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

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

0032 Fuel tanks, doors and springs.

28th November - 7th December
Lots of things happening

Works replica tank system
While Andrew continues to work mainly on the body panels, he also worked this week on the additional auxillary fuel tank that we will need.   For those of you who have been reading on here from the start, you will remember that our original idea was to have the additional fuel tank on the side of the main one, with the spare wheel located on the opposite side, similar to the works replica rally cars.  While this is a good arrangement, Ashton and I agreed that it wasn't ideal for us, because with the weight of the spare wheel (22.5 kg in our case) plus the weight of an extra 8 gallons of fuel (27 kg), that would be
Roskill/Cooper tank system
approximately 50 kg hanging out behind the rear axle - Not including the 41 kg weight of the original 12 gallons of fuel.  So instead of this side by side arrangement, we have moved everything forwards, with the spare wheel now up in the centre of the boot, protruding through into the passenger area slightly, but positioned right over the rear axle.  This has then enabled us to design and locate our extra 8 gal tank wherever we want, and the further forward we move this 27 kg the better.  So our design ideas all came together and Andrew has now constructed a basically triangular cross section fuel tank that, by extending the full 1 metre width of the boot space can therefore have its front to back depth minimised, so that the weight is as far forward as possible.  And today Andrew produced his solution.

First shaping of aux tank
It is rolled out of a sinlge piece of alloy, and as a result only has one seam running the full length of the unit, apart from the two ends which obviously will be welded in place.  It will also have an internal baffle to prevent excessive side to side slop.  This tank is designed to be operated totally independently of the main tank, for several reasons.  Firstly, if we do get duff fuel at any time, we can always dump one of either of the two tanks independently.  In addition, once we get to Europe where fuel is more readily available, we may not need the full 20 litres, so we can save
Aux tank strap & filler
weight by not filling the supplementary tank. We will simply have a separate filling neck for this tank, and then a transfer line between the two tanks with a tap in the middle, so that once we have used much of the main tank, we can simply open the tap and the additional volume will flow quickly down into the main tank.   This separation of the tanks will also eiiminate the possibility of the fuel level being higher than the carburettors, and potentially causing flooding issues.

One of my major tasks once we get the car running will be to constantly monitor, measure and document all fuel consumptions under all conditions, so that we have a really accurate handle on what consumptions we can expect under different conditions.  We have to carry fuel for a minimum of 400 kms / 250 miles, and with 12 gallons in the original tank we would have to average over 20 mpg to achieve this.  With 20 gallons, we only have to achieve 12.5 mpg, which even under extreme off road conditions where we might be running in 2nd or 3rd gear a lot of the time, should be achievable.

Fuel pumps to go in red circled area
As the supplementary tank took shape and the filler neck was added, we looked at where and how to attach the twin SU fuel pumps and filter.  We could put them low down so they get good suction, but that will make them very susceptible to any water that might finds its way into the boot during any river crossing.  SU specs say that as long as there is a minimum of 18 inches of head above the suction point, the pumps will be fine, so we can mount them a little higher, up on the side of the boot panel.  The filter has a glass bowl for draining any water out, so a safe method of draing the bowl was required.  Solution ? Mount it on a separate bracket so the entire filter can be easily removed for changing outside the car !!

Our door trim
The door trim for the cut down passenger door also needed to be cut down to suit, but this proved less than simple.  The plywood backing is presumably some 65 years old, and it has suffered over the years, with the result that when I tried to remove the vinyl covering, a layer of plywood wanted to come too !  Eventually I managed to get it sorted. and found that if you squirt good wood-glue into the layers of loose plywood, it gives the wood back most of its integrity and works very well, so I was then able to cut the panel to size and re-affix the vinal covering to the panel. 
Standard Healey door trim - Just a hole
I found out over the weekend that the "normal" door trim of Healey's without wind-up windows is just a basic covering over the door frame itself, which doesn't seem to provide much of a storage option since anything more than about 6 inches high would fall out.  Our door panels, which until now I thought were "standard", have a kind of elasticated and padded section sewn in so that many more things can safely stowed in the door without them flying across the car every time you went round a corner.  It appears that this was added at a later stage, but it is something that I think is worth keeping.

Repaired rear view mirror
The next task is to work out how to make this door pocket waterproof so that any maps etc stored in there do not become sodden !  The sidescreens are located in the tops of the doors frame using a pin that slots into a circular socket fitting, of which there are two for each door.  Obviously water could go down through this fitting, so I was considering sealing them from below so water could not pass through them, however this weekend I found out about another water entry area.  Apparently the windscreen of an early Healey like ours is not very waterproof, especially around the ends of the almost flat screen at the point where it meets the flexible and somewhat rudimentary sidescreens, with the result that water tends to flow quite easily around the end of the windscreen, in to the inside of the sidescreens, and from thence down into the door.  So if we are going to be able to use the doors for storage of anything other thanplastic bottles we are going to have to come up with a solution for this !

