Saturday, December 19, 2009

Running on Gas!

The gas cooker that will go into the van when used as a camper

The newly soda-blasted driver's seat box, retaining some of the original black paint inside

The soda-blasted seat frame and new upholstery

Beautiful! The new upholstery in leather!

Wiper Motor

This photo shows the completed Lucas wiper motor ready for mounting on the driver's side panel for the dual wipers

More Photos

The inlet manifold and SU carburettor to be used with PCV. The engine is yet to be painted.

This photo shows the work on the new gearbox rear mounts to fit the Morris Major gearbox to the J van frame

This photo is of the reconditioned clutch cover (plus new driven plate) which has up-rated springs

The Tale of the Radiator (a tale of woe)

Kim says: I took my radiator to the local radiator reconditioning shop for pressure testing and minor frame repair. The test was good, the fins were reasonable but old, and as they needed to dismantle the frame for repair I stripped it and the tanks down to bare metal. In your everyday radiator reconditioning shop once a repair has been done they reach for the nearest can of glossy black, fast dry paint which is then applied without cleaning or priming of the radiator involved. It's just shiny and black, possibly with multiple runs and paint that will peel off in a short time due to the lack of proper cleaning or priming.

I understand this theory so when I dropped mine off I gave the Manager strict instruction NOT to paint it (which he wrote on the worksheet) as I would carry out the necessary cleaning, priming and finishing in a semi matt, period finish myself. Eventually the radiator was ready for collection and "no" they had not painted it - as per instruction. Went to pick it up and yes - the apprentice had just painted it in glossy/runny black! The Manager said the right words "yes, our mistake - we will clean it off" which they duly did at great expense using gallons of paint stripper, firstly in spray cans and then in a special tube. Phone call - yes it's ready for collection, and "no it's not been painted". On arrival the apprentice had just painted it again!


By now the copper core was far too fragile to withstand another paint strip. End result - the radiator company replaced the core with a brand new core at no additional cost. The new core was marked Morris and I'm guessing it cost over $300 dollars alone (maybe a lot more)! I got a new core, the radiator company must have spent $500-$600 on the core plus paint stripper plus labour and I don't know what happened to the apprentice. And no, they hadn't repainted the new core black when I picked it up.

Progress Report

Kim has had the driver's seat re-trimmed. The original seat was in vinyl but is now finished in leather! Why? When Kim spoke to the trimmer, he suggested leather as, at marginally more cost, it would last longer in harsh conditions, if cared for. As Kim's intent was always to rebuild the vehicle to last longer than him, this is what he went for. A small point is that, as Kim always likes to keep an essence of the original vehicle, he got the trimmer to reuse the original stuffing in the seat (thought to be horse hair). Not more comfortable than replacement foam, but that's ok

Changes to Kim's J Van

Kim says: I think it's worth stating that I will be making some changes to this vehicle in view to increasing safety and drivability.

Bearing in mind that this J van will be fully road registered, driven most days and may be required to carry out round trips to eastern state rallies covering in the order of 10,000 kilometres, some modification has been called for. The other point is that in my part of the world the outside air temperature is often over 40 degrees celsius for days on end and occasionally up to 50 degrees celsius, so particular attention needs to be paid to engine temperature.

The changes to be made from originality (gasp) are:

