September (3) - yet more brakes!

What is it about brakes this year? After ending up replacing both calipers and hard lines on Vee when only one hard line needed replacing, then the ZS failed on front brakes which needed new discs and pads, then the rear pads and discs needed replacing, now both Vee's slave cylinders need replacing - one definitely leaking, one probably very slightly but has a seized piston, and all four shoes now contaminated ... and another nightmare that turned out to be.

September (2) - Bee's horns

I fitted new (Mixo) horns to Bee when I restored her 24 years ago, although wasn't that impressed with the result, seemed too polite to me. When I bought Vee I found what looked and sounded like a moped horn, so that got replaced straight away with a 'proper' pair - only to find all I could get out of them was a click. Did the relevant voltage checks to discover the earth path was losing several volts in both the column earth path and the horn button in the Moto-Lita wheel. Given the two problems I decided to fit a relay and they have been fine ever since, but they showed Bee's horns up as being significantly weaker. Did the same voltage tests which showed no significant problem. I'd originally fitted them without brackets and facing the radiator for protection from the elements, so subsequently wondered if the rearward facing was causing it, turned them round, but it didn't seem to make much difference. More recently they seem to be weaker still (even though I only use them once a year for the MOT), so decided to do another investigation.

September (1) - ZS Rear Brakes

Not my year for brakes. I started noticing a brown staining on the right rear wheel, then a few days later it started squeaking when reversing. Wondered if it was the wear indicator, so had a good squint at the outer pad and there seemed to be no friction material on it! Plenty on the left outer though. As the discs were pretty rough and after the problems with the front brakes I decided to change them as well as fitting new pads. Wasn't looking forward to it, it's a bit rusty round there, so I was expecting stuck bolts as well as maybe a seized caliper. Read on.

August 17th-18th - NOT the Rose and Thistle, Cumbria

Due to travel up on the Friday and meet friends staying at an Inn in the Lakes, the run on Saturday, then back to friends place in Newcastle-upon-Tyne Saturday night, home on Sunday. However I'd developed a cough while working on Vee's pistons that I couldn't shake off, and after two weeks of that the Doc declared I had a chest infection. On the antibiotics which made me feel even worse, so we had to cancel. Which was a shame for a number of reasons not least because with a 200 mile trip up, 140 mile run, 60 miles to Newcastle, then 200 miles home, it would have been our longest weekender at over 600 miles. In fact the weather was dire on the day as can be seen from these pictures, and our friends baled out after lunch as even with the top up they had got pretty wet. Such a shame for the organisers, especially during what has been a 'proper' summer.

August (2)

Time to turn Vee's incorrect pistons round the right way, with mixed results.

August (1)

After a pal has his newly restored TR6 written off while stationary (OK, broken down) I decide it's time to fit hazard flashers to Bee.

July 13th-15th - Epsom Area Surrey Run

In a prolonged period of the warmest weather for about six years we are faced with three days and about 400 miles in Bee. As we are planning a stint down to Oxford on the M40, then on the M25 from Chertsey to Leatherhead, I briefly ponder having the hood up but the sides and back tied up out of the way - more of a 'Surrey' (ho ho) than a hood, but decide to stick with hood down. Keep to about 65 on the motorways, which keeps us out of the way of most of the lorries (of which there were very few on the Saturday) and faster traffic, and the breeze was quite comfortable, although tyre noise from other traffic was very loud, much louder than with the hood up.

Staying where we stayed before, I realised how close we were to Biggin Hill, and saw they had a Heritage Hanger with several Spitfires and Hurricanes. Rang to check opening times as the web site has some really odd dates and times for events, to be told it is a private hanger not open to the public! Oddly, given its history, there is nothing else there except the St George's RAF Chapel commemorating those who died during the Battle of Britain. That has a Spitfire and Hurricane (full-size replicas) as gate guardians and looks interesting in its own right, so worth a detour on arrival. Quite a lot of memorabilia including a pub table covered in carved initials of RAF personnel at Biggin in 1941, and stained glass windows. Just setting up to take a picture of Bee under the Spitfire when there was a distinctive roar and a Hurricane flew almost overhead, a few seconds later and I would have been able to get it in shot.

