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1980 Austin Princess - Head Rebuild Commences

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Plenum chamber all clear, it looks more likely that the angle of the drive and the direction I was throwing water combined in a fluke that caused the water to be washed straight down the air hole. Ooops! I shan't be doing that again.

Today, it was a glorious spring day. The birds were singing, the bulbs in the garden were in bloom and the sunshine was beaming down on me. Prime time to get cracking on the Princess, thinks I. Mainly I wanted to get the rear carpet out and investigate the window, I achieved both of these goals.

Window mechanism first. Unscrew the two screws holding the door pull/arm rest and then rotate it until the tab/plug lines up on the top bit and pull free. The black trim on the release handle is held on with a single screw and easy to remove too.
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Then unscrew the door pin/lock pull (I've got some with little crowns lined up on my want list).
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Carefully work around the door card to pop it free. I managed not to break any clips! Behind the card is the moisture membrane, but someone has been here before me. Happily, they'd filled the door with waxoyl and it looks far better inside than the outside bodge leads one to believe.
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Then, after much fiddling and finger trapping, the mechanism is free. Can you see what I see?
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So I'll be on the look out for a new one of these. For now, I can at least use the window sort of and make the car secure when I park up.

On to the interior. Behind the rear arm rest the original plastic is still there, in two minds about removing the plastic, it's not pristine or needed.
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Was fed up of the stuck seatbelt bolts, but the sunny day must've warmed my brain up because I realised if I make a small incision, I can free the rug without undoing any bolts.
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Goals achieved, bonus unlocked: investigate floor. Soundproofing is nice and dry.
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No rust here, which is the central tunnel. There's a small bolt (shown blurrily in the foreground) which holds the rear seat base in place but sadly there was no treasure under the seat.
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The rust in the rear is all surface, seemingly where the paint has rubbed off the flexible seam sealer. No crustiness, and nothing a stiff brush, kurust and dab of paint can't sort before the carpets go back in. Bonus!
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The rear carpet. The dark stripe is the clean bit that's been hidden by the rear seat. Oh how grim it is.
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It's okay though, I got another bonus thing. Cleaned the passenger front door card.
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Cleaned the passenger rear door card.
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Cleaned the driver's rear door card.
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Which means all my doorcards are clean! Just the seats and carpets to shampoo, the parcel shelf, dashboard and headlining to go. Smells much nicer inside the car, looks a world better too.

Finally, a bit of gearbox wiggling. I'm holding the camera (and sound like a right toff, when did that happen?), my brother is wiggling the stick and Dad is being the gaffer. While the prime suspect is the bushes holding the selector box in place, it's also looking likely that one of the pins has broken/come loose/wandered off. So we're going to drop the selector box and rebuild it with the book as a guide just as soon as I source the relevant parts.
 

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I am so glad you have joined us, I am loving these updates. And the metal tape refurb looked superb. This is rapidly becoming one of the finest wedges around!

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My aim is for it to be the finest and cleanest Wedge there is without it being a concourse queen. Daily driver all the way!

I really am getting on top of this now. Got another job done today to a better standard than I'd expected. I'll start with the job I did last as I think it's more important to cover first. As you might recall, there were rusty bits on the the inside of the floor pan but it looked solid overall.

We investigated the rust with a wire brush and this is what we found.

Small hole in the passenger footwell above the jacking point. Only about the diameter of a pencil and invisible from outside due to the jacking point location.
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Rear passenger side, right where the sill meets the floorpan. This is structurally pretty good and mostly just pitting. Ideally it will get cut out and replaced with a small patch.
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Driver's side in the rear, same spot but slightly worse. Again, the plan is to eventually cut this out and patch it.
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From a different angle.
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After wire brushing, I vacuumed all the loose stuff out and doused it in Kurust, letting it do its magic overnight. I'll put some fresh paint on tomorrow so it gets no worse in the meantime and have the welding done before the next MoT is due in September. No point showing the driver's side bit, we left that as it was as I can't really improve on it without welding and to poke at it might dislodge the currently-solid fibreglass repair, sometimes it's best to leave things alone.

