Saturday, February 6, 2016

February 4, 2016: Let There Be Paint!

Seven years and four months after getting the van it’s been repainted. Originally I had considered other colours but in the course of restoring I found some original colour on the body, and I think those colours look pretty good, so that’s what we went with. It’s a two-part paint system. There’s a couple layers of primer then there’s three costs of colour and three cots of clear. Next we’ll colour sand it all with something like 2500 grit and wax it all. But the doors and front grill are next. After all that I look forward to rapidly assembling all the bits that are taking up space in the shop.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Glass Riddle

The van's glass has been behind the headboard in my bedroom for 8 years, and its going to be moving soon. The first image above is a "key" to understand the TRIPLEX code, and the photo below is my actual code. It would appear that my glass was made in the July, August, September of 1950 and probably used in assembly later that same year. I just need to remember to install it so that the code is readable from the outside.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

New Year

Times are tough at the shop, and child labor has becomes necessary. Not really.

At the start of this new year, I'm reflective. Last year I discovered the origin of my van, and I actually found the name of the guy who sold it 64 year earlier. He lived near me. His name? Basil Plimley, the great grandson of one of the first auto dealers in British Columbia. I phoned Basil. His nurse answered and passed him the phone. He was in his late 80s. He was polite, but it was a difficult conversation. 

Afterwards I made a small photo albums documenting all my van efforts. "I'll stop by his house one day and show it to him in person" -- that will make it easier to engage him, I said to myself. I mean to do it last Christmas, but it's hard to stop by a 90 year-old's house, invite yourself if, and start talking cars. Christmastime meant I could bring my daughters along, and that would make the intro less awkward, I thought. It never happened. This year, I meant to do it, and when I finally looked for his number online, I discovered something else. Basil had passed only a couple weeks after I had talked with him on the phone. He had a good life, but regret procrastinating. I would have like to see the look on his face when I showed him what I've done with the van. Reading his obituary made me regret it more.

Meanwhile, at the other end of a life, my friend's son has taken cars, and he was recently welcomed to the shop to see how you can melt steel, paint and do other cool things.

Paint will fly pretty soon.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Dark Knight (of Sanding and Blocking)

“Ah you think sanding is your ally? You merely adopted the grit. I was born in it, molded by it. I didn't see the flawless smoothness until I was already a man, by then it was nothing to me but dusty!”

Okay, contrary to rumors I am not expired. I have been preoccupied with others matters. However, the weather has turned foul, and the nights run dark for more hours than the day last long. The van is nearing first paint and, while this is normally an exciting period, I’m a little sanguine. To restate what’s happened. We did a couple shots of high-build primer, and then we sanded that all off. Then we hit it again, and sanded it all off. Next we’ll hit it with primer and wet-sand that with 700 grit. I’ll add photos of that later. I told Chris (in photos above) at the shop today that these vehicles were never this straight, even when they were new. He laughed. Chris did all the sanding and that’s a critical but thankless task. You get dusty and you can’t take any shortcuts. But you do come out of it all buff. Incidentally, the last photo above is of him at home on his day off, getting ready to go to the bar.

Monday, March 9, 2015

“Engine Upgrade” and Other Mechanical Bits

Yep, a Straight 8, why not? Don’t need a prop shaft -- straight to the differential!
What’s weird about the engine visible in the foreground on the first photo above is that it’s basically contemporaneous with the van. It’s from a 1948 Chrysler Town and Country. The US had a vibrant industrial economy after the war, and gas was apparently pretty cheap.
Van progress…
The van is still in the wiring, plumbing and like phase. Things are delayed while we’re waiting for some parts to arrive from Japan. Japan? Yes, some of the engine bits are available only NOS from Japan. Luckily Tokyo is closer to Vancouver than London is, or even the eastern-most parts of Canada, so they’re not too expensive to bring over.  And for you purists who scoff at the Japanese A-Series engine, please note that I recently blocked off some unneeded section of the intake manifold and guess what those threads were? One-quarter and one-half BSPT, a holdover from the days when Nissan was a licensee of Austin/BMC.
In January Aaron hooked up the rear lights and sent me a photo of them shining at work (included above). You know when you watch those medical programs and the patient is defibrillated back to life? That’s what that was like. In the next few weeks the fuel will be connected, the water plumbing and brake plumbing will be completed and the electrical will be all wired up. The goal is to get the engine running before proceeding to paint and assembly.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Decision Time (Soon)

When I started this project I was really keen on paint colours. But now, I'm a little ambivalent -- just get it done already. Above are some options that mainly stick to a burgundy and tan (not crème as illustrated above) combination -- those are original colours on the van. At work I put up a couple illustrations and ask coworkers for their preferences. Here I'm doing the same sort of thing. Comments are welcomed.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Prime Time

Let's just let the photos speak for themselves.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Finally Paint, Right?

