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The Charlie Diary

This page is some sort of diary describing the struggle and joy of using an old car as your only car.

Disclaimer: This page is a description of what I have done to my car, not an FAQ on how to properly repair and maintain a car. The author has no responsibility towards what might happen to you or your car after reading this.

Monday 15th to Saturday 20th of August 2005, Camping trip to Devon

With no preparation other than a good clean, checking the tire pressures and topping up the oil we set out on a 650 mile (a bit over 1000 km) round trip to north Devon. The boot was full, the roof rack we picked up in Portsmouth was packed and the sun was shining. Charlie didn't miss a beat and averaged just above 25 miles per Gallon (11 liters per 100 km)! The girls with Charlie on camping trip, click to enlarge.

Friday 7th of May 2005, Indicator embarrassment

easy upgrade to white indicators :-), click to enlarge. Some people, like my boss, would argue that you should not tell the world when you do stupid things. I don't listen to them so here is the story of the malfunctioning indicators. A while ago the indicators started to flash only when I indicated left - no big deal, I rarely turn right anyway and since the indicators were constantly on, a flashing effect could easily be obtained by moving the stalk up and down repeatedly. After a while I decided to investigate the system though. I quickly located the flasher relay to the right underneath the steering column (it had “FLASHER” printed all over it) and removed it. It had only a two-peg connection. Now we have come to the point in the story where I should have switched on the brain and done some thinking - I didn't.
Instead I opened the relay and cleaned away some rust using a piece of rather coarse abrasive cloth. I put it back again and now the flashers didn't work at all... I invested 3.99 in a new relay and I was then back in square one - the indicators flashed to the left and were constantly lit to the right. Now I did some thinking. Hmmm, since there are only two pegs on the relay it can't really know which way I'm indicating... It turned out the constant light was not a malfunction at all - it is a feature! It tells you that a bulb is broken. I replaced the bulb and now the indicators work both sides.

(As you can see in the picture, Charlie is prepared from the factory for a cheap and simple “MaxPower” upgrade to white indicators, just remove the piece of orange plastic and paint the bulb :-)

Wednesday and Thursday 6th and 7th of April 2005, MOT fixes

I took Charlie for an MOT on the 31st and he failed on a steering rack gaiter and a CV-joint gaiter. A new call to the spares secretary of the "Landcrab Owners Club International" and two days later I had the parts. To change the steering rack gaiter is easy but to change the CV-joint gaitor you need to remove the drive shaft and disassemble the joint. To remove the shaft you need to unscrew the 38 mm nut that holds the drive shaft in the hub and loosen three ball joints. Thanks to an enormous adjustable wrench borrowed from work and lots of violence everything came loose. The joint itself could then be split by hitting it rather violently with a mallet. Everything was then dismantled and cleaned and looked to be in good condition. Fresh grease was applied and after some intense persuasion of a spring circlip everything was assembled again. dismantled CV-joint and faulty gaitor, click to enlarge.

Week after Easter, March 2005, cheap and steep

number plate light, click to enlarge. angle drive for speedometer, click to enlarge. MOT was coming up in March so it was really time to fix the faulty speedometer and number plate light. A telephone call to the spares secretary of the "Landcrab Owners Club International" revealed that the angle drive for the speedometer was a steep 40 quid! A complete number plate light with bulbs and cast glass lenses in a sexy Lucas box was on the other hand only 1 quid!! Changing the light unit was fairly straight forward apart from that the cables inside the boot lid were a bit tricky to get at. Not so the angle drive...
This annoying piece of engineering was manufactured recently in China and came in a plastic bag. I can't really see why the speedometer cable isn't fitted directly to the gearbox. Well, well - The speedometer drive is on the engine block (remember that the gearbox is in the sump...) above the drive shaft, below the exhaust manifold and a few millimeters from the bulkhead. Luckily, oil sweating from the engine had prevented the old angle drive from rusting and by using a pair of pliers it was possible to loosen the old one 1/68 of a revolution at each grip. The threaded part was very long... The new one was fitted by the reverse procedure (as it usually reads in the workshop manuals).

