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

Sunday, 3 June 2018

0053 Trying to get everything finished.....

3rd June 2018
On the road again.........!                                364 days to go

Ashton enjoying Gidget

The week started off with me still trying to do 101 things in preparation for Ashton coming up for a visit at the weekend - Given the size of his smile when he got to drive Gidget last time he was here, despite her then only being "half dressed", I knew he would expect nothng less than a longer drive this time, with all her clothes on !  So the pressure was on !

We are scheduled to depart from Beijing at the start of our Rally on the 2nd June 2019, so yesterday was the start of our countdown to that auspicious occasion.  From now on we will include a countdown in our blog of the days remaining before the start, so that you can all get as excited as Ashton and I !!  So today is 364 to go......

Fishing line leaders
Leader in place on bonnet pin
In trying to think of a way to retain the bonnet clips so we don't loose them,
I had the idea of a leader or tracer of fishing line - They are thin, strong, are plastic coated wire (so strong and non scratching), cheap, plus they have clips and swivels on them for attaching and so they won't get twisted.  Ashton also pointed out that in true Colin Chapman fishing they can also have a secondary function - To help us catch fish for our supper in the Gobi Desert (Are there any rivers or lakes in the Gobi ?).  A quick trip to BCF, and $5 later I have 5 tracers - 2 to use and 3 spares !  Perfect.

New wiper blades
Then it was back down to Supercheap to fins some suitable windscreen wiper blades.  The blades are so short, I am not sure how efficient they may be, but at least they now have new blades !  So they are ready to be fitted once the wndscreen is in place.  And in typical Gidget fashion, the entire units are different from each other - Not sure which is the correct one, so we will have to trial them before deciding whether to "upgrade" them !

I then spent some time working out how me might mount the other spare rear spring, this time to the front. We also have spotlight mounts to fit, as well as tow hooks, so we are trying to work out a way to incorporate all 3
Cutting down sidelight rubbers
into the single unit.   Additionally I had to look at the issue of the front tyres rubbing on the light fittings. These light fitting protrude quite a long way into the wheel arch, and with the bigger diameter tyres fitted, they now foul them.  So I needed to shorten the rubber fitting - Not easy as they have to remain waterproof, and also contain the metal light fitting, so there isn't much room to play with.  Anyway, I had a couple of ratty old rubber covers from the original units, and cut them about, eventually gluing on a new flat rubber back plate to seal them.  They will do for now, but they are still very close to the tyres, so we need to look for alternatives.  We found out that the later Healeys had much shorter backs to their sidelights, so we have ordered a couple of those. And if that doesn't work, then we will insert spacers at the front to move them forwards slightly.

Switch labelling
Whoops !!
During the week, I also had labels engraved so that we can
remember what all the switches do !  They have come up really well - Except one, where they made a small spelling mistake !!  We may have to replace it later if we get some others made, but in the meantime it serves to remind us that Gidget doesn't ever like to do anything the easy way !

We had a major problem with the driver's door and the front wing not fitting properly - The door couldn't even be opened because the panels fouled each other so badly.  The reason for this was that this front guard had actually been finished by Andrew after the car had been taken from Classic Car Clinic, so when he welded in the lower panel and the heat escape grill, he didn't have the car on which to to check the panel fit.  Unfortunately the underneath ledge which bolts into the chassis was about 15 mm too wide, and as a result it did not pull the bottom of the wing in when tightened.  So, after measuring it up, Andrew came over and picked up the guard, and took it back to his workshop to cut off the required 15 mm section.  He returned it the same evening, on his way home - Service !!

Once fitted up, it was a lot better - although it still just fouled the door slightly.  So once Ashton
Putting things together
arrived, our first job was to take off the entire RH wing (yet again !! - Not an easy job with hidden and hard to reach bolts !), and we then tried to push the wing forward before tightening it again.  This got us about 5 mm extra room, but it was still not enough, and eventually I hate to say it, but we took the wing off again and took the grinder to it !   Then it was back on the car, and while Ashton worked on fitting it up and getting the door lined up, I moved to the front and started installing the headlights. As someone who is a bit of an electical numpty (although increasingly less so, I hope !), when I plug a light in and it works, I get a tremendous thrill !  The headlight units on Gidget are both
All lights working !
completely different due to the previous accident damage, so each headlight presented its own specific issues and problems. Ashton had also purchased some wire grills to protect them from flying stone damage, and these further complicated the installation as they both fitted in different ways to each headlight !   Long story short, eventually got the lights in - and they worked !  Yeah !!   Trouble was, one was on dip, and one was on high beam.  Flip the high beam switch and they swapped !  Luckily I quickly worked out that I had a couple of wires crossed, and after swapping them over, the main beams worked correctly !

