Tuesday 31 October 2023

Been Busy


Yes I know I've been absent for a while. Truth is the Stylus has barely left the garage since it's return from Wales & it's now SORNed, so that's it until spring 2024.

Part of the reason for the lack of blog action is that there's now a lady in my life & that tends to alter one's perspective on what's important, but predictably (for me) she's not your "normal" woman & is every bit as interested in cars & planes as I am, so I've been visiting museums with her, which has been brilliant.

Last weekend for instance we went to the Bubble Car & Micro Car museum somewhere near East Kirkby Airfield (where we went a few weeks back to see their Lancaster & Mosquito taxiing). It's only a small museum - but then it only needs to be as the exhibits are tiny.

There are a few odd things about the cars - OK, there's lots of odd things - but one of the things I find odd is the tiny tiny wheels, especially when the styling is - shall we say "compromised" anyway, tiny tiny wheels aren't helping the look.

The Messerschmitts & Heinkels get away with it as they're not trying to look like cars as such, but some of the others would've benefitted from having 12s, this Bond for example.

Some of the car's backs didn't match the front, like this one ......

Utilitarian front......

Swoopy back.

Having said that, some were really quite nice, I liked this, though the name "Meadows Frisky Family Three" might put some off.

This NSU was probably the best styled car there (in my opinion)

I could live with that shape - not sure I could live with the performance though

But it does knock most modern cars into a cocked hat styling wise.

So all in all an interesting afternoon, interesting to see what happens when you design a car from a completely different point of view.

The museum also has cabinets full of what I suppose must now be called "Historical artefacts" or to put it another way "Stuff my parents had". ordinary things, hair driers, cameras, curtains, if you're my age it all looked horribly familiar.

Wednesday 4 October 2023

RogueRunners Wales '23 - Day 3


Day three again saw us heading off to breakfast, but a few of us took a little longer & I ended up leading the second group. I noticed the first lot head out in a different direction, so thought nothing of it when my SatNav took me the same way. Except no breakfast came in sight! The twit (me) had loaded the wrong route - the one without the breakfast stop. Eventually I pulled over & we re-organised ourselves, deciding to to go on to the very pleasant Dyffryn café where the décor was nicer, the breakfast was cheaper & the staff were better looking (or so I was told - can't say I noticed myself).

By now the weather was on the turn, the hoods were up & the cars were getting muddy. We were now in two distinct groups about an hour apart as we wove through the centre of Wales where the scourge of the new speed limits had been more reasonably applied. Elan valley was as ever very nice, as was the cake in the Two Hoots café at Devil's Bridge. I'm not sure the same could be said for the entertainment or the wasp infestation though.

By & by we reached our destination, the Roast Ox, where the welcome was warm & we settled in to wait for our compatriots. Occasional raspy engine notes sent me to the window, camera in hand, but there must've been a local rally on as interesting old cars appeared & disappeared from & to seemingly random directions, no two cars arrived & left by the same roads, so who knows what was going on. Certainly not the drivers.

Eventually our brethren arrived through the rain as I was starting to feel the effects of what would turn out to be Covid. But not knowing this at the time I sat with everyone & had a very very nice tea - I am deeply sorry to those I unknowingly infected.

Where Was I? RRW '23 Day 2

 Oh yes - Wales.

It's all got a little hazy because I bought a souvenir back with me - Covid.

I probably picked it up in the Premier Inn in Cardiff, at least I knew of no-one who was poorly before I went to Wales & at least four of us had it when we came back. But on with the story, we got up bright & early on the Saturday & drove off to the breakfast venue through the countryside on 20mph roads (long story), having eaten we headed out on a pleasant run through the Welsh lanes & at some point we called in for our usual coffee & cake stop at the Ffestiniog railway but the café was closed for an event. We weren't feeling any love coming from Wales by now.

We carried on around Snowdonia (or whatever it's called this week), the trip was notable for a couple of things, there were a few car clubs about, we saw a bunch of Celicas parked up near Betws-Y-Coed & a bunch of supercars - more of which later. Also Neil saw Harlech Castle, which he managed to miss altogether last year. Big Grey thing it was - the size of a large building. We carried on down the coast as far as Barmouth before turning inland, once again I stopped & took a few pictures of my travelling companions going past & eventually we arrived at the very pleasant Conwy Falls Café for more refreshments.

