In March I had three different prompts to get myself out of hibernation and working on the AC again. Firstly a visitor from the USA. He is writing a book on restoring woodwork on old cars, mainly woodies, but also coachbuilt metal-skinned cars like the AC. The book sounds very promising. Secondly, a spell of fine, warm weather got me back into the garage. I have temporarily refitted some parts to the rear, including fuel tank, boot-lid etc. to free up some garage space. Then I dismantled the front bodywork: Inner wings, aluminium bulkhead, wiring loom and fittings. I put the steering column and wheel back on, as the handbrake would be disabled without the column.
Now I'm working on the little ribs that attach to the plywood bulkhead, prior to renewing said bulkhead. I've found that the major join between the scuttle rail and the screen pillar (lefthand side) has lost its glue adhesion and will need to be reglued. There is also ancient woodworm damage to the pillar that needs to be inspected to see if it needs any major repair work.
The third boost to my motivation was the privilege of a ride in another AC. It's the maroon car seen across this site in numerous photos. My last ride in any ACs was back in 1991 in two Bucklands at an event at Brooklands (many thanks to those two owners), and my last Saloon ride was in 1990 in my own car.
This latest trip confirmed all the adulation that I pile upon this model of AC. It was a wonderful experience! A complete antedote to all the moaning I do each time I ride in a modern mass-produced vehicle. The AC had that lovely old car aroma inside, of leather, fine cloth and walnut. The all-round visibility is vastly better than the appalling views out of many modern car windows (what view?!). The gorgeous over-bonnet view (I couldn't resist taking lots of photos and placing them around this website). The comfortable ride: Like very old cars generally, the ride does not have that certain harshness that comes from very low unsprung mass (light wheels transmit high-frequency harshness). With radial tyres fitted to this car, the AC's legendary road-holding is upgraded to that feeling of running on rails. None of the old-fashioned drifting. The sounds of engine and gears was as soothing as I remembered it being. Design engineers over the years have shot themselves in their feet repeatedly, over reducing noise in cars. By removing soothing sounds like gear whine, they revealed irritating noises that were not noticed before and thus create new problems. Suffice to say that the AC is not a tiring car to travel in. Many thanks to Tony for the experience.
My spare-time interest (obsession) in the design engineering side of cars (and other transport) goes back to when I was 5 years old. This has little to do with the techno-drivel taught in modern (post 1960) academic textbooks or colleges, nor the practice of talking technical in pubs! But rather the fascinating study of the history and development of the topic, and constantly trying to weed out the fallacies. That means a constant review of what I have assumed to be fact so far. I've highlighted a few firmly established "facts" that are incorrect, within articles on this site.
A fun side to this whole topic is the antics of 'experts'. As a wise man once said "An ex is a has-been and a spurt is a drip"! Far too many are only interested in "point scoring". By that I mean trying to show superiority over others, often by putting down and deriding what others say and do while getting things wrong themselves. Some professionals are worse than amateurs in this respect and I was reminded of this recently when looking up online recommendations for leafspring reconditioning businesses. A reply to a similar question on a forum prompted an in-depth description of the overhaul process, but claimed that the term "camber" was incorrect in this context. Curious, since "camber" has referred to slight curvature since before the days of leafsprings, and the spring makers themselves have used this term for the offset dimension (as have theoretical textbooks of years gone by). If I was in a pub and just showing off, I'd point out that this camber dimension is really called the versine, as any good mathmatician would know!
My poor old screen pillar (left-hand) has certainly had a hard life. When made by AC, they left tapered gaps within both sides of the pillar to scuttle-rail joint that opened out to 7mm! This is visible in the 2nd photo below. No wonder the glue did not adhere. Then whoever installed the car radio gouged a deep groove into the upper end of the pillar to accommodate the aerial wire. Just to complete the vandalism, woodworm munched through the pillar from the bottom corner of the windscreen, right through the main pillar/rail joint, and out and down the side of the pillar. After removing the anialated timber, the 7mm gap became about 20mm.
I made some intricate components in good quality beech to fill the gaps, and arranged to provide plenty of bending strength. It was a case of "keyhole surgery", because the joint could only by prised open a small amount - just enough to get chisels in there, but not enough to repair with a single piece of timber.
Note that the above woodworm damage would never have been spotted had the bodyshell not been removed (and impossible to repair with panelling in place).
Above-left photo shows part of the repair to the woodworm damage down the left-hand side of the pillar. The above-right photo shows the repair to the aerial wire groove and further woodworm damage.
Since resuming AC restoration in 2009, I've been very pleasantly surprised at the amount of attention my car gets. This is almost entirely positive attention. From very young children right through every age group, male and female, take to the AC's styling and how unusual it seems to modern eyes. Something occurred to me: Much of this admiration comes from people with little interest in classic cars, or even any cars. In sharp contrast, most of the insults and derision that I've heard over the years, levelled at this model, have come from enthusiasts in the car/classic car world. Much of it was heard within the AC Owners' Club where the emphasis is on powerful sports cars. More derision and insults have appeared in the classic car related press from the 1980s onwards. The likely explanation for this is that the male dominated enthusiast movement is obsessed with speed, power, racing and sleek sports-car styling.
