Do take the trouble to read the FBHVC articles in these magazines for example this issue contains a lot of very informative and useful advice, from fuel to registration to scrappage to antifreeze and more.
For what is Rochdale famous? I knew of the Co-op and Gracie Fields, but I discovered that one John Ravenscroft, aka John Peel, also had associations with this town. He worked at the Townhead Mill as a teenager and later played many of the records recorded under John Brierley at Cargo Studios (later Suite 16) on Kenion Street (off Drake Street), which was very active in the 1980s and helped to launch the careers of many young bands.
A New Year and a new attempt at getting a Rochdale Social Event off the ground!
The RAF Motorsport Association opens up its old Bloodhound missile section at RAF Barkston Heath to motoring clubs to have track days and speed trials. This is a great opportunity to test your cars and driving skills, you are the only car on the track at any one time so risk of damage to your car is very minimal with good run offs should you need them; more info can be found at:
For 2010 I have reserved 4/5 places on the RAFMSA track day on Saturday 3 July. The format is a sprint style track day, with open pit lane. There will be around 30 to 40 cars at each track day but I can assure you your track time will be more than enough! The cost will be a very low £50 for the whole day and includes as many sprints as you can manage; all you need is a helmet and a car! This is a professional event and fully marshalled and accurately timed. Saturday evening will be camping at the nearby bubble car museum rally field at £5 each, they do have a B + B option at the museum, £28 for single occupancy and £50 for double occupancy should any off you want to cuddle up!
We will also get a chance to look round the museum and if time allows get some photo opportunities at the nearby RAF Cranwell with the cars. A few social drinks in the evening regaling our stories from the day's events. On the Sunday I should be able to arrange a professional presentation and hands on practical of GRP repair techniques about 15 miles away from the bubble car museum. If you copy
into your internet address bar, you will see an in car video of the track. There are also loads of other videos if you just type in "Barkston Heath track day". A very professional and great day out.
So to recap:
Saturday day, Sprint challenge,
Saturday eve, Bubble car museum and a few beers to recap on the day's events.
Sunday morn, possibly back at the track if I can organise it.
Sunday fternoon, GRP presentation
A bargain price and an exhilarating day out. All I ask is that I can be a passenger in someones car!
Initially all I require is a realistic indication of how many cars/owners want to participate so I can plan likely attendance. I might also open this up to other 50's / 60's specials if the numbers aren't enough.
So, anyone who is interested and will have their cars on the road for this years Rochdale Anniversary, let me know by the 18 March 10 and I'll reserve you a place.
A further Stakeholders Meeting took place in October at the Department for Transport (DfT) in London. Following the meeting an information leaflet was issued to help those who may be affected to prepare for the proposed fuel changes. [Only petrol information is given here Ed]
Concerns expressed by Federation members have been raised, in respect of fuel system corrosion and also high fuel volatility, which has been causing operational difficulties. The oil industry position is based on a safety concern over reduction of volatility. The validity of the safety concern was questioned and is now being checked by DfT, but it seems unlikely that there will be a reduction in fuel volatility other than a small correction to reflect the blending of ethanol into the fuel.
It is confirmed that Shell V-Power petrol is currently guaranteed not to contain ethanol. It is not an exchange product, being unique to Shell, so is under their close control, unlike most other fuels sold at filling stations. Thus for the time being, members wishing to avoid petrol containing ethanol can buy this product, which also has the advantage of being widely available.
The issue of corrosion concerns with petrol containing ethanol is being pursued further, but at present there is nothing more to report.
Testing for suitable lead replacement additives took place prior to the withdrawal of leaded fuel in 2000. Since that date only very small quantities of leaded petrol have been permitted to be sold for historic vehicles by licensed garages who are members of the FBHVC.
The Federation originally tested 12 products to assess their performance in protecting against valve seat recession using identical test procedures on a Rover A-series engine. The results were conclusive and showed clear differences in performance between the various products tested. Those products that did pass the test were allowed to carry the FBHVC logo and the words: endorsed by the FBHVC or: This product has been subjected to a valve seat recession test by an independent test house on behalf of the FBHVC. The results of the test indicate that the level of valve seat protection is likely to be adequate for all normal driving, but not including racing or other exceptionally arduous uses.
Since then a number of these products have been withdrawn from sale but the following are still available:
Red Line Lead Substitute
Castrol Valvemaster and Castrol Valvemaster Plus
Each of these products has a different active ingredient and it is recommended that these products are not mixed in the petrol tank, in other words, choose one product and stay with it. Tetraboost, which contains tetraethyl lead is, of course, also available from a number of stockists.
The Federation recently had one of the regular meetings with DVLA which was as usual very informative. Some of the points raised are detailed below.
The DVLA leaflet INF 26, Guidelines for the Registration of Rebuilt or Radically Altered
Vehicles and Kitcars, gives definitions for Radically Altered Vehicles and Reconstructed Classics and allocates a point score to the various major components of the vehicle. The chassis or monocoque bodyshell scores five points; suspension, both axles, transmission, and steering assembly all score two points each; the engine scores one point. If an already registered vehicle is radically altered then, provided it scores more than eight points, it may retain its original registration number. For a vehicle with a separate chassis, the body is not scored by the points system, so a new body should not affect the retention of the registration number.
However, for a vehicle where either there is no documentary evidence to claim the original number, or if the original number is unknown, then an age related number should be allocated assuming the criterion of Reconstructed Classics is met. The definition is: Vehicles comprising genuine period components of the same specifications, all over 25 years old, will be assigned an age-related registration mark. The appropriate vehicle enthusiasts club must confirm the authenticity of the components. I had assumed until now, that the period components were the major mechanical components in the radically altered points system.
However, it appears that this may not strictly be the case. The consequence of this is that the installation of a new body prior to registration could mean that the vehicle is allocated a Q plate. The principle is for genuine period components of the same specifications, all over 25 years old should be used. It therefore follows that the vehicle should be registered with its existing over 25 years old body still in place provided, of course, that it can meet the MoT requirements. Only when the vehicle is registered, should a body replacement be contemplated.
This particular case came to light because the owner passed to DVLA a receipt for what could be interpreted as being a new body. There has been another case where the DVLA local office has required that form V627/1, entitled Built Up Vehicle Inspection Report is completed. This form requests receipts for replacement parts. It is perfectly understandable that if DVLA are given information they will take it into account when assessing the vehicle. The moral of this story is that if it is an age-related application, careful consideration needs to be given to how a vehicle and its documents, including the covering dating letter/certificate, are presented to a DVLA local office.
SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) is only applicable to a vehicle whose licence disc expired on, or after, 31 January 1998. If you have just acquired a vehicle that is subject to SORN, a recent case has indicated that the on-line SORN system should not be used to declare the initial SORN under your new ownership. This is because of the way in which the SORN legislation, and on-line SORN system works.