Sunday 6th of February 2005, low-tech engineering

I'm a great fan of low-tech engineering. Some would call it “bodging” and argue that it is an essential skill when running British cars from the seventies but I prefer the former and can assure you that it can come in useful also when running cars from other countries. The use of low-tech engineering is not only a question of having a limited budget, I often prefer these solutions because they are simple, robust and aesthetically pleasing. The choke is supposed to lock when you twist it 90 degrees clockwise. This feature no longer works and instead of investigating the cause I simply use a clothes peg to lock the choke. Cheap, simple and the function is 100%. clothes peg as choke cable lock, click to enlarge. seatbelt button secured by bicycle tubing, click to enlarge.
The locks for the inertia reel seatbelts contain a bright orange button that once was fixed to the lock by some no longer present magic. The magic was replaced by a 1 cm strip of bicycle tubing. Elegant and functional.

Saturday 1st of January 2005, speedometer investigation

The speedometer drive cable is clearly visible along its full length from the dash to the gearbox. I unscrewed the single screw that holds the instrument binnacle, loosened the cable from the speedometer and pulled the flexible shaft. It was ok. I cleaned it, dipped it in fresh oil and slid it back. I then went for a spin around the block. The shaft is not spinning. Must be the drive then. I consulted the workshop manuals and concluded that the drive must be damaged in some way. To investigate it you need to drain the sump. I think I'll call the spares secretary of the Landcrab club to see if he's got the necessary parts.

Wednesday 30th of December 2004, flat tire, oil and interior lights

The trip to Portsmouth also resulted in a flat tire. I did not notice at the time but after a few days in the garage the off-side front tire was flat. The spare turned out to be an almost brand new Kumho 165/14 :-) The spare wheel lives in its own compartment under the car and is lowered nice and easy using the wheel nut tool. I swapped the tire right away but until today I haven't got around to get the flat one fixed. It proved more difficult than I expected... The wheel has a tube. This ancient method of keeping tires inflated was impossible to cope with for the big tire companies in Cambridge. After being sent to new places by the places I visited I finally ended up at Arbury Fast Fit Tire Centre who at least could order a new tube by next Tuesday...

The trip to Portsmouth caused the oil level to drop slightly and since the fully synthetic 5W 50 I used for the Jaguar is not recommended I bought some old fashioned mineral 10W 50 and topped up the level.

The darkness of December also made me investigate the non working interior lights. It turned out there was no bulb fitted. Easy fix!

On the way back the speedometer needle fell to zero...

Saturday and Sunday 27-28th of November 2004, wipers and trip to Portsmouth

Charlie's boot is quite impressive but with two children and all the gear associated with that I thought a roof rack would be a good idea. I found a nice vintage one with brass fittings on ebay, placed a modest bid, and won it. When I requested the mailing costs from the seller he told me that he considered it too bulky to send and suggested that I picked it up in Portsmouth. An excellent excuse for a trip to the south coast. I treated Charlie to a set of new wipers, checked the oil, and off we went. The journey was uneventful but the constant drizzle made me miss interval wipers found on more modern cars. Fuel consumption was 11 liters to 100 km. Not too bad.

Saturday 13th of November 2004, inertia reel seat belts

The seat belt weight, click to enlarge. I learnt something new today. If the cars I have owned have been modern enough to be equipped with inertia reel seat belts they have always worked in the same way. If you pull the seat belt quickly, it locks. Not so on Charlie. No matter how quickly I pulled, the seat belts did not lock. Since they were obviously faulty I disassembled them to investigate the cause. I then discovered a small weight hanging in a rod. If the weight is rocked, it pushes a nicely machined aluminum alloy locking peg into a little cogwheel and locks the seat belt. Clever! So, if you (de)accelerate the car in any direction and pull the seat belt at the same time, it locks. Hope it works as good in practise as in theory...

