Thursday, 11 July 2013

More Alvis Salvage......

This week is a week of annual leave.


Bloomin' marvellous......

After a somewhat hectic weekend, (of which, more, after I can get hold of some photos I can publish without being sued.....), I spent Monday sobering up in the bilge.

It was very hot indeed, I drank 4 litres of water, sweated like a horse and achieved the following:

Well, it's all terribly dry, (which is good), but these are actually the 'before' pictures.

So, folks, this means 'more bilge to follow'.......

You lucky people!

(Look, I only write this rubbish, okay? No-one's making you read it.........)


My excursions into Pippin's nether regions, (at great cost to the ageing bod, let me tell you....... I am far too old to bend into some of the shapes required to chip rust and sort paint), at least accrued me enough Husband Points (or so I thought...... see later......) to make another trip up to Wisbech yesterday to see Andy and Terry at The Body Shop.

This time, I went with my friend Roger (He of the gob-smackingly gorgeous Alvis Speed 25 that lives in the village....).

Our mission was to fit a new aluminium petrol tank to the Alvis TA14 belonging to our friend Tom.

 The fuel tank

Some of the tank straps and wadding

These two little hatches in the boot floor allow access to the fuel tank sender unit and the changeover valve. Neat, aren't they?

 Up in the air, front wheels firmly chocked, chassis stands in place, and ready to receive the new tank

TA14's are very reliable cars when in good fettle, but many suffer from problems with fuel contaminated by rust particles from the inside of the petrol tank. As they age (the last TA14 was built in 1950....), this can get so bad that, while the structural integrity of the tank remains unaffected due to the incredibly thick steel used, the accrued silt makes its way into the fuel lines and fuel pump, eventually blocking them. It's a sort of automotive arteriosclerosis......

The resultant breakdowns get very irritating, though when I had this problem with my car, I got very good indeed at sorting it out. (Well, anyone can get better with practice!) However, the only real answer is a new tank. I had a stainless steel one made and fitted it to mine a while ago. Tom has had an aluminium one made for his car.

Installing it should have been a very straightforward job: no sodding about and home in time for luncheon.



With a kite up.........

The tank went in easily enough, though we had to take an inch or so off the breather pipe. (A modification to the original design, it fouled the underside of the boot floor).

Once it was in, we then had a pig of a time fitting the rubber hose that connects the filler pipe to the tank.

Then we had to take it out and do it again.

Very irritating........

But the second time, we fitted the large rubber grommet round the hole in the wing the fuel filler pipe goes through first. (This had proved impossible with the filler pipe in place.)

Anyway, we won in the end, though I got really bruised fingers from wedging them between the filler cap and the bodywork. This was to prevent the lovely new paintwork being damaged by the filler pipe being waggled about while we were attaching it to the tank. (Some choice demotic Latvian epithets may have been deployed....)

Right then, splash some go-juice in the lovely clean new tank, connect up the battery, and off we go.....

Hmmm....... See 'remarks concerning kite-flying' ibid.

The pump wasn't pulling fuel, no matter how well it was primed. It's an S.U. electric pump, and was ticking away merrily in the way that will be familiar to anyone who's ever owned or driven a Morris Minor.

Despite appearing to work, all was, clearly, not well.

We suspected the diaphragm had hardened over the long period the car has been out of use. This will require a rebuild kit to sort out. While these are readily available from people like Burlen Fuel Systems, Salisbury is a bit of a drive from Wisbech, so we cheated and nicked the working pump off my car.

The fuel system being taught to behave properly

The next obstacle was the absence of a small flexible tube from the pump outlet to the glass-bowled fuel filter. We effected a temporary repair with a section of correct diameter hose borrowed from Andy. Roger used a heat gun (well away from the car!)to warm it up enough to fix it securely over the pipes. There were no leaks.

After a couple of trips to the BP garage to get more fuel, we were able to raise the level in the tank enough to reach the main feed pipe inside it.

(Alvis TA14s have two feed pipes inside the tank, one longer than the other. The longer of the two is the two gallon 'reserve' pipe. You change from 'main' to 'reserve'  using a dashboard switch which controls the changeover valve. This item is of Byzantine complexity and questionable reliability. Ours was stuck on 'main', hence the need to raise the fuel level.)

Anyway, that done, at last fuel made it's way from the tank to the carburettor!

Sadly, that's as far as it got, as the float chamber was loose, and fuel leaked everywhere.

It seems that the people who ran the place where the car was stored previously got over it's inability to run due to the silted-up fuel system by priming the carb directly.

And, of course, they hadn't bothered to tighten it up..........

This was a quick fix, though.

Time to try to turn the engine over on the starter motor.

Go, Main Engine Start!

Ignition key turned, starter button pressed....................


This didn't actually surprise me. I've had this problem on my car, so knew the answer. (Roger is vastly more experienced an engineer than me, but I do have the odd savant moment).

During the bodywork rebuild, the main earth strap from the battery to the offside front chassis leg had been disconnected, thus breaking the circuit.

No ignition circuit, no go.

Confusingly, there were two spare wires rattling about in the engine bay. One was obviously the earth strap. The other, after a bit of head scratching and Roger's expert wielding of his multimeter, was deduced to be the live feed to the starter motor solenoid.

We connected the earth strap to the chassis all right. (This is a nightmare when you're working on your own, but easy enough when there's two of you.)

But the feed wire to the solenoid put up a heck of a fight. First, the 4BA nut that secures it to the terminal was missing. No problem, we scavenged the one off my car.... Then it turned out the terminal was loose inside the solenoid housing and there was no way the nut would do up.

Tres frustrating!

After all that work, it seemed we were to be thwarted at the last by a 4BA terminal, which is a very small thing indeed to be thwarted by.........

Time was getting on (we'd met at Roger's at 08:30) and we were both getting hungry, so I dived off to a nearby garage to get us something to eat and the car some more fuel.

Meanwhile, Roger had a think.

By the time I got back, he'd cracked it.

I got behind the wheel and operated the ignition and starter button while Roger held the wire firmly to the starter solenoid, thus completing the circuit.

For the first time in many a long moon, Tom's car turned over on the starter. Then it coughed. Then it spluttered, and finally, burst into robust TA14 life.

'Hip Hip Hooray! Blip the throttle, John!'

I did.


Yep, at some point in the car's lengthy storage, the carburettor spindle had got itself bent. It was stuck solid at idle speed.

Roger taught this naughty component good behaviour by tweaking it's ears with a pipe wrench. This soon had the engine revving smoothly and sweetly on the throttle.

It was now 16:30 and it was home time. I drove the Alvis into the workshop, the first time it has moved under it's own power for years.

A couple of interesting studies in 'Before and After'.....
(My car is in the background...... :-)

Roger and I then packed up and made our weary way home to Waterbeach.

It had been a long day's tinkerage. Tom's car had thrown a lot of problems at us, all of which we had overcome. It had been hard but satisfying work and we were both very tired.

And we were both in trouble: Roger for leaving Pam at home all day when she was feeling rotten with a cold, and me, later, for not having any supper ready for Jackie when she got in from work at 20:00.

The moral here, chaps, is this:

   'No matter how much fun the favour you are doing for someone may be, you neglect your partner at your peril'.


Oh well, better post this and disappear into Pippin's bilge for the day and redouble my de-rusting efforts.

I appear to be in a serious Husband Points deficit.............

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