Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Rinse and Repeat

More snow last night, in the intervening period Molly got all her snow scraped off and her cover fitted, so last nights snowfall replaced the previous nights.

Jessica is doing a rather good impression of a high top van.

The trains decided not to proceed today so I was stuck at home. The kids didn't mind as I gave them a quick lesson in sledging.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


No not bah "humbug"... its the noise snow makes when you walk on it. Oh yeah we have had a big load of snow.

Unfortunatly Molly got caught in it. Why wasn't she tucked away you ask? Well the idea was (before the snow) to keep her pootling around throughout the winter. So much so she just earnt herself a lovely new starter motor.

are you starting something?

The kids have been out making use of the snow however.

Megan and Snowman (left)

The cold weather did get a bit much for them thoughso they took to the information superhighway (check it out Gran - she's 7!)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Crawling and Running

The work on the cars is now slowing down to such a crawl, there has been hardly anything to post about. That said a little pottering has been going on (its only natural).

I've managed to get a little more work done on the van door, its now welded up and filled (another bad bodge job I'm afraid) and I'm starting to get on with the painting. There in lies a big problem, I was planning on using the Tekaloid enamel which was used on the van before I got it (it came with 2 half cans), however I've had a go and its a bit of a mess. It may need to be stripped back so I can start again or maybe I might try to flat it down and have another crack.

Molly on the other hand has been providing sterling service. The Skoda (yep the proper modern car) failed to proceed in a thoroughly modern manner. The central locking (pah!) decided it was going to cycle between locked and unlocked at a rate of twice a second. Not good. The AA came and deactivated everything (and broke various bits in the process) and the local Skoda garage charged £200 to fix it all (which includes the £15 for parts...). So while the expensive reliable daily was becoming more expensive and less reliable, Molly came to the rescue, ferrying us to and from school and to and from the Skoda garage. All was going well until her starter motor decided to give up the ghost. Never mind the starting handle still works...

I often get told off for anthropomorphising inanimate objects (specifically cars). However I felt vindicated when our rather nice mantelpiece clock magically started working again three days ago (and is still working). The reason for this change of (mechanical) heart? I considered ripping its guts out and replacing them with one of these. Shame, would have looked cool.


Now I've not been getting out to the garage too much recently, I have been finding myself infront of the TV, and of course the Christmas adverts are well and truly embedded in the schedules . Some of the most rubbish products however do use some really good music. The marketing men must have a lot of fun rummaging around the back catalogues. Then of course there the 118 247 earworm, which for some reason hasn't started to annoy me yet.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Winter warmers

The weather has deteriorated somewhat. After all the rain (oh boy did we get a lot of rain), the frost has arrived which is nice but obviously a little cold.

I prefer the frost as its nice and dry. The down side though is that once I'm in the garage of an evening, the condensation starts dripping from the ceiling

I'm finally getting somewhere with the van door, and about time too as I discovered that CATS yes the local vermin have managed to get in to the van and cover the place in fur, so getting the door back on is now something of a priority.

My mum has come up trumps and sorted me out with a nice little wing mirror for Molly. It looks smashing but I need to tighten it up as if flops backwards if I go over 60mph.

Friday, November 20, 2009


After being laid up for a few weeks and fiddling with radio controlled models, the full sized project vehicles have started backing up.

Molly has been pressed in to service as a daily driver, just like the good old days. Unfortunately (but not wholly unexpected for a 47 year old car) there are a couple of niggly glitches which need to be sorted. Namely the horn and the interior light have stopped working. There is still an annoying clunk from the front suspension and a rattle from the rear. Also, driving through Edinburgh in the rain and dark I have realised that I really do need some kind of wing mirror. I would also like to get under her soon to check out the bodywork/underseal situation before the gritters get busy. All in all though she is doing very, very well.

The same cannot be said however for Jessica, the door repair hasn't been touched for weeks .It needs to be welded up, finished and fitted so she can become semi water tight again. The other door can then come off for some cosmetics, then I can think about taking the windscreen out and painting the front panel (maybe). I also need to lay her up properly, grease everything and trickle charge the batteries. This however is the root of the problem. If Molly is going to get the attention she deserves, then she needs to be in the garage, and there is a broken old Commer in the way. One day I'll have a large, dry, warm double garage to work in, where I can take whichever vehicle I choose... one day...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Jolly Good Wheeze

First up dear readers, an apology. I've not posted for a long long time. This is mainly because I have had very little to post about, which is due in turn to a popular autumn ailment - flu. Plus a chest infection, plus the old favourite - asthma. All rather dull and boring and kept me off my feet and out of the garage for almost three weeks now.

