Rare Breeds Show at Haynes Motor Museum on 8 September.

This was an excellent show with an astounding variety of cars, including one-offs. They had a special display of 500cc racers which gave a demo (race?) on the track in the afternoon splendid stuff. My favourite (and also the visitors) was an Austin Ant, a sort of mini Land Rover Defender, with a fiendishly complex transmission and torsion bar suspension. Another that caught my eye was a beautiful SS, one that I would have liked to take home. Definitely worth a visit - offer your car for display next year.

NEC Show Thanks to Tony Stanton we had a presence again at the NEC, sharing a large stand with the Fairthorpe SCC. On display were four Olympics, two Turners and a Fairthorpe. Sharing the stand certainly eases the workload both for buildup/breakdown and for manning and provided a better all-round display for the visitors too. For more details, see pp 4,5.

From the bizarre to the sublime the Rare Breeds Show

Is it a Batmobile? No, it's a Cooper 500cc race car!

Here it is battling it out on the circuit

Everybodys favourite the ADO 19 Austin Ant

A real beauty an SS1

The article in Autumn 2008 about C types that keep emerging

John Walkington

I was very interested to read the article especially the mention of the works C type. I obtained this before I purchased my C type body shell in 1955. The photo below and one of the F type (MBU 303 in the magazine) were used by Rochdale Motor Panels and Engineering as sales literature. I did see the works C type and it was a very smart car. I remember it being a metallic pale blue and thought it had. Riley mechanicals, but after 53 years I may be wrong.

Progress on my C type (Corsi - which very loosely is Italian for racer)

Progress is quite slow as I only spend about one or two days per week on it and have a limited budget. Fortunately up to now I have been able to make parts myself or use bits from previous cars, some even from the original Corsi, which if you are interested appeared in an article in Magazine No. 90 Summer 2002.

Fortunately I have a very large workshop hidden away at the end of our garden and I can just down tools and lock up. In 1999 I got the creative urge and constructed a tubular steel chassis to take Triumph Herald/Spitfire running gear; I modified the rear suspension to reduce weight and increase efficiency. A

Ford Kent Crossflow with a 5 speed box supplies the motive power, helped by twin 2" SU's on a manifold I made and a 4 branch exhaust, professionally made and a polished stainless steel silencer I made. I do not think the car will be very quiet. The floors, cockpit and boot, tunnel, bulkheads and inner wheelarches are made from GRP/polyurethane sandwich, thickness varying to suit the application. Brackets for steering, the foot pedals, handbrake and other bits and pieces were all made by hand and took quite a while because one does not always get it right first time. Clutch operation was changed from Ford cable to hydraulic.

A nice big radiator was made professionally to my specification and fits in a duct behind the grille with an electric fan and a diverter behind to send the hot air out to the rear of the front wheels. In 2002 the bodyshell was dragged from its resting place in the garden - after 40 years out there it looked dreadful, dirty, cracked and bits torn off it. It was brought in doors and allowed to dry out; cleaning and removing the old paint to reveal the Gel coat took ages.

Tubular chassis made in 1999

Ford crossflow engine and 5-speed gearbox

Inlet and exhaust manifolds

The Gel coat was quite badly crazed, but a boat builder told me how to restore it. Clean it very thoroughly, flat it down, spray with cellulose primer and flat and spray until a good surface resulted. Before the final primer quite a lot of modification had to be done - the door filled in, new radiator intake, new wheel arches and a moulding to hold the windscreen. Then rubbed down and more coats of primer. Looks fabulous now.

After 40 years in the wilderness ...

... and after refurbishment. Note lack of doors

Halfway through the above, it was fitted to the chassis and has made a nice stiff structure. Next came the fiddly bits, hinges and locks for bonnet and boot lids - these are concealed so took several attempts at making them before they operated satisfactorily. The rear lights needed pattresses to look right, so a mould had to be made first - quite a long job as it had to be robust enough to take at least two mouldings. A friend lent a very good brake pipe flaring tool so the brake pipes are now ready to fit.

The next big and expensive job is the painting - dark blue with the seats in Jaguar magnolia. The seats are by Intatrim of Telford, beautifully made and very comfortable. I am very pleased with the driving position. the rest of the interior will be quite stark, unlike Corsi Mark 1 which was fully trimmed. At the moment the car weighs 9 cwt; with only one or two additions to be fitted it will be near 10 cwt, so it should have quite a lively performance.

The car has been as fully assembled as far as possible, it will roll and can be braked and steered. A house move was considered so the car needed to be mobile - ish. At the moment I am sketching out a wiring diagram and a layout for switches and instruments. There is no date for completion - it will be finished when it is finished, much to the frustration of the grandchildren who are very keen to drive it.

Current state, with proud owner

(John added the following in answer to some questions from me Ed)

To answer your queries, the inlet manifold is a piece of 1/4" mild steel plate with four tubes mitered to two to support the twin 2" SU carbs, ex Rover 2000 TC and converted to 20 deg. semi downdraught to clear the distributor (parts supplied by Burlen Fuel Services who are very helpful). The distributor is an Escort electronic with a special side exit cap. The carbs are supplied by an SU electric pump mounted in the boot and converted to electronic operation.

The exhaust manifold was made to my jig by Paul at Tony Law Ltd in Leeds. They do mostly competition car and bike work. It is artistry in pipework and fits beautifully, very reasonable in price and Paul threw in a lot a tube for the silencer internals and for the inlet manifold.

