All I wanted was a run-around

“Mesage the seller”…….OMG did I message the Seller’ …….

All I wanted was a working Austin 7 runabout, and at £5000 this 1931 RN looked OK. I asked the vendor “is the car running, can I just get in it and drive it straight away”? The vendor stated “We have used it twice for weddings”….”yes it starts and stops, but the fanbelt is broken” What a lying toe rag

What I should have done is travel to see it, but in London it really is a huge treck and it would have to be delivered (no wonder the vendor offered to pay for the delivery). Here it is arriving…….

Noticed straight away – it leans to the right?????

Off course it would bloody lean to the right……. At first I did think the rear off-side leaf spring would be broken, but on investigation it wasn’t the rear IT WAS THE BLOODY FRONT SPRING and my god, they are difficult to change over (if you can find one after 89 years!!!). Ho Hum, I’ll start that job or I wouldn’t be able to drive it safely………. and so the LIST if problems starts.

Not only one leaf broken but TWO……..

Changing the front leaf spring is an honest pain……. It means Chrome radiator cowl off (rusty bolts and not easy to get at), radiator off (draining the engine), hoses off, hand-crank nose off, fan pulley off, 89 year old rusted solid ‘U’ bolts and drop linkages to be freed. Bloody HOURS and HOURS.

Owning 15 other Austin 7’s over 50+ years and Electrifying a Seven and now a 10, I have aquired all kinds of useful stuff….. GEDOR full Whitworth, Metric and American sockets, lots of weird and wacky spanners, 2 hydraulic jacks and 6 axle stands – all fully employed for this job. Dropping the spring eventually gives me the 1931 dimentions, so now the task of trying to find a new one……… [not at Halfords!!!!], there has probably been little call for 1/2 elipse cart springs in 89 years.

To the rescue – my very good friend ‘Dave’ – tells me he has one I can borrow….yippee, however, a few hours on the blower and I do find one – at just £35!!!! Can you believe it……. and it will be with me in a week.

With a week waiting, it’s time to check out the ‘runabout’.

The Dog Shows its age

Now we know why the lights don’t work and smoke comes from the dashboard

If you look carefully, you’ll see, bare wires, rubber insulation missing, real amateur cobbling, broken terminals….. it all had to come out. WHY DO SELLERS LIE – just to get a sale.

The hand mechanical advance & retard was 100% the wrong way around. It would NEVER have started and has certainly NEVER run like this.
  • New LOOKING wiring run just for photo’s, not connected
  • Headlights with no connections inside.
  • Rear ‘Pork Pie’ lamps wiring cut 2″ from entering?????
  • Ignition leverage back2front
  • Horn short circuiting
  • Bare wires behind control panel
  • leaking petrol tap**
  • blown silencer
  • drivers window mechanism broken
  • sun roof corroded and rusted solid
  • Vacuum screen wiper broken (scrap)
  • Windscreen mechanism broken (now sealed)
  • Flexible prop’-shaft coupling dangerously frayed

Austin in their 1930’s wisdom, made two Faux Pas on this car. The petrol tap is both inside the passenger cab and also inside the engine bay. Passengers would unwittingly and accidentally push the petrol tank tap in with their feet, and 15 mins later the car would come to a stop with all around scratching their heads…… The reserve part of the tap – inside the engine bay leaks right over the hot exhaust pipe.

The positioning of the wacky carburettor and its propensity to overflowing must have lead to many all-engulfing fires. A baffle plate would save the day, but in my case I prefered to fit a clear off/on lever.

Our first chance to show off the cars

My 1931 RN and my friends 1935 Austin 7 Tourer at the AVRO classic car show

Another ‘Dog’ enters the fold

You may be aware of the criticism I made about ‘Frankie’ (being a Frankenstein dog made up of parts)…..I have unwittingly adopted another ‘Dog’

What is it about people who sell cars? Most people wish to part with a car for various logistical reasons, but a few just wish to get shut of a nightmare they can’t sort.

Being a fan of Vintage Cars, I wished to find a simple uncomplicated small Austin – just as a runabout. Austin 7’s are not very expensive and a good one can be found for about £5000. You do have to KNOW Austin’s because they do have their foibles, and although parts are easy to find, there is a lot to be desired about HOW they have evolved since the 1930’s.

