Friday, April 20, 2018

Rear Seat Belts in Mini Estates

What to do about rear seatbelts? In the UK, car manufacturers weren't required to fit rear seatbelts until 1986.  Sadly manufacture of all estate variants ended in 1980, so the UK factory never needed to solve the problem for us.

Lap belt catch mounted through wheel arch.
Lap belts in a Clubman Estate
Its not too hard to retro-fit lap seat belts. Most jurisdictions allow a metal spreader plate fitted with a standard 7/16 UNF captive nut to be used under the floor, or in the wheel arch. To anchor the two ends of the belts. Here are some pictures I stole from the old Clubman Estate Register forum.

The wheel arch is structurally strong, but too low to mount a shoulder sash
Also the fuel tank  is right there in my Traveller.
The bigger challenge is if you want a lap/sash belt. Lap/ sash belts are far safer, something I learned in my short career as a Mini Moke crash test dummy. The problem in the back of a Traveller is the lack of places to solidly attach the shoulder strap. The attachment point needs to be structurally solid and at the correct height relative to the passenger's shoulders.  Pictured here is another example of a Clubman Estate, this one fitted with a sash belt. In my opinion this belt is mounted much too low to be safe. When an adult is seated in the back seat their shoulder will be several inches higher than the seatback. In a collision, the belt will pull down and loosen. Its difficult to find any hard data on the correct height but generally between 4 inches below shoulder height to level with shoulder height seems to be accepted.

Here are two more examples. Both have the reel mounted at a better height. However I have serious doubts about the strength of that section of the seat rest that these are attached to. The red one seems to be reasonably well reinforced, as well as being a few inches higher, but the black one is ugly and the bar which runs right across to the other side will obstruct the load area when the seat is folded down.

As mentioned previously the UK factory never needed to solve the problem, but the Australian factory did. The Australian factory never put an estate version into production, but they did experiment with a couple of prototypes. The green clubman estate in these photos was one of apparently two prototypes developed in the mid '80s as an experiment. Unfortunately the only pictures I have were taken from a gumtree ad when the one survivor was sold a few years back. There are a couple more photos in "The Mini Experience"magazine, but they are under copyright.
These pictures show that the the shoulder sash is attached in the rear corners of the roof, each side of the doors. There is a rigid 'droplink' mounted to the body above the side windows at the top and in the seat rest at the bottom. The droplink has a smooth loop that the seatbelt passes through. These keep the sash at a good shoulder height.

On the face of it this looks like a good solution. I imagine that a metal bracket must be welded into the upper rear corners of the body to provide a mounting point, but that wpuld be a very strong part of the body. The droplinks have comparatively little force on them becasue the belt just slides through, so they should be more than strong enough.

If I was going to fit lap sash belts, I think that's what I'd work toward. The mounting points should be able to be hidden under the trim in those areas comparatively easily. Choosing belts that complement the trim (not dirty black and flouro orange) would help.

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.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Some Nice Bits

I started off by trying to clean up the interior trim, and it just kind of snowballed. The wiring loom needed to be replaced, the fuel tank had to come out and then I discovered that the fuel tank sender unit was burnt out.

The old wiring loom had faded very badly and the cotton braiding had lost almost all of its colour coding, it also had a few nasty amateur repairs, so it had to go. After a bit of discussion on the Early Mini Forum I contacted Autosparks in the UK for a new loom. There was a bit of mucking around (partly my fault for not stressing that this was a rare internal tanked Traveller) but I now have a lovely looking bespoke wiring loom.

I'm really pleased with the cotton braiding of the loom. The main loom is black with a yellow fleck and the rear loom is black with two blue flecks. This seems to have been standard for Travellers, I think the blue fleck is a kind of colour coding to make it clear that the rear loom is a Traveller one. The sedans had a yellow fleck at the back.

I'm not quite ready to re-fit it yet but I'm looking forward to it. It will be nice to fit a flexible new wiring loom with clear colour coding.

BEFORE: The charred resistance coil. It can't be a good thing
for something submerged in petrol to be getting that hot!
The fuel sender unit is also looking pretty good too. When I tested it with a multimeter it was open circuit inside, so I carefully opened it to see if there was anything I could repair - not a hope. The resistance coil was badly burnt and I don't have the patience to try to repair it.So I sent it off to Roger Howard at Howard Instruments. Roger specialises in Smiths instruments (amongst many others) and collects old Minis - the ideal combination!

The sender has come back with a new 80 ohm resistor coil (even the phenolic core of the coil was charred) and the outer plate has been re-plated, just as it would have been when first fitted. Its ready to do another 50 years now! I think Roger might have looked after me a little bit price-wise too. His price was very reasonable, for the work he's done.