Sunday morning we head for Bockett's Farm for the start of the run, over the diabolical road surfaces of Redhill and Reigate where great sheets of tarmac have peeled off the underlying surface. I thought the roads round here were bad enough, but throughout the run we found a lot that were much worse. The first few miles were through forests on very narrow roads, so cool, but they were to be shut in two weeks time for a cycle race, and there were hundreds of cyclists in dribs and drabs and bunches, all pretending they were on the Tour de France. Fortunately mostly coming the other way, as even singles were problematic to overtake and bunches impossible - all a bit wearing. At one point a bunch was coming the other way, plenty room as just enough width for two cars to pass, but I slowed right down anyway. Suddenly a woman wobbled and turned right across me less than a car's length away, I slammed on the brakes and managed to stop just a foot or so from her. She had the good grace to apologise, and someone else complimented Bee's brakes, but it shook me up a bit. A very scenic run without much other traffic, and despite nearly 200 cars we were rarely in convoy with even a couple of others and often on our own. However near the end we had to flog through Hurstpierpoint and Hassocks which were very busy, so slow and hot. Until then continually moving with many trees it had been pretty comfortable. Glad to arrive at Bentley Wildfowl and Motor Museum. Another good venue for the finish, plenty to see and do to pass two or three hours before the trip back to our accommodation straight up the A22. A good journey till we got to East Grinstead, then stop-start and crawling for about 3 miles.

Monday morning head for home, got on the M25 nearby at Godstone to bypass Redhill, Reigate and Dorking. Crawled from maybe Leatherhead to Chertsey, then easy travelling through Virginia Water, Ascot, Twyford, Henley to Oxford, then A34 and M40 back home. 411 trouble-free miles, apart from the usual sticking servo which crops up when in traffic in hot weather. I had wondered how Bee would keep her cool in what was close to 30C at times, but the highest the temp gauge got was queuing for the start at Bockett's Farm, even then nothing to worry about. Other than that it got maybe one or two 'N's widths above its normal position, even with the rally plaque across the grille as normal. I haven't mentioned the accommodation. I did say we had used it before, the room then was small but nicely decorated. This was even smaller and tatty, barely enough room to get a double-bed in - we had to sidle round each other to do anything, like a 'missing piece' puzzle, wardrobe doors held together with elastic, couldn't even hold a cat in bathroom, let alone swing it. The beer was cloudy, the second one I tried having bits in it as well. After that we went to another pub. Fortunately the food was still good, but we won't be going there again. No sign of the previous owners, I suspect they had sold out to some investor, who had parachuted in a couple of managers, and was only interested in profit. The only partly saving grace was that they had a deal on for a couple of weeks in July whereby if you stayed two nights over a weekend and ate in you got a three course meal each for free. But we had to push for that and the manager only reluctantly deducted the cost from the invoice on our departure.

June - ZS MOT

After advisories about the front pads for a couple of years when there was still plenty of meat left on them I finally replaced them. They seemed to be taking their time to bed in, but as they didn't pull I let them be. Then they fail on brake imbalance. The discs have always been rough, so I decided to replace them, and would have to replace the pads again. Fortunately much easier than the V8 brake work.

June 7th-9th - Lake District walk, Blencathra via Sharp Edge and High Stile Ridge

Last year we had intended to do Blencathra via Sharp Edge, but as the weather was pretty poor and Sharp Edge needs some care we bypassed the Edge, threatening to do it again as an extra another year. This year one of our number had the idea of doing it Sunday morning after the main event, or maybe even Friday afternoon before it. As the weather looked to be very good all weekend we decided to go for the Friday option, and got there for a 2pm start. Sharp Edge looks pretty forbidding from a distance, but the closer you get the bigger you realise it is, and you can start to see all sorts of options other than literally walking along a knife-edge. The only tricky bit was Bad Step, which is a gap in the edge involving a couple of steps down and back up, which really is a knife-edge falling way steeply both sides and where 10 people have been killed in the past. Once that was behind us it was just a steady plod, plenty of hand and foot holds, and straight-forward in the sunny and still conditions - very satisfying. We might as well push on the extra bit to the Blencathra summit, and get some fabulous views down Hall's Fell and Gategill Fell ridges. I suggest we go down by Hall's Fell ridge, but the popular vote is to take the easier Scales Fell route and get to the pub quicker! Great journey in Vee over the Honister Pass to Buttermere which is our base for the next two nights and the High Stile ridge walk tomorrow. Very warm afternoon, and Vee warmer on her temp gauge than I've seen for some time, of which more later. We are staying at Dalegarth on the edge of Buttermere Lake, a glorious spot, the only draw-back being a mile and a half walk to the pub! Still the compensation is a lake-side walk, and really good beer and food at the Fish Inn.

