Sunday, 12 October 2014

Signs of life

It's not been the best of years on the Triumph front, what with loosing the use of the Spitfire for the best part of four months over the summer for accident repairs and not being able to do anything of any substance to the Saloon.

Just for a wee bit of fun and to give me a break from some pretty tough work that I was doing on the Defender this afternoon, I decided to fire up the Saloon. It cheered me up no end and should hopefully convince my RBRR co-conspirators that the Saloon is not a figment of my imagination and that other than the bodywork issues which I need to deal with the rest of it is actually pretty sound.

I took the short video below on the iPhone. The sound quality isn't great and the engine and exhaust don't sound anything like that in real life. The state of the garage is also a bit of an embarrassment - but at least that's easily sorted.

The Saloon will have to come out of the garage in a couple of weeks to make way for the Spitfire, which needs to be garaged over the winter so that I can get the dash stripped out and sent away to Chapman and Cliff to get refurbished. While the Saloon's outside the plan for over the winter, weather permitting, is:
  • Get the radiator out and away for recoring
  • Fit the power steering conversion that I got from Chris Witor some time ago
  • Get the front and rear suspension overhauled
  • Fit the front ARB bits that I've also had lying about for a while
Hopefully, I'll be able to get that lot completed by early Springtime at which point the Spitfire will be coming out of the garage and the Saloon can go back in and the bodywork repairs can start in earnest.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Spitty's back

Three months and three weeks after I pranged it, I finally got the Spitfire back at the end of last week. It's taken somewhat longer than I would have wished to get the repairs done - due primarily to some logistical issues associated with sourcing the replacement bonnet.

Since the accident repair necessitated that in addition to painting the new bonnet and front valance, both doors and the scuttle had to be repainted, I decided to pay the extra required to have all of the rear of the car resprayed at the same time. It didn't make a lot of sense not to do this as there were a couple of small patches that were needing attention anyway.

I'm very happy with the way it's turned out:

Chic (Doig) and his guys have actually got the new Heritage bonnet fitting much better than the Heritage bonnet of 1999/2000 vintage it replaces. The new bonnet aligns much better with the scuttle and the gaps all round are much more consistent. The older bonnet had to sit about a quarter of an inch higher than the scuttle to get the other gaps about right.

The only outstanding issue is that the stainless steel bumpers have not yet arrived from the Far East so Chic has had to put my own (now getting very rusty) rear bumper back on and has loaned me a front bumper from his second-hand stock until the stainless ones turn up.

A quick change of plugs and a spirited run round the "Slamannan Circle" on Sunday afternoon last week confirmed that the Spit is running as sweetly as ever. In spite of missing out on all of the good weather we've had this year there's still have an opportunity to rack up a fair few miles if the weather holds good for the next couple of months. Fingers crossed!

Now that the drive is back to its full compliment of cars and the frustrations of the last few months are over I'm hoping that some of the mojo I need to get started again on the Saloon is going to start finding it's way back home.

Mind you, watching the cars - especially the big Saloons - on the RBRR normally has that effect regardless of the sort of year I've had and I doubt that this year will be any different. I'm helping out with marshalling at Conon Bridge this year and the very obvious buzz that this event generates normally has an effect on me for months afterwards so here's hoping for the Saloon and 2016.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Annus Horribilis

Just for the avoidance of doubt, that's definitely annus horribilis - not anus horribilis, which would be something quite different altogether!

That's overstating it because it's actually been about eight months of horribilis-ness rather than a whole annus, but it's starting to feel like it's been a very, very long time since I made any significant progress on the Saloon. And as far as the Spitfire's concerned, well, that's not a happy story either.

Not long after I was able to start work on the Saloon again in April after six months of inaction due to a skin condition, I spent a couple of weekends getting the Spitfire ready for what we planned was going to be a busy year for it.

Then, on 2 May, at a roundabout in Edinburgh, I did this:

The O/S bonnet tube is bent and whole bonnet assembly has been pushed back a couple of inches on that side. The paint on the leading edge of both doors and the scuttle is badly chipped.

What maybe isn't obvious from the photos above is that the bonnet is badly bowed. It got compressed against the scuttle before it popped up and out.

It's going to need a new bonnet, O/S bonnet hinge tube, front bumper, O/S quarter valance, O/S outrider, O/S headlamp, a new radiator and the doors and scuttle partly repainted and blended into the new bonnet.

I can't blame anyone else for this, it was my fault. The car in front was next to pull out onto the roundabout. It set off and I followed it, then looked right to check that the roundabout was still clear, at which point the car in front stopped (for reasons that are still unclear to me) and I couldn't avoid running into the back of it. I hit the rear of it fairly central and we reckon it's had a towing attachment fitted hence the shape of the dent in my bonnet.