Inlet seats in the head
I checked on the steel cylinder head at Paul Gilbert's workshop, and found that he had been able to grind out the cracks between the valve seats, and had already inserted the hardened inlet valve seats.  He is just waiting on the exhaust valves from England so he can complete it.    And then we heard from the UK that the new alloy heads that are so much more reliable than the old steel ones were going to be available earlier than expected - So now we have one of those on order and will use that one for the car, and will sell the refurbished steel head to someone who needs a concours item !

Andrew removed the fuel suction pipe in the main tank that was previously mounted on the top of the
Original fuel suction pipe removed
tank, and has relocated it to the side of the tank, albeit with the pick up point in exactly the same place in the tank.  We also had AH Spares in UK, who supplied our main alloy tank, send us details of the baffling used in the tank so we knew exactly how it was laid out.  Now Andrew was able to fit the clips and cradles to mount the aux tank about the main tank, and fit the hose connections to connect the two tanks together, as well as the line to the fuel pump so that can be mounted on the boot wall.

Starting to wind springs up
Once the revised cotter pins for the front suspension were received from the UK and fitted, the rest of the front hubs could be put together and the strong 500 lb springs mounted.  Normally these springs can be compressed by putting a jack underneath, but with no engine or other weight in the car, this wouldn't work because the whole front of the car
Spring plate bolted up
would just lift up !   And anyway, we (1 ?) needed to practice installing the front springs using a method we could use in the desert, so I bought two long 4 1/2" bolts with washers.  You then install these long bolts on opposing corners of the spring plate, and slowly wind them up, compressing the spring as you go.  Once the plate is firmly pulled up, you can then install 2 of the correct bolts in the other two vacant holes, before removing the long bolts and replacing them with the correct units.  Not too difficult - Except I found out that I had to loosen off all the other suspension bolts that I had previously tightened in order to get the spring pan bolt holes to line up !!  And on the other front hub, I also had to go
Ground down 7/8" spanner
Difficult king pin nut
back and remove the entire shock absorber assembly because there was dirt in the bolt holes and they had to be reamed out before the bolts could be fully tightened !  And finally, once the springs we all fitted in place, I then realise that I could not fit a spanner in to tighten up the 7/8" nut on
the top of the king pin, so would have to remove the ENTIRE assembly AGAIN on both sides, in order to do this.   I slept on this, and woke up with the decision that I would buy a 7/8" spanner (which we would need anyway), and grind it down to see if I could get the slimmer spanner in the narrow gap to tighten up the bolt.  Success - And a lot of time saved !!

Rear damper extension
Then I ran into Lotus Club Queensland stalwart Mal Kelson, who a few
Damper mounted in car
weeks ago had offered to try to put our ideas of increasing the volume of our dampers, and increasing the cooling by adding fins, into a workable item.  Mal handed me his prototype - And it is brilliant.  Increases the volume by about 35 cc, and the fins should aid the cooling, and the two combined will hopefully ensure that the dampers survive better on the bumpy roads in the desert.  When offering the new piece up to one of our dampers, it fitted absolutely perfectly, and the next day I did a trial fitting onto the car - All good.  I am really excited about this small improvement, as I don't believe anyone has ever tried to do this before.  Now we just need to find out if it works !!

Pet hate - Wrong part !!

While working on the damper, I got out a new gasket that we had received with our dampers from the  USA, and found they had sent the wrong size !!   Will have to send them back and get some correct ones as spares.

Engine block ready for building
Engine block is back from being line bored, and now the sump will be modified to reduce its depth (to increase clearance under the car when normally the sump hangs down an inch below the chassis), but the resulting lost volume will be regained by removing the huge "step" cut out in the front of the sump.  We may even increase the oil volume !!  This step was originally there to avoid a big chassis cross member in the Austin A90 (the Healey's donor car) and it seems that for the last 65 years no one has tried to improve both the ground clearance and the oil cooling by getting rid of it ! 

Getting ready to trial fit the wiring loom so it runs inside the car instead of in the engine bay, and measuring up the heat protection panels which will hopefully shield my feet and rear end from the exhaust heat !!

But more of that in the next post..........

Rest of the pics are here :-  https://photos.app.goo.gl/NPWdkzLFZHzFyNTw1


  1. Hello old friend.The posts are great and so are the photos.Great detail so you can really see how much extra work is going into this.Its like reinventing the wheel.--John

    1. Hey John, Great to hear from you. Yes, lots of work and thought going in to this whole project !
      Thanks for your support.


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