Midge Mk2 build diary. (chassis work complete)

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After what seems like an age, the rejuvenating of the SJ chassis is complete. Anything that is still rusty in the pictures is being replaced by new bits so no thinking I’m being slapdash.IMAG0094 IMAG0069

Connor had a lesson in making fuel lines and I set about the painful task of cutting the stainless steel braided fuel line. The final job was to give everything a good clean with Bilt Hamner Surfex HD and the jetwash. This included the drive which has suffered a real hammering over the last few weeks. I am smugly happy with the finished job and looking back at pre clean up photos it is hard to believe how far it has come on.

As Connor has finished college for a while, I have taken the coming week off work so that we can start the bodywork and I really can’t wait; so I didn’t. The first job was to seal the floor from the elements using a concoction of PVA glue and Wilkinsons exterior wood and metal paint as suggested by John Cowperthwaite in his car build manual. I was a little less than convinced but there is no denying the finished panels look amazing. I mixed the glue and undercoat and applied it with an emulsion roller over the plywood which had been pretreated with watered down PVA. The resulting textured effect was very pleasing. After being allowed to dry properly I finished with a couple of coats of satin black applied with a gloss roller. I tested the strength of the finish with my fingernail and the fingernail lost, who needs emery boards when you have a Midge floor?

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So that is where we are. Tuesday the interesting work starts for real, I will try and update my blog daily but if I can’t the pictures should make it to Twitter with monotonous frequency at @aideym

 

midge Mk2 build diary

I experienced my first session of car build blues over the last couple of weeks. I know it won’t be the last but as I write the latest update it is more with a sense of relief that satisfaction.
The task involved removing and renovating the front axle and leaf springs which were very grubby at best. They had been married for the last 30 years and were quite happy with their lot. Removing them was never going to be easy even with the assistance of an angle grinder.

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I didn’t even try to undo the U bolts, I just cut half way through them and the snapped them off. This was before I discovered that replacements weighed in at £60 a set. It wouldn’t have altered the modus operandi, it would just have been executed with moist eyes. The rubber bushes had melded into a compound with the steel springs and had to be part drilled, part burned to remove them. I got a replacement set for a reasonable £35 although they were cheap by virtue of being a rather strange shade of purple.

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The next step was to separate the spring leaves, should that be leafs? And then dump them in a bath of rust remover. The bath was fashioned from shuttering ply from the oddments bin at the local time merchants. I lined this with a waterproof membrane and was ready to add the remover. Now the observant reader may notice that this membrane changes colour in the pictures, this wasn’t as a result of the chemical process but because there is waterproof and waterproof. Just because a material repels moisture doesn’t mean it will contain it. I therefore advocate the use of builders membrane over tarpaulin.

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The rust removal was one again left to a Bilt  Hamner product, the Oxy C in the bath and the Oxy Gel on the bits I couldn’t get in the bath. The C makes 20 litres of solution per kilo of material. This was more than adequate for my needs. It is biodegradable and contains no nasty chemicals. The parts soaked for a couple of days and then washed off. The results were nothing short of remarkable.

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The gel didn’t produce the same level of rust removal but it was far better than I would have managed by any other means available to me and certainly once the paint was applied the finish was none the poorer.

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Armed with paint brushes and Hammerite Smooth Black I spent the next few years covering the rejuvenated parts to a satisfactory standard. It only took a couple of coats but at the same time I had decided to paint the anti roll bar and the steering box silver. As I couldn’t get any brush paint from Wilkos, I resorted to using spray and even though a little more work had to put in to masking parts off and more consideration given to overspray, I think the finished result was far better and worth the extra effort. For that reason when I do the next batch of parts I will be spraying them.

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After putting it off for a number of days I finally got on with the inevitable and rebuilt the springs and mated everything together. For no apparent reason I had a mare of a job getting the new U bolts into place, it took two hours to persuade them to play nice and the rest of the connecting up took another two hours. I am getting too old and infirm for bullying car parts but as I stood back and admired the handiwork I had to admit it was worth it.

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I will be reconditioning the swivel hubs at a later date and it makes sense to paint them when they are apart. Now that is a job I am looking forward to as I became increasingly sick to the back teeth of painting. I still have the back axle to do so I had best man up and get it done over the next week so the drive can be used again.