If a vehicle is being taxed, then it is perfectly normal for the new owner to take over the unexpired period of tax. However, the SORN period starts at the beginning of a month, and then stops when there is a change in ownership. The online SORN system can only start a period of SORN at the start of the month, and then stops that SORN when the ownership changes. SORN cannot be made online within the month of registering as keeper.
If you have acquired a vehicle, and you are going to declare SORN, as well as filling in the V5C to register the change of ownership, (or V62 if V5/V5C was missing) it is essential that you fill in a V890, (SORN form) as well. The V890 SORN form is available for download on line from www.direct.gov.uk, or should be available from a main Post Office. Staple these forms together, and send to DVLA Swansea, SA99 1AR. I would suggest that it is always wise to make copies of these forms before sending them off.
You should receive written confirmation of the SORN declaration within four weeks. If no acknowledgement letter is received, then the DVLA instructions are that you must contact Customer Enquiries Group on 0870 240 0010 immediately.
In summary, new keepers should make a SORN declaration via the paper based SORN V890 application form.
In response to a question from one of our member organisations regarding how an historic vehicle that has passed through the Scrappage Scheme could be saved, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) sent the Federation the following statement:
A Certificate of Destruction must be issued for all Scrappage Scheme vehicles. Whatever their age or condition, these vehicles are effectively being declared End of Life Vehicle (ELVs) by their last owners at the dealerships which accept them. To comply with the 2003 ELV Regulations, the vehicle must be initially treated at an Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF), to the standards required (fluids drained, battery and tyres removed, airbags deployed or removed), and it would then no longer be classed as hazardous waste. The scrapping process could stop at that stage and the vehicle could be preserved and sold on, should the ATF wish to do so. Although a vehicle should not be put back on the road, even if this is possible, it could be saved for display or donation to a museum.
Further information is available from the Vehicle Scrappage Team, Tel: 020 7215 5000
Technology moves forward and new products are constantly being launched with claims to improved formulations and performance. With the recent bitterly cold weather in January antifreeze has been in the headlines, with some alarming stories which at first seem to be about the well-known tendency of antifreeze to find the tiniest hole and cause leakages but in these cases it has led to catastrophic engine problems.
Traditional blue ethylene glycol is a toxic but highly effective antifreeze and contains silicates as an inhibitor to help prevent corrosion in an engine with mixed metals in its make-up.
Bluecol and Blue Star are well known brand names and both of these are declared suitable for classic cars on their company websites. Be aware that there are also low- or no-silicate ethylene glycol formulations (usually red) available which may not be suitable for all engines.
Propylene glycol is another well-known and less toxic antifreeze formula and usually contains silicates but Comma, the main manufacturer, have now discontinued it in favour of an ethylene glycol product containing bittering agents to make it less palatable and minimise the risk of accidental poisoning.
Both of the above products use inorganic additive technology (IAT). Recently problems have been reported concerning the use of antifreeze mixtures using organic acid technology (OAT). OAT was introduced in the mid-1990s and the products are biodegradable, recyclable and do not contain either silicates or phosphates and are designed to be longer lasting. However, these products do seem to cause problems in older engines; over and above the ability of antifreeze to find the smallest crevice and leak. OAT antifreezes have been accused of destroying seals and gaskets and causing a great deal of damage in old engines. For this reason, the manufacturers do not recommend their use in historic vehicles. These products are usually coloured red, pink or orange.
The final category is HOAT. These products use hybrid organic acid technology in an ethylene glycol base with some silicates in the formulation alongside the organic corrosion inhibitors. The product is usually coloured green and are not recommended for use in historic vehicles.
The Federation are still researching this problem but our advice at the moment is:
only use blue coloured IAT antifreeze in historic vehicles;
only use OAT products (advanced or long life antifreeze) if the vehicle used it when new and if specifically directed by the vehicles manufacturer;
never mix different types of antifreeze without thoroughly flushing out the system;
always replace the coolant within the time scale specified by the antifreeze manufacturer as the corrosion inhibitors break down over time.
We have been very busy already answering the question when is Drive It Day 2010. The event is always held on the nearest Sunday to 23 April, so this year it will be 25 April 2010. This day was chosen five years ago to commemorate the 64 cars that set off from London on 23 April 1900 on the first day of the Thousand Mile Trial an incredible undertaking and one which we believe deserves an annual celebration.
We have had so many requests to advertise DID events that we have made a dedicated page on our website events section for just this day. The same rules apply as for other events member organisations may add details using their ID number and password issued last year.
The Royal Oak at Bishopstone (about 5 miles east of Swindon, SN6 8PP, 01793 790481), a superb venue with a self-confessed classic car nut for a landlord, and with excellent food and beer, has once again indicated that they will be delighted to welcome all comers on the day.
Now that I've finally moved house, I've unpacked the boxes, settled my Olympic into its new garage, managed to find a home for all my tools (that doesn't involve a kitchen cupboard) and organised the garage by stacking all my spares in a fashion the Tate gallery would be proud of, I can now do some work on my Olympic project (Olympic in both senses of the word)! My challenge is to see if I can get the bodywork finished before the birth of my next child, although that is 6 weeks away and since in Rochdale work years that multiplies by 20, there goes that pig flying by my window again!
Anyway, enough ramblings on, not only has it been a busy few months for me but also for the early Rochdale scene; every few weeks a new discovery has been waiting and the surprises just didn't stop appearing! I do try and vary the Marks of Rochdales talked about in this section of the magazine but I'm afraid the GT is going to feature a fair bit in this issue as 8 have reared up in the past few months! So, where to start???
I'll start with the discovery of a Mark VI Rochdale that I can't really take the credit for. With not having much time to rummage around the World Wide Web over the past few months it was with great pleasure that I received a call from a Rochdale member pointing me in the right direction of a past Rochdale Owner. It is a great embarrassment though that I can't remember who it was, please remind me and I'll give credit where credit is due in the next issue of the magazine. It was a few months back and I've had one too many Christmas/New Year parties since then, only excuse I can come up with, my apologies!
Following the initial lead of just a phone number, I managed to speak to a surprised gentleman called Phil Matthews. I say surprised because his opening line was Blimey that was more than 50 years ago! When trying to trace the history of these cars I ask details like names of people sold to and bought from, but memories tend to fade and this unimportant information to some normally disappears into history. Luckily Phils memory has stood up to the test of time and he managed to track down some pictures!
Success at last, I found the pictures of my Mark VI lurking in a dark corner of my computer. I am afraid the quality is very poor, and I have searched for the originals (which may have been a little better) in vain, so I hope these will do? They were taken with an old Brownie Box camera and have deteriorated over time.
With regard to the car, I think you already know that it was built on a 1938 Standard Flying Nine, which my Father had handed down to me in about 1958. I had to sell my Gold Star bike (due to Police harassment) so I spent some considerable time stripping the engine down and reconditioning the Standard. Unfortunately, in avoiding a head-on collision with another car, I rolled the Standard over, and wrote it off!