The clutch operation must be similar to yours. I had an unused Rover slave cylinder, made a bracket, what else! The release arm has a threaded swivel block on the end and a pushrod to the slave.

A propshaft has to be obtained soon; a local firm will make one to my drawing.

On the rear suspension, the heavy transverse leaf spring was discarded, top wishbones in 3/4" square tube were made and well drilled to add lightness, the inboard mounting using the six tappings formerly used by the spring on the top of the diff. Lotus coil dampers and the trailing links made parallel to the wheel base as the car is very low indeed. About 1/3rd the weight has been saved and the operation seems more efficient. As the car is so light I intend getting all the spring units, front and rear, made to order by Dampertech.

The seats are by Intatrim of Telford, the frames are GRP and are lighter than Richfield, also a bit cheaper. My wife and I decided to have a day out and collect the seats, a very nice day out, successfully getting lost in Telford. Very nice people, super product when we finally got there, but hopeless at giving geographical directions. However, they gave me a large piece of the fabric to make the gearlever boot and possibly the handbrake lever boot also and any other bits I might decide to upholster, dashboard maybe.

The handbrake lever is to the driver's right, in the void the door used to fit; it powers a master cylinder, to a slave below the propshaft, operating a rocker which pulls the Triumph cable mechanism. This is sort of cribbed from C.Chapman's Lotus Mark 12 (a Mark 10 with IRS) only he had the lever horizontal under the dash which powered extra calipers on the inboard rear discs.

I wish to mention Wakefield Radiators who were extremely helpful in making a very good crossflow radiator, 16"x12" with three rows of tubes at very reasonable cost from my drawing.

The wiring is only at the drawing stage and I need an alternator. I am about to fit the rear lights, indicators and number plate lights. The next real big job as I mentioned before, is strip down and paint. Probably a few brackets to make as well. (This was in response to a comment I made that one of my least favourite jobs is making brackets, which take a long time in relation to job satisfaction. - Ed)

John Walkington

Early Rochdales

Once again Malcolms Inbox has overflowed with information relating to Early Rochdales and trying to sort it all into files on my computer requires a Masters degree in the Dewey classification system! Two Rochdale GTs have surfaced this month and I'm sure this is only going to be the first chapter in their very promising restorations. Watch this space....


Ebay is a fantastic way to reach a targeted audience and in late September this year a Rochdale GT surfaced. The auction started off by saying we bought this car as a project but haven't got the time for it any more ( I think we all know that feeling)! This GT is known to the club and belonged to Alan Elliot. Although it was auctioned as a part finished project most of the hard restoration work (chassis preparation, floor pans, inner wings etc) had already been done. It also included telescopic shock absorbers (this was sold as the 'Raymond Mays Fluid Cushion Ride' conversion) and the original Rochdale radiator header tank and crossflow radiator. The car also came with a very good, highly tuned aquaplane engine. The car does not have any registration papers or original registration plates these were lost during the long time that it was off the road awaiting restoration in the 1970s/80s/90s.

The winning bidder of the auction is Tony Hansford; he writes:

I have recently acquired a Rochdale GT from Alan Elliot in need of extensive restoration, I believe you know this car? I run a restoration/race car preparation business in the south of England and I intend to restore the car back as a race car, and would like as much period information as possible. Also I would like to trace the original registration number for the car, and I believe Alan has spoke to you about this in the past.

I enclose a couple of pictures of the car at the moment and also of the kind of cars we prepare and race; as you can see the Rochdale is a million miles away from what I have raced in the last few years, but I have always liked the cars, and want to build a gorgeous 50s supercharged Rochdale, so any info would be gratefully received.

Malcolm replies:

I'm delighted that Alan's GT has gone to such a good home and will be rebuilt and raced - that's brilliant. What race series are you aiming at? I think what's permitted will depend quite a lot on the regulations. As to what was done in period, again it depended on the race series - 1172 Formula was quite strictly regulated but that was for lightweight racers anyway, not cars like the GT. Allan Staniforth (the race car suspension expert) used to race a GT which he'd modified quite heavily to use BMC running gear.

Certainly the overhead inlet valve conversion and supercharger are period items, so you should be able to use them in pretty much any current historic sports car racing. They can be hard to find, but asking around the racing fraternity is almost certainly the best way to track them down - someone, somewhere, will have them. I think Gerry Marshall did - certainly he had a 100E that he was planning to rebuild as a race car and he introduced me once to a guy called Spike who had built the Willment OHIV conversions... Quite a few of the people who used to play with sidevalves are still about, and I'm sure some of them have parts squirreled away in attics etc...

There were also many period items produced to improve suspension on these cars, and these are well worth having. Independent front suspension makes a huge difference, along with telescopic shocks (which I think you already have?). Close ratio gears in the gearbox and a high ratio crownwheel and pinion, along with Ballamy 15 inch wheels, also transform the car's potential.

I'm sorry I can't give you any more help on the history of the GT, as I know no more than what Alan has told me. Your best bet is to keep gently chasing Alan and Mick, to see if they can put you in touch with previous owners who might have some more information. Come back to me if you get anywhere?

