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1980 Austin Princess


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Who knows?  Barry from Croydon will probably tell everyone it's shit like and I've ruined a classic while Amanda over in Tunbridge Wells probably thinks I should scrap it.  Meanwhile, Wilfrid Horsemanure is probably still prattling on about The Strikes And All That and gradually working himself up to a red faced political frothfest about how his rights are being impugned because he has to wear a mask in Aldi.  You know, the usual Facebook bollocks.




Today there was petrol on the floor behind the Princess.  It does this in the summer sometimes when the back of the car gets hot and its got a full tank of fuel.  While it does have a full tank of fuel, it's hardly summer.  Normally, unscrew the cap to release the excess pressure and then it's fine once you've burned a few liquid dinosaurs.  This time, I unscrewed the cap and was greeted with about half a litre of unleaded flooding out of the filler neck, narrowly missing my shoes, and spilling down the side of the car.  Then I made the mistake of wiping it off and took the freshest paint clean off to bare metal where I'd done some repairs a year or two ago.  Not sure what that's about to be honest, it's almost like the tank has over pressurised due to a blocked vent tube or similar and it's not something it's ever done in winter before.  It's also become reluctant to start on the first attempt of the day, usually taking three attempts to actually catch and idle so there's something amiss.  Once it's actually started its fine and behaves all day long so again, no idea what that's about.  It probably hates me.  I painted the bare metal with blue enamel paint because it's all I had to hand and I didn't have time to drag the Lanchester out of the garage to get to the proper colour and since I'm doing the paint later this year I couldn't give any less fucks than I currently do about the state of the paintwork.

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2 minutes ago, vulgalour said:

Other things got in the way.  It'll happen, but it means buying another set of tyres and ideally refurbishing the alloys.  It's all money I don't have right now.

know that feeling

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  • 3 weeks later...

Fame!  Kinda.  Always brings me joy to know other people got excited enough by the Princess to tag a picture and share it on the social medias, especially if they're nice about it because she doesn't look her best just at the moment.


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  • 2 months later...

I managed to put this update in the wrong thread, so I'm reposting it here for the sake of completeness.


I had one 5 mile errand to run. I know I can do that before the car consumes all its oil and water so thought I'd chance it. Checked fluids etc before setting off and all was well. At cold idle, small bubbles appearing in the expansion bottle. Off we went, car drove normally, temperature gauge rose normally, no issues.

First stop (it was one of those stop-start errands sort of a thing), everything was the same so I carried on.

Stop two and the bubbles in the coolant had become larger and more frequent, coolant level had dropped a bit, but I was less than a mile from home so I did the thing I needed to do and then made my way home.

Once home, engine was up to full operating temperature, coolant hadn't dropped any further, and the bubbles had completely stopped even when revving the engine. It was like the head gasket had fixed itself. That was a bit weird.

Now, I will be doing a compression check on this both when the engine is cold and when the engine is hot. Reason being, a friend suggested it sounds like a cracked head. That could also explain why it seems to keep blowing head gaskets but why there's nothing visibly wrong with them when the head is removed. I do know the O series suffered from casting issues with some heads, so it's entirely likely I have a bad head on this car. Quite why a cracked head wouldn't show up when it was pressure tested and skimmed last I'm not sure.

Anyway, the engine is still getting rebuilt by someone else, but I will do a compression test over the weekend and report back on the findings, see if we can see any difference between a hot and a cold engine. Perhaps the issue with this engine has been a bad head all along and that's why it's been so difficult to pinpoint.  A leakdown test, as suggested over on the blue forum, is also a sensible choice if I can find someone to do it since I don't have the kit required to do it myself.

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It's the head the car came to me with, presumed original.  It might be possessed...


Okay, now I'm confused.  Got the camera out to document what the engine is doing and now it isn't doing it.

Compression figures are reasonable, if not great:
1 - 145
2 - 140
3 - 150
4 - 135

Could be better, obviously, but could also be a lot worse.  The other strange thing is that it's putting no bubbles in the coolant at all now and the coolant is clean again where when I was having issues it had gone a bit murky.  Could it be that I've simply driven it enough to dislodge some grime somewhere in the system and had a minor airlock somewhere?  Something else?