After that we headed back to Mold & back to the hotel, but on the way we found a nice spot & Neil launched his drone, which made a few nice scenic passes & then we drove off under it, which looked really good in the footage. After that we wended our way along some spectacular roads which hadn't been festooned with signage & cameras (yet) & arrived back at the hotel with a little more time to prepare before tea than we had yesterday.

Tomorrow we'd be heading south To the very nice Roast Ox.

Tuesday 19 September 2023

RogueRunners Wales '23 Days 0 & 1

 The first thing to note about RRW 23 was the timing - the previous weekend had seen temperatures of 30c across Britain. The weekend we went to Wales it tipped with rain - not constantly, but quite a lot. Also it was the weekend when "all of Wales" went onto 20mph speed limits. The implementation of this was chaotic at best.

As I understand it, the word from the Welsh gov't was "put a 20 in the towns unless it's a major road with lots of traffic" - which undermines the "safety" argument - isn't that exactly where you would want the 20?

In the middle slice of Wales this seemed to have been done with a descent dollop of good sense, 30 limits on the approach, 20 limits in the built up areas where the pedestrians were, but in the north, there were times when we were driving in between fields for miles on a 20 limit & in the south, south of the Black Mountain (which has it's own ridiculous speed limit issues) there is ribbon development of a number of towns on a major A road for about 10, maybe 15 miles - a 20 limit has been slapped on the entire thing.

Add to that the signage - which was appalling for "Safety" signs...

20 one side - 30 the other? I noticed 3 examples of this as well as "20" painted on the road between signs saying "30", "20" signs followed by "30" on the small repeater signs. "20", "30" & "40" signs within a few dozen yards. It was a mess & I can't see any prosecutions sticking until they sort it out. I tried to keep the cameras on in case any NIPs come through.

But - onto the road trip.

We assembled at the Cardiff North Premier Inn which has a whizzy new QR code check in system - which doesn't work, so then you use the alternative "booking Ref" method & it keeps asking if you want another guest in the room with you (what are you offering? - got any photos?), then it demands your phone No. - why? I'm checking in! Then it demands your country of residence in spite of the fact that it presented me with my address & post code. But the biggest issue was that I had to put in my car reg to get free parking - on the check in terminal? No, there was no mention of it there, there's a separate terminal five yards away. The only people in the place to help with this were the bar staff - who had other things to be getting on with.

The following day we set off on the trip proper, but the Cardiff area is pretty car - hostile & just north of it is the Heads Of The Valley road which is STILL being built. The seem to have told TomTom that the new road is open because the SatNav was desperately trying to show my position on it in spite of the fact it clearly wasn't open - in some places it wasn't built! But we did escape that & made out way up to the Black Mountain road, one of the best driving roads in the UK, so the authorities have seen fit to slap a 40 limit on the entire length of it with average speed cameras. In previous years there's been quite a buzz with bikers in large numbers at the cafe's at both ends & ice-cream sellers in the car parks at the top.

This year it was pretty much deserted, no bikes parked up in the village cafes at the south end, no ice-cream sellers at all & the café at the north end had about a dozen bikers sitting round looking miserable. So well done, you've made it safer by making it unused, but you've also done a bunch of people out of a descent income as well. Scotland has many challenging roads, they linked them into the NC500 & the local communities are reaping the benefit. 

Strangely the limit over the mountain is 40 where it's wide & open with good sight lines, as soon as you're off the mountain (heading north) it's a 50 limit on a winding road past people's houses & drives. I can't help thinking they've got that the wrong way round.

We wended our way north through the Welsh heartland taking in the Elan Valley which is always a good drive & eventually arrived at our hotel in Mold. Maybe it was tainted by out experiences earlier in the day, but the Beaufort Park Hotel seemed pretty down-at-heel. Last year is was saved by the helpful & attentive staff, this year they seemed surly & lacking humour.