Tony replies:

Thanks Malcolm,

I'm not sure what race series it will be raced in, and whether I personally will get time to race it, as I'm very busy with racing my F1 cars in the Euroboss series, I've attached a couple of pictures, as you can see a long way from 1950s kit cars but I've always liked Rochdales, especially the early ones, so if you hear of any period parts for sale could you let me know please? Also any period pics of GTs that may have raced will be a big help, do you have any? Also specs of what was done, as I'm trying to research before we start the rebuild.

We're sure this is going to be a very special GT when it is completed.


Patrice Wattinne has sent a photo of his Rochdale ST. Patrice says this is the last photo of my ST before I drive it to a man to get a new windscreen! He is planning to get a low wraparound Perspex screen with central divider/support, which in a way echoes the original split screen (though higher, with glassfibre surround) that Rochdale used to supply as an extra. We look forward to more photos of this stunning restoration soon.


A Rochdale GT 263 UXG, previously registered 55 FAU was won on an Ebay auction by J W Lees Brewery of Manchester, who were going to use it for promotion and give it away as a prize. Eventually they seemed to lose interest in the idea and the car became homeless!

It now seems that the car has turned up in France and has found a new home and owner! From the pictures below you can see that the restoration of this car is very professional and the final product is going to be a first class Rochdale GT. Hopefully we will gain some more information about this restoration soon. Watch this space!

Before and after

Before and after


Les Brown: (in a missive to your Hon Ed)

You are working on your Phase II in the garage - probably gel cracks, or something - when your mobile phone rings. Putting your sanding block on the roof, you gently lean on the rear of the car with one hand, while answering the phone with the other. Does the rear of the car:

(a) depress smoothly and silently, rising back to its full height as you remove your hand? (b) stick initially, moving down with a crack and a groan, remaining down as you stand up, or (c) not move at all?

If your answer to the above is (b) or (c), this piece will probably be of some interest!

Regular readers will recall my earlier efforts to get a decent ride from my Phase II. We have all read those glowing 60s tests describing a smooth and easy-riding car, very much against my early experiences of an unbelievably harsh ride. Had it always been like that? Difficult to say, and questioning original owners tended to bring a well, what do you expect from a 60's sports car? Careful tweaking of a number of details resulted in definite improvements, but still didn't fully match expectations. Tracking down the exact cause wasn't easy, and the rear suspension has a number of unique design points which it is easy to blame, including

1)                  The rear dampers. With their stem-stem mounting, this was my initial favourite. Was this able to cope with the varying angles that the trailing arm subjected it to? AVO didn't like the idea, quoting Marcos as the only other users of such a system, and they weren't renowned for their ride. Was the heavier build not allowing as much flexing as earlier ones had? Using the earlier mounting rubbers and not over-tightening helped a little.

2)                  Accuracy of the rear arm construction. This clearly wasn't good, and my earlier smoke-and-mirrors tests resulted in me welding small wedges around the seat for the damper, to straighten the angles up a little.

3)                  Seating of the spring straight onto the body at its top means that the forces by-pass the mounting rubbers. Also, with the changing angles of the damper, the fixed position of the top mounting is bound to generate odd forces within the spring - enough to snap one of mine in two places near the top after only about a years use (and wreck a brand-new AVO!). AVO did recommended trying a shorter spring with a top collar for mounting on the damper to improve this situation.

4)                  Unsprung weight - I have heard this one brought up many times. The actual mass of the sprung components isn't that bad, but because of the Olympics very light weight, the ratio of sprung:unsprung masses is less favourable than on many cars. The downward forces from the rear spring that encourage the rear wheels to track a bumpy road surface are exactly the same as the upward ones fed into the body structure at its top. Heavy unsprung weight = more difficulty in controlling the suspensions motion and light sprung part = greater vertical accelerations being felt by the body and its occupants. Which is why the cars should ride better two up, and vans/estate cars have a harsh ride when unloaded. (more mass to move means less acceleration for the same force - Newton and all that). And presumable why you went to the trouble of mounting the diff on the body of your latest car, Alan? But I can't really buy it for the levels we are discussing, and it would not cause effects (b) and (c) detailed above, anyway.

5)                  Tyres. Because they are so light, and most cover low mileages Olympics don't tend to wear these out as fast as other cars. We're all pretty tight as well - one of the reasons we are attracted to the car in the first place - so it's difficult to throw away tyres which appear sound on the outside. Well, they may not wear but they DO harden with time and it was only by replacing an apparently sound set of ZXs in the early days of ownership that my car became driveable at all.

By sorting the above considerations, my answers had moved from (c) to the good end of (b), still without entirely impressing, so road damage to the bottom of (yet another!) set of AVOs encouraged me to press my spare suspension/axle into service while I was at it. Laying all the parts out just prior to installation led to much head scratching. It all looked so good - far better than most 60s efforts - surely it COULDN'T be so badly flawed? And so it proved.

I fitted the new trailing arms to the body, using their original silentbloc bushes (didn't fancy another replacement job unless I had to) and positioned the arm at about the mid position of the suspension movement as I tightened the nuts (tighten at the bottom and there is presumably a limit through which the rubber bushes can stretch?). Would the back of the arms line up with the axle mountings? Well, not entirely, and some pulling in would be needed to fit the axle - but would the bushes allow for this?