Some weeks ago, a notification in ‘Classic cars’ promoted a 1933 Austin 7 box saloon. It said “Running OK, but an oily rag car in need of TLC”

The arrival of ‘Dog’ No.2…….

The moment I saw it listing on the drivers side, I wondered if the tyre was flat or worse – the rear springs had snapped. The driver pushed it off and basically scarpered??? I had a good look around it and it LOOKED fairly good. The battery was OK and I could see a red ignition light – but could I get it going????? Jeez, this has not been running for a long time and so the story unfolds……………………

As I had bought the car on a positive description (but ‘sight unseen’ – a long story) I am lumbered with its problems – and how they mounted up……

A friend of mine (and a Cheshire 7’s club member) called around following my excited message and photo’ that I’d bought a runaround. He is an expert and immediately diagnosed that the timing was a “mile out”??? Bugger.

A few close investigations, a few spanners and a joint firing-up attempt brought the 89 year old engine into life. It sounded quite good and ticked-over very well. It was noted that the fan belt was riding over the pulley and the seller had given me a sort of replacement, but it didn’t stop the engine working. We then noticed that petrol was squirting up out of the carb’ and my friend thought this was very weird….. “Turn off the fuel” he shouts – but as the tank is high over the scuttle, the petrol is gravity fed and therefore doesn’t need a pump.

Weirdly, the ‘Austin Motor Company’ of the 1930’s had some strange ideas. They had made a petrol stop tap accessible from INSIDE the car – on the passenger side, but then the ‘reserve’ feature of the tap was inside the engine bay???. Now there must have been a few unexpected stops over the years as the passengers foot would accidentally push the tap in cutting off the fuel and EVENTUALLY after the carb’ had drained the car would come to an abrupt stop. I bet many a driver and even the RAC/AA men have scratched their heads to wonder why there was no fuel……..

This squirting of fuel is apparently not unusual, but as the carb’ is right OVER the hot exhaust pipe, I’m wondering how many Austin’s have burst into to flames. My first job was to change the tap for a proper safe isolator valve (something my friend thought was totally “unoriginal”) Ho Hum…..

Next day, considering all being well, I set about starting the car for a little run……. Holy FrankenFuck, the car has no brakes….. OK the vicious clutch kangaroo’s the car forward, but stopping is almost impossible??? It would seem all the brake drums are rusty and all the brake levers are rusted solid in the brake drum backplates……. swearing ensues !!!£$%^&*

Limping back on to the drive, and looking at the listing to the drivers side, close inspection shows NOT the back springs broken but two leaves of the front on the off side…….. (I bloody hate 89 years old rust…..)

Addendum : 2nd September 2020. It has taken weeks working betweeen rainy days and dry days. The front spring is a swine to replace as the whole front has to come off – and you know what that means ’89 year old seized parts!!!!. It’s a good job I am a hoarder, I have spares and tools going back to the 70’s and now they do come in handy.

Can you believe, we can still find spares going back to the early 30’s, a good spare front spring was found for just £50 – and I had made another rare find – ‘Die Nuts’ [basically a thread renovator, and these too were from a closed garage tool shop].

Whilst I’m awaiting the new (to me) front spring, I may as well get on with balancing all the brake cables. The ‘Bowdenax’ front brake is NOT an improvment as the levers (someone chose) are too long……….ho hum.

Along with my renovations, I have decided to install LED brake lights, turn signals and LED side lights. Installing a mechanical brake lever switch is another ‘ball ache” (on your back, fiddling with wacky mechanics – all to make a brake light come on when you press it……..does it work? Does it hell).

“Now what’s wrong” my friend says – as I am stripping the Vintage Control Panel Switch. I have found bare wires, rotten insulation and the reason white smoke was appearing now and then…….

