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

Sunday, 1 July 2018

0056 This car is a hoot !!!

1st July 2018
The more I drive her, the more I enjoy it !

Gidget is an absolute hoot to drive - I am stunned by just what an easy car it is to enjoy.  The steering is light, the (Toyota) gearbox is a delight, the exhaust note is muted but declares its presence with a few revs on board, and she has so much torque that you just plant your right foot and she goes !!   On the downside, there still isn't mushroom inside, and when the roof is up, it is positively claustrophobic and neck-spasm inducing.  So I am getting the feeling that barring absolute downpours, most of Gidget's future will be open top driving, with clothing worn by the occupants to suit the prevailing weather conditions !   So with this in mind, I have pulled out all my Arctic trip thermals and other clothing, and made sure they all still fitted and didn't have too many moth holes in them.  Result, all present and ready for minus 2 deg C in Alice next month !!  And my new fur lined leather flying helmet is superb.  Game on !!!!   But first I need to get the car to Sydney so Ashton can have a play with it - After all, he is the driver !!

However, this past week has not been all roses.    After our drive last weekend, Steve and I knew we had a few issues to deal with, and as usual, not one of them turned out to be either straightforward or easy or quick !  Althrough the tyres rubbing on the front guards was most urgent, Andrew was busy until Wednesday, so I spent the next couple of days working on other issues at home.

Hot air on the spotlights
First off was the spot lights, to which I have added clear protective film to add in order to defend the glass from errant stones.  With the help of my wife's hairdryer, I spent a number of hours at the kitchen bench moulding the film over the lights, which have a very curved surface, which made the work very
Meat pies or spotlights
difficult.   In order to get the film to stay in place I had to tape over it as I went, hoping that it would keep everything in the correct shape.   The plan was to leave it to "cure" overnight, and then remove the tape in the morning.  Sure enough, this seemed to work, and the film was well attached in the morning, so I replaced the lights onto the car.  (Ashton reckons they look like meat pies !!)

Straps on the boot
The next morning a shipment arrived from AH Spares in the UK with the short straps for the boot as well as a couple of door hinges and some roof fittings, so I immediately set to work to fit the boot straps.   As you will all know, the boot has been severely reshaped in past accidents, and although it now closes firmly, its robustness is questionable, and we are concerned that over rough roads, the boot may open.   So rather than only finding this out when in the middle of the Gobi desert, Ashton and I decided to fit some boot straps now so that we have already cured the problem before it happens.  Its called insurance !   Not a lot of room to fit the straps, but I eventually found space in the corners, and they were soon fitted.

Setting up a wing mirror
I also worked on fitting a wing mirror.  Driving the car is very difficult with no mirror on the door (the central mirror is pretty useless when the roof is down and obscuring the rear view) so while Ashton has order some replacements, I wanted to get the existing one on for now.  Unfortunately (as usual), not simple !  The existing holes in the door actually won't work because one of the holes is right over the seam in the door, so no bolt or screw will fit in there.  So after making reinforcement brackets and getting everything lined up, I ended up deciding to wait to see if Ashton's new mirrors arrive before Wednesday - If so, I will mount them.  If not, I will mount the original one just for the trip to Sydney,

Cargo net over the parcel shelf
Two items we had decided were worthwhile arrived on Tuesday - a cargo net to cover the parcel shelf in order to prevent stuff bouncing out over rough roads, and a map reading light on a flexible stalk.  Naturally, the supplied cargo net frame was the wrong size, so I ended up fabricating a complete new frame which fitted the parcel shelf, as well as making it easily retractable so I can put or remove stuff easily and still be able to quickly replace the cover to prevent stuff flying around the cabin. 

Map light fitted

For the map reading light my original plan was to make a bracketthat would be held in place by one of the screws on the front trim alloy strip.  However, I eventually realised that this just would not be stable enough, and ditched that idea, and instead mounted it directly onto the (increasingly crowded) dashboard. I eventually found a place where it would fit, and bolted it on.  I then wired it up so that it will work even when the ignition is off - It has its own on/off switch. 

