Monday, July 7, 2014

Assembly Psychosis

Anybody remember Jason Russel? He’s the filmmaker that did that thing about Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony and his alleged war crimes?
Well, his star burst when he experienced a mild nervous breakdown curbside in San Diego. Click here to see it. This week I appreciate the circumstances that must have caused this reaction.
I wanted to attached the steering column brackets to the binnacle and column (in preparation for doing the wiring). The steering box was attached to the frame in the usual way. The frame was perfectly square, and with all the pieces in place.

I then attached the binnacle with the center nut exactly 20 inches above the floor. But the front end of the brackets didn’t reach holes in the pieces of bend metal that are included in the “bulkhead” under the front window. Actually, the left one was either too long or the right one was too short.  The brackets measure 11 3/8” (left) and 14 1/4" (right), from bolt-hole to bolt hole. In other word, I suppose I could have attached the brackets if I was to accept the binnacle angled counter-clockwise at about a 25 degree angle. I believe the binnacle is mounted perpendicular to the frame.
So what to do? I loosened the bolts holding the steering box to the frame, and I could get the brackets to reach the holes. This aligned the column slightly on an inboard angle; the bottom leading edge of the binnacle was slanted about 15 degrees off horizontal. I measured from the metal flange that’s just below the driver’s triangle window to the apex of the inboard part of the binnacle (LHD van, remember). I compared this to Steve’s van and it matched at 18.75”.
Problem fixed, right? Wrong.

Now the floor piece doesn’t fit. In the photo above you can see my original piece (grey), Steve’s (rust), and my new one (in black). The column when bolted in place using the brackets, meaning that to seat the column, the floor piece needed to move about half an inch inboard. Of course this would mean EVERYTHING had to move – engine cowl, the whole enchilada. The column has to be in the wrong location. The question remains: how do I connect the brackets to the bulkhead, but have the floor fit?
On the bright side, the rear seats seem to work well! 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Floor and Benches Installed

I know many have been waiting -- like 3 years, for this -- but here's the floor.
The end result is something that pretty faithfully recreates what the van would have had originally. The flashing pieces are correct (although I added extra screws).
The battery cover is a little smaller than original, and the floor is missing the centre “pop-out” piece, which I just didn’t like. The fore-and-aft seams are right angled (they bend down), and that's not how it was done originally. Originally, they interlocked, and this added a lot of strength to the floor. But it would have been do difficult to faithfully reproduce this. Besides, I don't think I'll have much cargo in the cargo area in the future. Finally, there was a piece of flashing that mounted to the rear inner wings and sandwiched the floor. It just didn't add anything so I didn't use it (though I had it made and all painted). Anyone want to buy it?
The benches are for my kids and their friends. Those are Land Rover seats. The floor has a 1/2 inch sheet of plywood overtop of it (to protect the floor and add additional strength). It sits on top of and is glued to a 1/2 closed cell rubber sheet (which adds a sound barrier.)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Pocket Doors in 15 Easy Steps

