by Gar Cole
'To the MOT, and beyond'
Having arrived back home with my purchase I endured the usual first 24hrs of the neighbours offering their unsolicited opinions, much as expected it consisted of stories of build quality, strikes and how Auntie Mabel's gear knob has fallen off hers. Lesson one of owning a BL car - let your skin thicken.
Slightly overwhelmed at where to start on this car I attacked the simple bits first, a good jet washing removed several years of crud to reveal the true extent of the rust and mismatched panels. A weekend was spent carefully cleaning up the interior and re-pinning the headlining. It was nice to get out of the car clean instead of dirtier than before you got in, and under all the dirt the HLS interior was surprisingly nice.
Fortunately for me (and the car) I have a retired engineer living across the road who is a big help when I get stuck with a car problem, but even he had a look of trepidation when he clamped eyes on it, armed with a large pad and pen we attached a new battery and some new fuel hose and clamps to the Princess with the aim of making a list of jobs that required doing, gingerly we fired her up as the booming exhaust rattled the windows in the street.
What followed I can only describe as being similar to a 'blood splatter analysis' at a forensic crime scene, my spotless tarmac drive was dripped on by black spots, brown spots, caramel coloured spots, red spots and even a few rusty bright orange ones, it soon became obvious that most of the seals were about as fluid tight as a chocolate tea pot, while the two of us were distracted looking at the various oil leaks we failed to noticed the temp rising on the engine, due to two factors, the gauge didn't work (more of that later) and neither did the cooling fan which failed to cut in at all, investigations came to an abrupt halt as the majority of the foul smelling orange radiator water ejected itself from the overflow in a spectacular steamy cloud.
'Princess?' Exclaimed Chris, 'More like a Diva if you ask me'
It soon became obvious that this car required a lot of work (surprise surprise) , if I wanted it to be reliable and enjoyable to drive then there could be no half measures, over the following winter months the head was removed and sent for reconditioning, I has a custom made exhaust fitted, carb rebuilt, alternator and starter motor reconditioned, all new belts, leads, plugs, distributor, coil, water and oil pumps, new joints on the power steering pipes, brake and fuel lines replaced, new gaskets on the sump and differential housings, all this took longer than expected due to the prolonged wet winter we have just experienced, however by March all these parts had been fitted along with a Leyland ST fast road cam I had found at an auto jumble, still confident I would have it done in time for the Crich show in May I felt it must be now close to being ready for its mot??? FOOL!
Having now fitted twin cooling fans and a new thermo switch in the rad I felt confident that we would avoid a repeat of the overheating problem, once again the engine was run upto temperature and I enjoyed a brief drive reversing it back and forth up the drive without fear of explosion this time, Chris said to me 'what gauges and lights are working?' Apart from the speedo not a single gauge worked, or any of the warning lights, heater fan, interior lights or heated rear window, totally dead inside, externally the brake lights didn't work and the sidelights flashed with the hazards.
As I sat there with my head in my hands dreaming of a Rover P5 or MK1 Granada fully restored I tried to reason with myself this was to be expected with a scrap yard car and to not give up, suddenly I noticed all the gauges had filled up with smoke behind the glass and acrid plastic smoke was coming out of the vents, I switched off the engine immediately and pulled off the negative lead from the battery as the car slowly filled with smoke. Sue came out of the house and being a woman not the mince her words pointedly said ' let's hope it keeps burning, it's an eyesore ' this its fair to say was a low point and I almost gave up, if someone had offered me a few quid for it with the promise of finishing it not breaking it then I would have accepted.
Now I didn't know that OKK 160W is quite 'infamous' in Princess circles, it has been the subject of several lengthy blogs by previous owners, one of whom returned it to the road in 2012 by rebuilding it with parts from 3 other Princess models, original it is not, however the blogs did provide a reference of what had been done 'badly' to the car during this time, including a complete dashboard and interior change, having seen how poorly fitted the replacement body panels were I concluded that anything these people had touched would be a 'bodge up' , including the non functioning dashboard which had just burnt out, Crich was out of the question ?.
April and May came and went as did the Superb Crich event, I wasn't in the best of health at that time and lost a little interest in the old Wedge, however after a holiday away my interest reignited and a professional electrician rewired the dashboard for me, the fire had been cause by parts of the original loom being cut and reattached with insulating tape during the dashboard swap, i managed to trace the cross wire that was causing the flashing side lights and a new brake pedal switch fixed those lights, at this time I also relacqured the dashboard and fitted an Astrali 4 spoke wheel I had aquired, at this point all seemed ready to go, just 1 week to the Gaydon show on Saturday July 9th it was booked in for mot on Thursday, just 2 days before so it was tight but I was feeling confident.................................?
On the day before mot I noticed oil leaking from the gasket on my fuel pump, Princess cars should have an electric pump and sender in the tank, however 'Father Ted' the previous owner hadn't been able to locate one when the original failed, so took it upon himself to remove the whole unit from the tank, take of the blanking plate from the engine and installed a mechanical fuel pump as used on older O series engined cars, this is the reason my fuel gauge is the sole non working dash item now, fearing my mot was in doubt I quickly went to the shop Thursday morning to buy a tube of instant gasket, thinking I had 6 hours before the test I started undoing the bolts holding the pump on ready to reseal it, as I teased the pump away from the engine the bakalite spacer shattered into 8 pieces with 2 dropping down the opening and into the top of the engine.
ARGGGHHHHHHHHH, the car is the spawn of Satan I wailed, needless to say I missed my MOT and the chance to drive it to Gaydon. Despite my crushing disappointment at missing taking it to another of our shows this fault was sorted fairly easily in the following week and after another much needed holiday away from the 'cursed one' she passed her MOT on Friday 12th August with no advisories.
Would I do it all again? Well ask me after part 3 when the cars been resprayed which is happening over the next few weeks, will it be trouble free job? Will I get the front brakes to stop sticking and have the suspension pumped up in time for RAF Cosford in just 4 days time? Well time will tell.......
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