Friday, 26 April 2013

Air suspension, state of play.

The new soon to be Mohomho (that’s it’s name ... the previous was Moho) has had it’s air suspension maintained. I was pleasantly surprised by the bill. We had one leaky air bag (this is just an inflatable cushion on a modified leaf spring), the air dryer was expired, and the spring on the mist separator valve was soft, which allows a tiny amount of let by ... £313 to fix the lot. Glide-rite checked for leaks and they kindly installed and emergency inflation system for free (it was a gift, given that they bounced my appointment back a week, and then moved it back half a day at the last minute). All the newly fitted systems have the emergency inflation valve; this allows you to use a secondary compressor or forecourt airline to fill the main reservoir should you suffer a compressor failure. This become relevant when and if you’re parked for more than a week and the system loses air (which apparently, all such systems do and the sting of fate decides to kill your compressor at the same time ... sods law in action).
As part of the fit of the air bag and bits and pieces they also replace, all the pipes and elbows from the central air distribution valve (that’s the ride height valve). Obviously you get charged for these small parts, however in the overall scheme of things they are pennies. The philosophy is that you don’t mix old and new between major components.
The guys at Glide-rite were friendly and quick. I got a full tour of my own system, a complimentary board to lie on as we did the under chassis tour (effectively I got the full new installation induction talk).
So that was all last week on Friday, since then I’ve been a bit too busy to write consistently, as we are off on holiday, for the first week of May, busy at work over the last weekend and having guests the weekend before we go on holiday.
Other things to note: Van performance, for a non-turbo diesel is absolutely fine. The engine noise isn’t horrific, gear changes when you need them are smooth, engine braking and anticipation make the whole process of driving, a pleasure. The seat was a little too enclosing on the return, but then the round trip is 180 miles ... so you expect a bit of arse ache, even with a two hour break in between.  One must say though that despite reports of the drivers seat being uncomfortable on a long drive, I think this would depend on the driver knowing the full range of seat adjustment available ... it’s like a good quality office chair ... well chuffed. I intend getting one of those old fashioned wooden bead seat covers and giving it a go. If that doesn’t make all the difference to the enclosing effect, then I’ll try adding an additional padding wedge under the seating material, which at first glance looks like it’s tied in, not stitched in.
What else can you say? The ride back was no different to the ride there (but for not having the compressor come on every few minutes and after every bend ... especially left hand bends ... it was the nearside bag that was punctured). Fuel consumption was reasonable, though the unit is probably as light as it was the day it left the factory. Worries I had about Glide-rite relays, rusted brackets and stuff turned out to wild imaginings and paranoia. The unit now sits outside at full height ... like all the other vans on the streets. For travelling purposes we may have the other three bags replaced, and we will take a front and rear bag as spares (along with the other essential break-fix vehicle first aid kit).
Last Monday I took the unit in for it’s bodywork, work, today I’m going over there to check progress and pick the final colour.
Until next time, ttfn.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Body Shops

It took a while (as per previous post) to find a body shop where it looked like passion came as standard, but find one I did, and as providence would have it, practically on the doorstep. He and they are Garry Lee Panel Craft or The giveaway that he was more than just a car sprayer, was the spray painted grand piano in his websites gallery and a string of custom minis (the originals not the modern version).
I dropped him an email, and he called back, and that is a first. All other mail enquiries have been responded to with email, either auto “we have received your mail”, or terse “we don’t know how to write an email response and we don’t have time anyway” ... this is common place in the non-typing all day practical industries, if you don’t know it or don’t see it I think you would get the wrong impression of most trades. Most trades are not that email savvy, however most trades also seem to have forgotten how to pick up the phone as well ... I’m not being a hypocrite. I order my thoughts into a set of logical questions and write them down. They are for an expert to read and respond to. I believe I’m doing the trader a favour because if I tried to orate what I write, it would take a month of Sundays. If I write then phone ... or they phone me, we have a script to work from. Am I wrong?
Garry and I had the “is it worth it chat?”, after all its thirteen years old. We chatted about ballpark figures £1500 to £2500, it won’t be less than £1500. We did the usual client/seller sniffing each other out chit chat. We had a brief discussion about colours, I favour a Volkswagen Camper/beetle yellow, Amanda is coming around to the idea, but she also likes dirty pale metallic blue. The Jury is out, because Garry said if you paint it yellow it will look like an ambulance, an AA van etc. Suddenly colour becomes more than a snap decision, based on some nostalgic whim. To clarify that, we are creating a camper van, not a motor home per se, (there are fundamental definitions laid down by the DVLA as to what makes a camper van), the yellow is a nod to the classic VW, which people  do live in on their travels ... but ... there is always a but; for me the sleeping space is just too small for two people long term (especially if you’re a bit of a spazzer like myself). Finally, Garry and I talked about booking it in to commence the work ... this should be 22nd April.
A little about Garry Lee panel Craft, he has been in business since 1983, he’s had to keep his prices static for at least three years, though he thinks in real terms it’s been more like five, he’s not had to lay anyone off, but he hasn’t expanded either. Garry seems like the sort of bloke I want doing stuff for us; artisan, he will take on the quirky jobs as well as the odds and sods of accident repair (the bread and butter), but quite clearly he likes the craft and the challenge of a project. He has set himself a deadline of two weeks start to finish. The idea being that our van will become the main job for that period of time, this leaves room for odds and sods and condenses my experience of body work and spray jobs from a protracted three or four months down into what is, once you total up the hours about eight full working days including: pulling off trims, grinding, plating, first fill, sanding, priming, drying and hardening, sanding, Second fill if required,  top coat and lacquer, flatting, buffing/T Cutting, and finally washing and waxing. All made just a tiny bit easier if you use power tools and if you are not spraying black.
I have some pictures to post in the previous post, relating to the body work inside and out, and you can view Garry Lee Panel Craft’s website from the link above or via Facebook on this tiny URL: Here’s to the little guys.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Promise of Earth implied ... reality meh?

