts, and we have used exactly the same mounts for the muffler on the side of the car.  This means that we will only need to carry a couple of spares as they can be used either for the exhaust or the radiator.  (Hopefully both items won't break at the same time !)

Chassis plate still legible !
Importantly the paint people were smart enough to cover up the chassis plate so it didn't get painted over.  We do have an "easy to read" new plaque that details chassis and engine numbers that will be located up on the firewall in a location where government and Customs officials will be able to view the details easily, but it is always good to have the original plate visible in case it is required.

Fuel tank in place in the boot
The main alloy fuel tank is in place in the boot, although it is not yet strapped down.  I have already made the rubber cushioning insert that will fit underneath the tank, and the original metal straps have been refurbished, and we will get to the boot after we have installed the front suspension and the rear axle.  We also have to install the mounting plate for the fuel pumps and filter which will be on the side of the boot.  And of course we also have to design and install the additional 8 gallon fuel tank to bring our total fuel volume up to 20 imperial gallons / 91 litres, so that we would then have an approximate range of some 400 miles or 640 kms if we can achieve 20 mpg / 14 litres per 100 kms, which is not unreasonable under normal running. Obviously heavy sand or mud will see this rise.

Std heart shped combustion chamber
When I returned from Sydney after Targa High Country, I brought our "new" cylinder head up with me in order to save on freight of such a heavy item.  I delivered this to Paul Gilbert at his Cylinder Head Service in Southport yesterday, and today he called me with
Revised shaping to remove hot spot
some details of our head.  First of all he is going to grind off the pointed section at the top of the "heart" shaped combustion chamber.  This point apparently creates a hot spot which can easily lead to the head cracking, and by rounding off this sharp point, the potential hot spot is removed.  I have a photo of a similar shape chamber on a Mini after rounding, and it is easy to see the difference.

Before the head could be cleaned overnight, the valves and studs all had to be removed - And this cause a bit of a problem.  A couple of valves had rusted and seized in the original steel valve guides, and the guides had cracked in the process.  So Paul was looking for the new head parts - Which conicidentally arrived today and so I was able to take them up to him.  The new valve guides are bronze rather than steel, and this will eradicate any future tendency for problems there. We have all the head parts except the exhaust valves that are currently out of stock - We hope to hear shortly when these will be available - Hopefully soon.

Lower suspension arms in place
Finally today I went over to CCC and started work on the front suspension.  All the wishbones etc have been painted and are ready for fitting - Although I have to say that in many cases fitting parts back onto the car is a far slower process than getting the old
Damper & bump stop in place
parts off !!  The new bushes are tight, and with grease on everything it makes for a very slippery installation process !  Having fitted the lower arms, and the upper arms (included in the dampers), I now have to fit the king pin and stub axle assembly tomorrow.  As usual, the first side is a bit of a trial and error and takes some time - Hopefully the second side will come together much more quickly !!

Two days later :-  Ashton flew up for a couple of days to check on progress and do some work on the car, and as usual it was good not only to have him up here so he could see the car first hand, but also so he could do some work to help me out.   However, just before he came up, we had some more bad
Crack in #3
Crack in #4
news about the cylinder head.  The "new" steel head that I brought back up with me from Sydney last weekend spent a night in the cleaning back, and early the next morning, Paul Gilbert called me and told me to come over to have a look at the head.   With much trepidation I went over there, and found that, once the head had been cleaned up, there were 3 cracks visible !!  One was in the narrow section between the inlet and exhaust valve in the combustion chamber on #1, and a similar one in #4.  There was also a crack in the side of #3.  This had not been visible previously before the head was cleaned,and would not have affected the pressure test that had been done a couple of weeks ago in Sydney.  But it was a problem now !