Clothes peg choke
The choke needs to be held out when the engine is cold, and as it has no "twist and lock" function (remember those ? 😀) I reverted to another old custom fit - The clothespeg trick !  They hold the choke out perfectly, and when not in use, just clip over the choke button securely.  And since we have short flip switches for both turn indicators and dip switch, I added a small length of plastic tubing to each switch so they can be quickly and easily "flipped" - Another old Mini trick when flip switches were hard to reach.  And on the indicator, the small flashing light on the dash is really hard to see and frequently we (I !) seem to inadvertantly leave it on, so I am looking at buying a switch with a light in the tip (like our other switches) and hopefully the plastic tubing extension will accentuate the light from the switch. 

Maps for our trip
Also arriving on Tuesday were all our maps for China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Russia Central and West.  My previous excellent map shop on the Gold Coast closed down recently so I had to order these from a Map Shop in Perth, and I find it really hard to choose maps when I can't handle them and see them !   However the shop turned out to be very helpful and once I told them about our adventure they came up with a number of suggestions, and the maps are excellent. I look forward to poring over them as soon as I have 5 minutes - I really enjoy maps.

Andrew cutting the wheel arch
Bright and early on Wednesday morning I was down at Andrew's, ready for some adjustment to the front wheel arches !   As you all know, due to the large 80  aspect tyres we have chosen, we have already had major issues with the clearance, and cut 2 cms out before we even started.  Then we had clearance issues at the front of the guard which needed more cutting, and we then cut some more out of the guards 2 weeks ago, which unfortunately turned out to be not enough once we were loaded.   So this is now the fourth cut !!    We got Gidget up on the hoist and took the front wheels off, and after discussing how much (more) metal to remove, we used tape to mark our cut lines on the LH side, and
Andrew set to work, taking about another centimetre out.   Once he had tacked the edging back into place, we put the wheels back in and went for a test before we proceeded any further.  Right outside Andrew's workshop is a dead end turn around which is plenty big enough to accomodate Gidget's excellent turning circle.  I gradually built up speed in a right hand turn, leaning harder and harder on to the left front corner, and braking occasionally in order to load up the corner further.  Andrew stood and watched and listened, and agreed we still had a problem, so suggested a different approach.

Road testing the wheel arch !
He climbed into the passenger seat, got his phone on video, and we started to circle again, with Andrew leaning far out to get a good shot of the wheel arch (a selfie stick would have been easier, but not as much fun for Andrew !)   Sure enough, right in the middle of the arch, the tyre was still just rubbing on the guard.  Front and rear of the arch, we now have it sorted, but right in the middle still needs more metal removing - So it was back into the work shop, a reapplication of tape to set our proposed cut lines, and Andrew repeated his work - Another centimetre out.   Next time we tested it, success, and nothing we could do would make it rub.  Not saying that a really big sudden bump when on full lock might not get close, but sometimes one just has to know when to stop cutting !   And by then, the heavens had opened, and we were having a Queensland tropical downpour, so further road testing was suspended.

Doing the right hand guard was easy and quick compared to the lengthy work on the left, and an hour or so later we had the right hand guard matching the left, and the metal sealed with primer to prevent any rust forming before I can get the filler in there to smooth the surfaces off before re-painting.  I then had a wet drive home - The first one, roof up, and no sidescreens !  It actually wasn't too bad, athough I did get a bit wet !  Good news was that the windscreen wipers with their spring fitted to keep the pressure on the screen worked REALLY well !  Well, they each only wiped the LH side of the screen, but that is a minor adjustment. 

Thursday saw me back at Classic Car Clinic where Steve had some bits to work on.  Our high oil pressure (80 psi when running) was suggested to be caused by a blocked oil return line - Apparently the sump gasket needs a V cut into it to enable this return line to work.  Having (once again) removed all the oil and removed the sump, the gasket was found to have the required V cut in it, so this was obviously not the cause of the pressure.  So the sump was put back on and the oil put back in.  Next issue was the brakes - The master cylinder seemingly building up pressure gradually, eventually causing the brakes to bind on.  We have discussed this with Wayne at Better Brakes and, unlike Steve, he is of the opinion that these is no problem with the master cylinder (which he rebuilt 2 months ago).  So to resolve the issue we have ordered a new master cylinder from the UK which will hopefully be here next Monday, and we will then find out where the problem is, and we can then carry the other brake cylinder as a spare part. Steve also reset and tuned the carbs again, and when I got to CCC, the engine was purring beautifully.

