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

Saturday, 23 June 2018

0055 We go for a drive....

24th June 2018
Finishing touches and a drive in the countryside

341 days to go

New gearbox lid gaskets

Steve takes Dave for a spin
By 10 am on the Monday morning, the gearbox gasket arrived by courier from Sydney - Plus a spare one in case someone else ever does the bolts up too tight !  I took it straight down to Classic Car, and Steve got it in correctly, and we re-installed the transmission tunnel, carpeting and switch box, so we had a car again.  Steve took it for a drive, and Dave Godwin, the business owner went for a passenger drive, and everything was working fine.  And no puddles of oil on the floor when they returned  😀
After checking over a few final items, Steve drove the car to my house and I brought him back to work - Time for me to go to work and make up for some of the time lost over the weekend.

Loading boxes
Well, the weekend wasn't entirely lost.  I had spent the weekend going through all the spare parts and tools, drawing up a main list, and also starting to pack everything into boxes.  And the packing of the boxes was a task on its own as I had to find a combination of storage boxes that would not only hold all the parts and items we need to carry, but also boxes that would stack neatly and securely in the trunk even over the roughest roads.  Additionally,
everything must be clearly labelled, and easily and quickly available in wind, rain, or the dark, should we need them in a hurry. Thus the weekend was a continual effort to solve the puzzle, moving boxes around the boot, trying to strap them down and see if they were secure, moving them again, and again, until I came up with at least a starting set-up.  Then I started to put all the spares and parts into the boxes, labelling everything as I went, and aso creating a master list that we will be able to refer to when in the car, so we can move quickly to the required item if required.
Slowly working out the puzzle !

Also had to make up a bracket to hold the smaller boxes in place, and the strap across all the boxes is secured to the chassis rail extensions that go through the boot, so should be pretty secure.  This is actually the part of the preparation that I enjoy and am quite good at - And to be honest, what I thought most of the preparation was going to be about when I originally signed up !!   There were some late nights involved in doing this, and I needed the light from our in-car boot light to see what I was doing !!

Trying to get wing mirrors to work
Once the car was back together,  I spent time looking at the wing mirrors.  The car came with one "American Style" mirror on the pax side, and lots of other holes drilled in the wing where obviously other mirrors have been fitted in the past.  The larger American Style mirror base conveniently covers every one of these holes !  Ashton had purchased some rectangular mirrors which gave a much better rearward view, but when I came to set these up, they had insufficent mirror adjustment to allow us to see anything but road beside the car - It seems that the shape of the Healey door is just incompatible with these low adjustment mirrors - So if anyone wants some excellent brand new period mirrors for their classic car, let Ashton or I know - We have some for sale (along with quite a pile of other stuff !!)  In CCC workshop I inspected some mirrors on an MGB and thought they would be perfect.  But when I tried them on the Healey, it was the same issue - Not a good view at all as once again, angles were all wrong.   How can mirrors be so complicated ????  I always thought you just bought the mirror you liked, and fitted it !!

Original "American Style" unit
So it was back to ther original "American Style" unit, and when I tried it, it fitted perfectly, and gave a perfect view behind.  And also covered up ALL the previous holes in the door !!    Could we buy another identical one ?   No, or course not, that would be too easy.  Ours is 130 mm long base, and all the new ones are 165 mm.   So should we fit the one we have, then buy one, save some money and hope the difference isn't too obvious ?  Or buy two matching ones ?   Watch this space !!

The first R100 Healey ?
We were standing around in the workshop chatting about cars in general and Gidget in particular (as you do when like minded car nuts get together), and I said that we couldn't find the original "!00" flash grill badge for the car, but that we needed something.  Someone suggested "100S' or "100M", but they wouldn't be correct.   Then Nathan from next door workshop comes in and hands me a badge that says "Mazda R100" which he just happened to have lying around, and asks if that would work.  The badge was broken,  but we started thining about the R.  "Restored" ?  "Renovated" ?  Hey, what about "Rally" - After all, that is what Gidget is all about ?  Perfect !  The first ever "R100 Austin Healey" !!  So I took the badge home, removed the Mazda bit, mended the damage between the R and the 100, painted it up in Healey red, and mounted it on a backing plate to give it some additional support, and hey presto, Gidget is now the only Healey "R100" in the world !!
(To be fair, we have since learned of a beautiful "Healey 100 R" that was built in the USA a few years ago, but since our "R" is before the "100" and not after it, we can still lay claim to being the first "R100" !!)

