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.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Cleaning up the mess...

I had time on my hands last week while I was waiting for the parts I need to repair the Spitfire's front suspension to arrive so I decided to spruce up the bits that are going back on.

I thought it would be a good opportunity to try out two anti-rust paint treatments that I bought a while ago (primarily to use on the Saloon) but haven't had a chance to use in anger yet - Bilt Hamber's Hydrate 80 and POR-15. It'll be interesting to see how well they do in what isn't a particularly benign environment.

The shock absorbers and spring caps were looking like this when I took them off the car:

I degreased the shock absorbers and used a wire brush in an angle grinder to remove the rust. After further cleaning with Eastwood Paint Prep I treated the areas that I'd removed the rust from with two coats of Hydrate 80.

Finally, the shocks got two coats of smooth red Hammerite that I had lying around on the garage shelves.

The spring caps were derusted with a wire brush in an angle grinder and then some 40 and 80 grit wet and dry in the areas I couldn't get to with the angle grinder. They were then given the full POR-15 treatment - Marine Clean, Metal Prep and Ready, Two Coats of POR-15 and then a single coat of POR-15 Chassis Coat Black.

I'm not claiming they're concours (that's not my thing anyway) - but they are looking much better now.

The anti-roll bar was degreased, derusted with a wire brush in an angle grinder, cleaned with Eastwood Paint Prep then given two coats of Hydrate 80. You can see the second coat of Hydrate 80 drying the following picture.

The anti-roll bar was then finished with a single coat of POR-15 Chassis Coat Black.

Almost all the bits I need to rebuild the front suspension have arrived - superb service as ever from Canley Classics (lower wishbones and mounting bracket); Chic Doig (miscellaneous bits and pieces); Chris Witor and the TSSC Shop (Superflex bushes); Jon Wolfe (wishbone bolts and solid anti-roll bar drop links) and Moss (spring spacers). I would have all the bits to hand by now if I hadn't misread Moss's web site and ordered what I thought were a pair of spring spacers only to find that in fact I had ordered only one. Doh!!

The 330lb front springs that were on the car were too soft for my liking and I'm replacing them with a pair of progressive springs that I've had sitting around for nearly two years now - the last of a small batch for GT6 that Gareth Thomas had manufactured a few years ago.

A bit of thought had to go into working out what spacers I think I need to get the front ride height right.

The combined fitted length of the old 330lb springs plus the spring spacer was exactly 7.5". This is more or less perfect for the way I like the ride height set up (if anything I'd like it a fraction higher but not by much). Subtracting the height of the spring spacer used with the old springs (0.375") gives the fitted length of the old 330lb springs as 7.125".

The free length of the old 330lb springs is 10". That means they were being compressed by a force of (10-7.125) x 330 = 948.75lbs.

The free length of the new springs is 8.5 inches. The primary rate is 380lb therefore they will compress by 948.75/380 = 2.5" when fitted, giving a fitted length of 6".

Looking at what's available I've decided to fit the 1.25" below spring spacers from Moss in combination with the 0.375" above spring spacers I was using with the old springs. That should result in a total fitted length of 7.625" which I reckon might just be perfect!

It's going to be really interesting to see if this works out the way I planned. Hopefully, I will not end up looking like a complete arse...

One very odd thing I found when checking the damping adjustment of the Konis was that they were both set to minimum. I could swear that I'd set them mid-way when I built the chassis - but it looks like I boobed. Anyway, they're set to 3/4 now which I reckon should be appropriate for the new springs. It'll be interesting to see what the rear Konis are set to when I strip the rear suspension down later in the year. Conventional wisdom has it that that the rears should be set soft and maybe at least I got that right!

I've also decided not to fit new standard anti-roll bar drop links and have instead decided to fit the solid drop links sold by Jon Wolfe (Wolfitt Racing). They are lovely bits of kit.

I've almost finished rebuilding the N/S and I reckon that with a fair wind and fair weather I'll have it all back together again for the weekend and I'm really looking forward to seeing how goes with the new springs and anti-roll bar setup.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Bad day at the office...