New chassis/engine plates
When we got the car, there was a small engraved plate on the firewall - "4467 1360".  "1360" is actually the "Body Number",  and the plate is still in its original Coronet Cream body colour, so is an important link to the cars originality. (And nice to see that the colour match with our new paint is correct !).  The original chassis number and engine number are hidden down on chassis members and low on the engine block, and are almost impossible to read in good lighting conditions, let alone by frustrated Mongolian Border Officials in the twilight.  Some months ago I found a very authentic Healey plate on eBay, and bought it as a present to Gidget, and had it engraved with the Engine Number and Chassis Number, and planned to mount it in a prominent place, so making it easier for Customs Officals to check the details.  This week, finally after about 6 months, I was able to mount both these little plates on the firewall, and IMHO they look really good.  I hope the Mongolian Border Officials appreciate them ! (Watch this space for the result !)

Working on the bonnet
Been trying to put the bonnet back on its hinges, but like everything else, not so simple !  Lining up things like doors, boots and bonnets are very much a special skill learned after years of practice, and that doesn't qualify me !  So after a few hours of effort on my own, I decided to wait until Ashton and Barry arrived !  Once they came over, I feigned other jobs I had to attend to, and left them to play with the bonnet 😊.   After a while they deduced that the hinges were in fact fouling a beam that ran across in front of the radiator, and this was preventing it from closing fully.   I remembered that when we moved the radiator forwards, we had also moved a front cross beam forwards, and it was this that was fouling the hinges.  So, should we grind away half this beam - Or should we forget the hinges and go with a removable bonnet ?  After a discussion, we decided to go with the removable bonnet because if we need access to the engine bay, this gives us much more space.  Held down well by the bonnet strap and the bonnet pins, this is an obvious solution.

We had scheduled a meeting with Peter Janetzki at JH Classic Restorations in Yatala for Saturday
Studying windscreen fittings
morning while Ashton was here, so he could meet with him to discuss both the already completed skidplate, as well as potential designs for a roll bar.  This is something that is important from a safety point of view, but engineering-wise is not so simple.  While spending time with Peter and Brett, we also looked at windscreen set ups on other Healeys, ways to strengthen the engine mounts, and a few other interesting and useful aspects of Healey design.   We have decided on a roll bar design, but will fit it after the Alice Springs rally in August as it will take some time to complete it properly.

It was then time to get back home so we could get on with the work on the car, and also meet Barry Mather who had kindly offered to work with us (again) for the afternoon.  I didn't get any photos of the entire afternoon because we were SO busy, but we accomplished a lot, with doors closing properly (well done Ashton- Great body work skills), achieved by repeatedly removing headlights and front wings and doors and putting them back on - But since we achieved the desired result, a very worthwhile
Lae night windscreen fitting
afternoon, and we achieved a lot.   In the evening we all went out for a celebratory and very enjoyable meal.  Later that evening, after Barry & Jess had left, Ashton and I couldn't help ourselves, and after I recovered our new windscreen from its long time storage home under my bed, we fitted the rubber weather strip along the bottom (a fairly time consuming item in itself), and went out to the garage to trial fit it.  One of the locating pins needed a little reaming which we would do in the morning, but just to see the windscreen in place on the car was magical - It made the whole vehicle look like a car at last - We just stood there and admired it for several minutes !   A great days work.

Ashton on the Dremel
Sure enough, Ashton and I were up early on Sunday morning, and after a quick poached eggs and baked beans breakfast, headed out to the garage.  Careful Dremel work by Ashton eventually got the windscreen pin on the right hand upright to locate properly, and the windscreen was in.  It has a slight tint to it, and is fully laminated as required nowadays, and of course we also have the ClearPlex windscreen protection on it already, to prevent any stone damage.  There is a knurled knob which fixes the pillars in position, and in the centre of that knurled nut is a small screw, which on other cars I have repeatedly seen sheared off, and I
Windscreen knurled nut
wondered why.  On installing our new knurled knob and screw today, I found out - The screw is to prevent the knurled nut from completely undoing and has a left handed thread.  I can only presume other people have snapped their screw heads off because they have not realised it has a left hand threard, and instead of undoing it they have tightened it.......until the screw head sheared off.  We shall make sure it is only turned in the correct direction !