• Radial tyres - I have fitted radial light truck tyres which fortunately look like ply (Hankook 16 inch)
• Brake booster - will be located under the drivers floor with a pipe running from the breather to inside the cab to prevent clogging on dusty roads. This is a new PBR 44 unit with vacuum from the special inlet manifold
• Thematic fan - for the above reasons. This unit has a variable thermostat which also allows quick warm up in winter. I am retaining the option of keeping the original fan blades being retained for super hot conditions!
• Laminated windscreens - the originals needed replacing so this makes safety sense. Having a totally broken windscreen, as you'd get with the original safety glass, on the middle of the Nullarbor is not an attractive idea
• Halogen headlight globes
• Altered diff ratio. As above travelling 10,000 kilometres on the original 5.625 ratio would be painful. The diff ratio is now 3.9, the crown wheel and pinion coming from a 1955 Austin 6 cylinder saloon
• Seat belts - nuff said
• Dual windscreen wipers - we are subject to tropical strength downpours here so, as per special vehicles, I am fitting dual wipers with the driver's side mounted wiper motor. The wheel boxes come from a Morris Minor. I already have the inner cable but will need to make up the outer to suit
• Indicators -The front pair will be Lucas L559's (pigs ears) of which I have a new set. The rear lights, including brake lights, will be mounted in a specially fabricated housing located half way up the back either side of the doors. This is to prevent (possibly) those ace drivers in their Subaru WRX's from running into the back etc
• Engine and Gearbox. As previously mentioned the engine and gearbox for this vehicle are from a Morris Major which I had and are using as all the J engines I had were seized. This is the 1622 cc 'B' series unit and gearbox with the only noticeable differences being the sump profile and rear gear box mounting. I will however be changing the carburetor to an SU 1 ¾ unit with associated inlet manifold. This is based on the fact that I understand SU carbys, having worked on them with my Minors. The inlet manifold I have should breathe nicely and has facility for a PCV and vacuum outlet for the brake booster. I do have an original style air filter now (of the cylindrical oil bath type) which I will adapt and use at car shows. For everyday use I will fit a K/N. Obviously linkage changes will also need to be made
• Upgraded clutch plate springs. When I had the clutch plate and cover overhauled the technician, Matt, suggested that the spring strength be up-rated by 10% to allow for the fact that the engine is now driving 16 inch wheels, as opposed to the Majors' original 15 inch, the engine is slightly more powerful and working through the higher diff ratio. It will be interesting to see how this combination works out
• Long range fuel tank - the period documentation describes the J Van as a 'short range delivery vehicle'. They probably didn't have in mind 10,000 kilometre round trips when they fitted the 6 gallon fuel tank. I am investigating fitting a long range tank where the spare wheel originally lived. I've calculated this will roughly give me a total of 25 gallons all up, which is somewhat more useful! The spare wheel will then live inside mounted behind the driver

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Chassis Returns!

All restorations have their own little milestones, which seem to take the project into the next phase. This is one such milestone, where the chassis has arrived back from being sandblasted and etch primed. As mentioned earlier in the blog, this chassis is from a JB van and will be used to mount the 1622cc engine and the 1954 J-Van body.

New Brake Pedal Bushing

Even the brake pedal has been re-bushed! This most likely means also that the shaft on the brake pedal mounting bracket has been machined, with the brake pedal bush supplied to suit.

Diff Casing Ready to Assemble

This photo shows the diff casing and left side axle tube after being sandblasted and etch primed. All openings had blanks made to protect the internals from the sand while being blasted. The crown wheel and pinion used was taken from a 1955 Austin Westminster, and has a ratio to 4:1. Once on the road, the new diff arrangement will give the van a much better cruising speed on the open roads and freeways around Perth.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Trial Fitting Front Axle Parts

Here we have the trial fitting of the new front axle components. The front axle required considerable building up of metal where bolts and springs had caused serious wear. The picture also shows the new king pins as fitted to the re-bushed wheel stubs. Also visible is the new phosphor bronze thrust washer that sits between the wheel stub and axle. Kim made the felt washers out of the new felt rings sold to go on car batteries. He cut them to size and naturally used red for port and green for starboard. Kim’s comment: “Yes, another small and pedantic point!” The cylinder near the shock absorber mount on the axle of the left (port) side photo is a drift made to remove and replace the bushes in the wheel stubs. Note the new black tapered wedges inside the U-bolts on the axle.

Kim used small engine core plugs to replace the plugs found on the bottom of the wheel stubs, with a rubber sealant applied before being tapped in to place.

Front Suspension Components

Pictured are the front suspension components painted in primer. The front springs were dismantled, cleaned and hot re-set to the correct camber before being reassembled. Kim used brake pipe of the correct diameter cut to length as spacing tubes to hold the bolts that run across the top of the springs, which worked well. The front bumper brackets also needed heating and straightening.

Unfortunately the rear springs were badly rusted, and were used as templates for the local manufacture of a new pair of springs, at a cost of approximately $350 for the pair.

Friday, October 2, 2009

New Front U-Bolt Packers

Kim’s original suspension U-bolts were no longer serviceable so a search was made for suitable replacements. The U-bolts which best matched the original dimensions were, believe it or not, from a Suzuki 4WD!