So, Day 1 a little disappointing then, but were we downhearted? Well yes, obviously 😄

Thursday 20 July 2023

Not Been Here For a while

I'm afraid my attention has been focused on other things, it's been mas busy at work & the Stylus has only been out of the garage once in the last three weeks, to my Brother's house & that was mostly to give it a run out. So what have I
been doing? Quite a lot of sleeping after busy days at work, quite a lot of tidying up & finishing off the bathroom in preparation for my son & his family coming south for a week, starting to build my road bike back up again after having the frame refurbished, going out visiting Brooklands & the excellent Museum of Army Flying at Middle Wallop (yes, that's actually a place) with a friend - doesn't sound a lot down I come to write it down, but I've hardly set foot in the garage because of it.

There's a bit of a story across the two places, here we have a Sopwith Schneider (replica) in the Brooklands "Aircraft Factory" & as the name implies it was built for (& won) the Schneider Cup before the first world war.

When fitted with wheels rather than floats, it became the Sopwith Baby (because it was small) & when fitted with a machine gun on the outbreak of war, it became the Sopwith Pup -  here's on in the Museum of Army Flying.

Fast forward 50 years & the Sopwith company became Hawker & they were flying this, The P1127, which became the Kestrel, which became the Harrier - The Finest Aeroplane Ever Flown, as we say at work.

One of which - this very airframe in fact, won the Transatlantic Air Race in 1969.

Monday 19 June 2023

Britain's Bonneville

Everyone's heard of Bonneville Speed Week. Flat salt pans, HotRods (& other things) modified by heavily bearded blokes in sheds for that one sublime record breaking run.

The UK has something similar. It's different, but it's good & it's gaining a reputation.

Pendine in south Wales is a small village quite a long way from anywhere, but it has two clams to fame. Three rocket sled tracks, one used to test ejector seats & seven miles of very hard packed smooth golden sand ideal(ish) for driving very very fast on. So it's all about the speed in Pendine & it has a museum to prove it.

Once a year when the tide times are right, the Vintage Hot Rod Association comes to town to run speed trials up the beach. It all gets a bit special because there are rules controlling both the "Vintage" & "Hot Rod" parts of that, so you're going to need a car made before the 1940s & for preference you're going to need it powered by a flathead V8 with the right transmission & suspension.

What all this means is that it's pretty certain that most teams could go faster if they ran the tow car up the beach, but that's not the point. It's all about the heritage & the early land speed record attempts mixed with a little Bonneville spirit, and this year I heard the twang of American accents, so hopefully those people enjoyed it - it's a long way to come.

But the event doesn't disappoint. There's no razamataz. The VHRA are there to run the cars, if the public want to watch, that's fine as long as they keep to pretty much one rule - KEEP BEHIND THE TAPE.

Plenty of visitors arrive in interesting cars, so they are parked up in one line (if you wish) for the public to see, so I took the Stylus as I wanted a pic of it on the beach to go with the one I took of the Fury in 2019.

There were plenty of people, but somehow the village never seemed crowded, I'd gone with a good friend & we went into the very nice ice-cream parlour on the prom & only waited a couple of minutes to be served, it was all very relaxed.

But you don't want to red all that, you want to know about the cars.

They split relatively easily into a few groups for descriptive purposes:-

Immaculate late '30s saloons - not too many this year, if you had one, would you run it over a sand / salt water mix?

Hot Rods in the classic sense. Road going cars with proper paint, interiors etc. The above also applies here.

Hot Rods in "less original" condition. There's a rust theme here, not rat rods as such, but bodywork that's very much only there to keep the sand out.

Original race cars from the 20s & 30s

Streamliners - specially built from original pre-40s parts & enclosed in an aerodynamic body - traditionally made from old aircraft drop tanks, hence their other name - "belly tank racer".

It works like this:-

As soon as the tide has retreated past the track zone, the competing cars are gathered in the pit area & come out one by one, are waved off by the flag girls - who always seem to be having more fun than anyone else - & accelerate up the beach to a speed trap that measures their speed over 110 yards, then they slow & the next car runs, simple. Except that these are mostly engines that won't rev over 5,000 rpm & have the original three speed gearbox, so they have to be geared REALLY high, so getting them off the line is a skill in itself. Then accelerating hard while keeping the back behind the front, on sand is also a bit of an art. The fastest cars are clearing the trap at around 120, most won't get over a ton & some struggle to see half that. But it really is the being there & taking part that's the thing & while watching some old cars accelerating quite slowly won't be for everyone, there's other things to do & the cars just keep going up & back, so you can wander off, have a drink & an ice-cream, look at the constantly changing "interesting car" park & wander back to soak up some more atmosphere while wondering at the fact that this sort of thing is even still allowed today.