Step 1: Find generous Australian J-Van owner who wants to part with pocket doors. Have said owner ship them to Canada, and agree to pay the freight and customs fees etc., around $300.
Step 2: Track the ship ANL WHYALLA as it zig-zags between Singapore and Australia (Freemantle, Melbourne, and Perth), while periodically looking for a missing Malaysia aircraft in the Indian Ocean.
Step 3: After a month of watching the ship online (go nowhere near Vancouver) and being inundated with “Date Older Women” ads say, “this is bullshit” and call the shipping company. Learn that the cargo was transferred in Singapore to the ship ZIM DJIBOUTI, arriving in Vancouver in 3 days!
Step 4: Remember the ship’s name by substituting the words “Zim Djibouti” for “my Sharona” in the Knack’s song of the same name.
Step 5: Drive downtown Monday during lunch to the customs office. Discover that the office has moved, and the address provided by the shipping company is wrong.
Step 6: Drive to the new office (next to a McDonalds, thankfully). Learn that the waybill listed the pockets doors erroneously as “personal effects”.
Step 7: Submit to a free prostate exam by a suspicious customs official. Seriously, the blog helped a lot in illustrating what I was doing. Pay $16 in duty and get a funny piece of paper.
Step 8: Call the shipping company and say, “I have this funny piece of paper.” They say, “fax us the paper, and pay us a $86 handling fee. I said, “Did I mention you sent me to the wrong customs office address.” They said “Yes, pay us $86.” I pay.
Step 9: The shipping company emails me a receipt and a note saying there’s a $30 pickup fee at the bonded warehouse. Also, they start charging me storage on Thursday. I feel like I’m on a cruise.
Step 10: Fit pallet onto roof of Honda Civic – abort. Call dad, and arrange for him and his little van to meet me near bonded warehouse Wednesday.
Step 11: Arrive at bonded warehouse. There’s a hundred trucks running in and out. I’m greeted by a young fellow named “Jeff” with a cast on his left foot. “Achilles?” I ask. “No, forklift ran over my foot.” He adds: “It’s stacked up here. You’re going to have and wait.”
Step 12: I go to the office (actually Bay 18) and pay my $30 fee. The fellow there – “Joe”  -- tells me go to the end near the ramp “with your truck.” While he’s telling me this I’m in a chained linked fence kind of cage (it’s a bonded warehouse thing). I’m feeling conspicuous because I’m wearing khaki chinos, oxblood penny loafers and a blue blazer (I came from work). “So this is what it’ll be like when I commit embezzlement and I'm marched off to the pokey,” I say to myself. Meanwhile I’m surrounded by about 20 professional truck drivers, and I get this amazing idea for either a deodorant commercial or a chemical weapon.
Step 13: Wait with others at the ramp for only about 20 minutes. Try to avoid having a forklift run over dad. Package arrives.
Step 14: Recruit idle truck drivers to assist in putting package in dad’s “rig”. In the midst of loading, notice a baseball cap in the van that has “Crackman” emblazoned on the front of it. Choose not to ask.
Step 15: Drive away. Mission completed.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Binaccle "Miraccle" and Dead Presidents

Went to Disneyland with the kids last week, and while there, I got some ideas about future projects. Don't know if I could fit a whole fire engine in my parking space. Also went to the Nixon and Reagan Presidential Museums. Got a real-close close-up of two different Presidential limos (one Cadillac and another Lincoln). The former is the one that President Reagan was shot getting into. Eryn liked posing on Nixon's "Marine One" helicopter.

Progress on the van has been desperately slow. I have assembled all the gauges as well as the speedo and oil pressure cables. It's all done. I thought the speedo cable would be really hard -- British instrument and Japanese metric transmission. But I found the correct Japanese speedo and there was a guy in Medicine Hat, Alberta (named after Queen's Victoria's man) that used it to make me a correct, custom 6 foot cable for something like $60 ( Great service.

I even got all the replacement lights for the binnacle. The oil and fuel gauges are new and they are obviously not perfectly accurate (they have the graphics), but they are good enough. The Speedo/ODM is original, as is the ammeter. So what here is originally from the van? Answer: The brass chummy that clamps the unit to the steering column. Nothing else. That's a lot of work.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Floor Matters

I want to drive my kids around in the van when its complete, so I needed some seats. What I did is I bought some Land Rover Series type bench seats. I bought them online December 12 and they showed up at my house 4 days later from the UK. Amazing. In the following couple weeks I bought some wood and made risers for the seats. They are actually two of them, and they will be placed on either side of the van near the rear inner wing. They'll be mounted to a plywood floor that will me mounted to the steel floor. I used bed liner for the durable textured finish, and I used this for the front floor section as well. I am very happy with how each part looks. Other than this, nothing has really advanced on the project since Halloween.

Packages, Packages

How did people ever restore cars before the Internet?

