Sunday, 18 January 2015

Alvis TA14 Owners: An Apology.......

Whatever could I have done to upset them?

Has the hitherto undisclosed colour of FFU 297's coachwork after her epic seven month rebuild at The Bodyshop in Ely been leaked?

Stand up at the back the mongrel who had the temerity to suggest 'the only thing likely to leak on that old heap is the brake fluid'!!!!!!

(And feel free to comment on why this is highly unlikely, if not impossible, if you are an Alvis Afficianado.......... :-).......... as some of these fine fine ladies and gentlemen may have strayed this way by following a link from The Alvis Owner Club TA14 Secretary's blog on Wordpress. In her latest post, she had the great good grace to describe this nonsense as "entertaining and informative"............)

So I thought I'd better get an apology in quick before a bunch of irate TA14 owners tried to have me done under the Trades Descriptions Act ...........

If you are looking for Alvis restoration related material, then you need to scroll down to earlier posts for the rebuild story. To narrow it down a bit for you, the bodywork rebuild began in earnest in May 2013 at The Body Shop in Ely.

To be honest, this blog is a bit of a random mish mash of stuff that interests me on the day.

It's not dedicated to the TA14 rebuild any more than it concerns itself solely with the business of living aboard a wide beam canal boat on the River Cam.....

But if you've tuned in following Eileen's link from the 'Alvis Fourteen' blog expecting deathless prosings solely on matters mechanical, may I at least attempt to assuage your disappointment with the following:

Christmas and New Year over, and my birthday done and dusted, it was high time to get back out into the garage.

Today I refitted the rebuilt oil feed pipe from the brass tee-piece to the brass elbow that supplies the head and rocker gear with lubricant.

No great shakes you might think, and I suppose you'd be right.

But it was flippin' cold out there...........

If you need to do this job yourself, you will need a Medium Weight Adjuster (or 'Birmingham Screwdriver') and handy piece of wood to tweak the tee-piece and elbow and pipe round so they line up well enough for the unions on the pipe to screw on without too much effortful thread stripping......... which will inevitably lead to oil leaks later.

(Until we actually start the engine, there's no sure way of knowing if I have actually achieved this, but I feel we must at least travel hopefully..........)

Here's some pictures of that most pesky pipe now in posish:


I know it doesn't look like much, but repairing it involved nearly three days of Roger and I sodding about in a freezing-cold pre-Christmas garage.


The thicker bit at the top near the union to the cylinder head elbow is where we had to cut the pipe to remove the broken brass union and install a new one then sleeve it and solder it up.


So far, so straightforward..........

Except that the outer pipe has an inner, much finer capillary soldered into it.

The reasons for it are two-fold:

1) it restricts the width of the pipe and thereby stops an excessive amount of oil being pumped up to the rocker gear ( and then slooshing down the valve guides to appear as blue smoke on the over-run......)

2) it keeps the oil pressure up.

And of course, it too is soldered into the outer pipe. .......

Yes, you guessed it, our soldering of the outer sleeve completely mullahed the soldered joint of the inner.

Putting it right was fiddly and time consuming, but we got there in the end.

I am lucky Roger has the patience of a saint.

I returned the favour just after Christmas when I helped him lift the engine out of his Speed Twenty-five. This is six cylinders of pre-war cast iron and the sort of beast that requires quite a bit of careful manual handling.............

I am quite happy to admit that Roger supplies the brains, while I merely drag my knuckles and grunt.

But it's an effective team........

Next week, I've got a spot of annual leave.

In between juggling cylinder blocks and cylinder heads for Roger, we are going to hazard another job or two on the TA14.

Bate your collective breath, you lucky people!

:-)

And to round off, here's the ubiquitous Cute Cat shot:



Thursday, 11 December 2014

Some stuff about the boat.......

Well, it'll make a nice change, won't it?

I mean, this is supposed to be a boater's blog.........

Although those familiar with it will know too well it is naught but random wibblings.

(I state the otherwise bleedin' obvious by way of a warning to those who have strayed into this nonsense by accident........)

Anyway, an Alvis-free post it is going to be.

Likewise, it will be free of links to popular beat combos, any references to art,  and furthermore, any cinema or theatre reviews.

(There may be a 'cute cat' shot in there somewhere, but then these are more or less mandatory under the latest E.U. quota system.........)

For, on Saturday, we went boating!

T'was a cold and frosty morning:




For some unaccountable reason, the solar panels weren't working that well......

