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Dicky’s Disastrous Debris - Steering wheel restoration 3/9/22


Angrydicky

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Yes, a surprising amount of logic and pragmatism for me. I’m definitely a heart over head man.

Yes, convert the Dutch one to rhd using parts from LOB, and fit the engine and gearbox out of LOB.

I had a good look under it earlier, the captive nuts are all there in the chassis for opposite hand steering. It doesn’t look masses of work to swap everything over, especially with both cars side by side.

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4 hours ago, Angrydicky said:

Yes, convert the Dutch one to rhd using parts from LOB, and fit the engine and gearbox out of LOB.

Sounds great - and you'll be perfectly capable of carrying out the work in a short space of time.  Will be brilliant to see!

I wonder whether this Dutch car has ever been driven on the United Kingdom public highway. Amazing its been tucked away for decades and nobody's apparently been motivated enough to get it back in action.  Would be fascinating to know its story.

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Just re read the thread (dipped in and out before, never read it all). Even more certain now that you're right to push on with the plan you have. You're obviously very invested in the car and to that end it must be done! Following with interest 👍

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  • 6 months later...
  • Angrydicky changed the title to Dicky’s Disastrous Debris - Update 28/8/22

It’s been a while, I’ve had a bit of free time which I’ve mostly spent on the A70. I can’t really remember where I got up to with this thread. Let’s have a recap.
I freed the clutch off and got it moving under its own steam. Rebuilt the braking system, replaced all the pipework and seals and got those working. The radiator was badly clogged, so the engine boiled after five minutes or so and despite my best efforts I couldn’t free the blockage so ended up going for a very expensive recore option. However, this cured the problem, I had it sitting idling happily for 20 mins and no sign of any steam. Perfect!

As for the Dutch one. My friend who owns the car decided he needed to keep the chassis, suspension and running gear to restore one of his two Atlantics. I was feeling pretty fed up about it but he convinced me to do it this way and keep and repair my original chassis then there’s no identity problems. The body, interior and the Hampshire-specific bits he doesn’t need are mine, FOC as long as I collect.
After being dicked about and offered crazy “don’t want the job” prices by various transport companies I decided to bite the bullet and go over to Holland myself and fetch the replacement bodyshell.
So, I’ve booked the ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland leaving Monday 5th Sept and returning on the 7th. I’ve booked a decent trailer and borrowing my parents 4x4 for the trip. More on that later.
I did, in the meantime, look for a replacement chassis. This proved elusive. I was quickly offered a decent Hereford chassis but the wheelbase is 3” longer so the mountings for the rear axle were in a different place. I decided I didn’t want to get involved in that so I thought fuck it, I’ll just weld up the original. In comparison to repairing the rotten body, it’s child’s play.
The first thing to do was to remove the old rotten body. I spent the best part of a day removing the 12 body mounting bolts, some of which go into captive nuts in the chassis and I really did not want these to shear off, some of which are nuts and bolts but there isn’t a lot of room to get the angle grinder in there to cut them off. Amazingly, I managed to get some of them, including all the ones in captives, out intact with heat and gentle persuasion. A few things under the bonnet had to be disconnected, from memory there’s the choke and throttle cables, heater hoses, wiring to the coil, starter and dynamo, and the earth lead.
I also had to remove the steering box, which involved removing the trafficator/horn assembly, the steering wheel (which put up quite a fight to get it off the splines) and the column gear lever and rod linkage.
Ideally, to lift a body off a chassis you need a two post lift, which you can put under the sills and lift it straight off. Unfortunately, I have a four post lift, which is great for most things but not much good for lifting bodies off chassis. After some thought I decided a good way to do it was to buy four strong ratchet straps (rated for 5000kg) ratchet strap the roof to the ramp and lift it off that way. I had a measure up and figured that if the car was sitting on its drums I might just have enough lift to be able to drag the chassis out from under it, but it still looked tight.
The ratchet straps arrived from eBay with big warning labels on them “DO NOT USE FOR LIFTING”. Well a body weighing 800kg maximum should be alright spread between four of them, surely? They only put these warnings to cover themselves anyway.
I decided to give it a go. With cushions and towels to protect the straps, I managed to lift the body off the chassis and only forgot to disconnect two wires, which isn’t bad really.
It was bloody close though. I ended up cutting the bottom off the rad support bracket and cutting out a section of the drivers floor under the pedals to get it to clear. In hindsight I should have removed the bracket, disconnected the master cylinder pushrod and tied down the clutch and brake pedals then it would have cleared.
In the end I dragged the chassis out from under the body with my Rover 600, a good test for its new towbar.

Unsurprisingly, the original body was so rotten it distorted badly on the side I hadn’t done any repairs on, good job it’s scrap! The roof looks ok, but the doors don’t shut anymore. The other side I started welding up escaped injury.

Can I repair the original chassis? STAY TUNED for more exciting updates!

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  • Angrydicky changed the title to Dicky’s Disastrous Debris - Dissection 28/8/22
On 8/9/2022 at 4:20 PM, somewhatfoolish said:

A tenuous link to give me an excuse to ask whether owt's happened to the mighty beast?

