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

Friday, 25 May 2018

0051 Putting the front bodywork on, and more

21st May 2018.
Nice rear bumper in addition to the front bodywork !

Mock up of rear bumper assembly
Right from the beginning, when I found out that the rear bumper weighed 3.2 kg, while a single leaf of a spring only weighs 2 kg, I have planned to use a main spring leaf in place of bumpers for bodywork protection, while also providing us with a spare spring leaf in case of any breakage on the car.  (I was advised early on that when a leaf spring breaks, it is usually the long main leaf that breaks, so one (hopefully) only needs to carry that single leaf to have a spare.)  So once I had found a way to attach the original
Mock up complete

bumper hangers to the new chassis mount points, I just had to find out how best to attach a spring.  A bit of tape was good for the mock-up, while in the centre of the spring I tried to find a way to attach the rear number plate and light.  I also started to look for ways to attach the new little rear indicators.  Once I determined that a small bracket welded on to the bumper hanger was the way to go, and had made a template, it was off to Andrew's work shop for some welding.
A note on the rear indicators.  On this car originally, the front side lights had two functions - side light and indicator.  However the small rear side lights had 3 functions - Side light, brake light and also indicator.  To do this required a fairly complicated wiring system that included a "flasher unit" that was not only quite complicated but also was located in a very exposed position up on the front inner
Small rear indicator fittings
guard.  In the interests of reliability we wanted to delete this flasher unit and all the wiring it required, but this would mean having a separate new rear indicator light.  In the intetrests of period correctness, Ashton was not keen on this, and particularly not to attach it to the actual bodywork.  However, having had extensive experience of officious remote country "traffic officials", they often look for any illogical excuse to "fault" the car of a "wealthy foreigner", so I felt it was important to have operating orange rear indicator lights, if only to ensure we weren't delayed time-wise during the event, which could cause us penalties.  We also are not permitted to fit LED lights, so we bought the smallest possible regular bulb indicators.

Rear bracket mount welded on
Andrew not only welded the small bracket onto the bumper hanger as per my template, but also straightened the hangers which you will notice in the earlier photos stick up above the spring itself, so when I trial fitted them to the car, they were perfect.  I drilled a hole in the new bracket, and will be using a standard spring hanger bolt to hold the spring in place. I then spray painted the hanger with 2 undercoats and a couple of coats of satin black top coat.

Front wiring contained
While they were drying (15 hours for each of the black top coats), I moved on to fitting the front shroud.  With the wiring for the headlights, I siliconed each of the electrical bullet joiners to waterproof them, and then fitted them inside a small plastic bottle which I then sealed, with a view to further waterproofing it for water crossings.  After tidying up some last items that would be hard to reach once the shroud was fitted, I put the shroud on and started working my way around the panel looking for all the screw fittings that hold it in place - And I was surprised to find out how many there are !  5 across the back of the engine bay, 5 more bolts along the
Many screws holding front shroud
front to the bay near the radiator hinges, and 5 more across the rear of the shroud, inside the passenger bay, which are also fitted through one of the long cast alloy strips that run right around the passenger bay.  Then there are 2 more bolts inside the trough of the bonnet, on each side, as well as 2 more screws on each side of the dash, hidden behind a fold in the bodywork which has to be bent down in order to fit the screws, and then bent back up afterwards.  So this is 23 screws / bolts, not counting the 4 additional bolts that link the shroud to another chassis bracket and also pass through the front wings.  That shroud is not going anywhere !  I then hung the front wings on and started locating them with their many bolts and captive nuts in hard to reach places.

Rear bumper bracket painted
By now the paint on the rear bumper brackets was dry (yes, fitting the front shroud so far was two days of solid work !), so it was back to the rear bumper to try to find a way to mount the rear indicators.   Initially I made some brackets to mount them directly underneath the rear brake light, but Ashton thought they were too exposed to stone damage from the rear wheels, and suggested they might be better mounted inboard a little, and down lower.  Once these brackets were made up, they too were painted satin
Final rear indicator location
black.  And because I have used alloy for the brackets and also used rubber to prevent rattles etc between the springs and the mount bracket, I had to include separate earth wires for not only the two indicators but also the number plate light.  Once they were all mounted up, everything worked perfectly. 😊 And I have to say that once the rusty old spring leaves are given a coat of silver paint, they come up looking pretty smart too !

Bolting up front wings with piping
Lotus friend Barry Mather came round at the weekend to help me bolt up the front wings, and also to help with the doors which take two people to easily attach to their hinges.  As always, it is great when people donate their time to help us with this project, and in this case Barry was really good at getting his fingers into some really tight places to get the screws and bolts in place.  Also good to have some company to chat to while I work, but as always with Gidget, there were plenty of hiccups along the way !

