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Chassis #188 update

Mike Meakin encounters people at SVA and DVLA

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As you know, I had to postpone my first SVA appointment, having found on the 1st runway "shakedown" that the car would only actually move in 1st or reverse (not a problem in and out of the garage/turn round in the drive) due to a less-than-engaged clutch. Nothing for it but to undo everything, separate the engine and gearbox to see what was amiss. It turned out to be a modified clutch fork with the two pads set slightly too far forward. Bolting up the engine and gearbox pre-loaded the clutch, even without the cable attached. That sorted and everything reconnected/reassembled and runway "shakedown 2" went well with the car pulling well, tracking straight and pulling up square. Various adjustments ( alter mudguard stays to prevent rubbing on the tyres/ adjust handbrake now that pads had settled, cables too, check out reason for offside carb flooding) and we were just about ready for SVA.

On the day, it was raining fit to bust - doing battle with Norwich rush hour, Ring Road traffic in an unfamiliar, untested car seemed like a bad idea, so the car was trailered to SVA. Alan and I arrived, ten minutes late - the car wouldn't have looked worse if it had been festooned with seaweed. The tester (whom I recognised as the same chap that tested John Ward's Brooklnads 4 years ago) was brisk and impersonal - didn't want to look at the CD of build photos, unless we'd brought something to view them on. No question of loading them on to VOSA's computer to view - may have a virus.

The test started off with checking lights. The tester had some difficulty finding his way round my "system". Turn ignition key on (master switch activated), turn fuel pump on, turn ignition module on, press red button. "You could grow old trying to steal this" was the comment.Then there's the lights: with the exception of the hazards, all the toggle switches are alike and unlabelled - having established that everything was working (as required, some 'live-all-the-time', the rest ' ignition key switched'), he then went through an exhaustive sequence of trying everything 'in combination'. This was, he explained, to ensure that there were no awkward earth returns whereby operating one circuit might cause another to activate as earth. Fortunately, no fault there. He did find fault with the offside headlamp beam pattern: cutoff was not level. At this point he "had something else to do" for 10 minutes and went inside.Left to our own devices, the headlamp rim was removed, the lamp unit turned slightly in the rim and the "W" clips replaced - just the job you'd choose when tense and nervous! The quick fix worked - when he returned, retried the lights' settings and found both beams fine.

Instead of using edge radius 'gauges' (I'd seen these used before), the tester ran his fingers over EVERY edge of the car, including inside the cockpit and under the dash. The only comment was "You must use a lot of dome nuts". Placing the seat belt guide height device on the seat base, a couple of vertical height to the ground measurements were taken, but swivelling the device round, it was so clearly well below the stainless rail, over which the belts ran, no actual measurement was taken. The car was then put on the hoist, with me in the drivers seat whilst everything below was examined. Particular attention was paid to every joint in the braking system with the pedal pushed firmly (i.e. under pressure). That completed, the next stage was brakes testing. The rollers first weighed the car, back and front with the results set against the design weights, with dimensions of wheelbase, track and length fed in to the computer. My car actually weighed 376kgs (rather more than that with me in it!). Brakes were tested with the examiner wearing a pressure sensitive pad on his right foot. Brakes were tested for each wheel separately, in axle pairs and at a range of different pressure inputs - even the handbrake was tested for each wheel and then for both (tests how well the pads were adjusted, I guess). The computer then worked out front and rear brake efficiency, front/rear balance, side to side front balance then same for the rear. My handbrake got "typical 2CV handbrake" from the tester, but passed. My footbrake came up with 80% - as a pass was 57%, I was reassured (and pleased) with that.