The other job was the carpets. They are quite literally falling apart, which is a shame. The pile is shedding, there's bald spots and holes in the front half and the pile was very, very flat and very dirty.
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Eventually, I'm going to get a roll end of suitable carpetting and redo the cabin and boot to match in some nice coppery-brown deep pile carpet, but for now it's all about watching the pennies. Today I had the good fortune to sell a piece of artwork I've had up in the local art gallery, which meant I was a little bit better off so I did the only sensible thing and went to the Co-op spend some money on treats and cleaning products. This bottle of Vanish Oxy-clean cost me about a fiver, and I thought it would be enough for the carpets and the seats.
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With the carpets out of the car I could vacuum them again to get any last loose bits out before squirting the Vanish on. Using a stiff nail brush, I gave the carpet a vigorous (but careful) scrubbing to work the cleaner in and bring the pile back, followed with a more gentle massage with a cloth just to make sure everything was worked in properly. Left it to dry and vacuumed again with brought up the pile and sucked any last bits of greb out.

The front carpet needs replacing, it's dead. The bits over the wheelarches are threadbare, the driver's footwell is holed and the passenger footwell has a tear in it. But, that horrible stain in the passenger footwell is gone as is the rancid odour.
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The rear half came up much better, but it too is suffering from the deterioration that comes with age and use. Where the back carpet has been protected by the rear seat it still looks and feels new and most of the pile that was flat came up fluffy again, apart from the bit that goes over the tunnel which is going threadbare.
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I'm not going to try and source a Princess specific set of carpets, I think that will be difficult and pointless. Instead, I'll go to a few carpet places and see what they have available as all the bits I need are flat. In the meantime, I'll refit these once I've put paint on the floor pans over the Kurust and get some mats to keep the cabin tidy.

Got my eye on a replacement steering wheel too, just have to see how that goes, I'm not even sure if it'll fit but I know if it doesn't I can always put it on eBay and make some/all of my cash back.

Tomorrow I shall scrub the seats and, if I have time, the headlining. I'm not looking forward to cleaning the headlining because I know horrible ganky water will end up running down my arms while I do it.

Still, all this scrubbing is keeping me fit, even got asked by the other half if I'd been working out. I'd say that's the best reason to own an old car.

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Have you checked out places like Coverdale for a replacement carpet set? I know they can do them for things like the Austin A40 Farina, for under 200 notes, so it might be worth a look. Meanwhile, top work, we are agog!

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@michael (knigh)t: I'm looking forward to see it finished too, my arms will thank me not to be scrubbing it anymore!

@Trigger: when it comes to car interiors, yes. I can't abide filth in a car, makes my skin crawl.

@eddyramrod: I have not, but I will add them on my 'to check' list. I'm expecting a roll end of what I want to be about £50-100, depending on the shop and the quality of the rug. Not in a rush for that at the moment, I'm just going to keep what's in there and stick some clean rubber mats or something in there to make it smarter looking.

Right, bored of scrubbing filth now. I am getting there, things are improving.

First job today was to spray the Kurusted areas with some paint, which I did and let that dry before moving on to the next task. That second task was the dashboard which I thought was one of the cleaner parts of the car. Was I ever in for a shock!

I started with the passenger side for no particular reason. Scrub, scrub, wipe, wipe, leave to dry, much better.
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Then look in the bucket. :o Two buckets of water like that came off the dashboard, and to think I was touching it. Likewise, another 3 buckets of water the same colour came from the headlining and I've barely done an eighth of that.
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Driver's side all clean too. Had to dismantle some of the panel to get in the nooks and crannies, but it all went back together fairly easily.
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One annoyance that was once I'd removed the choke pull insert, cleaned off the greb and started to reinstate it, the plastic snapped in half. I do have a solution to this problem because the black and silver paper backing is undamaged, so all is not lost.
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I'd scrubbed all the bits of vinyl I could inside and was really just putting off the inevitable. I don't really want to do the headlining, but I have to. So here we go with Vanish Oxy-clean and Stardrops.
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Made the water mucky, but didn't seem to do much else. Barry Scott time.
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That shifts it! The difference is much more obvious in person than on camera.
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This picture is great at showing what's clean and what's not. The odd yellow staining is, I think, nicotine marks. It looks like someone has tried half-heartedly to remove the nicotine stains but just smeared it all along the edge of the roof lining and left it. Takes a lot of work to remove that yellowing, but I am getting there with it slowly.
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The sunvisor will need more scrubbing, but I'm going to do everything to this standard and then do it all again. That way I'm not moving dirt on to the clean areas.
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A coffee and pork pie break and I could get back on with it. Put the soundproofing back in the front and refitted the carpets.
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Then applied some Autoglym vinyl cleaner to all the surfaces that needed it before refitting the centre consoles. Pro tip: if you can't find where the screw is supposed to go, use a knitting needle as a guide to line up the trim with the hole in the body work, makes life much easier.
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Same view, with flash engaged, shows things up a bit more. Was getting quite dark by the time I'd done all this.
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Finally, the warning 'lights' from the dashboard. Originally, these are a little coloured film that is held in by half-melted pegs on the plastic surround, but they'd all been poked at and come free of their housing. I'll be restoring these back to proper functionality with a bit of suitable glue and plastic kit know how and then slotting them back in the dashboard... just not right now.
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I noticed today that the vinyl of the doorcards now feels soft and flexible, like a good quality vinyl should, rather than a weird combination of hard, sticky and shiny. Not to mention the vast improvement in smell in there without having to resort to Magic Trees.