First of all, when the first wing was almost fully bolted in place, I found that a hidden bolt on one of the mounting brackets was loose - i must have forgotten to tighten it.  After lengthy attempts to tighten it with the wing in place,
Windscreen mounts in place
I eventually gave in and took the whole wing off again - But at least I know it is now tight !  Then we found that the joint face between the wings and the shroud is not consistent - And as a result when you tighten the bolts, the black plastic joint strip is still loose in some places.  So we had to undo all the bolts again,
Heading off for the skid plate
and make the plastic strip thicker by gluing an additional strip along its length.  Next time we tightened it up, it was held firmly in place.  We finally got the two wings in place, and by about 7 pm I had the doors back on, but not aligned.  At 9 am the next morning the car was heading off again to Yatala to Peter Janetzki to have the new full length skid plate fitted, so I will have to work on the panel alignment after it comes back.  The next morning, on a quick drive around the block while I was waiting on the truck, I also found out that the inside of the front side lights rubs on the front of the tyres when turning, so that will also need attention later.

Front section of skidplate
Once the car had been taken up to Peter's I went up later in the day to check on the undertray and to make sure he had everything he needed for the work.  The front part of the undertray runs from the very front to the back of the gearbox, and is made from 6 mm alloy, so is a serious piece of metal work.  The rear part of the tray is "only" 3 mm, and just runs under the seats and battery, the differential and the fuel tank in the boot floor.  The differential is exposed to allow up and down movement of the suspension, but the base of the diff, where the drain plug is exposed, will have a small separate steel skid bar added
Recessed bolt "washers" in skid plate
to protect it. The tabs for mounting the skid plate are welded up on the sides of the chassis rails, and the bolts which bolt up to these tabs are recessed in their own little skid plates so the heads of the bolts can't be rounded off if they are hit by rocks.  Access holes are drilled into the skid plate to allow oil changes etc without having to remove the skid plate itself.   This is going to be one serious under-car protection system !

Inspecting fasteners on other cars
While at Peter's, I spent time inspecting another couple of Healey 100/4's that he has there, looking at exactly where and how some of the roof and tonneau fasteners are fitted to the front and rear shrouds.  I was not present when many of these items were removed from the original car, and with all the body work and paint, some of these small holes have got covered up.  I need to make sure I refit them in the correct locations !

Water steriliser pen
While the car was at Peter's I went down to Pedders to collect the new   bushings for the spare rear springs, and also took the time to look further at options like water sterilisation options for our drinking water when on the rally - Not sure which way to go yet, but this UV Steriliser pen looks pretty clever - May be a bit too much overkill ?  After all, hopefully most of the time we will be provided with bottled water - So all we will need to do is ensure that the seals on the tops of the bottles are always intact before drinking ! (I have been in several places where the locals refill plastic bottles wth local water, and the only tell-tale is that the seal is broken !)

Lastly, during Ashton's last visit, we looked at options for the boot rack, on which we propose to mount our spare tyre - Just the tyre, not the entire wheel.  We will carry our spare wheel inside the boot, but will also be carrying an extra tyre just in case.  The strength and mount design of the boot rack we have
Suction mount for boot rack
does not instill us with confidence, so we have been looking at alternative mounting methods, and one which we have come up with is to use RAM camera suction mounts in place of the legs.  So I made up a mock up bracket out of alloy (for ease of shaping and cutting it in my limited workshop) that will enable us to join the suction mount to the rack, and now I know that should work, I will run that down to Andrew in the morning to get him to make it up out of stronger steel.

We have also decided to run a simple radiator overflow system on the car (not a recovery system), that will at least ensure any overflow radiator water is collected and can be replaced into the radiator later - Water may well become a valuable commodity out there if we have any overheating issues. Finding a suitable bottle was surprisingly difficult, so we ended up getting one out of the UK that is actually for a Triumph TR6, so period correct for us.
Axle stand
In addition, we have purchased a couple of alloy 3 tonne axle stands that dismantle for ease of packing and storage.  Originally we were going to make some of our own but this option just hasn't worked out - Too many other things still to do and make that are more important !  So we found these on the internet and they arrived this week, and seem to be ideal.
Axle stand dismantled
Meanwhile, at the end of the week now, Gidget is still up with Peter at JH Classic Restorations, as it has taken slightly longer than expected to get the skid plate mounted properly.  While they are working under the car, I am also getting them to also fit the bases into our under-floor storage areas which never got done previously.  Hopefully she will be finished early next week.

In the meantime, I have found a Sports Trophy shop in Southport that can engrave small plastic labels so we can mark all our dashboard switches
Labels similar to those we plan to fit
correctly, and make sure that we always flip the correct switch !  These will be completed next week and can be fixed in place using double sided tape.    I have also set up with Andrew to come over as soon as Gidget is back to help line up the doors and front panels so they open and shut properly !  As soon as the car is mobile, we need to go to the auto trimmers to get the roof fitted and the new sidescreens made up on the original frames.  Other than that, only small things to take care of on the car now, but as usual, they seem to take the longest time!

Rest of the photos are here :-  https://photos.app.goo.gl/ENtWrhbtaYiIdoyP2

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