Sunday, 8 March 2015

The Alvis has to go.........

That got your attention, didn't it?

Roger has fixed the water leak.

Having dismantled the cooling system and removed the front engine mounting as described in the previous post, the water pump itself was removed for inspection.

A straight edge showed the block was fine, but the manifold casting bowed out of true.

This lent it all the water retention potential of the proverbial sieve........

While I was busy earning an honest crust at The Hole Making Shop, Roger got on with the business of removing 10 thou from the offending flange with a file. He finished it off with progressively finer grades of wet and dry on a flat steel plate. Proper job!

On my next day off, I re-fitted the water pump and gasket using a judicious dab of "Heldite".

(Great gear, this, by the way, but only use it on one side of the gasket. If you get carried away and do both, you may rue the day you ever heard of the stuff. When you next try to remove the component, it could be a real struggle.)

Again, none of that takes long to say, but it is fiddly in the extreme and consequently very time consuming.

T'was ever thus.

For with the water pump assembled, you have to fiddle the plain and locking washers between the  spokes of the water pump pulley and onto the studs on the front of the engine. Then you have to fit the nuts........ the right way round....... and without dropping the whole lot on the floor. It sort of has to be tickled into place.

(Incidentally, I'm with Sinyavsky on the matter of swearing at things when they are being made: in "A Voice from the Chorus", he describes a stove being built which gets offended so badly by all the swearing that it falls apart. I find the murmering of soft imprecations and the singing of calming tunes, however, has a most beneficial effect.)


It must have worked, because once all was reassembled, and the radiator was fully topped up, the engine wept not a solitary tear from gasket, gland or hose.

While I was doing this, Roger was busying himself at the lathe making up a bit to solve a problem with the choke cable.

The cable that came with the car is a 1960's replacement. It never worked terribly well, but the worn-out original engine ran so rich it wasn't really needed.

The problem was that it came from a car with a metal dashboard. The threaded section of the mounting was far too short for the much thicker wooden dash of the TA14.

Now, it is no great secret that Roger is the brains of the outfit, while I but heave, grunt and, occasionally, learn something.

But I do have the odd savant moment.

This, folks, was one of those moments.........

"What we need here is a piece of tube, threaded internally to fit the existing too-short thread, cut to the correct length to go through the dash and threaded externally to take a nut so it can be tightened up from the back"

Roger muttered something complimentary about me 'coming along nicely' and went off to find a bit of tube.

An hour and a half of deft lathe work and some studied application of the tap-wrench and die-nut set later, and the choke cable was firmly in the dash.

(Another option would have been to thin the dash board a bit by chiselling out a piece of wood. My Error Warning Indicator Light came on at the thought, though: It would weaken the dashboard considerably just where you need it to be strong so you can pull the choke out against it. It could very well have pulled right through. Also, one miss-hit with the chisel, and the dashboard would have been mullahed.....)

Another bit of Roger's finest lathe-work went onto the other end of the choke cable: the little nadger that attaches the cable to the carb had long ago vanished. Nothing daunted, he calmly ran up a new one on the lathe, then cross drilled it on the pillar drill to take a split pin.......

(I suppose I could have blogged about this under the title "Properly Choked" or similar, but the moment passed me by....)

With everything asssembled, we thought it high time to wind some fuel up from the new stainleess steel fuel tank, through the new copper fuel lines, using the spiffy new ethanol-proof pump from Burlen Fuel Systems.

With all that new-ness, you'd think it would have worked, wouldn't you...........?

Well, the pump rattled away like a good 'un, in true S.U. style.......

But no petrol........

We decided to try priming the pump by taking off the glass filter bowl and filling it.

This did a great job of getting fuel to the carb, but for the fact that the lovely looking braided fuel line supplying it (that Roger had kindly donated to the cause) had perished internally and was spitting fuel all over the gaffe.

We switched off smartly and mopped up........

It was then time to stop for the day, as I had to see my accountant and then give blood (There is a certain, barely ironic, synchronicity about having dealings with HMRC and the National Blood Service in the same afternoon..........).

I always advise taking it very easy after donating blood, so took the rest of the afternoon off.

I didn't return to the workshop until my next day off from work a couple of days later. (This part-time malarkey is the only way to go, believe me.)

I returned to find Roger had painstakingly filled the fuel line to the tank from the bulkhead end with several 100ml syringes full of fuel, and replaced the U/S fuel line with some clear plastic petrol hose attached to the banjo union salvaged from the braided job as a temporary solution to the problem.

So, surely, all we needed was to switch on and the pump would start to pull fuel as it's designers intended.........?


After some headscratching (and the rigging of a very Heath-Robinson looking test rig involving another S.U. pump, sundry bits of pipe, a small jug of petrol and a bucket), the fault was traced to the change-over valve.

This switches the supply from the 'main' (short fuel intake pipe) to 'Reserve' (long fuel intake pipe) in the tank by means of a solenoid moving a ball bearing which blocks one pipe while opening the other.

It had gone all "House of Commons" on us, by which I mean it was making all the right noises, (the solenoid was clicking away beautifully in the way that solenoids should), but it wasn't actually doing anything constructive.

The current theory is that the spring against which the ball sits is not seated correctly, but only another strip-down will prove this.

We wanted to press on, and as we are also pursuing the scent of another, much less moth-eaten, changeover valve, we elected to get around the problem by filling the tank to a level which allows the 'Main' pipe to come into play. Put simply, three trips to the local BP station with a gallon can, and we were there.

The pump began to pull fuel, but also a lot of air.

(But there was no evidence of further leakage anywhere, which suggests this is just the system purging itself)

It was still enough to keep the carb full though.......

Yes, the TA14 has to go.

And here it is.


Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!
Falleroo! Leroo! Loo!

Thus we end today's post much as we began it, in a synthesis of nonsense, (this time Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll), but chortling joyfully none-the-less!



  1. I can sleep easy now :-)
    Well done you, I am very impressed.
    Kath (nb Herbie)

  2. Why thank you both!

    It not only sounds lovely and smooth but is also giving between 35 and 40 lbs oil pressure.



  3. Hi John
    I have some Alvis books that formerly were my Father's...they need a good home, are you interested perhaps?

    1. Hi Leslie,

      Sorry for such a tardy reply: I've been mostly in the workshop!

      I'd be very interested indeed!

      Would you like to contact me via email?

      The address is on the Pippin blog. It's not a link, but a (hopefully) spambot-proof photo of it.

      Thanks for thinking of me.

      More Alvis news soon!


  4. Just seen your amusing account of the TA14 water pump. replacement. I've had my Carbodies drophead since 1964 and remember doing this years ago. It was again rebuilt in 2002 and is now making nasty loud bearing failure noises at 273,000 miles from new. Being very geriatric, I have to summon up the energy to take it off and have it rebuilt again. I had forgotten the difficulty of getting the washers and nuts back on. Brings back all the memories! Thanks for reminding me.

    1. Hello David,

      Sorry I haven't replied before: things have been moving on in the workshop, but at that sort of 'we've hit wet sand' pace that has precluded any blogging of interest.
      Chris Prince is doing TA14 water pumps on an exchange basis for a reasonable sum. I expect you will have fixed the problem by now, and I would say that at 273,000 miles, you'd probably had your money's worth out of the original.......
      Kind regards, John.