Anti-slip rubber on all boxes
Back to the boxes in the boot, they all tend to slip and slide a bit, even on the carpet.  I have installed anti-slip rubber matting between the alloy fuel tank and the carpet, and this has now stopped the carpet sliding around on the polished alloy, but still the boxes had a tendency to slip a bit despite their shaped bottoms.  So more thin anti-slip matting was acquired, cut to shape and glued to the base of each box - even the small pads on the base of the "ammo box" styled boxes needed matting.  Once done, all the boxes not only sit much more firmly on the carpeting, but also on top of each other so they can be stacked and stay in position.

Andrew at work
The following Monday morning saw me down at the workshop with Andrew "the metal wizard", and we had a busy day.  We didn't stop for coffee, lunch, or anything between 9 am and 4.30 pm, and managed to get lots of bits fabricated.  First of all we made up the tabs to weld onto the existing (and original) bumper brackets, that would then support the spotlights and the new (leaf spring) bumper bar.
Front tow hooks as made
Once cut and smoothed, he welded them into place, and they were put aside for me to take home, clean up, and paint.  Then we moved on to tow points, front and rear.  For the front, we have spent many hours trying to work out how best to do these, and once we realised that the previously cut pieces were never going
Front tow hooks painted
to fit easily (especially now we have the front bumper), we decided a simple plate with an eye for a D shackle, that could be bolted through to the front chassis using the same bolts as the bumper bars.  So we designed the optimal shape that would not reduce our ground clearance, and Andrew cut and shaped and drilled them accordingly.  All they needed was some paint.

Just to give you a clue to the quality of his work, there was a slight cut or nick in one of the plates, and Andrew insisted on welding up the cut and then grinding it back, so there was no potential stress point in the plate which might weaken it.

Rear tow hook straps, plates & bolts
Then it was on to the rear tow points.  There is literally nowhere to mount a rear tow hook, unless one drills more holes in the chassis.  And the full length skid plate means even less options.  When under the car last week when it was on the hoist for the fitting of grease nipples into the rear spring hangers, I found one place on each side where there is exactly 2 inches of free space over the rear chasis rail where we can slide some 2 inch wide webbing, and then join the ends together to make a loop to use as a tow strap.   But how best to join the ends of the strapping together ?   We eventually decided on two small steel plates, with 4 bolts through them, sandwiching the ends of the strapping.  So Andrew cut 4 plates, tack welded them together, then put a slight cut in the edge of the plates on one side.  "What's that for ?" I asked.  "So that when the plates are all drilled, and the tack weld is undone, you will not have to twist and turn the plates to find out which way they go so the holes line up", he replied.  And he was so right - I have referenced that mark every time I have put the plates together !   Anyway, once the holes were drilled, the plates were separated, the edges cleaned up, and another item ready for painting.

We then worked on one wiper arm whch I had been unable to drill a hole in for fitting a tensioner spring last week.  Somehow I had managed to drill one arm, but not the other.   Anyway, slow speed, high speed, hand drill, drill press, and different types of drill bit - Andrew was unable to make a dent in the arm !!  Unbelievable.  Going to have to find a diamond tip bit, I think !

Definite lean to the right !
Finally the roof.  The roof has not been on since the car arrived in Qld over 12 months ago, and even then it was held on with gaffer tape !   The plan has been to change the hood mounting system so it is removable from the car, because once a roll bar is fitted, it will not be able to be bolted to the car and "hinged", but will have to be erected over the roll bar.  However, where we wanted to fit the mounting points is actually exactly where the roll bar will fit, so we decided there was absolutely no point in spending hours designing and building a new system only for it to be removed again after the Alice Springs rally.  So we decided to refit the roof in its original manner, even though this is not too efficient - or easy !  First off we had to go to the local bolt shop to get some suitable large countersunk bolts, and then it took some time to position the hood and try to mark the locations for the holes in the body work - Not easy when the hood is trying to fold up all around you and pinch fingers every time you move it !  Anyway, eventually we succeeded, and got it all sorted - But with one major issue - The hood wasn't level on the right hand side !!

