A Special Builder's Notes


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21 November 2016

When The Temperature Drops...

…. the leaves turn

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and the local Council get it into their heads to throw salt all over the roads (the Hillman still bears the scars from the autumn of 2014) it’s time to do a bit of maintenance.

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The manifold gaskets on the Morris Six engine have never lasted more than about 1000 miles and they’re increasingly difficult to find. As it happened, a head set popped up on Ebay and I was quick to ‘buy it now’ at a reasonable £40. I used both the head to manifold and the manifold to exhaust gaskets as patterns and slipped along to a local water-jet cutting company to have a couple of sets made up in copper.

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These were cut from the softest grade of 1.5mm copper sheet I could get and I used a good quality exhaust paste to take up the slack created by a less than flat manifold (probably my problem from the outset). I haven’t done a road test up till now (I’m waiting for the salt to be washed away by a good rainstorm) but the run-up outside the workshop indicated that the solid copper gaskets might be the answer – the engine was quiet again.

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I thought about machining the manifold to get the faces flat but making a jig to hold it in the mill would have been an engineering feat in itself. I still have the option of annealing the gasket to help it conform to the inaccuracies if this first experiment is not as successful as hoped for.

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Meanwhile, Leon has produced a bit of kit (the lower item was the jig) to sort out some steering problems on his Special. It’s got the Cambridge independent front suspension set-up which places the spring at the bottom of the hubs, wishbones at the top and the assembly joined up with hydraulic shocks. There’s a tendency towards bump-steer - helped by the flat rear springs. Leon’s device, which splits the steering link rod, removes the geometric shortcomings of a single link, and gives each wheel a degree of independence that should help to lessen the effect – that’s, I think, the theory…..

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Unfortunately I’ve had to shelve my ambitions to drive Learned Counsel’s Jowett Jupiter in the Le Mans Classic; getting my racing licence and getting to the starting grid was going to prove hideously expensive for the one-off experience. But it doesn’t stop me being part of the team and recording the ‘Road to Le Mans’ in this blog. My first contribution will be to create an engine-turned dashboard to the pattern of the spare that Learned Counsel dug out – hopefully, that’ll earn me a couple of test laps at a Snetterton track day so I’ll get a taster at least.

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Talking of whom, his latest distraction has been the restoration of an MG Midget. Originally it was navy blue – dark colours on Midgets were never that successful in my view – but now it’s ‘Speedwell Blue’ and a lot prettier. I haven’t seen any progress on the Austin 10 Cabriolet as yet and I think that’s going to take a back seat – so to speak – as we turn up the gas on the racing Jowett.

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