by Lance Hill
Negative earth she would be then. Nothing went bang when I pushed the leads on. I climbed over into the front passenger’s side and Noel was leaning on the driver’s seat looking at the wiring.
“Which wire is which?”
“One will be twelve volt mains, one the ignition and one the starter. Easy to figure out. You got two white ones there – hook up the plain white one with that white and blue one.”
“Na. Nothing. Let’s try this brown one with the white and blue one”
There was a grunt from the engine bay, a lurch from the car, two bangs from the sound of heads hitting the metal dashboard and then a copious amount of swearing (removed - Ed)
The sound of a tired starter on a much-worn ring gear invaded the barn, but the engine did not show any enthusiasm toward doing any more than that. After cleaning the plugs and making sure the points opened and closed, I got Noel to put a screwdriver in the end of one of the plug leads and went to get in the car.
“So, what are we doing now?” Noel asked. “Checking for spark” I said as I hooked up the ignition wires and then whacked the starter wire on them before he could realise what that meant.
“You sod!! You KNEW that was going to give me a shock, didn’t you?!”
“Well, I wasn’t sure, but you’ve answered one question anyway. We’ve got spark and that’s a good thing”.
“I suppose you now want me to suck on the fuel line and see if we got petrol?? “
“Hey – where’s the fuel pump on this thing anyway? It’s not on the block like the Austin”
“Yeah – it’s electric and it’s down by the tank. Saw it on Mum’s car”.
“I know a quicker fix, mate. Gimme that water-squirter bottle. I’ll show you a trick my Dad used a couple of months ago.”
Noel gave me the bottle and I found a length of garden hose, pulled the fuel cap off and siphoned enough petrol from the tank to fill the water bottle. The irony of the situation was such that I had to laugh though – siphoning our own tank in order to get petrol to run the car on. I took the bottle full of red liquid back to the front of the car.
“Right. Now what we do is detach the fuel line and stick this bit of water-squirter hose on the end of the carby’s inlet. Now, we tip the bottle upside down so the fuel goes up the line and fills the bowl in the carb and the air comes back up the bottle. Simple, huh? Now we pour a bit down the carby’s throat like this and now turn her over.”
The sound of the knackered starter turning against the stuffed ring gear once again filled the air…..but only for five revolutions until it stopped suddenly, then slowly went over once more and that was it.
“Well, that brilliant battery Dave gave us has given up. Wot you reckon we nip up to the house and nick the one out the Cortina?”
So over we walked. In the shed we found an off-roader with a near new Exide 13-plate Heavy Duty battery - and another battery charger! We also found a battery radio, a tin of petrol and a torch and in looking around the place, noticed that THIS shed had power, so if we could get the Mini here, we could use my trouble lamp to make the job easier.
It also had a concrete floor, so no more lying in the dirt. The shed had one drawback though – it had only three sides and the wind was coming from the fourth and blowing all the rain nearly to the far end. We decided we’d rather be dirty and dry than be dirty and wet, so went back to our old shed, but nothing must look quite so conspicuous as two teenage boys wandering across a paddock carrying a car battery and a host of other things. Fortunately for us, Tapora was sparsely populated and we were not spotted by either Dave or the farm’s owner.
I replaced the battery in the back seat with the one we’d borrowed and shifted the dodgy one to the floor. Noel set up the radio and found a station that wasn’t talkback or classical and we set about getting ready for the next test
“Ignition on?” “Hit it” ...and the Mini turned over louder and faster than it had before. It did about 12 revolutions and then all of a sudden there was a cough and a belch of flame from the carburetor. “What the hell was that?”. “Backfire matey. Timing’s out a bit, but we’re close. Treat it like it’s flooded and floor the throttle. I’ll hit the starter again”
More cranking and then suddenly she burst into life, revved up to about three thousand rpm for around 10 seconds and then died. “Wow! My CAR IS ALIVE!!! MY CAR IS ALIVE!!!! WE DID IT!!!” “Well, yeah, but this is the easy bit. It didn’t suck gas through from the bottle. Why not?”
My question went unanswered because Noel was dancing around the car in obvious glee at the prospect of driving around in HIS Mini. After about five circuits, he gave up and with a huge grin on his face, came over to where I was unbolting the bonnet and slapped me on the back in congratulatory fashion. Then looked puzzled again.
“Ummmmm......Why are you taking the bonnet off AFTER we've got it going?”.
“Well, when you lowered the bonnet, it crimped the fuel hose and the fuel didn’t flow to the carby to fill up the bowl as it was being emptied. It also needs to be up higher than the carb in order to make the gravity feed work properly. One of us is going to have to have their hand out the window and hold this bottle.”
The carburetor was duly primed again and the bottle sat temporarily between the passenger’s wiper and the windscreen. “You wanna hit it again?”. “Yep. Ignition wires together, touching starter wire......NOW”
This time it only turned over a couple of times before bursting into life. Noel eased back on the throttle and I pulled the choke out a bit. The Mini actually didn’t blow any smoke, which I was quite surprised about. In fact the little engine sounded quite sweet despite the awful sound of its starting mechanisms.
“Oil light went out pretty much straight away and the ignition light is also out, so she’s charging the battery! Oh, you brilliant little car!” “I’m real pleased it’s running matey. I really am. We’ve still got a bit to go though, eh. Has this barn got doors at the other end? It’s filling up with fumes.” “Didn’t see any. I’ll go look”
While he was gone, I pushed the choke in so the car was more or less just idling and went around to the driver’s seat. I pushed in the clutch and gently eased the gear lever toward second gear. There was a bit of resistance and then an almighty graunch.
“I reckon the clutch slave cylinder needs bleeding, but we haven’t got the equipment or fluid here to do it, so we’ll have to pump the clutch a few times before selecting or changing a gear. Not a major, mate. We’ll still get her home” “I reckon Dave is gunna have kittens when he sees us pull up the drive in this thing. I reckon he didn’t think we’d get it going”
I thought the same, but not for the same reasons. In all respects the Mini was the quintessential paddock-basher; a vehicle that would never be roadworthy, but was good enough to get one from one part of a large farm to another faster than walking and could carry more stuff in it than a motor bike or horse could.
It had been given to David for this very purpose by his brother-in-law – who was a panelbeater by trade and gave up on the project because of the amount of work required. Now Noel – a kid not even wet behind the ears yet in the way a car can suck your wallet dry – was taking on the task to get it back on the road. I knew it was going to be hard but we would both learn a lot about cars from the experience – and he was obviously smitten by the thought of resurrecting the nearly impossible.
It was a challenge we both wanted and were too young to even consider NOT doing it for any of the more logical reasons that a more seasoned head would reject the idea for. I pulled the two ignition wires apart and killed the engine.
We packed all my tools and stuff into the back seat area, being careful not to short out the battery on the floor or knock the battery in the seat area. We decided to come back for the bonnet, bumper and back seat after we’d emptied stuff out and shown Dave and Judy what we’d done.
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