All posts by John Ewbank

A Triumph in the Making

The problem with taking a car to bits is remembering exactly how it all fits together and ensuring that vital pieces aren’t missed out when it comes to the rebuild – not helped in my case by doing the whole thing in a domestic garage and therefore being pressed for space.  That said, progress is being made and, having shipped off the body to the ‘Polite Bodyshop’ (yes, they are!) in Gloucester for a complete bare metal re-spray, I’ve spent the past month stripping, cleaning and re-painting the chassis and the remaining mechanicals.

Re-assembly has unquestionably been made much easier by having access to a couple of Triumph/BMC parts catalogues which list every single component down to the last nut, bolt and washer, and illustrate in most cases how they all fit together.   Although I’m re-using most of the serviceable parts, I’ve decided to replace most of the nuts, bolts and washers, which I feel  lifts the whole restoration and will certainly make the next rebuild that much easier – if that ever comes to pass.

With most of the running gear now re-fitted, and the engine and gearbox once again mounted on the chassis, I’m starting to convince myself that real progress is  being made and we may even be on track to have the car back on the road in the early Spring.

Poppies at the Tower and Turner at the Tate

We realised last week that the display of 890,000 ceramic poppies currently filling the moat of the Tower of London will be removed after Armistice Day , so rather belatedly we decided to ‘pop’ up to town to take in the spectacle.  Having met up with Jennie at Victoria we trooped off down to Monument tube and then walked the last few hundred meters to the Tower in a vain attempt to avoid the worst of the crowds.  Some hope!  The crowds were ten deep most of the way around the moat and moving around was a bit of a nightmare, but at least everyone was good natured and eventually we found a decent viewpoint.  Definitely a worthwhile expedition. Poppies-by-Tower-Bridge

After a brief excursion to Hatton Garden and lunch with Jennie and Nathan we filled a couple of hours before our return journey with a trip to the Tate to take in the Turner Gallery – not entirely unconnected with having seen ‘Mr Turner’ (great film!) at the cinema the evening before.  Fabulous seascapes and wonderful light but I have to admit to thinking that his figure painting was a bit rough!

Meanwhile work on the Triumph continues apace.  Yesterday afternoon we roped in friends and neighbours to help lift the body off the chassis in anticipation of taking it down to the bodyshop in Gloucester later this week.  The chassis itself looks to be in really good condition and I can now get on with the task of sorting out the suspension and steering before I get the re-sprayed body back sometime before Christmas.

So - are all Triumphs powered by Dysons then?
So – are all Triumphs powered by Dysons then?

Oh dear! What have I started?

The strip-out of the GT6 is going well but I have to admit that seeing the complete wiring loom sitting there on the garage floor left me wondering whether I’ll ever be able to get the whole thing back together without the headlights dipping every time I switch on the windscreen wipers!  What is absolutely certain is that when the time comes its going to take me rather longer to put it all back together than it’s taken to pull the poor car apart.

now, where exactly did that red wire go…………..?

In the meantime I’ve sent the engine block, head and some other bits and pieces down to Malmesbury to be chemically cleaned and for the water passages to be ‘de-furred’ – the removal of forty odd years of calcification will hopefully help it to keep the engine running nice and cool in the future.  The next step will be to get the bearings and bores checked/sorted before ordering the first tranche of new parts and starting the process of reassembling the engine.

Over the weekend I spent a little time getting Bertie ready for his winter quarters.  Having four cars and only two garage bays means that he’s being sent off to spend the next few months in a local barn along with a dozen or so Reliant Scimitars and Sabres.!

Out She Comes!

Having satisfied myself that the engine actually runs and isn’t a basket case, it was time to remove it from the car in preparation for complete dismantling.  The last time I had to lift an engine I foolishly decided to do it over Christmas – suffice to say that things didn’t go completely according to plan and the Christmas  holiday nearly turned into a disaster.   This time, however, things were different.

The biggest surprise about the Triumph so far has been the ease with which I’ve been able to take the car apart.  You’d think that after 25 years (apparently the last rebuild was in 1989) most things would be rusted solid, but perhaps the fact that its been off the road for the last 12 years has made more of a difference than I’d expected – anyway the fact is that with liberal applications of WD40, everything so far seems to be coming apart pretty easily.  The engine and gearbox came out ‘sweet as a nut’; no drama, no grazed knuckles, in fact not so much as a single swear word.  Two hours steady work and there it was, sitting on the garage floor waiting to be stripped down before being sent off to be chemically cleaned.  So far so good.

There’s life in the old girl yet!

Before starting to take the Triumph to bits it seemed like a good idea to see if I could get the engine running, so that I’d at least know whether there was anything catastrophic that would need sorting during the rebuild.  As the previous owner had told me that it hadn’t run for at least 12 years it was fairly obviously not simply going to be a case of charging the battery (which, by the way, was knackered) and turning the key.

I’d already removed the petrol tank as it was clear that any 12 year old  fuel remaining would be completely stale and useless, so a gallon can of the amber nectar was perched just beneath the fuel pump in readiness for the ‘great start-up’.  Getting a spark out of the ignition system, however, took a little longer to resolve;  having first removed the add-on electronic ignition system fitted by the previous owner I then spent several frustrating days replacing first the coil, then the condenser and finally the plug leads before I finally worked out (with a little help from Google) that I needed to remove the now redundant ballast resistor from the ignition circuit.  Job done, turn the key for a few seconds, and……………. she lives!

Wonderful!  Now down to the slightly long-winded business of stripping out the engine compartment in preparation for removing the engine and gearbox.

