EV-jeebies (pt.1)

Back in the early 90’s I cheekily applied for an Arts Council grant to finance the building of a one-off electric vehicle, to ‘contribute’ to the then burgeoning EV industry from a Crafts perspective. This would no doubt have relied on chopping up an old milk float or similar and gaily sticking bits and pieces to it. My application was one side of hand written A4 and I imagine barely left its envelope at the other end .
25 years later and the EV industry has marched a long way past the 1970’s Enfield 8000’s and the 1980’s Sinclair C5’s that were inspiring me back then (for their vision if nothing else):

enfield&C5

and now I find myself with a bit more of the wherewithal – a bit more experience, a bit more money, a lot less life left, etc etc, and it’s time to realise my dream.

A7 copy

My little Austin Special is one of my pride and joys, so I got to thinking about building an Electric Special. The Austin Specials came out of the 50’s and 60’s; men who couldn’t afford their own MG would hack the bodies off old Austin 7’s and build their own sports bodies on to the exposed chassis, (mine was done in the late 60’s). Colin Chapman of Lotus fame, started out building and racing them:lotusmks1&2 before going on to develop such classics as the 1957 Lotus Super Seven, immortalised for me as a teenager by Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner: the fact that mine looks like a cross between this car and Noddy’s hasn’t escaped me.

prisoner
I’d just finished doing up a 1947 Reliant girder fork van,reliantatdocks copy and I had a spare chassis which I briefly contemplated using for my EV Special; I was doing a crossword at the time and the clue was “Reliant: ( Anagram)” and I thought Ooh! I could call my special whatever the answer is!  Answer: Latrine. Perhaps not…
So the hunt was on for a small rolling chassis, preferably with a V5c document , and original parts such as axles, suspension, steering etc to maintain its status as (mostly) the original vehicle, to avoid future awkwardness with the DVLA. I will still be as nervous as hell when I take the car for its initial MOT and the bureaucracy that may be unleashed; at the moment my local MOT guy says it will be fine, but I won’t hold my breath. I imagine having to buy a small field just to drive it around in.
And here’s the chassis I bought:scrapyardOriginally it carried a 1937 Standard Motors Flying 9 body. Standard Motors were founded in 1903 (they bought out Triumph in 1945) and were responsible for some very finely engineered vehicles and airplanes (including the Sopwith Pup) until the 1960’s.
My first job is to go through the vehicle basics; new wheel bearings, king pin bushes, brake shoes relined, brake cables, steering joints, axle seals, suspension etc – some 2nd hand tyres will do for now and I might as well get the wheels powder-coated while I’m at it:fronthub copy2
I’m not a speed freak, and I don’t want to drastically change the top speed or the handling characteristics of the original vehicle; I’m happy to tootle around town at the same speeds that I currently achieve in my other old vehicles, and a maximum required mileage would be the 45 mile round trip to the Six Bells at Chiddingly.

I’d love a 20’s cigar-shaped racer feel to the finished vehicle, something of a cross between this and this:thisandthis

Here’s an early drawing of what I might like the front end to look like: early front design
So with a rolling (enough) chassis, my attention is turned to its power train. I agonise over this-and-that forklift motor; read forums from people who have done fantastic conversions of existing cars (classics as well as modern); try to work out what I’m going to need, re: voltage, amps, top speed and distance, whilst all the time realising that I know absolutely NOTHING about electricity. I knew this already, but I really hadn’t realised the EXTENT of my ignorance. I needed advice.
A couple of years ago I had taken the number of Graham Martin at the Brighton Mini Maker Fair (http://electrobeatev.blogspot.co.uk/) who was local to me and had done a jaw dropping conversion on a Honda Beat. Forget your milk floats and your forklift trucks- this is ‘a proper job’. And suddenly I’m realising that if I want my conversion to be half decent, with as little embarrassment as possible when I pull away from the traffic lights, I’ve got to spend some proper money on my motor, its controller, and the battery pack.