In the last tow months I have been busy buying little J Van bits from all over the place -- US, UK, Australia, and Israel (yeah, really). It's all for the brake lines and instruments. y=Yeah, they have everything.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

End of an Era, a Year, and Beer

Near my house, there’s a small shop tucked away in a light industrial area called “ABC” which stands for “All British Cars”. It was about two years into this project before someone tipped me off to its location. It’s been there (or another location) for 45 years.
In all that time its owner Ruth has carried the strain by herself. She knows everything about British cars. Alas, she sold it off last month to a long-time customer and his son. It’s being moved about 60 miles away, so I don’t imagine I’ll have much reason to visit it in the future.
Visiting ABC was always fun because it was a treasure hunt. The shop was huge and cluttered – okay, it looked like tornado debris. The replacement shocks I got for the van came from there; they’re NOS (stamped 1961). They came from a pile on the floor. Best wishes Ruthy -- you earned it.
Year end activities include working on passenger seats for the rear cargo area, getting the gauges all squared away, and stocking up of "value beverages" with visiting extended family.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Merry Christmas

Okay, it’s that time of the year again.

There’s an auto parts store near my house that sells seasonal items. I go there a lot. Recently I did, and there they had a broad selection of Christmas decorations. There were a bunch of inflatable displays including a 30 foot tall Santa, and then there was this – a nativity scene. See Jesus? He looks really happy, but I guess that’s the way it is when you don’t know what fate intends for you. It’s a lot like restoring a vehicle I guess. Comparisons between Jesus and I end there!
Santa came earlier this year (in a very sharp 1937 Ford COE panel van) delivering a speedo cable from Thailand. The plan of attack right now is to take on all the plumbing and wiring issues. Once that’s done we’ll go back to paint and assembly.

Finally, Steve (owner on Duncan) is online, sort of. Steve bought a computer, and has a broadband connection, but he’s getting used to using it. I’m helping him. A blog is a little beyond him at the moment, but maybe I’ll get him to join the Yahoo! Group. So what’s the first thing Steve wanted to see online? His dad’s boyhood home (79 Mrytle Street, Hounslow, Middlesex), near the Blenheim Centre. Steve hasn’t been there.

During my first trip to London in 1998 I actually passed it on the tube track right at the back on Steve’s dad’s old house. The circumstance and events that cause people to be familiar with each other. Over the holidays that’s what I’ll be thinking about. Thanks to everyone for their support over the past year, especially those that were reading my first Christmastime post in 2008.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Coming Together Nicely

Pieces coming together really quick nowadays. The work above was done in a little over 4 hours by Aaron and me today.

The inside is painted (except the doors, parcel tray, inside structural stays for the side panels, and the filler cover). Maybe tomorrow or the next day the body will be "carefully" put back on the frame. Then we'll add the fuel tank, internal structure. After that the body will be sanded and painted.

I looked forward to doing this all week, and when I got home this afternoon, all I could do was think about when I could get some time to go back out and work on it some more.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

5 Year Van err, I mean "Plan"

Well, that was easy! Not.
Five years ago today Marc and I gathered the van in Victoria.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

It occurred to me yesterday (on the way home after a long day of sanding) that on all the ways to die, falling asleep behind the wheel while listening to Ray Parker Jr sing “Ghostbusters” ranks just behind auto-erotic asphyxiation in terms of embarrassing.
In the photos above:
1)      Parts in racks, ready to be painted one more time;
2)      Aaron in the body shell (inside paint booth);
3)      Frame before and after filler application (ready for paint);
4)      Colour palette selection
Next week I expect there will be some assembly at some point. The frame was transported, sandblasted and returned in less time than it took me to fetch a coffee. It had some pock marks, which were filled pretty quickly. Overall, I was pretty happy with the frame after being cleaned. 60 years on the “Wet" Coast of Canada, lurking in salt air.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Metal Mea Culpa

Long-time readers will remember that early into the project we had a problem with the door tracks. One day they ran away. Oh well, I say now, but at the time I was freaking out because they're impossible to faithfully recreate at a reasonable cost. Plus they're an important thing to use as a reference point. But if you see above its all remedied now. Aaron has beavered away for the last two days and made everything right. It's a piece of round bar that, when dressed up, will look very close to the original look.
If you see above you'll notice that the tracks aren't perfectly in the middle of the arch channel, but they are where they need to be to ensure the door closes correctly. It looks good to me. With this fixed and the door doors fitted, we can move ahead with painting and assembly. The metal strip that runs down the center of the grille was taken to the chromers on Tuesday to be stripped. I think it's made of brass, but Aaron thinks it's steel. Anyone know? Once I get it back we'll hammer out the dents and reshape the bottom 5 inches. One thing I noticed is that my metal strip only has one bolt/rivet -- at the bottom. Other I see online have another one at the top. Anyone have a onesy one? If someone could send me a close up of the parts at the bottom half that would be helpful for recreating the gradual reduction of the crease in the center.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Precision Engineering

