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Ian Cameron's BMW Brooklands - the build so far

Are you sitting comfortably? Well I shall begin. I had always hankered after a useable classic car to drive and tinker with but never had a realistic chance to own one. I had spent 20 years flying fast jets for Her Majesty and had to move house every 3 years having been based in the UK, Germany and America – as well as the nomadic lifestyle, I was often away in the Iraqi Riviera and Costa del Bosnia for months at a time so leaving a less than reliable classic at home wouldn’t have met with total approval from home command! Well 3 years ago my flying days with the RAF came to an end and I now work as a ‘chauffeur’ for Virgin Atlantic – one half of the month I drive a 360 ton ‘company vehicle’ around the world and the other half is free for me to pursue my new hobby.... I liked the idea of a classic car but didn’t like the idea of either a ‘rust-bucket’ or an unusable ‘concours’ machine to just polish and admire – I was searching around for a car I liked the look of, knew was in excellent condition and one that I could ‘get up close and personal with’ in the garage. This led me along the kit car route. The only problem is that I just couldn’t get over the ‘plastic’ body shell issue – until I stumbled across the Pembleton! It was a bit of a eureka moment – I loved the 1920/1930s look all topped off with lashings of polished aluminium adorned with the sort of riveting that reminded me of early aircraft. I was hooked! After visiting Mike Meakin and Duncan Grimmond and seeing how well these fantastic cars could turn out, I visited Phil and placed my order for a Brooklands that would be powered by the mighty BMW boxer engine. Now there are already some great articles on building Pembletons so in this article I want to go through the differences that I have made to my car from the Phil’s original plans. I definitely wanted to remain true to the original concept and looks but make small improvements where previous builders had discovered a better design solution or simply improved the car. Some call it evolution – I call it pinching other mates’ ideas!

Chassis Modifications

The chassis had some simple modifications carried out straight after I picked it up. I have never welded (in fact 20 years of owning Hondas and the like I haven’t touched any tools more complicated than a spanner and an oily rag!) but I do live 500 yards from a very helpful welders - £50 cash for a couple of hours work and all the chassis modifications were done. The list included attaching a couple of VIN plates (produced at the local engravers on some scrap steel for a few pounds) – one for the front horizontal plate next to the brake master cylinder and one at the rear (see the photo), putting in a higher seat-belt mounting bracket to help keep the seat belt mountings horizontal and welding a couple of captive nuts to accommodate ‘adjustable’ rear exhaust mounts and to aid easier mounting of these mounts and avoid ‘squeezing’ the aluminium skin when tightening up these brackets. Finally, I had a ‘front bracket’ manufactured from 1 inch steel tube so I could more easily mount the front number plate, an oil cooler and a sump bash plate and, just in case, make the car easier to tow!

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Fuel tank

I had decided that I wanted a better fuel tank to try to improve the range – the BMW lump would be thirstier than the 2CV engine and the ultimate aim is to tour the continent. After discussions with Mike M, we both visited Grant at Optimum Balance Products at Ramsey Heights near Peterborough, and were impressed with the set-up. After measuring my Citroen tank from the donor and having Mike’s car available to measure the space available to fit a larger tank I ordered a new tank that has very nearly twice the capacity of the original! It also has a central inflow opening (less fuel filler pipe bending) and the capability to fit return pipe. I have initially mounted the tank so that it is vertically adjustable – once the rear floor is fitted (with a removable panel manufactured so I can access the sender and tank wiring) I will be able to raise or lower the tank to the optimum height for best ground clearance whilst keeping it clear of the floor. The tank was ‘designed’ to clear the rear floor by 1 inch at the top and have the same ground clearance as the original 2CV tank – it’s amazing how much extra capacity comes from ‘squaring – off’ the original tank’s round shape!

