Thursday, 7 July 2016

wheeler dealers.............

Old Vauxhall Vivas especially the Magnums and Firenza coupe often seem to attract modern flash alloy wheels like a moth to a flame. My old bog-standard 1256cc 2-door HC Viva would, in my opinion look a little over-dressed in chrome or mat black  'go-faster' wheels. Built for comfort and not for speed 'ANA' the Viva has the sensible steel wheels with chrome hubcaps that were supplied on the Vauxhall assembly line in  December 1973.

Sporting her newly sprayed 'Yellow Gold' colour ( same colour she was born with) her wheels were looking a little down-at-heel to say the least.

Not one to see a lady looking sad, I had all the old tyres removed by a friendly local tyre depot and took the wheels to 'Stockport Powder Coating'  Grit blasted and powder coated to something like the original silver colour. Back to the friendly tyre depot who shod the  four gleaming wheels with new tyres.......... 

Not exactly flashy chrome - but 'ANA' looks happy in them, and that's all the matters...................

New wheels man.......newly powder coated wheels for 'ANA'
 HC Viva  Chris Hill Copyright.

Windscreen a classic windscreen in ten minutes (or so)

Paint and headlining finished..................and now to put all the windows back.   Like fitting a headlining I have never, ever, had the occasion to fit a windscreen in a car. But, I took them out so I should be able to put them back in especially with perfect new windscreen rubbers. What can go wrong??

Ready for a bit of windscreen fitting............'ANA' the Viva after the re-spray.   Chris Hill Copyright.

Not exactly correct that statement.... many years ago I took a Viva side window out to replace the rubber. I tried putting it back with a piece of string like the book was a complete failure when the string broke !!   Loosing faith in that method I tried the hard way with old spoons and lots of swearing. Managed it in the end, but it was a pig of a job.

So I searched 'Google' and lo and behold a Mini owners forum described that exact method (old spoons). So I put the new rubber on the front screen like it suggested and managed to fit the bottom and two sides, so far so good.........and ground to a halt on the home run with the top two corners and the top of the windscreen. Using old spoons and soapy water I gave battle levering the rubber channel over the glass. Over one hour later with an occasional impersonation of Basil Fawlty threatening the car with a 'good thrashing'  I succeeded  with very sore fingers, two bent spoons and my dear calm wife looking around the garage door and asking why I was hitting the windscreen with a bunch of twigs and shouting  "Right.....this is your last chance !" 

I am here to tell you...........THAT IS THE VERY WORST WAY TO PUT A WINDSCREEN IN............there IS an easier way. My wife suggested a professional windscreen fitter. I ignored this lack of faith in my manly abilities and decided to go back to the Indian Rope trick piece of string method.  I actually bought a long length of strong nylon cord actually made for the job....not like the cheap garden string I used last time. You feed the cord all along the rubber glazing channel with the two ends coming out of the bottom centre of the channel. With my glamorous lady assistant applying pressure to the rear windscreen I pulled one of the strings and as if by magic the the rubber flipped over the window flange like it should. I worked progressively in both directions with the two ends of the string occasionally helping matters with a silicone lubricant spray.
Corners need a bit of muscle power but the whole job was done in ten minutes.......most of that time was putting the cord in the channel!!! 

Both side windows were done in the same way, taking about five minutes each side. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy ( well actually silicone spray or WD40 works better)

Flushed with success, I decided to put the new chrome faced nylon bead into the centre channel of the windscreen rubber.  At this rate I should be finished in ten minutes, (what can go wrong?)

I had bought the special tool used for fitting aforementioned bead and realised I did not have a clue how to use it. Again I looked on YouTube, etc, and found a video of a professional windscreen fitter using one.  He did a whole screen in a few minutes so I tried to replicate his method by feeding the nylon trim/bead through the diamond shaped loop and opening the rubber channel at the same time - it just jammed and bent one edge of the 'chrome' surface.

I began to realise that perhaps these bead fitters come in different sizes or perhaps I just did not have the 'knack' no matter how I tried. Trying to suppress my altar ego Basil Fawlty and the desire to throw the bloody thing to the back of the garage, I came up with a cunning plan which I commend to you........

Inserting bead/chrome trim into windscreen rubber.       HC Viva  Chris Hill Copyright

I put one side of the bead/trim into one rubber channel and then used the tool to push the other rubber channel over making a snug fit, this can be done quickly with practice along the 'run' with a bit of lubricant ( warm soap water) to help. Corners are tricky as the bead is straight originally and tries to go back to that shape, so keep downwards pressure on it with your free hand whilst using the tool to lock it into the rubber channel. If that fails........give it a good thrashing !!!!

