December - another V8 plug stripped!

It suddenly struck me recently that I was as much to blame for stripping the last one as they had been left so long, and they probably need removing annually to put anti-seize on the threads if nothing else. So as they have been in since October last year I decided to remove them for copper-greasing. The helicoiled one came out, was greased and went back in fine, but the next one along from the helicoil was stiff all the way, which was a bad sign. Normally once a fraction of a turn has 'unlocked' them they unscrew the rest of the way by hand with the socket and short extension. The threads were completely clear so I greased them and screwed it back in by hand till it bottomed, then put the socket wrench on it for the final tightening of no more than a few degrees, and it just kept turning. Removed it again and there was a complete spiral of alloy in the threads. I'll have to modify the clamp I used to press the plug in last time - if I decide I want to continue using the car that is - as there are two plugs between adjacent exhaust manifold bolts in this position instead of just one, so they are further apart and the other plug lead is in the way. But the weather has been crap for so long now that both the MGBs have done negligible mileage over the last few months, and I've got a set of big-end shells ready for when I replace those while turning the right bank con-rods round the right way, so I'll probably just wait until I can get the helicoil kit again. The other six plugs came out OK, but to be sure as soon as I had 'unlocked' them I squirted some WD40 round the plug bases to hopefully lubricate the threads and not cause any more damage. But I may already have done that by leaving them in so long previously, so maybe can expect more stripped threads.

November - V8 clutch slave change

I'd noticed recently that the clutch master has needed topping-up several times during the year, normally it doesn't need it from one year's end to the next. No leaks down the pedal, or apparently dripping on the floor directly under the slave, although I have noticed more drips generally on that side of the engine. Jacked up the front and peeled back the slave boot, and it was full of fluid, so that's definitely the culprit. I'd already changed this once so wasn't best pleased, although it seems par for the course these days. Checked back and it was done (with the master and the hose) in 1999, which is 13 years and 30k ago, so not that long ago really. See the full story here.

October 9th - and yet another aircraft museum

Flying (ho ho) visit to Cosford RAF Museum to pick up a small die-cast model of the BBMF Lancaster for my eldest grandson, who has long admired the enamelled badge of the Lincolnshire Air Museum taxiing Lancaster that has been gracing Bee's dashboard for some years. That badge is no longer available, but hopefully he will appreciate this. The shop is ironically in the 'Cold War' hanger, containing the three V-bombers (the only place in the world where they can all be seen together) and so my third Vulcan this year. Also in December a pal sends me a link to a YouTube video of the TV programme of the Vulcan bombing raid on Port Stanley airfield following the invasion of the Falkland Islands by Argentina, broadcast earlier in the year but which I had missed. I sent that on to a couple of pals, and one had attended an MGCC lecture given by the president of the Vulcan to the Sky Trust which operates XH558, and the pilot of the raid on Port Stanley! And finally I get the XH558 calendar for Christmas, which rounds the year off nicely.

October 7th - an autumnal morning

A pitiful mileage in Bee this year (less than 1000, compared to over 3500 in Vee), with only two runs with the Navigator only one of which was an organised run back in May. But at least I'm getting some glorious autumnal Sunday morning runs, this is Packwood House in Warwickshire.

October 3rd - yet another new screen for Vee

What I was looking through for 400 miles.

Wasn't impressed with the telephone manner of the company my insurance obliges me to use. They wanted me to go to them, leave it with them for half a day, in an industrial estate miles from anywhere. And I could imagine going to pick it up to find the wrong tint and no shade band, but having to pay the 50 excess or not getting the car back! I was all set to drive off if they were as bad in the flesh as on the phone, but they were OK so left it with them. They did ask me if I was going to wait, so I said I would, then they told me they had another one to do first! So off to find a bus into Brum (they did say they would come and pick me up), walk across the city to the Art Gallery, which I had had enough of in an hour. Contemplated the library but mobiles are banned, so then contemplated catching the train home and coming back in later. But rang to check on progress first, to be told it would be done in about 40 mins - good news. So walk back across the city, can't find the bus stop so start walking out until I reach the road I want and find a stop, and the right bus is approaching (my bus pass gets a rare outing). Watch out for the gasometers which are next to the industrial estate to see when to get off, and another walk. Waited another 20 mins or so for it to be finished, looks OK, and I'm home for about 1pm after traffic chaos on the Cov Road at Sheldon. It's only then I see some stress cracks in the anodising of the trim across the bottom of the screen, looks like they tried to pull it out and it buckled, but at least they straightened it well enough, and the cracking isn't really that noticeable.