Having spent the time and money on the car, I didn't want to scrap it, so I decided to put a Rochdale shell on the chassis. I used heavy duty plywood for the floor and aluminium sheet to make the wheelarches. I made a wooden dash and used the original instruments from the Standard. I had it registered and put on the road, and had quite a bit of fun with it before I met my wife to be, and sold it before I got round to fitting a windscreen. I hope this helps your Magazine, and is of interest to your members?
This is only a small piece of history from one of these rare cars but nevertheless it could be another piece of the jigsaw that will come in handy further down the line. This now makes the total of Mark VI Rochdales known to the registrar as 29, still a long way off though from the 150 estimated that were produced! While I'm on about the history of these cars I'd just like to reiterate, if you know of anyone owning a car or have any knowledge of an early Rochdale please get in touch as everything helps, no matter how small (size doesn't matter in this case)!
If anyone is interested, there is still a Mark VI for sale in Germany for 9900 Euros. Type the following address into your web browser to view it:
I found the picture below whilst surfing the net, looking for any information on Rochdale cars that has not already been collated. I don't have much information surrounding this particular one but I thought I'd show the Rochdale Community to see if it rings any bells?
The article states:
The picture was taken after a treasure hunt in 1960. The car is a Rochdale GT and was built by Arthur James from Beverley. The car is built around a chassis from a 1937 Ford Prefect. The following picture shows some members of the club in the early days. The trophy shown on the bonnet of the car is now used as the Grovehill Trophy for our 12 cars
Picture courtesy of Hull Daily Mail Publications
There are a few clues in the article but as of yet I've not turned up trumps with any more information. Have any of you ever been involved in the Beverley and District Motor Club? The GT pictured is not known to the Early Rochdale Registrar but was obviously treasured by someone in this popular motor club at some time. If anyone can shed any light on this photo or fancies trying their hand at some internet sleuthing, then please get in touch. Maybe we should have a competition page in this months magazine called spot the owner, my moneys on the guy in front of the headlight, any takers?
I was really happy when this next GT picture appeared on my computer screen, mainly because I had decided to search for Ford Specials on an image search engine and out of nearly 21 million pictures available this one popped up almost straight away!
The article accompanying the picture read:
What a blast! Woodford was a great place, working with a super bunch of guys! I had (for its time) a sexy-looking fibreglass Ford special car at the time. Actually it was a total heap, running on a hotted-up Ford sidevalve engine. But it looked vaguely like an Aston Martin DB2/4 (or so I thought) and as I fancied myself as a bit of a James Bond type, the car was ideal for me. When we got some snow it was great to drive around the Airfield on full reverse lock using the throttle to steer got up to 70mph sideways on more than one occasion. The Data Analysis section used a hut out on the airfield with a car park covered in cinders out front. My big thing was to come screaming into the car park and do a nice handbrake-induced slide though 180 deg with the object of being neatly parked at the end of it. Unfortunately, I overcooked it one day and sideswiped Doug Harriss Rover. As he was also my boss, he was definitely entitled to take a dim view of this. I remember that Doug was remarkably good about it, but I know what I'd say to my son if he indulged in such behaviour!
This time I managed to track down the owner, a Mr John Saxon who has since emigrated to
Australia. Answering in a very familiar tone to my regularly asked questions,
Hi James, WOW that's nearly 50 years ago! I have to be honest when I say that as a Testosterone-driven young guy - I was far more interested in looking like a James Bond type than maintaining cars - and the Rochdale (had forgotten the name) was the closest thing I could find in my price range that looked vaguely like a DB2/4!
I bought it secondhand - sorry no record of the transaction, and I don't know if the guy I bought it from was the original constructor. It was probably based on a Ford chassis - certainly it had a hotted-up Ford E93A sidevalve engine! And from memory it had a heavy Van clutch with a 3-speed close ratio box and a very high differential ratio. It was extremely tricky to get going from stationary on a hill owing to fearsome clutch judder. Lots of work needed to be done on it but I was too busy having a good time. I even had the bonnet blow up and almost block my view one day while driving across Vauxhall Bridge in London! The only car I ever had where I ran out of petrol, oil and water almost simultaneously!
When I came down to Australia on my first couple of trips before migrating, I almost had it shipped out. I had visions of reproducing the shape in fibreglass - no worries about intellectual property in those days! But in the end I had to leave it with a 2nd hand dealer on consignment (in Bournemouth I think) - and it sold for almost nothing.
About all I can remember unfortunately. If I come across any documentation or more photos I'll let you know, but I really don't expect to find anything. If you do manage to track any of its history - I'd be interested to know about it? I have attached another picture (B & W unfortunately, the car was solid Red colour) - but this time you can clearly see that the registration number was 965 CJH. I think it's the only picture I have.
Isn't it a shame that the high-spec cars have always disappeared - I have a theory that the highspec cars were stripped of their best bits and scrapped when they failed an MoT, because the tuning bits were worth more than the car, whereas the basic-spec cars just got pushed to the back of the barn/garden intact and survived. With close ratio gears and high ratio axle (probably 4.4:1) it would have been a nightmare for hill starts with 17in wheels - probably the builder had a set of Ballamy 15in wheels on it but took them off when he sold the car. Mind you, with a tuned engine it was probably good for 90mph on the big wheels!
THE FUTURES BRIGHT, THE FUTURES AN ORANGE GT!
Normally I get up with my usual dreary morning eyes, I pick up the mail from the front doormat and open the usual bills and junk mail, but occasionally I'm woken from my dreary morning blues by something quite exciting and this is no exception!
As I opened the envelope I instantly recognised the Owners Club application forms but it was the pictures that fell out that really caught my eye, there on the table were 3 pictures, not the usual projects I see but a highly modified roadworthy example! With only around 4/5 roadworthy examples known (1 later in this article) I was shocked I'd not heard about this before!
Patrick Martin writes:
The car is in extremely good condition inside and out, having been totally rebuilt between 2003 and 2006 and having only done 10-15 miles to and from the MoT station in September 06 until the present day. Body sprayed in 2-pack paint, and overall look is stunning. The interior was all new, seats, carpets, door vinyl and vinyl headlining and still all looks very tidy. The wheels and tyres are as new.
The chassis, suspension and brakes were all refurbed and are all in good working order, reconditioned engine runs superbly! Homemade dash using Triumph GT6 dials and switches finished in padded black vinyl being both neat and functional, with working heater and fan.
Wanting to know more information about this I gave the owner a call:
The car was bought from Margate, Kent from a washing machine repairer whose surname was Davies. The seller of this car bought a house in the late '90s and found the car sitting in some outbuildings! This owner purchased the car in 2003, it was on a rolling chassis with sidevalve engine and it was never registered! He did a restoration until about 2006 putting the shell onto a GT6 chassis (hence the larger rear arches). It was MoT'd and has only done 15 miles between 2006 and 2009, staying under a cover in the yard for the past few years!
