2018

November EMG Magazine

I sent this off to the magazine after the New Forest Run wondering if they might like it for their caption competition, and it appeared in October. The winning caption was: Eeyore assumes that Winnie the Pooh was not entirely truthful when he said "find the B's and you find the honey".

October 21st - More glorious weather.

Miles better than forecast and a beautiful morning with clear blue skies and sunshine, and mist lying in the hollows.
Reminiscent of this I penned on a similar day many years ago: Sunday morning, 9:30. Sun burning the autumn mist off nicely. Definitely a day for getting the Sunday papers in the roadster. Through the lanes and villages of Warwickshire, the suns rays streaming through the trees and clearly visible in the remaining mist. Hedges, power and telephone cables, and most of all the fields, covered in what looks like the finest jewelled lace, but is the morning dew on sheets of spiders gossamer in the low angle of the sun. As the car twists and turns, over clear rises and into sheltered hollows, running sweetly in the cool morning air, the screen mists and clears again, sometimes inside sometimes out, sometimes both together. Forty miles and an hour and a half later return home. Wonderful. The paper? Bought it where I always do of course, at the local shop just down the road.

October - Vee's rad cap hissing! My heart sank, fearing another bout of cooling system problems, although there was no sign of coolant being pushed from the rad to the expansion tank as before. See more.

September 29th-30th - Beacons Run

First time on this run, and a glorious trip down on the Saturday to our hotel at Rhosmaen. Used the A40 round the top of the Beacons which makes for a beautiful run, more so than the Heads of Valleys below the Brecons we had used previously for South West Wales. The Plough at Rhosmaen was very good in all respects, and a first for us was a ground floor room with a door onto the car park and Bee parked right outside, and seats in the afternoon sun to enjoy the views, before the terrace and more sun and a pint.

Next day dawned dull and damp - expected, although what wasn't expected was the 8 mile trip to Ammanford and the start extending to 40 miles because a bridge was closed! Took us an hour which didn't please us, and neither did the arrangements at the start. Told the car park was opposite Wilko's, which it sort of was, but the entrance wasn't, and no signs to the entrance that we saw in advance of the left turn we should have made. Had to go past it to another roundabout, back to the previous roundabout to find the entrance. People should realise when giving instructions that visitors may be completely new to the area, and there are a lot of visible distractions in a town-centre setting. Much waving directing us in to the now obvious entrance, which we do, then a whole bunch of people with yellow jerkins standing round with their hands in their pockets looking at us instead of directing to where in what looks like a full car park we should go. Eventually someone deigns to point to a far corner, where there is a fussy chap who again with much waving tries to get us positioned to within an inch, that by now I'm in no mood to co-operate with. Go to pick up the route, handed over in silence, not even a suggestion we might like to buy raffle tickets. Also no cup of tea, and by now the whole car park full of cars waiting to leave. Walk over to Tesco to buy the Sunday paper by this time thoroughly hacked off - any more problems and we'll just head for home. By the time we get back most have left, we get into the queue, and eventually waved off. Supposed to be a photographer, someone with a camera round her neck, taking pictures on a mobile phone! At least one lady while we were waiting to get into position for that was chatty and cheerful.

Get underway, through what seemed an interminable stretch of 30mph, then 20mph, then suddenly out into the hills. Very careful to stick to the limits as Wales Police are much more in evidence on the roads than we ever see anywhere else. Low cloud and drizzling now so hood still up, it would be pretty impressive in the sunshine. Surprisingly little of the hills before we drop back down and a series of very pleasant valleys. Back up again to Sugar Loaf Mountain and a viewpoint, and a chance to stretch our legs. Some bits of blue now and the clouds have lifted off the tops, but by the time we get back down to the car it has greyed over again, so the hood stays up. Half-way point at Llandrindod Wells lake and cafe, sky lightening so we sit outside for a very enjoyable cup of tea and slice of cake. However similar to the New Forest run two turns with 0.0 between them which should have been one instruction were two, and by the time the Navigator reads the second one we are past it!

Back on the road hood down now, apart from some good views over the tops (spitting again and cold) lower down is less scenic than before. Surprised just how many petrol stations we are passing in such a rural area. At one point I'm hit in the face by a falling acorn which is a first in all the top-down driving we have done over 30 years. I suspect a different person wrote the route instructions as they are now littered with dire warnings of sharp bends (which in our experience are no more than can be expected on country lanes in Wales), cattle grids and all sorts - again like the New Forest. I'm sorry but if people can't use their own judgement for road hazards - which are signed on the road anyway - they shouldn't be driving. The only time they are justified in our view is the last one before you are due to make a turn off the road you are currently on as a check-point, not every single village, pub and petrol station which you can see for heavens sake. Maybe we are getting too old for this, and maybe people doing these runs have been brought up with too much 'nanny state' and feel they have to tell us how to do it as well as what to do.