We moored up on the bank between Horningsea and The Bridge at Clayhithe to gather some of the recently pollarded willow wood.

Long lengths formed a natural bridge over which the shorter stuff was carried.




We then pulled the 'bridge' in after us and put it all on the roof for the trip up the Cam to Engineer Mark's mooring upstream of Bait's Bite Lock.

He wasn't in at the time, but we dropped off the timber on a handily empty pallet then scarpered.

(Actually, we did ask him first...........I caught up with him at the lock near our mooring the previous day when he was helping get widebeam 'Resolute' to a boat yard, viz:
That'll be him in the bows, the silhouette giving him an uncanny resemblance to an outsize mushroom vent.......

Mark and Sheena have decided to move closer to Mark's new place of work in the Midlands, so their boat 'Norweigan Blue' is up for sale. Check out Apollo Duck if you are interested.... But he reckons the wood will be safe until next March, by which time my wood shed will be conveniently empty.......)

Heat from the stove begins to clear the frost......

Not an affectation of any piratical airs: the low sun and glare off the roof and the water meant the only way to see ahead was out of the left eye across the bridge of the nose.......
Tricky........

Just before Baits Bite lock

We dropped off the wood and carried on into Cambridge, where did the necessary pump out. James and Amy from Severner Willow dropped in to join us for a cup of tea and some toast before we turned around and headed back for home.
The late afternoon winter light was extraordinary.
 The Dutch Barge "Trio II", (Eh?........) moored at the site of the now demolished Penny Ferry pub.


Jackie well wrapped up and at the Tiller.

And finally, the now mandatory (under E.U. directive 467001/9a), Cute Cat Shot.

More Alvis news, with an in depth recounting of repairs to the oil feed pipe next time.

Be still, your beating hearts......


Tuesday, 2 December 2014

At Last! The soundtrack!

It is important, I feel, in life, to be aware of the need for a decent soundtrack.

Pity then, all you youngsters, us older types who's early 1970's soundtrack featured the likes of Mudd, Showaddywaddy and The Bay City Rollers........

Good grief.

Yes I know NOW that there were groups like Focus, Cream, King Crimson, etc etc etc but way back then, when you were nine years old and had to rely on 70p per quarter (of a year) church choir pay to keep you in Airfix kits and Hornby 'OO', there wasn't a lot left over for the purchase of new gramophone records.......

Which is why I got a lot of stuff either second hand from jumble sales or found in actual tea chests, (remember them?), in the attic.

Aged 10, I remember having a distinctly 78rpm groove-thang going down.........

Boy, was I one rockin' kid............

It must have had a fairly profound and long lasting effect on my taste in music, though.

(Some might say that the music of the aforementioned Mudd, Slade, The Sweet, Showaddywaddy and The Bay City Rollers et al, had given me a sort of acoustic version of PTSD..............

It explains a lot.........)

Anyway, we recently stumbled upon this, the sort of sound that, along with Pink Martini, I would be happy to have as the soundtrack to our lives........ especially on long, warm summer evening drives in a certain 1948 Alvis TA14 dhc.........

This is Scott Bradlee and The Post Modern Jukebox featuring Kate Davis.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyTTX6Wlf1Y

I think they are utterly brilliant.

:-)


Saturday, 29 November 2014

The Last Laugh?

Back in 2013 I posted a blog about the Lowestoft ice boat, 'Jester'.

She has sat at the Cam Conservators 'naughty' mooring, quietly mouldering away, ever since.

Truth to tell, she was in very poor shape when she was towed there, and the intervening years and a good few sinkings have done her no further favours.

It was also sad to see valuable bits like her portholes slowly pilfered away.

Recently the mast (struck down on deck), also disappeared.......

Things were looking very bleak indeed for the poor old 'Jester'.

It was, therefore, with some sadness, but no surprise, that I saw the good old ship under tow towards Bottisham Lock this morning.

 Not quite 'The Fighting Temeraire', but Mr Turner would have done something quite interesting with that sky........


A Very Old Lady, more than a little distressed, and seemingly on her way to an undignified end.


I presumed she was being taken away to be broken up...........

Seeking to, quite literally, mark "Jester's" passing, I sent Amy of Severner Willow a quick text.

She replied immediately to the effect that if "Jester" made it through the lock, then she was on her way to Upware Marina to be saved!

Not getting through the lock meant an ignominious end at the hands of a wrecking crew at Clayhithe.........

Ulp.......