September 28th-30th - Blencathra via (or maybe not) Sharp Edge

Back to Keswick, this time for Blencathra via Sharp Edge. However having seen pictures, reports of people getting 'crag-fast' (i.e. too scared to go forwards or back) and Julia Bradbury getting her leg over (so to speak) on Wainwrights Walks, and one of the few times the guide appeared on camera, I wasn't so sure I'd be doing the edge as my balance is not good when I'm exposed and can't use sticks or hang on to something.

The start at the White Horse, Scales, is only a few miles from Keswick and we were ready to start by about 10am. Weather windy, and just the odd spot of rain, but better weather forecast for later. Increasing steepness at the start (like most of these fells, it seems, a feature of glacial erosion) but not much more than an hour later we reached a ridge within sight of Sharp Edge and Scales Tarn - decision time. By now it was really windy, and without any encouragement from me the others all decided to bypass it, so a steady plod up the other side of the tarn to the ridge (the saddleback) between the top of Sharp Edge and Blencathra peak itself. Once there I wanted to circle round to the top of Sharp Edge to have a look at it and take some pictures. I have to say the final scramble, and the flatish bit I could see, didn't look too bad, and I could see the path that is just below the peak on the northerly side, so there didn't seem much where the exposure would be unavoidable. Two of our party decided to descend, then come back up again (despite the guide book saying "No one would want to do it twice in one day"!) so the rest of us left them to it and plodded on to the summit. By now it was blowing a gale and pretty cold, I was glad I had my woolly hat, but had no gloves. Ironically the edge itself was completely sheltered, and there was virtually no wind on it.

The peak is described as having a 'curious ring-shaped trig point by the summit cairn', and we found a ring, but no cairn worthy of the name, and only 11:30. "The next peak along looks a bit higher" so off we plod, but once we get there it obviously isn't, and no ring or cairn. So back to the one with the ring to meet up with the two who did the edge, although they said they'd had enough about 1/3rd the way along as it was very slippy, turned back, and had enough trouble even from there. There is supposed to be an 'obvious' path down from Blencathra along Narrow Edge, not so challenging as Sharp Edge. But getting as close to the edge as we dared - with a gusty wind coming from behind us, and peering over, we couldn't see anything at all, so that was out as well. So we proceeded in a Westerly direction (again!) to the top of GateGill Fell, then Blease Fell, and the easy path down. Across here it was blowing a gale and very cold, straight onto Blease Fell, so no respite as we were coming down. We stopped half way for our sarnies, and I could barely hold mine or open my crisps or choccy bic as my fingers were so cold. By now we were in sight of Keswick and debated walking back there, picking up my car to take the other driver back to his car at Scales. But my car keys were in the room, and my room key in his car, and it would have meant a long walk back by road, so that was knocked on the head. So near the bottom we turned Eastwards and followed a very pleasant path now we were out of the wind, across the foot of the fells past Threlkeld to Scales. A nice sting in the tail at Scaley Beck, with a significant scramble down and back up again before descending to the farm and the pub. Got back at 3:15, so a couple of hours drinking, before back to Keswick, then out again for the evening's entertainment.

Sunday morning and homeward bound the weather was dreadful, glad we weren't walking in that, but we drove out of it halfway down the M6 and Vee was dry by the rime we got home. 420 miles, the only problem being on the way up on Friday when a huge stone, or it could have been a wheelnut, came over the central reservation just after we had joined the M6, I drove into it at about 60mph, and got a huge opaque crater and series of circular cracks right in front of my eye-line!

August 26th - Little Gransden, Great Airshow

An absolutely brilliant airshow (our year for airshows, it seems) with vintage, veteran and classic cars put on at what started off as a farmer's grass airstrip. A near constant display from a huge variety of aircraft ancient and modern ranging from warbirds though aerobatics including a 'wing-walker' and amazingly from a glider, to short displays (not just fly-through's) by the Sally-B from Duxford, the BBMF Lancaster, a DeHavilland Vampire, and the incredible sight and sound of the XH558 Vulcan (see this YouTube of the day). Very popular but very well organised with no queuing for car park or to pay, many side stalls, hundreds of static aircraft, and an excellent sound system and commentary, topped off by beautiful weather. Knocked Duxford into a cocked hat, I have to say.