Roof is just wrong on the right
It seems that somewhere in the annals of time, the main bar (there are 3) has somehow got bent, so we need to get the roof off (again !!) and try to straighten it somehow.  Since taking the roof off requires the rear wheels to be removed before all the bolts can be undone, a "trial and error" method becomes a very time consuming issue as it takes half an hour or so to fit or remove the entire structure each time.  However, we will have to try something..........  In the meantime, we lowered the hood as best we could, and I headed home at the end of a long day.

Once I got home, I quickly cleaned all the parts up and gave them all an undercoat.   6 hours later, before I hit the sack, I went out quickly and gave them all a second coat so they would be ready for a top coat in the morning.

Front bumper brackets all painted
Making holes in webbing

 First thing in the morning I added the black top coat which unfortunately takes about 12 hours to dry properly, so once this was done on the bumper brackets and front tow hooks, I worked on the rear tow strap plates.  I decided they could be silver rather than black, since this paint dries faster, so I was soon able to work on them. 
Soldering iron tip
While they were drying, I warmed up my old soldering iron and marked up the positions for the bolt holes in the end of the straps, and plunged the soldering iron in.  Once the iron is hot, this works really well, quickly putting the hole in the webbing strap, and simultaneously sealing the edges so they don't fray.    Unfortunately the melted webbing makes a mess of the soldering iron !!!!
Rear tow straps all made up

I put them all together to make sure they worked OK, before dismantling them,
working the strapping into the small space over the chassis rail, and then bolting the plates together firmly,  Perfect.  Then I ran down to Supercheap and bought two short bungy straps and tied the straps rearward towards the rear bumper so the straps were tight and the metal plates wouldn't bounce and bange on the chassis when on the road, yet be quickly and easily accessible if we need a tow.......   Job done.

Front tow hooks mounted
By the next morning, the paint on the brackets was dry, and after making up some rubber pads to cushion the spring bumpers, and getting some longer bolts both for the chassis mounting and the spring mounting, I started installing everything.  Finally for the tow eyes, I painted the ends of them red so they are more easily seen, and once they were dry, mounted them up.   I then started to size up the spotlights - Which didn't fit !  There is a small locating screw on the front of the lights which fouls the mounting bar !!   So I had to get a bunch of large spacer washers to raise the light slightly so it cleared the bar, and once that was sorted out, was
able to mount them.  Then I went to mount the spring onto its
own tabs - And found the gap between the mounting eyes was about 4 inches shorter than the spring !!  Aaaargh !!!    In the end, I found that I just had enough strength to pry the bars apart and drop the bolts into place, putting the bars under a bit of tension.  But this turns out to be good because with the bars made out of spring steel, they tend to jiggle a little, but with the extra tension tightening the bars they are much firmer.   Now all I need to do it fit some protective film to the spotlights to prevent stone damage........

Lights wired up & working
Finally I wired up the spotlights, ensuring the joins were inside the light fitting so that the chances for water ingress is limited, additionally adding silicone to the hole in the base of the light where the wire enters.  Can't do much more than that.  The spots have their own switch on the main panel, but will still only come on when the headlights are on high beam.  Seeing that I am not the world's best auto electrician, the fact that they worked correctly first time was very satisfying, even if the credit should really go to Steve who had installed all the wiring and relays and switches - All I did was join up the wires in the lamp !!

On a Queensland winter morning
Finally, yesterday, Steve came over in the morning, and after going through a few bits and pieces, we threw a few tools in the car and set off into the Hinterland hills for a first real day of driving to check everything out.  It was a beautiful sunny morning, and first of all we headed down to see fellow P2P entrants John and Marian Crighton so they could see the car, and also so we could see his (MGB GT) and have a coffee while enjoying the view off their balcony which overlooks Currumbin and the ocean.

water temp & oil pressure
First up, we realised that we STILL haven't cut enough metal out of the front wheel arches !!  With two up, the wheels still just rubbed, no longer due to turning the wheel in the arch, but more just with body lean on corners.  Not a big deal, but I will mark it all up over the weekend and get Andrew to cut yet another section out.   And secondly we realised that the wind in the cabin, while not excessive, is just enough to try to remove any cap from your head !  So we will be needing to use clips to secure our caps to our jackets so we don't lose them !

