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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Half term and the Odeon Shag sedan

Well - been kinda busy. Cleaning chimneys, cooking pies, took the week off as the kids were off school. Half term. One last holiday fling before the dark winter nights descend.

Kate's parents came over for the week, so we lit the woodburners for the first few cold and rainy days. It was the first time they've been over since Kate passed away - kinda hard, but it was real good for them to see the kids at home - getting on with normal life. Whatever that is.

So. On the Tuesday - I set off with a borrowed ramshackle trailer hitched up behind my pickup, with my dad as navigator. To Loughborough by the pretty route. Well, as pretty as can be, skirting the fens, and crossing the comical county of Rutland.

For the past few years I've been planning an honest to goodness, high days and holidays traditional something or other. With more than 2 seats and maybe even a roof. Something for the whole family. Sadly now we're family minus one, but as we still managed to go a couple of places this year all squeezed into the T modified, it only went to prove that I still want to finish the plan I started whilst Kate was around.

Spent a winter locked in the shed a couple of years ago building a Ford Pilot custom. After finishing all the chassis, running gear and panelwork I kinda... lost my way.

So. I threw it outside, dragged in my 27T tourer, and started into a plan to replace the original engine and axles with some Model A running gear. Seemed like a good idea; still does, but I gave the front end to a good friend to rebuild and he's been distracted and snowed under with work.

Hmmm. Which is a long way round trying to justify dragging home this leaky shed today.

Yup - a 1930 Model A Fordor. To be more specific, a RHD 14.9hp Fordor. For thems that don't know, we had a very curious way of rating cars for road tax over this side of the pond, so it was possible to buy a small bore version of the A engine (at extra cost!) to reduce the taxation hurt in subsequent years. And I have one of the gutless little lumps under the bonnet. Also means the back axle ratio is around 4.1, and the radiator has one less core I believe.

The engine has one redeeming feature though - the cylinder head is basically a factory hi-compression head. I'll replace the old boat anchor lump with a better, bigger, banger before we hit the road. But I'll probably leave it in place for now until my lack of carpentry skills have solved the lack of structure in the roof.

Well - an old friend came by at the weekend, and after a bit of messing, rinsing the petrol tank out, cleaning the points and carb, we jury rigged a battery and swung her over. And it started! And ran! And the sun came out! Which only amplified the bright, gold interior - what were they thinking when they retrimmed the inside?! The seats are like leftovers from an old cinema... Still - the kids found 'em comfy as we had a quick bibble along the lane.

Hopefully - this time it's gonna, kinda, - work. Just do what's needed to get the old shed on the road and have some fun maybe. Well, it's a plan?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Model T auction

Every year, just in time for my birthday (damn, older again...), the Model T Ford Register of Great Britian descend on Buckinghamshire for their annual autojumble and auction.

Real passionate, the T club - it's populated by a grand bunch of sociable souls who actually use their cars. Trips to Sweden, Spain, Scotland and no doubt some other places beginning with 'S' in the past year. My T motoring has been far less adventurous (and less costly!) but I still enjoy the yearly trek to Neil Tuckett's farm for a natter with old friends, and the chance to pick up some bargains...

So. Arose early on Sunday, bundled the kids into the daily, picked up an old time friend who I always take to stop me buying things I shouldn't, and set off. We left the little ones with Kate's parents - they miss her too, and, well - it kinda helps to do the stuff we always used to do. Kate and the kids visiting grandparents whilst I have a few hours escapism with cash in my pocket.

I love an auction. Superb auctioneer - fast too. Turn for a chat and miss three lots. Damn! The pickings were slimmer this year but it didn't matter as I wasn't after anything in particular. Just the buzz of bidding. Always had it since I bid for bicycles at farm auctions as a kid. Letting the tyres down when nobody was looking because who'd buy a bike with a puncture? Except a young boy with a pump in his coat pocket?

Missed a superb 1927 sump for £20 but I doubt it's the last one on the planet. The score for the day was a pair of 1927 wings, splash aprons and running boards. Battle scarred, cracked and tired, but no real rot. I've always been too ambitious in the past; hoping to cure flaky, thin, brown, mishapen objects - to replace the holes held together by air with the steel that Henry intended.

Still - hope helps. It gets us there.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Rose Elliot - my heroine of cuisine

Been a vegetarian now for, oh - so long? Decades.
Anyway, when I first left home, shared room in a house, it was Rose Elliot who fed and kept me healthy. OK, she never actually came round, and I had other veggie cookbooks, but I could always rely on Rose not to poison me.
And of course I didn't actually have most of the ingredients she suggested, but she gave me enough confidence to experiment with whatever hadn't gone off in the larder...

So now I've returned to my old friend Rose. Oh sure, I stray to a few internet recipe sites (a good reason for a wireless powerbook... flour in the keyboard!), but I'm feeling fit, fat and fine - and the kids seem to enjoy the adventure most of the time.

Cheers Rose!

"Todays hidden ingredient was...parsnip".

Monday, October 02, 2006

Taming a Flivver - that's a Model T to you...

As long as I can remember, I've always had a thing about Model T's. Although I love to modify them, Henry's flathead eight being my favourite engine, the idiosyncrasies of driving an original made me curious.
Curious enough to build one for myself.

So - just incase you ever need to know how to drive a T, let's get started.
Right - sitting behind the wheel you have a couple of hand levers, a handbrake,and three pedals on the floor. Seems normal right? Except - wait a minute!? Where's the gear lever?!
This is how it all works:-
Left hand pedal - gears. Down to the floor for low, lift off for high.
Centre pedal - reverse. Press it down to go back the way you came.
Right hand pedal - brake.

The handbrake has a litttle steel ramp on it so that pulling it halfway on holds the gear(LH) pedal in neutral ie about halfway down.

Lets assume this sucker is running (save that for another day...) & get this flivver rolling!
The hand lever behind the steering wheel nearest the centre of the car - that's your throttle. Knock her down a few notches.
Set the handbrake halfway off and stomp on the GO/lefthand pedal (early drivers equated it to kicking open the stable door...) , That should give you first which is useable for, oh, about the first 20 or so feet of your journey.
By now you should be panicking so lift your foot back off will give you neutral. Dab the right hand pedal will bring you to a stop - with the engine still racing mind, so notch the throttle back down.
And rest.

So. Feeling braver?
Right then - hand full of throttle, gently kick that left hand barn door foot down, let the handbrake all the way off and... take your foot back off the pedal. This gets you top.
Weird experience, barrelling along without a foot on the pedals...
You'll probably want to crack back that throttle a little as this torquey, lively old beast climbs to a heady 30-odd mph top speed.

Rolling along like this, adding a bit of left and right every now and again, adjusting the timing with the other hand lever to stop her pinking on the hills, America found its wheels.

Enough rambling though - it's probably time to slow this animal down.

In a panic - jumping on any of those three pedals is going to slow you down (infact experienced T users balance slowing down between the reverse and brake pedal to even out the wear) but lets do it the right way to start with...

Press the right hand pedal down, and as you slow, hold the left hand pedal down to get back into neutral - or pull the handbrake halfway on - and bring her to a halt.

Happy? Or would you like one last trick?

Well with the handbrake set to neutral, lets try out that middle pedal you've avoided so far...
Step on it like you did for first, bands grip and back you go! If a Model T driver meets a hill too steep (or Low wears out, or fuel is low, or the front main bearing starts knocking with oil starvation) turning round and reversing up gets you there.

There's loads more to waggling these levers and step dancing on those pedals - but this should be enough to get you rolling.
Oh - and don't abandon the driving seat without first pulling on the handbrake if the engine is still running - as a friends fence once discovered...