Saturday, 16 February 2013


The long standing appointment with trimmer John Richardson looms ever closer, with friend Geoff's trailer booked for Monday 4th March to take the car to Shildon.  Two major jobs need to be completed in the next few days, neither of which I had really planned to do at this stage.  John tells me that he needs to be able to drive the car in and out of his workshop so it needs to be operational - just.  It also dawned on me the other day, that in order to make and fit the hood (soft top), the windscreen would have to be in place - duh!
So with two weeks to go, the snoozing and socialising will have to stop.  John has already completed the dash board, seats, armrest and door panels and I would have to say that he has made a superb job of them.  The remaining work, hood, tonneau cover, cockpit rolls, side screens and carpets will be tailored specifically to the car, hence the need for it to be away at his workshop for the best part of a month.

Special dispensation given to store seats at home for a while

Exceptional job by John Richardson of Shildon County Durham
The seats in particular have worked out very well.  The bases are close to original but the backs have been changed from the slide around variety  to bucket.  This also allows for the central armrest to have an opening top with storage inside - something in very short supply in a 120 OTS.
This is an ideal place to hide the controls for the ICE kit and other occasional use switches, plus a switch to activate a small digital display showing battery voltage, to avoid fitting a voltmeter, much more use than an ammeter if the cars been fitted with an alternator.
I had some nice period switch labels engraved but couldn't resist having a second set made up for the benefit of the grand kids.  Telling grandson Freddy that he shouldn't on any account open the lid between the seats in Bobsy's 'special car' then leaving him to play should be interesting, especially when the 'countdown' LED's illuminate immediately after he's activated the eject switch.

Work in progress with alternative label for grand kids
 With the engine installation imminent, the past week has been spent fitting out the engine bay and completing any other jobs which would be harder to do with the engine in place.  The plan is to fit the engine on Sunday 17th Feb and hopefully most of the ancillary bits, exhaust system etc.  A few years back, young friend Kev Woods gave me hand to remove and re-fit the engine in my 140 when it developed an oil leak and will be on hand again to assist which will make the job a great deal easier.  Kev's day job involves maintaining heavy plant and machinery, often on site, so for him, this task should be fairly straightforward and his help invaluable.
Engine bay - almost ready for engine installation on 17th Feb
One item I wasn't too happy about re-using was the brake fluid reservoir - made from glass !!
Thinking about this, I realise that the early 120 master cylinder (also used on the 140) effectively has its own reservoir holding around half a pint of fluid which in turn is kept topped up by the glass one.  I can only guess that the glass reservoir was added to make it easy to check the fluid level and top it up.  In any event, it was a very satisfying part to recondition.  New rubber seals were made and fitted top and bottom and the metalwork powder coated in a colour very close to the original.  Local and ever helpful company Hawk fasteners actually had in stock the tiny rivets used to fasten the brass manufacturers plate back in place.

Master cylinder with its own half pint reservoir - ready for assembly

Glass brake fluid reservoir - scarey!

Lovely original brass plaque

The weather today, Saturday 16th, has taken a turn for the better, so time to disinter the 140 from it's winter slumbers.  I've run the engine and moved the car a few feet back and forth every couple of weeks, but this will be it's first run out this year.  As ever it started without any fuss and ran beautifully with all gauges indicating healthy levels of everything.
Just around the corner from my workshop is a newly re-furbished building dating from 1916.  Originally the HQ for the Cargo Fleet Iron Company which peaked in output in the 1950's and may even have made the steel used in the 140's construction.  The entrance makes an interesting backdrop for a photograph. 
Preceding this building by around fifty years, Prime Minister William Gladstone, visiting Middlesbrough's Iron Foundries in the 1860's described the town thus :
"This remarkable place, the youngest child of England's enterprise, is an infant, but if an infant, an infant Hercules"
I can't help but wonder what he would say if he could see the town in middle age.

140 after its winter break, a little dusty but otherwise superb
 Now here's an extraordinary thing.  Last year I insured my ancient Audi S4 Avant with Saga and literally halved the premium from the previous company.  (never thought I'd see Saga and S4 in the same sentence).  My Renewal Schedule arrived the other day and around the same time an invitation to renew my AA subscription.  An all singing and dancing Gold family membership, this had previously been paid by the company by recurring Direct Debit so the gradually increasing cost, this time £202.96 had not been flagged up.
Now retired with the company DD cancelled, it would from hereon be up to me. So, I had two calls to make, Saga and the AA.  Fortuitously I chose Saga first.
Answered by a UK call center, no multiple choice button punching, recorded messages and music, just a charming young man called Zack, who efficiently arranged my renewal.  He went on to pitch for breakdown cover, in conjunction with - you've guessed - the AA.  I read from my renewal document exactly what £202.96 provided and explained that was precisely what he needed to quote for, stressing each aspect, family membership etc. He absolutely confirmed it would be identical, and quoted me £37.00 yes - thirty seven pounds!  I look forward to receiving the documents to see if this can be true.

Next Post end of February

Sunday, 3 February 2013


Determined to avoid ‘add-on’ indicators if at all possible, the only solution it would seem, is to somehow incorporate them into the existing side lights.  As we're no longer fettered by MOT requirements and with the quite recent memory of my Healey 3000’s solution of incorporating the rear indicators within the tail / brake light, this might be a possible way forward.  Some time is spent assessing the possibilities but space within both front and rear side / tail light enclosures is somewhat restricted by the existing filament bulbs.   This is easily resolved by replacing them with new LED type lamps.  Brighter and smaller, they also have a ridiculous life expectancy.  The front side light LED has an expected life of 50,000 hours (continuous for 6 years).  Assuming say 5000 miles a year at an average speed of say 50 MPH and 33% of that time with the side lights on, I'll need to think about changing them in spring - 3,528AD  !!!