It is now very obvious, that quite a few amatuers have had a hand in keeping this ‘Dog alive. Lack of care with storage. Lack of lubrication. Certainly a lack of electrical knowledge and a total lack of care understanding Austins……and all I wanted was a simple run-around

I designed a new REAR warning light system. LED’s of course, but being such tiny car, lorry drivers do not spot the stupid low lever ‘Pork Pie’ rear lamps, nor do they SEE any form of indicators. So it had to change.

Stop, Tail, Direction and Hazard all in one.

The above photo’ shows a 3″ x 28″ plastic strip held onto the car with strong neodimium magnets. The 6LED red and amber LED’s are for side lights and hazard warning. The white strip in the middle has chasing yellow LEFT and RIGHT turn signals, flashing RED to full on brake and also offers reverse in blue/white. It is connected with a 7 pin aviation plug and socket [rhs]

Front head lights are again LED’s, but projector beams from a Harley Davidon motorbike. These lamps are 10x brightter than the 6v filament bulbs. There is a white ‘halo’ for side lights and a flashing yellow halo used as a turn signal. The old bodies have been used but I did have to ‘cobble’ the sealed beam units and basically glue them ino the Lucas frames.

99.5% finished, my friend has ‘phoned to urgently inform me the reason why the ‘advance and retard’ is weird – “its been fitted with the wrong levers and on the wrong side of the steering column

Is anything ever likely to be totally fixed on the ‘Dog’????

‘Frankie’ – Body Shop

“A beautiful patinated (shit paintwork) Car” [not]

It’s not that I don’t like ‘Modern’ cars (SUV’s) it’s just they have no character, and they’re HUGE, and the vintage car is so lovely looking. The bloody Volvo cost £27,000, £550 to service, £750 to Insure and DEPRECIATES. The two 1933 Vintage costs £6000 each. No MOT; No road tax, £100/yr insurance. One is being converted to fully electric. It’s a no-brainer……..

Rain, virus’s & lock-ins

One great advantage of being in the 2020 Covid ‘lock-down’ (or lock-in) is that I was able to construct a new roof over the whole of the garden decking, which works along with my plan for home charging. In total I have 2.5kw of high quality solar panels which even on a dull day produces power via the MPPT 180 amp controller. This is being fed into 4 wet ‘leisure’ cells each with a capacity of 220amp/hr. The solar system is working brilliantly BUT….. when it comes to converting the stored power to 30amp at 240volts – what a bloody nightmare, so be warned if you are interested….

Charging the two EV’s… why not use SOLAR??

25volts to 240v
2 – 240volt inverters, one 24volt, one 12volt source power

EBAY is a great source of British and foreign supplies. Searching for an 8kw 25 volt inverter proved a trial. Already used for a few years, my 12volt 2.5Kw inverter worked well (looking after deep-freezers, external lighting etc:) However, the jump to the new 25 volt system and needing over 3Kw is HUGE in both mechanics and cost.

How is it possible for a 12v 2500watt inverter weighing in at just 1.7kilos to be overshadowed by a 17.6 kilo monster that INFERS ‘4000watt’ by its title and 4Kw by its spec’ – BUT with a warning afterthought limiting output to just 1000watt???? Bloody Chinese jiggerypokerey. Totally pissed-off, I repacked it and discovered the return would cost over £60!!!!.

Lumbered with it, I set it up to see what it will actually supply…., I tested the output to its max (4Kw)….Fail!! OK try 3kw, so I plugged in a fan heater, it worked well and I will settle for 3kw. Perhaps if I was to set ALL the various settings I could get more power, but in the long term, I’ll have to seek an 8kw inverter and that will need a lot more batteries.

For two years – it’s been a trial…….

I’ve had the stripped bare bones of the Austin languishing in the dry garage, but rain has been one of my biggest problems. The small rented garage is simply packed to the rafters, so I have to work outside…. It’s not been easy.

In the meantime, I have refurbished the cards for the doors, and added various additions which have been made in my house workshop – I have not been idle, but the project is taking time…… I gave a talk on the A7 conversion to my fellow members of ‘Cheshire 7’s

A new club member of Cheshire 7’s, has been bought a 1934 Austin 7 convertible by his family. Being technically minded and trained, he has shown deep interest in MY endeavours, and although his A7 is beautiful, he wishes to go ‘EV’ – but before the traditionalist cry “Boo, Hiss, Boo” he will not be destroying any way of reinstalling the ICE engine and says he’s using the gearbox to stay as authentic as possible. Personally, I feel his car is one of the rarer A7’s – my RP saloon was a dog anyway, so I have no guilt at going ‘EV’…….

