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

Thursday, 29 March 2018

0045 Putting Gidget back together

20th - 29th March 2018
Putting panels, trim, and many small parts back on the car - At last

Rear wing & black piping
It is always quicker to take things apart than it is to put them back together.  But when many of the panels to which you are affixing everything are new themselves, then there are not even any holes or indentations there to use as guidelines, so everything takes a great deal longer even than the normal slow process !  But this is truly a part of this project that I really enjoy - Fettling, as I call it.   The effort to make the car better and more usable, so that when we set off on our Adventure, it will feel like putting on an old favourite glove.  Well, as close as possible, anyway !!  My first task was to bolt on the rear wings, and design and manufacture the rear mud flaps.

Large void area behind rear wheel
Fill void with foam ?
The rear wings have a large void behind the wheel, all part of the superb sweeping design of the Healey, as delightful to look at today as it was revolutionary in design in the early 1950's.  But this large void behind the wheel has two major problems - 1) It attracts and traps dirt and
Mud flap covers the void
mud, making the area prone to rust - Indeed a large section of our rear wings is totally new, manufactured by hand by Andrew at CCC, because the rusted sections were so bad they were unusable.  And 2) it means the bolts which hold the wing in place are at extreme fingertip reach, making them very hard to reach and to tighten up.  We had decided to insert black rubber piping between the steel wing, and the alloy rear shroud, replacing the chrome and metal piping which was original.  We feel that the rubber piping will do a better job of inhibiting corrosion between the dissimilar metals of the body as well as preventing rattles, and also that the black rubber piping actually looks much smarter against the new Coronet Cream paintwork.  For a while I toyed with the idea of either filling this void space with closed-cell
Protective rubber in place
foam in order to prevent mud and moisture building up in there, or even making up some kind of oil or water tanks that could be mounted there making the space more usable, although this was eventually discounted due to the weight of such fluid mounted behind the rear axle.  Eventually the rubber mud flaps that I made up seemed to be strong enough and also cover enough of the splash area that they should prevent too much mud or stones becoming lodged in the void, and causing a problem from both weight and corrosion.  As long as we hose them out whenever we have the opportunity, we should be OK.

Wing fitted over stone protection
I made the stone protection up utilising experience gained from a similar exercise on my Elise when I took it to the Arctic.  Firstly they are glued in place on the inner guards, protecting the metal from the impact of stones and gravel.  Then, following a few minor issues in the Arctic with the glue coming "unglued" under extreme conditions of snow and ice, I now made up some horizontal alloy brackets to firmly clamp the rubber in place, and these are bolted through the rubber and the inner guard, so nothing can move anywhere.  Additionally these support brackets enable me to have the rubber spread out into "fresh air", so guarding the outer section of the wing and the void behind, where there is no where to glue any protective rubber.  I have used a thicker alloy for the lower bracket, and to this I have also mounted the mud flaps themselves, which are made of thicker rubber than the protective material.  I have on purpose not made the mud flaps too low as there is nothing more distracting than long mud flaps noisily hitting the ground every time the car bounces.  If we need to make them longer / shorter once we have run the car, they can be simply unbolted and new units bolted on.

Bolting on the rear wings was definitely a 2 man job - it is just physically impossible to reach both
Welsh friends prepare to depart
sides of the more remote bolts !  I had some Welsh friends arrive this week who are borrowing my Troopie to drive round Australia for 3 months, so while they were here I made good use of Bernard and he helped me out on the wngs and also the battery and storage box by the rear axle whose bolts were also a 2 man job to tighten up.  They left last Sunday, so I am hoping Troopie does a good job for them - After all she does have 450,000 kms on her now !  
Troopie off round Australia - Again !
And while they were here I had felt some discomfort internally when working on the car, and after going to my doctor it was found that I had 2 inguinal hernias !  As these kinds of things cannot be left untreated, especially if one is heading off to the Gobi Desert where doctors are not found on every corner, I therefore booked myself in for surgery this week.  Which is why I have been a bit quiet recently !  With the surgery now completed, I feel like I have been kicked in the nuts by a mallee bull, but at least I know that these problems should be behind me now.  Aging is so much fun !!