Not a pretty sight................Original rear windscreen rubber before removal prior to car being resprayed.  
   HC Viva  Chris Hill copyright.


Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Get ahead - get a headlining................

After forty-two years, the interior 'headlining' was looking very sorry for itself. A large split had developed and the white vinyl material had turned yellow in parts with age..... a bit like me.

Time for a new headlining.........sorry state of the original in my HC Viva
Old headlining about to be removed........holes are where the right hand sun-visor is located.

With all the glass removed for the re-spray this was a convenient time to renew. Like all the challenges that this restoration has thrown at me, I was about to attempt something I had no previous experience with. I was once again on unknown territory. In my professional life as a press photographer non of these skills had ever been required. Fitting a pre-1980,s traditional car headlining has become something akin to Zepplin building even if you are in the car trade!!!!!!!!!  Cars now have pre-formed, press-fit interior roof lining which is a very easy job compared.

So..........after plenty of research on YouTube, Google, etc, also surprisingly the official 'Vauxhall Viva Service Training manual ' titled 'Body- HC Viva' that for once had a very useful few pages on this.

So ...............I first removed the old headlining. So far so good. Lining material is held in place by tensioned steel rods that are placed in sequence and it is important that you mark them somehow to enable them to return in that sequence.

New headlining was sourced from Ebay and cut from an original pattern together with the 'pockets' for the loops. Place the rods into the pockets of the new lining in the same order as they came out...........I marked No1 as the one closest to the front windscreen.

New headlining.   Viva HC  Copyright Chris Hill

Rods are tensioned back into their nylon cups in holes on the side of the roof. I found that the considerable tension had split some of these nylon pockets and for a while progress stopped dead. I found similar nylon 'cups' on Ebay that were actually for a MK1 Ford Escort with a slightly larger (1mm) diameter and they fitted perfectly after drilling out the hole to size.

Using a tin of contact adhesive purchased from 'East Kent Trim'  the edges are glued to the top window openings all around and then the waste cut off. I did this a bit at a time and found the adhesive actually very forgiving enabling me to occasionally to take the material off again and re-tension it if it seemed too slack.
Plastic clips were used to keep in place until the glue was dry.

Clips used to keep headlining in position whilst the contact adhesive drys. Pictured is the front windscreen opening and the wires are for the interior light/rear view mirror assembly.                   Viva HC blog. Copyright Chris Hill 

Altogether not an easy job especially putting the interior light/rear view mirror housing and sun-visors back onto the now pristine have to cut into your newly fitted headlining to fit all three items. I would not like to tackle this job with the front/rear windscreens and rear side windows in !!

New headlining fitted and awaiting fit of sun-visors.     Viva HC blog  copyright Chris Hill

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Painting a Viva part 2.

Spraying a car in a small single garage is not the easiest things to do. I had removed  most of the large panels ( doors, bonnet and boot lid ) and these were actually sprayed outside on a couple of those rare warm, windless days. Remainder of the body  was a struggle because of the lack of space in the garage, but with some perseverance I eventually managed it.

Panels sprayed with cellulose 'Yellow Gold' and the paint ready for 'mopping' with Farecla finishing compounds. Glass front and rear and side were not re-fitted until after the paint polishing/compounding. Vauxhall Viva

After a couple of weeks to let the cellulose harden, I  decided to 'colour sand' the already decent finish. This is done by wet flatting the paint again with fine 1500 grit and then using two grades of  Farecla fine finishing compound ( Farecla G3 and Farecla G10)together with a 1200 watt heavy duty polisher. Polishing part is known as 'mopping'  

I used a Silverline polisher which takes M14 fit 150mm polishing sponge for the first polishes and soft red for the fine finishing polishes. Silverline polisher is about £50 which is cheap compared to others, but I am not going to use it everyday like a commercial car body finishing company so I thought it was good value...and so far it has done the job. It starts slowly when first applied to the paint to avoid 'burn' and can be used a different speeds. Method I used is to spray water onto the sponge, add a small amount of compound to the centre of the sponge and then spread it around the area with the sponge without the polisher turning. Start polisher at a lower speed and then work to higher speeds with more Farecla compound applications. It is hard work to do a whole car, but well worth the effort.  You will get some 'spray' from the water mixed paint/compound, so I cover any glass or rubber strip because it is a pain to clean off afterwards.

