Roger’s Blog No 4 -  August to November 2013


I know this blog is predominantly about motorcars but our big event of 2013 can’t go by without mention. This was the year when five years of secondary education for our youngest daughter Lizzie, came to a close. Over May and June she sat her GSE ‘A’ levels. It was stressful for the whole family as so much rested on the results. Having earlier done the rounds of the universities there was nothing for it but trying to forget the situation and tough it out until results day.

We came back from the French house in good time and I forced myself to stay in bed on the morning of ‘D’ day, Thursday 15th August. I knew, despite all the bravado, that Lizzie would be onto the school’s on-line results service at the crack of dawn. I heard her coming up the stairs and said a quiet prayer. She needed AAB for her first choice of Bristol. In the event, she managed A*AA so massive relief, congratulations and celebrations. The next wait was for confirmation of her choice of university accommodation. We had to wait until 9th September to learn that she had again been allocated her first choice so off to Bristol to read Zoology on Sunday 22nd September for installation and Freshers week. Soon to be empty nesters, I guess it’s the end of an era for us all.

Bristol Again!

In August we received a missive from the Bristol Owners’ club (not related to the university) inviting us to display our Bristol 400 as part of the support act for the very snooty (and expensive) St James Concours. What I discovered a little later was that we were to be charged 150 smackers for the privilege. The organisers bring in about sixty of the worlds greatest cars (hmmm) for an exhibition on the lawn of Marlborough House next to St James Palace. Various clubs were invited to provide a backdrop for the more illustrious participants and we drove our car up and parked along the Mall.

I knew there was a problem with the indicators as a brief test drive on the day before had revealed that the dashboard telltale wasn’t working. I figured that driving through south London to St James would require a fully functioning system. There’s nothing like leaving things until the last moment and I started sorting out the problem at about 4pm. I managed to cobble together a working set up by midnight.

I now know that the dash telltale could never have worked since I have owned the car and to make matters worse the vacuum actuator switch completely gave up the ghost while I was working on it. After fooling around for a couple of hours and getting nowhere, I gave up and rewired the entire system. The plan was to install a separate switch into the rewired set up. When I finally had everything working I discovered that, of the dozen or more switches in stock, I didn’t have the correct type.

The makeshift and pedestrian indicator switch, stolen from the Bradford, that will in due course be replaced

We were due out at 7 am the next morning. So there was nothing for it but to steal a switch out of the Bradford and install it in the Bristol. As I said, I was done by midnight. There now remains the task of taking it all apart again and fitting a more suitable piece of kit.

The good news is that the old girl ran faultlessly there and back (and the indicators and semaphores worked perfectly). The homebound journey was a nightmare of suburban traffic on the A23 but the Bristol never missed a beat and showed no signs of overheating. A wonderful old car.

Would I bother with the concours again? I don’t think so. The event however was made for us firstly by a delightful walk through St James’ park (we loved the pelicans) and secondly by a terrific lunch with some good pals in a top London restaurant.

Oh No! Not Yet More Bristol

Like the clever chap I am, I crashed my Jeep on the Thursday afternoon before the Sunday we were supposed to take Lizzie and all her kit to Bristol. First insurance claim ever and one too many.

Nothing for it but to hire a van. Surprise, surprise everyone with a university entrant wanted a van for the big weekend so I struck out on the first half dozen firms I tried. We ended up with a giant Mercedes. When the lady told me on the phone it was six feet by thirteen, it didn’t sound too bad. It wasn’t until I saw it that I realised they were the internal floor space dimensions; it was huge.

With some trepidation I packed it up with the mountain of stuff Lizzie wanted to take to her new home. Inside the van it looked pretty puny. Anyway, on Sunday morning off we set off and had a mercifully smooth run to Bristol. The university folk played a blinder (I suppose they’ve done it before) and we were greeted at the gates and expertly guided to a very adequate parking space (we did however win the giant pantechnicon prize). A bit of sweaty carriage and we had her packed away. I had us out pretty promptly as Kathleen started to look tearful. We spoke with Lizzie on the Monday and she seemed in very high spirits. She has a terrific room in a wonderful environment. The image actually shows her window.

Auburn Home

The Speedster is back after having new shock absorbers, the starter motor rewound to 12 volts and the alternator re-jigged to charge at low revs. I have also had a tell tale ignition warning light fitted. The fabricated fuel gauge system now works and, oh yes, we have a new exhaust system. I have yet to take her out on a long test run. Watch this space.

SS 100

The ‘100 has been a problem for a while. One issue serious and the other very debilitating. The second problem has manifested itself several times over a long period but because I have only done quite short runs, I’ve never really got to the bottom of things. When she started to miss and behave badly I replaced the condenser. Some weeks later, taking the car to MoT she started to miss again as I got to the garage. A leaky coil was diagnosed and replaced. I had no problems on the way home (circa 8 miles).

Much later on, on an outing to a local pub (about 5 miles) she ran there faultlessly but started popping and banging on the way home and finally stopped altogether. The symptoms were those of a faulty condenser. It took about 10 minutes to get out the tools and fit a replacement. I didn’t open up the distributor but hung the replacement outside, leaving the original condenser in place. The car started at once and ran beautifully for about four miles and then behaved as before so I assumed it wasn’t a condenser problem. I waited ten minutes and she restarted and ran well. She once again conked out at our front gates.

Based on later consultation I was advised that I should have disconnected the old condenser although, in the past I’ve tried the same trick of leaving the new unit outside the dizzy and all was well, but not this time. In any event I have fitted a new condenser the proper way so we’ll see. Maybe condensers fail in two ways. Either they burn out and just go dud or they fail to earth. In the latter case they have to be removed.

While I was about it I also changed the orientation of the coil. Jaguar (SS) fitted it the way they did so I suppose it’s alright but I’ve never been happy. The unit is clamped to the side of the block and upside down. The right way up would result in fouling the advance/retard cable. I made up a bracket and spacers that kept the coil away from the block (so it stays cooler – I hope) and allows fitting the right way up.

The really serious problem (apart from the one that means it doesn’t run) is the back springs that provide no suspension at all. The ride is so harsh and uncomfortable that I had more or less stopped using the car for long journeys. I have ordered a new set of springs to be made up and again, we’ll see what we will.

Not Another Old Banger?

Unusually, all the cars are home at the same time. Just in time to spend the next six months in their hay, tucked up in the garages – hey ho!

I must be nuts - rephrase, I am nuts. I’ve always fancied the ’58-’60 Corvette, America’s attempt at competing with those pesky European import sports cars and of course Ford’s Thunderbird. The first offering, a single headlight design was followed by the 1958 twin headlight Vette. Those old enough may recall Buzz, Todd and Corvette that, in the early sixties, drove each week across on our screens in the TV show ‘Route 66’. With a fairly revolutionary, GRP body and a small block V8 the car was a huge hit in the US although it sold for a significantly higher price than most of its UK competition. Sadly, they never attempted a right-handed version. Although I never get on well with lefties, I am giving serious thought to a last acquisition. Watch this space.

’58 Vette with twin headlamps, inset rear lamps and chrome boot ribs

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