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!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Engine and Transmission (check)

Oh, here's what it looked like before:
Okay, the engine and transmission are all done. Above you see Adrian and Trevor, a father-son team at AMS that have had the engine for the last year and a bit. Maybe it’s just because I watch too much American Chopper, but every time I visited them I thought “when are they guys going to piss each other off and throw things….” But they’re completely the opposite. Everyday beavering away in the cramped shop, and the clutter belies a idiosyncratic filing system. They did a great job.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Buckingham Palace J Van

Roly’s van is currently on display at Buckingham Palace and I’m really excited for him. You can see the details at his website, but I posted a couple here for my local peeps. Tempted to start a rumour that the Duchess of Cambridge will be transported in the mate's seat when she finally delivers. Anyone notice that Roly's changed the interior colour from cream to white?
I got the call that my engine was completed this week. I’ll have to go and get it, and the seat that Kelly sent me is all repaired and ready to be painted and sent to the upholsterers (I’ll post photos later).
I’m lobbying a local craft brewing upstart to name a product after J vans. Ideally it would be mundane brew, meticulously crafted with premium labour, leaving a bitter aftertaste, maybe an English bitter!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Seat Neat!


I have neglected this blog for a while and that's been because not too much has happened in the past few weeks. Well, more accurately there's been a lot of sanding. I like sanding. I don't like painting. But sanding is like a dusty form of yoga -- you get a good body stretch out of it. I'm sanding with 320 grit right now, and it's amazingly fine. Still, we're going to hit it with 500 before it goes to paint. Still haven't locked on a final paint scheme.
I received a seat from Kelly Ashton and I'm working on that. When I started removing the upholstery from the seat, this stuff that looked like dog shit or tar heroin was underneath. It thin it’s what happens to some types of foam over years. It was weird for a while. It came in a big cardboard package. When I got home from work my 3 year old goes, "It's parts for you car..." Amazing considering nobody told her. She was with the baby sitter, and the sitter doesn't know about the van.
Overall the seat needs some TLC. It’s already been sandblasted. I cannot figure out how the back upholstery works. What are all these holes for? (see arrows) Also, I don’t think that the wood frame that supports the seat bottom is correct. I think the original seat was pleated and didn’t have a taper as it went aft. Anyone? I missed out on some pocket door covers on eBay. That’s the final bit I’m missing.

The side doors fiasco ended up being a problem with the size and dimension of the rear section of the front wheel arches. It shouldn't have happened, but it did. Oh well. It needs some surgery to remedy. I told Aaron that once that’s done and the doors have been fitted we’ll continue (OK, we'll do the seat, fix the other crap, and then continue).

Remember my earlier posts about what “Victoria” (the city) was like? Here’s a 1930s film about it:
Here's another video:
I spent maybe a 100 hours looking at different video hoping a J van would come into frame. It never happened.