Repairs haven't started yet - it wasn't until last week that an engineer was appointed to inspect the car on behalf of the insurers and his report wasn't submitted until the end of last week. We're hoping that things will start to move more quickly within the next few days - but as things stand at the moment I have no clear idea when we will have the car back on the road.

And as if that wasn't bad enough, I did something very, very stupid a couple of weekends ago. I was working on the Land Rover and had just finished replacing the O/S front CV that I had broken during an off-road challenge event. I had the front of the Land Rover jacked up with a Hi Lift Jack so that I could get the O/S front wheel back on and remove the axle stand.

Now, in the operational safety page of the manual for the Hi Lift Jack, it states:
Always place the handle against the steel standard (bar) with the handle clip holding it up before moving the reversing latch. This will prevent the handle from moving up and down rapidly, which could cause serious injury or death if it comes into contact with any part of your body. Always keep your head out of the travel path of the handle.
Well, guess what I didn't do. When I moved the reversing latch the handle operated and - WHACK - hit me on the side of the head knocking me to the ground. I wasn't unconscious at any point, and after I'd picked myself up and figured out that I just felt a little stunned, I actually carried on for fifteen minutes and finished what I was doing.

However, shortly after getting back into the house, it become obvious that something was badly wrong. I started to feel horribly dizzy, and started to be violently sick. NHS 24 told us to get down to A&E pronto. After hearing what had happened and what my symptoms were the consultant sent me for a CT scan. It turned out that I had broken my skull just above the hairline in front of my right ear - not badly enough to require "intervention" - but nevertheless I was immediately admitted to the hospital for observation.

They let me out 24 hours later by which point I was feeling much better, albeit a bit groggy and with an intermittent headache! Two and a half weeks on the concussion symptoms have cleared and I feel more-or-less back to normal. But I'm under orders to take it easy until the skull fracture has had time to heal fully, which normally takes about six weeks from when the fracture occurred. So that's no work of any substance on the Saloon, or anything else for that matter, for the best part of another month.

I have no idea why I was so stupid. I have been working with Hi Lifts since my late teens, when I started helping my Grandad on the farm. I am fully aware of the risks and the do's and dont's. In all that time I have been extremely careful when using Hi Lifts and I normally take inordinate care when using them. I am at a complete loss to explain why - on this one occasion - I got it so wrong.

On the upside, at least I'm still around to tell the tale.

Fingers crossed that that's the end of the horribilis-ness for this annus!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Where was I...

It's been a very frustrating winter. To cut a long story short really weird things started to happen to my skin after we got back from holiday in October. After some initial improvement my hands deteriorated very quickly developing what I later found out was severe hyperkeratotic eczema that didn't respond to initial treatments. This put an end to the possibility of doing any work on the cars over the winter. Anyway, thanks to a fairly new and very effective drug treatment it's been on the mend since late February and has improved to point where I can start getting on with things again.

The end result of all of this is that I'm six months behind where I should have been with the Saloon by now. The plan was to finish sorting the bodywork over the winter to have the car ready to go for painting in May. There's no way that the car will be ready for the RBRR in October so sadly I've had to withdraw our entry. More than anything I'm disappointed for my co-drivers Glenn and Dan - I know that Glenn in particular would love to take part in the RBRR.

So, where the hell was I? We got some cracking weather last weekend so I fired up the old girl and got her out into the sunshine. Doesn't look too bad from this side:

But not surprisingly the other side - the side I'd started working on - doesn't look so good:

I have to be careful and not overdo it for a while yet so I found a couple of not too taxing jobs to begin with. I have a pair of salvaged rear floor sections from which I need to make up repair sections for the rear floor. The N/S has gone in the area just in front of the rear wheel arch:

The O/S looks like it might be OK but since I've only had a cursory look at it it's better to be safe than sorry so I got salvaged floor sections for both sides.

There was something very therapeutic about cutting them down to size! There's still a bit of work required to get the repair sections I need out of them but they're a lot more manageable now!

Next up was to the get the car back in the garage with the rear wheels up on ramps so that I can get easy access to the bits of the rear panels that need derusting and painting. There's not much needing done here so it should only take a couple of weekends.