I'm finally getting myself together but as I've been sat around the house I have been pottering a little. The great thing about pottering (one of my favourite pass times you know) is you can get a lot done in very small chunks of time with out getting over tired. The object of the pottering was Dad's model boat which appears to be an Aerokits Sea Scout. There is some footage of one in action here.

Over the past couple of weeks it has been cleaned and the remote control kit fitted. The wood on the cabin roof has been repaired and the little bench seats in the back have been repaired. I fitted the motor (a nice bit of bent stainless sheet) and the RC kit.

rear seats fixed up

New water coolant exhaust (left)

Clockwise from top, RC receiver, battery pack, motor controller and motor.

captain ready for launch

It now needs a few coats of paint on the roof, rear seats and hull and we should be good for some sea (canal) trials. The kids are jolly excited but I've got to be careful I don't become a model boat geek - its easily done.

One of the nice things about not being in the best of health is that taking the train to work is out (I don't have the stamina to make it to the station) so I have to drive Molly to work - shame... I have discovered that the bedroom ceiling needs painting though...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bring me sunshine

One of our favourite seaside towns is Morecambe. Its a pretty little down-at-heel seaside town in the northwest which is slowly but surely regenerating itself as the place to be.

This little seaside town donated its name to Eric (Morecambe) who did a lovely version of Bring me sunshine with his pal Ernie. Anyway why this rambling about Morecambe?

I work for an engineering software company and the culture is kind of intense. The hours can be long and it can be very demanding. I've been there two years and so far (barring a few nasty incidents) its been a roller coaster ride of learning fun and hard work. A couple of nights ago I went for a couple of pints with a friend who was sitting on the wrong side of the company culture, and a little bit down. He said "I love seeing your little yellow car in the car park - it makes me happy".

On with the sunshine deliveries.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Doors for thought

With Molly performing well (how long will that last?) we've been out enjoying the autumn weather again today, feeding the ducks at Linlithgow. Its kinda soggy round here at the moment, the wind is pretty fierce and leaves are everywhere. So the drive was rather exciting.

The rain eased off a little so I took the opportunity to take the passenger side door off Jessica for a little TLC. Commers have a reputation for having a problem with their doors skins (like most old cars) and ours is no exception.

In order to do this job properly, its very important to wear the correct safety kit.

take me to your garage

Oh yeah - I now have an auto darkening welding helmet. Its great, if a little strange looking at the job one minute and it all going dark the next.

When I took the bottom off the door skin, I was very surprised to find this:

Now to the uninitiated, it may look like remnants of a rusty Commer door, however its a Commer door which is in remarkably good condition. Especially considering that I had to guess what the bottom of the door looked like for the other side. The semi-circular cutouts are so you can use a socket on the door strap screws. Now I never knew that, and the other side doesn't have them now. There are even some very solid drain holes there which seem to have done their job well.

We didn't get away scot free though, the other side is still a little manky.

Never mind. I've been a busy little bee.

an artist's impression of the finished door - complete with PVT diagrams

Oh yeah, and I saw one of these tonight... how weird is that?!

Friday, October 16, 2009


Autumn has arrived right on cue in West Lothian. The trees are dropping their leaves, the mornings are nice and chilly and nights are closing in.

I like Autumn for many of the same reasons I like Spring, the way that nature isn't just a background on life - its in your face. Like the lashing rain and the wayward leaves.

Enjoying older cars in Autumn takes a little more determination. The diminishing sunlight and plummeting temperatures take their toll. Batteries and their charging systems take a hammering and paintwork starts to suffer with the wind, rain and frost.

This year is the first time in years I've had Molly on the road for Autumn. Its wonderful to be able to go for a drive in the sunshine kicking up the dried leaves. The cooler, denser air makes for a superb drive, the smells are intoxicating, the sounds more vivid, and of course more power is available!

A little extra maintenance make all the difference too. Molly's heater is now working, the cooling system has been checked over and the steering wheel nut has been tightened (adds a lot of confidence I can tell you!). The other thing to worry about is the imminent arrival of the gritter lorries. Living in Scotland means they are frequent visitors to our lovely country roads. Now don't get me wrong, they do sterling work, managing to get out and grit the roads long before the weather becomes a problem, however the salt doesn't half make a mess of your car. Which reminds me I had better have another look at the state of the underside and check the underseal.

In other news, the van is currently tucked up on the driveway undergoing the annual restoration work. The front valence has been repaired now and looks a lot better (not as bad as I expected).