One of the excellent uses for this polishing method is the ability to remove small paints runs from the sprayed cellulose. In my small garage I found that it was easy to knock my elbow on the wall  behind when making a 'pass' with the spray gun.......this then slows the gun and a small run can develop. After the paint has hardened I flatted the 'run' with 1200/1500 grit paper and then polished using the Farecla compound. If you ever do this be very careful during the flatting and visually check continually against the light to ensure you are not going through the paint surface onto the primer. If you have big time runs through bad spray gun set-up and technique, it is often better to flat and paint the panel again.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Painting a Viva.............

Some twenty years ago 'ANA' was re-finished in the original 'Yellow Gold' colour by a friend in the motor-trade.  I had struck a deal with him to do this in return for my taking the photographs at his son's wedding.   He did a reasonable job of the the body (he did not do the engine bay) but I noticed a couple of years ago that a rash of 'blisters' on the wing tops was starting to appear in the cellulose finish. These were not not caused by rust as the wings were replaced with new at the time and the car has been stored in a dry garage since then.

After some research I have found that these can appear years after the paint was applied. Apparently water trapped in the paint layers can expand under cold or hot conditions causing these blisters to crack open the paint surface. Moisture in the paint at the time of  spraying can lie dormant for years until it is exposed to temperature/humidity conditions where it expands ruining the otherwise good finish.   A word of warning 'ANA' was stored outside during the winter whilst we rebuilt the engine and front suspension a couple of years ago and covered with a waterproof 'car cover' .....the cold moisture conditions under this 'cover' would seem responsible for the 'blisters'

I had never been too happy with the finish of the roof  which looked as if a 'rushed' job had been done with a poor gloss finish. This together with scratches on the doors and boot-lid acquired over the last twenty years I came to the conclusion to re-paint, despite looking cosmetically reasonable to a superficial glance...(the car I mean not me)   :)

After some experience doing the inside of the boot and engine bay previously I decided to have a go at a re-paint with cellulose.  

A word of warning if you are thinking of using 2 pack paint. Deadly isocyanates in the paint are not really for the DIY enthusiast - it can kill you.  Even the use of a full carbon-filter mask will be as much use as a chocolate fire-guard, as the professionals use an air-fed 'helmet' complete with gloves and overalls as isocyanate can enter the bloodstream via the eyes and skin.

So cellulose was my paint of choice.....using a professional twin filter mask.  I had previously used a cheap gun with reasonable results so I decided to invest in something around £60 and learn how to use it properly.

As most people will tell you preparation is everything and I spent most of last winter flatting the paint work with wet and dry paper through various grades from 240 through to 1200 grit.

Both windscreens were taken out and all the removal panels such as doors, bonnet and boot-lid removed until I had a car shell on wheels. A thin (3mm) white coach-line was removed to be replaced eventually with an identical one as applied originally in the factory.  

Finished bonnet moved to the conservatory for safety whilst the rest of the car is finished in the limited space of our single-car garage.

Armed with my new spray-gun I decided to make a start - I had fitted a pressure gauge between the airline and the gun to fine tune the pressure from the compressor. Compressor also has a pressure gauge but knowing the final pressure to the gun is useful to say the least. 

I found that adjusting the pressure before spraying the best way to go........initial 'set-up' of the new gun showed that the 'material' (paint) adjustment screw was too far out (rich) giving a thick coat that started to 'run' immediately.  With much a trial and error I experimented until the spray pattern and paint delivered seem to be just right and I proceeded to hone my non-existent spray-painting skills on the underneath of the bonnet. After the gun was set-up I left the adjustments as they were. If it is working - don't try to fix it - is always a good maxim I find.

Re-paint for my HC Viva in the original 'Yellow Gold'

One bit of advice I learnt the hard way, was to try the gun on a sheet of masking paper every time before starting on a new panel. I did not do this when starting on the all important top of the bonnet ( hood to any American readers) and the paint came out initially in 'globs' perhaps caused by not cleaning the gun properly between uses. A few trial runs over the paper had things back to normal much to my great relief.  There are many articles and videos on Google and YouTube by experienced professionals that are worth watching to learn the basics of cellulose spraying, but like most things in life I find that actually 'doing it' teaches you more than any video. One thing I did learn from YouTube is that amongst the guys who know what they are doing there are a few who make a pig's ear of the be careful who you copy.


Saturday, 24 May 2014

Putting the engine back............

After successfully marrying the gearbox to the engine it was just the simple matter of returning our dynamic duo to the car.