Steve drove while I kept my eye on all the gauges.  The day was 22 deg
Oil temp
C, yet cool out of the sun. Water temperature is good, sitting at around 160 - 170 deg F very consistently, whatever we did on the road.  Oil pressure is still a worrying 80 psi all the time when running, with about 55 psi at idle.  And oil temperature is low - abut 60 deg C most of the time, 80 deg once when it got warm in traffic, but only 40 deg later in the afternoon when the weather cooled off.  Finally we measured the speedo
against the GPS monit, and basically the speedo is running about 10-15 kph slow.  This is probably primarily because of the large tyres, and we can either have the speedo recalibrated, or use a GPS based speedo instead.

                                                                A day out on the road

Basically the engine is running cool, which is good.  Water temp could easily be 190 F, while obviously the oil temp could come up some.   But this is a far better situation than having everything running hot, and gives us a couple of choices - We can either fit a radiator grill cover in order to restrict air into the radiator (which we were going to do anyway in order to protect us on river crossings), or we could even fit a small electrical pusher in front of the radiator for use in traffic.  We did hit traffic at one stage, and the temps did go up quite quickly, so this may be worth considering since we have temperature to play with. 

Blocked return line below spring
As far as the oil pressure is concerned, we think we have determined the cause. Apparently there is a return line from the pressure relief spring that is a secondary pressure relief line, and as you can see from the attached diagram from the manual, it appears to dead end in the engine sump flange.  Apparently you have to cut a V in the sump gasket in order to prevent oil pressure build up - You would think they would design the sump and gasket to suit this !!  So next week we will empty the oil (again), and drop the sump and check this - Hopefully this will cure our high oil pressure issue.

During our run, we also found the brakes were binding on - Not initially, but only after we had been travelling a while.  We had noticed this happening slightly previously, but after an hour or so it was quite bad, and the brakes (and wheels) were getting very hot.   Steve quickly assessed the problem as a build up of pressure in the master cylinder which, being sleeved, has perhaps had a pressure relief passage slightly covered, resulting in a gradual pressure build up as the brakes are used.  The pressure is releasing, but just not fast enough.  He loosened off the lines and sure enough lots of pressure in there - So he then loosened off the main rod of the master cylinder and drive the rest of the day with a very soft brake pedal - But at least the brakes were no longer building up pressure and binding.  We ordered a new master cylinder on the phone that will arrive on Monday, and we will then have our current unit refurbished and carry as a spare.

A great day out
Finally, coming back into town in the late afternoon, we started to hear a bit of a whine from the diff.  It is very difficult in such a noisy car to be quite certain where the noise is coming from, so we will remove the rear access panel next week and once we have changed the brake master cylinder and checked the sump gasket, will go for a test drive and see if we can pin the noise down a bit better.  I just hope it is OK because I don't think I can cope with any more major setbacks at this stage !

Overall, the car is brilliant.  The engine pulls like a train, and has tremendous low down torque, as one would expect from a big 4 cylinder 2660 cc donk.  The suspension is firm, but not overly so - The body lean on corners is evident from the rubbing of the guards, so I don't think we would want to be any softer. There isn't much space inside - I spent a lot of the day trying to work out where we can put stuff - The pockets in the doors will hold a lot, but of course will not be very waterproof, so everything will need to be in sealable waterproof pouches (already purchased !).  And finally, the seats were not too bad.  I think they are too high, and the headrests will be useless except as a back support, but they were not as uncomfortable as we feared.   Now Ashton needs to spend some time driving the car in order to make his own mind up !

In the meantime, I will continue to do all the million other things that need attention, with a view to driving the car down to Sydney on the 5th / 6th of July.  I will then fly back to Qld, leaving the car with Ashton to play with for a month, before returning to Sydney in August in my Land Cruiser, from where I will tow Gidget out to Alice Springs for the COT rally., while Ashton will fly out.  That is the plan, anyway !

Rest of the pics are here :-   https://photos.app.goo.gl/psYvr5nH1VSW9oJKA

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