I grabbed the camera and made for the lock, fervently hoping they had remembered to butter the gunwhales........

It turned out width was not the problem, but depth might well have been, as 'Jester' had been brought upstream many moons ago on a flood...........

 Apologies for the poor quality video..........


 Anyway, she made it!

Hopefully, once out of the water at Upware, hull assessed and restoration commenced, it really will be a laugh at long last for 'Jester'. 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Manifold depression

I did some more tinkering on the Alvis today.

It did not begin auspiciously.

I decided to trial fit the inlet and exhaust manifold.

Easy-peasy lemon squeezy.........

Yeah, you'd think.......

Except that virtually the first thing I did was to drop one of the manifold nuts down the exhaust downpipe.........

Some swearing occured.

Followed by an attempt to disconnect the down pipe from the steel flexible pipe that leads on to the exhaust proper..........

Now, this hasn't moved since at least 1975, so I shouldn't really feel too dejected by the dismal failure of said attempt.

In the end, and after a quite lengthy period of entirely fruitless sodding about, I sacrificed a nice magnet on a stick (actually a 'magnet on a telescopic radio aerial' - £1.00 from Tesco style job)......   bent to fit the radius of the downpipe.

Suffice to say I managed to retrieve the errant nut just before the magnetic device 'failed in service'.......or, less euphemistically, I clumsily snapped it in half.......

DOH!

So, by no means a great start........

I did stretch a disposable latex glove over the down pipe flange to prevent this from happening again, however.

I may not be the fastest learner, but I do learn........

Anyway, I removed the inlet manifold to take some pictures of the modifications.

Showing the thin alloy plate (top centre) that fills in the hole machined into the inlet manifold. This then faces the hot shoe on the exhaust manifold (centre below).
 
To ensure a reduction in fuel vapourisation, we also wanted to create an air gap between the new plate on the inlet and the hot shoe on the exhaust.

To achieve this, we made two spacers:
We used the old gasket (centre) as a pattern

They are about 8mm thick

You can almost see how the inlet manifold will 'float' over the exhaust hot spot without touching it in this photo.
Apologies for the quality of the photo's composition: I ran out of hands.......

Spacers and inlet manifold gaskets in place.
 
(Note the missing oil feed pipe which should run from the brass tee-piece below the left alloy cover to the vertical brass union between the L/H inlet port and the centre exhaust port - thereby hangs a tale................. :-)

Trial fitting of the inlet and exhaust manifolds: it's all gone together rather nicely!

This is very definitely a trial fitting: the pushrods are all over the shop! 
 
But that's a job for another day...........after the day I'm going to have to spend tightening up all the head stud nuts to a correct and even degree.......

Here's some close ups of the modified manifold assembly in place.
 
(Just in case you were interested.......)

Remember, it's all coming off again so it's only finger tight.....

The closed-off bit of vacuum pipe is part of the redundant vacuum-driven screenwasher.
Re-instating this is means finding a Trico glass washer bottle with a sound metal lid.
To find one of these, look in the parts book under "Manure: (Rocking Horse)"............


Inlet manifold spacer sandwiched between two gaskets.
As the inlet and exhaust manifolds are now no longer attached to each other, it won't be necessary to fit two gaskets to each of the exhaust ports.
 
 And here it is looking really quite tidy and deceptively complete.......


And so, for my next trick:
That'll be the oil feed pipe to the rocker gear, then......

An oil feed pipe with a substantially knackered union...........

The extensive swerve around this particular problem may very well get a blog post all to itself.

It may even stretch to two.

You lucky people..............

:-)

Friday, 14 November 2014

A moment's pause.......

Well, time sure does fly.

I woke this morning to rain hammering down on the roof and the slightly more reassuring sound of our wind turbine moaning away as it tops up the batteries with lots of nice free amps.

A rainy day off then........

What to do?

I know! I'll open the long-closed door to the room where I blog. . . . .

Do you remember that rather clever advert for lager? The one where someone working in a large office building hears an old-style phone ringing in an unoccupied room? They open the door to find themselves in The Carlsberg Complaints Department, clean, tidy, decked out with state of the art technology c.1937.....and eerily deserted....... And of course, the phone call is a wrong number........

Well, coming back to the blog has been a bit like that.

Except for the fact that it's covered in dust, and behind the door was a pile of leaves and something unspeakable which was probably brought in by Thomas or China, our on-board felines.........

It's taken a good hour or two to clean up........

Anyway, what's been occurin' down in Groovetown?