A few weeks ago the Spitfire's front suspension started to creak and groan a bit. I had a poke about last weekend and spotted that the lower shock bushes were looking badly deformed. For some reason that I can't remember now I'd left the original rubber bushes in the Koni's when I was building up the rolling chassis back in in 2001 - I'd used Superflex almost everywhere else - so I wasn't that surprised that they had eventually expired.

I got Superflex bushes for the shocks and also the front trunnions (which were the only other standard bushes left in during the chassis rebuild) during the week and set to work on Saturday morning expecting the job to be finished later that day. At the same time I was hoping to fit the progressive front springs that I've had lying around for a year and a half.

I suppose the first sign that things weren't going to go the way I'd planned was when I came to loosen the O/S front trunnion bolt. The bolt and nut were way off centre in the lower wishbone - so much so that I couldn't get a ring spanner on the head of the bolt or the nut. Alarm bells started ringing and my suspicions were proved right once I got the trunnion bolt out - the holes in the lower wishbone were badly ovaled.

Things went from bad to worse very quickly. The O/S lower shock bolt then turned out to be seized. And it wasn't for budging, in spite of some aggressive "therapy". Plan B was then put into action - remove the lower wishbone with the shock still attached and sort it on the bench. Plan B progressed as far as finding out that the rear lower wishbone bolt was also seized.

At this point I had to walk away for a while. When I came back a bit later I decided to tackle the nearside - with virtually the same results. The trunnion bolt and nut on this side of the car were also way off centre in the lower wishbone. I thought things were looking up when the N/S shock bolt came out easily but it was a false dawn - the trunnion bolt on this side of car turned out to be seized. And just like the offside the rear lower wishbone bolt on this side also turned out to be seized when I tried to put Plan B into action for the second time.

At this point I lost the plot somewhat, gave up all thought of repairing the ovaled holes in the lower wishbones and got the angle grinder out. The wishbones and shocks were off the car in pretty short order thereafter!

If anything, the N/S lower wishbone was more ovaled than the O/S.

My theory that the lower shock absorber bushes were the source of the creaking and groaning proved to be correct. They were in a dreadful state.

In fact much of what I took off the Spitfire yesterday and today wasn't in very good condition. A bit disappointing really - I know that the stuff has been on the car for over ten years but since it was put back on the road in 2003 it's only done 25k miles and in that time it's been well looked after and it's never been used during the winter.

The badly corroded O/S trunnion bush sleeve gives a good idea of what most of it was like.

The only things in there that I found in good condition are the Superflex bushes (fitted to the top and bottom wishbones and anti-roll bar) and - thankfully - the trunnions and vertical links. There's no detectable play whatsoever in the trunnions and they turn very smoothly on the vertical links.

The lower wishbones were original so they date back to 1978 and don't owe me anything - but they were perfectly OK when I rebuilt the chassis and it's a bit worrying that they ovaled to the extent they did in space of 25k miles. I wonder if the heavier engine (2.5 vs 1500) and wide tyres (185/60-13s) I was running until last year had a part to play in it?

I also need to have a good look the O/S rear lower wishbone mounting bracket. It looks like the seized bolt and sleeve have been turning in the bracket and it appears that this has resulted in wear to the inner face of the mounting bracket. I can feel a step and the hole looks slightly ovaled. If I need to change this then it's going to be a real PITA - I can't get at the nut on the inner chassis rail from below because of the exhaust manifold downpipes and I can't get at it from above because of the starter motor.

The N/S rear lower wishbone mounting bracket in which the bolt and sleeve were also seized is OK.

So what I thought was going to be a quick and inexpensive repair has turned into a bit of an expensive marathon. In addition to the extra bits required - O/S and N/S lower wishbones, 1 x rear lower wishbone mounting bracket (possibly), some replacement Superflex bushes (for the ones that got cut off) and some other miscellaneous bits and pieces there's no way I can put the shocks and anti-roll bar back on the car without cleaning them up and painting them.