August 5th - Dithering Duxford

Another 'last minute' decision because of dodgy weather, although in this case we planned to travel down Saturday and stay nearby for Sunday. Went to the Shuttleworth Collection on Saturday afternoon, obviously had a very heavy shower just before we got there at lunchtime, although the afternoon itself was good weather. Filled the afternoon what with all the hangers of exhibits ...

... and the attached owl and bird of prey centre (a bit odd to find this so close to a working airfield) and the Swiss Gardens. Very good flying display at the owl centre, one of the best we've seen, enlivened by a couple of independent Kites passing though at one point, and especially the stoop from a peregrine cross.

Got to Duxford for the 'Spitfires, Merlins and Motors' event about 10am, a Spitfire flew in about 11 to join three others lined up on the apron, then from 11.30 or so it rained for an hour but no problem as we wanted to go in the British and Commonwealth hanger again anyway. Just after 12.30 two Merlins on trolleys fired up and a pretty impressive noise they made too. 1pm was supposed to be Spitfire flying, then 2pm, but they didn't finally get airborne until about 3pm. A good display from two of them, then an early Mk1, but it was all over in less than an hour. A bit disappointing, and a bit of a con given the Duxford web page 'confirmed' five flying Spitfires plus two more statics. I think Duxford events are more about getting extra people in to the hangers than actual flying, we shan't be going again. However ... the highlight was getting to sit in a Spitfire! There must have been 60 or more people in the queue when we arrived and each time we looked, and at several minutes each joining that would have meant doing nothing else all day. However immediately after the Spitfire flying we went over to the hanger (where they had moved it from outside when it started raining) and there was only about four people waiting. Most people got a couple of pics taken by the person guiding people in and out of the cockpit, but the Navigator took those for me, and afterwards we went round to the other side for some more pics when one of the people on the stand offered to take them and took about a ten of us alongside and at the front by the propeller. The fee included a T-shirt, but by that time they only had large sizes left. I had one anyway, and will see about getting the emblem transferred to one that fits me better. Very heavy rain for the length of the A1 and most of the A14, but dry on the M6 and by the time we got home, about 240 miles all told.

July - going up in the world

As I mentioned earlier servicing Bee and Vee was a right pain in the new house this year as I'm not allowed to use ramps, axle stands or jacks on this drive. So all the raising had to be done either half in and half out of the garage, the short ramps slide on the smooth painted garage floor so can only be used on the narrower section near the entrance, and I had to keep moving the cars to get first one end up then the other.

A pal of a pal was getting rid of a nearly new pair of full-length ramps (as he now has a four-post lift!) and they were offered to me for 500. As they were around 1700 new that was something of a bargain. However as they were over a 200 miles round trip away in Hertford it wasn't really feasible to go down just to have a look at the size and try and work out if they would fit in my garage, so pal took loads of pictures and measurements. I pondered long and hard over those, decided they would fit, so the next question was how to get them here. Son-in-law has a van but they were just too long to fit in that, so it meant hiring one. However we were planning on moving some furniture down to my son near St Neots, so a 'two birds with one stone' trip was planned. All went well until we got down to Hertford and I saw just how big all the bits were - gulp! Too late to go back now though, so we loaded them up. Son-in-law had planned a 'three birds with one stone' trip to come back to Solihull via Stratford-upon-Avon to help a pal move a garden shed half a mile or so, they had calculated from the van hire web site that it would just fit in. Set the Prat Nav for his address ... and it decided the best way from Hertford to Stratford-upon-Avon was via the M25 and M40, and an extra 30 miles or so. Added to that there was a major hold-up on the M40 just after the A34 junction, but we managed to get off without too much delay and go via the A44. Get to s-i-l's pal's house, lift this six foot plastic shed over a six foot fence and offer it up to the back of the van ... and it won't go in! The measurements on the web site relate to the internal dimensions, not the door aperture, so lift the shed back over the fence again! All that meant that by the time we got back and unloaded the ramps we were too late to return the van, but fortunately we had switched to a late departure by picking up and loading up in the morning, rather than the first idea of collecting and loading the night before for an early start.