The Midge Mk2 build diary

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As I sat regaining my lungs overlooking the Isle of Man from the lofty viewpoint of St Bees Head I couldn’t help thinking that Alfred Wainwright was on to something with his gushing love of the Lake District. I also couldn’t help thinking he could sod walking it and that he was missing a trick. The motor car was beginning to take a hold of the hearts and minds of modern Britain and with the unfortunate exception of breaking down on Hardknott Pass, it is a damn sight easier on the body.

And so it was I returned from my week in Beatrix Potter land refreshed and with renewed motivation to get on with the Midge Mk11 build. The chassis had been languishing in my lockup as a result of a lack of funds and an insurmountable incline into the garage. I am sure Wainwright would have included it on one of his walks had he not been otherwise occupied in Cumbria.

With a week of nights in front of me, I was presented with the chance to get a few hours in each day and I was keen to get the chassis painted and deal with the tricky logistical problem at the lock up. At the time of writing it has mostly been a successful week.

First off I decided to do something about the brakes, there was a lot of rust on the calipers and they were partially seized to the discs. This certainly wasn’t helping with moving the car about and needed to be dealt with sooner than later. I took the cheap option to de-rust them by the power of electrolysis and although this is something akin to alchemy it only requires a battery charger, a bucket and some household chemicals. The negative lead connects to the rusty metal and the positive lead connects to a sacrificial piece of steel. The whole lot, excluding the charger is plunged into a bath of Sodium Carbonate (washing soda) and then the magic takes over. As I stand holding shiny, rust free calipers with a smug look on my face I can’t help feeling grateful that science was invented.

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It’s just your basic science innit!

The task of preparing the chassis for painting took a fair bit of time and the pile of redundant bits of dead metal grew further as did the pile of smuggled farm yard. The metal fuel lines had rusted through in a couple of places and a number of bolts firmly tightened in Japan led to interesting times, especially with only one proper working arm. I suspect I will be buying an impact gun to compliment my newly purchased compressor in very short order.

Eventually (three sessions) I was ready to paint. The chassis was solid with just a few areas of scabby surface rust. These were treated with the very excellent Bilt Hamner Hydrate 80 before being washed down with thinners and elbow grease. After spending hours pouring over chassis paint specifications I ended up using Frost Black Chassis paint primarily because I had a chassis I wanted black, it was also cheap. Application involved heating the paint to 25 degrees and then adding white spirit. It was very easy to apply and most of it ended up on the car and not on me which was a result. I have to say I am extremely pleased with how it looks and the resplendent black has a slimming effect on the chassis whilst the glossy coat has lifted and revitalised the look, throwing back the seven signs of aging, (rust, grime and five others).

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Before

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The Hydrate 80 at work

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After

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The next jobs on the list are reconditioning the leaf springs and sorting the pipe work out, more next payday. Now all I have to do is get the thing back into the lockup before Linda needs the drive again.

It’s Show Time

Being an apparently seasoned blogger with a commitment to supplying the latest gossip and up to the minute updates I suppose it was expected of me to put something together with regard to my visit to the Practical Classics Renovation show at the NEC which occurred over the weekend. And so it was that I received my ticket in good time only to discover the day before that the ticket had gone missing and with batteries for the camera fully charged I managed to arrive at the NEC sans memory cards. Not to worry I could always phone home except I had also managed to leave my phone at home too. Oh well, you will just have to take my word for it when stating how fabulous it was to visit the show.

The show was held in two on the many Halls at the NEC which indicates it probably wasn’t a massive event. A quarter of one of the halls was turned over to an auction for “barn find” cars. It surprises me just how many barns are left undiscovered in a country equipped with more surveillance cameras per capita than any other in the civilised world, let alone the numerous Aston Martins and Rolls Royces’ left to fester in them. In fact, part of my manifesto for leader of the world will make claiming barn find vehicles punishable by death. Parking a knackered Nova in a garage for two years whilst enthusiastically contemplating making it road worthy does not  qualify as making a barn find when you come to move it after being evicted by the council.

The majority of the first hall was turned over to autojumble stalls with the odd exception of a few well known retailers. I had a whale of a time browsing through their offerings although I had a very strict shopping list required for the midge project their was no harm in having a look. It was at this point when I happened across Chris Barrie cutting a slightly strange figure dressed in a tweed suit, I decided not to engage him in conversation as he reminded me too much of a Tory for me to feel comfortable in his company. Hopefully it was an act. Other notable celebrities  on show were Edd China, Mike Brewer and Fuzz Townsend. None of which were wearing Tweed but similarly I avoided talking to them as I am clearly not worthy. Mike Brewer came across as a genuinely nice guy, Edd came across as a bigger celebrity than I thought he would and Fuzz had a great hat.