I think the moral of the story is not to leave the suspension unmolested for so long. In future I'll be stripping it down every three or four years while the Spitfire is laid up over the winter. And I'll be doing the rear suspension when the Spitfire is garaged this winter.

The Saloon didn't get ignored this weekend - in between all of the above I've managed to get the protective top coat on the front. Just got to finish the same process on the rear lamp panel and that'll be the niff naff and trivia finished and the real work will start in earnest!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Some progress...

The good weather we've been getting over the last couple of months has seen us out in the Spitfire at every possible opportunity, which has probably left the saloon feeling a little neglected! Nevertheless I've been chipping away at it when I can.

I've cleaned up all the panels I've got so far and sprayed them in primer, including the sills. The inner sills and the inside of the outer sills are sprayed in a high zinc content primer and the outside of the outer sills in an etch primer - if you follow :) The thinking here is that the high zinc content primer has the best anti-corrosion properties but relatively poor mechanical properties (adhesion), so I'll use it on inner surfaces which will not be subject to mechanical shock (i.e. things hitting it!) and I'll use the etch primer on outer surfaces (plus high build, stone chip, epoxy mastic depending on what's appropriate) because of its better adhesion. I know that I'll need to clean the primer off in the areas where they'll be getting welded but I think it's worth doing it this way if for no other reason than it'll keep the panels in the best possible condition until I get them fitted. I reckon I'll also paint all the inner surfaces of the panels except the flanges and welding areas in epoxy mastic and top coat and hopefully that'll see them last a bit longer than they did fresh from the factory.

I've also finished cleaning up the front of the car. I think I mentioned in an earlier post that underneath the surface rust and old paint the metal is actually in very good condition. This is now sprayed in etch primer and I'll be finishing this off in top coat to seal the primer because the Saloon's going to have to sit outside for three or four months this winter, albeit it'll be under a full cover.

It's gone from looking like this... looking like this:

The rear surfaces of the front valance, front lamp panel and the support panels have been wire brushed, cleaned, painted with Hydrate 80, epoxy mastic and top coat.

The MIG welder is getting bought this month - going to go for a Portamig 185 - and I'm in the process of setting myself up with a "Volkszone" account with BOC so the real work will be starting fairly soon. To that end the next priority is to start unpicking what remains of the nearside front wing and sills.

There's some great articles about sill and floor repairs by Chris Witor and Neil Eyre in the 2000 Register Service Notes so I reckon it's time to dig them out and start studying seriously!

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Well and truly blasted...

At last, some Saloon related stuff to report!

A few weeks back I was looking at the various finishes that had been applied to the sills that I'd bought for the Saloon over the last few months - a hard black coating on the OE N/S inner sill, a softer black coating on the OE N/S outer sill, a soft brown coating on the O/S repro inner sill and rust on the OE N/S middle sill. I decided that in the interests of longevity I wanted to get these items back to bare metal so that I could get modern primer on them before fitting them.

A little bit of research unearthed a media blasting/surface treatment specialist - Abercorn Media Blasting - just down the road from Livingston in Winchburgh. I explained to them what I wanted to do and they couldn't have been more keen to help - in fact the managing director I spoke to, would you believe it, is also restoring a 2000 Saloon!

They collected the sills a couple of weeks ago and delivered them back this afternoon. They've done a fantastic job. The painted sills have gone from looking like this:

to looking like this:

The two inner sills and outer sill were blasted with soda media and the middle sill was blasted with glass media. The middle sill in particular has cleaned up beautifully.

It turns out that there was evidence of corrosion, mostly minor surface pitting, under the coatings on all of the finished sills so I reckon it was worthwhile doing.

The inners and middle sill will now be painted with Electrox primer - a very high zinc content galvanising-type primer. The inside surfaces of the outer sills will also be painted with Electrox while the outside surfaces of the outer sills will be painted with etch primer. The Electrox will obviously need to be cleaned off as required when welding the sills but it'll be reapplied after the welds have been cleaned up.