After an amazing breakfast of two Cumberland sausages, two rashers of bacon, an egg, fried bread, hash brown, baked beans, tomatoes and black pudding with lashings of toast and tea, we set off at 9:30. The first hour or so takes us to the headwaters of Crummock Water then up Scale Beck and past Scale Force (both oddly several miles away from Scales village). We then take a left up to Ling Comb which is pretty steep, it would have been better to carry on and go straight for Red Pike, the first of five peaks. From there fairly straight-forward over High Stile and High Crag to Seat, glorious views down into Buttermere and Ennerdale, and a perfect day with plenty of sunshine and just a light cooling breeze - Tee-shirts and shorts all the way. We've taken our time and enjoyed the views, and by the time we get to High Crag and see how far it is down to the Scarth Gap Pass and a long way up again to Hay Stacks, wonder if we have enough time. Delay our final decision until we get down to the Gap, which is via a long and steep and zig-zaggy path. Once there we decide to go for it as it doesn't look so bad. But Hay Stacks proves to be the most awkward ascent with a couple of scrambles and indistinct paths, at one point we decide to just go straight up and make our own route. Then we realise why it didn't look so bad from the Gap - what looks to be the top is one of two false tops before you finally make it! Innominate Tarn is quite an easy walk from there, but we have already decided not to carry on via that and Blackbeck Tarn, so return the same way down Hay Stacks (oddly much easier than going up) and back via Scarth Gap and Peggy's Bridge, and an ice-cream from a van at Gatesgarth by 5:30 before the final one and a half miles back to the B&B, after about 11 miles and 3000ft (opinions vary) of ascent.

Another good night at the pub, and breakfast in the morning, we set off via the unclassified road from Buttermere village to the A66 as a change. It's been years since I fixed Vee's cooling system leak, but I've left the coolant level warning fitted, and notice it is staying on red. We get down into the village where I investigate, and find the top hose split for about 4"! I reckon this happened after we got to the B&B after the Honister Pass, from heat-soak after I parked the car. I have been keeping an eye on the hose as it has developed surface cracking, and did think about changing it before the trip, but didn't get a round tuit. Still I always carry spares, and this one has been on since 2000, and Clive did warn they weren't very good but were the best he could get, and they only last a couple of years! I've also got a gallon of ready-mixed coolant, so it is only a ten-minute job to change and only a couple of pints lost, so we are soon on our way. On the M6 a big hold-up for about 20 minutes with all three lanes at a standstill, for nothing more than a motorbike hitting the back of a lorry, before arriving home, after 430 miles and a top hose.

April 28th - Epping Area run to Bressingham Steam Gardens

Not a 'public' run but pal Michael is a member so invites us as a guest, and we stay with them in Hertfordshire on Saturday night. First run of the season so the full works of washing and polishing the body and wheels, and of course the journey down has several very heavy showers, after a lovely few days! Sunday dawns bright but very cold after a significant frost, Bee parked outside turns over pretty slowly because of the temperature but still starts as normal so it's off to the meeting point at the M11 services by Stanstead airport. An excellent route through north Essex and south Cambridgeshire with some glorious English villages, then through open country up to Norfolk and Bressingham arriving about 11:30.

Quite a lot to see and do with maybe 60+ MGs having done the run, train rides, engine sheds, steam-powered gallopers, a museum and garden centre fills our time until mid-afternoon, by which time the sun has hazed over. Bressingham is all looking a bit run down, with no Spring planting in the gardens, and acres of abandoned poly tunnels where they have obviously stopped growing their own plants and buy everything in.

We both head for home at about 3pm, Michael back to Hertfordshire and us direct to Solihull. Get back home about 5:30, absolutely knackered after a late night out on Saturday, 70 miles on the run and 150 miles home, bed by 9:30. 353 trouble-free miles, and especially no problems with the oil filter!

April - Garage Nightmare II

For a while now I've been aware of Vee's right front brake pipe being rusty (the left front looks like it had already been changed) and last year I got an advisory on it, so decided to change it before the MOT this year - not an easy job as it turned out!

April - Nightmare service

Finally got warm enough to venture into the garage after the longest and coldest winter for years to service Bee prior to our first run at the end of the month. Much easier with the full-length ramps than all the faffing about last year with the short ramps skidding on the smooth floor, jacking up and down and having to put the car in the garage first one way then the other. But that was the best bit.

The worst was changing the filter and oil, starting up, to have oil flooding out as on a previous few occasions. Fortunately I had put a large piece of cardboard down and left the bucket under the filter just in case. Switched off, let the worst of the dripping stop, started again, and still flooding out. Removed the filter, examined it and everything seemed OK, I'd previously examined the sealing face on the filter head in case that was damaged, but it was smooth. Refitted, made sure it was turned another 3/4 turn after the seal contacted as recommended on the filter (Mann 916/1). Started up again, and still p*ssed out. I also notice that each time just before the oil starts coming out there is a squealing noise - just like putting your thumb over the end of a bicycle pump and pumping. Getting concerned now, and another 'feature' is no oil pressure shown on the gauge. Remove the filter again and fit another new one. Start up and this time no leak, but very low oil pressure - now what! Switch off and check the dipstick to find no oil on it, i.e. it has pumped out 2 litres or more. Refill, try again, and at last i.e. have oil pressure and no leaks, so time for the big clean-up. Fortunately most of the oil had gone in the bucket, and the rest apart from a few splatters was on the cardboard.

