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.
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.
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. .
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.
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