Progrees on ‘Frankie’

The motor heatsink
Note the heavy aluminium heatsink plate, suporting the controller

Having no radiator, the space offered an alternative position to mount the motor controller. Being 3 phase and 6Kw, the controller needs cooling. You can see the huge current carrying cables needed to cater for over 200amps.

As time has moved on and having the FALSE petrol tank, I’ve decided to add a second set of batteries to offer reserve power. These will not offer more than (say) 25 miles, but will help when charging cannot be found.

My experience with huge batteries stems from owning a 40ft Bermudan Cutter (and sailing the Caribbean for 5 years). The boats batteries had a rotary switch which allowed charging and using – House / Running / and starting batteries. With this useful configuartion in mind, I have ordered a 400 amp 4 way isolation switch which will offer a similar battery backup and split charging (plus total isolation). The cables can be seen in the above photo [2 red and 2 black heavy duty cables].

Next it will be the speed controller

My brief to the Belgium suppliers was that I didn’t wish to rip the spokes out of the vintage wheels, and I didn’t wish to accelerate 0 – 60 mph in 3 seconds. The 3 phase motor has a sophisticated pre-programmed power to speed curve, a gradual take-off and a smooth limited power curve.

Made in 1933, the lightweight body has no seatbelts and the chassis is truly quite crude. The top speed was only around 45 mph but the old brakes wouldn’t be able to stop the car safely if speeds exceeding 45.

The whole point of converting the Austin 7 has been mentioned, but basically the 30’s was an excellent year for Austin and the RP style [vertical screen, chrome radiator and 19″ wheels] its a beautiful vintage car but the mechanics are abysmal. Electric is the best way of combining the old characture with the new battery revolution.

When stripping the car of its power train, the one thing I left in situ was the accellerator linkage. The photo below is of the Curtis electrtonic speed control. It is perfect to marry the old linkage to the Curtis swing arm. The ‘travel’ is only about 3 inches and there is a ‘regen’ microswitch to employ which is also connected to the brake linkage. ‘feathering’ the old throttle pedal should allow the inertia to be pumped back into the batteries…..[ha ha ha “Should”…… I live in eternal hope]

I now face a head scratching time with the wiring loom

more later…………………………….

Why ‘Immortal Gems’

……..because Austin Cars in the 30’s called their cars after gems like Ruby, opal, pearl and I’m trying to ‘immortalise’ Frankie (my 1933 Austin 7) by electrifying it…. simple

Rain, rain, rain stops play……

At long last the motor and controller have arrived from America. But I’m unable to get cracking with Car No. 2 (the 1933 Austin 10 off EBAY).

The American Motor
The basic components

Above are the main components, the huge motor, 2 relays, 2 fuses, the regulator and the huge controller.

When this motor arrived via FedEx, the driver asked if I had a fork lift truck? WHAT!!! No!! it’s a private house 😉 but I have a 1 ton crane. But he couldn’t wait and asked my to help….. the box weight stated “235lb” (which is 106 kilos!!!!) I’m only bloody human. I couldn’t budge it, but the driver just had to drop it off as it was blocking the rest of the van’s contents. In the end he just lifted it and plopped it into a trolley!!!! (I’m sure H&S suggests a max; of 25k for one man???) I dread what his back-ache will be like next but one day.

Just by looking at the nearby door handle, you can guess how BIG this motor controller is. the motor connection cables are ‘0’ gauge – which is massive current capacity, and now I have to think WHERE this monster is to go. It really has to be in the engine bay and so be it……..

20200110 still awaiting the American DC motor and the control gear – being sent by Sea!!! Apparantly airlines don’t like anything to do with EV batteries, not even the control gear….. what are they like.