As I hinted in the previous article, the next GT has resurfaced and from the look of it in better condition than ever. I'd seen snippets of this car in a few magazines including the January issue of Complete Kit Car Magazine from the Classic and Kit Car show at Exeter last year but confirmation that the car still resided with club member Dave Spiller was only received via his son, Paul Spiller, when he joined the ROC last month! [Picture supplied by grandson James!]
This GT is a particularly special one within the club as it has been in the same family ownership for over 50 years; you could say it is one of our flagships! The car was built by Dave Spiller and Paul Spillers Grandad Harry Moore and was originally built for a Mk VI Rochdale body in 1954 using a 1939 Ford 8hp van as a donor vehicle. In 1959 Dave Spiller sold the Mk VI and bought a partially-built Rochdale GT. The chassis was redesigned so the body would fit and re registered in 1960. The car then came off the road in 1965 and was put in storage. Since 1995 Dave Spiller has been gradually rebuilding it into the fine example you see here today!
If there is ever an excuse to dust off your magazines and look at some old ROC articles then don't hesitate to find the story behind this beauty in the Summer 2000 ROC Magazine, No 82. If you don't have a copy then they are available on disk or back issue from myself for a modest fee! Sales pitch over, you should also be able to see this GT at the Stoneleigh Kit Car Show on the Sunday and if I can persuade the Spiller family to trailer it up to the NEC then we might be graced with its presence at the National Classic Motor Show in November!
This next finding came from a previous owner who just wanted to let the ROC know about a GT he used to own, I wish more ex owners were like this.
Ken writes: Hi. I have sent you a picture of the car I owned in 1959/62. I sold the car to raise a deposit on a house when I got married. I wish I had it now. The person who bought it turned it over and it caught fire, totally destroyed but he was okay the silly idiot. I now own, some 47 years later, a Triumph 13/60 convertible but I would willingly trade it for a trip down memory lane by owning a Rochdale. Happy days!
Great to hear from you - thanks for sending the photo of your GT! What a shame to hear the car's fate - it's the first one I've heard of turning over, he must've been doing something particularly stupid...
It's a coincidence that you now own a 13/60 convertible - my first car (aged 18, in 1981) was a 13/60 convertible but my second was a Rochdale GT! I've had a couple of other GTs and other early Rochdales since, but I'm sad to say I don't own one at the moment.... They do turn up from time to time, so keep your eyes peeled.
I'd like to include details of your car on our Register, even though we know it's no longer around. Do you still have any more details of it, such as registration number, chassis number, spec (chassis, engine, gearbox, suspension etc)? Did you build it yourself?
Ken Writes: Hi Malcolm, the car was immaculate; I did not build it though! It was based on a 1947 Ford 10, Sadly I do not have any more details, and it was a long time ago and many more cars have come and gone since so I can't help.
Below are 2 photos which were kindly sent to Malcolm by Andy Hill, I don't think they need much presenting, I know I've enjoyed just getting the feel from them, cracking photos!
Hi Malcolm, I have some cracking photos of the Victoria-Climax, which as you know also used a Rochdale body like the Bristol Barb (more in the next mag). Did you know though, that Ced requested a "lightweight" version which was like a jelly when it was off the car as it was so thin! He also hacked the back end off to save weight and inadvertently created a Kamm tail!
Best regards, Andy Hill
Wonderful photos, thanks Andy! Especially good to see the colour shot from back then; would you mind if we used them in the club magazine?
I'm not surprised at the lightweight shell - RMP learnt early on that they could make a nice profit by selling a 'lightweight' bodyshell for more money than standard - and it cost them less because it had less materials in it! To be fair, they might have used woven mat for the Victoria Climax shell, which was more expensive than their favourite chopped strand mat but of course much stronger... I don't actually know of RMP using woven mat ever, though - whereas Bonglas, from whom they bought the ST bodyshell design and moulds, always used woven mat.
Yes no problem, you can gladly use them for the Rochdale owners mag, and a credit/plug would be great for my Classic Car Sales website! The web address is
The picture below was also found whilst I was surfing the net, honestly I don't spend my life on there! The Rochdale GT in the picture was owned by Ray Kell and was listed in a Ford Owners Club website by his son.
Hi James, you sent an email to my son regarding the Ford Rochdale I owned. I can give the following information.
I bought the car in 1961, selling my AJS to buy it, and sold it in 1969. The reg number was SVN 168. It had a 1172 cc Ford Ten engine with a skimmed Ford Eight Head, twin Solex carbs and a short straight through exhaust that exited from the nearside at the back of the door. I fitted an external mounted oil filter and a heavy duty dynamo and regulator. When I bought the car it was white but I had it repainted in Ford Monaco Red and added the Ford stripes. It had electric wipers and fuel pump from a Morris 1000. The dash was rebuilt in Formica with a glove box on the left, switch panel in the centre and instruments in front of the Driver, Speedo, Rev counter, oil pressure, ammeter, water temperature and fuel gauge.
I also changed the steering column and fitted an extended one from a 105E Anglia. I also fitted a tow bar fabricated from 2" angle. It had a split Bellamy front axle, remote gear linkage and 15" wheels. On the electrics it had quartz headlight bulbs in the VW lights, 3 quartz spot lights and 2 front fog lights, signpost light, Lucas heated bar on the screen in front of the driver, rear electric wiper and windscreen washers, manual pump operated.
When I sold it I had just purchased a hydraulic kit for the brakes but did not get around to fit it. I also had to extend the battery shelf as I fitted a battery from a Bedford Truck as the normal 6v would not turn the engine over in the winter.
The car suffered two significant problems, repeated failure of the rear axle, which was repaired by removing the total unit including transverse spring and prop tube and fitting one from the scrapyard. The other was blowing of the head gasket. This was solved by the local engine machine shop drilling and tapping the block and fitting an oversize stud in the centre of the block then torquing the head down to a higher value than normal. I cannot remember the value but it did work. I had no power output but did run the speedo up against the zero stop when travelling to/from Teesside to Cardiff where I worked, and no motorways then, other than the Doncaster bypass.
Corrosion was not a problem as the original builder had the chassis red lead coated and the floor plates fitted were galvanised steel. It only broke down once that I remember, and that was a rear axle failure near Newark on the way to London, I continued down, then back to Teesside, then fitted another scrapyard unit. The photo was taken in 1968. Hope this helps.
I write: Thank you very much for all the information. I have record of nearly 200 known GTs on the Rochdale Register but yours is a new one to us! We think there were around 1350 made in total so it is going to be a hard job trying to trace them all! Funny, my Olympic suffered a front suspension failure in the '70s at Newark....