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Engine and Gearbox

I have already alluded to my somewhat rusty ‘mechanical skills’ so when it came to the engine and gearbox I was confident of only one thing – I needed professional help!! On a serious note, one of the reasons I wanted to embark on a build of this type was for the challenge and to learn more but I didn’t want my first engine and gearbox rebuild to jeopardise the quality of the build. I decided to find a BMW RS100 engine and carbs and have it rebuilt by an expert. I ended up using Steve Scriminger of Scriminger Engine Developments in Sleaford – Colin Wilson had used his services and Steve runs a small family business that specialises in BMW boxer engines (he is also an ex-RAF mechanic who maintained the Jet Provosts at RAF Cranwell in the eighties when I was instructing on them so must be good bloke!). I found an engine and carbs on eBay from a bike that was running but being broken but a chap who specialised in breaking Japanese bikes. When I arrived to pick up the engine and carbs, the seller was having trouble getting the engine out of the frame so he gave me the whole engine, carbs, gearbox and frame combo to take away – he even sent me the V5 through the post so I could sell on the frame and recoup some money!

I asked Steve S to completely strip and rebuild the engine and carbs to effectively turn them back to ‘zero hours’. It has been vapour blasted, ‘twin plugged’, fitted with a deeper sump, had all the fastening replaced with stainless ones, had the valves changed for unleaded fuel and had all the bearings, timing chain, guides etc replaced. Steve told me to come back in 100 000 miles time for another rebuild but we both admitted we may be the other side of the pearly gates before that happens!

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After some discussion with Mike M and researching the Pembleton forums, I decided to opt for a modified gearbox that has the Dyane crown wheel. The ‘extra mph for lower rpm’ would be useful for future continental cruising and I only live less than a mile from the A1 so a lot of my local journeys involve quick blasts up and down this road – also, if the gearing doesn’t suit it is fairly easy to source a ‘standard’ 2CV gearbox as a replacement, Anyway, Rick Pembro arrived at the house one night at 3am (no kidding!). Rick is a wizard with 2CVs and especially rebuilding gearboxes – I had been trying to get a modified gearbox from him so when he said he could drop one in on his way ‘up north’ I accepted his offer – Rick got delayed ‘slightly’ but I was happy to wait up and he duly arrived in his ancient 2CV. We had a chat, swapped gearboxes and I waved him goodbye an hour later with a fresh flask of coffee and some of my home-made cheese sandwiches – Mrs C had all the proof she needed that we are all a bit mad! As an aside, I had mentioned to him that I needed a spare front suspension arm as Phil had rung after I picked up my chassis to say he could not refurbish one of the arms I had given him – Rick just dropped in unannounced a month later with one for me and I had to force a £10 note on him for his trouble – what a great chap!

Well that’s the story so far. I have a rolling chassis with a working brake system and an engine/gearbox assembly installed. I haven’t discussed all the ‘usual’ refurbishment of the donor parts as there are others who have done so in previous articles but for the record, I have refurbished the steering rack and replaced all ‘consumable’ brake parts with new ones. So what have I learned up to this point? The website is an enormous source of information (especially if you are a novice to this type of project) and that the people behind the information are infallibly helpful, patient and willing to spare their time to help ‘another Pembleton get born’. Special thanks must go to Mike M who has spent hour after hour patiently explaining to me how he built his car and then has watched me steal all his good ideas (and Eileen’s tea and biscuits!). Duncan G and Alan walker have also had to endure my schoolboy questions and I must thank Colin W for his great hospitality at last year’s Dambusters.

I have had had a great time so far and I will write another update once I reach another ‘build milestone’ – please email on the website if you have any questions or want any extra information. I have built slightly out of sequence compared to the Build Guide based on reading the website and taking note of previous builders’ comments – so all the under-floor brake and fuel lines are installed along with some multi-core trailer cable to connect the front and rear electrics. Now for the small matter of panelling – only the electrics seem more of a black art! In the meantime, here are another couple of pictures of ‘my baby’ so far.

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Cheers All,

Ian (aka Ronmace)

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