Sunday, 28 April 2013

Little Monsters

Those who know my father will not be in the least bit surprised to learn he's developed a special name for 270 KTA...

'Oddbod Junior' is, of course, the smiling but clumsy monster from Carry of Screaming, who wreaks havoc wherever he goes. His haplessness is a source of great irritation to his owner, but generally ends up endearing him to everyone watching at home. Remind you of anything?

This weekend - the three day marathon to pull together the work of the last few weeks - my very own Oddbod Junior has done all he can to resist going back together. But, like his namesake, he's ultimately failed in his attempt to cause mischief.

After 5 months, 1 week and 3 days, 270 KTA is now back on the road - with a new clutch, bearings, rebuilt gearbox and linkage. The result is excellent.

I'll tell you all about it over the next few days - after some sleep.

Monday, 22 April 2013

A Sordid Confession

To 270 KTA: I have something to tell you.

This weekend I went out with someone else. It was your sister.

You see, it's been difficult between us these last few months - you with your problems, me unsure of how best to help - and a man needs to do what a man needs to do.

I looked around and there she was - with that familiar smile...

This was just supposed to be a bit of fun - nothing serious, just a little weekend away... the two of us... by the sea... in Penzance. You know how it is.

Okay, I'll admit it. I bought her gifts. Something new to wear for the weekend. I even placed it upon her brow as I've done to you so many times before. I stood back to admire how she wore it; I was taken in. But only because she reminded me of you.

On the journey down she talked in hushed tones. Even her voice made me think of you. As we drove, I thought of all the fun times we'd had together - suddenly it was like Bridgwater all over again, and I was under her spell. We went for miles. We were happy...

But you have to believe me - all the time I was pretending she was you.

And then, suddenly, she turned; showed me her true colours. In an instant she was done with me - a complete change of heart. She didn't want to come away after all.

We had a huge argument at the roadside. Even the Police got involved at one point. It was over.

She soon found another man to drag her around that night. I was left to trail behind as best I could, weak and powerless, trying to steer the situation away from an unhappy outcome.

I wished I hadn't been unfaithful. I knew it would end in tears.

I said goodbye and went off to drown my sorrows at a much nicer bar.

The last time I saw her that night, she was standing with her front completely exposed while her new man unscrewed himself and drove away into the night. Once a North Devon girl, always a North Devon girl, I thought...

Can you ever forgive me?

I could come and see you next weekend, and patch things up. We could sort all your troubles, and things could go back to the way they were... We could go away for weekends together, just like we always did...

And I promise never to stray again. Unless it's an SUS...

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Struggle And Progress

When I began writing this blog nearly three years ago, one of the aims was to show you - and hopefully interest you in - the huge amount of work that goes into keeping a 50-year old vehicle alive.

I'm willing to bet that even the most hardened of readers will be surprised at just how much we've had to achieve in the last few weeks as part of 270 KTA's gearbox overhaul, to get us to our current position: we're almost ready to begin putting her back together.

Here are some photos to explain, shock and impress...

The cause of our initial problem was a broken spigot bearing - the bit which sits inside the flywheel and supports the rotation of the main shaft into the gearbox whenever the clutch is engaged.
 Above you see (left) the plate which holds the bearing seal (which, like the bearing had disintegrated) into place. After many hours of searching, it would appear that bearings of this size are no longer available; so, we must find a way of working what we have. We've had to modify the plate to house a bearing with a slightly larger outside diameter, to run further up the shaft, and what you see on the right is the result. A major result.
The Universal Joints I mentioned last week - the joints in the gear linkage which should swivel and allow it to bend - are also no longer available from the original manufacturer, and there are no equivalents listed against the old part number. Following extensive research from David Sheppard Senior, we're happy to reveal that 270 KTA will be rebuilt using genuine Janguar E-type steering joints, which are precisely the same size and spec, and are readily available!
And don't they look good in place? Here's one inside the newly sourced fork to replace the weird one which had been fitted at some point...

Please note that those who drive coaches with Jaguar joints also shop at Waitrose.
Then there's the gearbox turret - the bit where the movement of the gear linkage is translated into movement inside the gearbox that causes the gears to engage...
This had been drilled, bashed and otherwise bodged to within an inch of its life. Naturally, replacements are not plentiful, but thanks to Jonathan Pye and some excellent precision welding (yes, of aluminium!), we now have a turret whose difficult past brings no difficulty for the future.

Oil leakage had been a major problem because of damage to the front seal in the gearbox (which, it turns out, had been the wrong one). With a bit of transposing of part numbers, it turns out these are still available, via the Bearing Boys, who are to be recommended.

Even the cleaning up of parts for re-use has taken hours of work. The prop-shaft, gear linkage and other apparels have all been stripped, primed and given several coats of paint.

The gearbox has taken 8 litres of white spirit to clean, inside and out, and now looks like something you'd be pleased to find under a coach. If we have an oil leak in the future, we'll see it...

Finally - we now have two clutch plates in stock which, we hope, will do the job. These have taken weeks to track down, culminating in a trip to Essex for David Sheppard Senior armed with our pattern, and a return journey armed with three of the buggers. He is the Patron Saint of SU Owners.

Something else which needs replacing: this special cleaning device which has seen painstaking use over the past few weeks (gears have teeth too, you know).

Fortunately these are more readily available than most parts...

Alas, for those attending the Penzance Running Day on Sunday, 270 KTA will not be present for obvious reasons - this job was always going to be too big to complete in time, that much we knew. But there will be an SU in service - Colin Billington's Deltatours liveried 286 KTA, a coach with lots to answer for - and its mystery driver may look familiar...


