Linda and I travelled down to London today to visit the Tower of London as the “Tower of London Remembers, ” fittingly closes on November 11th. It was ironic that today was the day BBC Radio 5 chose to have a heated debate on the merits of filling the Tower moat with a Sea of Red which was a reflection of the 888,000 men who lost their lives in the Great War.
I hadn’t actually considered that some would be outraged or disgusted at the tribute but the Radio 5 listeners often surprise me. I hadn’t actually considered that using art to commemorate the sacrifices made was bad form, In fact my memory abounds of many using creative media to report, explain, understand or exorcise. I haven’t read much poetry in my life but I was given a pocket book of Siegfried Sassoon poetry as a small boy by my Mother “because it was important” and I remember that among the first films my Father bought after obtaining a Bell & Howell 8mm projector was “Wings over the Western Front”. The flickering black and white images offered in silence were poignant statements, the lyrical words emphasised the horror; 888,000 poppies rammed home the sheer volume of lost life. What other way would there be to show what 888,000 looks like? Each poppy a person, each poppy a telegram, each poppy a wake of despair and a future irrevocably changed. Art? Maybe. Brutal? definitely. Fitting? absolutely.
We managed to find a reasonably quiet spot, near Traitors Gate, to take a moment to reflect. I’m in no way religious and I believe that those who wish for war should be the first into the melee, rather than barking orders from a safe distance but the words of the poem that is rolled out every Remembrance Sunday echoed around my head. “They shall not grow old as we grow old, ….Age shall not weary them, … They sleep beyond England’s foam.”
Somewhere in that moat was my Great Grandfather, he didn’t make it back across the foam in any manner. Lost forever in the mud of the Somme. I picked a Poppy, it seemed brighter than the rest, that was him. I shared a moment in the pouring rain and considered what had been and what could have been, for things were certainly very different for those he left behind. I then looked across the “bloodswept land” and tried to take in the 888,000 futures that could have been.
There are plenty of ways to dispute the validity of war. There are plenty of ways to show anger at a system and plenty of ways to try and push a twisted vision of patriotism The Poppy isn’t one of them it is as it was meant to be, an icon of Remberance.
There can be few things as unintentionally funny as witnessing a conman bluster manufactured outrage after being accused of being a conman and then proven to be a conman. The usual defence of indignant silence when presented with evidential facts goes out of the window once the game is up. When the stock response to being caught red handed is not to dignify sordid allegations of being bang to rights with a rebuttal will not work, then the only course of action is to summon up carefully rehearsed apoplectic fury.
David Cameron`s tub-thumping lectern abuse in Brussels on Friday was not just hilarious, but also smacked of a chocolate covered kid denying he had stolen the Mars Bar. To be fair to the Chipping Norton conman, being presented with an unexpected bill for nearly £1.7billion would make any of us bang the table and search out someone…
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
The Hydrate 80 at work
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.