Malcolm writes: It sounds like a really nice, well looked after GT, I wonder what happened to it after you sold it? There's nothing on DVLA for SVN 168, either under Ford or Rochdale... The registration dates from July/Aug 1958 (in the North Riding of Yorkshire), making it (if it was registered new) a relatively early GT on the road. With a tuned engine and 15in wheels, I suspect you had oversize tyres, because they look pretty big in the photos, to help the gearing maybe...Do you have any more photos? It would be really good to see better pics if possible, and to use them in our club mag too. Do you know the names of the people you bought it off or sold it to or any subsequent history?
Ray writes:Sorry but I have no information on the previous owner or on the person I sold it to other than they were in Teesside. The photo you have is the only one available, I did not take any more. It is me in the background. You can use it in the Club Magazine if you wish and add the limited history I have given. If I find anything I will forward it to you. It is best to avoid the Newark area as it is not good for Rochdales.
I look forward to seeing you all at the AGM
Being set up
Or how to get the best out of your Rochdales cornering ability.
Study the photograph carefully. What do you see? An E type cornering to perfection. The cars nearside wheels (right as you look) are taking virtually all of the load of the cars cornering forces, so giving the maximum grip; the wheels themselves being vertical while the offside front wheel is just pawing the ground.
The car is neither under-steering nor over-steering, in fact the attitude of the car shows that it has been set up perfectly. Such settings would allow this car to be driven up to the limits of its tyre grip and road surface adhesion. Consequently, the driver could not gain any further cornering ability unless changes were made to such items as the type of tyre used and width of tyre/wheel combination. If a car is not able to fulfil the above requirements it will not be able to corner as quickly, for the driver will be wasting time making steering and possibly power corrections.
So how do you set up a car like this?
The answer is by experimentation, a long tedious job, but we can start by employing timehonoured methods and pursue a logical path. The variables are the suspension geometry, the springs, the dampers, the tyre pressures, the anti-roll bars, the roll centre height and even the centre of gravity.
The latter is pretty well fixed with the general layout of the car. Such items as batteries are often mounted unnecessarily high up under the bonnet when a lower setting would be much preferable. However, the C. of G. of the car can be lowered by shortening the height of the springs but this will alter the rate of the spring and we can only lower a certain amount to ensure that, for road cars in particular, there will be no bottoming with bad roads, heavy loads or both.
Additionally, where our front-engined cars are concerned a 50/50 weight balance is desirable and again, a positional change of that aforementioned battery may help achieve this balance. I have found that the local council weighbridge will allow ones car to be weighed free of charge (not so where I live -Ed).
We are pretty well stuck with the manufacturers suspension geometry and unless it is a car with a known history of poor handling, it is probably best left alone. There could be a case for a change to the caster angle assuming there is no other problem with the steering such as partial seizure of ball joints or stiffness in the rack. Then again, if the car feels nervous on the straight and requires constant wheel correction, or if the steering wheel is too slow to unwind after a corner, then there is a good chance that a greater caster angle may be required. It could be that just one more degree would be sufficient. For track days or racing static wheel negative camber should be set such that when cornering hard, the wheels remain upright. For road use too much negative camber can give rise to straight line instability so keep below 11/2 degrees.
Adjustable dampers will need to be stiffened up a little for fast road driving and a lot for track driving but variations between front and rear could help to get a better balance for cornering. For example, much stiffer rear dampers than front ones could well help to add a degree of over-steer. As to the springs, which, like the dampers, would normally be stiffened quite dramatically for racing, on a road car, too much stiffening would ruin the ride, so such a small required amount of spring stiffening could probably be ignored and car tautness retained solely by the damper stiffening mentioned above.
Tyre pressures for track use need considerable experimentation, the aim being to have pressures high enough to ensure there is no tyre deformation with hard cornering but not so much as to give tyre patter which will reduce grip. I have found track pressures have required increases as much as anything between 25-35% over comfortable road pressures. As with dampers, fine tuning for the handling can be had by varying the degree that tyre pressures are increased between front and rear. Too much under-steer ?- add more pressure to the front and reduce a little to the rear tyres.
That leaves anti-roll bars and roll-centre height. Most road cars keep roll to a minimum with their designed suspension geometry but press-on drivers tend to feel that their cars roll too much. The simple cure is to fit stiffer, (thicker) anti-roll bars back and front which will not spoil the ride qualities of the car. There is a tendency for manufacturers to keep the anti-roll bars fairly weak. The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, too stiff a set of anti-roll bars will cause lateral rocking on uneven surfaces and secondly, manufacturers are happier to play safe by giving the less experienced driver an earlier warning of danger when cornering at speed. Some time ago I did experiments to see why my car had a tendency to roll up to a point on entering a corner and then feel as if the roll was fully checked. I soon realised that the anti-roll bar rubber clamps had deteriorated and fitted a new set. This certainly improved the feel of the car but it was not until I fitted poly bushes to the anti-roll bar did the car feel absolutely right when turning into a corner at speed. Any change in roll-bar diameter when you are fine tuning should be kept to a minimum for it must be realised that roll-bar stiffness varies to the fourth power of the diameter.
The roll centre height is a product of the suspension geometry and to alter this height would involve major changes to the suspension mounting points, not to mention the position of the rack and pinion. Consequently, this article cannot go into the whys and wherefores of this specialised subject, suffice to say that road cars are unlikely to ever need to be altered.
Returning to the issue of dampers, it should be pointed out that they have little effect on weight transfer during steady cornering - unlike anti-roll bars. Their only effect is during transient motions. For example, during the period when the car is changing from straight-line motoring to taking a curve. The increase in the availability of poly bushes has led to many enthusiasts fitting them to their suspensions but this has inevitably led to harshness, not a problem for race cars but hardly acceptable for road cars With a rear live axle it is therefore advisable with a road car to fit poly bushes to just one end of the locating arms, using the manufacturers rubber bushes at the other end. This allows for some compliance in the suspension as when traversing unduly rough terrain.
I'll conclude by adding that suspension modifications can only be undertaken sensibly on a track away from todays busy roads and with corners on circuits that can give direct comparisons of handling with each modification. The whole issue of suspension and its setting up of a car has to be a compromise of all the parts involved.
I wouldn't say that I was that old but I do remember when drivers were fat and racing car tyres were thin. I remember when we had service station attendants who would fill your car and clean the screen as part of the service. Then there were the courteous AA and RAC service patrol men who would give you a salute if you carried their badge. The great motorcycling fraternity would always stop for another in trouble on the road and even stop occasionally for a motorist. As relatively poor as we were in those days we never gave a second thought to the cost of petrol though it must be admitted that we didn't have the fuel guzzlers we have on our roads today. How times have changed.