Guard fitted to Aux fuel tank
I have been very concerned for some time about the bare auxilliary fuel tank being susceptible to damage from the heavy spare wheel as (if ?) we move it in and out, so I got a piece of alloy, shaped it to fit on the top of the fuel tank, glued some thin rubber cushioning underneath it, and then glued that on top of the fuel tank.  I now feel a lot happier that if the spare wheel does drag on the fuel tank, at least it will not damage the tank itself.  Once less thing to worry about.

Carb linkages all done
After my Welsh visitors had left, I set to the carburettor linkages, fitting the lever that is connected to the throttle cable, so now we can fit the throttle pedal and make sure it opens the carbs fully when depressed.  I am now waiting on Andrew to come over to fit this and a couple of other bits.  Then I moved to the doors - I decided to fully fit them up even though I can't actually mount them on the car until the front guards are fitted.  First of all I re-
Black painted internal door panels
painted the green backing panel that is screwed onto the wooden cross bar in the door - These were green in the old car, but as everything is now black and cream, green panels would have looked most out of place.  These came up very well, so after re-fettling the door opening catches and spraying the green pull-cables black, I then fitted the outer panelling.  For the passenger
Fitting outer paneling
door I had cut this panelling down some time in readiness for this fitting, but I still had to drill holes in the new door frame for the panel screws, and glue the upper section of material to the door frame.  I also inserted the 4 screwed tubes into which the side screens will fit - These screw into the wooden plugs that I had renovated
Insert for side screens in door
previously, and as I only had two new pieces, I was concerned that the original somewhat worn units might break upon insertion.  So I took it very easy - And all of them went in cleanly and with no problem.  Perfect.  Lastly I fitted the alloy trim strip that runs along the top of the doors - Indeed it runs right around the passenger compartment - Making the doors complete and ready for fitting.

I then mounted the front mud flaps, once again not making them too long.  They are also held in place by alloy brackets screwed into the wheel arches, so can also be changed for longer units if
Fresh air vent all hooked up
needed.  I finally found some small cable stops in a bicycle store, and was able to fit up the fresh air intake, connecting it to the push/pull cable that I had fitted previously.  Long ago Ashton and I agreed to first of all try to use as few nut and bolt variations as we could, and also make notes of all the nut and bolt sizes for ease of working on the car in future.  However both of these plans have been difficult to adhere to, firstly due to time restrictions (and dirty hands) when you need to write a bolt size down !  In addition, there are just SO many different size bolts on this car originally, a number of which are not so easy to obtain today
Nut sizes written beside nut
(especially where riv-nuts are used), that there is quite a mix of bolt sizes on the car - Albeit not out of control !  So I decided on a better alternative that would avoid having to refer to a notebook in order to find the bolt size - I started writing the bolt or nut size beside the item, so one can immedialy see which spanner is required.  Obviously this does not work under the car or in oily locations, but where it is inside the boot or engine bay, it seems to work very well.

Boot hinges in place
Next was the boot lid, and first item there were the hinges.  In preparation for possibly fitting the boot rack we have in order to mount the spare tyre, I punched out the little hinge pins and, after reaming them out very slightly, replaced them with hi-
Bolt in place of hinge pin
tensile bolts.  I have spare bolts to carry  as spares in case they get broken.  The boot lid is not in good shape (literally !) but the hinges seemed to go on quite well with only minor fettling.  Once the hinges were bolted on, it was time to try to shut the boot - No way that was going to happen !  The lip of both the lid itself and the groove in the shroud into which the lip of the lid fits, are both very mis-shapen - For example on one side there is a double fold, and on
Rubber samples for boot sealing
the other side is a single fold.  And along the back rim, the lip on the lid was so long and mis-shapen that it wouldn't fit over the lip in the shroud and left a 1 inch gap - In fact, when I forced it to see if it would close at all, it clicked into place and took me over an hour to open it back up again !!   I ended up using a grinder to trim the lip until finally the boot lid closed. - And opened !  I still have to try to reshape it a little by judicious bending, but at least it now closes.  The only way I can see to make it waterproof is to fit rubber subing all round the groove in the shroud, so that the lip on the lid seats onto that rubber, so I got a selection of small pieces of tubing from Clark Rubber to see which fitted best.  It will still be largely guesswork, but I think we will be ok.