It'll then be time to fire up the MIG in anger and get on with the real work - starting with the N/S floors, sills, wheel arches and wings:

What isn't obvious in the picture is just how bad the N/S inner sill is. Once the front floor and cross member have been repaired the plan is to completely remove what's left of the outer and middle sills. The inner sill will be repaired with sections cut from an OE N/S inner sill I have. I also have OE N/S middle and outer sills which will then go on. There are some small repairs required to the inner front wing and the inner wheel arch before the new outer wing goes on but these should be fairly straightforward and it's mostly OK in these areas. The rear wing is somewhat crusty around the wheelarch but doesn't seem to be too bad otherwise. I've not had a proper look at it though and I'm not at all sure what I'll need to do in this area.

At least there was nothing to stop me getting hold of more of the bits I need over the winter. I now have everything I need for the power steering and anti-roll bar conversions and the plan is to work away on these - and overhaul the front and rear suspensions - whenever I need a break from the bodywork!

A big thank you is due to Lloyd Reed and Andy Dann for letting me purchase the sample O/S middle sill that Andy got manufactured for Lloyd to show at Stoneleigh. It really is exceptionally well made and it is a superb fit with the other O/S sills I have. I'm much happier with Lloyd and Andy's middle sill than I am with the other repro O/S middle sill I have. Lloyd and Andy's sill will be going on the car.

So - a huge amount of work to do. I just need to get on with it...

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Shiny new toy for fixing the Saloon but still no progress

It just got serious. Very serious. The entry form for the 2014 RBRR was posted on Monday 18 November. The plan is that myself, Glenn Gabriel and Dan Armitage will be taking part in the Saloon. There's a hell of a lot to do. I haven't even started the welding.

A week or so after we got back from holiday, around mid-October, the welding kit arrived from Weldequip. For a number of reasons I'd decided to go for a Portamig 185.

Portamig have an excellent reputation, are robust, have a low setting of 15A and are designed and built in the UK. They are somewhat more expensive than typical hobby welders but I reckoned it would be a wise investment since it will be getting used a lot on the Saloon project and on other projects that I have in mind for the future.

Unfortunately, just a few days after the Portamig arrived, out of nowhere I started to develop a nasty red rash and horrible itchy spots which eventually spread over most of body - except for my face thank goodness! My hands, in particular, were very badly affected becoming very tender and prone to developing callouses and sores at the slightest provocation. I still don't know what it is - 'a confusing mix of symptoms' according to the specialist I saw last week! I'll be getting the results of tests on Monday next week so should know a bit more then.

The jist of it is that I haven't been able to do any work on the cars for the last month - doing so would just have ripped my hands to shreds. But the medication's been working well and I reckon things have improved enough to be able to start again - albeit carefully - at the weekend.

But I need to get the Spitfire into the garage now as there's a number of things needing done that I can't put off any longer:

I need to strip the dash out and get it away to Chapman and Cliff for refurbishment. It's ten years old now and has suffered a bit from sitting out over the last two winters:

The other things I want to get done on the Spitfire over the winter are:
  • Strip and rebuild the rear suspension
  • Finish refurbishing the late Spitfire 1500 headrest seats I got last year and get them fitted in place of the MX5 seats
  • The front outriggers are starting to show signs of surface corrosion so these need to be cleaned up and repainted
  • Wire the headlamps through relays
  • Fit an intermittent wash wipe
  • There's a few paint chips that need sorted
  • I might treat myself at Christmas to set of the stainless steel bumpers that the Harrington Group sell so that I can rid myself once and for all of the horrible modern things I have that rust at the first hint of moisture
So I think the plan for the Saloon is going to go something like this:

Finish off cleaning up and repainting the rear lamp panel and bootlid at which point the Saloon will need to go outside under cover so that I can get the Spitfire into the garage.

Then while the Saloon's outside:
  • Get the front suspension stripped and rebuilt
  • Fit an anti-roll bar
  • I also want to install power steering so that Annette will be comfortable driving the car
  • Remove the front windscreen so that I can get a proper look at the surround and figure out what needs sorting (if anything). It'd be coming out anyway because I have one of Ted Taylor's heated and tinted front windscreens to go back in.
  • Install the electrics needed for the heated front windscreen and wire up the headlamps through relays
  • Remove the doors, strip, repair and paint.
  • Get all the woodwork away to Chapman and Cliff for restoration
  • Fit new diaphrams to the front seats (Chris Witor's retooling and new production of these couldn't have come at a better time!)
  • Get the remainder of the exterior trim off and get the channels, gutters etc cleaned up and repainted
  • Clean and repaint as much of the underside of the car as I can - weather permitting!
Then around February time the Saloon will go back into the garage to get the welding done and at the same time the rear suspension will be stripped and rebuilt. When that's done it will then be going away somewhere for a full respray circa April/May. Hopefully that should leave plenty of time to put it all back together again and get some miles in before October next year.

