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Thursday, 30 July 2020

An old and dusty story


They were rattling along on a trail in some forgotten part of the country in a pickup truck without air conditioning. It was dry and hot. Desolate and dusty. Before turning off the tarmac they had driven for hours on straight roads, where the few lorries they encountered appeared as flying mirages in the distance and the low hills created the impression the road had melted and curled up slightly .  The distances were something else too: That mirage could easily be ten miles away. It took a long time for landmarks to drift past.  His companions called the tarmac “ Black top”.  The black top was extremely wide, about the size of a major motorway at home.  Four wide lanes to nowhere. No median barrier. If you wanted to make a u-turn, you just did it. If you felt like a stop, you just stopped.  They called it a “farm road”, but it could take a landing Jumbo jet without stopping traffic. Once in a while they saw a farmhouse.  Nothing much else. Cruising along at 75 the old truck rocked  softly. Every driver in an oncoming vehicle waved. The heat made him drowsy, but he kept looking out through the cracked and dusty windscreen. Here they called it a wind “ shield”. To some the landscape might seem boring, but he found it mesmerizing. 
At first they had seen large whitewashed silo's. Landmarks in the distance. They'd passed a silo about every half hour for a while, with a few houses clustered around it. The silos were mostly empty and the houses abandoned. Now they saw no silo's. Just a plain dry valley hemmed in by far away mountains.  Distorting all sense of distance.  What looked like tufts of grass were actually shrubby trees in the distance. No more houses.  
Willie was driving the old truck. Willie  was a wiry little guy wearing a big old black hat and a brushy short beard. He even wore black cowboy boots and a big shiny belt buckle.  The buckle had come free with some cheap beer, but it looked convincing. It even had a bottle opener attached.  Willie never used it though.  His plastic spring water bottle had a red screw top.
The track was not bad. Someone had made a good job of grading it fairly recently, so there was not so much washboarding. Just enough to make the rear axle tramp away slightly. Willie had told them he'd found this place in the desert filled with old cars. Willie 'd said there were some interesting cars amongst the usual Chevies and Fords.  Even the Fords would be interesting though. Willie liked Fords. The truck they were in now was a Ford too. Willie knew all about them.
He was wedged in between Willie and Mo. Mo was big and dirty looking with his tattoos and black Mohawk hair, but actually he was a sensitive guy. Mo didn't like Fords and he was always complaining about Willies truck. His mum always called him Mortimer. But Mo thought the name Mortimer sounded too prissy.  Willie thought Mo was a prissy anyway, but still they were old friends. Mo liked Jeeps and said they were stupid to go out here in Willie's  two wheel drive Ford with that dumb “Twin Traction Beam” excuse for an independent front suspension.  They should have taken Mo's four wheel drive Jeep truck with proper solid axles and thirty-five inch high clearance tires! But Mo's truck hadn't run for a while  as Mo couldn't get the new carburettor to work.  Willie and Mo were always bickering about their trucks, but they were fast friends and Willie even helped Mo fixing his truck. Even Willie couldn't get that carb fixed. Mo didn' t really need the truck anyway as he drove a Prius to work. Willie  always drove his Ford. The Jeep just stood in Mo's drive and every day when Mo saw it he was proud to own such a glorious chunk of American steel! 
It was noon when they arrived at the gate. There was a big sign “No trespassing”  but Willie said he knew the owner, so they'd be all right.  The sign was accentuated with bullet holes. Willie said the holes were old as the owner never came to the place anyway so they got out of the car and opened the gate.  There was a chain on the gate, but the chain had rusted through. 
Just as they were walking through the gate they heard a truck drive down the track, so they waited. To see who was coming. When the dust cleared they saw an old dodge D100 lumbering up to them.  
There was a rifle poking from the passenger window and they could clearly see two more guns in a rack in the cab. They just waited as a tall man wearing a green John Deere cap exited the cab and slowly walked up to them. A strong smell of cherry flavored candy reached them first. Although he casually waved a long rifle in their general direction he didn't seem too threatening. He was actually beaming a bright pinkish smile at them. “ You boys lost now?” 
A shot rang out from the cab and the three  “Boys” did their best not to flinch or run. When they saw no one hurt and the tall guy still smiling, Willie said: “Nope.”
“ That' s good” Tall guy said: “ Me and my son are just out here to shoot some squirrels. We hate those animals. They' re just bummin' around and that just annoys me”. He spat out something ugly :  “We saw your dust and we thought we'd see who's there. No one hardly comes up here except spotter guys looking for old car wrecks. You city boys take care now!” Tall guy walked back to his truck and left them in a cloud of hot dust. 
It took a while for them to find the wrecks as most of them were overgrown by tough mesquite and fuzzy Cholla cactus. But when they finally saw them it looked like a strange museum of large rusty dinosaurs. “ Here's a La Salle. I'd like to take that one home” Willie said. “ I bet it would start with some new fuel and oil”. Mo found a Willys Wagon and was thinking how he could lift it and cruise to the drive-in with a 360V8 stuffed under the hood. 
The sun was beating on his thinning hair and he was sweating, but the dry heat evaporated his sweat immediately, just leaving white stains on his shirt. He was glad he wore  sturdy hiking boots.  He didn't get Mo who trekked the desert in flip flops and shorts. He had to walk right through a patch of Prickly Pear to get to the shape that had caught his attention.  This car looked different from all the other vehicles strewn around the desert floor. “ Hey guys, look at this” he called. Willie walked over and looked at the flat looking thing.” What's that? It looks weird man!”. “ Yeah” Mo said sauntering over:” A short nose and tiny boot. Must be some foreign compact. Is it Japanese? Let s' trample it if it is!” Willie just stood there and thought about it: “ No it's not Japanese. It looks like something else. there’s a badge on the trunk. “Austin” it says”. So it's an Austin? What kind of a name is that for a foreign car? Austin' s in Texas, man!
He adjusted his cap and wiped some dust from his face “Yes”, he said. “At home we call it an Austin 1800, a Landcrab.”
In the distance the call of an eagle pierced the shimmering hot air.