Having followed up with the vehicle restorer I had spent so much time tracking down, and diligently taking pictures, of every ding, scrape and smear of rust at his request. Then mailing him said pictures and descriptions as requested. I finally reached the point at which I thought we needed a proper chat about schedules, time scales and costs. I got costs with no trouble at all. However (and I was cross about this ... not the reason, but the outcome), our restorer man is going through the adoption process, this is tying him up and he is not taking on anymore work this year ... unless he can find someone to take on a full time role (he is advertising for a semi retired individual on a part time basis, but that’s a long shot and I don’t live in hope of a return call anytime soon).
This pisses me of for one reason and one reason only, he could have told me two weeks ago. In which case I would have kept on looking for body workers, with facilities large enough for a van and a real desire to do the work other than “it pays the bills” or “it’s all I’m trained for”.  As with all things it’s got to be someone who loves what they do and requires the work because they need the challenge and or satisfaction of doing it.
It’s not that vehicle painters are hard to find, they are easy enough to track down in the yellow pages, but if you look, and I have, you find two types. Crash repairers ... in and out high turn over, like Chips Away on steroids; a bit soulless and cost driven. And then there are the specialists ... takes a year to get sorted, costs and arm and a leg, and is the province of the Porsche, Aston and Ferrari driver. I need someone in between (that’s  someone in between, with a big workshop), it’s like groundhog year ... need a workshop need it big.
I could of course, (given that the rust I need dealing with is hidden ... do it myself to a point), but I’ve been down that road years ago with a Cortina Mk5, an Escort Mk2 and a Triumph Herald. It’s a slog if you only have an hour here there. So as much as I’d like to wait to get the bodywork done by the guy I’ve already found, logistically it not possible. I’d have to wait until September at the earliest to get the rust sorted and I’d have to defer the internal fit out until at least then, or beyond.
So this evening I shall be on looking for body workers in or around Essex with a large workshop reasonable rates and obvious signs of a little passion.
So until next time, ttfn.

What a fortnight it has been.

So we bought the new van home and put it in for a service and Cam Belt change ... £2000 odd pounds later we have: a new Cam Belt, Oils, filters, Brake pads and disks (front), front wheel bearings, brake shoes and cylinders (rear), water pump, water pump pulley, crank shaft seal, x4 Injector seals and the offside indicator lamp cluster (front). So that was expensive. But it doesn’t stop there, there is a bracket for the glide-rite air suspension that has rusted through (possibly). I’m hoping that it isn’t too serious, or that it’s a false positive (our mechanics couldn’t be 100% sure having no explicit expertise in this particular arena). We are prepared for another bigish bill and possibly an overnight stay near to the installers workshop.
Are we regretting buying the unit already? Yes and no. The body work is spotless from the Cills up. Our mechanics say the engine is sound given the mileage, and that the service items mean that absolutely all major consumables have been looked after and are good for several thousand miles (oil needs changing every five thousand) at least.
I started tinkering with the internal space and trim and decided in a very short amount of time that the best way forward was to rip it out completely and start again. Now this may seem like a bizarre thing to do, seeing as one of the buying points was that it had been fitted out already. However, in ripping it out one has revealed pristine internal metalwork (except around the windows mentioned in the previous posts, and way down where the Cills join the main panel work). At this juncture there is rust, and frankly you have to wonder at Vauxhall’s manufacturing process and quality control, that this rust is effectively designed in.
At the points where the external bump trim fixing bolts penetrate the outer shell, they have not provided adequate rust protection, either by the physical fixing, or by additional coatings. On the old Talbot, which was seven years older than this Vauxhall, you could still see the hard glaze lacquer that formed a rim around every single body penetrating fixing, consequently there wasn’t a spot of rust on it. The visible rust doesn’t penetrate to the supporting uprights, but will require some grinding out and then either a  plate or some Isopon P40 fibreglass mat and a skim of Isopon P38 to finish. Fortunately the entire area of rust is under the bump trims that line the side ... not that that’s an excuse for doing a bodge job, it just takes the pressure off when t comes to painting and flatting.
If there is a big disappointment, then it’s the fact that the middle offside window rim is rusted right through and has been patched in a way that quite frankly makes me very cross: One because I’m going to have to fix it, and subtly underneath that, the fact that the unit was an NHS ambulance and we already paid for it to be looked after via the treasury ... and some lazy fucking turd somewhere just gobbed it up with some silicone, then layered on paint  with a trowel... and probably billed you and I for what probably looked like a proper job for a few months.
On from this I’ve made some grand discoveries: The heater is a Mikuni diesel unit, fully plumbed into the main fuel tank. There is a top of the line split charge relay unit and a deep cycle marine battery already installed. The battery provides the juice to the Glide-rite system and to all the secondary systems. There is an electrical distribution panel just behind the drivers seat that provides service to the blue lights, most of it is redundant in terms of terminations, but the board itself and its fuse carriers are re-usable (not that these are expensive items, it’s just good that they are not on a future shopping list). And finally for the electricals everything is run in flexible conduit.
I have now reached a stopping point with regards to what I can do, I need the air suspension to be serviced this is booked in for the 12th of April. I then have to sort out the bodywork, before I can think about re-insulating and lining the unit with new ply. I can augment the under bonnet insulation and clean in the engine bay ... but to be entirely fair, these are nothing more than “keeping your hand in” jobs. So that’s March 2013 gone, on square forty hoping for a six next throw and no more snakes.
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