In my youth roads had relatively little traffic on them and of course there were fewer roads and certainly no motorways. Those were the days. It is still possible to find a few such roads in this country but invariably they are in the wilds and far from southern England. The nearest I can get to the deserted road is to be found on the trips the Club takes to France. Not only that but what roads! Travelling on secondary roads the surfaces are a delight; so smooth the Special feels as if it's value is worth twice as much with the delightful ride and silence. One can often drive for half an hour and not see another vehicle.
Car servicing years ago was not unduly expensive and invariably one received a job well done. How times have changed. I do not work on my Vauxhall Omega and leave servicing and MOTs to a friendly mobile technician. On the odd occasion when I have had to take the car to a Vauxhall dealer the work has cost me a small fortune.
One of several reasons why I retired early was because of the bad standard of driving on my journeys into London. Last minute cut-ins, V signs and general aggression during the morning and evening rush hour was a situation I felt I could well do without. And so I retired four years early and did the only thing that any self-respecting engineer should do - build a Wildcat kit car. This abysmal standard of driving just did not happen in my early days of motoring and there was even time and opportunity to look at the scenery. Perhaps I am getting old after all and should appreciate the changing times.
Having completed the structural repairs to the bodywork I was left with the roof. This had a good shape but was covered with nasty looking crazing (aka cracks); either the car had had a rollover or it had been used as a shelf during its period of inactivity. I baulked at the thought of grinding them out and filling them individually (wouldn't you?) and anyway there were also the usual trillion or so pinholes.� Having spent much time wielding an artists brush and filling them individually on my Phase 2 this was something I wanted to avoid this time round.
The accepted remedy is to clad with tissue. I have tried this in the past and have been unimpressed by the process; tissue is very fragile so can't be applied in large sheets and doesn't conform to complex curves. As an experiment last year I used some fine glass cloth I happened to have to cover crazing on the back of this car; this went well, even though I had not really planned the process properly.� With a layer of laminating resin applied and rubbed down the finish was quite good � and pinhole free too.
Thus I planned the roof rather more carefully. First of all I rubbed down the whole surface to remove old paint and provide a good key using an orbital sander with a coarse grit disc, then filled the few small depressions using normal body filler; even though these were not visible they were easily felt by hand fingers are very sensitive.
I calculated that the cloth I had used on my experiment was about 120g/m, so something between that and the 30g/m of tissue should do the trick. Googling glassfibre brought me to East Coast Fibreglass Supplies (ecfibreglasssupplies.co.uk) who cater largely for the boatbuilding trade and have a very comprehensive stock. They stock a plain glass weave at 48g/m and, even better, stock it in 1.27m (50) width, which nicely covers the Olympic roof with 3" hanging over each side, so no joins. I ordered 5m, thinking it would be useful to cover other areas too. I rather feared it would be supplied folded, but it arrived very comprehensively packed on a cardboard tube, protected by acres of bubble wrap and in a stout card outer case. I can recommend this firm.
This is a very light cloth so is easily damaged. I very carefully cut off 1.5m using a sharp craft knife and laid this on the roof, which I had cleaned of debris using a vacuum cleaner fitted with a brush tool. I smoothed it down gently by hand to get it to lay with no wrinkles and finished off with a paint roller.
Next question: how much resin? 300g CSM needs about 600g/m, so 48g would need about 100g/m. The roof area is nearly 1.5m, so 150g would be needed. I allowed 50g spare and measured out 200ml, forgetting resin is much denser than water, so I had plenty over! 150ml would have been plenty. I measure resin by pouring it from a rectangular PVC bottle which I calibrated by simple measurement, marking 100ml divisions on the side with a marker pen crude but simple. I also measure out the hardener using one of those tiny graduated beakers available for that purpose. 2% is about right.
I always use pigment in my mix as this gives a better match to the original and as a bonus indicates when the tools are properly cleaned. I also use a roller rather than a brush to apply the resin as this squeegees the glass material (eg CSM) with no real need for a metal roller. A brush tends to drag the fibres, which would damage the fine cloth I was using, another reason to use a roller. I use the small decorators lambs wool type. Incidentally I clean the roller by scraping off the worst with a blunt knife then, letting the roller hang vertically, pour acetone over the end. When this starts to trickle off the bottom I hold the roller in the bin and spin it vigorously with a stick to centrifuge the liquid off. A couple of repeats and the roller is nearly as good as new; barring accidents (resin has set!) a roller can be used many times.
Starting at the centre I applied resin in a strip from front to back to lock the sheet in position, then worked out to the sides, taking care avoid creasing the cloth (not very difficult). I even managed to fold the cloth under the sides to seal the edges.
When it had cured I could see that the crazes had sucked the resin from the cloth in places (I should have been more generous). A second coat of resin fixed that problem but it did set me thinking, so I repeated the exercise with another layer of glass, just to make sure. It's no good having regrets when cracks reappear in a year or so, when it's much harder to put it right. This time I used a sponge roller, as the lamb's wool one was getting tatty, and the final finish was nearly as good as some of my painting (says something for my painting skills). However the sponge roller is much harder to clean so was discarded.
I would recommend this procedure for anyone with a similarly crazed roof or other panel (I also treated the bonnet and a crazed part of one door) it's straightforward and easy, provided one plans the job and takes care. No more pinholes!!
Resin applied good finish guaranteed!
This was the damaged rear that prompted the idea of cladding with cloth. Once repaired and filled, cloth could easily be persuaded to conform to the complex curve unlike tissue.
Having rashly mentioned this activity in mag 120 and having had a rare response, I felt obliged to oblige, though Derek Bentley also wrote a very full article on the same subject in mag 82 using welded joints. Here is my version using bolted up joints.
Although the title refers to the phase 1 the only real difference between the phases is the way the front down piece fits to the door. In the phase 1 the down piece stops at the top of the door whereas in the phase 2 it continues down the outside of the front of the door. Later phase 2s also used a wider section in the aluminium extrusion to give a much stiffer frame. However, the Morris Minor steel frames are much stiffer still, which is why they are a popular mod on Olympics.
First find your donor frames. These come from the 2 door Traveller; those of the 4 door are shorter about 2 too short for the Olympic, though a good welder could add the necessary piece. Now remove all the screws and keep them for reuse, together with the corner angle brackets (assuming they are reusable as they are not stainless they may well be too far gone, or the screws may well have rusted in and need to be drilled out). Strip off all the brackets which are spot-welded on. I did this by cutting either side of each weld to remove most of the bracket, then filing down the stubs. This is a tedious job.
Now comes the tricky bit: re-shaping the top section to fit the Olympic. Mark your two pieces L & R as the shapes will be a little different on the two sides. The bending can be done cold, but much more force is required and an increased danger of buckling than if heat is used. Also, heating enables the place where bending is required to be better controlled.
A bending jig is essential to avoid buckling. I made a crude jig using two sheets of 3mm mild steel bolted together and spaced apart by a piece of chipboard of the correct thickness (20mm). One corner of this chipboard was cut to a curve of smaller radius than the required bend. The wood was protected from the heat by a strip of ali wedged in place. A detachable stop was fitted to the steel take the bending torque, so that both hands could be used to control the bend, and the jig was mounted in a vice (see picture).
