Wednesday, 29 May 2013

A Little Width on the Hips

The Romans knew a thing or two about roads. They built over 50,000 miles of high quality stone-surfaced roads across their empire, enabling the rapid movement of their armies, and allowing trade and commerce to link distant outposts. 

We have one in our neck of the woods; Stane Street. It's 56 miles long, and links Chichester (or Noviomagus Reginorum as the Romans snappily called it) to London Bridge in more or less a straight line. In fact, like many of the Roman Roads in Britain, much of the route is still used as a road, bar a section over the downs near Halnaker where walkers can still tread the original 2,000 year old stones poking through the grass.

Being of a pragmatic mindset, the Romans standardised the width of their roads around the need to allow a couple of carts or companies of soldiers to pass by one another without interference, and decided that 24 feet (in the context I make no apologies for going all Imperial on you) was a sensible dimension.
Stane Street on the South Downs

Oddly (or not), 2,000 years later, the UK Highways Agency's standard width for a two lane road is still 24 feet. This is for the same millennia old reason; two horses side by side are about 5ft wide, as is a cart or carriage roomy enough to carry two seated adults between it's wheels, so to allow them to comfortably pass each other, a road width of eight yards is required.

When motorcars replaced horses and carts, not much changed. Karl Benz's Patent Motorwagon from 1886 was a couple of inches under 5ft wide, and by 1959 Ford's 100E Popular family saloon still measured only 5ft 1inch across.  The original Porsche 911 spread a little; 5ft 3inches, while Jaguar's seminal E Type was 2inches wider. Just the 2 inches mind you.

These thoughts occurred to me when I saw photograph of Jaguar's new F type next to its 1961 predecessor; the F type is a girdle busting 6ft 4 inches across it's arse, nearly a foot wider than the E. 
One is designed for Stane Street, one for I95....

In its latest incarnation the svelte 911 has expanded to 6ft 3inches in 991 C4 form, and the Ford Popular's successor as family transport, the Focus, has grown 13inches to 6ft 2inches.

We're all supposed to be getting fatter, so its not really surprising cars are. But at least in a UK with a roads infrastructure based on a 2,000 year old EU standard, its not surprising that there's just not the room to have fun that there used to be.


Friday, 17 May 2013

Gearbox latest

I few weeks ago I took my gearbox to Jez at Carrera Performance. I knew synchromesh on 3rd gear was very tired, and his brief was to open the unit up, and let me know what was needed for a rebuild. I've been on tenderhooks ever since; bits for these units can be very expensive, and severe wear can render the casing scrap. 

So it was relief I learned this week that the gearbox internals were in good condition, and all it need was a few synchromesh rings - in fact about the least I could have hoped to get away with. It should be back with me in a couple of weeks. 

An aside I was interested to hear a comment Jez made when we were inspecting the 'box, comparing the weight favourably to the later G50 units. From what I'm able to tell, the various weights as follows;

  • G50 gearbox used in the later Carrera 3.2s                                                        ~70kg
  • 915 gearbox with aluminium cases used in the SCs and first 3.2s                ~58kgs
  • 915 gearbox with magnesium cases used in the '72 and '73 911s                ~50kgs
The stronger aluminium cases were adopted when Porsche started to worry about the torque of the bigger engines, but from what I can tell from other owner's experiences, with sympathetic use the mag  alloy cases do just fine. Certainly losing 20-odd kilograms from the tail of the car can only be a good thing.



I removed the final few bits and pieces from the car and it was ready for cleaning. The yellow paint coating the car appeared to be a single stage acrylic that was either applied by an amateur, or a dealer looking to give the car a cheap once over for a sale. 

In any case it was a poor job; there's overspray everywhere and preparation around the door shuts etc was woeful. If I was ever to achieve a decent end result it all needed to come off 

Mechanical methods are too time consuming and really only used where the bodywork is very fragile or extremely precious. I was left with a straight choice; blast cleaning or dipping. The latter involves dropping the shell into a foul caustic concoction that will remove anything that isn't metal; underseal, seam sealer, rust, paint all disappears leaving clean, fresh metal behind inside and out. The shell is then rinsed, and once any repairs are completed. is dipped again in a rust proofing base coat. 

Im sure there are companies out there doing this very well, the problems arise when the capillary action takes the acid up into seams and between panels deep in the structure of the car. There it lurks, and often doesn't reappear until much, much later when your freshly restored car starts weeping rust from the seams.

Blasting on the other hand also has disadvantages. Obviously it won't touch the inside of any box sections, and a heat generated by heavy handed operator can distort panels, easily wrecking a shell. The media - generally a dry, fine sand - gets everywhere too. 

In the end I decided to use a blast cleaner recommended by a DDK mate; De-Corrosion Services in Chertsey, West London.  They've done a couple of old 911s - in fact they'd already cleaned the panels I'd taken off the car earlier. Their offer to collect and deliver the shell sealed it - finding someone to move wheel-less old cars isn't easy. So one sunny day in April the shell on its dolly was strapped onto a trailer and taken away. 

It would very different the next time I saw it.


Monday, 13 May 2013

911 Project Update

Well the telecom companies have finally managed successfully to install broadband into the new abode. Much like hangovers, the pain and nervous exhaustion brought on by every house move is enough to make me swear never to do it again. I didn't make things any easier this time by dismantling the old Porsche before moving it from garage to garage. Not only are a dozen crates full of components littering the house, but body panels decorate almost every room. And the only option for moving the 'car' - in reality a bare rolling chassis - was for me to push it down the road while one of the younger SS7s sat on a wooden box and steered. The proximity of the 'new' house to the old one - 400m at most - was a definite bonus. As I write, 200kgs of 911 engine still sits on the floor of the old garage. 

The actual project - removing only the glass and parts essential for new paint, and refreshing the mechanicals - has progressed to a full blow restoration. My reluctance to take the final step of stripping the car of its wiring loom, braking system and all of the running gear wilted in the face of determined opposition from the DDK crew. 

Here's a picture of the car. Its on the driveway sitting on a dolly ready for the next stage of the project.

More next time.