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Cycle Cars Rule OK?


Duncan Grimmond

Since the end of February I seem to have spent a lot of time doing things to the car which were absolutely vital but didn't seem to make much visisble difference.

Cyclecars rule OK

I had things to plan for, like a jolly to Montlhery, and some of that work stuff which was inconvenient but essential to pay the bills.

The wings were always flapping about in the back of my mind and the question "Do I need running boards?" hovered with them. I pulled bit of zinc offcut from behind the guillotine and started playing with shapes. Mr Parr was adamant that running boards would look better, I'd looked at the "Burleigh" Austin 7 and decided it was too much like a cricket poised to spring.

The first attempt was not satisfactory and I must have wasted half a sheet of ali trying to achieve a pleasing look and I eventually settled on this with some running boards to go with the wings. Plywood clad in aluminium with ali channel holding rubber tread strips.

Cyclecars rule OK
Cyclecars rule OK
Cyclecars rule OK

Once again I've used Royal Enfield nacelle sidelights as repeater indicators and there is now a snazzy brass escutcheon available to fit them. I've hidden the indicators under the wings to try to maintain a vintage look.

The rear number plate is split into two, half on each side of the diff. using exhaust clamps onto the axle-tube with Sunbeam/BSA rear lights for stop/tail/number illumination.

Cyclecars rule OK

Time just disappears when engaged in things of this nature but at least, there's a reason to rush down to the workshop every day!

The only pictures of a Burleigh I'd seen showed a car with a Vee screen so I started looking for a supplier. I found a very helpful chap at Wessex Workshops and having sent him a sketch I nearly fell of the floor when he estimated £2200.00 - £2500.00 to make one for me. Not that it was too expensive but it was a lot more than I had anticipated.

In the metal rack was some 1mm and 1.2mm brass sheet so I started playing with cardboard and polycarbonate sheet before moving to that. After much swearing and trapped fingery managed to make a slanted channel which I could solver-solder into a frame and mount on some 2mm brass supports. The whole frame-making exercise took four days and now I understand why the price from Wessex was so high. There is a lot of work involved in custom-making a screen frame.

Cyclecars rule OK

Having made a single thin ply template for the glass I took it to my friendly local merchant and waited for their call to say it was ready.

Cyclecars rule OK

To occupy the glass-cutting time I set to with a length of dowel and had a go at a forward aspect.

I found a pair of small headlights at S-V-C, a cross-bar made from hydraulic tubing (this has become a favourite of mine) and voila the front end looked something like. Two weeks later the glass was ready and the lamps had arrives and I'd made the plates to carry the lights and for the ends and managed to stick them all together to end up with this.

Cyclecars rule OK

followed fairly quickly by this

It take only a few moments and key strokes to write and edit the tale but that seemed to represent a couple of months work since when not much has changed in the physical appearance of the car.

However, in the intervening weeks I'd gathered all sorts of parts to rebuild the steering box, replace the start-handle nose cone, a new casting to carry the dynamo and fan bearing etc. I knew work was going to have to be done on the engine but I wanted to drive the thing to find out what was what and so I took it to my partner in crime Martin, he of the empty loom-smoke jar. How he manages to get it all inside the insulation baffles me…

While Martin was fitting the electric strings I was rebuilding the distributor with new base-plate, cap, points, condenser and HT leads. When this was fitted I naturally assumed the engine would cough into life on the first pull of the starter cable as nothing had been disturbed since the engine was last seen running 2 years previously.HoHoHo!

The points were "new old stock" in an original 1960s box emblazoned with the legend, "It is essential that the protective oil be removed from the faces of the contacts" or something like that. I had religiously cleaned all traces of oil and installed the points with the correct gap. Nothing I did would make a spark appear. I went to a car show and inspected the distributors on a couple of Sevens and of course, my fitting was correct. I took the points out and cleaned the faces again and as I was doing this I noticed they started to shine. The faces had oxidised to the point of non-conductivity and when they were re-installed it sparked up like a good'un.

With the engine running and not sounding half-bad the next thing was to drive it. I assumed that the clutch plates would be stuck due to lack of use and the landlord of the pub who has a 1928 Seven suggested his trick, engage reverse and then go for first so I tried this. Again. Nothing I did would persuade the clutch to disengage and allow me to engage a gear without horrific grinding and grating of teeth. Adjust the pedal action? I just managed to get it into gear and drive it and it felt pretty good and relatively lively! Further attempts did not make matters better so there was only one solution which involved taking the engine and gearbox out. Oh the pain!

With the engine warm I drained the oil (which came out looking like dark coffee with milk) and drained the radiator ready for the extraction. I know, air cooled is far better!

Surprisingly, this was fairly painless and with the unit on the bench I got into the bell-housing and inspected the clutch.

Without wishing to bore you with the intimate details of the innards, suffice it to say that the lad we bought the car from had bodged any and everything in a truly cowboy style. I ordered new clutch parts, swore at the intricacies of the fine adjustments for 80 years of wear, put it all back together and it didn't work.

As the détente springs/balls were allowing the gear lever to drop from 1st or 3rd into 2nd or top gear I arranged for a local(ish) boffin in Newton Aycliffe to do the necessary and when I went to collect it he explained why the clutch wasn't working. Laddo had cut down a vital component which meant that the thrust bearing was not completing its full travel. I suppose that this is the sort of thing one should expect to find on an 80 year old car which probably changed hands several times in the days when you could buy 4 Austin 7s for twenty quid….

Back home, rebuild engine /gearbox unit and re-install. The for'ard end of the bodywork including the radiator was re-fitted, all re-connected and Vroom, it goes!

A drive round the yard was satisfactory so open the gates and onto the road for the 100 yard dash to the pub car park and caravan park behind it. All highly illegal but the chances of getting nicked in the village are fairly remote.

It runs rather well and I'm quite amused by the whole thing and back to the workshop. Another laddo bodge shows itself in that after a run, the over-tightened front wheel bearing is now showing signs of wear, explaining the "threepenny-bit" steering.

You can get replacement brake linings to rivet on yourself and pretty much anything else you need for an Austin so all this will be attended to. The seats need upholstering and a tonneau will finish it off but the Benjaustin is pretty much there and has been christened "Mathilde" for my granddaughter.

With insurance at £59.00 pa which seems to be a bargain, I'm now street legal and headed towards road-worthiness and some minor entertainment in the Spring.

Yes, Cyclecars Rule OK!

Cyclecars rule OK
Cyclecars rule OK
Cyclecars rule OK

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