And by-and-by, an AC35 motor (96v, 38kg, 63HP, 129 ft/lb torque) with a Curtis Controller pops up on eBay, needing removal from a previously converted Citroen C1 “Evie” in Colchester. Maybe I’ll regret not waiting for an AC50 motor, but this feels like a good start.motor_in_C1controller_in_C1
More help and advice is received from Jeremy of http://www.ev-support.co.uk in his Aladdin’s Cave; and a recommended £30 ex-Ford Escort MK2 cross-flow gearbox is picked up on the return journey.
Motor and gearbox now need ‘stitching’ together; I’m no machinist- I can turn simple things on my lathe, but when it comes to clocking and machining random holes from a fixed centre point, I lack the competence, equipment, and will to live; my pathological need to do as much myself as I possibly can, results in getting a steel plate laser cut with a 4.000″ hole in the centre (the size required for the motors shoulder) and then turning myself a 4.000″ disc to use as a guide,  which slots onto the gearbox shaft and helps locate the laser cut plate centrally, so I can clamp and then drill the mounting holes for the gearbox. adaptor plateI know I know… an Electric Vehicle is all about keeping weight down… use aluminium not steel…. but at this point I was imagining using this plate to weld the engine mounts to, and steel’s my thing, not aluminium…. as it transpired, it could have been aluminium because I put the mounts elsewhere (although the jury’s still out a bit on that one) , but hey, I’m anticipating my gross weight to be less than the Citroen C1, and a lot less than the original Flying 9’s kerb weight, so what’s a few kgs? And anyway, I’m happy to backtrack in the future once everything is sorted, and change a few things.
I still need the ‘link’ between the electric motor’s drive and the gearbox’s splined input shaft, and there is no easy option; I have to ask my good friend Doug Owen (he who knows all) to lend a hand. This entails boring a lump of steel to 1 1/4 ” ID with a keyway in one end and the ability to bolt it to the Escort’s original clutch plate splined inner, on the other: shaft adaptor2 copy

DOUG2clutchplate

So….motor and gearbox are united and turning freely, and now need mounting in to the chassis. Careful positioning and clamping in place, and I can measure and weld up some appropriate brackets. I’ve gone for Land Rover Defender engine rubber mounts at the front because they were only £6. Sorry.
The gearbox mount is the original Escort mounting plate (with the integral rubber block), supported by purpose made brackets to where the original clutch mechanism used to be bolted to the chassis. I won’t need a clutch now of course, and more alarmingly, I won’t need a reverse gear either (it’s an AC  motor), just a switch on the dashboard to change the motors polarity. (I might put a flip-up nuclear missile safety cover on that….).mounts

gboxmountsI enjoy thinking ahead. Such as when I purchased the horn; I can imagine how I am going to blend this brass horn into the aluminium body, in its own recess:hornand here are some fine old eBay headlamps I’m going to utilise:

lamp

But for now, I have to face my demons. Those ‘other’ 96v electrics. The batteries I end up buying will cost a small fortune and I want to get everything as ready as I possibly can before shelling out.
Here are the gubbins laid out on the ground and labelled…. this may take a while….

taggedwiringto be continued…

…a bit later…So now I have cannabilised and generally modified the ‘black box’-2016-08-04 21.26.17

a) to make it fit a bit better in my chassis, and b) to do away with the odd couple of things that I don’t (hopefully) need, although one of these is the bits and pieces for a heater, which will be as much use to me as air conditioning. I’ve made a start on a sub-frame which will support this box and from which I can add other things to later on, using the original body’s mounting positions:

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and now a dummy run of the electrical bits, to check it all fits:

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and now….. I need to play a bit… this box might be visible through the top of the bonnet (the design of which is festering in the back of my mind) so I may as well humour myself for a couple of hours. I’ve got an old sheet of copper knocking about – that’ll look good! Fold it, using some clamps with sturdy angle-iron sections and a rubber mallet:2016-08-05 17.25.34