Chris  Linford 


Monday, 13 July 2020

Lada class 15 sewing machine


I knew this unmarked case contained a Lada Sewing machine, but when I got it the case was locked and there was no key. 
Fortunately I have a large tin full of different keys and I was lucky: I found a key that unlocked my treasure. Inside there was this beautiful green Lada sewing machine. The Lada sewing Company was established in Sobeslav, Czechoslovakia in September of 1919. I think this machine is a much later one, probably manufactured in the 1960s
The factory was closed in the 1970's but the company re-emerged and is now known as Minerva, which was the original company name when they re-located from Vienna to Sobeslav, acording to the website www.institchessewing.ca and www.needlebar.org/nbwiki/index.php/Lada

When I was offered this machine it was obvious it needed a place in our collection of car- branded sewing machines. Though in this instance the name Lada here does not have any link to the Russian car brand. This sewing machine was manufactured in Czechoslovakia. 
Mechanically it is a close version of a Singer class 15 machine with an oscillating hook .

Sadly the hook(bobbin housing) is missing, but I found a common type 15 item fits, so I have ordered a new one, so this machine should be complete and working quite soon. 

Thursday, 2 July 2020

MGF instrument cowl repair


The cowl over the instrument cluster on our MGF was broken and showed large cracks.
"Fortunately" the fixing clips at the rear had also broken, so I could remove the cowl easily by unscrewing the front. The rear clips seem to have been screwed in from the rear of the dashboard before the air ducts were assembled. Extremely hard to reach. What were they thinking when they designed that? 
I glued the cracks with epoxy glue. The gaps were filled with a polyester filler.
Underneath I strengthened the cowl by glueing thin metal strips to the plastic.
It was hard to sand the repair to make the joint invisible.
I used a textured coating to cover the joints. At first I thought it didn't work
But after several coats a regular texture covered the cowl.
With the cowl refitted the repair is hardly visible. If I want I can cover the cowl with cloth or some other material later. If I find the cowl rattles I'think I might fix the rear with one or two magnets.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Austin A55 pickup Carburettor fix