Finish at the Show Caves of Dan-y-Ogaf and more chaos. I can see by the way that parking is going they are likely to double-park people, with no warning for those arriving first so you could find yourself blocked in and no way to find who by and where they might be in the caves complex, so I move out to prevent that only to be told I'm taking up two places. I point out we are not staying long and have a long journey back, so they grudgingly let me park in front of someone else (still there and he says it's fine). Just stop for a P then hood up and head for home just after 3pm. Enjoyed most of the run, despite the queued start very little sign of other cars until the closing miles, some decent distances between turns so the Navigator gets to look around as well, but shan't be bothering again. 420 miles over the two days - 140 miles on the Saturday then 280 miles on the Sunday, probably as far as we have ever driven in a day in Bee in the UK (although I averaged 250 miles per day over five days in my round Britain trip many years ago). Bee running as well as ever, bless her. Moans getting longer. I say 'well as ever', but on the way home on the motorway at higher speeds there was a very slight rattle coming from the steering wheel. Not wheel wobble as such, just a tremor with the rattle. Checked the steering column UJ and that has some play - again.


September 20th - VIP tour of Avro Heritage Museum, Woodford

Home of XM603 the only complete anti-flash white Vulcan in the world. Organised by Vulcan to the Sky Enterprises Ltd. in conjunction with the Avro Heritage Museum. The best part of a day being guided round the early days of Avro and some of it's most important aircraft, cockpit tours, lunch included.

Split onto three groups each starting on one of the main parts then moving on to one of the others. I think I was lucky to be in the group that started with the earliest beginnings through various aircraft production including of course the Lancaster and the Vulcan, then time to play on the simulator bringing a Lancaster into land followed by lunch. In the afternoon the highlights of the Vulcan XM602 cockpit tour, and finally the Lancaster replica cockpit tour. Lots of fascinating insights and anecdotes from people who worked at Avros and crewed the Vulcan, not last from one of the chaps on our tour had been a Nav/Radar and just happened to end up sitting in his old seat.

MG interest limited to the ZS as the weather was dreadful with torrential rain for most of the day, but 'the gardens need it' as they say.


September 13th - I join that very exclusive club, and fly a Spitfire!

September 5th-7th - Wales Walk up Snowdon

The annual walk with the lads, had originally planned to take Bee if the weather looked good, but the Thursday of the main walk was looking pretty dire so Vee as usual - just as well as my passenger struggles getting in and out of Vee, let alone Bee. And as in previous years a glorious day travelling up, only for it to be cold, wet and windy for the walk up Snowdon. But on the way up to Betws-y-Coed we stopped off at Pontcysyllte Aqueduct which is well worth seeing.

On the day driving to the Llanberis Pass the weather got worse and worse with increasing rain and low cloud. At the start a lone walker asked if he could join our group for the PYG track - a mistake as he was like a mountain goat! Normally we make plenty of stops so us old'uns can catch our breath, but we found we were passing and re-passing a group of young chaps - no wonder we were absolutely knackered at the top. Couldn't see a thing even though half-way up we had been able to see the other side of the horseshoe and the top. Wet inside from the exertion and out from the weather, thank heavens for the cafe to get out of the weather for a while and a hot cup of tea.

We had planned to descend via the other half of the horseshoe having done Crib Goch some years ago, but as visibility was only a few yards and none of us had done the route before that got canned. I didn't fancy going back the way we had come, so I opted for the path down to Llanberis and catch the bus back, and the others decided the same. That route was new to us as well but shouldn't have been a problem - note 'shouldn't'. Shortly after starting down the path crossed the rail track, and after a while of having a big lump of mountain between us and the track I wondered if it was the right path. "Oh yes, it goes round to the right in a minute" I was told ... but it went round to the left. Fortunately the weather then started to clear, and about half-way down we could see that we were on the opposite side of the valley to the train and the correct path, with a sheer drop between us, and apparently an 11 mile circuit by road to get from the bottom of this path to Llanberis. I could see a saddle below us and what looked like a track traversing down into the valley, towards Llanberis in the distance. Fortunately that was the case and a few miles later we had crossed the valley and were back on the correct path, and even better came across a licensed cafe for a couple of beers just before the bottom. 13 miles walked.