Worse was to follow, as I rested a small steel bar in the rear (axle end) bush of each of the arms in turn. They were miles out! Each was perhaps 10 degrees or so from being level - and angled in opposite directions. How could the bushes cope with such mis-alignment? I do like these silentbloc things, and have the fondest memories of my Greeves suspension (two wheeled equivalent of the Rochdale? - well, pretty near) which did away with metal springs entirely and relied on the torsional forces generated within the mounting rubbers as the front suspension medium (and on some, the rear also). Unlike the Rochdale application, these had always been super-smooth in their operation, and vastly superior to the telescopics of the time. But there is a limit to how much can be reasonably be expected - pulling the arms in AND putting a twist on each as well - no wonder the car had ridden so badly. Worse still, just think of the path the arms were attempting to follow as they compressed the springs - each would try to move in to the centre of the car and the various parts would be fighting against each other as the suspension attempted to move! Well, I'm sure I'd have creaked and groaned, under the circumstances.

I took the arms off again, along with the little square brackets that held them in place. Now, I had always admired the design of these bits - they take what is basically a point loading situation and spread this into three large bolts, positioned in three different planes at a point on the car well suited to take out both the horizontal forces (floor) and vertical (rear bulkhead). But it's no use doing all this if the holes don't line up! I went back to original owner, Dave Collings and asked if he could remember how the car was delivered, all those years ago. He didn't think it came with ANY drillings done, and remembers the engine mounts as being a real **** to line up. And there were, of course no sets of instructions given out with the car (musn't upset the taxman - we're only selling you a pile of parts) so is it any wonder some have been riding so badly for so long?

The main problem seems to be in the actual moulding of the body and the bracket has a natural tendency to sit at a slight angle as a consequence. Were all Ph IIs the same? How could any of them ride properly? But what to do? I had re-made the squares myself as the originals were pretty grotty, with the axle bolt going through at 90 degrees to the vertical surfaces - could I file the outer holes to bring the bolt into its correct alignment? This seemed the easiest option and I enlarged the hole into a slot before going back and welding up the original part of the hole. So far so good, but far more filing was involved than I had thought possible, and the outer holes ended up a good quarter inch from their original positions, with horizontal displacement as well to help match the rear of the arms up to the axle. When reassembled I found that the front silentbloc was now at quite an angle to the bracket, resulting in poor seating at each end - I filed both ends of the bush's inner sleeve at a slight angle, to line it up better, tightened everything up - and prayed!

Would the ride of the car be improved? Well no - it wasn't improved, it was absolutely TRANSFORMED. This one simple mod had resulted in more improvement than all the careful tweaking that had gone before - we were definitely firmly in (a) territory, for the first time ever. I couldn't believe it! My first thought was - crikey, this is better than the Mazdas wishbones - it wasn't, but careful backto-back rides revealed there wasn't that much in it and the ride from the rear was certainly better than any of the 1960s cars I have owned/sampled.

So, here's my final thoughts on Phase II rear suspension after all those years - I only find out these things when I'm about to sell the car (just so much room available, folks!)

i)                   There's nothing wrong with those dampers - maybe not even the much-maligned SPAX which I know have worked very well on other cars. Similarly, the springs top mounting to the body is OK if everything is set up right - perhaps this was to allows a longer travel in the first place. Also, unsprung weight, though important, is a bit of a red herring in comparison with other issues here.

ii)                 Tyres are still important, I run Michelin MXs with a pressure of 20psi - does anyone ride softer than that?

iii)               I have kept to original bushes were possible, those that come with the AVOs feel a little harder than the ones I am using. Don't tighten rubbers too much, and watch out for the massive washers that AVO give you - they can rub on the bolts at the top mounting point, sounding like a car full of canaries when you go over a bump!

iv)               Accuracy of the arm construction can be dodgy and I bet most of those in service weren't made in Rochdale! Keith Pratt published a diagram a year or two back (Winter 2002), which is quite instructive to re-visit. Would it be worthwhile for the club to get some arms and brackets made up accurately? I wonder just how many Olympics have been forced off the road (and kept off!) by issues like this.

v)                  The poor alignment of the arms can be tackled directly by work on the body. The inner mounting surface can be brought to the vertical, on each side by building up with fibreglass, and filing to suit.

vi)               Alternatively, cut the outer (vertical) face of the bracket off, weld an appropriate circular wedge to the inner before tacking the outer back in place and checking alignment before re-welding. This enables the outer surface to be correctly vertical and obviates the need for filing the bushes - a bit of a bodge, if we're honest! If you elect to make new squares (not that difficult) note that they should have well rounded corners to enable good contact with each of the surfaces - those on my car were horrible! The long axle bolt must be both horizontal, and at right angles to the centre axis of the car. I always use the biggest washer I can find for the fibreglass side of these bolts.

vii)             It's worth checking the accuracy of all other parts used. I had two Panhard rod/back axle brackets, one a quarter inch longer than the original. This effectively lengthens the rod, and has enabled the axle to mount up nearer the central position it is supposed to adopt - worth playing with, if yours sits to one side (!)

viii)           My springs are 130lb/inch items from Demon Tweeks, and the dampers are set to position 2 (out of 17). It's certainly soft at the rear - the front is now noticeably harsher. It may be worth experimenting with a little more damping - 3 or 4 - though it's a bit of a faff to get at the adjuster inside the arm every time. Incidentally, I always smother these bits in copperslip - come back a year later and you'll have no chance with the spring height/damper adjustment if you don't.

ix)               Lastly, what does that bottom quarter inch on the damper rod achieve? It sits at the very worst position possible, and is vulnerable to bricks/stones etc. I don't even remember clouting mine, but something had knocked it right back, and replacement came to the full £140 for the pair. It has flats to grip when you tighten the nuts, but the adjuster only just fits inside the arm, so no way can it twist as you tighten or slacken the nuts anyway. I'm also tempted to fit a little skid plate to the bottom of the arm to protect the remaining bits that protrude under the arm for a little better ground clearance and less vulnerability overall.