I have no idea.  I still want to get the engine rebuild but now it's magically fixed itself I guess I'll keep using it until it randomly pretends its broken again.  This makes no sense at all to me, to be quite honest.

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I've been trundling about in it today and on a whim booked it in for an MoT.  Driving away from the garage of course it snapped the speedo cable.  Again.  I'm hoping I've got one in stock, otherwise I'll have to get the TomTom out until a replacement arrives.  I know what it's done, the plastic collar at the back of the speedo will have gone weak and snapped like the last two.  You need the hands of a child to sort it out so I'll be squeezing my spades in there and probably come out looking like I've been in a fight with a hamster and lost.

Also, the horn stopped working, or rather it didn't work when I needed it to, and one side repeater blew.  At least it did it today and not on MoT day, and replacing a bulb and wiggling some connectors got things sorted.  I'm not aware of anything it might fail on other than headlight alignment after going through that flood (which might also be what shortened the lifespan of the side repeater, to be fair) so we'll just hope it lurches through okay.

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The fog light switch decided to stop working almost entirely. Annoyingly, even though I have a spare of every dashboard switch, a fog light switch isn't one I do have. Gave things a wiggle and almost got reliability out of it, and then the switch stopped working again. Bulb, connectors, and fuse are all good, it's the connection at/in the switch at fault. That's probably going to be an issue at MoT since I believe the car is just new enough that a fog light is legally required. I'm just going to hope it works on MoT day.

Side repeater I couldn't get to work and I can't find my spares, that's a corrosion issue since the inside of the bulb holder refuses to turn into shiny metal and remains steadfastly crusty brown. Fortunately being pre-85 side repeaters aren't legally required so I've unplugged them (which doesn't alter the flash rate of the indicators, probably because of the digital flasher can I've got fitted instead of the old bimetallic type) and taped over the holes which is legal as far as I'm aware. It's a fix, just not a proper fix, when I find the spare side repeaters I know I have I'll refit good ones.

I also don't have a spare speedo cable in stock so I'll have to order a pair so I've got one to fit and one in stock again. TomTom to the rescue in the meantime so I don't accidentally speed.
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There's a speed camera near home on a road you'd swear was a 40 but is actually a 30.  Trouble with the fog switch is the way the dashboard is built makes it a nightmare to access without dismantling things and the connection issue is the sort where I might find it works fine out of the dash and stops working as soon as it's installed.  I've had this issue with other switches in the same pack, just requires plenty of wiggling and fettling until the switch finally gives in and decides to work again.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Another video and I've not done the write up for the last one.  Oops.  I'm hoping to sit down this weekend and do all the write ups on the projects I need to so folks can get caught up.

In the meantime, here's the mirrors going on the Princess.


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The starting issue.  This is one of those daft issues that is down to user error for once.  First job, do some talking to camera and then demonstrate what the car does.  Apply choke with obligatory clothes pegs, and turn the key expecting the usual start-and-die routine before it idles on the third attempt.


Except the Princess decided that today it was going to start on the first turn of the key and make a liar of me.  Right.  Well that could make diagnosis a bit of a nuisance if this issue has suddenly decided to be all intermittent.  I already knew I was getting decent spark and fuel and wasn't getting anything silly happening with oil and coolant so the next step was to investigate the dashpot which I realised I hadn't checked since refitting the head.



Sure enough, it was pretty low on oil.  Topped that back up with some light machine oil, which it needed rather a lot more than usual of, almost as though perhaps it had drained out while the head was off the car and somebody had refilled it.  Made sure it made the unpleasant squelchy noise and screwed the cap back on.  Then took it for a quick blezz up and down the street to see if matters had indeed improved.  Imagine there's a big pile of boxes I'm about to drive through, and an overdub of screeching tyres and a more powerful engine. It's more entertaining that way.


It seemed to be a lot happier, a lot less lumpy as it was warming up, and certainly started much easier.  Convinced Pat to be cameraman and took it out for a test run to see if it really was better and I'm happy to report that it's about as good as it's ever been and didn't embarrass itself by doing anything mechanically daft.  Ended up behind a funny van.


Spotted someone else having fun with colours on their old car.


And we discussed the Ford Ka.  You'll have to watch the video for more details, it doesn't translate that well to this sort of update.


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