Now I had them at home I could take more detailed measurements, and realised that to assemble the two ramps and their lifting tube I either needed more width than I'd bargained for, or several beefy blocks to assemble them outside, then carry them in at an angle to get them through the door! However being American they were built for their monster vehicles, and the ramps were intended to be positioned further apart on the lifting tube than I needed for the MGBs. Even positioned as close together as they would go the centre of the ramps is still wider then the centre of the tyres. However it allowed me to chop a few inches off each end of the lifting tube, and I could assemble them in the garage. Each ramp is in two sections so the length can be adjusted as well, but even one of the sections was a struggle to move on my own, and I couldn't imagine being able to move all four of them plus assemble them. So a few days later s-i-l came round and we got them in and put them together.

The lifting tube has to be able to pivot up to allow the jack under, and down to allow the vehicle to clear them as it is driven on and off. But unless the ramps were very precisely positioned in all three orientations the tube could be very stiff to turn. But R-ing TFM I discovered the tube should have been greased where it passes through the larger tubes under the ramps! So this time I wiggle the one ramp off the tube by dragging each end sideways a bit at a time, then I can pull the tube out of the other ramp. Grease that end, reinsert, grease the other end, then wiggle the first ramp back onto the tube again. Now the tube pivots really easily and is much less dependant on precise orientation.

The ramps are lowered both ends when not in use so I can park one of the cars on them, and that 'raises' (ho ho) a couple more issues. Because the entry end is now about 4" off the ground the manual describes how to make a pair of pre-ramps - easy enough. What's a bit more of an issue is lifting the 'blunt' end of each double-length ramp while you position the support tower underneath it - no easy task. I can get a jack under the end (sides won't work as they are too close to the ground) and raise it far enough to get blocks under, then move the jack round to the side away from where the tower fits while I raise it the rest of the way, but that is a bit of a faff. So various Wallace and Gromit devices are being discussed, one of the maddest being a rope tied to the back of the car positioned just in front of the ramps, run over a pulley on a beam, and down to a hook at the end of the ramp - drive car forward, lift ramp, slide tower under. Split the rope and do both ramps at the same time :o) Another issue is my portable trolley jack will fit under the lifting bar to start the lift, but won't go high enough for the front support legs to lock into position, so I have also made a block to support the jack for the second half of the lift. This has a metal top so the jack can move forwards and back as the lifting arm goes through its arc, but also means the tube has to be supported on axle stands between the two halves of the lift so another faff. There are jacks that both go under the tube in the lowered position and give a high enough lift in one go, so I may invest in one of those as well.

July 29th - 'Shall we, shan't we' Shelsley Walsh Classic

The 'shall we, shan't we' relating to the weather, for a venue we can decide about at the last minute. In the event it was even later than that, at breakfast it was on, then the sky went black so we said not, then patches of blue appeared so we went for it. A bit of a heavy shower as we were approaching the hill, made worse by having to crawl along behind three cars who couldn't overtake a single cyclist. At the gate I was asked whether I wanted to in the concourse, no charge, and it put us right by the circuit and the pits so why not? "In any case," said the chap handing the numbers out "when I've given the last of these out I can go and have a cup of tea and a sit down".

Sunny for an hour or so, then the heavens opened for about fifteen minutes. Down at the start the loss of grip was remarkable, there is a split time 68 feet after crossing the start line, most cars were doing that in 2-3 secs, but a poor Morgan with single rear wheel drive took nearly six seconds! When that stopped we headed for the hill with our lunch, but I wiped the rain droplets off Bee as the sun was about to come out and she would have been covered in white spots. As it was an E-Type in the concourse got spotted very badly. The rest of the day was mostly sunny, a few dark clouds came over, but barely a spot of rain and we enjoyed the day. A mere gnat's gambol at 80 miles.