Top coat will also be applied wherever possible and no doubt copious amounts of cavity wax will also be consumed!

So hopefully, when I get the car back on the road, the sills won't rust out within seven years or so the way they did back in the day.

I'll probably do the same thing with the front wings when they're due to be fitted.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Spitfire Makeover (1)

There's nothing much to report on the Saloon just yet, but work has started again in earnest and there'll be lots of stuff happening soon...

I mentioned in an earlier post that 2013 is the tenth anniversary of the getting the Spitfire back on the road, and that the anniversary had got me thinking about making some changes to the (very few) things that I'm not entirely happy with. I also decided that it was high time to catch up with some things that I never got round to doing.

First on the list of things that I never got round to doing was sorting out the catch tank for the rocker cover breather. I bought the catch tank four or five years ago only to find that it was somewhat bigger than I had envisaged and that it wouldn't fit where I had planned to put it. At the time I was completely stumped so the catch tank got dumped at the back of a garage shelf and forgotten about.

It was when I got round to thinking about the first thing on my list of the very few things I'm not entirely happy with that I had a Eureka moment. I just happened to notice that there appeared to be space to fit the catch tank on the front of the O/S engine valence. What I was actually contemplating at the time was replacing the polished aluminium engine valances and radiator cowl that I'd had on the car since it was rebuilt with a set of Tony Dunn's louvred valances - just why a solution for the catch tank popped into my head at that time is a complete mystery.

With the help of a couple of strips of gaffer tape, a quick mock up confirmed that the tank would indeed fit very neatly on the front of the valance. There was, however, a problem:

But having recently seen some very fine examples of fabrication and TIG welding on a Club Triumph forum thread I reckoned I knew someone who could get it sorted for me and I wasn't wrong. It took less than a week for Tim Ward to sort it to my specification and get it back to me. Top job!

I fitted it at the same time as I fitted the new engine valences and radiator cowl from Tony Dunn:

These really are top notch bits of kit. I reckon the radiator cowl is a big improvement over the previous one. It's a much snugger fit and I reckon it does actually do a better job of getting air through the radiator.

And I much prefer the subtler look of the black powder coat compared to the polished aluminium.

When I was swapping the valances and cowl I discovered a hard-packed mass of crud, mostly leaves and, oddly enough, newspaper and paper tissues jammed into the space between the oil cooler and the radiator. Also, the front of the oil cooler, which sits in front of the bottom of the radiator, was caked in gunge.

Believe it or not, with that lot cleaned up and the louvred valances and new cowl fitted the Spitfire is actually running a tad cooler than it had been. It's early days yet, and I'm not sure what the biggest contributor is likely to be, but there does appear to have been a small but worthwhile change for the better!

Next up for the Spitfire is to get the progressive front springs that I've had sitting in the garage for two years fitted and to get the MX-5 seats out and the proper Spitfire seats in. Unfortunately, the latter requires that I finish refurbishing the seats and I haven't started yet...

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Land Rover, Weather and Spitfire Fuel Pump Woes

It hasn't been the best of starts to 2013. Not long after the first road trip of the year in the Spitfire back in February (see previous blog post) I started work on our Land Rover Defender's suspension. The Defender has done a lot of off-loading in the last eight years and its suspension has been needing a bit of TLC for while. All four shock absorbers had reached the point where they weren't doing very much damping at all and the rears, in particular, were in very poor condition and not that far from starting to rust through. I had decided to strip and rebuild the entire suspension replacing all four shocks and all the bushes. As usual with this sort of thing, it ended up being a much bigger job than originally planned. The rear upper shock mounts, the front turrets and a lot of other miscellaneous bits and pieces were in such poor condition than I ended up binning them. I decided to use the "opportunity" to fit a Gywn Lewis 4x4 Challenge Kit (with Rough Country shocks from Llama 4x4). Thanks to this, and the Baltic weather that set in not long after I started, what I expected to get finished in two or three weekends has taken all of two and half months to complete.