Ooooo these are lovely – from a Mitsubishi Outlander 80% useable
Brand new, EiG very high capacity and perfect for EV’s

250 of these, connected in such a way as to provide 50volts. I was going for 60v but the number of batteries did not equate to a reasonable BMS (Battery Management System). Each cell is 3.7v rated at 20Ahr with a C rating of 5 – 100Amps!!!!! So connected in parallel and then in series – the power available is phenominal – however, as I am ‘winging’ this, no-one has mentioned keeping these babies COOL or warm for that matter, because you cannot charge Lith-Ion-Po when it is freezing cold, and if they get hot they could explode!!!! Eeeek

A video of the Austin 7 RP

Not sure if this video will load, as it’s huge
We’ll see if it loads……..

‘Roo’ the EBAY Barn Find

It certainly LOOKS good

It may certainly LOOK good, and after all it’s not been touched for over 46 years (yes you read that right – left in the dry shed since 1972). However, with it’s original paintwork, original leather seats etc; one dashboard dial has been robbed (but they don’t work anyway, so no loss).


Above, I offer various photo’s from the project. There will be more photo’s as the project has now changed from RENOVATION to ELECTRIFICATION.

Having owned ‘Roo’ since before I bought the lovely runabout ‘AGU’, and now having had a long period of trials and tribulations with her [AGU], I have decided NOT to renovate and just offer the ENGINE, gearbox and full ‘drive train’ to the ATDC members. It will simply keep another almost dead Austin 10 on the road.

Eeeeeew what’s that powder

One of the main reasons for deciding on ‘electrifornication’ 😉 is that ‘AGU’ is a pain in the arse to start, all minor issues are engine based and unlike the Austin 7 project, offers a fabulous finished Austin 10 (looking) modern electric car. Ok, it’s bigger, but compared to the A7 the chassis on the ’10’ is using girders not bent steel, and the whole finished car will be a four door car with a lot better range and more scope for modification.

The plan was to sell the engine etc; (which I now have done) and acquire a new electric motor of about 15hp, but this time I will try out the American sources of drive motor and controls (they are more advanced me thinks?).

The engine was a pain to remove, mainly because the nuts and bolts are 86 years old, rusty and seized up. I had to carefully cut most of them with a 1mm diamond disc. Even when the charome radiator was finally extracted, the engine, gearbox and prop shaft were huge endertakings in their own right. As I have probably mentioned, I bought a 1 Ton engine hoicst from China (brand new), delivered for £99 – amazing. It turned out that LIFTING the engine was almost impossible the way the factory had assembled it in 1933, so all the steering linkages had to be removed and the engine LOWERED. But even then the whole car had to be lifted to get to the engine resting on the concrete drive……jeez, 3 days later!!!!!!

With such a large engine bay and substatial chassis rails, I could use almost any current 3 phase or DC motor of around 15hp to 25hp. Mounting brackets would not need to as complex as the A7’s and a new prop’ shaft would connect the back axle directlt to a flange set on the motor spindle.

But what happens next……………..FFS!! Rain!! like 40 days and 40 nights, even though ‘Roo’ is under a temporary rain shelter, working outside is a pain. (As truly working on the Austin 7 has proved too!!). So it’s off to the inside workshop………, but before delve into that phase, let me show you what the INSIDE of the 86 yr old doors looks like after the cards have been removed and the woodworm dust sucked out……fabulous

Can you belive how well this inside of the 1933 door shell looks?

Only one side of the car was infested with woodworm (now dead after ‘bombing’ them with three American smoke de-infestors) [?]. The cards on the drivers side were riddled with holes, so in order to form a template of the wooden ‘card’ a good door has to be used to translate the wimmor image for the opposite side. Having the three-ply available (ordered for the required cards in the A7) has been a saviour. Jigging them out to copy is easy, but the pockets would have to be accommodated as they are very fancy shaped (unlike the plain and simple A7)

Thanks to Austin’s quality, the woodworm free door and card are in brilliant condition – enough to use as a reversible template.

47 years abandoned and it starts…..

Just a very short video (modified to fit this site) of the 1933 Austin 10 we have named ROO, and the starting of the motor after 47 years of neglect. To ensure it all worked, we carried out a check and replacment of anything found broken, seized or missing.