Today (Sunday) we spent a really enjoyable morning at The Classic Motor Hub which we’ve just discovered tucked away in the depths of the Cotswold countryside, about 10 miles up the road at Ablington near Bibury. As it was a warm and sunny day we took the TR3A; fortunately I’d given it a bit of a ‘spruce up’ in preparation because the general standard of the cars there was fantastic. We joined perhaps two hundred visitors, most of whom arrived in or on classic vehicles – everything from Massey Ferguson tractors to vintage Bugattis – and spent a couple of hours wandering around oggling the carson display as well as those in the car park.
Nineteen sixties Ferraris at several million pounds a go, Italian boy racers at extravagant prices, quirky French veterans, monstrous Americans, stately Bentleys, fabulous Aston Martins and even a canary yellow Rolls Royce fit for any pop star! You name it and it was probably there. Well worth a return visit on the first Sunday of the month.
The past nine months have been a tad difficult – not least when it came to sitting down and attempting to write an interesting, entertaining or informative blog. In August of last year I started to feel unwell and by the time I had been diagnosed with kidney disease towards the end of 2016 I was well and truly under the weather and largely ‘confined to barracks’ with little prospect of having anything interesting to write about.
These days the media seldom seems to have much that’s good to say about the NHS, however I have to say that my personal experience has been pretty much wholly positive. No doubt I’ve been fortunate to live in a part of the country where the service doesn’t seem to be permanently overloaded and in crisis, however being able to get to see my GP at virtually no notice and most importantly being able to rely upon the services of the experienced, caring and highly professional staff of Gloucester and Cheltenham hospitals has made the overall experience of being ill vastly more bearable than it might otherwise have been. I am immensely grateful for their help and support but, at the risk of seeming ungrateful, hope to be seeing rather less of them in the year to come.
Anyway, enough of all that! The good news is that as I hopefully near the end of my initial treatment (the wonderfully named Ponticelli Regimen) I seem to be making good progress and have at last been able to get back towards living a more normal existence, enjoying some of those things that I’ve been looking forward to over the past few months.
The first and most important news to report is the arrival of our first granddaughter, Gretel Lilly Ewbank, who came into this world in Nürnberg on 23rd February 2017 courtesy of her parents Richard and Collette. She’s a beauty and a delight and no doubt will one day be a famous scientist, renowned artist or perhaps even a skilled restorer of classic cars. Who cares just so long as she remains healthy and happy?
On the automotive front I have to report that Bertie has moved on to pastures new. Although we thoroughly enjoyed our relatively short period of Austin ownership it became increasingly clear over the past year that he was just one car too many for us and that we would have few opportunities to gain full use or enjoyment from him going forward. The good news is that he’s moved on to enthusiastic new owners and that for the first time in 47 years of automotive ownership I’ve actually managed to make a small profit from buying and selling a car!
Nature abhors a vacuum and the prospect of having a little spare space on the drive was obviously insufficient reason for not going out and buying another vehicle (not sure that sentence makes sense, but you know what I mean) so we immediately went out and bought a motorhome – what else? Our first short expedition to the north Devon coast in early May was an unqualified success so as I sit here tapping away at the keyboard we’re actually parked in a field in Powys at the start of a six day break which, if all goes well and the weather stays reasonable, should see us exploring the Welsh coastline and getting to know our new mode of transport. Today Welshpool, tomorrow the world – we’re on the road again!
No excuse really, other than whenever my conscience has told me to sit down and update the blog there always seems to have been a valid reason/excuse for not doing so. Its not as though we’ve been sat at home twiddling our thumbs without having lots to report – such as buying (another) Triumph, a fun trip to Belgium (not a phrase that would readily spring to mind), an enjoyable reunion with old friends and a few days camping on the South Coast, to name but a few.
Anyway, with that confession out of the way I can now hopefully get back to reporting the odd short snapshot of Ewbank life as and when interesting things happen that liven up our otherwise bleak and empty lives……………..
The latest addition to the motoring stable is a 1975 Triumph Stag bought at auction back in May. With the rebuild of the GT6 more or less complete it started to dawn on me that, lovely little car though it may be, driving the tiny Triumph for longer distances was going to be a less than comfortable experience – the fact that I need a Stannah Stairlift to extract myself from the driver’s seat says it all. Despite their early reputation of abysmal reliability I’ve always liked the lines of the Michelotti designed Stag, and the noise of that Triumph V8 is just wonderful – so when three cars came up for auction at Brightwells back in May I decided to take a look.
Examining the three offerings was like a scene out of Goldilocks and the Three Bears: one was a complete wreck and would obviously take years to restore, the next was low mileage and therefore likely to be expensive …… and the last, it seemed to me, was ‘just right’. The rest, as they say, is history; six days later the car was sat on the drive at home with a brand new MOT and ready for some serious tinkering.
There’s currently a bit of a debate about the future of the annual MOT inspection for older cars. Apparently the UK testing regime exceeds EU requirements and as a result there’s a suggestion that cars older than 30 years (vehicles registered prior to 1960 are already exempt) should no longer be subject to the test. Until very recently I was dead against the change and held firmly to the concept that the annual test is a ‘good thing’ in that it guarantees that our classic cars are safe and fit for the road on at least one day a year.
Yesterday’s experience has caused me to wonder whether all testers are as diligent or competent as they might be, and therefore whether the test is as useful an indication of good maintenance as it should be. The story goes like this ……….