Boot latch handle
The actual closing latch was fitted, but this has been so messed with and cut about that it will need some major fettling in order to get this to work.  Not sure how to accomplish this, so is a work in progress.  I also fitted the little "Austin of England" sign on the boot lid, after previously repainting it as it was pretty well damaged when removed from the original car.  I also started
Austin sign on the boot
measuring up the old leaf springs (which we will carry as spares in place of the original heavy chrome bumpers) and they are exactly
Measuring up rear springs as bumpers
the same width as the holes for the mounting brackets in the rear shroud, so they should fit perfectly.  We can then fit number plates and rally plates etc to this leaf spring, so they do not have to be drilled into the body work.

Front wing all set up for mounting
The front wings have been prepared for fitting by attaching all the new one-way bolt clips which I had purchased, and cutting the rubber piping to fit in readiness.  I also fitted the original chrome flashes that cover the original ventilation slot on each wing. We have decided to mount small 12V LED lights in the boot, in the passenger compartment, and in the engine bay, so we can have
12V LED light in boot
light when we need it.  These will work off pre-allocated switches that are mounted on the central switch board.  I used double sided tape to mount the boot light, and am making up a small bracket which will fit centrally behind the dashboard for the cabin light, while for the engine bay light I will wait until the bonnet is fully installed before deciding which position gives the best light.  All these are mounted using double sided tape so that they can be easilt moved if necessary during the shake down period.

13 little holes needing bolts
I then noticed a row of 13 (should I drill one more ???!!) little
13 litle holes with bolts in
holes along the rear of the boot shroud, where it sits on the new  cross brace bar that has been mounted.  This area was all so rusty and damaged and covered with bog on the original car that it was impossible to see what was there originally, but evidently the rear of the shroud needed to be firmly fixed to this cross bar.  As the cross bar is new, I had to drill all these holes, and in the interests of later possible removal, decided to fit small bolts in there instead of the much easier and quicker pop rivets.  This new cross bar is an upside down U channel so it is VERY fiddly to try and get a small washer, a lock washer and a nut all on there before one or the other fall off the tip of your finger.   It took a while, but eventually all 13 bolts were fitted and tight.  That rear shroud isn't going anywhere, even if 6 of the bolts shake loose !!

Rear lights going in
Lastly I started on the rear wiring and the installation of the lights.  It is really tight around the fuel pumps and fuel filter, but does fit, and should be relatively straight forward.  All the wires are already laid out, and Steve tested them last week, so there should be no issue with these.  To simplify the wiring, and get rid
Right hand side ready for light socket
of the bulky old-style flasher relay unit (required because the rear lights had to do 3 things, brake, running light, and indicator), we will be fitting small separate yellow indicator lights to the rear, so we don't run into any hassles with a Mongolian traffic officer !!  These will all be fitted over this Easter holiday weekend, so when Andrew and Steve come round after the Easter break we will be ready to fit up the last of the panels, and to fire up the engine.    We are getting so close !! 😀

Rest of the photos are here :-  https://photos.app.goo.gl/vOthbllrLGZXcN6c2


  1. Great progress - Suggest
    2 throttle cables - if you haven't already thought of it. Easier to replace 1 if needed than stop.

  2. Excellent point. We will be carrying a spare one, John, but the hook up is all done, and to change it now would take time we don't have. The cable system we have is actually very simple and easy to replace - Unlike the original Healey one !! We will see how it goes in Alice in July.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Thank you so much, Greg. We appreciate your support.

  4. Hi Giles
    Anne (Mary Anne) & Kevin here from the Yangtze tour.
    Wishing you a fun, safe adventure!
    I will follow your blog.


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