Mini Moke seats
There happened to be 2 Mini Mokes in CCC while I was there, and the seats attracted my attention.  We are still not convinced about the current seats, especially with the roof up when our heads actually hit the metal roof bars - We need something lower.  So I measured up the seats in both Mokes, and although not convinced they are right, if we mounted a fixed back seat with a hinged front instead of on sliders, it would sit lower, and yet would also be able to be tilted forward to access the rear panel behind the seat.  Something that may need more investigation, especially due to the current lack of headroom when the roof it up.

3 different oil filters
I have been "exploring" oil filters for some time.  We have fitted a UK sourced spin off oil filter unit, and the two filters that came with it are WIX units, a UK sourced manufacturer.  Of course, we can't get WIX units in Aus, and in addition I am keen to fit a larger sized unit for increased efficiency, especially since we have plenty of space to fit it. I have spent hours on the internet trying tofind equivalent Ryco or other units, with limited success.  I thought I had found the equivalent, but couldn't be certain from the specs provided, so I went to Supercheap - And was surprised to be told "Good luck, mate - Suggest you call Ryco".   So I went to Autobarn, where a young lady called Kath was really helpul and spent a long time on her computer, finally suggesting a Z71 unit would fit, and ordering one in.  Success.  And then we went to the next stage and found that a Z9 unit had the same thread and fitting, had twice the capacity, and also costs a third of the price of the smaller Z71 unit ! I think we might fit a larger unit at the beginning of P2P, but carry a smaller one as a replacement.

Fitting new door hinges
We seem to now be having an issue with the carb throttles sticking - or one of them anyway.  This will have to be addressed, but until we have time, we have to live with it, and it is very annoying - Sitting at the traffic lights with the engine revving at 3000 rpm !    But it was time to go back to Andrew Bluhm to work on the doors.  The fit on the doors is terrible, and I am not sure there is a lot we can do with them - But at least they shut.  However the hinges on the passenger door are really loose, so we had ordered some new ones - The trouble was that to fit the hinges we not only had to remove the doors, but also partially remove the front guards to get to the back of the hinge bolts - Not simple !   However, we eventually got there, and apart from putting the top hinge on the bottom first time
round, we eventually succeeded in geting them on, which made the door much better.  It still isn't a perfect fit, but is much better.  The driver's door also had some fit issues, which Ashton had fixed some time ago by taking the grinder to it !  Problem was that this action removed the metal "fold" on the edge, which exposed the individual layers to the elements.  So Andrew carefully ground away slightly more material,  then carefully re-welded the edge to that the individual sheets were no longer exposed.  Doors now shut.......But still need a firm hand to do so !!

Original sidescrrens
The side screens were probably original, and the material surrounds were fraying badly while the perspex was very yellowed and scratched, making them hard to see through.  Months ago I had approached AAA Trimming and they said I should wait till the roof was back on so they could size the screens properly.  Fair enough.  Problem is that we only got the roof on last week, so I went straight to AAA - And they are so
New sidescreens
busy they can do nothing for a month - And I am taking the car to Sydney next week !  So......Plan B.  I found another trimming company, SS Trimming, and although they were also very busy at the moment, they sold me a sheet of clear vinyl sheet for $20, and I took it home and set to work.  The thought of driving all the way to Sydney without sidescreens, even if it wasn't raining, was just too much, let alone having to go out to Alice Springs without them in zero deg C, so I determined to set my hand to make them myself  - After all, I have already done carpeting, rust removal, body filling, metal work, and much more - Surely making sidescreens couldn't be that difficult ?