Crack in valve seat of #1
However Paul feels that there is a good chance that when they ream out the original valve seats to
insert hardened seats, there is a good chance that the visible cracks will not run that deep, and everything should be OK.  We won't know until it is done.  The same holds true with the crack on the side of #3 - Hopefully it should disappear when that section is reamed out.   In the mean time we will give Paul the similar (but not identical) Austin Gypsy head that came off the car, and if the cracks do persist further into the metal, he will drill into the old head to find out how close the water galleries are, and therefore where it can be reamed out further, or whatever is decided once we know what is there.  But basically we have told Paul that we will sacrifice the Gypsy head if it helps to prove that the new head is OK.  Paul think the head will be OK, but he says we certainly don't want to let it over heat, as this is what has obviously caused these cracks.

And finally on the head, we have decided to order a new alloy head from the UK despite it not being available until perhaps February, so that if anything further does go wrong with this head, we will at least have a good (new) one on the ground ready to put on the engine.

Ashton gets a seat fitting
Ashton came in on Friday night, and on Saturday morning we worked on the car over at CCC.  First job was to get Ashton into the car and fit the drivers seat in the correct position.  There is not a lot of room in the cabin, and basically the seat is hard up against the back bulkhead, and Ashton can just fit in to a comfortable driving position.  Not a lot of space.  We also found that we need to tilt the front of the seat up a little in the front in order to lay the seat back a little.



Once the seat positions were settled, next job was to paint the underside of the chassis with POR15 anticorrosion paint.  Gidget's new Coronet Cream paint was basically just the upper internal panels, so the POR 15 was to try to protect the underneath of the chassis in the future.  However, one thing with POR15 is that if you get it on yourself and do not get it off immediately, then it won't come off for several days, until your skin comes off !    So 10 minutes after we lie on our backs and crawl
Working on front suspension
under the car, I notice that Ashton's arms and hands are COVERED in POR15 !!  No photos, unfortunately, but he certainly was a sight !  So I quickly got him out from under the car, removed his rubber gloves that were also covered in paint, and got a rag and thinners and tried to rub the paint off - Luckily most of it was fresh enough that it came off fairly easily.  With instructions to paint more carefully, he was sent back under the car to continue !  Within an hour of so we had a first coat on the underneath, and once we were cleaned up from painting, we moved on to fitting the front suspension.  Well, Ashton did this while I worked on fitting the new rear bump rubbers.

Fitting a front wheel
Fitting front hub
Once the bump rubbers were on, I moved to help with the suspension, and getting everything to line up was almost impossble.  So for about the 10th time, we had to undo the damper mount, and all the gudgeon pin and king pin nuts, and then we could add the spring plate.  The trick is to just put everything on loosely, and only tighten bolts up once everything matches up.  Additionally we had to grind off a bit of the edge of the lower wishbones to ensure nothing fouled, and once that was done, everything went together.  It certainly takes a lot longer to put things on than it took to get most of them off !

The tyres fill the wheel arches !
We then put a splined hub on place on the new stub axle, inserting the bearings first, and once that was in place, we could finally put a front wheel on for the first time.  The purpose of this was to check the clearance between the tire and the wheel arch, so we then hung a front fender on momentarily - And we found a bit of a problem as there was NO clearance !! This will be easily solved by cutting a couple of inches out of the wheel arch, and is not really an issue because there is a lot of rust in the front fender, and we will also be cutting a large piece of it out for exhaust heat to escape, so we are not too worried about this. But this does go to show just how big these tyres are !

John's delightful 1925 Rolls Royce
After a succesful day working on the car, we called it a day and that evening had a few of our Queensland Lotus friends over for a Thai meal and a great chat between old friends - A very pleasant evening.  Sunday morning Ashton and I went down the coast a little to catch up with John who is also doing the P2P, in his MGB.   So we had lots to discuss, while also getting to see his new acquisition - a 1925 Rolls Royce Phantom - A truly spectacular vehicle.



Tap before cleaning up
After putting Ashton back on the plane to Sydney, I headed home
Tap after cleaning
and back to cleaning up and painting some of the many bits and pieces we have off the car, so that when we finally need to fit them, they are ready to go with no delays.




Next week we shall continue to fit the parts back on the car, moving to the rear axle and brakes.

Rest of the pics are here : -  https://photos.app.goo.gl/VaG42NmgN6yznUIj2











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