No, not quite.
After all that meticulous sanding ( next comes another coat of high-build (the “reapplication”). In fact, that's what all the masking in about. Also above you can see de-greaser being applied.
“But didn’t you just sand the previous high-build all off?”
Yes, and don’t get me started! Also, someone drank the beer I left in the shop!
After the high-build reapplication, the whole things gets cut with 325 grit, and finished in 550 wet-sanding. Then we’re ready for paint. What’s the final colour? That was decided months ago, but there’s some final moment reconsideration happening. Originally I was thinking burgundy on tan with black fenders. Now I’m thinking about reversing the burgundy and tan. Or, maybe swapping out the burgundy for dark blue (like in the model photo above).
I was supposed to be in London in March for a school graduation ceremony, but budgets being what they are, I’ve decided that I simply cannot do it. I really wanted to see a real, “alive” J-Type. Now do I wait and go next year and see one, or do I make one sometime before that. Time will tell.

In the next post I'll show some photos of a perfectly straight van in a uniform colour.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year, Same Old Project (and Another)

This is the project’s 7th year. If you had told me that this would be the case when I started, I wouldn’t have started (maybe). But good results take time, and – as I said is a post a couple years back – the time passes anyway. Besides, if I hadn’t spent the money on the van, I would just have invested in more dodgy oil stocks and lost my shirt (that a topic for another time). Of course, that’s the psychology of a people with gambling or substance addictions – relativism.

Last week Santa brought me one of those really nice Morris J-type models done by Phil Knight a couple years ago ( Actually Santa bought the kit that features the body, but not the wheels and all the other little bits. It’s okay, I’m a little pre-occupied at the moment of the full-scale versions, but I’ll get to the 1/25 scale model in time.
Things I’m really interested in are being done on the van. The brakes, fuel, and other sundry plumbing are being done. You can see it on the rear axle in the photo above.  Wiring is about to start. The front fenders are nearing a paintable state and the back ones are having some final metal work done and then they’ll be in a similar condition.
Before Christmas I painted a black box that will attach to the side-seats. It’ll add some stability, and it’ll give me a place to puts things that’ll otherwise slide around the floor of the van. I also built a wood frame that I may install behind the driver’s seat – it’ll be a bulkhead, but really, it’s just an excuse to have a place to secure the driver’s seat belt, plus the fire extinguisher and some other things.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014

Have you ever had one of those days? You know, where you go to work on the van but you can’t because the helicopter is in the way? Yeah, that happened to me last weekend. Kim? Things are progressing on the van, and some long-awaited tasks that I’ve looked forward too are either done or are soon to be completed. The front and rear wings are being made ready for paint and the long awaiting plumbing pieces are happening.
This is my last post for 2014. Like in the previous 7 years, I am grateful to a large group of people who helped me get things done this year. I am especially grateful to Kim Herne. In May he sent me a really nice set of pocket doors. The only thing I need to complete the project is the center grille piece. Maybe Santa Claus will bring one. In the New Year I look forward to travelling to London and seeing – for the first time – an actual, operating Morris J-Type van.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Rhapsody in Yellow

Okay, it’s not Gershwin. It’s James Horner (who I think is awesome).
I’m playing with video editing, so this is going to be short. Much has happened. Want to know what? Watch the video on the video bar on the right. I think I'll do more of these.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Shafted Again!

Several years ago when I picked up my Nissan A-series engine I had the good inspiration to ask for the shaft, because I needed to graft the front end of it on to the rear end of the J-van one. Well actually, the front end of it was meant for a Toyota engine, but the rear was authentic. I always knew that I would have to have a new shaft made, and that day arrived a couple weeks back when I took it to Pat’s Drivline (Pat is the owners wife) in beautiful Port Kels, British Columbia, only about 20 minutes and one hefty bridge toll away from my house. I picked it up last Saturday and it’s awesome. As it happened, I had just finished making and bottling my home brew, so I left a couple with Brian (that's him in the photo). One more thing crossed of the list. In other progress I was able to assist another J Van owner with some parts. Finally, my mom bought a new house and the garage is sufficiently high enough to accommodate a van! Yeah.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hastings Brass