The windscreen can also be lowered into a "racing" position - Is the Austin Healey 100/4 the only car
Windscreen in "race" mode !
that has a windscreen that can be lowered like this ?   It certainly makes it look very "sporty" but whether it is practical under normal circumstances remains to be seen.   Looks great though !

Once the windscreen was properly located, we went to attach the wipers, and couldn't work out why they wouldn't fit.  They seemed to be back to front, and we spent some time trying to work out what was wrong - Eventually we realised - Duh.  When
Windscreen spigots backwards !
fitting the wiper spindles, I had stupidly installed them back to front, so the spindles were facing backwards instead of forwards !  Pretty dumb.........  Not difficult to change !  We then fitted lap belt sections of our full harnesses, hooking them in to the mount points that I had fitted into the transmission tunnel yesterday (We will fit the full harness next week.)

Seat belts fitted
Ashton took our new leather faced hammer and checked the tightness of the wheel spinners, and once that was completed, it was time to go for our first drive in the "completed" car.  All aboard - And off we went.  Woooohoooo !!

First stop was the gas station as we knew we had little fuel. While we were filling up, a Triumph Stag pulled in beside us - It was our near neighbour Steve and his wife Andrea on their way to a
First fill up for a while !
morning Triumph Club run.  After chatting about the car, they invited us along to their meet up point, so off we went.   Being the only Healey at a Triumph meet was "interesting" - But then we suddenly remembered we had fitted a TR6 radiator overflow bottle this week, so we made sure we mentioned that, and were accepted !  The next 30 minutes were spent answering questions about the car and about P2P, and a fun time was had by all.

Tyre rubbing front guard
When driving to the meet, we had found that one front tire was rubbing on the front wing on LH corners - That would need fixing.  Oil pressure started at 80 psi, with 60 psi at idle, which was good.  But an hour later, with everything hot, it was still the same - Surely a little high ?  And when we used 5th gear, it tried to jump out when we accelerated - That would certainly need attention, especially since we have had the gearbox rebuilt twice !!  Hmmm. Other than that, water and oil temps were good, and the brakes seemed to be now pulling straight and well.  On the way home we ran with the windscreen in its "lowered" position, and I found it all a bit windy !  I think one needs proper goggles in order to really enjoy it, so am quite willing to try it again when I have my equipment with me !
But a great first shake down drive, with a few things to address over the coming days in order to move the car preparation forward.  But great to have a car we can now legal to drive so we can start refining and tuning into the vehicle we have envisaged and want.

Spotlight mounts
Before Ashton had to go to the airport to fly back to Sydney, we went through a few other important items.  We went round the garage looking at spare parts, excess parts for sale, both second hand and new, and also at the tonneau.  Offering up the tonneau to the car was interesting - If only because it is still its LH drive tonneau !  But it showed us what body clips are required and where, and is in such good condition that we will probably get the steering whel "bump" moved across to the RH side so we can continue to use it in future.  We will probably not take it to China, but it is a useful accessory to have.    We also planned a canvas panel to cover the spare wheel where it intrudes into the cabin from the boot, thereby separating the boot (and fuel tanks) from the cabin.

Playing with the soft top route
And finally we looked at the soft top roof more closely.  It is in better overall condition than we initially thought, with just some minor fettling required.  Additionally, now we plan to fit a roll bar, we will not be able to have the roof fixed to the car.  It will have to be lifted over the roll bar and slotted into places, and following our conversations with Peter Janetzki yesterday. we have some good ideas how to do this which we will be exploring next week.  But very pleased to find the roof in quite acceptable condition.

Overall, a week where not a lot of physical changes were made, but one in which we did a lot of work refining and improving the car,  as we move forward - A top week and an excellent weekend - How good was it to finally go for a drive in "our" car on a beautiful sunny day ?  We have put SO much into Gidget over the past 12 months, so this weekend was very special.

All the photos can be found here :- https://photos.app.goo.gl/9cdDwc85Bs481zQ42


  1. Thanks, John ! Almost there - But it is the last little bit that seems to take soooooooo long !


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