Following our discussions, Alan, I was interested to hear that a number of cars only use TWO bolts - the front and the top - at the rear mounting point, with the long axis bolt not passing through the body at all. I dredged back through my back issues of the mag - what great stuff there's been over the years - and it's remarkable, reading the letters/articles just how much trouble there has been centred around the rear suspension on various cars.

I found two references - Christmas '92 (John West) and Winter 96 (Paul Lyon) referring to the repositioning of the long bolt so it doesn't pass directly through the body. I have to say, it's not an idea I'm keen on! Introducing point loads into a fibreglass structure can be scary unless carefully handled and we have all seen evidence of local cracking round door handles, hinges and mounting points where loads have not been spread over a wide enough area.

The one vital issue for this mounting is that the axis bolt must be located firmly and accurately to the body structure - bolting it directly through the body is an excellent start, and the other two bolts do a good job in stabilising its mounting in the other two planes as well as distributing the loads generated to the rest of the structure. While I am sure it IS possible to beef the area up enough to cope I do like the way the three bolts work together in each plane, and the shear loadings the long bolt introduces directly to the fibreglass in both horizontal and vertical senses must make a major contribution to the overall stiffness at this point.

I wasn't too surprised, therefore that Pauls 1996 findings were of a failure having occurred after someone had reduced the number of bolts to two. I favour playing safe - it's just a pity the original Rochdale didn't do as good a job with the alignment as it did on structural strength at this point. Perhaps it's the very trickiness of this joint that has led to all the alignment problems over the years?

Les Brown

Olympic Rebuild update

By Jason Hoffman.

Just an up-date on the restoration of my Olympic phase 2 [ PAX 44]. After buying the car and getting it back to Keith Hamers workshop, we gave the car a good looking at and as is normal the car was stripped to a bare shell. First jobs were to fill all the holes made by the previous owner and reinstate the rear wheel arches, which had been cut out to help with problems of the tyres rubbing. The fuel tanks had leached their resin and I want a car that will be reliable. So I've fitted a steel tank mid-ships behind the rear axle, moulded into the floor; the spare wheel will live inside. Then I fitted a roll cage, partly bonded into the shell to give me good seat belt mounts and help when the car hits the track. The front suspension is Minor based as a phase one and is now getting cleaned and powder coated as the back has been. I'm trying to get the car back to being a rolling shell before I tackle the doors, possible the biggest job on the car.

Here are some pics of my phase 2. Didn't take too many - just enough to see what's going on. You can see the roll cage is a four point fixing but also bonded into inner wheel arches. Behind the cage is the new battery box, where the fuel tanks used to be. Opposite to the battery will be the fuel pump and fuel filler pipe with the tank directly behind the horizontal cage come seat belt tube. The back suspension has been stripped, powder coated and re-fitted, using club supplied bushes and new Spax shockies that came with the car. The rear wheel arches have been reinstated using sections cut from an old Rochdale body. In the engine bay I've filled lots of holes and when I've had a little resin left over from repairs I've brushed it on the bay so it can be made smooth enough to paint. Front suspension has already been stripped I just have to clean all the glass fibre up so it can have a dusting of paint, then it's the doors which I think will after they are finished, I could need psychiatric help.


FUEL The Effect on Specific Gravity of Blending Ethanol into Petrol

Matthew Vincent

Petrol metering systems in general are affected by the specific gravity of the fuel, and we have been asked this question in connection with autovacs. Devices which employ a float as part of the mechanism to control either the pumping or metering of fuel are likely to be affected by changes in its specific gravity, or density. Ethanol added to petrol is usually about 96% pure ethanol and 4% water. The density of pure ethanol is 0.789kg/litre. Allowing for the presence of 4% water (SG 1.0; density 1kg/litre) will increase the density of the fuel ethanol to 0.797kg/litre.

Petrol in the UK is sold under the BS EN 228 specification which permits the density of the fuel to lie anywhere between 0.720 and 0.775kg/ litre. This flexibility is necessary because petrol is not a single substance but is made up of many different hydrocarbons, depending on crude oil source and the configuration of the refinery producing the fuel. Density may also alter during the year as a result of blending changes needed to produce fuels of different volatility for winter and summer for example. There is thus a considerable range of fuel density, but in practice most petrol will have a density lying in the range 0.735 to 0.76kg/litre. For the purposes of this simple analysis, a value of 0.745kg/litre will be assumed.

Adding 5% of ethanol by volume (5.35% by mass) to petrol will raise the density of the blend by a small amount, i.e. about 0.4% from 0.745kg/ litre to 0.748kg/litre. This change is clearly well within the normal range of variation in density which is permitted by the EN 228 specification, and in truth is unlikely to make any significant difference to the operation of fuel metering or pumping systems.