I can’t help feeling a number of companies that should have been there and weren’t have missed a trick. There is certainly more than a passing interest in car renovation, classic vehicles and getting your hands dirty but the industry innovators were largely missing and that is a shame as Britain is a nation of tinkerers looking for something to make their own and this show was an ideal platform to give them direction.

In my next blog I hope I will have put some of my purchases to good use as I expect to get the chassis painted and the brake and fuel lines replaced. Well there’s hoping.

The simple task of removing the body from a Suzuki SJ Part 2

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The story so far. We took one innocent and un-abused Suzuki SJ413 away from the farm it had retired to 11 years ago with the sole intention of taking it apart and discarding all the pretty bits to enable us to rebody the chassis into something more interesting, namely a replica of a 1930’s open top sports car. This is day 2 and aside from a few wires, cables and bolts the task is all but done.

The first job of the day was to get the chassis and the body separated. The theory was the six bolts would come undone with little or no persuasion and we would place chocks between the two parts, this worked a treat on the front as both chassis bolts snapped off in the chassis, the other four surrendered a lot easier but there things started to go awry. Despite a fair deal of brutality the body wouldn’t part. The angle grinder was called in to action and despite the removal of the offending bolts, everything stayed put. At this point common sense would dictate that there had to be more bolts somewhere. Unfortunately there was 1/2 a tonne of Buckinghamshire on the underside of the car. After a few minutes I was wearing most of the mud and two more bolts had revealed themselves. With some relief the body finally separated and we were back under way. The remainder of the work passed without hitch, it just seemed never ending. As lunch time arrived we were in a position to take the body to the metal recyclers. The easiest way was to strap the body down to the chassis and take it lock and stock, get them to remove the body with their forklift and return the chassis home and for once everything went as planned.

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(If only I had actually taken a picture of the body coming off then we would have something interesting to put here, in absence of something interesting, here are the pictures of the before and after.)

Once home the final job was to remove Buckinghamshire and return the chassis to the garage. We had some fun with the pressure washer and stood back to admire the results.

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(The two blue bags in the background contain the swept up mud that was attached to the chassis)

Time was getting on and Connor had a train to catch so we shot round to the garage and then we hit upon the bit I hadn’t really planned properly, or indeed, at all. Getting a now non running SJ back into a seriously uphill garage. Things started out ok, we got it squared up and it was moving pretty freely right up to the pot hole one metre before the door. Try as we might we couldn’t move it further. I tried to use the towball of my car against the chassis, which seemed like a really good idea to me. The fact that Connor didn’t think it was should have warned me of the dangers as Connor rarely thinks. Ten minutes and one dint in the bumper later, the SJ was at the bottom of the slope with my towball hooked under the chassis. After much cursing and a trip home for resources (a lump of 4×4) I was just strapping the wood to the chassis when a nice Polish chap turned up and set about manhandling the car into the garage pretty much single handedly. I couldn’t thank him enough but I am now pretty afraid of getting the car out the garage again.

As the monthly car budget has been spent, there won’t be much work done until after Easter but I do need to rig something up to get over the mountain in front of the garage. I think I will look at rigging up a winch system or for the time-being seeing if the starter motor will stand up to the task. I cetainly won’t be experimenting without reinforcements, just in case it won’t.

The Simple task of removing the body from a Suzuki SJ Part 1

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After waiting three weeks for the planets to align and the Dalai Lama to pop round and bless the project I found myself unable to delay things any longer. The time had arrived to remove the body from the SJ. First things first, this is occurring on our drive, with no special tools, just large amounts of foolish confidence. The logistical issues started even before the battery was disconnected as my roll cab had to be manhandled from my workshop to the front of the house. This necessitated a ramp to be made and moving most of the workshop around to get the tools out.

At the crack of nine o’clock the first spanner was wielded in anger. The bonnet and the rear door offered no resistance, the same could not be said for the doors. Somebody somewhere in Japan must be pissing themselves at how they designed the door hinges to be held on with large cross head bolts and no amount of persuasion caused them to yield. As the hinges are needed for the rebody the easy option of cutting them off was unavailable to us so the next best option of welding nuts to the bolts was called into action. This required the welder being unearthed from the bowels of my workshop and manhandled up the garden in a wheel barrow replete with punctured tyre. Oh the joy of it all. The joy continued as the welder’s shroud collapsed and the tip melted. This happened to be the last tip and the first road trip began to buy some welding supplies. Eventually all the bolts surrended and the doors parted company with the body.