Engine and gearbox ready to be installed

Again part of the challenge was to wait for a nice day. This duly arrived and everything was hooked back onto the engine crane for the tricky journey down the drive and into the engine bay.......

With the engine and gearbox now bolted together we now had a very heavy item. This was within the lifting capabilities of the engine crane, but as soon as you started to move the whole assembly on it's supermarket trolley-like wheels, it swung like a pendulum and required a rope to steady the whole thing. Moving it down the drive was difficult within the space available and a wheel overran onto a flower bed and stuck fast.

Lowering the engine down and then moving the crane eventually had things back on track and after a lot of tricky maneuvering we had the engine and gearbox pointing the right way to drop into position.

Engine and gearbox is required to slope downwards at an angle of some 45 degree to lower the whole assembly into the engine bay.  We rested the engine sump on the front panel and then tilted everything downwards with the weight still taken by the engine crane  whilst Andrew guided the gearbox with a rope towards the prop shaft.  We had taken the precaution to have bits of old carpet to protect the engine bay but still manged a few scratches and naturally kept our hands well clear. 

Gearbox support bolted up and prop-shaft in place. Vauxhall Viva.

It was decided to unbolt the prop shaft and feed it onto the gearbox splines after first bolting up the gearbox support to the car and resting the engine securely onto it's (new) bearers and after a lot of  "down a bit " and occasionally  "up a bit"  we could transfer the weight from the engine crane and our rebuilt 1256cc unit was now sat safe and secure on the cross-member in the engine bay ......phew!

Mission Complete - engine back in Vauxhall Viva 'ANA'.

Over the next week or so we started to re-connect the wiring which had been left like a bird's nest in the corner occasionally referring to a series of photographs previously taken to help ensure everything went back correctly. Alternator and various bits were put back and we were actually in a serious position to finish the job !!

One of the jobs required before first start-up was to join the exhaust manifold back onto the exhaust down-pipe. This proved difficult after putting the heat-proof sealing ring into position I started to tighten the four bolts. These are 40-year-old bolts and have been exposed to damp and high temperatures and were corroded.
Brass nuts are used in an attempt to minimize stripping the captive bolts but on this occasion one of the nuts refused to tighten down - I has a real problem as I realized the threads on the bolt had literally disintegrated with rust. 

Incredibly I managed to source an identical set of bolts and brass nuts on Ebay. They are imperial 3/8" UNC and are threaded all the way along with a 'blank' area that fits into the holes on the manifold. We took off the manifold and drilled out the old bolt and cut a new UNC thread into the hole. This was a major hurdle but  nothing worthwhile is easy- as they say.

Exhaust manifold bolt renewal

New UNC thread cut for new bolts.   Vauxhall Viva

Before attempting to start our engine there was a still a few jobs to be done. I had noticed the flexible filler pipe to the petrol tank had started to rot. I managed to source a new fuel-proof (ordinary rubber will not do) pipe of the same diameter.

Decomposing - 40 year old  Viva fuel tank flexible filler hose.

Removing the tank for inspection it was decided to throw away the old contents of dirty petrol and thoroughly clean the inside of the tank. This was done with a couple of gallons of warm water and a spoonful of washing powder and the whole thing shaken until all the rust bits were drained onto the drive.

It was then rinsed with gallons of clean water about ten or twelve times until no rusty bits of residue appeared and the wire mesh filter inside looked nice and clean.

After leaving the tank to dry naturally for a few days I attached an old hair dryer and forced hot air through for about half an hour until I was confident everything was thoroughly dry. A word of warning do NOT do this if there are ANY petrol vapour left in the tank!!!!!!!!!!! 

Viva fuel tank cleaned both inside and out with new fuel-proof filler hose fitted.

Tank and pipe replaced we were moving inexorably to the day when we would see if our engine rebuilding skills had born fruit 
or a lemon that rattled into self-destruction.

Four gallons of petrol mixed with lead additive were poured into the tank and the battery was connected. I had watched an episode of 'Classic Car rescue' on T.V the night before and after spending several thousand pounds on a professional engine rebuild - they could not start it!!!!  I was full of trepidation to say the least..........

Oil light on........ check.  Ignition light on.......check.

Key was turned, engine turned over - so far so good.

Engine was turned again - nothing. Not too worried as fuel had to fill the empty fuel line.

Engine turned again, this time with a slight tremble - a positive sign of wanting the start.

A third attempt and the engine started to 'spin' with more speed - a sure sign of positive ignition attempt.