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If you cant get a replacement, the window mech can be sorted out by laying down blobs of mig weld on top of each other where the teeth have brocken off, then using a file or grinder to shape them into teeth shapes. Ive done a few this way before and it works fine and saves the hassle trying to find a spare!

 

Nice car btw, its coming along very nicely. A Princess has always been on my 'want' list.

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Looking good so far but be careful with that Cilit Bang.

Its only usually good enough for turning large unwanted objects into small piles of flakes that will fit inside a wheely bin.

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Oh I know it's nasty stuff if left to its own devices, which is why I'm making sure to wash it off with plenty of water and not let it sit on the vinyl for much more than a couple of minutes. Leaving it on for longer might shift the dirt easier, but it might also eat into the vinyl which will likely result in wheelie bin flakes. Of course, if the worst comes to the worst I can always redo the headlining, but I'd rather I didn't cock up so badly I needed to do that.

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its mad to think just how dirty and grubby some internal parts are, the dashboard didnt really look particularly dirty but those buckets of manky water beg to differ, and to think we have our hands all over them :shock: (sorry germ freak mode disabled)

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Top marks for your progress to date. I can recommend Coverdale as they supplied the carpet for my '67 Triumph. It did need a small amount of trimming though, but looks ace. I had a look on the site but couldn't see a set for your car, they do this though:

 

http://www.carcarpets.co.uk/blenheim--- ... 7643-p.asp

 

which looked about right (you can ask for samples) and is available by the square metre.

 

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The brown stains may not be nicotine. It could well be the glue that eventually stains the headlining.

 

Here are some pics of the headlining from my Triumph to show the similarities. If it is, then no cleaner will shift it.

 

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I sorted it by cleaning the headlining with meths (a couple of goes), then once dried and vented, I gave it 3 coats of white vinyl silk emulsion with a 3" soft roller. Looks fab now.

 

DSCF0053.jpg

 

Good luck for the rest of the work.

 

Ken

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@ProgRocker: I'm waiting for stuff to dry before making another update, but I've been busy putting more things right today. Thanks for the top rating :D

 

@Michael T: The water from the driver's seat was literally black, like tar, and the smell was quite unique.

 

@Ken: Top tips! Looking at where the staining is, it could well be glue staining. I have noticed that repeated applications of brush, elbow grease and Barry Scott spray is actually shifting the mark, allbeit slowly. When I'm at a point where I'm investing money rather than time into the Princess I'll give Coverdale a proper look.

 

@Wilko: I am Leg End! It's nice to be appreciated, especially when it's because you're restoring a grimy old lump of BL tat.

 

Proper update later tonight/tomorrow.

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@Ken: fingers crossed! I may even risk a bit of mild bleach when all is scrubbed.

Today's update features a seat. Namely this one that the driver sits in.
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It's pretty grebby and has some wear to the bolster and base, as you'd expect of something that's 32 years old.
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Plenty of grime build up on the top corner of the vinyl too, not really evident in the picture but just imagine me scraping the grime from the piping with my fingernail after I'd scrubbed the surface with Vanish and Stardrops. Lot of grime.
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Now, I'm not going to torment you with a bucket picture this time. The water that came off these seats had quite a unique odour and was black. I don't mean it was a bit dingy, I mean it was black, the same colour as the bucket I've been using throughout. It was like having a bucket tar that was the consistency of water. I tipped it away at the earliest opportunity.

The vinyl came up lovely just like the doorcards.
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While quite a lot of the pile of the cropped nylon seats is worn away, it did still come up clean. A final vacuum once it's thoroughly dry tomorrow before reinstating the seat in the car will just make sure everything is fresh.
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Without flash engaged.
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With flash engaged.
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I'm probably not going to put the seat back in until I've finished cleaning the headlining, I'd rather not be dripping horrible water on my now clean seat, it's far easier to just keep the bucket under the work area without them in the car.