Where more ethanol is added to the blend, for example 10% or 20%, changes in the density of the fuel will be more noticeable, increasing linearly in proportion to the added ethanol, although such changes are still relatively small. However, at these higher blends, other aspects, for example fuel volatility, or effects on the materials of construction of the fuel system, are likely to have a more noticeable effect on operation than fuel density changes.


Addition of small amounts of ethanol to petrol will make a small but measurable difference to the density of the fuel. However, the difference in density corresponding to the addition of 5% ethanol by volume into petrol, estimated at about 0.4%, is considered to be too small to make any significant or noticeable difference in vehicle operation. Permitted variations in density in petrol derived from crude oil are significantly greater than changes caused by addition of ethanol to petrol.

Aspects of the use of petrol containing ethanol

Based on a recently published public domain document, CONCAWE Report number 3/08

Fuel volatility

Blending small amounts of ethanol (up to 5%) into petrol does produce a measurable increase in volatility. Oil companies must ensure that fuel volatility meets specified limits (EN 228) so petrol containing ethanol will be adjusted to this specification. However, if fuel containing ethanol is mixed in the vehicle tank with purely hydrocarbon fuel an increase in the volatility of the blend in the tank can result. This may produce unwelcome symptoms of poor hot starting, erratic running including running too rich, or too lean, associated with excessive fuel volatility. The FBHVC caters for a wide range of vehicle ages, and it is highly probable that some will be less able to cope with an unintended increase in fuel volatility, and also some time-related deterioration in performance of cooling systems.

Unfortunately, it seems that not all fuel containing up to 5% ethanol is labelled as such, so the scenario of mixing two types of fuel in the vehicle tank is a realistic one, with a significant probability that driving difficulties may result. Volatility related problems have been discussed before, and there are a number of often fairly simple remedies.

Octane quality

The addition of 5% ethanol increases petrol octane quality by about one octane number. For this reason high octane unleaded petrol (nominally 98 Research Octane Number or RON) is more likely to contain ethanol than the normal 95 RON standard or Premium product. Refiners do not like giving quality away, so if ethanol is added to the standard product, the blend may be adjusted so that octane quality remains at 95 RON. Those owners of high performance cars originally requiring high octane five star petrol are more likely to buy 98 RON unleaded, so they are more likely to encounter blends containing ethanol. However, given the high octane quality of ethanol, and the EU-driven enthusiasm for bio-fuel inclusion, use of ethanol in the normal 95 RON unleaded petrol cannot be ruled out. Exposure of the majority of historic car owners to blends containing ethanol is increasingly likely as time goes on.

Effects on fuel system metals

Briefly, the presence of ethanol in petrol increases the risk of corrosion of metallic fuel system materials. This difficulty is recognised from long experience, and effective corrosion inhibitors have been developed. Responsible fuel retailers should employ a suitable additive to protect their customers treasured possessions, but this may not always be the case. CONCAWE Report 3/08 gives a list of metals not recommended for use with petrol containing ethanol which reads like a metal who's who for vintage and classic cars, i.e. zinc, brass, copper, lead-coated steel.

On this basis, the type of car favoured by those represented by the FBHVC could have problems in the petrol tank, fuel pipe, carburettor and most fittings. Modern vehicles have tended to maximise the use of engineering plastics, so will have less of a problem. However, to avoid sounding too gloomy, it should be remembered that corrosion inhibitor additives are usually very effective in providing protection, and if the products used by the fuel retailers do not perform, a low cost after-market product may well become available for owners of vulnerable vehicles to use.

Effects on seals, plastics and other materials

Other no-no materials mentioned by Report 3/08 are shellac, cork, nylon and GRP materials, plus various elastomer and seal materials. Recommended materials include Viton, Fluorosilicone, neoprene and Buna-N for hoses and gaskets (but neither of these for seals). Teflon tape is recommended in preference to alcohol based pipe and thread sealing materials. Tank lining materials used to prevent small leaks in tanks are also in the not-recommended category for ethanol fuels. This is consistent with a report received by the FBHVC this summer from one owner who had treated his tank with a proprietary sealing product, after which fuel containing ethanol had been used, resulting in a proverbial gooey mess. The scale of the problem in this case led to the need to strip the fuel system. It is not currently known whether tank sealant manufacturers are able to supply products compatible with fuels containing ethanol, but their availability would certainly be an advantage. If such products are not available, their use is likely to decline and rather more traditional methods of tank repair, or even re-manufacture, may become a growth industry.

Effect on gums, sediments etc.

Over time all fuel handling systems tend to accumulate deposits of one kind or another in crevices and corners. Sediments, gums, rust, lacquer and other materials fall into this category, and generally the older the fuel system the more of such material there will be. Unfortunately fuels containing ethanol tend to loosen these deposits which then move on to plague the driver with mysterious fuel starvation problems.

There have been a number of references to such problems recently, including in cars used for racing, which arguably may be more likely to be using fuel containing ethanol through the high octane route. Irritating though this problem must be, there is arguably a finite amount of such material in fuel systems, and thus after a certain time, which will be shortened by thorough cleaning, further use of ethanol fuels will not dislodge more sediment to block filters or jets, so hopefully this problem will fade with time.