LED front and rear (dual tail & brake) replacements

Now here's an interesting if slightly odd thought which has occurred to me on a number of occasions.  It would not be unreasonable to assume that this car will continue to be cherished for the foreseeable future, by me hopefully until I expire and then by countless others, but how long exactly is that.  I could quite rationally guess that it would take some catastrophic event to intervene.   This might be in the form of plague or pestilence as the bible would have it, a world war where material objects become irrelevant, or some other cataclysmic event like an asteroid strike.  All sounds very dramatic but I would imagine that at least one of the above occurring in the next fifteen hundred or so years is likely. 
It would be good to download this entire blog onto a pen drive and secrete it somewhere that I know a future restorer would find it.  Only problem is, will they be able to do anything with pen drives in 3500AD, considering that we don’t have a computer in our office now able to look at the contents of a twenty five year old 3.5” floppy disc!

Anyway, enough of this nonsense.  My discovery of LED’s to replace filament bulbs gets me thinking about indicators, but of course nothing is available for my specific application.  After a little research, it turns out that LED’s despite extreme life spans are quite fragile devices, easily destroyed by inappropriate usage.  A brief summary of their requirements would be:
They present an almost zero resistance to an unlimited current supply (a 12 Volt car battery) so must have a correctly calculated resistor value in series to limit current, typically 200 to 500 ohms depending on type, colour, forward voltage and number in series.  When you get this even slightly wrong, typically by using too low a value resistor, they go pop and produce that unique electrical burning smell, odd for something so small.  They really don’t like more than typically 20mA but some seem to be more tolerant than others.  The long leg is positive (anode). Reverse this for more than a micro second and it will probably expire.  It might be OK to connect a few in parallel with a common resistor, but this is generally considered to be a risky strategy.

So, equipped with this basic information, the task remains to physically fit enough LED’s into the space available to provide a flashing indicator of such intensity that it really cannot be missed.   Whilst both front and rear are important I reason that the rear indicators must be exceptional whilst the fronts need to just OK.

12 super bright orange / red LED's as a starting point
 For the rear, twelve super High Intensity 10,000 mcd, red to orange / red  30 degree LED’s are set into a clear acrylic housing which will sit inside the rear light lens but will allow the new LED side / brake light to show through.  (LED’s are measured in mille candela power - mcd - so I suppose each LED is equivalent to 10 candles with all light focused into a 30 degree beam)The LED’s are arranged in four sets of three. Each set of three is in series and is fed via a 470 ohm resistor.  This indicates a current flow of 20mA at 13 Volts through each set.
The acrylic housing holding the LED’s is sandwiched between the tail light glass and the metal bulb holder with a polyethylene insulator, all quite a tight fit.   

Acrylic housing with LED's - interference fit in lens
 Connected to an electronic LED type flasher unit (Max 30mA as opposed to a filament bulb bi-metal strip flasher – 10 to 200mA) it produces a very distinct orange flash of extreme intensity.  I leave it flashing for a couple of days until I feel confident that it will be reliable.  Total current for each tail light with all three functions running, side light, brake light and indicators is less than 200mA so virtually all energy is converted to light with very little heat produced.  For comparison the original filament lamps at 5 and 25 Watts for side and brake lights consumed around 2.4 Amps, 12 time the current with around 90% dissipated as heat.

Very bright and surely unmissable!
 Having found a satisfactory solution for the rear indicators, attention turned to the front.  With much less space available, the maximum number of 5mm LED's I could fit in was 5 so I may have to re-think this and see what can be achieved with the smaller 3mm variety.

Two sets in series (3 and 2) drawing between 30 and 40 mA
Not bad but I think it can be improved on
 Miscellany (not for the squeamish)
Over the past fifteen years I have produced a good many risk assessments, mainly relating to that dangerous occupation, working at height.  I thought I had a good awareness of what was likely to hurt, and given my low risk ground floor level working environment this 'accident' took me completely by surprise, culminating in the best part of an afternoon entirely wasted in A&E.  My Dewalt battery drill (which I rate as exceptional as I do most of my Dewalt tools) was sat upright on it's battery base on the bench, in hindsight a little to close to the edge, with a 3/16, longer than usual, drill bit in the chuck.  I carelessly caught it and it fell of the bench landing drill first (exactly vertical) in my left foot, having gone straight through a good leather shoe and stopping just short of the shoe sole.  Strange thing is, I have no recollection of pulling it out, only some surprise at how quickly my shoe overflowed.  An X-ray showed that the drill bit had slipped neatly between two metatarsal bones with no real damage.  Contrary to the usual H&S gurus opinions, I see no point in proffering advice for fluke accidents as I know from experience that nobody takes the slightest bit of notice.

Staged recreation of the drill through the foot incident
 I did however receive a text (one of many over the past year) offering to sue me on a no win no fee basis at absolutely no cost to myself.  These ambulance chasing 'lawyers' or whatever other dodgy profession they lay claim to, should be ashamed of themselves.  I may however take them up on the offer, just to waste their time.  Unless of course it can be proved that shoe manufacturer, Clarks are entirely to blame, disgracefully selling everyday shoes with leather so thin that it cannot withstand a puncture from a 3/16 drill with a 1.5Kg weight behind it, falling from a height 1 Mtr.

Next post mid February