AFTER: the original gauge, now looking as good as it would have in 1961.
I'm so glad that there are businesses like Austosparks and Howard Instruments that can take the time to repair or re-manufacture parts like these. For most modern cars you wouldn't bother, just chuck it and use a modern replacement.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Traveller Jack and Toolkit

The toolkit from the early Traveller parts manual (AKD3411)
Like a lot of small bits and pieces, the jack and tool kit is missing from my Traveller. It would be nice to be able to replace it with a reasonable facsimile of the original kit. According to my early Traveller parts manual, the standard tool kit supplied with the vehicle is pretty basic. A jack and jack handle, a cranked wheel nut brace which also doubles as a tool to damage the hubcap, a spark plug tube spanner with its tommy bar and a levelling bracket that fitted on top of the jack when jacking the front of the car. A bag (for the smaller parts) was also supplied.
The smaller tools should be pretty easy to replace, the dodgy wheel brace was used on Mini sedans, and the tube spanner and tommy bar will be common to many BMC cars of the period. Replica bags are available from places like Newton Commercial and some other specialists. Which just leaves the jack as the most difficult item to source.

The jack of an Austin Seven Countryman. I think this is in Richard Mortlock's
car, which is a week older than mine. (photo: Bill Bell) 
The tricky part is working out which jack is correct. The parts manual can't be relied on - often they would borrow illustrations they already had from other manuals - or just use a generic drawing of the object. In this case it does look like it should be a screw type jack, and with the help of the British Car Jack Database it looks like the Shelley LJ225 which was supplied with some Austin Healeys. Bill Bell from the 1959 Mini Register supplied me with this picture. It shows the jack in the rear of an early Countryman (so an Austin, not a Morris like mine). Again with the help of the British Car Jack Database, this appears to be a different version of the Shelley LJ225 - for Minis so it looks like it is correct, and probably should be the one I'm looking for. These jacks were never supplied with Australian Minis, so I'll have to get one from the UK.

A metallifacture jack in an April 1961 Morris Mini Traveller
(Photo: Sussex Sports Cars)
Just to throw a spanner in the works, I came across this picture. It is 'borrowed' from the website of Sussex Sports Cars where this 1961 Morris Mini Traveller is for sale. It shows a completely different style of jack made by Metallifacture in the UK.This is the type of jack that we refer to as a Mini van jack, in Australia, but I have seen them listed as Mini Estate jacks on ebay in the UK.  The British car Jack database also lists Metallifacture jacks for Minis, and suggests that they were supplied from 1962-1968 - however it doesn't claim to be encyclopaedic. This Traveller is approximately three months younger than mine.

So the question is, which jack is correct? Either or both cars could have lost their original jack during the past 52 years. Maybe both jacks were supplied with 1961 Travellers - which would be nice, because I already have a Metallifacture jack that I managed to source a few years ago.

Just a final note. BMC offered tool kits as an extra accessory. These were much more comprehensive and contained a range of additional tools including spanners, pliers and screwdrivers. Luckily there is also a small number of unique individuals who spend their time tracking down the minutiae of BMC tool kits, so I hope to be able to source the bits to put together the extra items needed for one of them too.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Press Photos (1)

I have a small collection of original BMC press photos, from the heyday of the Traveller and Countryman. These photos were produced by BMC and were sent out to the press to be used to illustrate press releases and articles. Sometimes they have the typed press release on the back of the photo.  Some just show a plain photo of the vehicle, and I suspect these were often a bit of a rush job to get a picture out there, whereas others are more artfully composed and often show the vehicles in an interesting setting and accompanied by glamorous models. Most of the photos are in black and white but sometimes they are in colour.

At present the I only have two prints of early internal tanked cars. There are others available but I haven't found any that are reasonably priced. This picture shows an early Austin Se7en Countryman. You can tell from the picture that it is a light colour and its not white, so it must be speedwell blue. Actually I know it is because this is one of a sequence of pictures taken at the same time, some of the others show a young family in and around the car and at least one of them is in colour.

The picture below is nice ans shows a tartan red Countryman being loaded by young woman while her husband, helpfully watches on. Of interest are the bags that are being loaded. They look like they could be the bags offered as accessories by BMC in the early sixties. The basket in particular looks like the style that were designed to fit into the side storage bins in the back seat. Identical repro baskets are available from the 1959 Mini register.

Although its not possible to clearly read the registration number of each car, they both seem to have the UK 3 letter and 3 number type which were used up until August 1962. Both cars are internal tanked, built earlier than October 1961, so the pictures must date from around 1960 or '61.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Metal master Cylinder Caps

I've developed a small obsession with the metal master cylinder caps that were used on the earliest Minis up until about mid-1961, when they were replaced with plastic caps. The plastic caps are much more sensible. They don't rust, they don't seize on and they have nice big finger grips to undo them BUT the metal caps are a unique feature of the first Minis and are one of those important details in a restoration.