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go on a bit of a guilt trip and spend a couple of working day hours making a tool to emboss the top surface (again – clamps and a big hammer…crudely satisfying):

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and rivet on a little handle (just look at those unabashed hammer marks (as my metalwork tutor used to say to me):

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put the kettle on and give it all a bit of a polish, whilst thinking up an excuse as to why I haven’t earned any money today….2016-08-05 23.24.09

I’m quickly realising that I can’t do the next job until I’ve thought about such and such and I can’t do, say, the front end sub frame without considering where so-and-so is going so suddenly I’m having to make things as finished products rather than just mocking things up, so…. quicker than I had imagined, I’ve made the frame to fit the floor pan to and adapted the remains of the original prop shaft tunnel;2016-08-09 23.14.26 I’ve never been a fan of aluminium treadplate but for strength and weight it seemed a good idea – I can always cut some Paisley pattern carpet to hide it in the future. And suddenly I’m rolling some tube for the bulkhead, and working out how I’m going to adapt my early ‘concept’ (ahem!) design (that picture above that was drawn on the back of an envelope in Greece a year ago), to suit the proportions of this chassis and its original body mounts, and beginning to get some idea of the shape I want to achieve.2016-08-11 20.27.49

Use pieces of cardboard and lengths of steel wire/bar to try and visualise the shape that I think I want:

and I’ve decided to make the rear body taper into the spare wheel and use the original petrol tank support member to hold the wheel on:rear end

rear floor

Time for a little light relief and test out the essential Klaxon horn, and make a pair of steps to assist my weary bones when I eventually climb in. Gone for a rather corny lightning flash shape again… I can’t help myself.

hornfootrest

I’m rather pleased that so far I have only altered the original chassis by drilling 6 small holes in it, 4 for these steps, and 2 for the N/S gearbox mounting, but I will soon have to cut off the end of those outriggers above, and weld a new jacking point a bit further in.

And STILL the bank manager hasn’t rung me to find out what on earth’s going on, so I simply can’t resist tack-welding a couple of brackets on the front and checking out that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang influence:headlights

 

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The Pear-ly gates

Back in the day, the Marquis of Bristol, who lived in Brighton’s Sussex Square, had a penchant for pears. He experimented and hybridised them in his market gardens on Manor Road (behind the square), his work being acknowledged and supported by the Royal Horticultural Society.

So when the market gardens were bought up by developers and I was asked to make some gates, that’s where I took my cue. A trellis-like framework of pears, with badgers, (that other once familiar sight in the gardens), running through the bottom of them.

2 special jigs to form the trellis work:

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a hundred or so pears, laser cut and ’rounded’ by forging…

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…. a few badgers with chiselled toes and tails:

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all welded into the structure:2016-02-05 00.14.45gates

…haulage….powder-coating…hassles with groundworks…concrete incorrect (argue whose fault it is….stress/anxiety/more stress….. delivery to site….instal:

431Cup of tea.

 

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MISGUIDED MAN RESTORES POINTLESS VEHICLE!

STOP PRESS!! Read all about it!
This week’s Classic car buyer magazine – Out now!!

ccbmag

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“Watt’s in his head”

book promo-shads

So I have spent my time writing a new Mr Watt story and ended up with 50 objects that were required to illustrate it. The story is about Mr Watt’s dream – the loss of his sparkle and the subsequent journey to retrieve it; a  journey that takes him through a landscape of lost factories, a metaphor for the loss of handskills and ‘making things’ in modern life. So what to do with all the objects rather than box them and shove them in a corner?