Long-time readers will know that my cargo floor and rear doors are a little improvised. Specifically, the rear cross member has a little wedge taken out of it, absent of which would mean the rear doors wouldn’t fit.
The only visible sign of this is when the rear doors are closed – the distance between the bottom edge of the door and the bottom edge cross member is about ¾ less than what it is on other vans. This meant I needed to have some “chummies” made that would anchor the door latch and lock on the bottom. Enter Hasting Brass Foundry (“HBF”), one of Vancouver oldest companies, founded in 1916.
HBF used to make parts for the many ships that we built in Vancouver, but that’s when Vancouver was a low-wage jurisdiction compared to those workers’ paradises like Belfast and Liverpool. Ships aren’t made in Vancouver that much anymore, but they still make a living. They had the contract for US Marine Corps amphibious armoured vehicles, I am told.
About 3 weeks ago I made a wood plug and dropped it off. This past Saturday I picked them up. Holes have to be drilled in them (both to secure them to the can and to receive the latches). Originally, I was going to get them chromed, but I now think maybe I’ll just leave them, or paint them black. Why three? Well, inevitably I’ll screw something up, and a third one only cost $5 extra!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Road Trip Leaves Van Exhausted

The original header was going to be "Victoria can pass gas out her rear!"

The shop is busy, so the van went do have its exhaust done at a shop where they have all the tools to do it properly. It’s never been on a sleepover, so I was a bit worried. The area of the city it went to is frequently (and sometimes unfairly) maligned for the social milieu of some of its residents. This week a 17 year old girl was randomly murdered nearby.

But all turned out well for the van. I believe that the exhaust pipe on vans is supposed to end abruptly after the muffler and square out around midships. However, because I plan on carrying children around at slow speeds (also, not carrying a spare tire), and I don’t want to gas them out, so I ran it out the back. Finally, Aaron was full of parenting responsibilities this weekend, but he broke away because there was a weather window that could get the van back to the shop safely. Consequently, Paigey-poo joined the effort. No word on her charge-out rate yet.

Monday, September 15, 2014

“Honey, I bought a bus!”

I love the old Routemaster (which I accidentally called a "Roadmaster") double-decker buses and guess what? There’s a few not far from my house. Last week I stopped by and said hello. Ken and Beau (who I helped source a transmission for from Wythall Museum for a Bristol bus they had) let me "wonder" around and take some photos. Old Number 24 was parked at the back and salvaged for parts. Russell Square is a place close to my heart. Maybe if I find a garage with a 15 foot door opening, that baby will find its way to my house in the future!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Two Thumbs Up!

Sometimes things just go right. It happens rarely, but it’s happened to me twice in the last week.
First, I took the step well floor pieces in to be Rhino-coated. I didn’t want to have a painted surface because it would get thrashed in time. The result? Awesome. I never appreciated what a fantastic product it is. You can see in the images below.
Two, as many know, I don’t have an original steering wheel. I have something pretty darn close, which I ordered online from a tractor supply company in the US (and which cost like $50). The problem is that the hole for the button wasn’t quite right to accept the one for a J Van, plus I didn’t have one anyway. Thus I had to make one that looked correct, but that fit my steering wheel.
First thing I did was visit a local plastic supply company (Associated Plastics) I took plastics in school, but I was uncertain what to use. They recommended a product that I think is an expanded polystyrene. It’s a durable and non-sweaty type of plastic. It can be painted and sanded for example.
Then I needed to have it machine. I actually tried to buy a lathe but because I live in a townhouse, it just wasn’t going to work. So I called John at Blair Machine (mentioned in an earlier post). I’m going to upload a video, but John whipped it off in like 15 minutes today after I finished work, and it’s stunning. The photo above makes it look much larger than the factory button, but that’s an illusion. It’s the same size (just a little higher).
I thought it was going to be a big pain in the ass, but it wasn’t. It was as good as it could be!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Miscellaneous Provisions

Someone emailed me a while back and asked for a wide angle photo, so to whoever it was, here it is!

Remember I drilled out something like 200 pop rivets in the van? Well yesterday I added 9, to secure the rear area of the floor. It'll be covered over with a rear flange piece.

I didn't like center logo for the fan I bought last week -- so I made a new one. I found the 1950s era GE logo and printed it out. The I stained it with a t bag. I also used this JAX formula to add a patina to the brass fire extinguisher.

Finally, the floor in the step well -- it's now as smooth as a baby's ass, and flat. But its now going to be covered with a Rhino coat, a textured truck bed liner. It's not authentic, but it's desirable for what I'm going to do with the van.