Lots.

I've had a few polite requests for some updates on the Alvis restoration, so, David Attrill, Kath on nb Herbie, and Dad,...... I'll start there.

(Whether this develops into a more general update very much depends on the weather. If it stops raining, I'll have to get to Tesco for some groceries, the Tip to do the re-cycling and possibly Emmaus for a bit of a mooch.......)

Anyway, the Alvis......

Progress has not been as rapid as I had hoped. In fact it has slowed to an almost glacial pace.

Progress has, however, been made.

The cylinder head has been rebuilt. (I very nearly blogged about this at the time, which was in June, under the title 'Getting My Head Tested'...... but the moment passed.....)

First, I took the head from the spare engine to The Test House, where £50 bought a crack test.

This involved a couple of very helpful chaps running an absolutely huge magnet over it.

It looked just like the sort of thing that Wile E. Coyote would have used in his attempts to nobble The Road Runner - all it was missing was the 'Acme Magnets' stamp.....

My head was then tested for straightness (Lord alone knows, a warped head you do NOT want.....), and a written report was submitted, declaring it straight, not cracked, and fit for purpose.

Which will, no doubt, come as quite a surprise to some of you.........

I then lapped the valves in by hand.
Actually the o/e head, this gives an idea of the coke and crud that first had to be removed from the spare one, below.......

 to get it looking like this.......



Valve-lapping in progress.......


This took bleedin' ages, and gave me some nasty flashbacks to the 10 thou. hone of the cylinder block.

(That was the sort of job where at some point you begin to wonder whether you have, in fact, just been involved in a gas explosion and are, for your sins, destined to continue it for all eternity....).

Number 3 cylinder exhaust valve is normally problematic on four cylinder engines as it is often furthest from any coolant. It's therefore most likely to be burnt, pitted or generally knackered.

No. 3 exhaust on the Alvis engine was no exception. The valve and seat were both quite badly pitted.

 You can see the pitting on the valve port face here, at about twelve o'clock...... it looks better than it was:

I spent at least a couple of days hand lapping the valve and seat with a mixture of coarse and fine grinding paste. (It felt like a lot longer.....)

This left the valve slightly 'pocketed', which means it's sitting too far down in the seat.

This can cause problems as it affects the smooth flow of exhaust gas: exhaust gases swirling over and around the overly-high lip of the valve seat result in the engine being down on power. It could also cause No.3 cylinder to coke-up with carbon deposits very quickly.

I swerved deftly around this problem by borrowing a valve seat re-facing tool from my chum Roger.



 A very few twists of the tool removed the unwanted lip and got rid of the remaining pitting in the valve seat.

This left me wondering why I'd spent so long sodding about with grinding paste when I should have just 'Asked Roger'.......

Anyway, here it is, looking very nice.

 Unwanted raised lip and remaining deep pitting removed......

I then hand-lapped in a good valve from the spare head.

(As I've got the original engine's head, the head off the spare engine, and another spare head to choose from, I was going to blog about this under the title "Three Heads are Better Than One"......

It was a toss-up between that and "Lapping It Up".

In the end I did neither, so consider carefully that from which you were spared, and go your way giving thanks.....)

I then broke out the valve spring compresser and fitted the valves, springs and collets into the sparkling clean, de-coked, de-rusted, de-silted and freshly painted head.


Eagle eyed Alvis TA14 enthusiasts who have blundered into this nonsense by means of Google (or by a simple innocent mistake....) will notice that the third valve assembly from the left is assembled incorrectly: I got the outer of the two springs per valve the wrong way up.......

Fortunately, Roger spotted the error of my ways when I took the head over to his house so we could blast it clean of any last tiny crumbs of grot with his compressed air line.

So I took it home, dismantled it yet again, and reassembled it correctly......

In doing so, though, I followed Roger's advice and departed from  the factory's original plan by leaving out the inner of the two springs per valve altogether.

Roger runs his gorgeous Speed 25 on single springs with no problems, and suggested I do the same.

The rationale is this: The double valve spring set-up can cause problems with the valve seats as the valve smacks shut with such force that it can speed up valve seat recession. I shall run the car with the single spring set-up. If any compression problems develop, I'll let you know.......

Around this time (August), I decided to de-rust and paint the exhaust manifold.

 Showing lots of rust.........

Some time later, after a lengthy interlude involving angle grinders, PPE, and 30 grit abrasives....