Thursday 23rd of September 2004, gear lever

Last Monday colleague Neal took Charlie for a spin and being unused to cars of Charlie's vintage he managed to relocate the gear leaver slightly... Consulting the workshop manuals I've bought off ebay led me to think that one of the two rubber bushes supporting the gear lever box had given in. Taking into consideration the age of Charlie this was not too surprising. Almost identical rubber bushes are available for fixing exhaust systems (£1.49 each) and using a few washers made them fit ok. It was really easy too. I love old cars!

Friday 3rd of September 2004, V***o seatbelts

The inertia reel Golf Mk1 seatbelts were a bit too inert (they rolled in but not out) and they looked a bit too modern anyway so while in Sweden I bought a pair of nice grey items from a V***o 142. In the Swedish ”tractor“ they were mounted on the C-pillar and in Charlie they are mounted on the shelf behind the seats so I had to turn the mountings 180 degrees not to twist the belts. I also had to modify the edge were the floor meets the back under the seat cushion slightly to get them to fit. As you can see they really look the part but unfortunately they are a bit short so Elvira now has to ride in the front... V***o seatbelt, click to enlarge.

Monday 30th of August 2004, light switch

Dash with new light switch to the left, click to enlarge. Yesterday we visited Knebworth House in Hertfordshire and the Carole Nash Knebworth Classic Motor Show. We were there last year too and it was really great! Both the show with lots of strange cars I had never even heard of and the house which is quite remarkable in a way that only English country houses can be. This year I guess the show was affected by the weather because the number of cars were much lower. This year they had a “Dino Trail” in the garden which was appreciated by Lovisa though. However. In a box at the auto jumble I found a light switch for a quid.
At home it turned out that the switch was indeed identical to the original one - on the front side... It took some modification by a sharp knife to get it into the hole in the dash but the looks and operation are excellent! At the same time I took the opportunity to lubricate the speedo cable, fix the screen washer (a loose connector) and investigate why the panel lights did not work (it turned out that a strange switch in the right hand side glove shelf actually operates them). A few minutes well used!

Tuesday 17th to Friday 20th of August 2004, EXHAUST!

The exhaust was very nice but a bit surface rusty from lying around for years and years. I decided to something about it before mating it to the car. A few pieces of emery cloth, a rotating wire brush, a couple of hours of heavy sweating and two cans of exhaust paint later the exhaust really looked the part!

The clamps holding the old system to the exhaust manifold were a bit tricky to remove but accessibility was greatly improved when I removed the air filters... Putting the new one on the car was harder but possible with the help of a trolley jack raising it to be clamped to the manifold.
Nicely painted exhaust, click to enlarge.
The fit was really good apart from a fixing point at the very front that was impossible to get right. I made a midnight test drive to Tesco and the noise from the straight six is now both potent and discrete (well).

Sunday 18th of July 2004, a family day out

We went to pick up a new old stock exhaust system from a couple of very nice Scots visiting Northampton. Fantastic piece of metal! We then continued to Stowe Landscape Gardens which was truly amazing! Charlie performed very well indeed and I got the feeling that my wife is now quite pleased with him...

Saturday 17th of July 2004, the blowing wiper fuse

I decided to investigate the wiper motor. I unscrewed it, cleaned it and dismantled it. It looked like new inside! Brushes and anchor were perfect. I ran the motor without the wipers connected and swiched it on and off gently - the fuse blew. I gave up, greased moving parts and assembled everything again. I have to be determined when I swich the wipers on and everything will be all right...

Sunday 4th of July 2004

Today I treated the area in front of the radiator with rust preventing wax, put the painted radiator and fan back into the car, connected all leads and hoses, filled up with fresh antifreeze and tested for leaks. I ran the engine until the thermostat opened, tested the heater and topped up the system. No detectable leaks...
A nice thing with old cars is the wiring diagrams. They are less than a full page and you are actually able to understand a great deal! I decided to investigate the blowing fuse problem further. It was not the lights that caused the fuse to blow after all. It is the wipers. If you switch them on, off and the back on again, the fuse blows. I wasted a few fuses when testing.
Painted radiator and fan, click to enlarge.
Some times I could switch back and forth a few times but especially when being gentle to the switch the fuse blew. I took the swich apart and cleaned the contact surfaces. It looked fine and according to my multi-meter it operates correctly. Back in the car the fuse blew again. Has to be the wiper motor then..? It runs very nice though and does not seem to struggle much...