Bertie goes to Sudeley

I don’t think that cars get jealous, but given the recent arrival of the GT6 it would have been perfectly natural for Bertie to ‘get the hump’ just a little.  So when we found out about a classic car event taking place at Sudeley Castle on Sunday we decided that this would be an excellent opportunity to give him an outing.  Fortunately we were blessed with a lovely early autumn day and I’m pleased to say that Bertie behaved himself impeccably, making the  35 mile round trip without complaint, though parts of the long and steady climbs up Cleve Hill and Seven Springs had to be tackled in third gear.

Bertie on Parade
Bertie on Parade

No prizes won but we were the oldest of the 180 cars taking part – and its no dishonour to lose out to a 1933 Bentley!

Sudeley is lovely.  The one time home and the final resting place of Katherine Parr, the gardens are very attractive and the house/castle houses a nice little museum which is certainly worth a visit. DSCN7851

My name is John and I’m a Car-oholic!

Yes, I admit it, I seem to be developing an addiction for old cars.  Well, to be honest I don’t think that its a new thing; after cutting my motoring teeth on cars from the 1960s, and having owned an MGB for nearly 30 years, I think that I’ve always had a strong affection for vehicles that predate the modern era of complex electronics and a hankering for cars that you can fix with a spanner and hammer when they go wrong.

The latest addition to the Ewbank stable is a late 1973 Triumph GT6 which I bought ‘unseen’ in eBay and collected from the previous owner in Kent earlier this week.  The bodywork of cars from that era has a horrible tendency to rot  really badly but fortunately this one was substantially rebuilt with lots of new panels in the late 80s and so far (fingers crossed) it seems to be in really good condition.  There are a few bits of rust to be seen and the paintwork will have to be completely stripped for a complete re-spray but hopefully there won’t be too much need for welding or panel replacement.

I spent yesterday removing 4 or 5 gallons of stale petrol from the tank in preparation for its removal later today.  I also took the spark plugs out and turned the engine over, and was relieved to find that it isn’t seized.  The first big job will be to extract the engine and gearbox and to take the block down to a local engineering works to get the bores and bearings checked.  All very exciting!

Zab, Zakopane and the Tatra Mountains

At 1033 metres above sea level the improbably named ‘Zab’ is apparently the highest inhabited village in Poland – not something we knew when we booked our five nights accommodation in the Redyk hotel, though it became pretty obvious when we saw the mountain views on our arrival.  Wonderful on a lovely sunny day, but unfortunately it does mean that at least some of our time here will be spent with our heads rather more in the clouds than usual.

Zakopane, the local metropolis, is a busy (not so) little place sitting within a few kilometres of the Slovakian border and nestled nicely in the foothills of the Tatra mountains, beloved of walkers all the year round and skiers during the winter months.[mappress mapid=”5″]

As Tuesday dawned bright and sunny we decided to take a stroll into the Tatrzanski National Park.  Three hours and what felt like several thousand vertical metres later we emerged with a few new aches and pains but with that  smug glow of satisfaction that comes from knowing that we’re probably reasonably fit – or at least quite a lot fitter than some of our fellow walkers.  That said there were one or two fairly ancient Poles who looked as though they could have kept on going long after we’d decided that enough was enough for day one.

Today (Wednesday) started cloudy and as the BBC Weather App seemed pretty certain that it would stay that way all day we decided to try some sightseeing a little further afield.  The medieval castles at Niedzica and Czorsztyn (no, don’t ask me to pronounce them) are only about 45km off to the NE and feature in most of the tourist blurb so seemed like a good choice for a visit – though to be fair probably weren’t looking at their best on what turned out to be a dry, but pretty overcast, expedition.

Niedzica Castle
Niedzica Castle

Oswiecim – better known as Auschwitz


I wasn’t too sure about wanting to visit Auschwitz.  There’s something very  uncomfortable, almost voyeuristic, about visiting the scene of something so very terrible; but I was persuaded to make the visit, and in truth I’m glad to have done so.  We only made it as far as Auschwitz I, which is the original camp established by the Germans on the site of a former Polish Army barracks about 40km to the west of Krakow – there are two more, and I think larger, camps and a number of smaller ones nearby – but one was enough.

The place itself is well preserved and contains a number of extremely informative exhibitions that explain exactly what went on there and just how inhumane and brutal the Germans were to those they regarded as being less human than themselves.  The scale and the depth of the depravity that was displayed at Auschwitz and elsewhere is overwhelming and highlights just how thin the veneer of our so called civilisation really is – look around the world even now and you don’t have to strain the eyes or the imagination too hard to see what man can be capable of.

And with that depressing thought perhaps we should move on and get back to our holiday!

Krakow – September 2014

Having indulged ourselves with our ‘big trip’ to Australia and New Zealand earlier in the year we thought that we’d stick a little closer to home for our summer/autumn break this year.  Poland has been on my ‘bucket list’ (if Obama can have one why not me?) for quite a while, so this seemed like a good time to see what the south of the country has to offer.  The plan is to start with a spot of sightseeing in Krakow before heading down about 100km to the south to do some exploring and walking in the Tatra mountains around Zakopane.


Our first impression of Krakow is that it’s a gem.  We’re staying B&B pretty much in the heart of the old town which, despite the horrors that befell Poland between 1939 and 1990, seems to have survived remarkably well.  Plenty of medieval squares, a castle rising up in the centre of the city and more churches than you could genuflect at in a month of Sundays.


But the really good thing is that it’s cheap!  Good beer at around £3 a litre and a wide selection of restaurants where you can get a reasonable choice of meals (not just pork, cabbage and potatoes) for around £30 for two.  If these are city prices I can’t wait to see what’s on offer in the rural areas to the south.

The weather, I’m happy to say, looks good so far. Bright sun and temperatures in the mid 20s for most of today – hopefully the threatened thunderstorms will give us a miss this evening!