Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Unrequited Love: 4 Working Days

Don't even ask.

In one sense - the sense I'm going to completely ignore - things have gone a long way backwards since my update last week. Viewed another way, we're a long way forward down a road that's turned out to be quite a bit longer than it looked on the map.

It was ever thus...

In summary, 270 KTA is facing in the same direction as it was, only now it's missing both front wheels and hubs while Sheppards scratch their heads by night...

Here's a summary of last week's frustrations: (in order of appearance)

- The aforementioned battery charger did its job beautifully on one of the two batteries, but the other turned out to be suffering with not one, not two, but three dead cells. "That's quite uncommon" said the man at the Plymouth Battery Centre, when I eventually got around to buying a new one yesterday for £107;

- In between times, I borrowed a set of batteries from a friend with the aim of at least getting 270 KTA turned round to allow me to work on the offside front brakes. These batteries also turned out to be duff, and so I had to borrow a third set from another vehicle. (Sometime during the struggle, I managed to burn through both my trousers and pants with battery acid, but that's a story for lights out...);

- Having finally got 270 KTA started, I set about turning her round only to find we had NO brakes whatsoever - just a limp pedal. The brake fluid in the master cylinder had somehow escaped, or rather leaked somewhere (more on that to follow), and we were left pumping thin air around a hydraulic system;

- Deciding to save that problem for later and press on with work on the offside front brakes in-situ, I discovered that not only was the top wheel cylinder completely seized (this is the bit that actually pushes the brake shoes onto the drum in order to make the coach stop), it had probably been so for the past 20 years.

Enter David Sheppard Senior - the Patron Saint of Bristol SU engineers and founder member of the SU Owners' Samaritan Hotline - who was supposedly travelling down to Devon to help me to bleed the brakes.

After nearly three hours spent coaxing the front and back pistons out, it was clear the wheel cylinders themselves were completely knackered; and since it's best practice not to change things on one side without doing the other...

Hence we're slightly further back, yet quite a lot further forward, than we were.

We've found new cylinders (£££) and rubber kits (actually they're old ones that have never been used, and so they require careful stripping and rebuilding), and we're currently getting those ready to fit.

The Patron Saint has also worked magic on the fuel pump, which you'll recall was causing industrial quantities of black smoke to billow across Devon whenever we reached a hill. It turns out the cold-start mechanism, which is used to give extra fuel on the first start of the day, was permanently jammed in the 'on' position... Helpful!

We've also sorted a problem with the handbrake linkage which was causing the lever to spring back up a notch or two when released. Not only were the rods incorrectly adjusted (and therefore bending themselves into bananas), but one of the links was completely seized. It would have taken only a drop of grease over the last thirty years to prevent it, but instead we had to strip it all down and start again.

So, about June 18th...

Tempting though it is to stop the clock on our little countdown, I'm not ready to admit defeat on that just yet. This could still be done. But more important is knowing that we've done a thorough job and put right the ills of thirty years of engineering neglect.

Without that philosophy you'll never get an old vehicle to repay any of the time and love you invest in restoring it.

And one day, 270 KTA will love me back.

The b***ard thing.

With eternal thanks, and love, to the 'Patron Saint' who is e'en as we speak hard at work machining down a special locking-bolt for one of the hub nuts, 200 miles up the M5/M4...

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