The above picture shows the four new packing pieces Kim had made to fit under the new front spring U-bolts. The standard U-bolts for the Morris J-Van are rounded on the bend, while the Suzuki ones are squarer. To compensate for this Kim had new packing pieces made to fit. That’s the four rectangular pieces in the middle of the above photo. See, no problem is insurmountable!

The cylindrical things look to be aerosol can tops, simply used here as convenient stands.

Front Spring Packing Wedges

This photo shows an original Morris cast steel packing wedge (pictured on left) used between the front springs and the axle to ensure the spring angle is correct. Kim’s were broken and severely worn with the hole in the middle elongated due to back and forward movement of the spring on the axle. It was simply worn out and beyond use.

Kim took two of the packing pieces and built them up with bog to make them slightly oversized (pictured in centre). They were then used to make moulds at a local foundry in order to cast two new packing wedges in a bronze-based material. The slight over-sizing allowed for 1-2% shrinkage in the casting. The new bronze wedges were then machined to match the original Morris wedge (pictured on right) before being etch primed and painted black.

Kim comments that he now has two reproduction wedges that being cast in bronze will now last longer than he will!

Friday, September 25, 2009

The 1622cc Engine

When Kim bought his various J's, all of the engines were seized through being left with the cylinder heads off inside roofless vans. A Morris Major became the donor of a 1622cc B-Series engine and gearbox, which to Kim looked like it would be a suitable power plant. The only visible difference between the 1622cc engine and the standard 1489cc engine appeared to be the shape of the sump, and the rear gearbox mounts.

The engine went away for reconditioning, and ended up requiring a number of replacement parts including a crankshaft and cylinder head. The photo shows a trial fitting of the engine to the chassis, using Morris 1100 engine mounts. These mounts fitted nicely, and reproduced the original round shape of the J's standard engine mountings.

Kim's Progress

As can be seen from the photos below, Kim has been rebuilding his J-Van from the bottom up. Of the ex Henry Morgan van body, Kim says: "I bought this van about two years ago. I had previously bought six wrecks to build one good one, and only bought this one because the body was far better than the others." Kim does admit though that although the body was described as "restored" before he bought it, it most certainly wasn't. The body's dents and rusted bits were "bogged up", and some major rust areas were simply plated over. The body will be fully restored as part of the project works.

Kim also says that: "Being of a pedantic but patient nature I am now restoring this van back to a factory finish, but have included some user-friendly options, as it will be fully registered and used when complete.

"Although I am using the Morgan vehicle body work (a 1954 J) I am using the chassis of a JB to utilise an OHV engine more suited to everyday driving. This engine originally came from a defunct Morris Major I owned and will give the van a 1622cc capacity."

Kim has also altered the diff ratio to 4:1, by fitting the crown wheel and pinion from a 1955 6-cylinder Austin Westminster. This will give the van a much better cruising speed for getting out and about.

Kim's attitude to producing a vehicle that is arguably "better than new" is displayed with the comment that "I always find it interesting that so much time effort and money goes into making parts that no one else will ever notice on the final restoration - but I know it's there!"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Rear Axle Breather

Kim has fitted a differential breather cover to the axle. The J-Van originally had only a hole drilled in the top of the diff housing to provide for pressure relief. This hole unfortunately also allowed dirt, mud and water to enter the axle housing and diff. Kim took a breather cover off a Morris Minor diff and tapped the J-Van’s diff with a matching thread, allowing the breather to screw onto the axle housing. This should now keep the nasties out and the inside of the diff clean.

The Axle Assemblies

Four new front spring shackles were fabricated to mount on the overhauled suspension. All bearings, kingpins, and brakes were renewed and new brake hoses fitted. Kim also managed to find two brand new handbrake cables. The rear springs he had manufactured as was the packing between the front springs and the ‘I’ beam, being recast in bronze. The diff ratio is now 4:1, having the crown wheel and pinion taken from a 1955 Austin Westminster 6-cylinder sedan. The axle assemblies were all cleaned and sandblasted before being primed and painted. All looks like new so far!

Front, Rear and Inside

Now this is what is called "starting from scratch!"