The heater vent aperture has been tidied up quite a bit, I'm not really happy with it, I really need to get as much finished as possible before the snow comes down. Once this is done, then I think I will have to repair the doors and replace the windscreen seal.

No winter hibernating for me!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The icing on the cake...

So I managed to snatch a couple of hours work on the van today and finish off the bottom of the front panel. The welding is done and ground down and the first layer of filler is on.

Its going to need a fair bit of sanding and touching up but it's looking good so far. Oh and here's a piccie of the chrome vent cover I got from Martin yesterday. Bling!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Life on the open road

This blog is about some old cars and how I muck about with them. It is however heavily biased towards getting them on the road rather than enjoying them. The main reasons for this are:
  • The cars are often not on the road
  • I often forget the camera when I'm out and about
  • When I'm out having fun, I'm not thinking of what you want to see
Anyway last weekend, I popped out for a quick trip to Halfords (for more welding gas...) with Rory in Molly, and ended up taking the long way home. The 30 minute drive turned into three hours :o)).

The detour took us to the area between Livingston and Falkirk. This area has some lovely roads for enjoying Morris minors. Wide open empty spaces which look as though they may have once been industrial, but have since returned to nature. The hills are gentle and the corners are long and flowing. Above all the roads have recently been resurfaced. Bliss...

Another thing I like to do (I say like, its more of an involuntary tick) is have a nosey about for interesting old cars. I often daydream of finding an unmolested early Morris Minor Series II GPO van or a Commer PA, or something even more exotic. This route took me past a place I found on a previous trip, which holds a lot of interesting vehicles, including some 70's Volvo's, an old Austin and at least 3 Renault 4s (when was the last time you saw one of them?!). Sure enough the cars were all still there, in their state of glorious disrepair, however having no camera, and not being brave enough to knock on the door and say Hi , I have nothing further to report I'm afraid.

I promise, I'll try to remember the camera next time.

The latest road trip took place today in the Skoda (unfortunately). I managed to find an excuse to go and visit Martin who runs a small Commer Van spares and restoration business. He's based in Yorkshire, making it was something of an epic journey. I decided to make the most of it by purchasing a full set of door seals, a screen rubber and a very nice chrome heater vent grille. I also got a chance to take a look at the new additions to the 22 strong Commer/Dodge fleet (yes - he owns 22 Commers!). There is so much to see including a complete bare metal restoration job and a very low mileage Dodge Fire engine

On the way down I stopped at the Little Chef on the A66 which is a traditional small restaurant in a beautiful location - it would look perfect with a car park full of classics. Oh ,and try the toasted tea cakes they are yummy...

Friday, October 09, 2009

What's brown and falls in the autumn?..


Jessica has embarked on her now annual bout of restoration. This has (as usual) begun with no rhyme or reason. Basically it all depends on which way round she is parked when the urge takes me to do some restoration.

So the front panel it is then!

There were a few flaky patches at the front, presumably from stone chips gone bad.

Now this area on the van is a double curvature (sounds exciting!) which basically means I haven't got a cat in hell's chance of making anything that looks vaguely like it. So its another case of throw it together, chuck some filler on and hope it doesn't look like Kryten's head...

One big problem with my classic car restoration hobby is the welding, more precisely the shielding gas. This comes in small disposable bottles which cost around £10 each! If I'm lucky I can get a good few welding sessions out of one, if I'm not lucky (and I have a dodgy Argon/CO2 bottle from Halfords) it can last around 20 minutes... So on Wednesday morning I ordered some I capacity bottles from The Welder's Warehouse. Amazingly they came next day! (it wasn't sent via the Royal Mail)

As I was waiting for the gas and the paint on the patch panels to dry, I tool a look at the fresh air heater vent aperture (a notorious rust trap). Guess what...

On a slightly more cheery note, I took the grille off and and a poke around in the area under the foot well, and was pleasantly to find just a bit of surface rust and a whole load of cheery loveliness! Hoorah!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

From Past to Future (in minature)

After the past few weeks of frenzied show-based activity its (probably) time to settle down a bit to home life. Thanks to Rory's glee with model boats and steam engines, I was inspired to have a rummage around in the loft and came up with this little lot.

First up my Mammod traction engine. I got this when I was about 14 (22 years ago!). It has been lurking around the house since I liberated from my parent's house. It got rather grubby over the years, but a few hours with baby wipes and brasso, it was (almost) like new.

Next up is a pop-pop paddle steamer I made from a kit in around 1985. It needs a little tlc, and a still pond on a windless day (that could be tricky round here).

