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.