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.
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.
(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.
(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.
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.
(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.
(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.
(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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Can I just point out powder coating is unnecessary and just something I fancied doing
Midge MkII Build Diary part 1 (of many)
I guess this is part one of the Mighty Midge (MkII) build story. The plans arrived today. As you can see, they are very comprehensive. How it goes, only time will tell.
A fair portion of my monthly budget went on buying the plans from John Cowperthwaite at Lightning Cars and sorting out the security for garage the car will be stored in so it will be a fairly quiet month on the build. As a number of the patterns are simply reversed for each side I bought a sheet of 12mm MDF and I will cut out a templates in that and make any mistakes on the cheaper material. From there I will use a template cutter on my router table to make the identical panels in a fuss free manner.