June 17th - Wellesbourne Wings and Wheels

A 'static' event (for the cars at any rate) for Father's Day but only just up the road. They have a Vulcan bomber they taxi, and although I've know about it for some years I kept missing it by only hearing about it after the event. This year fortunately a pal mentioned it the week before. The weather has been absolutely dire since my Birthday run, something like two months worth of rain in two weeks, cold and windy, and effectively only one days worth of sunshine. Today was scheduled to be a bit brighter, a fore-runner of a couple of days of warm weather in the coming week. We went in the V8 and about five minutes after starting out it lashed it down. Brighter when we arrived, but still managed to rain quite a bit just as the Vulcan was doing its taxi. Very impressive, even the slow taxi which this was. There was due to be a fast taxi three hours later where they get up to 98% of take-off speed and raise the nose, but all the family were with me and we due for lunch out so left it at that. Maybe next year. A few stalls there including one for the Lincolnshire's Lancaster Association which has a close association with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Selling various items, I spotted one copy of the BBMF 2011 year-book with the cover signed by all the present flight crew, one of a handful they rescued from being pulped and got the crew to sign as a one-off. "Can't be for sale", I thought, but it was, and became mine for a tenner.

May 27th - Birthday Run

It may be the MGBs 50th Birthday this year, but today is my 65th. An absolutely glorious day, warm enough for tee-shirt and shorts at 9am to get the paper. Some 'classic' Warwickshire village scenes.

May 20th - Rose of the Shires, Northampton

First time on this run but we've wanted to go for a while as I know from past experience how pretty Northamptonshire can be. Spent three days giving Bee the full works but the forecast was decidedly iffy, so we were prepared to go in Vee if it was hissing down. In the event it was dry all day, although very cold (for the time of year!), probably no higher than 10C all day (two days later it was 27C!). We had the hood down for the run (up for the trip there and back) but even I was thoroughly chilled by the end The run didn't disappoint, good bacon baps and tea at the start and generous goody-bag, and plenty of scenic villages en route (which sunshine would have made even better it has to be said). Plenty of points of interest/potential stop-offs including two Lancaster Memorial sites. Couple of glitches with the route, including a closed road, but that led us to see Harringworth viaduct which is quite something. Finished at Boughton Hall although we had booked too late to get a house tour, so we settled for a stroll round the gardens after a warm-up with a cup of tea and a huge slice of cake - again part of the deal. On the run home I noticed the temperature looked a little low - not that cold, surely? I thought - and it continued to drop slowly. Heater was pumping out plenty of heat - too much in fact and I kept turning it down, but even fully off it was still going. Started to wonder if there was some connection between the gauge, very warm in the cabin, and can't turn the heat off but couldn't think of any so simply carried on. Gauge eventually dropped all the way to zero, rising a fraction with heat-soak on our arrival back home, so the usual fractured capillary, which last happened shortly after buying her, replaced a week later. Plenty of coolant in the radiator on our return, and not blowing heat next time out, so just one of those things. 180 miles, and a failed gauge.

May 16th - Bee's service

Faster progress given the experience with Vee. However as we were eating out that night I didn't want to come in knackered and oily at 5pm so decided I'd just do the front end i.e. oil, filter and suspension grease. But I'd done those by mid-morning so carried on the with the diff oil level and rear brakes. Just refitting everything on the right rear before lunch when I noticed a spot of fluid on the floor - brake fluid! Not best pleased as they were replaced when I changed the axle ... 12 years ago ... Drum and shoes were clear so it must have been the disturbance of removing and replacing the shoes that tipped one of the seals over the edge - fluid inside the boot. Not a good idea to leave it with a run in four days time, so must replace them, but all done including clearing-up by mid-afternoon.

May 3rd - Vee's MOT

Some extra tests this year so more hoops to jump through. In the event she passed, although the emissions failed initially (even though I always weaken the mixture an eighth of a turn beforehand) at 6.05% instead of 4.5%. I was told the mechanic 'had to top-up the carb dampers' to get it low enough (2.81%), but that doesn't compute as the test is at a steady rpm where the carb dampers aren't doing anything. He had put some oil in, as there was oil on the outside of the piston cover which isn't normally there. Maybe he fiddled with the mixture screws as well, it was running a bit rough on the way home, and both carbs needed richening by about half a turn before the lifting pins gave the right result. An advisory on the OS front brake pipe corroded, which I had noticed looked a bit crusty at the service and did wonder if they would pick up. Got a year to change that, but first searches indicate only whole systems at 60 are available, not individual sections. Might seem a false economy to just change one, but the NS at least is cupro-nickel so I suspect had already been replaced by a PO, this one is probably the original steel.