Next day weather quite good for the journey home, and the aviator amongst us mentioned the Mach Loop where one can see fast jets practising low-level flying, which was only about 20 miles away, and Friday was flying day. Set the sat nav, instructed for the first turn and 'Continue along the road for ten miles" ... then nothing else. Eventually even the map ran out, but we managed to get via Dolgellau and Welshpool onto the Shrewsbury road and back home so no big deal. All-in-all quite an adventure. 290 miles, the only 'problem' being that I had knocked Vee's load-space light switch on when parking up Wednesday afternoon, and the landlady didn't notice it until Thursday night. But no harm done, started normally, and got a good charge coming home. Then investigated LED replacements - which unlike external bulbs are not subject to legal or insurance restrictions.

July 3rd-6th - Lakes Walk with The Navigator

Navigator fancied a walk on the fells so I suggested Blencathra which is a proper mountain although no tricky stuff up or down. It's funny how one forgets the hard work going up (and down), but she did it albeit with some Grade-A grumbling along the way, but agreed the views were spectacular from the top. Boiling hot weather, fortunately with some breeze going up, and a bit of cloud coming down, otherwise it would have been really difficult. Next day a gentle walk round the spectacular Buttermere. Vee was fine in the heat despite much crawling and stop-start on the M6 coming back, something we'd had more than enough of over the past four weeks with several trips down the M6 to grandkids school events in Cambridgeshire, but at least Vee had been getting some good use at about 1000 miles over the month.

One oddity leaving Keswick was pulling into a petrol station I realised I had no indicators, or fuel gauge, so probably no brake lights either. Just pondering options when they came on, and stayed on. A couple of days later the same thing happened again, the only common factor was a 'cold' start after being in very hot weather the day before. Nothing since so no opportunity to diagnose any further that it was either the ignition supply to the fusebox had failed (but not to the ignition so the white wire was fine), or inside the (new) fusebox itself as green circuits on both of the output spades were affected.

Another oddity while crawling past Stafford on the M6 was a rhythmic joggling at very low speed, but not at similar speeds when back home. Then at the end of the month at the southern end of the M6 the same thing again. Investigated, saw a small bulge in the tread in a rear wheel arch, and took the wheel off to find the most horrendous split through the rubber, canvas, and even some of the steel bracing! Goodness know how long it had been like that, with all the miles at motorway speeds we had been doing, and how we didn't get a blow-out I don't know.

June 24th - Bicester Flywheel

First time visit, quite a lot of engineering interest available as well cars and bikes of all eras as well as WW1 and 2 era aircraft. Always a gamble getting in to these places, in the end not too bad, although it seemed that traffic from all four directions was having to merge into a single lane at a roundabout, rather than multiple entry points. About half an hour of crawling so not too bad.

Beautiful day, almost perfect with clear blue skies and little to no wind. We had a bit of a wander around some stalls (found a chap selling engine block coffee tables so sold him one of my old blocks which was a bonus, coming past Solihull on his way home which was another one), static aircraft display, tank course and saw Fuzz Townshend enjoying himself on track in a 10 litre monster. Just missed Lewis Hamilton's F1 start-up as it wasn't clear where it was, then we decided to settle down by the boundary for a spot of lunch before the flying display. Highlight for the Navigator was the BBMF which did a pretty extensive display of the Lanc, Spit and Hurricane, and the Dakota shortly after. First time we have seen the Lanc since the Canadians were over in 2014, due to variously unserviceability and bad weather. Very good displays by Tiger 9 - nine Tiger Moths flying in formation, and The Great War Display Team flying many WW1 aircraft in dog-fights. The P51 Mustang Miss Helen had arrived, but then 'gone tech' which was a shame. It did allow us to leave before the final display which was another aerobatic, but in fact probably half had left after the BBMF so it was a relatively easy journey out of the car parks. Very warm by then. 120 miles, some pretty significant wheel shake over 70, but new front tyres ordered for Wednesday so hopefully balancing (and tracking) will resolve that (it did).

June 2nd-4th - New Forest Run

Another glorious run, in another favourite part of the world. The first time we visited was for the inaugural New Forest Run in 1999 and we have been back several times since. A slow start for the weather travelling down, but no matter as nowadays 'scenic' routes avoiding motorways take way too long (seven hours the last time) so it was hood up M42/M40/A34 till just past the M4, then onto 'scenic' the rest of the way to avoid the frantic M3 and M27, with hood down. Moorhill House Hotel highly recommended in the heart of the forest close to Burley, with a short walk through woodland to the heath and its many foot and bike paths.