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After that is was merely a case of removing everything that looked like to was attached and didn’t want to be. The wiring loom was removed and carefully marked up. The last time I built a car the wiring proved more complicated than Sudoko after a Tequila tasting session and I was mindful not to suffer a repeat. .

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Dinner was enjoyed from the comfort of the SJ’s seats

The afternoon was spent in the same vein as the morning, going through the endless list of parts that needed removing. None of it was particularly taxing, a number of parts really didn’t want to budge but were made to do so, I had to create a puller to remove the steering wheel and it didn’t half go with a crack. A number of the redundant parts were perfectly serviceable and hopefully they will bring a few pennies back into the pot as will weighing in the body at the local metal recycling plant.

I am feeling quite nervous about the next stage, as I am not exactly able bodied and it looks quite heavy. I can’t quite get my head around how it will play out  I guess I will have the answer by tomorrow night.

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JC Midge Build Diary issue 2

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I thought it was time to give an update on how things are progressing. Although I haven’t published much, plenty has been going on behind the scenes and endless photographs of bits of plywood aren’t exactly interesting reading.

So as things stand, the task of cutting out the plywood parts is complete. This involved sticking the full size patterns onto the sheets and cutting around them. This was easy work and all down to the thorough job John Cowperthwaite did in producing them.

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(Apologies for the poor photographs in part due to the Severn Trent Van blocking access to my garage preventing me from getting the panels outside)

On Monday, Connor and I drove to Newport Pagnell to collect the donor vehicle for the project. A very reasonably priced Suzuki SJ413. It has spent the last 11 years on a farm being used as a “learn to drive” vehicle for the Farmer’s daughters. It has amassed a whopping 150 miles since 2003. The body gently succumbed to rust over the last decade but mechanically it is a low mileage, unmolested example of the marque. It was happy to start, go into gear and the chassis is pretty much perfect. I don’t think I could have found a better starting point for the Midge.

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(pictures courtesy of Connor)

I have just completed the first bit of real construction. The transmission tunnel comprises of 9 pieces of plywood and it went together pretty well but I think I will dry build the other panels onto the chassis before skinning them with aluminium so that I can get the fit just how I want it before committing myself to destroying £150 of aluminium.Image

(the glued transmission tunnel drying out in the warmth of the hallway allowed by the generosity of @no1LindaMason)

As I want two clear days to take the body off the SJ and I am going to need the help of Connor for the heavy work, this will have to wait until I can commandeer him away from college, however the progress won’t be stalled as I have the powder coating oven to build, at the moment it is cunningly disguised as a filing cabinet and a double oven. Time to get the angle grinder out me thinks

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Keep posted by subscribing to my blog for the continuing adventures of me and my Midge (MkII)

UPDATE
Can I just point out powder coating is unnecessary and just something I fancied doing

A Reassuring Response

All to often these days we see You Tube videos of reckless and dangerous driving affecting the lives of cyclists. After my accident I have tried to raise awareness of the need for greater tolerance by all road users to allow us all to get to where we intend to be in a safe manner.
Yesterday I sent an email to a road haulier regarding a you tube video of a reckless pass by a lorry on a cyclist.  I received a reply from the company’s Operations Manager and I am impressed by the manner in which he responded. I have copied it out below in full.
I often criticise, so it is only right I praise.
Perhaps there is a chance for us after all.

Good Morning

 Thank you for your email regarding the YouTube video.

Fagan & Whalley Ltd take driver training and road safety in general very seriously and have invested much time recently in promoting cycle safety, both from the point of view of the HGV driver and indeed from the view of the cyclists.

As recently as this Monday we provided a HGV and our Training Coordinator to Greater Manchester Police as part of their on-going campaign for education of road safety.

 In this instance it would appear the driver has misjudged the oncoming traffic island and had to cut-in sharply, and thankfully a collision was narrowly avoided.

 The driver has been reprimanded for his actions and will attend our safety course in the very near future.

 Thank you again for contacting us and be rest assured we take these instances very seriously

 Daniel Wood

Operations Manager