Finally, there is the cabin cruiser. Now this boat has an extra dollop of history. My dad started building this when I was a kid. I have vivid memories of him "running in" (playing with) the 1.5cc diesel engine around 1977. The boat lurked in the shed for years after that, until I found it when I got into model making myself (the mid eighties), when I had a crack at finishing it off. It its almost sea-worthy, but I got a little stuck with the plan to control it. I had a 2 channel RC kit I wanted to fit, but there was no way to control the speed, so the project stalled.

Now its out of the loft again, I'm planning on actually getting it wet. I'm going to replace the diesel engine with an electric motor for more controlability to at least get it going. If anyone knows where I can get an RC controllable carb for a DC Sabre engine please let me know!

I think the kids are old enough to be able to enjoy this little lot without damaging them, or themselves, but I'll keep you posted either way...

Finally, Molly is out of the garage and getting used, which as usual means the garage has immediately filled with stuff! Ho hum better get on with it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Selkirk Vintage Show

Rory and I popped over to Selkirk on Sunday to the excellent vintage rally. It was a great show which was nicely squeezed into a quite small field. Apart from the usually selection of single marque club stands, this one stands out with a few really interesting other exhibits. Like this 60's hydroplane up from Cumbria. It runs a flat head V8 with open headers. Sounds superb!

Big engine with a small boat attached

The other big attraction (for me at least) is the steamies. There is a large and thriving steam community in southern Scotland/northern England which moves around to various shows. There's nothing like steam, the sounds and smells are wonderful.

It was just me and Rory at the show, which was nice, bit of father and son bonding. The local model boat club were there and they even let Rory have a go!

All under control

Its always quite strange to find what grabs his attention. This organ had him mesmerised for ages!
Other "Rory Favourites" included the tractors, of which there were loads, in a wide range of restoration. Its nice to see concours vehicles next to vehicles which look as though they have just been dragged out of a barn, cranked up and driven to the show.

For Dad there was a great range of classic bikes, including this really neat Bantam. Did I mention I want one?

anyone for (the) Desert?

Gypsy fire engine

The Scottish MMOC were out in force, nice to see the scene is alive and well north of the border. Now Molly is on the road and usable again I'm going to be get getting a little more involved. First step is going to the AGM on Sunday.

Finally we managed to find the one and only Commer. A very nice RoadRanger conversion which is owned by a chap called Jim. It gets used regularly to lug reclaimed building materials!
Rory can't find the Commer

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Lanni Clan

My first car was a teal blue Austin 1300. I was given it by my great aunt when she gave up driving. It vaporised its rear subframe and sills thereby preventing it from getting an MOT, so I never got to drive it on the road (...well maybe once). It was a pretty rubbish car, but it had me hooked. The only kind of car I was interested in was an old one. I spent hours pouring through Practical Classics looking for a replacement. Luckily Molly turned up at a local garage and the rest is history.

My little brother on the other hand, had no such revelation. He needed a car (a suitably slow one for a younger driver) and Dad had an idea. A 1954 series I landrover was sourced. This beast with its 2 litre petrol engine and soft top, neatly transported Jez and his friends around the local countryside to and from the local pubs at a nice sedate top speed of 50 mph (less if you wanted to hold a conversation). When it snowed they often set of round the local lanes with a tow rope, searching for people to help!

To the rescue!

Much like myself, Jez has held on to the lannie - well more precicely Dad has. Over the years it has been tweaked and tinkered with. New parts have been fitted and engines have been rebuilt. It now sports a Fairy Overdrive, making those 50mph conversations a much more reasonable prospect. Jez is now lucky enough to have somewhere to safely store and tinker with it so he has retrived it from Dad's house.

This lannie ain't no garage queen though. These photos were taken at the Malham show a few weeks ago. Where it was earning its keep on a good long distance run.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Give us a tune then George....

... ok then....

Jessica has been plagued by moss in her windows since we got her. It gathers (unlike a rolling stone) between the two sliding windows on each side, and in the channel they slide in. Apart from making her look even more untidy, it allows the channels to stay damp therefore causing more damage.

So... (you know where this is going don't you) I decided to make use of this weekend's sunny weather and do do something about it! I started by removing the trim strip, taking out each of the 30 odd screws and replacing them with stainless self tappers. Once they were all changed, I bravely took them all out again and levered the window out....

Easy peasy! The window came out of the frame without a hitch, so all that was left was to clean off the putty (yup real old fashioned window putty), clean the windows and put it all together again!

Daddy's little helper - no.. don't stand there...

Shiny shiny...