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From the Other Place.

Just read that thread,  unsurprisingly the typical PH wanker has already suggested this Hereford a good source of spares for a yawn worthy Healey. Oh fuck off.

I’ve never been to Leamington in my life but these Austins are quite famous. There used to be more, I heard (from someone who lives nearby, and knew the owner) that he had gone into a home and months later, the untaxed cars were removed by the local council before later being returned. He died shortly afterwards. His son sold the pale green Devon on eBay last year, it looked quite rough and made about £600. Also sold off were a pre farina Westminster and an Austin 16 which had been garaged and was quite nice. There’s still a dark green Devon, and this Hereford, sitting on roadsides in Leamington. No idea what the plan is for them.

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I put the wheels back on the chassis and pushed it back onto the ramp.

There was a particularly ropey bit of chassis by the front suspension on the passenger side. It had gone all the way through into the centre structure of the chassis, but fortunately the outer bit by the wheel and the top were both in good condition, so I had plenty to weld to.
The hardest part was cutting the rust out, it was very difficult to get the grinder in there. I spent a considerable amount of time cutting back to good metal, before cleaning up and spraying weld-thru primer in there.

This is what I was dealing with.

 

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And once it was cut back:

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Strangely, the other side in the same place was solid with no issues!

Using a similar gauge steel to the original, I started to piece it back together, trying to replicate the original design as close as possible. Had the welder cranked up to maximum power to get good penetration on those welds! Even though the access was a bit shit, in hindsight I should have removed the engine.

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I was quite pleased with that repair, but it was certainly one of the most challenging and time consuming repairs I’ve ever tackled. Once that was out of the way, the other repairs were easy, three patches and a 12” section of chassis rail, which I’d already done with the body on.

 

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  • Angrydicky changed the title to Dicky’s Disastrous Debris - Repairing the chassis 28/8/22

Having completed the welding on the chassis, I then started cleaning it up.
Spent several days scraping oil off the drivetrain and chassis, degreasing, wire brushing and going over the entire chassis with a rotary wire brush to clean it all up. I then gave it a coat of Hydrate 80 rust converter, and a couple of coats of chassis paint. I did the same on the rear axle, springs and brake backplates.
I removed the rear shock absorbers because they were both leaking and one I think had run out completely because the arms were in different positions and it was twisting the antiroll bar. They turned out to be not the usual Armstrong lever arms, but branded Vari-flo. A bit of Googling tells me that they were an early form of aftermarket adjustable shock absorber, sold by Spax circa 1960/61 and probably ultra rare nowadays. I have a friend who used to rebuild lever arms for a living, he has never seen any of these before. He has offered to rebuild them for me and doesn’t think they’ll be a problem to do as long as he can find seals to go in them, but he’s snowed under with work at the moment and has asked me to leave it a few weeks, which is fair enough, I’m not in a mega hurry.
The fuel line was completely rotten, so I made a new one using the old one as a pattern, some 1/4” brake pipe and managed to buy the original soldered type connectors from the local agricultural supplier who use them on vintage tractors.
I thought briefly about painting the engine but I thought it would look out of place with the patinated body, and anyway it cleaned up fairly well once I’d removed the years of oil from the sides. I’ve replaced the rocker cover, side and sump gaskets so it should be fairly oil tight (as much as an old British engine can be) we’ll see once it’s back on the road but so far I’ve had it running since replacing those gaskets and i haven’t noticed any leaks.
A small but satisfying job I did was making a new set of Ht leads. I think two were original and two had been replaced as the plug caps didn’t match, two had the original Bakelite caps but one was broken. The leads themselves were very perished. I bought some new rubber type Champion caps and copper cored Ht lead and made my own using the old ones as patterns.

 