Saturday, 13 April 2013

Light Relief

It's been a difficult few weeks at 270 KTA Headquarters, and Saturday night finds our friend's owner in need of comfort.

Hurrah for Ken Jones, who offers us the ultimate light relief in the form of his newly delivered N-Gauge 270 KTA, scratch-built by Malcolm Hall to Ken's specification.

At 1:148 scale, it's something like 57mm long, 15mm wide, and Ken tells us that unlike its slightly larger forbearer, it comes complete with a fully functioning gearbox. I suspect it'll be out on a Taunton town service before mine will.
Were it not for the fact that our frustrations have also brought about great progress in the last couple of days - some new parts sourced, others mended (an update on which will follow) - I might have considered a swap.
Not that Ken would, I suspect...

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Double Pronged

How many David Sheppards does it take to mend an SU?

The answer is, of course, two...

At my end of the M4, M5 and A38 this weekend, I've been concentrating on cleaning up the gear linkage which, you'll remember from last week, had to leave 270 KTA in its entirety.

We've now managed to separate the rods which had been welded up, and with equal difficulty have removed the three universal joints. These are swivel devices which allow connected rods to bend through two plains, except when they're as seized as these three were...

I've also stripped and primed the prop-shaft (the bit that turns with the output of the gearbox, and via the differential, effectively makes the wheels on the bus go round... and round). The universal joints on this are good, but were so heavily caked in muck that they couldn't be seen, let alone maintained.

Meanwhile, 200 miles up the road, David Sheppard Senior has been working on the turret that sits on top of the gearbox and houses the mechanism that selects the gears.

This has been mercilessly bodged over the years: worn bushes have been literally bolted into position to reduce play, and best of all, a new and unfinished end-fork has been bashed onto the end of the linkage and bolted up in the wrong position.

Compare the fork we have (left) with how it should be (right)...

Spares Department

The most significant progress of the week, though, has been in the hunt for bits. The most common question at rallies is "where do you get spare parts?", and the answer to that requires a blog post in itself - if not an entire blog. I'll elaborate on it more once we've finished the job, but suffice to say that using a mixture of cross-referenced part numbers, contacts, ingenuity, improvisation, adaptation and more, we now have:

- 1x new oil seal for the spigot bearing (on order);
- 1x new oil seal for the front end of the gearbox (on order);
- 3x new imperial sized universal joints (the same, we suspect, as steering joints on the E-Type Jaguar - on order);
- 1x new brass bush for the front end of the gearbox turret;
- 1x correctly machined end fork, plus replacement rods for those damaged by the Phantom Welder.

We're still struggling with (but will need to find or make):

- 1x spigot bearing (an unusual imperial size with no inner race);
- 1x brass bush for the back of the gearbox turret;
- 1x clutch plate.

And getting the stuff is just the start. Just as well we're an illustrious team of old...

Monday, 1 April 2013

Gearbox Rebuild 2: The Practice

Opening up 270 KTA's gearbox is a little like biting into a Kinder Surprise:

Not only have you no idea what's inside, but you know it probably won't be what you were hoping to see.

(And unless Kinder have got their act together since I was a boy, it's also inevitable that at least half the toy will be broken or missing...)

Fortunately, this weekend's surprises have been largely pleasant ones. Thanks to Sheppard Senior (the Patron Saint of Bristol SUs), progress has been great and we've achieved our aims: the gearbox is out, has been examined and we think we know what's wrong. That bit isn't as bad as I'd feared.

But to get to that point, we've had to take the tin opener to other cans of worms...

Anyway, here's where we stand.

The spigot bearing in the back of the crankshaft has disintegrated, which is almost certainly the cause of our Looe noises. This is the bearing which spins on the main front shaft when the clutch is engaged. Lumps of metal, formerly rollers and the inner casing of the bearing, were discovered in the bell-housing, having been spinning around in the way of the fly wheel...

The oil seal in the front of the gearbox had also perished into oblivion, allowing the gearbox to lose huge amounts of oil. Most of this has ended up on the clutch, which will also need to be replaced, along with the oil seal on between the clutch and the flywheel, which had been smashed apart by the failing bearing.
Inside the box everything is fine. The front main bearing, which we'd expected to have to change, would have been taking lots of additional strain in the absence of a working spigot bearing, but we caught it in time. In fact, inside it's a really good box, with little play or wear to the gears. Good Kinder...
There are some other big problems to overcome. In removing the gearbox we had to dismantle, not just the bit of the gear linkage which connects to it, but the entire linkage from front to back. 

Someone, somewhere will remember welding up the joints which would normally make dismantling simple...

The linkage will have to be separated, re-machined and assembled properly with three new universal joints to replace what are, to look at them, the originals.

The phantom welder is probably the same person who'd remember: bashing the hell out of the top gearbox turret (which now needs replacing); drilling a hole through a knackered main bush and bolting it up to reduce the play; replacing the front oil seal without bolts in the housing to stop it from flying out; replacing every loose stud with a tatty old bolt, regardless of threads; and, perhaps it's the same person who secured the prop-shaft with set screws instead of shouldered bolts. I do hope this wasn't you...

In summary, we have a lot of work to do. The next few evenings will be spent sourcing parts and cleaning up the old bits. 270 KTA will have to wait patiently on her pedestal while all this goes on.

Then, when we're ready, we can think about how to go about putting the ultimate Kinder toy back together...

Keep you posted.