Saturday 3rd of July 2004

I decided to flush the radiator today. Since I was messing around anyway I decided to remove it to give the it and the fan a go with the rotating wire brush and a good coat with smooth black hammerite. When flushing the system I was amazed how clean the anti-freeze was. Some rusty deposits in the radiator itself but apart from that the liquid was almost clear!
The panel in front of the radiator was a bit rusty. Nothing serious, it looks like it was not treated to more than a thin coat of paint in the beginning. In and ideal world it should have been shoot blasted and painted but I settled for a treatment with rust proofing wax.
With good access to the front side of the engine I also took the opportunity to spray some degreaser here and give it a good clean.

Thursday 1st of July 2004

A new 35 amp car fuse and an universal switch fixed the lights temporarily. Not beautiful but hopefully robust.

Weekend 26th and 27th of June 2004

Saturday I replaced the blown 35 amp fuse with a 13 amp household fuse and we set off for Over and the Swedish School's Midsummer celebration. It started to rain and I switched on the wipers. The fuse blow after a while. Luckily it did not rain too much.

Sunday I removed the instrumentation binnacle (1 screw!) and removed the faulty light switch. The sight of the Smiths instruments' metal housings and less cables than I can count to filled me with satisfaction. I also took the opportunity to fixate the clock in a more permanent and better looking way than the folded Kleenex used previously. Smiths instruments, click to enlarge.

Week 21st to 25th of June 2004

The starter came off easily enough but the alternator was a pain. 2 out of three bolts came off but the third one was impossible. Then I discovered that the big bracket in which the starter is mounted was secured with a single bolt easily accessible from underneath... Auto Electrical & Car Hi-Fi in Cambridge took care of the rebuild and £75 later I had newish looking components to install. The bloke running the firm was really nice and it's wonderful to meet people who still know how to rebuild things and not just how to throw malfunctioning parts away and install new ones! Installation was straight forward and now Charlie both starts and charges.

Friday night we went to a couple of Swedish friends to celebrate Midsummer and eat some marinated herring. On the way back it started to get dark and I flicked the light switch. It fell apart, short circuited one of the three fuses in the car and left us without lights, indicators and wipers... Fortunately it was only a couple of blocks home.

Weekend 19th and 20th of June 2004

I was wrong about the starter. The car got some use during the weekend and unfortunately the starter spun only once resulting in repeated push starts. Maria was amazingly patient (and a good pusher :-). Saturday morning Lovisa and I went to a car dismantler in Bottisham and got a set of rear seat belts from a MK1 Golf. Installing them was easy since anchor points are available. Sunday the starter was examined and found *very* dead indeed. A second starter was found in the boot but it smelled really badly on the run so I decided to remove both starter and alternator and have them overhauled.

Thursday the 17th of June 2004

I removed the coolant pipe yesterday. Today I went to Macays and bought a piece of pipe of similar diameter (£1.17). The workshop at Chemical Engineering assisted with the bending and putting it back was a doodle. I filled up with water (must flush the system and fill up with anti-freeze soon) and everything seemed fine.

Tuesday the 15th of June 2004

I bought a one way ticket to Sheffield and got picked up at the station by the Wolseley in question. The seller apologized and told me that the alternator had packed up the same morning... Back at his house I examined the car and found a leak in a coolant pipe that flooded the alternator with water. With a piece of garden hose we bypassed the rusty tube, settled the economics and I followed the seller and his Merc 350 SL through Sheffield to a petrol station next to the motorway south. After refueling the starter refused to spin! Good start... I push started the car and drove off. When I stopped for a meal I made sure to park on a slope... Apart from this the journey to Cambridge was uneventful. Back home I showed the purchase to Maria who had no problems hiding her exultation. When I connected the road start I won recently the starter spun nicely and I was happy. I probably only need to connect my ctek for a while to charge the battery.

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