Don't you think the MGB Rostyles look rather funky on the pickup? This is an experiment to see how a larger size of tyres would work to limit the revolutions at motorway speeds. They do make an improvement, but steering is too heavy, so the experiment is still going on. Meanwhile the car was running rather too rich while the adjustment was at its leanest setting. Clearly something was wrong with the SU carburettor.  
So I ordered the correct needle, spring and jet assembly and a set of gaskets. 
I could determine the carburettor was the correct one as the indentification label states: AUD40.
Taking the assembly apart showed some missing gaskets, so maybe an air leak was causing the problem.
Still I checked the SU and replaced the needle, Jet and spring with the correct items.
The needle was firmly stuck in place and also the Jet needed some heat to be dislodged from the float chamber. The needle valve worked fine, so I left that in place. 
Strangely the vacuum chamber seemed to be slightly out of true as the piston would not slide down as intended, so I used one from another SU. Now the piston works perfectly.  
After reassembly the SU didn't look much different, but after adjustment and a test drive I could discern a big improvement. Job done!
Meanwhile I decided that 175/14 tires were too wide as the steering seemed too heavy, so the final verdict was to fit 16/14 size tires. This is the correct replacement size anyway. 
 One of the old tires looked fine, but when fitted to the spare it blew off the rim because there was a break in the cord. The new tires look much better and drive better than the old tires. 


Friday, 5 June 2020

Austin Pickup adjusting adjusters

 The new brake adjuster had arrived, so it was time to remove the temporary bodge.
 This was the temporary fix I found on the car. It didn't work well anymore, so I was happy to receive the new adjuster. 
 Fitting the new shiny item was easy. Now I could adjust the brakes and the pedal is quite firm. I like that.  


The brakes work much better now. I would almost say they work well. Now we'll make a start at collecting the parts to perform a proper brake rebuild. 
Now we can start hauling stuff. 


Wolseley 18/85 service and creeky balljoint cure


Again it was time for a biennial service job on the Wolseley. Oil and filter were changed and the other fluids checked. 
Also the brakes were inspected, cleaned and inspected.  Look how similar these brakes seem compared to the A55 pickup.
At the front a good clean was all we could do. The brakepads were fine and the pistons all moved freely.
At dry summer days and temperatures over 24c one of the balljoints was making an awful creeking sound. I removed the balljoint, but could not find anything wrong, so it was regreased and refitted. I greased the other swivelybits, but could not find anything wrong. So now we'll have to wait if the noise reoccurs at the next heat wave. 
For now the Wolseley looks ready for another  couple of fine road trips.

Monday, 25 May 2020

Austin A55 Pickup revisited

 Remember this 1969 Austin pickup? We visited this car in 2011. At that time I had just started the Wolseley Ten project, so I decided not to adopt the pickup as one project was enough. The car was sold to a trader and then ended up with a friendly couple up north. The trader had fixed a few issues and the gave the car a good polish. He also changed the Austin A60 facelift front to the older a55 version. The strange thing is that it should have been registered as an A60 pickup, but it seems that from new it was registered as an A55. The car was offered for sale again.
 Having a soft spot for pickups and British cars we went to see it and before I knew it I was driving the car home a week later. It was a fairly long motorway run, but the car coped very well and arrived on our drive without drama. I did find the brakes were not as they should be. I expected the rear wheel adjustment to be completely out, so off came the rear wheels.

It turned out the left rear adjuster had broken and someone had made a clever fix by fitting a large bolt. It probably worked for a while, but now the thread in the adjuster had completely stripped, so the brake shoes were as far away from the drum as they could be. The pedal was almost on the floor before engaging the brakes. 

 I did not have an adjuster available, so I ordered a new one.
 But as I did want to drive the car while waiting for the part, I threaded an M10 thread and bolt as a (very) temporary solution. Now I could adjust the rear brakes again and this made a big difference. The next job will be a full brake service as soon as I have the parts I need.
Though I have a little list of things to do, the car is fully operational and great fun to drive.
 On the saloon cars the dash was an off white colour while the van and pickup were black. Maybe I'll change it.
Our "Bakkie"is already running errands for us.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Coffee to go

Obviously we could not go out for lunch,  but we could take the Mini out after lunch to pick up two 'coffee to go' and enjoy them at a scenic spot.

Sunday, 26 April 2020