And after three or four cans of Hycote VHT matt black aerosol paint.....
(The 'hot-spot' plate  is clearly seen here, centre.)

To do this, I first had to remove the inlet manifold, which led to an interesting discovery.

The cast iron exhaust manifold has a shoe or plate cast into it on which the alloy inlet manifold sits. (See above picture of the newly painted manifold)

There is a hole machined into the inlet manifold where it sits on this plate, viz:


The idea was that the heat from the exhaust would pre-heat the fuel/air mixture from the carburettor and aid combustion.

(In the immediate post-war period, when the only fuel available was 'pool' petrol, a very low octane brew, this was probably a good idea.

Today, the stuff they call petrol is a very different thing indeed. It burns much hotter, and has no tetra-ethyl lead in it.

(As an aside, while causing no end of problems for the environment, leaded petrol did stop pre-ignition or 'pinking', helped to prevent valve seat recession by providing an upper cylinder lubricant, and generally 'improved' the performance of the fuel........ while causing brain damage, foetal abnormalities and all sorts of other ghastliness.

It may also be worth noting that the person responsible for putting lead in petrol also came up with the wizard wheeze of using chloroflourocarbons in refrigerating equipment, which promptly buggered the ozone layer.

Nice one, geezer....... ).

Anyway, if the inlet/exhaust manifold was left as original, I foresaw real problems with fuel vapourisation.

(This is caused by excess heat vapourising the fuel before it can be combusted in the cylinders. Have you seen a classic car at the side of the road, bonnet up, on a hot day? Odds are three to one favourite that fuel vapourisation is to blame.)

I took the problem to Roger, who agreed that the current set-up was bound to give just this sort of trouble.

After a meditative ale or two and much scribbling on beer mats and backs of envelopes (the once de riguer 'back of a fag packet' has fallen hopelessly out of fashion.....), we decided we needed a couple of spacers to go between the inlet manifold and cylinder head.

The idea was to raise the inlet manifold away from the hot-spot on the exhaust sufficiently for us to make and fit a nice thin 1.8-2mm alloy plate to cover the hole in the inlet.

After a swift sift through his stock of 8mm alloy plate to find a piece suitable for purpose, Roger and I spent a goodly few hours machining these spacers up.

We used an old inlet manifold gasket as a template. I have to say it worked really well and looks very nice. There is also now a gap of a few millimetres between the hot spot and the plate on the inlet manifold. This will hopefully further reduce the heat being absorbed and thereby also help to prevent the fuel from vapourising.

Sadly, I was too busy helping with the fettling to do any photography.

Sorry.

Anyway, the proof of the pudding, etc etc, so Alvis Afficianados, watch this space.

It'll be interesting to see if it works...........

Having done all that, I completely dismantled the rocker shaft that came with the head from the spare engine.


Lots of notes and photos were taken so it all went back exactly as it should after a painstaking clean of every tiny component.

I then had a hard, critical stare at the state of the pads of the rocker arms.

They were too heavily worn for re-use.

 More pitted than a South Yorkshire hillside, pre-Thatcher........

What to do?

Before spending the equivalent of the GDP of Peru on a new set of rockers from Alvis marque specialist Red Triangle, I decided to investigate the ones on the totally crocked original engine.

Result?

 Almost as new, with minimal wear!

Result indeed!!

As the rest of the original engine was so far gone it was all beyond economical repair, clearly some kind soul has, in the not too distant past, renewed them.

(They are at the top of the engine, so it's a fairly easy job which would have transformed a very clattery old nail of an engine into the smooth but very smokey unit that came with the car. It was probably done to disguise how bad the engine really was, but I still find myself saying "Well done them!" :-)

Anyway, I whipped the good rocker shaft off the shagged-out engine, repeated the slow, painstaking strip, clean and rebuild process and placed it atop the reconditioned head.


 I was going to blog about this under the title ' He's Off His Rocker', but once again, the moment passed me by.

Be thankful.

There was then a bit of an Alvis hiatus while I got distracted by life and jobs until a couple of weeks ago when I finally got around to dropping the reassembled head onto the block.

I have yet to tighten it down: there are no torque settings for the TA14. The book gives you the order to tighten the bolts up in, but you have to do it by feel........

I've borrowed a specially adapted spanner form Roger to do this (You can't get a socket or ordinary spanner on the nuts which hold down the rocker gear.....).

I really should get on with it.

Ooh.

Look....

The rain's stopped.......

But I've spent so long blogging that it's now dark.......

Foiled again!

:-)