A 'thumbs-up' worthy of an old biplane pilot shouting 'contact' and everything erupted into a healthy roar and settled into a steady fast idle as the oil light went out - signifying good oil pressure.

"Huston - we have lift off !!!!!!!" 

Even Huston has had it's heart stopping moments - and we had ours - a frantic 'cut' type wave from Andrew was accompanied with smoke from the engine bay. This turned out to be exhaust paste residue from the exhaust manifold/down pipe joint around the two sealing rings. After a few more starts this gradually disappeared.

.........and it actually starts!  Rebuilt engine back in place.

Our rebuilt engine seems to be smooth with no rattles,vibration or knocks,and good oil pressure. Let us hope it stays that way................. 

Ready to Rock n' roll - rebuilt Viva 1256 engine.

My last job was to put the Vauxhall British Standard and model specification code plates back..............pop-riveted on as they were originally.  

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Why is nothing easy....??

With the engine bay finished in gleaming new paint, it was time to put the engine back.

This was knocking on the door of autumn last year (2013) and the British weather was preparing itself for the largest rainfall levels since records began.  Together with high winds this was not good weather to be fighting the cold steel of an engine block as the car was exposed to the elements, trying to locate the splines of the in-situ gearbox.

We did try, oh yes, we tried - we tried for a week of nice days. We got maximum points for trying, but to no avail.  During the occasional nice day of September I literally wrestled with the re-built engine.  We had centred the clutch plate with a home-made mandrel and managed to mesh the splines but try as we might the engine would not locate the last 10mm onto the steel pegs on the gearbox housing.

I wish we had tried this a month earlier, but we were returning from the River Severn on our narrowboat 'San Serriffe' in glorious weather. Check out our narrowboat travels with this link:

click on link..........
Narrowboat 'San Serriffe' blog. River Severn to Gloucester.  

Sunshine of summer was rapidly disappearing as the great deluge of the 2013 winter started. I know when to give up - so the engine was left on blocks in the engine bay until  
a time when it was not both freezing and raining.

This was not until late March 2014 and a few weeks ago we decided to have another go.
With the problem of meshing the gearbox splines not resolved a different approach was decided.  Engine was taken back out of 'ANA' and put carefully on blocks on the garage floor.  Gearbox support bolts were taken off and after supporting the prop shaft I manged to remove the gearbox.

Everything checked and dead centre, but still had problems.  

We now had both the engine and gearbox in the relevant warmth of the garage and could hopefully resolve why we could not mate one with the other.  Supporting the gearbox bell-housing with the engine crane we tried again ,with the same result of the gearbox housing not locating on the engine dowels.  We checked the clutch plate alignment, etc with our 'mandrel' several times, but the engine and gearbox remained stubbornly apart. 

I began to worry we had some strange mis-match because the block was reconditioned and originally came from a Chevette. 

" O.K , let,s start at basics, remove the clutch cover and clutch plate and see if there are any problems locating the shaft without them" I suggested.

This was completed and the gearbox slid onto the dowels like butter, so there was no mis-match. I tried the clutch plate separately over the splines again with no problems.
Clutch cover was returned together with clutch plate and using our alignment tool everything we checked everything once again.  Pushing the shaft onto the block produced the same result - 'clunk' as everything jammed before the bell housing would get onto the block dowels.

This was a real head scratcher....... 

"Why is nothing easy ?" I muttered.......
"Any ideas ?" I asked in desperation of Andrew....

Andrew DID have an idea. He loosened the bolts of the clutch cover allowing the clutch plate to 'float' slightly allowing the shaft and plate to centre.

Andrew solves the problem with a bit of lateral thinking...........

" If this works, how are you going to tighten the bolts again with bell-housing on? I cautioned.
" With a socket extension through the starter-motor hole whilst you turn the engine over so that each bolt comes around to where I can get the socket into place" he replied with a display of what I thought was misplaced confidence.

Everything was centred again but with the clutch plate able to move slightly so that perhaps the splines could mesh a little easier. I was both amazed and relieved when the shaft mated and the gearbox went straight onto the dowels with no problem - job done!!

Each bolt on the clutch cover was then tightened as I turned the engine so the correct alignment could be achieved to get the socket extension through the starter motor hole in the gearbox housing.

Bell housing supported as we mate it to the engine block

Cleaned up and awaiting a dry day to put everything back in the car.

So engine and gearbox sit mated together on the garage floor like the good pals they should be, waiting for a nice warm dry day to put them back into the Viva..........