Apr 24th - Servicing

First service of any of the cars at the new house - Vee. First hurdle was to find everything in my storage racking. Second much bigger hurdle was raising the car. The drive at the old house was really ratty so I didn't mind denting it with ramps, jacks and axle stands, or even the occasional oil spill, but this drive is good-condition tarmac. Oil and filter wasn't too bad, driving the car into the garage onto ramps, back sticking outside. Even getting the wheels off and working on the king-pins, front dampers and rear brakes wasn't too bad, used axle stands for that part, albeit having to turn the car round before working on the rear of course. But getting the car raised and level for checking gearbox and diff, and greasing the prop-shaft was the conundrum. Before the drive was on a slight slope so I'd drive down onto ramps until the car was level, and had enough space to work under. But although this also has a slope it is very slight, and I can't put the ramps on the drive of course. So I drive into the garage on to them, with the intention of jacking under the diff to raise that. However the jack needs to be on a board of course, and that doesn't give be enough clearance under the diff. So back down the ramps and up again, this time with boards under the wheels as well to give the same clearance as ordinarily. Start jacking, and normally when the arm of the trolley jack gets towards 45 degrees it starts pulling itself forwards as the angles change. But not this time, because the jack wheels have pressed into the boards, it's pulling the front wheels off the ramps instead. Realise what is happening and that I mustn't proceed, when the car starts moving backwards! Manage to get my shoulder behind the bumper (fortunately the rubber type) and hold it while I rapidly jack it down again. I realise I'm going to have to get Bee out of the garage as well, to give me enough room to drive up onto the ramps and end up with both ramps and jack/axle stands on the garage floor instead of the drive. Even then I have to wiggle the jack a bit as it's going up to nudge it forwards and keep the front wheel square on the ramps. It would be better the other way round, i.e. rear wheel on the ramps, but then there is nowhere near enough clearance under the front for the jack. I think I'm going to have to come up with some planks to act as mini-ramps under the front wheels, while I drive up the rear onto the ramps, so give me enough clearance. Or maybe a pair of full-length ramps that you can then jack up to raise the whole car.

Mar 26th - MGs on Track, Silverstone

MG pal Michael Beswick does a track-day from time to time, we have been discussing his suspension for a while, and he wanted to compare my standard system with his modified (parabolics and telescopics). I said we could always meet half-way at Silverstone in jest, and he said he had one booked there, so I travelled down in Bee - glorious weather. Went out with Michael for one session in a borrowed helmet. I was surprised how dynamic it was - tyre-squealing, braking and changing down for some of the corners, and loads of sideways G-forces. Shows just how much grip F1 cars have, and why the drivers necks are like tree-trunks. In the lunch-break we swapped cars for a short test-drive outside the circuit. The upshot is that my suspension is more comfortable for touring, Michaels can be a bit choppy, but Michael's come into its on the track. So horses for courses (sic), and a compromise, hardly surprising on a suspension designed so long ago. Really enjoyed the day, have to take Vee and the ZS one day, just as a one-off, or I'll be hankering after spending loadsa money on engine, steering, brakes, suspension etc. And after having driven an F1 some years ago nothing else could ever come close.

Feb 16th - Moved house ...

... and finally will be able to get both MGBs in a garage at home. Back garden has an octagonal paved area, and the second part of the postcode has my initials! Can only get Bee in the garage to start with as there are boxes that need to be unpacked ... when we have bought some more furniture, more boxes to go into the loft ... when I have topped up the insulation and boarded it, and all the garden stuff to go into a shed ... once I have bought and built one!

Jan 8th - Bee's Turn

Beautiful morning, dry and sunny. Glorious 'paper run' in Bee. Have to seize the moment when one can, one never knows when salt will go down, like it did the following Thursday night. Roads out-of-bounds now until after some decent rain.

Jan 1st - New Year's Day

Weather bright, no salt, a bit damp underfoot, but as Vee lives under a carport at the moment and gets wet when it rains that doesn't really matter. A pleasant drive to get the Sunday paper and tour some of the local highways and byways.