Sunday, April 12, 2009

Victoria's Past Still a Mystery

Readers will remember how Victoria came to me without a documented history and, for that reason, I've been trying to search vehicles registrations in the province. Things are made harder by the fact that, while I have the chassis plate and the original chassis number, the engine cowl that has the plate with the vehicle serial number (or VIN number) is missing.

British Columbia is one Canadian province where all vehicle insurance is bought from a single government-owned insurance company. It's been this way since 1970 or thereabouts. The insurer is called the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia or ICBC. This makes searching for insurance and registration information pretty simple -- just one form.

Well, I have made a couple requests from ICBC for information about Victoria. The first one was (seemingly) reflexively denied citing privacy. I've appealed this decision (and this is making its way through the process), but the second gained a little traction this week. I received a phone call at work from a woman named Joanne that worked for the Corporation and she subsequently addressed the following email to me:

In reference to your request for all known serial numbers and/or registration numbers for Morris or Morris Commercial vehicles in British Columbia before 1980 I am happy to advise you we have had some success in finding the information you are looking for. We have located only one Morris Commercial Van as a result of our search - a 1952 model with VIN # SMCV3001. As the original information you provided to us relates to a 1950 or 1951 Morris J van we believe this may be the vehicle information you are searching for.
The next line made me giggle:

Contact was also made with Mr. Harvey Pitcher of the Morris J Van Owners Club in England and he provide additional information; his reply is attached below.

Okay, I know you readers are smiling. Roly's laughing. Roly, please ring Harvey and ask him if he's been communicating with an insurance company in Canada. He'll think you've tapped his email.

Now, there's two ways to look at this. The first is "What are they thinking? Of course I now about the J-Type registry." However, this is NOT the way I tend to think of it. Instead, I'm friggin impressed that someone in a quasi-government office took more than a couple steps that were unnecessary (finding Victoria's history isn't their problem) to help me beyond my originally ask. I'd write a letter to senior management, but I expect it wouldn't amount to any benefit for Joanne. I'll offer to buy her coffee instead.

Now, I know that Victoria was built in early 1950 (window codex, chassis plate and other clues); I expect that she came to Canada in the Fall or 1950 and was sold the following year. Thus when I first bought her she was advertised as to me as being a 1951. So I'm thinking that maybe the 1952 J Van above isn't mine. Moreover, the VIN above doesn't seem right. I know that Duncan's serial number/VIN was J/L2935 meaning to me that the serial number system was pretty standardized. However, what I do not understand is how the vehicle Joanne brought to my attention (and which may still be out there) ended us with a VIN like that?

In any event, changing subjects....

I bought a 1951 British Columbia license plate of eBay (see photo) this week for something like $11.00. It's in rough shape, but I'll clean it up in the sandblasting cabinet. The "C" means commercial which means this plate could have been on Victoria originally, or one of the other relatively uncommon commercial vehicles in the province at the time.

I went with my dad out to Harry's barn to try and remove the rear springs yesterday -- again, and again, we were thwarted. My dad is literally drilling the whole bolt out in the right front bushing for the rear spring. While he did that I built myself a workbench so that I could work in reasonable comfort. I'll post a photo of it later. It took about 20 minutes to knock together and, when it was done, I tackled the door hangers and tracks. Mine were caked with 60 years of grease and dirt, plus a least two layers of paint. However, when I scrapped the grease off, then hit it with a wire brush thingy at the end of my grinder, and finally, through it in the sandblasting cabinet, the result was amazing.

It keeps amazing me the extend of Victoria's condition. When I disassembled one of the hangers, one of the inner parts that bolds the ball bearings in situ was obviously shorter than the other (see photo). Thinking that it wasn't designed that way, I inspected the short one. It seems that at some point it just broke and the smaller of the two parts removed. Seems like and unlikely parts to have made. Maybe there's one floating around. Seems like the kind of thing that would survive pretty well.

Did I mention that two weeks ago when we removed the left front spring the rear bushing had been replaced with a piece of garden hose! The crown of the mount is a little warn consequently, but when I fit a new proper bushing, it'll be hard to see unless someone really looks.

Elsewhere, the one of the things that concerns me the most seems to be taking care of itself. Victoria is missing the inner frame parts. The outer frame has been modified with a whole whack of unnecessary holes (see photos). Alas, this week, I got some really good guidance concerning what holes should exist and which ones needs to be filled, plus internal frame bits seem to be sprouting up all over England and, while there's no likelihood that a surplus LHD frame will present itself there, there's a good chance a LHD one will that can be used as the basis for fabricating another.

On the whole, it was a good week, even if not much was accomplished.

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