Fire safety

Fuels containing ethanol at low levels (5-10%) behave very similarly to those not containing ethanol when burning, so safety considerations and fire-fighting techniques will be similar. However, high ethanol content fuels have been shown to be capable of de-stabilising or collapsing foams used to fight fuel fires. Also, pure ethanol burns with no visible flame so making fire fighting more difficult. Alcohol resistant fire fighting foams should be used with fires in fuel containing more than 10% ethanol, but given the difficulty of knowing what sort of fuel blend is in use in certain older racing vehicles, this type of foam would be a wise choice for all racing applications.

In conclusion, there are a number of unfortunate or negative aspects to the use in older vehicles, of fuel containing even 5% ethanol. These can be summarised as: an increased tendency to vapour lock, fuel system corrosion and random fuel starvation events from dislodged deposits. These potential problems in general would support the view if in doubt avoid. Unfortunately it seems increasingly clear that it will become harder and harder to do this, so that perhaps inevitably such fuels will become just another part of the picture of using a historic vehicle in todays world. Experience is being gained all the time, so maybe a clearer picture will emerge with use. Historic vehicle owners should be aware of potential pitfalls, as they may be able to take precautions, or may more easily find a suitable remedy for problems which do occur.


In response to a question about oils which do not contain zinc dialkyldithiophosphate Castrol Technical Centre very kindly submitted the following article.

Established in 1899, originally as C.C. Wakefield, Castrol launched their first lubricant for cars in 1906 and have been at the leading edge of lubrication technology ever since. With the introduction of low viscosity engine oils and changes to anti-wear additives in modern oils in recent years, owners of veteran, vintage and classics are asking whether modern oils are suitable for their cars.

Choosing the correct lubricant for your veteran, vintage or classic vehicle is essential to ensure peak running and maximum wear protection. The technology of older vehicle engines is very different from today's modern cars, so to assist owners, Castrol reintroduced their older brands with their Classic Range in the early 1990s.

These Classic oils are produced to original viscosities and importantly have retained the necessary levels of additives including anti-wear additive ZDDP (zinc dialkyldithiophosphate) appropriate for the technology of the engines they are designed for and to provide overall protection. The ZDDP levels are appropriate for engines that are in use or running-in, including those fitted with new or reconditioned components, where care should always be taken to follow the manufacturers recommendations when breaking in new components such as camshafts. ZDDP additive provides a high level of antiwear protection, but its phosphorus content is harmful to catalytic converters and other emission equipment fitted to many modern vehicles. It has therefore been reduced in the latest specification oils, designed for engines using the latest surface hardening technology and meeting the latest emission requirements for modern vehicles. These requirements also necessitate the use of other new emission equipment friendly additives not designed for use in veteran, vintage and classic car engines.

Oil formulations required for todays modern vehicles are very different from formulations needed for older vehicles, having thinner viscosity and alternative additive technology as stated earlier, making them generally unsuitable for use in older engines. This has been done in conjunction with new vehicle manufacturers who have increased the surface hardening of engine components to receive maximum protection from the new additives. Oils for modern engines comply with the latest API ratings and are designed for modern engine technology with tight tolerances and compatibility with catalytic converters.

A car engine of old design has very different characteristics, with cork, graphite or rope seals, low pressure cog driven oil pumps, wider oil-ways with greater dependence on splash and cling lubrication, lower revving with lesser machine tolerances. Such widely different specifications demand totally different lubricants of thicker viscosity with appropriate additives specially included for the work they have to do. Oils even of the same viscosity, supplied by different oil companies can have radically different formulations and thus have significantly different performance characteristics. Oil classifications are designated S (for spark ignition petrol engines) and C (for compression ignition diesel engines). Oil classifications for older petrol vehicles range from SA for vehicles from the turn of the last century to SH, to the late 1980s and early '90s.

  Inadequate anti-wear additive (ZDDP) and the oil film between moving parts breaks down prematurely, resulting in metal to metal contact and damage to reground or new engine components particularly on run-in.

  Inadequate detergent will result in gum and lacquer clinging to the hotter engine components.

  Too much detergent can cause a build-up of metallic ash in the combustion chambers of older engines. In older engines with traditionally high oil consumption, this will cause detonation and pinking. In older engines where the carbon has built up over a number of years the detergents can also have a scouring effect causing the carbon to flake off, blocking up oil galleries and spray jets. High levels of detergent will wash traces of carbon from seals and gaskets, revealing oil leaks.

  Inadequate anti-oxidant and the oil will permanently thicken during high temperature motoring, with large amounts of gum and varnish clogging filters and piston rings.

  Inadequate corrosion inhibitors and engine internals become pitted with corrosion and rust from acids and water formed during combustion.

  Inadequate dispersing results in soot, wear metals and the by-products of combustion settling out in the sump to form a thick sludge that will block filters and oil ways.

  Inadequate pour point depressant and the oil ceases to flow at low temperatures, with excessive strain on the oil pump or in certain cases, oil starvation on start-up causing complete failure of the lubrication system. For older vehicles; veteran, vintage and classic, use an oil of the correct viscosity as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer and shown in your vehicles handbook. Where your vehicle requires a specific viscosity such as 30, 40, 50 and 20w-50, avoid using inappropriate low viscosity engine lubricants designed for modern vehicles such as 0w, 5w, 10w, 15w. Castrols vehicle lubrication records date back beyond the turn of the last century, detailing lubricant specifications for engine oils, gear oils and greases right through to today's classics, so to find out which Castrol grade is right for a vehicle, owners can simply refer to their vehicle handbook and select that grade from Castrols Classic range. Castrols Classic engine oils XL30, XXL40, GP50 and XL20w- 50 are formulated to the original viscosities and contain the necessary levels of ZDDP anti-wear additive to provide appropriate protection for veteran, vintage and classic engines. The range is available throughout the UK via leading car specialists.