The end result was quite an impressive collection of scrap metal:

In the middle of all of this - at the end of March - we were looking forward to the Spring Fell Run organised by the Cumbrian TSSC. Unfortunately, the day that we were supposed to be travelling down to Cumbria was the day that ended with 15-feet deep snowdrifts on the A595! It wasn't particularly bad in central Scotland but much of the route we would have had to take ended up suffering severe problems. Needless to say we decided to stay at home and as it turned out the event had to be cancelled (for the first time ever I believe). There are tentative plans to run the event later in the year, in Autumn, and if it happens we'll be there!

A month later we were looking forward to CCHMSC's Argyll Classic event, if for no other reason than it was to be the first classic car event to visit the newly resurfaced Rest and Be Thankful hillclimb. I spent a couple of evenings the week before the event fettling the Spitfire. It was all was going so well. The final shakedown was to be a run into work on the Friday. I got into the Spit, turned the ignition on - and silence! When you have an electric fuel pump complete and utter silence isn't a good thing! I had to leave it and jump in the modern to get to work. Frantic tinkering later in the day confirmed that the fuel pump was dead and that there was no way I was going to get it sorted out in time for Sunday. So, we had to miss our second event of 2013...

The fuel pump is a Facet Red Top and we were already on our second one. The first was replaced when it started to become unreliable in 2007 after five years use, having covered 11k miles. The second one has lasted six years and 11.5k miles. Unlike the first one, which was replaced when it became intermittent, there were no warning signs that the second one was about to go. The failure rate seems unusually high and this got me thinking about the installation. It's somewhat unusual, with the pump mounted below the fuel tank, horizontally, but upside down, tucked up beside the chassis at the front of the N/S rear wheel arch. I started to wonder if there might be an issue with the installation.

I asked the question in the Club Triumph forum which elicited some useful information and suggestions. Info on Facet's own web site and numerous other sources confirmed that horizontal mounting was perfectly OK but I couldn't find any reference to what effect (if any) the upside down orientation might have. So I asked the question directly of Facet:
This is an installation question. I am trying to establish if upside down horizontal mounting as per the attached photograph is likely to cause any operational or long term reliability problems with Facet Red Top electric fuel pumps. It has been suggested that horizontal mounting with connections pointing downwards may result in the pump not being able to clear all its air which in turn may result in the pump running hotter than it should. Would it be advisable to re-engineer the installation so that the pump is mounted the right way up?
Within 24 hours I got the following reply:
Thank you for your email and interest in Facet fuel pumps. I have never seen anyone mount the fuel pump in this way buy I don’t believe it will harm the pump or cause it to function improperly.
Having got the new Red Top installed I've decided to leave it as is for the time being and get on with using the car.

It would be a fairly simple exercise, however, to re-engineer the installation to flip the pump the right way up by fabricating two brackets and mounting the pump to the brackets rather than the underside of the floor. I might just do this later in the year when I have a spare weekend.

So, hopefully, it'll be third time lucky and we'll actually get to the start of the next event in our calendar - the CCHMSC/Club Triumph International Auto Ecosse at the beginning of June!

It goes without saying that not much has been done on the Saloon during the last two months! I've not been completely idle however. We travelled down to Coventry at the beginning of March for the Triumph International Spares Day at Stoneleigh and also to visit Canley Classics on the Saturday morning to collect an original OE N/S middle sill for the Saloon from Dave Pearson. At Dave's suggestion we visited the Coventry Transport Museum on the Saturday afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed it. We spent about four hours there then enjoyed a pleasant walk through the city centre visiting the Cathedral and Spon Street. Didn't find anything of interest at Stoneleigh on the Sunday but the trip was worth it just to get the OE N/S middle sill.

OE O/S sills seem to be much rarer beasts so I've decided to go with repro items and got O/S full inner and full outer repro sills courtesy of Rimmer's New Year sale. I believe that the repro full outer sill is an Earlpart item and it's very good indeed. Not sure of the provenance of the full inner sill but it's also very good.