The other job was to sort out those dashboard 'lights', for want of a better description. They're a plastic surround with a coloured filter that has an icon printed on them. Originally BL lined up the pegs on the back of the surround with the cut outs on the filter and melted the pegs flat to secure everything, but someone in the past had poked all the filters loose. Once the filters are dislodged, it's impossible to get them back into their original place and the bulbs behind will dazzle you through the gap between filter and surround, as I found much to my annoyance with the main beam one on the first drive I had of the Princess.

So, after a quick test of the compatability of the plastic surround and filter with the glue I have, it was time to do the following.

Clean the surround.
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File off the pegs completely, we won't be needing those.
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Run a small amount of Humbrol's finest Pear Drop fragranced plastic glue around the surface the filter sits on.
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Add a weight just to make sure it all bonds properly and you're done. On a couple of filters I had to reapply a little more glue, but once done you get a uniform seal as the two plastics are bonded fully together.
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Much better.
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Do the rest.
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Check for gaps and if satisfied, they're ready to refit.
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Now, I just have to make sure they go back in the correct places.

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That drivers seat is pretty shagged. Maybe someone has a decent passenger seat to swap over? You'd need to swap over any gubbins if required tgo maintain the 240 different positions tho. :D

That 1980/81 cloth was a bit rank - perhaps a complete interior swap from an HLS or something? Amastardor rear seats were fold down so I guess they won't do.

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@Rev: The seat itself is in pretty good order, it's just the cloth that's a bit stretched. Ideally, I'd have HLS grade velour to replace the old cropped vinyl as it's a tougher and nicer looking fabric. For now I'm not too fussed as long as it's clean and if the look really bothers me I can always get myself some sheepskin covers to keep stuff period.

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Only a little update today.

Refitted the dash 'lights' using a combination of fiddling with switches to see what lit up and my photographs from the work so far. All present and correct. Also managed to get the heater knobs back on after fighting with them yesterday to no avail.
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Didn't particularly feel up to more scrubbing so I turned my attention instead to the engine, which has been hunting at idle since I bought the car. My bonnet rams don't work very well anymore, I've got some replacements on the way, but in the meantime I find a walking cane is very useful as an interim solution.
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I've only ever set the timing on my Polo, by ear, and managed to get it close to right but my brother always manages to get it that bit better. Using that experience, I got the Princess to stop hunting by rotating the distributor significantly and then tweaked it a little bit back and forth until the engine ran as smoothly and effortlessly as possible. We did wonder if the car was set up for leaded fuel and didn't have the timing advanced to compensate for running on unleaded, we couldn't think of any other reason someone would deliberately make a car run badly. Upon giving it a good rev to see how it behaved I was pleased to hear the popopapopop of a well tuned Austin engine from the exhaust.

Here's a clicky picture video, the camera seems to have picked up the fuel pump noise more than anything though 😕


Later I got my brother to pop around and lend his ear to the engine. He tweaked the timing an infinitisemal amount and it ran even easier still, he seems to have the knack for it. We also gave the fast idle screw (I think, Dad did this bit as he knows something about SU carbs, I'm still learning) on the SU carb the tiniest tweak which smoothed things out further.

The end result of this was that the smell from the exhaust is much, much leaner, normal in fact rather than smelling like it was putting half the fuel it used straight back out the back. From cold, the engine needs the choke for less time than before, doesn't run on, and seems much smoother through the rev range.

Of course, we may well need to adjust things again when the fluids are checked and replenished as necessary and when I've actually been using the car for a bit, but initial signs are good.

On the 21st of March I'm off to a local club fish & chips meet which is a good few miles round trip. I'm going to put 24 hour insurance on, a bit of go juice in the tank and we'll see how she does. Oh, and I'll have my RAC info with me too, just in case.

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It is! I love fish and chips, me.

Update time again. More of the same, I'm afraid.

Really wanted to make use of the decent light and get my headlining finished. After using three buckets just to do the bit over the driver's seat I was expecting the rest to take forever.

Started by working on a section at a time. Less than pleasant work if I'm honest, but it did need doing.
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Almost halfway done, and only the one bucket this time.
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Still a grim bucket though. In total I took three (including this one) buckets of greb out of the headlining and while it does still have the brown, what I'm lead to believe are glue stains, around the edges it is now clean. A wipe over with a cloth and cleaner brings nothing off.
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A blast with some Autoglym for vinyl to freshen it up and make it smell less like a clean kitchen and I'm happy for now. I think I'll tackle the glue stains with some very mild bleach at a later date.
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Other little job was to refit the cleaned trim for the top of the dash. The driver's side one is missing a couple of clips, but it at least sits in place okay.
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Moved the car around, fiddled with the timing a teensy bit more, as you do, and got her back into place. Felt and heard a weird thrubthrub noise which confirms, along with the marks on the arch liner, that those front tyres really do need to go.