Castrol Classic Oils Wakefield House, Cambridge CB24 4QZ Sales & Technical Help-desk 01954

231668 email Website


Olympic Phases 1, 1 and 2 a clarification

There would seem to be some confusion as to the various types of Olympic shells produced by Rochdale Motor Panels, which I will attempt to clarify. In particular I will dispel the erroneous Phase 1 description applied to some shells.

The prototype Olympic was constructed around Morris Minor components, which the company thought would become the new special builders car and take over from the Ford E93a components generally used in the GT and Riviera.

The first production shells differed from the prototype mainly in the upper areas with a larger glass area and purpose made windscreen. The prototype incidentally did not use a Morris Minor windscreen as has been previously implied. Looking at the photographs I suspect that it was actually the rear window from the Austin A55 (pre-Farina)

The Morris Minor was still used as the base vehicle. However, just prior to production the company realised that the Riley 1.5 and Wolseley 1500 suspension was virtually identical to the Minor and that only slight alteration was required to accept those models steering rack. This gave the option of much larger brakes.

The B series engine and gearbox could also be shoehorned in, by the simple expedient of cutting a slot in the transmission tunnel to allow the gearbox to protrude into the car!� This would give the car the option of more performance that with the 948cc Minor engine, particularly if MGA versions of the B series engine was substituted.

Initially the Olympic was sold as a body/chassis unit only, together with certain special items, such as rear suspension components etc. Customers rear axles and steering columns were modified on an exchange basis. The car was therefore advertised as the A Type Olympic, irrespective as to whether it was supplied for Minor, Riley or Wolseley components.

A second version was also made available to utilise the sidevalve Ford E93a components, presumably to sell to previous GT customers who wanted a more up to date body, but retain their familiar Ford components. This was advertised as the F type Olympic and the customer would need to supply a Ford beam axle, which was then converted into a swing-axle IFS. The customers Ford torque tube was also shortened by RMP. Not surprisingly this version of the Olympic was not a popular choice, even though it was £8 cheaper, and very few were sold.

Complete kits were soon introduced, but only for the A type Olympic. There were three options, namely:

1)      Riley 1.5

2)      Morris Minor

3)      Ford 105E

The latter was in reality the Morris Minor kit, but with the Ford 105E engine substituted.

Alternative engines could be supplied at the customers request from the MGA to the Coventry Climax.

The Phase II Olympic was introduced at the Racing Car Show in January 1963 and although visually similar to the previous models was actually a complete redesign. The outer shape was retained, but with the addition of an opening rear hatch and larger bonnet opening. Underneath and internally the whole design of the monocoque changed, together with different suspension front and rear.

The Ford 1500cc engine was standardised. Initially an engine tuned by Harry Ratcliffe could be specified, although this was soon superseded by the Ford GT version at an additional cost. Alternative engines, such as the B series could still be specified by the customer, but were not officially catalogued.

The original BMC based car was still available, now referred to as a Phase 1. A few owners wanted to use the BMC components, but liked the practicality of an opening rear hatch. Hence, the company supplied or modified one or two phase 1 shells to include the opening rear hatch. In my opinion these are the only ones that can be called Phase 1 1/2, although this was never a factory designation.

Soon the range was rationalised with only the Phase II available as a complete kit. The Phase 1 was still made available, but only as a body/chassis unit. I suspect that by this time obtaining components from BMC was becoming extremely difficult, particularly in the small quantities required by RMP.

At some point the company decided that it would no longer use the Phase 1 moulds. They were however still listing the Phase 1 body/chassis unit to take BMC suspension components. When an order was received for these the company supplied a standard Phase 2 shell, but modified with a Phase 1 front subframe fitted. These cars have, in my opinion, erroneously been referred to as Phase 1R's. In fact they comprise a standard Phase 2 shell with slight front end modifications to suit the different sub-frame. The shells in fact bear no relationship to a standard Phase 1 shell.

I hope the above goes some way to unravelling the complexities of Olympic production.

Phase 2 bodyshell

When Les Brown decided he was never going to build up the unused bodyshell he had acquired and to offer it for sale, the Club committee quickly decided to buy it from him to use for making part moulds for body panels. This shell had been bought from RMP in the 70s to re-shell a car that had been badly damaged, but the owner never got round to starting the job (familiar story?). The idea of part moulds is that they are much more portable than the complete mould, are a lot easier to store and as owners need only panels for repair rather than a complete body, it is more convenient to get panels made as and when required.

A trip was therefore organised involving Derek driving to Alan, who had hired a trailer, and then on to Dewsbury to collect the shell. Les kindly provided a stopover and then the next day saw a visit to Smith and Deakin in Worcester to get quotes, followed by a trip to Guy Stallard in Devon, who sportingly agreed to store the shell, then home, dropping off Alan on the way. Over 700 miles in all.

The shell looks quite odd as it is not coloured, but is in very good condition, with wide returns on the flanges and very few drilled holes, so will be ideal for the job.

We hope that the moulds will be done early next year and panels will be available soon after.

Derek Bentley

Getting strapped down

All secured and ready to go