Making up the new sidescreens
And so it proved.  Having cut away the original fraying screens, I had de-rusted and repainted the metal frames some months ago.  I decided the best way was to just fit the clear vinyl as it was thick enough to hold its shape, and I could use the existing multiple bolt holes in the original frames to hold it in position.  To make it stronger, I decided to sandwich the vinyl between the metal frame and some matching alloy strips that I would make up.  So after a quick Bunnings trip for 4 lengths of narrow alloy and some nuts and bolts, I set to work.  The curves weren't too difficult, just using partial hack saw cuts to enable it to be shaped around the corners, and once they were made up, I primed them and then painted them in satin black.  Once fitted to the car, I was stunned to find that, without all the opaque material around the screen these new ones not only let in much more light, but also make it so much easier to see out !  The proof will come during the trip to Sydney, and of course once we have a wet journey - But for now I think we have a good solution.  $1000 (not including freight and duty) for a pair of new sidescreens from the UK - $35 and a bit of labour for ours !!  😀

Bodyfiller time again
Finally this weekend it was back to the bodyfiller can !!   I thought we had finished with this, but with the welding around the front wheel arches and also around the driver's door meant that we needed to do some work !  And does that dust get everywhere when you are dealing with a finished car !  It was bad enough when the panels were off the car, but trying to protect everything from the dust is almost impossible !   Time is a bit short as I try to get the car ready to head to Sydney on Thursday, and it is much harder to do body work when the panel is at floor level, so I do not pretend that the work is perfect, but the intention is to seal the panels from the weather and hopefully get a coat of Coronet Cream paint on them if we can.  Grey primer is a bit ugly in the meantime.........

Fitting rubber to door frames
And during the weekend, while either paint or bog was drying / hardening, now the doors are about as good as they are going to get, it was time to try to seal some of the enormous air gaps that exist around the doors, where not only cold air but also rain and water will get in.  I have spent some time at Clark Rubber recently and they allowed me to take reels of different pinch weld and rubber sealers out to Gidget so I could try to find the best ones - The gaps are so big in some places that I needed some serious rubber !   Eventually I found what I needed, and today I
Foam knee pad for driver
applied them to the doors.   Once again, will have to wait for the run to Sydney to see if they work effectively, but in the meantime, they make everything look far more finished.   While doing this, I also fitted some thick rubber to the corner of the central switch box because this is where the driver's left knee rests when driving - Hopefully this will make it slightly more comfortable.  I also added pinch weld protective edging to some of the under dash edges which are potential bump points for knees and other bodily parts - Hopefully preventing any annoying bruising  - Or at least reducing it !

Image result for nankang ft7
Nankang FT-7
Image result for yokohama geolandar ats g012 photo
Yokohama Geolandar
Tomorrow my first port of call is Action Tyres & More for two important things - First off our toe-in is currently 0, and as a result, the car tends to wander a little when driving on a smooth road.  Factory setting is a total toe of 1.6 - 3 mm, so we shall set it to nearer that and see if that improves things.  Secondly is the issue of our spare tyres.  When we originally decided to use 195-80-15 Yokohama Geolandar tyres, there were 6 available and no reason to suspect ongong supply.  However, it turns out that the 5th & 6th tyres turned out to be old stock and unsuitable for our use, while further stock are "somewhere in production", and as a result we are currently stuck a bit between a rock and a hard place.  We have 4 tyres and wheels, one empty wheel, and in need of a 6th spare tyre - What to do ?  We wish to keep the 195 - 80 - 15 size in order to maximise ground clearance.  After discussions with Matt Kingsley at Action Tyres, he has offered to provide us with an identical sized Nankang FT-7 AT tyre free of charge so that at least we have a spare. This tyre is identical on diameter to our current Yokohama tyres, and is also a very similar tread design.  And better still, stocks are readily available.  So they will fit up this tyre on our spare wheel for us for Alice Springs, and after Alice we will revisit the issue of availability of the Yohoamas, and if there is an ongoing issue, we will change to the Nankangs. 

Once the tyres are sorted, it will be a rush to get the car packed roughly in "competition rig", with all spare parts and tools in either underfoor storage boxes or in boot boxes, and everything else as close to "P2P ready" as possible.  Then I will set off on Thursday for the first long run in Gidget - Watch this spot to find out how we get on.

Remainder of the pics are here :-    https://photos.app.goo.gl/ZcDh63CMrAmpPjvg7

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