This year's purchases for the Saloon so far, from top to bottom: Repro O/S inner sill; OE N/S middle sill, Repro full O/S outer sill.

I now have a full set of OE sills for the N/S, whereas the O/S sills will all be repro parts. It'll be interesting to see how they go on and whether or not there are any significant differences between fitting the OE sills and the repro sills.

I've decided that the sills that are currently in primer, and also the OE middle sill, will be going for blasting to get them back to bare metal so that I can paint them with modern weld through etch primer before fitting them. I've found a place fairly local to me that can do this and - would you believe it - the chap I'm speaking to is also restoring a 2000 Saloon. I wasn't expecting that!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Out and about

No further progress to report on the Saloon. The last two weekends have been mostly taken up with changing the alternator on our Volvo V40. A fairly straightforward job but a complete PITA compared to working on the Triumphs - primarily because of all the stuff that has to be either removed or shifted out of the way just to get access to the alternator. It didn't help that it was the first time I've had to do anything on the Volvo and I didn't know my way around. I reckon I could do it in a couple of hours now...

Unfortunately the Saloon's going to have to wait a while yet because the next two weekends will have to have be spent stripping and rebuilding the suspension on the Land Rover.

Got the Volvo finished yesterday morning and found myself pondering over the Spitfire. I wasn't intending to tax it until the start of March but it was such a glorious day I just couldn't resist it. A quick trip to the Post Office and a couple of hours later the cobwebs were well and truly blown away.

And when we woke up to another glorious day this morning, well, it was just too good an opportunity to miss. The first road trip of the 2013 was on and we set off after an early lunch. Decided to do one of my favourite short runs down to Moffat. A71 from Livingston to Edinburgh City Bypass, then A702 to West Linton, cut across to the A701, turn off at Tweedsmuir and go over the hills past Talla and Meggat reservoirs to join the A708 at St Mary's Loch, then to Moffat via the Grey Mare's Tail.

Decided to travel light with just an iPhone 5 and I wasn't expecting to get any decent pics - but it looks like the iPhone 5 has a better camera in it than I thought!

The climb up from Talla reservoir.

Parked up at Meggat reservoir.

Meggat reservoir.

When we got to Moffat we parked up at the boating pond, swapped the driving shoes for walking boots and decided to partake of some of these:

Finally, we left Moffat going north on A701, past the Devil's Beef Tub, Tweedsmuir and Broughton, then cut across onto the A721 to pick up the A70 at Carnwath, then the B7008 to West Calder and the A71 again back to Livingston.

The Spitfire is running as sweet as a nut at the moment!

A brilliant day out!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Fall and Rise of a Spitfire (Part 2)

A lot of good stuff seemed to happen after I dumped left the Spitfire with its caring new owner in 1992. I got married, moved into a bigger house that had - luxury of luxuries - its own driveway and garage. For a few years I was happy enough driving around in extremely competent modern cars.

Then one day I realised that I'd stopped driving for fun. On a nice evening or during the weekend I'd often jump in the Spitfire and drive somewhere just for the sake of it. But I had no interest whatsoever in doing that in our modern cars. Ever since I've known my wife she's had a company car, which means that we've always had the fallback of one sensible car that we can rely on without it needing any outlay from us. Also, I knew from my visits to Orkney that my old Spitfire was still there. Robert had only got as far as separating the tub and chassis, and had made some repairs to the chassis. Can you see where this is heading...?

Then, in 1999 my parents decided to move from Moffat to Orkney. I found myself hiring a Luton van to move their possessions. I'm really not sure what was going on in my head, but at some point I found myself wondering if the Spitfire - which I knew to be in bits - would fit in the back of the empty van for the return trip! I reckoned it would, and a phone call confirmed that it was mine again if I wanted it.

Packed up and ready to come home, September 1999.