Ideas for a display ‘cabinet’ began to form, the idea being that all of the objects could be displayed in a museum/library/school foyer, on a temporary basis, with a little screen nearby to show a digital version of the story. Children could follow the story whilst trying to find the objects on display. Or something like that. I thought what a good idea it would be to make the cabinet Mr Watt’s head shape. Here’s the original chalk sketch on the workshop floor:

head drawing with bits

There are factories, shipyards and bottle kilns, cars trains and rockets etc etc as well as references to childhood stories that I remember, with cross references to manufacturing (eg. Noddy’s car is in the car factory, Ratty’s rowing boat has sunk near the shipyards etc). So it’s a bit of a metaphor for lost childhood as well. Here are some pics of the fabrication.

former           shaped outline1

glasses on

moustache on               nose hair in

For Mr Watt’s reaction to all this, see his blog:

https://mrwattblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/watts-on-his-mind/?postpost=v2

And so the bits and pieces get bolted in, one at a time:

lotsrat etcfairy3

And all done. Now the hard bit – trying to get it ‘out there’…. (it’s got wheels…..)26-octadjusted

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Wiston Steam Rally Ahoy!

Wiston Steam Rally Ahoy!

Again with thumping heart I set off on the negligible mileage to Wiston Steam rally – 40 mins away (15 in any other vehicle).
Sooo relieved to get there, and straight away the conversations start. Old men with memories of their dads driving girder fork (GF) vans.

5
Knocked out ‘cheap as chips’ post-war, they provided an army of de-mobbed men with the means to ply their trade.
The 90 year old ex-paratrooper with his stories of the Russian front, India and Malaysia, whose chimney sweep father had used his GF van for his Home Guard duties, only to tip it over with 2 colleagues and a bag of soot in the back; the asbestos roofer overloading the roof rack and nearly capsizing it with the three kids in the back; the tv repair man , the butcher, (my van bringing back the smell of meat to the now 70ish daughter), etc etc.
Getting a rosette and hearing people say ‘that’s the best thing here’.

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Being in the same square mile as stands displaying “English animal traps from 1600 to the present day” and “Dairying Bygones” – you just know you’re in good company!!
The UKIP display took a little bit more thought processing, but it was, after all, in a classic ’70’s caravan (just like the old days…).
A country walk in the setting sun to an old Sussex village pub and 3 traction engines sat breathing in the car park; a fox crossing the lane in the dappled sunset and the farmers hay freshly mown and awaiting baling.

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Back to the show ground and the steam engines blowing their whistles past the beer tent with rock and roll band playing to the small hours; black pudding pies, pints of Hophead ale, and another brass plaque to glue inside the Reliant…..Ah! An English summer!

2015-07-11 13.07.26

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A bridge (not) too far

Thanks to Sian Edwardes-Evans for recently sending me some photos of ‘my’ Dyfi Bridge in Machynlleth, Wales – 15 years on and they brought back mixed memories – nightmare deadlines/penalty clauses/ anxiety over technical & dimensions issues/ welding certificates and haulage logistics but eventually pride at having pulled the whole thing off.

dyfi bridge

I submitted a concept sketch, based on light reflecting off water, but I think memories of lashing spars together to build temporary bridges at scout camp came into play! I remember wanting the posts to look like someone had thrown a handful of sticks across the water.

concept sketch

The engineer at Powys County Council, Bruce Pucknell, interpreted it in to a more formal engineering drawing:

engineers interpretation

and then more scary versions with details of main beam curvature, welding specifications, grades of steel etc etc. This is the drawing that the cat peed all over.

tech drawing

I drew out a section on the workshop floor, arranged laser cutting of all waves and commenced weeks of welding.

floor

1

A total of 60 panels were required, each weighing about 180 kgs which had to be stacked in groups of 15 outside the workshop (above).

Haulage nightmares, irate powder coaters, scares over penalty clauses etc etc made for a very anxious few months. The day after it was all installed the foot and mouth crisis kicked off and the bridge remained closed for the next six months.

But thanks again Sian for the pictures of it now!

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A short film…

and it’s all about moi!

Thanks to Echo Video for wanting to make it:

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