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I paid another visit to Graham Potts’ Austin spares emporium in Kent after discovering that the steering box bearings were shot, and the box had excessive endfloat even after removing all the shims. 
He had about six A70 ‘boxes to choose from, none of which were very good, most were very rough and sloppy apart from one which was seized up completely! But I found one that didn’t feel too bad, the play and endfloat didn’t seem excessive although unfortunately the steering nut thread was damaged. Graham let me have it for half price because it wasn’t great. I also managed to buy a full set of new body mounting rubbers from him, another wheel of the correct type so now I have five A70 wheels (although one of them is quite kerbed) and a few other bits and pieces. Spent about £110 in total.
I took the cover off the ‘new’ steering box and it looked surprisingly clean inside. I scraped out the residual gunge and put some oil directly on the bearings before they completely failed like the other one due to the oil having all leaked out. They have a cork type seal which never lasted long and if previous owners haven’t bothered topping them up they are often damaged. 
I removed the shims which took out most of the endfloat, what remains is acceptable where the original was at the limit of its wear. I popped it in the vice with my “spare” steering wheel, filled up the oil and ran it through lock to lock a few times. It felt really good and was getting better as well. Unfortunately, after about three days it started pissing oil out of the seal, which wasn’t exactly unexpected to be fair. I’ve ordered a new seal from AH spares, I’m going to take a chance that it’s a the same as Healey 100 as the box looks very similar and a lot of parts are shared.
Talking of steering wheels. I had had no luck finding a replacement for the original one on which the rim has fallen apart. I rescued one from Grahams scrap pile which to be fair the rim was even worse than mine but I thought it would do for a spare. It has no broken spokes so could be restored.
Last week, after over a year of looking for a good secondhand one, I bit the bullet and decided to send the original off to the steering wheel restoration company in Ramsgate for them to work their magic on. 
I must admit here and now that shock horror, I’m actually going to be doing a slight and subtle deviation from standard here.
While the Atlantic had a nice cream steering wheel rim which matched the gearknob, switches, and dash plastics, I think Austin thought it too ostentatious for the markets the Hampshire was aimed at, so they fitted a brown steering wheel with brown centre and a brown gear lever. Very conservative but I’ve always thought it would look so much better with:
Ivory rim to match the gearknob and dash plastics
Gold centre, and gear-lever, to match the instruments.
The steering wheel company are going to try to match the ivory colour of the original gearknob as close as possible. I’ve sent them the knob as well and they are going to cast me a new one, they were asked to do one for an Atlantic a couple of years ago and still have the mould they made for it.
It’s going to cost a sizeable wedge of money, almost as much as I paid for the entire car, but it’s a very important thing to do.
I’ve already stripped and painted the gear lever, I spent some time in the Range looking at the different gold paints they had on offer and trying to match the colour of the instruments. Ford Solar Gold was what I went with in the end, I still need to lacquer it but it came out ok.
The original speedo is completely seized up, nothing works on it, but I managed to buy this replacement, again from Graham, which works perfectly. My dad made a tool for testing speedos in an electric drill and this one doesn’t even stick, and the trip meter works and resets ok.
 

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As a footnote, yesterday I went to the Stickney autojumble, and what did I see on a stall? A decent Hampshire steering wheel, possibly refurbished at some point, a few marks on the rim and the centre needed repainting but no cracks. Isn’t that just bloody typical! Ok it’s not the colour I wanted but it was a hell of a lot cheaper than the resto is going to cost when it’s done (next week hopefully) and I could have repainted it for that price. Ah well.

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  • Angrydicky changed the title to Dicky’s Disastrous Debris - Lots of A70 progress 29/8/22

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The ‘new’ bodyshell has been stored in JLR/Brooks posh Utrecht warehouse for the last couple of months alongside millions of Euros worth of expensive machines. Rows and rows of shiny XK120s, E-types, Ferraris, Astons etc. I can’t find the picture so you’ll just have to imagine. It’s completely lowering the tone of the place and he’s already been quietly asked when it’s going to be shifted!

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I’m going to try. I think if I remove the rad support bracket and tie the pedals down it should be ok. The replacement has far more structural integrity than the one I’ve just lifted off which had no floor or sills left.

The lifting by the roof method was how Austin fitted the bodies in the factory. As long as it’s structurally sound, there’s nothing to fear. The new body was removed from the chassis using a four post lift, two massive axle stands and a scaffold pole through the front door apertures. Unfortunately he squashed the door trims while doing so. But there’s no other problems and all four doors still shut nicely. Apparently!

When I did it I had straps at five contact points on the body, so the load was spread more evenly.

 

 

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20 minutes ago, jonathan_dyane said:

Odd wheel/tyre related question (I've been derusting and painting Javelin wheels today hence the interest).

Are they 16 inch wheels? The crossplys look like 5.50 x 16 if so what size is the radial? It doesn't look as outsized as a 175 x 16 taxi tyre...

Yes, 16”.
You’re correct on both counts, the crossply tyres are 5:50x16 and 175 x 16 taxi tyres fit straight on. In the pictures, the nearside front wheel is the radial spare from my Somerset, then there’s two Somerset wheels with crossplies and one Hampshire wheel with a crossply. Basically an assortment of tyres which hold air for moving around purposes.

I have a new set of 5:50 x 16 Avon Tourist tyres to go on once I’ve had the wheels Shotblasted and painted.

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The rolling radius and width of the taxi tyres doesn't look too far off the 5.50 x 16s which surprises me.

The Javelin originally had either 5.25 x 16 or 5.50 x 16. In the roof space above the garage I have some secondhand but barely used Excelsior's in 5.00/5.25 x 16 I got for about £100 for the 4 but they feel nearly as hard as the perished 50 year old crossplys I just took to the tip and are almost certainly dreadful. They will however do for now although the taxi tyres would probably have been a more sensible option. Having the thing on the road is probably years off at this point but when that occurs the Avon Tourists are the tyres I covet although got knows how much they will be in 5 or so years...

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I should probably clarify, the five Avon tourists which came with the car are new, but are of indeterminate age. They look ok and there’s no cracks but they do feel quite hard.

Im going to give them a go, with some new inner tubes, if they’re particularly lethal I’ll look for some others.

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  • Angrydicky changed the title to Dicky’s Disastrous Debris - Steering wheel restoration 3/9/22

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