Next thing I knew I was unloading it into our garage. I'd have laughed out loud if anyone had predicted this back in 1992. And it would have made far more sense just to buy a decent roadworthy Spitfire that I could have driven straightaway, but I've never been one for always taking the easy road. As stupid as it may seem, after a seven-year break, it felt like unfinished business.

The original plan to restore it myself as a fairly standard 1500 went out of the window in next to no time. I'd always had a hankering for a GT6 but didn't want to forego the soft top - so why not drop a six-pot in it? I'd always wanted one in dark blue or BRG - so why not change the colour? Maybe I'd use it a lot for track days and hill-climbs - so why not make it a 2.5 and tune it up a bit? This is going to be an awful lot of work - so why not get someone to do it for me? A few chats with Chic Doig later he was rebuilding a very non-standard Spitfire for me! Other than building up the rolling chassis, which I did in our garage (after Chic Doig had painted it), Chic Doig did all of the work.

Rolling chassis finished, April 2001.

Engine build / bench test, May 2001.

Replacement tub, Californian import, May 2001.
The original tub turned out to be a total basket case!

Engine mounted in chassis, June 2001.

Bodywork, June 2002.

In March 2003, it was all done and back home:

It ended up with a 2.5 straight-six bored out to 2.7 with TriumphTune Sprint 90 camshaft and Stage III head, triple Weber 40s; GT6 turrets and front suspension with 330lb springs, 1-inch anti-roll bar, 4-pot vented front disks, GT6 drums on the rear; close ratio gear set in a 3-rail box, J-Type overdrive and 3.63 diff with Quaiffe LSD. Tyres were 185/60-13s on 5.5 inch AlleyCat slog mags. The seats are Mazda MX-5 and the paint is a metallic BRG.

So, on the whole a fairly standard 6-pot conversion -- but, in my opinion, very well put together.

I ended up spending a lot more on it than I originally planned, but I don't regret it one bit! It goes like stink and handles well. It's comfortable and great fun to drive.

The only significant change to the car since 2003 was the replacement of the 6-2-1 manifold and wheelbarrow twin exhaust with a bespoke Gareth Thomas 6-3-1 manifold and exhaust system in 2008. It improved performance and reduced the noise levels considerably - the noise reduction was something I'd specifically asked for and it was achieved by fitting a centre silencer and a bespoke rear box.

The intention I had of using the Spitfire for track days and hill-climbs has never really come to anything. Nowadays, it's used purely as a road car - for touring mostly. With this in mind and now that it's been back on the road for nearly ten years I've been taking stock and plan to experiment with a few things this year to see if I can make it a better road car.

Firstly - tyres. The 185/60-13s have always given a very harsh ride and while they've worked extremely well on the few occasions I've had the car out on local sprint circuits I've come to the conclusion that I don't like them for normal road use. When the last set of 185/60-13s all decided to wear out at the same time in September last year I replaced them with 165/70-13s. I've not done a lot of miles since the 165/70-13s were fitted, but the ride quality is definitely much improved and the rear suspension works much better. I also plan to try out 175/70-13s on a set of Weller Sport 13 x 6 inch wheels I acquired last year and will make a decision regarding which I want to keep later in the year.

Secondly - if I have a criticism of the handling then it is that the Spitfire has a tendency to yump excessively on B-roads. I've got a pair of higher-rated progressive front springs which I'm going to fit to see if they improve matters.

Lastly - seats. The MX-5 seats are exceptionally comfortable and they also served a purpose in 2003-2005 when I was having some lower-back problems. However, the driving position is wrong - just slightly too high and slightly too far forward - and I've never quite been able to get used to it. So I'm currently renovating a pair of late Spitfire 1500 recliner headrest seats and I'll be fitting them in the next month or so to see how I get on with them. I managed to acquire a good pair of seat frames on eBay and with Dave Kent's help managed to get them up to Scotland eventually. I'm just waiting for new foams and leather covers to arrive from Park Lane Classics.

Other than the above the plan is to use the Spitfire as often as we can and get as much enjoyment out of it as we can. We're keeping our fingers crossed for better weather than we got last year!