Having spent the last six months rebuilding the GT6 I finally arrived at a point this week where I thought it should be tested. Not that I fully expected it to pass – but it seemed to me to be a good way of getting a fully qualified second opinion on whether it was fit for the road. In point of fact there were a couple of points on which I expected it to fail: despite several attempts at bleeding the brakes the travel on the pedal was longer that I liked, and I was convinced that the exhaust was blowing a bit.
I sat nervously during the 90 minutes of the test, reassured that they were doing a thorough job, and sure enough ……….it failed. But not on the points that I’d expected! All that the tester could find to comment on was the security of the fuel line and the need for a brake hose to be moved slightly to avoid fouling a shock absorber. Great, I thought, and booked the car in for a re-test two days hence.
On leaving the garage I’d travelled 150 yards when I noticed that the steering was behaving oddly; another 100 yards and I was convinced that something was seriously wrong and pulled over to the side to check out what might be amiss. Shock, horror – one of the track rod ends was extremely loose and the other had lost its securing nut and completely parted company with the steering arm on the near side vertical link. Had I been travelling at speed or attempted to take a corner in this condition an accident would have been inevitable. A phone call home brought Denise to the rescue with the socket set and some nuts and the problem was quickly solved, after which I was able to drive home thanking my lucky stars that disaster had been averted.
The fact that the track rod ends weren’t secure was obviously my fault – but my point is that the test failed to find the most simple, and potentially dangerous, of faults and was therefore completely worthless. and left me wondering what else they’d missed. One of the arguments for abandoning the test for older vehicles is that most owners of classic cars are enthusiasts and quite possibly know more about how to keep their particular vehicle safe than the majority of MOT testers. So, recognising that we all have a legal responsibility for ensuring that any vehicle we use on the public highway is safe, we should, perhaps, abandon the requirement for an annual MOT check, learn to cope without that particular safety net, and save ourselves £39 in the process!
The recent warm weather has brought the garden along nicely and with it we’ve had a few opportunities to sit on the patio and watch the local wildlife coming and going. We have several bird boxes, one of which this year has been occupied by a pair of Blue Tits who’ve been extremely busy in recent weeks preparing for new additions to the family.
I’m not entirely sure why Dad should have been taking nesting material out of the nest on this occasion ….. perhaps Mum decided that the colour or texture wasn’t quite right?
February with its cold and wet weather and short days is probably my least favourite month of the year. More particularly, getting out into our unheated garage to work on the GT6 over the past month has proven to be a bit of motivational challenge – on some days even dressing up in my ‘onesie’ (actually a set of coveralls) hasn’t entirely managed to keep the cold at bay and the desire to stay out there fiddling with the car has definitely been limited. Emigrating to warmer climes or getting the use of a heated workshop in which to work would solve the problem, but as neither seems to be even a remote possibility I guess I’ll have to soldier on. Note to self – make sure the next (?) project is timed to take advantage of all those long, hot summer days (some hope!).
That said, I’ve made quite a bit of progress since my last Triumph blog and I still seem to be on target for getting the car back on the road in early April. The tub and bonnet came back from the body shop looking very shiny and, with the exception of one or two minor things that will need to be sorted by them once the car can be driven down to Gloucester, I’m very pleased with the quality of their work. Reuniting the tub with the chassis was less of a hassle than I’d feared and once that was done I was able to start the pleasurable task of starting to re-fit all the mechanical and electrical parts that I’d refurbished or replaced whilst the body was being re-sprayed.
Monday of this week was a ‘red letter day’. After a couple of minor glitches, which included managing to replace the plug leads in completely the wrong order, I started the engine for the first time since the rebuild got underway last September. In fact it started remarkably easily and ran pretty smoothly considering that the timing was a bit adrift and the carbs will need to be adjusted. No nasty knocks or grinding sounds and as far as I can tell the oil pressure seems to be okay; on the subject of which I’ve decided to fit an oil pressure gauge to keep an eye on things in the future – I can’t understand why on earth they didn’t fit one as standard when the car was built. If the MGB could have one, why not the GT6?
On Sunday I’m off to the Triumph Spares day at Stoneleigh to collect the new carpet I’ve ordered (at huge expense) and pick up a host of bits and pieces that I still need in order to finish the car. How much excitement can one man stand?
Well, the restoration of the GT6 body is almost finished and pretty soon it will be reunited with the chassis and I’ll be able to get on with the exciting business of working out how the whole thing fits together again. I reckon the reassembly will take me about three times longer than the dismantling – whether that puts me on course to have the car ready for the MOT in early April remains to be seen. There’s still plenty of cleaning, painting and polishing still to be done, to say nothing of an every-growing list of parts to be bought and fitted. The problem I have now is that having spent so much time and money on getting to this point I simply can’t afford not to do it properly.
The good news is that every time I trawl the internet I find really grotty examples of the GT6 for sale at increasingly ridiculous prices – bring it on!
In the meantime Christmas has come and gone and we’re well past the shortest day and hopefully moving steadily back towards Spring. I’ve spent a few hours over the past week pulling together a website advertising Bertie’s qualities as a wedding car – something we always planned but I’ve been a bit slow in putting into action. Hopefully attendance at a couple of wedding fairs in the coming months will produce a handful of bookings and a few pennies to help pay for this expensive hobby!
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.
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 swearword. 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.
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.
….holiday blogs, motoring obsessions and a look at our family history