The engine, gearbox, overdrive and diff are sound and other than getting the radiator recored and the prop reconditioned I'm planning on leaving them well alone.

I wonder where this will all end up. We'll see...

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Spitfire back on the road - eventually

Managed to get enough done to get the Spitfire back on the road about a week before we headed off to Sorrento for two week's holiday on 20 September. What a fantastic holiday - but it seems so distant now that it almost feels as though it was someone else's holiday!

Anyway - back to the Spitfire. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that a few more niggles surfaced just when I thought I was entering the finishing straight. I discovered that, in addition to the gaiter on the O/S track rod end, the gaiters on both of the top ball joints had perished.

I noticed the split gaiter on the O/S track rod end earlier in the year and was mightily pissed off at the time because I had fitted that particular track rod end in September last year - basically the gaiter had perished while the car was laid up in the garage between November and February.

I wasn't too pleased about the top ball joint gaiters either - both ball joints are less than three years old. Further evidence - as if it were needed - of the very poor quality of the rubber parts we seem to get nowadays. What I find particularly frustrating about this is that the TREs and ball joints themselves appear to be of decent quality and now that perished gaiters are an automatic MOT fail it's very wasteful to have to replace the whole assembly just because the gaiter has perished.

This is what they looked like:

O/S Track Rod End Gaiter

Top Ball Joints

I got a small supply of good quality replacement track rod end gaiters from Bill Davies of Rarebits4classics so I was able to fix the track rod end. But I could't find gaiters for the ball joints so had to replace them. I'm keeping them though and will keep investigating because the ball joints themselves are fine. BTW Moss do appear to list top ball joint gaiters for Spitfire/GT6 but what they sent wasn't the right thing - I need to chase them up on this.

With that sorted the Spitfire was back on the road - but, unfortunately, without the anti-roll bar!

Shiny ARB-less Front Suspension

Turns out that the aftermarket 1" bar I got from Chic Doig via TriumphTune/Moss back in 2000 was fitted with M8 coarse studs rather than OE 3/8 UNF studs. This meant that I couldn't immediately fit the solid ARB links that I got from Jon Wolfe.

I got that sorted the weekend after I got back from holiday. Retapping the anti-roll bar to 3/8 UNF proved to be straightforward. I wasn't sure if the previously M8 threaded part of the drilling in the anti-roll bar would successfully take a 3/8 UNF tap but it was fine and produced a good strong thread. I also ended up having to tap a previously unthreaded part of the drilling to accommodate the length of the fitting that Jon supplies with his kits so it's ended up much more robust that I feared it might.

Anyway - the rebuilt front suspension feels fantastic. In particular, the new progressive springs supplied by Gareth Thomas are a revelation. I got the ride height calculations more or less spot on. The front is sitting slightly higher - the fitted spring length (including spacers) is now a smidgen less than a quarter of an inch more than it was with the 330lb springs and it's all the better for it in my opinion. The front end is much more controlled - diving under heavy braking is substantially reduced and as I was hoping for it's also cured the excessive yumping it used to suffer from on B roads. And somewhat to my surprise there's been no appreciable deterioration in ride quality. I thought the higher spring rates may have made the ride quality a bit harsher but it hasn't worked out that way.

Next up is the MOT - so will be dropping the Spitfire off at Chic Doig's tomorrow afternoon.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

O/S Rear Lower Wishbone Mounting Bracket and Water in the Catch Tank

Managed to get away from work in time to get a couple of hours done on the Spit this afternoon. Got the O/S rear lower lower wishbone mounting bracket replaced. Hopefully the picture below will show why it was needing replaced - I've run a grinding disc lightly over the inner surface to clear away some of muck.

One very ovaled hole.

I wasn't at all sure at first how I was going to get it at because access from below is severely restricted by the manifold down pipes and access from above is severely restricted by the starter motor. In the end it turned to out to straightforward. There was just enough room to slide a ring spanner between the manifold downpipes and the chassis rail to undo the nut from underneath. Getting the washer and nut back on the new mounting bracket was a bit of a fiddle but with the help of some lateral thinking and some sellotape even that got sorted quickly.

Should get the rest of the front suspension back together and road tested on Friday afternoon.

On another subject, I removed the O/S engine valance this afternoon when I was checking out access to the wishbone mounting bracket and was surprised to notice that there was quite a lot of liquid sloshing about in the catch tank, which is mounted on the front of the O/S engine valence.

It turned out to be about 300ml of water:

I suppose some condensation is inevitable but I wasn't expecting to find as much as this. I think I'll post a question in the Club Triumph forum.