The doors that I whined about earlier this year are starting to appear like they’re going to work. We had to unwind some finishing and cut metal to make it happen, and I found that a very painful thing to do (okay, watch). You think you’re at a certain milestone and then you’re not and it’s very frustrating. Even Aaron wasn't his normal cherubic self, confronted with this snafu.

Today I was at the shop and working with Aaron to fit the doors. We were trying to put them in situ in the correct location so that we could figure out where to tack the round bar that will form the new track. I think we did it. If you see in the photo about you’ll see there one highlighted area where the curved or raised anterior section of the door doesn’t obviously run parallel to the door frame on the left side. It does on the right. Drop the aft section of the door track, right? Yeah, we did that so much now that the holes don’t align at all anymore. It's easier to see if you download the photo first and view it full-sized.
The same precision is lacking elsewhere too. In the other photo you can see (printed on the fender) that the leading edge of the front right wing is not the same shape as the right one. There’s no repair; it’s original. The left is also a little wider. Anyone else ever noticed this? Watching other vans being put together I wonder if the doors presented this much of a challenge.

Finally, I found a “chummy” (navy term meaning “the things I don’t know the name of”) that will adapt my new air filter to my Weber carb. It’s being mailed to me next week. A photo of it is included above. I think it'll look really sharp (if anyone dares look at the engine).

Friday, October 4, 2013

Holy Moke!

Earlier this week I stopped off at the upholsterer's to see if he was still in business (and he was). There I witnessed my new seat looking really sharp. Just the back part needs to be concluded and then I can scratch that off the list. It's just like Kim's except it'll be all black.

While I was there I witnessed a Moke which, if you consult my post from June 29, 2012, I had no idea about until that day. Well there was one in the upholsterer's which I was told belonged to a fellow from Taiwan. Only one in Canada I imagine. It's a cool little vehicle, but really impractical for places where it's cold and it rains all the time.

Finally, seen above is my catch can. So when pressure bursts into the crankcase, the PCV outlet used to feed everything back into the carb. But I of course cot rid of the original carb because it had all that plumbing, and the new one doesn't have a similar input. So now I need a place for the gasses and oily sputum to go. Voila. It's a handsome unit and it cost just $20 on

Aaron is getting horny for paint. Maybe Halloween will have a special treat.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Round Peg Meet Square Hole

Readers will know that I am using a Weber carb kit to replace the original Nissan one. Besides being a mess, it had more plumbing coming out of it than the Pompidou Centre. The new one will be better, but one thing I never liked about it was the air filter – it was too boxy (see above). So I bought a little “helmet” style one with louvers on the sides, which looks the part. It'll fit in the dome of the engine cowl nicely. Yes, nobody will ever see it, but I have come this far and it’s a small additional effort to make to get things just perfect. The problem is that I now have to fit a round peg into a square hole. Might have to get an adaptor of some kind made.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Seat, Freshy, Sister and Hospitality

Things have been quiet on the van front over the summer. I have the seat at the upholsterer’s. It’ll look like Kim’s seat when it’s done except with faux black leather instead. The seat stand/toolbox is painted (but it needs to be repainted) and I’m just sorting out where it goes on the wood floor.

My sister Christine went to the UK on holidays and there met up with Roly, his wife Caroline and there three little dogs (see Lulu above -- incidentally, Christine and I grew up on the Vancouver areas island of Lulu Island). Unlike me, she can now claim to have seen in person an actual, operating J Van.

Aaron and his wife had a baby girl in early September (their first), and she’s got dad’s looks it seems.

Tim Sparks and his wife Denise joined me for a day after their cruise to Alaska. I took a vacation day and drove them for about 5 hours all over the city, and managed to hit Aaron’s shop to see Victoria and Steve D’s house to see Duncan and his other assorted projects. All and all, not a bad payback for 4 years of encouragement and help!