Front tyres are this size:
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Which means they do this:
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Because they should be this size:
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I daren't swap them round because there's not much space in the rear arches and I don't want to shred the tyres on the arch edges whenever I go over a bump. The fronts only rub on full lock so as soon as I've got an opportunity to do so, I'll be off to the local tyre place to get a proper pair fitted to the front.

Just have to clean the chrome legs, passenger seat and rear bench to finish the deep clean of the interior off. Then I'll start saving and spending money on the outside and on the general maintenance stuff that's needed, which is minimal.

Interestingly, the gearbox appears to be improving with use, as does the handbrake.

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No OCD today, Boobydoo (such a satisfying username to say out loud), sorry about that.

Further investigation was done today into my tyres.

I'm supposed to be shampooing the seats and putting them out on the lawn to dry in the sun, but I really cba for some reason. Instead, I wanted to do a cleaner, drier job, hence getting the wheel brace and trolley jack out.

I was alarmed, but suspicious, when I was told my front tyres that are too big were probably from 1960 and did some investigation into it. Had to get the front wheels off because the date code is on the back face of the tyres.

I thought originally that this was my DOT code and was very confused as it didn't line up with anything I was finding online, not even the very comprehensive Tyre Bible site.
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If I look on the back at the DOT code there, it shows me the date stamp I was looking for. I went round and checked all the wheels, front and back, for codes.
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If I've read the codes correctly they're as follows:

1995
2 Kingpin 185 70 r14 remoulds stamped "07/95 circle"

2004
2 Camac 195 70 r14 stamped 4004 and 3104

2006
1 Infinity LMA3 185 70 r14 stamped 2106

Obviously, not only the age but the condition of those Kingpin remoulds will mean they're up for replacement post haste. The other tyres aren't too old or unsafe looking, but I'll likely replace the Camacs and put the Infinity in the boot as the spare as soon as I can afford to.

Just to show how bad the Kingpins are in addition to the shot above showing the DOT mark.
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Swapped the Camacs onto the back. I thought they might be a bit too big to clear everything but thankfully it looks okay. Tight, but okay. Certainly makes the car look more balanced, even if she is parked on my crazy drive, another job for rectification later this year... it's all money!
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I've got a small oil leak too, as is to be expected of an old Austin really, but it's something I'll sort out eventually if I can.
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I'm still getting used to the Giger-esque contraption that serves as suspension, it's so weird not seeing springs and shocks.
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Finally, just some arty fluff.
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Insurance is confusing me a lot. I can save as much as £350 on the policy on the Princess if I own and insure another car. Admittedly, that other car is going to cost more than the £350 I save, but that other car will be the Polo and Admiral told me before buying the Princess when I was asking about stuff that renewal should see a reduction of a couple of hundred, which offsets the Princess insurance and gives me cash in pocket. Interesting. Insurance rules seem to be somewhat Byzantian on what can and cannot be done... anyway, enough about that, let's get some pictures on here instead of me wittering on about insurance.

I did rather well on eBay recently and made some money back on some items I'd bought ages ago. Most of the payments are in and transferring to my bank account, so I can get things on the legal and tyre side with the Princess moving easier than previously anticipated. Long may this last!

Today I was eager to get the interior finished, and finished it now is, mostly. I still need to give the rear view mirror a dust but other than that, it's all done. Then it was on to scrubbing and scraping more grim off the vinyl on the seats.
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A pure vein of nose gold on the piping that I had to resort to scraping off because the cleaning stuff wouldn't touch it.
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Back bench wasn't too bad, but had a long line of grease presumably from the back of passengers' legs.
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Before putting the front seats back in, I wanted to smarten up the chrome legs (read: glorified washers) the rails sit on.
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I gave them a good scrub but it was apparent that the finish on the chrome was shot.
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Out with the aluminium tape again.
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Roll as many up as will fit on the tape and then carefully cut the tape so it lines up.
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Trim the excess tape off, and score along the lines between the legs.
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Et voila, refurbished chrome legs...
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... that only I will ever see. Bugger.
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A lot less dirt came out of the rear bench and passenger seat than came out of the driver's seat, I was surprised how quickly it all came up fluffy, sparkly and fresh.
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Can't wait for Wednesday next week when I get to actually drive her rather than just cleaning and cleaning like some sort of soap addict.

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