Start at East Boldre a bit tricky to find especially missing the turning to Beaulieu as an SUV was blocking the low-level sign. Plenty of history in the village hall as the village was the site of the first training establishment for pilots in WW1. Long queue to register, but plenty to look at on the way by way of period photos. Passed on the mug of tea and bacon bap after the Full Forest Breakfast at the hotel, and we got on a way shortly after. 200 cars so we were expecting convoys and queues in various places, but that proved not to be a problem, unlike the route instructions! Way too many stage mileages, to every village entry, point of interest, and even most of the many cattle grids we passed over. At one point there were ten in a row between two junctions, by which time we had had 30 stage mileages for 17 miles and just 10 junctions! Even worse was that there were several junctions with separate instructions for a turn one way then immediately a turn the other, with stage mileages given as 0.0 or 20 yards, when any other run we have been on has given that as a single instruction with a staggered junction. We were lucky not to miss the second half. It meant the Navigator was spending too much time with her head stuck in the route book instead of looking at the glorious scenery. In the end she gave up with the mileages for information points and just concentrated on the turns. But it was still a fabulous run through varied countryside, many roads we had not travelled before despite several visits. Loads of ponies with foals for the Navigator's delight, and donkeys, in one village standing in the middle of the road, and despite being herded back onto the verge immediately went back to the road! Very hot, so much so that when I came to raise the hood that night the flaps on the hood for the rear bar had come unglued, so back home I reverted to plan A that had been in force some 20 years or more, and stitched them.

Sunny again for the start of our journey home. Towards the end of the run we had come across a sign for a 'bird of prey cam' at the reptile centre, and it was on our way so called in and spent a very pleasant hour talking to one of the guides and watching Goshawk chicks on a nest-cam as well as spotting various snakes, lizards and toads. Back on the road it clouded over and got quite cool, but we persevered with hood down, Tee-shirts and shorts until shortly before the A34 and putting the hood up for the rest of the way. 390 trouble-free miles - bar the hood flaps coming unstuck!

May 13th - Kimber Run

One word - glorious! I love Shropshire (barring Telford ...) having spent most of my teens and early adult life just down the road from RAF Cosford, our two children having born in the RAF Hospital there. Start (excellent bacon roll and mug of tea - chipped enamel in true RAF fashion) and finish at Cosford Museum, lovely sunny day with virtually no breeze although the air a bit cool. A beautiful county, gently rolling hills and curving roads with low hedges so plenty of great views across open countryside. A bit potholey, but so is everywhere else these days. Part way round we came across three cars one with the bonnet up so stopped and asked if we could help, and one of the chaps asked if I had a spare rocker cover gasket. I couldn't help wondering why he needed one of those, but didn't ask. 72 miles which unusually we did all in one go. Normally we stop once or twice but the instructions just contained the bare Tulip diagrams with no information about pubs, toilets or places of interest. We did see a sign to a car park for Wenlock Edge as we passed it but in traffic couldn't stop and decided not to try and turn round.

Got back to Cosford at about 12:30 which was only just lunch-time anyway having had the bacon roll at the start, then about three hours touring the hangers. Cold-War hanger impressive with the three V-bombers, but all superb. In Hangar 1 a Spitfire turned out to be the 1:1 Airfix replica constructed by James May, which I had forgotten about. And a highlight was a last minute decision right at the end when we were pretty tired to climb to the balcony where we found a history of Cosford and it's role in processing returned WW2 POWs, of which the Navigators father had been one, and a full set of documentation from the family of a captured airman. From the traumatic initial notification that he was missing, with do's and don'ts about talking to the press, through the relief several weeks later that he was a POW, the family being admonished by the censor for writing to him about a broadcast by Lord Haw-Haw (not allowed!), and his eventual return. Very moving.

176 trouble-free miles all told, hood up for the journey there and back as it was M42, M6 and M54, but otherwise glorious (again) top-down driving.

April:

After running Bee since the head job I've noticed spots of coolant on the rocker cover and carb piston covers, with no obvious source. But experimenting with yet another method of valve adjustment to see the effect on compressions I noticed the fan belt and pulleys were damp. Peering across over the alternator I espy two vertical lines of spots up the bottom hose, in line with the edges of the pump pulley! It's also dropped a bit on the floor after the last run. Annoyed, it was a new cast-iron pump only fitted in 2014, albeit one I'd had since 1997. That was only fitted when investigating a coolant problem in case the existing (alloy) pump was sucking in air but it proved to be head gasket. So, I'm pondering whether to refit the alloy pump, but didn't.

Meanwhile, Vee's OD which had occasionally dropped out on the overrun is much more noticeable now, and too annoying to ignore. So put my theory of dropping the crossmember to give more access to the test, and found it more effective than expected. Switch found to be intermittent so replaced that, and also found the spacers to be much more critical than for the 4-cylinder OD as it operates (or is supposed to!) in 4th gear only, so some experimentation with that as well.

