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.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Van Props


Here's some props I'll put in the van.

The fan will be made to look like a period GE piece and it'll help cover some imperfections.

The brass thing is a 1950s period correct extinguisher. It'll do the same.

Funny story. I bought the extinguisher on eBay from a fellow in the US. Many US seller don't want "foreign" buyers, but there a little chunk of US territory nearby that you can only get to by driving through Canada, and there they have companies that will accept delivery for you and notify you when there's a package (see January 8, 2012 post). So went down there Sunday, picked up the goods and drove back home. On the way back I merged onto another freeway just in time to intercept Aaron in his truck pulling his trailer (what are the chances of that). So I got the brass extinguisher and started playing with it. I thought it had water in it, but it didn't. It smelled like Varsol. So I Googled it. Here's what I found out:

In 1910, The Pyrene Manufacturing Company of Delaware filed a patent for using carbon tetrachloride (CTC, or CCl4) to extinguish fires....

This consisted of a brass or chrome container with an integrated handpump, which was used to expel a jet of liquid towards the fire. As the container was unpressurized, it could be refilled after use through a filling plug with a fresh supply of CTC.

Carbon tetrachloride extinguishers were withdrawn in the 1950s because of the chemical's toxicity - exposure to high concentrations damages the nervous system and internal organs.

Additionally, when used on a fire, the heat can convert CTC to phosgene gas, formerly used as a chemical weapon.

Only after this did I run into the washroom and wash my hands! Then I thought I probably broke a dozen laws crossing the border with that thing in my trunk. Then I settled down to read more: "...responsible for depletion of the ozone layer...." Yikes! So the contents are going to remain in the extinguisher and somewhere in the van. It'll be my own personal chemical weapon, and a "great" story.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Canadian Tax Law, Garlic and Doukhobors



 
My lackluster posting here results from nothing happening on the van. Consequently I’ve had to satisfy my quest for forward momentum in odd ways. I’m still trying to learn details about who the van went to originally in 1951. I know it was sold by Oxford Motors of Vancouver, but not much else.
Last week I found something really neat. A Supreme Court of Canada decision from 1959. It was a tax issue, but some details about the Oxford-Nuffield relationship. Here’s the section:
The judgment of Locke, Fauteux, Abbott and Martland JJ. was delivered by
Abbott J.:—Since 1936 appellant has been a distributor and retailer of Morris motor cars in British Columbia and in the adjoining States of Washington and Oregon, purchasing its cars from Nuffield Exports Limited of Oxford, England.
In the summer of 1951 appellant had a large inventory of cars on hand, for which it had not paid Nuffield (CH: one of these was my van), and by reason of the imposition of severe Consumers Credit Restrictions in March of that year was experiencing great difficulty in disposing of its inventory. Following discussions which took place between officers of the Nuffield company and its Canadian dealers during the summer of 1951, Nuffield offered to all its Canadian dealers a special arrangement in virtue of which it agreed to give a rebate of $250 on each car in stock in Canada on September 1, 1951, and subsequently sold in Canada, such rebate to be available upon payment being made to Nuffield of an amount equal to the c.i.f. value of the cars on which rebate was claimed. The amount of all rebates was to be applied on the dealer's outstanding indebtedness to Nuffield….
It should perhaps be mentioned that during the period from October 1, 1951, to September 30, 1952, appellant carried on its business in partnership with a related company under the firm name of "British Motor Centre" but the existence of that partnership is of no significance to this appeal.
Now the “partner” mentioned in the paragraph immediately above was Plimley Motors. In the 1951 Vancouver Business Directory (above) you can see that both dealer operated on the same city block, with Oxford having moved there the year earlier (and which I documented in another post). Well, Plimley’s doesn’t exist anymore, but it was a very famous dealer in its day. It was actually a third-generation family-owned business. Here’s a blurb out of the Vancouver business Hall of Fame:
Thomas Plimley Pioneer auto dealer b. 1871, Walsall, Eng.; d. 1929, Victoria. Started a bicycle business in Victoria in 1893, the year he arrived from England. Sold the first car in Victoria, a tiller-steered Oldsmobile, in 1901. His wife Rhoda was the first woman driver in Victoria. Sold the Swift, Coventry, Humber, Rover, two-cylinder Buick and air-cooled Franklin. Plimley Motors on Howe was one of B.C.'s largest dealerships. His eldest son, Horace (Thomas Horace) Plimley (b. March 5, 1895, Victoria; d. March 21, 1985, Vancouver) opened a British car dealership in Vancouver (1936). From 1957-86, grandson Basil (b. June 21, 1924, Victoria) was one of the few third generation executives of a B.C. business. The Plimley companies closed in 1991, after 98 years.
Well, guess who I talked to last week? Basil Plimley! Basil agreed to having me come over and show him my photos of the van. He sounds pretty spry for 94 on the phone, but maybe I can pry some memories from him.
On the way home from working on the van this past weekend I stopped off at a farmers field and bought some Russian Hardneck Garlic. It’s a very flavourful and usually expensive type of the garlic (not common in grocery stores). It grows all over British Columbia, and people love it. But most people don’t know that it was brought here in in the early 1900s by Doukhobor immigrants from Russia.  The purchase seemed apropos – everything has a history that’s there to be discovered if you're curious. 

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 (http://www.vintagebritishcables.com/Smiths-Custom-Speedometer-Cable.php). 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. Amazon.co? 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.