Those topics are interesting and exciting, but there is so much more to a good car. Modern day articles on the AC 2 Litre also seem to dwell on performance and little else. That misses out on most of the 2 Litre's attributes: AC's attention to detail and common-sense ergonomics; attractive and tasteful interior trim; high quality materials and construction; comfort and luxury. The art world attaches the term "philistine" to folk who can only assess things by quantifying them by simple numbers, e.g. speed or monetary value. But articles also dwell on styling, and those who are abusive about the AC's, I can only assume are deranged! And those who can't see the co-ordination in the AC's shape, are beyond salvation.
Contrast this with the comments found on photo websites, such as Flickr, where photos of AC 2 Litres attract adulation, often from people who had never seen an AC before. It's style is both distinctive and very attractive, which is what attracts many owners to them in the first place. Today (2012), fashions have come around more in favour of the AC, as some aspects of modern styling has reverted to curves, lower rear ends, higher roof-lines and larger wheels.
Classic car articles are also terrible for analysing the mechanical design of cars in the context of when they were built. It is ironic that an enthusiast who prefers older cars, then has a problem with it not being up-to-date for its year. The fact that most magazine writers don't actually understand the techie issues is a whole other story... People who see and ride in the AC love it for what it achieves. Why argue over technical issues when you know the end result is a car that does the job very well?
I was delighted to find myself an old copy of "Car Design & Technology" magazine that was published in the early 1990s, and I had originally only bought a few issues. This magazine provided insight into areas of car design engineering that was missing from the old textbooks that I have. Unfortunately, it also confirmed that modern-day design engineers sometimes deride old technology unfairly because of their own ignorance. Also, some of the old fallacies still persist. The first article I read today in my newly acquired magazine, was about torque-steer on front-wheel drive cars and the related problems and design challenges. The author dispelled some fallacies, but made the classic blunder of then putting forward another fallacy as fact: The notion that gyroscopic effects cause kicks in the steering of beam axled cars and of front swing-axled cars. He also started his sentence with the phrase "Of course" which implies that it is widely thought to be fact. You can read a technical analysis of this topic on my Design Analysis page 2 webpage. Suffice to say that the AC has never suffered any steering problems related to gyroscopic precession and neither have the many swing-axled cars that the great Leslie Ballamy designed. It's thanks to one of his old articles that I discovered this fallacy. It persists because the motor industry, having got it wrong, saw this type of steering problem disappear and it was assumed that gyroscopic effects were the cause.
Alan Turner - Obituary
I was sad to learn of Alan Turner's recent passing, although he evidently had had a long life. Also a rewarding life, as he was responsible for much of the design engineering work on AC models since world war 2. Unfortunately he did not always receive all the credit he deserved, but is appreciated by AC enthusiasts.
He re-styled the Ace, thus creating some of the most copied sports car shapes in history. He designed the A98 Cobra Le Mans Coupé, most famous for its 185mph test on the M1 motorway, and hugely admired for its stunning looks. The AC Greyhound was designed from the ground up by Turner, including the chassis that was *not* part of the Ace/Tojeiro family. He had a hand in the 3000ME, based upon the Diablo car.
It was delightful to see him interviewed, albeit briefly, for the TV programme "The Cobra Ferrari Wars" which was released on DVD, although as so often happens, AC's (and Turner's) contribution to the Cobra design work was glossed over. He played a major hand in AC's most famous model and produced excellent work in all the ACs he gave us. The greatest car designs are alway the creative work of just 1 or 2 people. R.I.P.
November 2012 - End of year round-up
The 2012 season ends with the main repairs to the wood frame complete and the doors fitting very well. Low ambient temperatures means that I will postpone gluing a few of the repairs until next spring. Also, the woodwork under the door steps still needs to be renewed. Although I moan about the many gaps left in joints (which compromises the strength and stiffness of the structure), I have an increasing admiration for those engineers who designed the framework. It is a more competent design than other car wood frames that I have seen. I tried doing rough calculations on its strength and would say that it is stronger than it looks. With repairs largely completed, it feels as though it is carved out of solid granite. Try slamming one of those very heavy doors, and there is no longer any vibration on the frame.
The photo above shows the right-hand door and front wing being test fitted. The wooden block helps to prevent the wing fitting exercise turning into a wrestling match.
I've been looking ahead to other tasks. The cost of rechroming all the shiny bits runs into a 4 figure sum in UK currency. Some AC owners report that plating professionals often refuse to do the radiator grill unless it is firstly dismantled. Dismantling is not an option, so find someone who will do it properly. There are plating kits available for us creative optimists including brush plating, and I plan to try this approach over the winter on small fittings. The biggest worry with replating concerns those parts such as door handles made from zinc alloys. These can be destroyed in acid solutions such as chrome strippers and acid copper plating electrolyte, so beware! I'll report in due course when I've had some practical experience.
I've also been looking into safety belts for the AC. One can get modern type retracting belts with period chrome buckles and brackets, and also colour matched webbing. The trick is to install it so that it functions correctly, and without spoiling the appearance or having to vandalise too many original parts. Apart from safety, seat belts are useful to stop one from sliding around in seats with little lateral support.
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