Offering the frame up to the door aperture (with door in place), I marked the frame where the bend was to start. I arranged this so that I did not have to cut any material from the front of the frame, as there is not a lot of spare. I then heated the frame with a blowlamp to a red heat over a length of 6-8" (a sheet of refractory material behind the frame speeds things up), whacked it in the jig and gave it a heave (gloved hands!). I had prepared a template for the required shape and got as close to this as possible before the frame cooled (which is quickly, as it is in contact with the steel of the jig). By offering the frame to the door aperture I could see where adjustments were needed and repeated the process until I was satisfied with the shape. The excess at the top rear was then cut off at an angle to match the 45degree angle of the rear upright. Note that the included angle is a little under 90degree. I also filled the four remaining holes with weld, although short countersunk screws could have done the job, albeit less neatly.
Heating the steel rather spoils the shine, so when it had cooled I buffed the surface using Scotchbrite which left a rather pleasant satin finish, and treated all the other pieces to match.
The main reason for using the Minor frame is stiffness so that the frame can compress the door seal over the whole length and prevent wind noise. In the Olympic design this is provided by two sections: the rear vertical and the centre vertical, which are welded to the top curved piece. The latter provides no bending stiffness, since it ends at the door, so the weld in alloy frames tends to fracture here.
In my design I decided to use a bolted-up design to avoid welding, which makes removal easier too. Some stiffness is lost by not welding, but by extending the front section downwards by 6" and screwing this extension to the front edge of the door stiffness is restored (and possibly increased). I made this extension from 2mm stainless about 200mm long and 15mm wide so that it fitted snugly inside the channel and screwed it to the channel using a pair of M5 CSK screws and Nylok nuts. A slot has to be made in the horizontal top of the door for this extension to pass through so that it can fit to the inside of the sloping front of the door. The extension was drilled and tapped M5 at two points, one close to the top and the other close to the bottom. By careful measurement two corresponding holes were drilled in the glassfibre to take the screws (M5 SS, domed head, hex drive). It is difficult to get the correct angle so that the frame compresses the rubber seal to the right degree, but by slotting the lower hole of this pair enough adjustment was achieved.
The two vertical channels that guide the glass have to be spaced correctly this spacing differs by about 12mm between left and right sides. The glass shape is different too. I found that the shape on the passenger side was a better match to the door frame, so used two left hand glasses. First I cut the rear upright channel to the required length, with a chamfer at the bottom to allow for the curve of the outer door skin. I used an original MM angle bracket at the top to join it to the top rail, though a new one in stainless steel would have been better.
In the original Rochdale design, the rear upright is fixed to the door via two welded-on plates, one at the bottom and one at the top of the door panel (about half way up the channel). I did not use a top plate as the channel is a good fit in the slot at the top of the door, which has to be widened locally to fit the MM channel. I pop-riveted a 2mm SS plate at the bottom and tapped it M5 for the lower screw. Care needed to be taken to prevent the pop rivets hitting the glass at its lowest position. Getting the correct place for this screw is tricky, as the moulding in the inner door panel is not really big or flat enough for the purpose (what's new?). The correct angle to ensure the frame compresses the seal was achieved by packing between the fixing plate and the moulding.
The riveted-on piece which makes a seal to the B pillar is very similar to the Olympic version, and one could indeed use the original, but I used the MM version. This is rather tricky; as stainless steel is not very malleable. The lowest rivet needs to be removed, then the sheet carefully walloped to get it to match the contour of the door and the excess trimmed off. A single self-tapper held it down. A similar screw (and friends) seems to have been used in the past to secure the frame to the door; this was a waste of time as it simply worked loose in the thin glassfibre.
To fit the front upright I carefully measured the width of the glass, added enough to allow for the window felt and the thickness of the channel steel, and marked the door top where the slot had to be widened to fit the MM channel.
The required length of channel was then cut from the original MM channel, allowing for a chamfer at the bottom to fit the slope of the door outer skin, and an extension at the top to bolt to the sloping piece of channel to make up for the stiffness lost by having no weld. This was made by cutting off the sides for about 40mm and bending the strip in a dogleg to meet the sloping piece. Getting it to fit neatly was a fiddly job, but for a retiree like me was worth the time spent. As at the rear, there was only a fixing at the bottom, using a pop-riveted plate tapped M5 for the fixing screw. The original MM triangular plate which covers the joins can be used, with a little cutting, even though it is a little small.
A note on fitting the window winder. The inner door panel seems to have marks to indicate the position of the four fixing screws for the mechanism. Unfortunately, this results in the mechanism being fitted parallel to the top of the panel, whereas it needs to be fitted so that it parallel to the top of the door; the window is then not canted and slides properly. Slotting the original fixing holes will probably allow enough adjustment.
Another note on the steel channel at the bottom of the glass. This may well be rusted out, but may be replaced with that from a MM, even though that car uses much shorter channel. Two pieces about 125mm long will be sufficient; this is just long enough to prevent the wheels at the ends of the arms falling out at the bottom of the travel, provided they are carefully positioned.
A third note on window glass. It is perfectly possible to use acrylic (Perspex) instead of glass. It scratches more easily of course, but Derek Bentley has used it for 25 years and I used it on my Phase 2 to good effect. It has the merit of lower weight and can be profiled easily to get a good fit to the door frame. It needs to be the same thickness (5mm) as the glass.
Complete frame with corner details (inside view of drivers side) NB Chamfers at bottom of verticals not visible in these pictures. The screw shown inset is a bottom stop for the glass.
After reading stories about how other owners came by their cars I thought my story might be of some interest. Way back in 2001 I'd decided that all work and no play was not fun, and that I should revive my involvement with old British sports cars. I'd had a '64 MGB and a '73 Spitfire many years ago when they were just old, used cars and not classics. And when I first moved from the USA to the UK in 1984 I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to get something interesting. But between settling into my new job, buying a house, having and raising a child, moving house and the myriad hassles of life generally that idea was pushed to the back burner. But in 2001, it was time.
So I bought a Big Healey project (still working on it, with another two years to go on what I'd thought was a two-year project) and imported it from the USA. I joined the Austin-Healey Club and went off to see the local group at a car show in Callander. And that's when I first saw a Rochdale Olympic. It wasn't quite love at first sight, but close There were two just sitting in the field being used for parking. I looked at it very closely, peering through the windows and having a good snoop. But the owners were nowhere to be seen, and the cars were long gone when I came back from the show. The Olympic had made quite an impression on me, and I found out a little about them over the next few years; and I irregularly followed Malcolm MacKays column and published exploits. I also picked up a few articles about them, but I never, ever saw another one. In the meantime, I also acquired a Jensen-Healey (given the Healey Connection it wasn't too hard to do) in 2006 and started on a rebuild of it. Late in 2007 I thought I was finishing the Jensen (Ha!) and could look for something interesting again and the Rochdale Olympic was it.