Speedo test: OK at 30mph, 40mph and just, at 50 mph, but Oh dear, at an indicated 70mph, the car was doing 73! I'd explained that the speedo was calibrated "on the fly" from the cockpit - Alan and I having set it up to match a satnav on the shakedown. Nothing for it but to adjust the indication up, EXCEPT that being a 220 mph speedo, the car had to be travelling at 30% or more of the speedo's maximum indication to re-calibrate. This meant that the tester had to hold the car at 70mph (on the rollers) whilst I toggled the speedo needle to read higher. It was necessary to tie the car down at the front! The next glitch was that having got the speedo needle to read 75 mph at 70, that speed had to be held for 2 minutes, when the speedo 'sensed' the new setting and reset. By this time, the BMW engine was VERY hot - exhausts had turned blue and the oil temperature was showing 100degrees C : the desk fan from the VOSA Office did little to air-cool the engine. However, a restart and test run sequence showed that the speedo was reading above actual at each stage, so that box was ticked. "Good time to do the emissions test" said the tester and drove the car out of the test shed, around the marshalling yard and back in at the other end. Offside carb tiddled on the floor. "Need to do something about that" said tester, so I switched the fuel pump off and let the carbs run dry. Switched back on again, the car restarted and the emissions test was done - well inside. The car had to be backed out for noise test and mirrors evaluation out in the yard (for safety's sake I switched the fuel pump off until power was needed for the noise test). I thought the blast from the exhausts would blow the microphone down the yard, but no, he showed me, well inside requirements (for good measure I'd fitted a pair of motorcycle pipe mutes - each one is said to be capable of quietening a 1,000cc motorbike 'can', so one in each pipe seemed like good sense.

We were then left for about 10 minutes whilst tester "made some calculations", returning simply to say "Here's your certificate". Three hours and 48 minutes had passed with no real indication of which way things were going. The tester was extremely thorough and unhurried throughout and in fairness, allowed opportunity to make slight corrections (but not in his presence). I was sure he was going to reject the "speedo re-calibration" exercise, but he explained that having set it up with a satnav, we had probably been too precise - the test required it to overread and therefore it made sense to reset using the rollers that would actually do the testing.

Dazed, but elated, the car was put back on the trailer: SVA DONE!

You would have thought, after SVA, that DVLA re-registration would be a doddle. Not a bit of it. Having sent off ALL the required papers and evidence on the day of SVA pass, applying for an age-related registration, absolute silence from DVLA. Chasing the application up (you have to ring Swansea who then notify the local DVLA, who ring back 'in due course') I was given a chaser reference. I still find it incredible that anyone can devise a chaser reference system including ZZZZZZ in the sequence! Eventually, I get a call from DVLA Norwich - they need to inspect my car - at the Norwich SVA site again! An appointment confirmation letter arrives dated March 2008 (3 months ago!!) referring to the registration of my PEMBLINGTON BROOKLYN. Clearly, they've studied my submitted papers.

On the day, at Norwich SVA site ( Tuesday morning, the same day as my SVA test had been, is the only day they inspect for DVLA) the young girl wants to see the serial numbers of the Citroen components (gearbox, steering, suspension etc) - I point to said components, but explain there are no serial numbers. Engine number of BMW lump confirmed. VIN number - plate on the outside of the flare, plate on the chassis number platform under the bonnet, another plate on the spare wheel carrier at the back. All have the correct VIN Number, but a problem. Where is the one stamped on the chassis by the manufacturer? There is to be no discretion on this - confirmation from DVLA Swansea is sought - confirmation comes back. The VIN MUST be stamped in to the fabric of the frame, not just a plate which is then riveted on. So in order to avoid another appointment and comply, a set of number/letter stamps is bought from Machine Mart. Could we borrow a hammer from VOSA workshops? No, Health & Safety won't permit that - we might injure ourselves using their tools....! So, having selected the lamp bar as accessible and using my copper wheel spanner mallet, the VIN number was eventually stamped on - inevitably, in the process, the powder coating flaked away, leaving the stamped impressions on bare tube. Box for "VIN number stamped on chassis" ticked, I now qualify for an age-related plate. A tax disc and registration details authority (which I can use to have plates made up) will be with me in 2 to 3 working days. Actual registration document will take at least 6 weeks to arrive from Swansea. No, I don't get my MAC back - so what I present to the police in lieu of an MAC/MOT certificate, goodness knows.

Ten days later, I'm still awaiting my tax disc and age-related number notification - guess I'll have to ring and get some more ZZZZZZZZZs to trigger another chaser call. NEARLY THERE! (Then I can actually finish and drive the car).

Follow the link for some pictures of the completed car.

Mike Meakin


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