by Gar Cole
You join me just after my 40th birthday in February, Nelson was an early present to myself, but with the weakness of his brakes I feared I'd not see 41, but more of that soon.........
Restoration continues at a pace in the little Holivan junior caravan, or ' Doris ' as she has been christened, the floor and roof structure have survived remarkably well, but the wooden frame below the window line was completely rotten due to the seals failing in the past, no choice but to chop it all out right back to the aluminium panels, a slow and boring task, but I'm winning the battle, frame is now done and new facia boards are going back on the walls
It is important to try and salvage as many parts as possible to preserve its originality, its tempting to rip everything out and replace it with modern items, with this in mind I spent hours gently cleaning the brittle 58yo plastic sink with a toothbrush and mild cleaning agents, also the road wheels which I had thought far too rusty to save had actually been given a new lease of life by Birmingham City Powder Coaters, very impressed with the results.
Mechanically the caravan now has new shocks, shoes and brake cylinders, cables freed and adjusted, 3 new tyres and the lights all rewired, wooden seat/bed frames are being made this week as are the custom made foam seats and coverings, curtains, carpet etc, its on schedule for its show debut on 4th August at our Gloucester steam show and I'll reveal the finished article close to that time on the website.
I had driven a few cars in the past with all drum brakes but they all had 'Servo's' , my brakes felt like somebody was holding their shoe against the tyre to slow you down, after 1 too many close calls and soiled underwear a full rebuild was done, the rear drums were full of oil, so it was only braking on the front only, new rear half shaft seals cured that problem with new shoes and cylinders all round plus the all important Servo kit installed, was it worth it?
Well on my first venture out to get some petrol a complete twerp in a high powered Audi ran a red light at the island and cut across my bonnet, both feet hit the brakes and the front end pitched down hard with a squeal from the tyres, I missed him by only a foot or 2, if this had been pre servo overhaul I've no doubt we would have collided in a nasty accident, the upgrade saved me but another pair of underwear was lost in the fear of the moment.
Everyone who has driven Nelson says how well it drives compared to other Minors they have tried, it does feel very solid and with it having a recon steering box, the trunions done and all bushes replaced with polyurethane items it does steer and corner well for a Mog, but I had been struggling to drive him far due to my arthritis, I feared selling was the only option and looking for a larger auto car, but I really like the Moggy and didnt want to part with him, I started putting the idea out about an automatic conversion, I wanted to keep the 1098cc engine for originality but those far cleverer than me said it wouldn't even be able to ' pull a toupee from Captain Picards baldy head '.
The 1275 A series engine and Borg Warner auto was suggested several times, although general opinion is that these are still sluggish and underpowered, besides when did you last see an auto Marina being broken for spares?
Then like a knight in shining armour ( or oily overalls ) group member Steve Boitoult came to my rescue, he offered me a fully running 1500cc twin carb engine and 3 speed auto from a Dolomite he's breaking, Steve did me the whole package including carbs, cables, sensors, oil coolers and mounting brackets for a very reasonable price, heard everything running prior to Steve removing it, arrangements were made to collect it a few weeks later, which happens to be today as I'm writing this.
Arriving at the Toy Shop owned by the Chuckle Brooks brothers I found myself in a rather charming country village, the sat nav said I had arrived at my destination, but I was sat outside a church, even more surreal were 2 cute donkeys eating the grass in the church grounds, now the Brooks toy shop does qualify as 'holy ground' for those of us less fortunate to have such a premises, but a church? A quick phone call to Tosh revealed I was in the right place and he would come and fetch me, I amused myself with the mental image of Tosh appearing on a Roman chariot, as it happens he arrived in the modern day equivalent, an Alfa GT in Bright red.
I followed Tosh down a wee side lane until we came across a foreboding looking iron gate, similar to the ones in Jurassic Park, with a deft wave of his hand the 20 ft wide beast creaked and rumbled sideways to allow us through, between there and the toy shop is the most fabulous private gravel track about 3/4 of a mile long, oh the fun that could be had if i was in Nelson.
The guys are storing the items for me until the winter time upon when the moggy will go to live at the toy shop while they make a start on him between other projects, for a start my 1098cc engine and box are going into their convertible Austin A30.
Big thanks to the Brooks for taking this on, no rush guys long as i have it back for march 2018.
Part 3 will pick this story up when the project gets underway.
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