After all that I moved onto the front suspension, and found I couldn't get the grease gun square onto the two upper nipples of the right-hand king-pin like I had done for the past 22 years! The upper two are angled when they should be straight, so I will change them, but that still doesn't explain the problem. What with that and dropping the copper washer off the sump drain plug into some oil and having to search for it and fish it out, altogether a frustrating morning so apart from checking the axle and gearbox oil levels I stopped there, leaving the rear brakes and prop-shaft for another day.

But back to the filter problem. I had thought that because the oil gauge tapping was right beside the block outlet to the cooler, that was where the gauge tapped into, i.e. showed pump pressure. But apparently it goes across the block to where the inlet from the filter is, and shows bearing pressure (which makes more sense, even though the V8 is on the pump outlet!). A pal only tightens his a quarter turn before running the engine, and has never had a leak. But listening to various suggestions, and as the spurt always seems to happen in the same direction i.e. slightly forward of directly at the block, I'm beginning to wonder if the boss the filter threads on to is not exactly square to the seal face, i.e. one part of the seal contacts first, and I have to overtighten slightly to get the slacker side to seal. A bigger concern is that the boss may be cracking, and one day the filter will fly off altogether! I might slacken the filter and see if I can get a feeler gauge in one side before the other, but OTOH given the repeated problems and the potential cracking, I will probably replace it anyway. One of the usual suspects doesn't have them, but several of the others do, although there is a huge variation in price from 50 to 93.

Phase 2 (another day given all that aggro) was the back brakes strip, clean and lubricate, although with so few miles last year they barely needed it. Checked the dwell and timing - 62%/56 degrees, a smidgen low for a 25D4, but will go up when/if the points heel wears. Timing is 14 degrees at 1000rpm. Should be 19 at 900, but Bee has always been prone to pinking on unleaded, still does slightly at certain speeds and gradients. Checked the wheels for broken spokes and found one on a rear, first for a couple of years or more. First with these new tyres, and had a bit more trouble breaking the bead than usual (sliding it under one of Vee's front tyres and jacking her down on it), had to put a piece of wood between the tyres. Undid the long spoke that needs moving out of the way to get each short one in, but still wouldn't swing past the adjacent short spoke. Just a smidgen too long, so cut it down, then it was fine.

February 17th - Stoneleigh MG Show

Hoping to go in Vee as it was forecast dry a few days before, then in Bee as Saturday night forecast it to be sunny. In the event the sun was replaced by fog before 9am and it had been frosty with salt laid down the previous three nights so ended up going in the ZS. For the first time ever, after the usual crawl to park, I walked straight in with no queues to pay. After that it was all downhill. A lot of empty spaces in the two heated halls, and only about four stalls outside, so noticeably fewer traders than before. Had a list of miscellaneous stuff I wanted but only managed to get a couple of bulb holders for my ongoing instrument lighting experiments. Pal Michael wanted a handful of blade fuses, but apart from one stall selling a box of assorted ratings for 10 I didn't see any others at all. Very disappointing, I had been round everything at least once in 90 minutes and stopped to chat to a few stall holders, I doubt I shall go again.

A couple of interesting cars - a Police V8 on the V8 Register stand, together with a period advert that accompanied the launch of the V8, 40 years ago this year. And an exhortation to 'seek out something different' which I frequently do ...

January - Vee's Smartscreen packs up

A very welcome dry, sunny but windy day after the snow and with rain having washed the salt off the roads so Vee comes out of hibernation for the first time for what seems like weeks. Only shopping, but any port in a storm. Turn on the ignition to come home and the wipers start up, and keep going no matter where I put the wiper stalk. Turn the ignition all the way off and they just stop mid-screen. Ponder a bit, turn the key to the accessories position and they park. Ponder a bit more. Then remember that the wipers of this era are powered from the accessories position, and run at normal, fast (OK, slow and normal) and park with the key in that position, so it's nothing to do with the wipers themselves. Must be the Smartscreen intermittent control, which has been on since 2001,and invaluable. Disconnect the +ve supply to the Smartscreen and now the ignition being on doesn't start the wipers, so it must be something inside the Smartscreen unit having failed just at that moment. Lasted 12 years, that's longer than a lot of replacements for factory parts have lasted recently. As they are so useful (I have one on the roadster as well, and wish it was on the ZS as the single interval on that is rarely right for the conditions) I've ordered a new one, just the standard wipe unit, not the wash/wipe even though this has electric washers, as I like to wet the screen before the wipers start.