Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Speedometer and Speedo Cowl

The early Minis were fitted with a speedometer cowl made of compressed cardboard. When I got the Traveller it was fitted with a plastic cowl from a later model. Very few Australian minis had the cardboard ones, so I had to get one from overseas. Eventually I sourced one from the USA - postage was horrendous, for a bit of cardboard. It was pretty tatty when it arrived (see the 'before' picture below). Painted black, and with several of the mounting holes torn out. But at least it wasn't water damaged or distorted.

I did some research to try to work out what these cowls were really made out of. Its not really cardboard or paper mache in texture, its much harder and smooth on the outside like MDF. On the inside it has the texture of the wire mesh mould that it was pressed into. It is some kind of thermoformed fibre. Pulp is pressed into a mould and heated. Apparently its a very old process that has been around since 1898. Waste paper or wood pulp could have been used.
The 'before' photo

I patched the holes with paper gauze and glue and repaired it. Then I rubbed it down by hand (it is too fragile to machine sand) prepped it and painted it. The painting did not go well. I don't know what it was originally painted with, but each time I applied topcoat it would react with the layers beneath and "fry up". It happened three times, with hours of hand sanding to take it all back off after each attempt.

Finally it came out looking pretty good. In fact now its so good, it looks like a plastic one. Oh well at least I know its compressed cardboard.

All the hand sanding each time was very disheartening and it took me the better part of 8 months to complete the job.

SN4410/00 Early Morris Speedo with Five Digit Odometer.
Back from Howard's it looks great!
There were two versions of the silver faced Smith's speedometer used in early 850s. The first one (SN4410/00) had a 5 digit odometer. This was replaced later with a SN4480/00, which looked almost identical, but had a 6 digit odometer with an orange 10ths of Mile digit on the odometer. Of course mine was the wrong one. I hunted for ages to find a reasonable early one with a clean face and a good transparent needle. In the end I sourced one from the UK. It was pretty rusty and looked like it had been sitting around for a long time. I thoroughly cleaned it and derusted the rear casing and with a little mixing and matching of parts sent it off to Roger Howard at Howard Instruments for a rebuild. Its looking pretty good now!

The rear of the speedo. 

I'm told that Mr Howard senior, did the work. He has been servicing Mini speedos since the days of doing them under the factory warranty. The speedo and odometer mechanism have been repaired and serviced and the face has had a clean. The previously rusty rear of the body has been replated and a new chrome bezel fitted. They also rebuilt the fuel gauge and replated its casing. They have gone to the trouble of plating the speedo body in silver with the back of the fuel gauge in gold passivation. This is how they were done from new. It looks absolutely superb, but with a tiny bit of wear on the face and just a little fading on the needle, to give it some patina. Best of all it should work at least as well as the day it was made - but probably better, the early ones didn't have a good reputation!

Now to get it all back into the car.

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