The original caps. The least worst one
 has had its pinholes soldered up
The metal caps were never any good and almost invariably end up being damaged by people trying to undo them after they seize on. Typically, they look like the two that were on my Traveller when I got it. The one on the left has been repaired so that I could re-use it, but the one on the right  is falling apart and couldn't be re-used. I managed to find one good one on ebay for a price I could live with, but many of them have been selling for such vast sums that I've just stopped bidding on them. The problem is not helped by them having been used on a number of similar aged cars, especially MGs. At the prices that they have been selling for most people just use the plastic caps, although I did once own a Mini that had been fitted with a lid off a sauce bottle.

When I discovered a couple on ebay recently that looked to be in perfect condition and reasonably priced I got a bit excited and read a bit further. They turned out to be reproductions. I did a bit of googling and sent off an email to Scarborough Faire, an MGA specialist in the US. Sure enough they have had them reproduce, apparently in the UK too. Price $7.95, which was well below the ebay price, even of the replicas. Freight from the US is typically the most expensive part, so I ordered enough caps for this project and the next one (not sure what it will be yet) and they arrived today costing just on $10 each, landed.
The new repro beside my one good original cap. Pretty bloody close!

 Looking at them closely, they are very good. They have a couple of minute differences, but are way better than the plastic alternative. The inside is pretty well identical too, and they come with a sealing gasket.

Repro cap on the left, genuine on the right.
Once fitted you'd have to stick your head right into the engine bay to notice the difference, apart from being a  bit more brightly plated than the originals.

You'd have to be pretty happy with that!

A bit more investigative web surfing suggests that the caps are being made by a company in the UK called TRW who make a lot of brake components and aftermarket automotive parts.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Interior Trim

Vinyl swatches from 1961 - Spanish Red and Grey Fleck.
The red is quite a lot darker in real life

A few bits of trim missing
At this early stage worrying about interior trim seems a bit premature, but with plans of registering and running the car before finishing the restoration, I'll need to get the trim sorted out soon. The problem is that quite a bit of the original trim is missing, and with very few Travellers or even early English Mini sedans in Australia, its going to take a bit of sorting out. Its not helped by some of the contradictory information published on some of the better known websites. I can be pretty certain about the trim that is present in the car, but there are still a few gaps. The "Colour Finishes and Upholsteries" brochure from 1961 shows clearly the grey fleck and Spanish red used on the seat covers, but doesn't supply any of the minor details or say anything about the other trim apart from saying that the carpet is red. Luckily My seats are still there and although the bases have been re-covered I can tell that they have welded rather than stitched flutes, the flutes are narrow and the seats have white rather than red piping. In a sedan these would be regarded as Austin seats, but I suspect they are really Longbridge seats.
The door cards are missing, but I can tell from the rear quarter panel cards that they would have been Spanish red with welded flutes.

Grey headlining material
The headlining and most of the minor trim is light grey headlining vinyl which is embossed with a sort of square weave pattern. Interestingly this material is still available. It must have been very widely used on British cars as I've found it listed as being for Minis, Morris Minors and MGs with various suppliers. This material is used on most of the small sections of trim around the rear windows and rear doors and on the dash board either side of the speedo. It is quite stained on the headlining and dirty everywhere else, but I scrubbed a bit of it with a nailbrush and hand cleaner and it came up really well. Some of it will need to be replaced, but a lot of it I should be able to reuse.

What should the dash shelf be lined with?

One area I really don't know about is the lining on the shelf of the dashboard. Its missing, which is no help. I've read that it should be the same colour as the door trims (red), match the panels either side of the speedo (grey headlining) or be black hardura, a kind of coarse grained stiff vinyl on a fibre felt backing.

In the load bay at the back most of the trim is missing. There are a couple of bits of the grey headlining stuff, that I'll be able to uses as patterns but the rest is pretty poor. The panelling in the side walls (also around the sides and across the back of the folding rear seat) is flat unfluted Spanish red. Unfortunately the very important tank cover is missing. I guess that it was made of the same material as the dash panel lining, a kind of thick black cardboard, but covered in the flat Spanish red material. Unfortunately I've only been able to find some dodgy photos of one or two and really don't have much detail about the shape or construction of the cover.

Flat red vinyl in the load bay
The final trim question is carpet. the Traveller came with a set, but I'm pretty sure its not original and came out of something else. The rear seat back has been covered in white shaggy wool carpet which looks pretty terrible.

So all in all there's a bit to do. the seat covers have been extensively repaired in the front and really need replacing. the rear seat is OK but the red part of the base has a big tear in it. I can source repro trim from Newton Commercial in the UK, but the reports are that its good, but not great. Its also quite expensive. so I'm in a bit of a quandary. I've requested some
swatches of repro material from Newton's and a Traveller price list and catalog so I'll see what I'm up for and make a decision.