It was also good to see that the village had benefited with a re-built museum, new prom with beach showers & loos, these things make it a more attractive destination when the events aren't on, so helps keep the money coming in, though the electric car charging points didn't see any use at all that I noticed in 2 1/2 days 😂.

We spent the first day wandering up the track photographing the cars at various points until the last runs of the day after which everything has to be packed up at lightning speed, all the cars, the pit fences, the tapes & supports, timing gear, EVERYTHING - because the tide IS coming in. The following day it all has to be set-up again as the sea retreats. The second day wasn't as sunny, we watched the cars, looked along the display line (several people asked me about the Stylus) & went in the small but well laid out museum, then it was time to pack up & go home. 

I'd collected a bike frame from repair on the way, but it wouldn't fit in the the car with the roof on, but it'd be fine - it wasn't & I suffered biblical rain on the M4 on my way home, but necessity is the mother of invention & after finding a petrol station to hide in, I found that actually, if a little cleverness was applied the frame would fit in a horizontal fashion & I was able to put the roof up & continue my journey. 

Tuesday 6 June 2023

Next Problem

 While I was away on the excellent RogueRunners Nae ORD'inary Tour, the Stylus did some strange things. loosing power on right hand bends, suddenly cutting out under hard acceleration, I could drive around it, but it was irritating.

When I got back to the garage I took off the injection, but all the connections onto it & the coil pack seemed secure, so I reassembled it & started the engine & noticed the fuel gauge was showing none at all where it had been showing 1/4 full. I took the panel out of the boot floor, then the access panel from the top of the tank to look at the gauge sender & whoa! All the POR15 tank sealant I'd sloshed round the tank after finding the small leak had peeled off in sheets & quite a lot of it was wedged in the exit hole.

This was a "disappointing thing". I didn't have the access to clean it all out & while I could get most of it out there would always be some I couldn't see or couldn't reach ready to peel off & block the exit again.

I flushed through the tank as well as I could, cleaned the filter & went for a drive. After 100 yards it was better, after 200 yards, stuttering, after 300 yards it didn't have enough power to move & I had to push it back onto the drive.

This wasn't looking good.

Again I had it all in bits & cleaned it again & reassembled, again I took it round the block, again it was pretty bad after not very far at all.

What to do?

I thought the No.1 problem was that I couldn't clean the inside of the sump that feeds the filter & pump, so the sealant lining it could at any time peel off & block the exit pipe. I opened the hole into the sump to a slot, packed it loosely with cotton fabric & held that in place by drilling both sides of the slot & lacing between the holes with locking wire - that will keep any peeled sealant away from the exit.

I also ordered a new fuel filter to be on the safe side.

I re-built it all & took it out - with the same result, fine to begin with, rapidly deteriorating.

I fitted a fuel pressure gauge & that showed very poor pressure, I took the pipe TO the filter off - petrol gushed, I took the pipe FROM the filter off - barely a dribble.

But the thing was, I could never clean the medium size bits out & they were just the right size to get through to the filter & clog it. Then I had a brainwave. If I could attach a gauze over the exit hole, there wouldn't be enough "suck" to hold it there & it would get washed off at the next corner when the fuel moved about. I couldn't rivet it through the tank skin, but I could rivet it between the tank & the exit sump as both are wet areas.

What I needed was a mesh - a stainless mesh - a strainer - a tea strainer!

A quick search of e-bay found this for a few £ & when it arrived I riveted it into the main tank floor.


OK - it works so far, but there's no real reason why it won't carry on working.

The car is actually much much smoother - it was idling at 600 rpm until I adjusted it up a bit so I could hear it.

So fingers crossed a disaster has been averted by a little ingenuity & a kitchen utensil.