Service time now the weather is warmer and drier. ZS first, I've been aware that the right rear caliper may be dragging a bit, and a couple of days ago coasted to a halt on the flat level road whereupon it rolled back fractionally, so not binding then. But jacked up that corner only turns with some force, and the pad looks pretty cooked. As that disc is also showing very uneven wear, it looks like new discs and pads - again, being last done five years ago.

Bee next (Vee can wait as she was only done last August after the rebuild) a couple of days later and no problems found. But leaving the gearbox dip-stick until last after oil and filter, front suspension grease, pad check, rear brakes strip, clean and lubricate, diff level, and prop-shaft grease on a hot and sticky day I was pretty knackered, and struggled to get the rubber bung back in the tunnel! A few days later I decided to top the gearbox up as it was mid-way between Max and Min, and the bung went straight back in!

March:

I've got Bee's head back from Peter ... which he very kindly painted in black, which leaves me with a dilemma. Leave it with the gold block and rocker cover? Paint the rocker cover black as well? Or repaint the head gold - as close as I can to the original, and repaint the cover for good measure. Black just wouldn't look right, so gold it is and I'll just have to hope I can get an acceptable match. But although I'm OK for working in the garage I'll have to wait for a few days until the weather gets a bit warmer before I can do the paint.
Time passes ...
Head back on and seems to be running well, but some very strange compression readings - seemingly significantly affected by small changes in valve clearances.

In the meantime following a comment on a ZS forum I sprayed inside the throttle body with carb cleaner and then WD40, which improved the sticking throttle thing straight away, and after a few trips seems to have gone away altogether. The poster said they did it annually, which is not unreasonable. However as the rubber connector between filter box and throttle body has to be wrestled off and back on I'm wary of splitting it by doing it annually, so will wait until I notice it again. In the meantime it seems to have cured another problem when creeping in 1st gear in traffic. It's always been either too much throttle and having to keep lifting off, or too little and stalling. But now (after being stuck for an hour on the M5 Good Friday) that it creeps very well now.

February:

While Bee's head is away and the system drained I remove the rad and fan so I can get at the front cover, to remove that and check the timing-chain, gears and tensioner. All well there so refit with a new oil-seal (I noticed it was oily round there when draining) and gasket pending return of the head.

Replaced Vee's off-side front damper, and the second ARB pivot clamp.

January:

Signs of oil seeping from Vee's right front damper, so that will need changing. More tests have confirmed that Bee's No.2 exhaust valve is leaking - compression test showed a problem, then injecting compressed air into No.2 plug hole with that piston at TDC on its compression stroke resulted in noises in No.3 plug hole if the engine was turned slightly one way and No.4 plug hole if turned the other, i.e. just as one of those exhaust valves closed and the other opened. The problem is, having happened before, and just a light grinding-in of the valves cured it that time, I don't have much confidence of the same process lasting any longer this time. I could:
  1. Send the head off to be checked, and if no major problems found have unleaded seats and valves fitted. Or
  2. Replace the head - new available from at least one source for cú350.
However both those need the head fitted to the existing block of course, and last time I couldn't shift the studs to make cleaning the block face easier, and on torquing down the head I got the feeling that near the required torque a couple of the studs were perhaps stretching more than they should. If I could get the studs out simple replacement should be enough. But as that couldn't be done last time, if I persevered this time some may shear. And if that happens, I have the problem of drilling out and retapping up to 10 studs, or replacing the engine with the old one possibly not being accepted back for exchange. And even if stud replacement goes well, I still have the 'heavy tappet' that Bee has had all the 29 years I have owned her, which may now be getting slightly worse, as well the odd cam profiles which result in very variable gaps when the tappets should be on the back of the lobe and at a maximum. So that leaves:
  1. Replace the engine. Ranging from bought second-hand - unknown quantity even if I get it rebuilt. Or
  2. Buy a reconditioned unit and fit it myself - again unknown quantity and arguments about oil priming and cam-bedding if I get problems. Or
  3. Take the car somewhere and get a reconditioned engine installed - dependant on their workmanship during installation, and still the potential for warranty issues. Or
  4. Get Bee's engine rebuilt - same potential for warranty issues as above as well as no guarantee they will cure the heavy tappet. Or
  5. Get Bee's engine rebored and reground and reassemble myself - more potential for warranty issues as well as no guarantee the heavy tappet will be cured.
In the end a Laser impact stud remover gets them all out without shearing, and I take the head to Peter Burgess who declares it fit for 'unleading'.