You may be aware of the criticism I made about ‘Frankie’ (being a Frankenstein dog made up of parts)…..I have unwittingly adopted another ‘Dog’
What is it about people who sell cars? Most people wish to part with a car for various logistical reasons, but a few just wish to get shut of a nightmare they can’t sort.
Being a fan of Vintage Cars, I wished to find a simple uncomplicated small Austin – just as a runabout. Austin 7’s are not very expensive and a good one can be found for about £5000. You do have to KNOW Austin’s because they do have their foibles, and although parts are easy to find, there is a lot to be desired about HOW they have evolved since the 1930’s.
Some weeks ago, a notification in ‘Classic cars’ promoted a 1933 Austin 7 box saloon. It said “Running OK, but an oily rag car in need of TLC”
The moment I saw it listing on the drivers side, I wondered if the tyre was flat or worse – the rear springs had snapped. The driver pushed it off and basically scarpered??? I had a good look around it and it LOOKED fairly good. The battery was OK and I could see a red ignition light – but could I get it going????? Jeez, this has not been running for a long time and so the story unfolds……………………
As I had bought the car on a positive description (but ‘sight unseen’ – a long story) I am lumbered with its problems – and how they mounted up……
A friend of mine (and a Cheshire 7’s club member) called around following my excited message and photo’ that I’d bought a runaround. He is an expert and immediately diagnosed that the timing was a “mile out”??? Bugger.
A few close investigations, a few spanners and a joint firing-up attempt brought the 89 year old engine into life. It sounded quite good and ticked-over very well. It was noted that the fan belt was riding over the pulley and the seller had given me a sort of replacement, but it didn’t stop the engine working. We then noticed that petrol was squirting up out of the carb’ and my friend thought this was very weird….. “Turn off the fuel” he shouts – but as the tank is high over the scuttle, the petrol is gravity fed and therefore doesn’t need a pump.
Weirdly, the ‘Austin Motor Company’ of the 1930’s had some strange ideas. They had made a petrol stop tap accessible from INSIDE the car – on the passenger side, but then the ‘reserve’ feature of the tap was inside the engine bay???. Now there must have been a few unexpected stops over the years as the passengers foot would accidentally push the tap in cutting off the fuel and EVENTUALLY after the carb’ had drained the car would come to an abrupt stop. I bet many a driver and even the RAC/AA men have scratched their heads to wonder why there was no fuel……..
This squirting of fuel is apparently not unusual, but as the carb’ is right OVER the hot exhaust pipe, I’m wondering how many Austin’s have burst into to flames. My first job was to change the tap for a proper safe isolator valve (something my friend thought was totally “unoriginal”) Ho Hum…..
Next day, considering all being well, I set about starting the car for a little run……. Holy FrankenFuck, the car has no brakes….. OK the vicious clutch kangaroo’s the car forward, but stopping is almost impossible??? It would seem all the brake drums are rusty and all the brake levers are rusted solid in the brake drum backplates……. swearing ensues !!!£$%^&*
Limping back on to the drive, and looking at the listing to the drivers side, close inspection shows NOT the back springs broken but two leaves of the front on the off side…….. (I bloody hate 89 years old rust…..)
Addendum : 2nd September 2020. It has taken weeks working betweeen rainy days and dry days. The front spring is a swine to replace as the whole front has to come off – and you know what that means ’89 year old seized parts!!!!. It’s a good job I am a hoarder, I have spares and tools going back to the 70’s and now they do come in handy.
Can you believe, we can still find spares going back to the early 30’s, a good spare front spring was found for just £50 – and I had made another rare find – ‘Die Nuts’ [basically a thread renovator, and these too were from a closed garage tool shop].
Whilst I’m awaiting the new (to me) front spring, I may as well get on with balancing all the brake cables. The ‘Bowdenax’ front brake is NOT an improvment as the levers (someone chose) are too long……….ho hum.
Along with my renovations, I have decided to install LED brake lights, turn signals and LED side lights. Installing a mechanical brake lever switch is another ‘ball ache” (on your back, fiddling with wacky mechanics – all to make a brake light come on when you press it……..does it work? Does it hell).
“Now what’s wrong” my friend says – as I am stripping the Vintage Control Panel Switch. I have found bare wires, rotten insulation and the reason white smoke was appearing now and then…….
It is now very obvious, that quite a few amatuers have had a hand in keeping this ‘Dog alive. Lack of care with storage. Lack of lubrication. Certainly a lack of electrical knowledge and a total lack of care understanding Austins……and all I wanted was a simple run-around
I designed a new REAR warning light system. LED’s of course, but being such tiny car, lorry drivers do not spot the stupid low lever ‘Pork Pie’ rear lamps, nor do they SEE any form of indicators. So it had to change.
The above photo’ shows a 3″ x 28″ plastic strip held onto the car with strong neodimium magnets. The 6LED red and amber LED’s are for side lights and hazard warning. The white strip in the middle has chasing yellow LEFT and RIGHT turn signals, flashing RED to full on brake and also offers reverse in blue/white. It is connected with a 7 pin aviation plug and socket [rhs]
Front head lights are again LED’s, but projector beams from a Harley Davidon motorbike. These lamps are 10x brightter than the 6v filament bulbs. There is a white ‘halo’ for side lights and a flashing yellow halo used as a turn signal. The old bodies have been used but I did have to ‘cobble’ the sealed beam units and basically glue them ino the Lucas frames.
99.5% finished, my friend has ‘phoned to urgently inform me the reason why the ‘advance and retard’ is weird – “its been fitted with the wrong levers and on the wrong side of the steering column”
Is anything ever likely to be totally fixed on the ‘Dog’????