I did some more research and became very interested in getting one. I joined the Rochdale Owners Club despite not owning one and started gathering information about them, buying all the back issues of the Club magazine and tracking down (it's remarkable how useful e-bay was for that, as well as a specialist book shop, or two) as many of the articles about it as I could find. The Club gave me the contact details of an owner, Ron Collins, in Edinburgh but I didn't pursue that any further until January, 2008. I then felt I knew enough about them to ask semiintelligent questions and look at one without seeming entirely ignorant; and I felt that I could seriously speak to people about buying one in a reasonably near future. I had earlier looked at one advertised in the Club magazine but it was much too big a project- the front cross-frame was rotten and the body needed considerable work. This quick look also proved that I really needed to talk to someone knowledgeable about the cars - the big problems I could see, but the subtle and little things to look for would need an experts input.
So I contacted Ron, and went over to Edinburgh to see him. We had a long talk about his car, and my assorted automotive interests and experiences with rebuilding the Healeys and his rebuild of his car some years previously. I was almost being vetted as a potential owner, I felt. One thing lead to another and I soon discovered his car had just been put up for sale. The club magazine hadn't yet appeared so I was there before any "rush" started and we had an amicable chat about his selling it to me, then a look over it and a very short drive; and soon concluded a deal where I acquired his car.
I think Ron very much wanted his car to stay in Scotland, and to be used rather than sit in a garage. We agreed on a fair price and the deed was done. Pretty painless, and a great deal less searching and inspecting cars and challenging projects than I'd previously imagined. And, unlike my Big Healey or Jensen Healey, it was in good condition except for a few minor cosmetic and general maintenance chores. Ron was unwell at the time and has since died, but I was able to let him know his car was in appreciative hands, and tell him of my adventures in taking it through the Highlands and over to Skye.
I've used it a fair bit for local drives, and for the annual Scottish Austin-Healey Club weekend tours. I think I'll join another local club or two and try to get out more with it. It always gets an appreciative look wherever I take it, and people just smile when they see it. I'd like to get to the AGM, but we'll see
I've made plans for improving it - I've already fixed a couple of minor problems, and I expect to redo the seat covers, carpets and headliner by summers end. Next winters project is to fit an MG Metro turbo to the 1275 BMC A engine it has, and figure out how to fit an overdrive transmission to that. My Olympic (and other adventures) can be followed at my website:
This describes my car, what I've been able to find out about its history, a comprehensive listing of articles published about the Olympic and some of the books that have commentary about it. I also show many of the promotional materials and advertisements about the Olympic and some of the other Rochdale cars. If anyone knows of books or articles or promotional material, I'd much appreciate they're telling me of it.
I found the idea of owning two of the most innovative British sports cars amusing: The JensenHealey with its ground-breaking dual overhead cam four valves/cylinder engine, and an Olympic with its one-piece moulded fibreglass monocoque body. And the Big Healey is one of the iconic British sports cars. It's a very small, but highly select collection. And I'm very proud and pleased with the Olympic; and hope to use and enjoy it for years to come.
Overlooking the Mull of Galloway, May, 2009. The most southerly point of Scotland.
After reading Keith Hamers article in issue 120 of the magazine I thought I would add my two pence worth having been through this process where many agonising decisions have to be made. I do not profess to be an expert on suspension design but I did put a lot of thought into the decisions that I made. I have listed these decisions and the background to them so that others can reflect as they go through a similar process. Remember that a jig was not available to members at the time that I fabricated and fitted my Phase 2 sub-frame.
I first checked that my garage floor was flat and level. I then marked on the floor a centreline with two lines at right angles approximately where the wheels would be. I marked these wheelbase lines at 100 mm intervals working out from the centreline. I set the bare shell on this grid at the desired ride height. I took many measurements to determine the true centreline of the shell but finally decided that a line that fell midway between the outside of front and rear wheel arches was the best compromise. At least the wheels would appear to be in the right place from side to side. The fore and aft positioning is not critical at this stage. I decided on a ground clearance of 140 mm at the front wheels increasing to 190 mm at the back. I did not want to fit a spoiler so reasoned that a slight nose down attitude would help to compensate for the lift at higher speeds. It also helped with clearances at the rear wheel arches.
The next decision was to determine the fore and aft position of the wheels. The rear wheels are fixed by the trailing links but I did find that I needed to pack one of the link mountings to keep the wheels at right angles to the shell centreline. To position the front wheels, I offered up a wheel to see what seemed visually to be the correct position in the wheel arch. I marked this position on the floor by suspending a plumb bob from the wheel centre. I averaged the offsets from the wheelbase line to determine where the front wheels should sit.
After taking many measurements off the old sub-frame I designed and built a jig to construct a new one. I followed the dimensions of the old frame except for the fact that I did away with the hub spacers. This meant that the new sub-frame would be wider than the old one by the width of the spacers. This also meant that the king pin axis would intersect the ground further into the tyre contact patch. This should reduce the tram lining effect on the steering. Now of course you have a sub-frame built from the clubs jig so this decision does not apply.
With ride height decided camber will be determined by the height at which the sub-frame is mounted (the relative positions of upper and lower wish bone mountings being fixed by the sub-frame design). I wanted zero camber at normal ride height so did a mock-up of the entire front suspension with wheels fitted. This gave me the sub-frame mounting height and I made two jigs to hold it at this height. With the sub-frame on its jigs I could move it from side to side to have the wheels equidistant from the centreline. To fix castor angle the sub-frame needs to be tilted to the desired degree. The castor axis runs through upper and lower suspension pivots which (without suspension fitted) I took to be a line between the mid points of upper and lower wishbone mountings. After researching a number of cars of the period I decided on a castor angle of 2 degrees. I later changed my mind and increased this to 4 degrees (still less than the original Rochdale angle) by adding some wedges under the front of the two jigs. Finally, with a plumb bob suspended from the notional wheel centre (marked by a screw on the jig frame) I could move the front suspension fore and aft to position the wheels exactly where I wanted them to be.
Having got this far the sub-frame can now be bonded in place. This will certainly be an awkward and messy job. I decided to plate my sub-frame and bolt it in place which gave me another set of problems (written up in a previous issue of the magazine). My methods and decisions will not be tested until the car is on the road but I am happy on the whole with the way things have turned out. I hope the above will provide some food for thought for other restorers.
Something you have all been waiting for, the answer to the question: How do we know that Hamlet was worried about getting fat? The answer is to be found in that most famous of all Shakespearian lines: Tubby or not tubby, that is the question.
For those who failed, better luck next time and to anyone who got the answer, commiserations, you must have the same Christmas cracker sense of humour as me.
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